Personal development Inspiring quotes Mindful Living

108 Inspiring Quotes from Pema Chodron

108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist is one of greatest spiritual teachers in the world and has inspired millions of people with her inspiring quotes and words of wisdom. She is an author, nun and mother.  She has written several books including The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are, and When Things Fall Apart.

Born in New York City on 14 July 1936 as Dierdre Blomfield-Brown, she had an ordinary life as an elementary school teacher. She was married to a lawyer and had two children. Eventually the marriage ended in divorce. A second marriage also did not last. After she studied with Buddhist teachers, she became enlightened in 1981 and was the first American woman to become a fully ordained Buddhist nun.

Her teachings are legendary and encouraging and focus around finding peace no matter what happens in our lives.


Here are 108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron to celebrate her 83rd birthday. May her words warm your heart, bring you inner peace, inspire you to live in the moment and show you how to let go and be happy.

108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron

108 Inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron

  1. Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.
  2. Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.
  3. We sow the seeds of our future hell or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now
  4. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.
  5. Completely let go.
  6. Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.
  7. If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.
  8. Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.
  9. We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.
  10. Sometimes when things fall apart, well, that’s the big opportunity to change.
  11. Resistance to unwanted circumstances has the power to keep those circumstances alive and well for a very long time.
  12. Suffering usually relates to wanting things to be different from the way they are
  13. You must face annihilation over and over again to find what is indestructible in yourself.
  14. Being open and receptive to whatever is happening is always more important than getting worked up and adding further aggression to the planet, adding further pollution to the atmosphere.
  15. The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron - Choices
  16. Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away.
  17. The root of resisting the certainty that no matter what the circumstance, uncertainty is all we truly have.
  18. Just where you are – that’s the place to start.
  19. Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.
  20. Look ahead to the rest of your life and ask yourself what you want it to add up to.
  21. The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.
  22. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into it’s dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment
  23. Rather than being disheartened by the uncertainty of life, what if we accepted it and relaxed into it? What if we said, yes, this is the way it is; this is what it means to be human, and decided to sit down and enjoy the ride.
  24. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart
  25. It’s a nice feeling to just be.
  26. This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky – that’s called liberation
  27. Learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path.
  28. Precision, gentleness and the ability to let go are not something that we have to gain, but something that we could bring out, cultivate, rediscover in ourselves
  29. The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.
  30. You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather. 108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron We are all fine
  31. The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.
  32. If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.
  33. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your cover. Lean into it.
  34. Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit. We could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape? We can explore the nature of that piece of shit. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment and not believe there’s something wrong with that. (One of my favorite inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron)
  35. The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.
  36. To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.
  37. As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.
  38. A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.
  39. I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything.
  40. Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?
  41. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.
  42. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.
  43. Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.
  44. We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
  45. Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron The Future
  46. Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.
  47. So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.
  48. Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
  49. True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.
  50. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward. 
  51. No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear…the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.
  52. Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.
  53. When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.
  54. As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.
  55. Live your life as an experiment.
  56. When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.
  57. We insist on being Someone, with a capital S. We get security from defining ourselves as worthless or worthy, superior or inferior. We waste precious time exaggerating or romanticizing or belittling ourselves with a complacent surety that yes, that’s who we are. We mistake the openness of our being—the inherent wonder and surprise of each moment—for a solid, irrefutable self. Because of this misunderstanding, we suffer.
  58. The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.
  59. It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.
  60. The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment. 108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron Pain and Pleasure
  61. At the root of all the harm we cause is ignorance.
  62. It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us. We feel justified in being annoyed with everything. We feel justified in denigrating ourselves or in feeling that we are more clever than other people. Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up never satisfied.
  63. When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.
  64. Be grateful to everyone is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected… If we were to make a list of people we don’t like – people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt – we would discover much about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face… other people trigger the karma that we haven’t worked out.
  65. None of us is ever OK, but we all get through everything just fine.
  66. It isn’t the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it’s how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer.
  67. It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns. Without maitri (metta), renunciation of old habits becomes abusive. This is an important point.
  68. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at the human predicament. Here we are with so much wisdom and tenderness, and—without even knowing it—we cover it over to protect ourselves from insecurity. Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego.
  69. The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.
  70. Nobody but yourself can tell you what to accept and what to reject.
  71. Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean.
  72. Once you create a self-justifying storyline, your emotional entrapment within it quadruples.
  73. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.
  74. We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience.
  75. Don’t let life harden your heart.It is a nice feeling to just be. Quotes from Pema Chodron
  76. Things are as bad and as good as they seem. There’s no need to add anything extra.
  77. One can appreciate and celebrate each moment — there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!
  78. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time—that is the basic message.
  79. Patience is the training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed.
  80. Everything is fresh, the essence of realization.
  81. In truth, there is enormous space in which to live our everyday lives.
  82. What you do for yourself, any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself, will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.
  83. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.
  84. We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.
  85. Words themselves are neutral. It’s the charge we add to them that matters.
  86. Patience is not learned in safety.
  87. The more we make friends with ourselves, the more we can see that our ways of shutting down and closing off are rooted in the mistaken thinking that the way to get happy is to blame somebody else.
  88. An emotion like anger that’s an automatic response lasts just ninety seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course. One and a half minutes, that’s all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it’s because we’ve chosen to rekindle it.
  89. We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.
  90. Each moment is an opportunity to make a fresh start.108 inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron Life is our teacher
  91. Maybe the most important teaching is to lighten up and relax. It’s such a huge help in working with our crazy mixed-up minds to remember that what we’re doing is unlocking a softness that is in us and letting it spread. We’re letting it blur the sharp corners of self-criticism and complaint.
  92. WE can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice.
  93. Transformation occurs only when we remember, breath by breath, year after year, to move toward our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience.
  94. You want it your own way. You’d just like to have a little peace; you’d like to have a little happiness, you know, just “gimme a break!” But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what’s outside your room grows.
  95. The more you just try to get it your way, the less you feel at home.
  96. The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face-to-face.
  97. Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into the circle wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will. It’s going to stick around until you learn your lesson, at any rate.
  98. In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others.
  99. Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.
  100. Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.
  101. Usually we feel that there’s a large problem and we have to fix it. The instruction is to stop. Do something unfamiliar. Do anything besides rushing off in the same old direction, up to the same old tricks.
  102. Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.
  103. Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.
  104. Only in an open, non-judgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.
  105. Be curious. Welcome groundlessness. Lighten up and relax. Offer chaos a cup of tea.Pema Chodron quote about Darkness being a gift
  106. Each day, we’re given many opportunities to open up or shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening. It’s too much. It’s gone too far. We feel bad about ourselves. There’s no way we can manipulate the situation to make ourselves come out looking good. No matter how hard we try, it just won’t work. Basically, life has just nailed us.
  107. We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.
  108. Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. (another of my favorite inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron)

Which inspiring quotes from Pema Chodron resonated with you?

I’d love to know in the comments.


(There are Amazon Affiliate links to Pema Chodron’s books in this post. If you choose to buy via these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you and I will donate this money to charity)

20 Comments

  • Reply
    Samidha Mathur
    July 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Each and every quote is inspiring and beautiful to its meaning. Especially, the 7th one.

  • Reply
    Lauren Kinghorn
    July 16, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Hi Vidya, oh my goodness, I love ALL these quotes. Number 6 spoke to me today: “Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.” Love it! I am on such a mission at the moment with my online business, it’s a very special time for me, as I’m learning new skills to level up. Although I started 3 years ago, this is like a new start for me. I will keep coming back to this post for inspiration. Absolutely stunning.
    Lauren Kinghorn recently posted…Paths for Accountants to Advance Their Career

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      I think you are amazing, Lauren! Number 6 is golden! In fact, Pema Chodron has the knack of delivering wisdom in the most beautiful way and it goes straight to the heart. Thank you so much. I wish you all the best and you know you have my support!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Maria’s New Hat

  • Reply
    Karmen
    July 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    These quotes are so great! My heart found this one: “WE can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice.” This one is so true. I am the type of person that will ALWAYS find happiness and joy in the smallest thing ever. The smallest (and the biggest at the same time) blessing I get EVERY single day is a big, honest hug from my baby girl and the words “I missed you” (and she was only in kindergarten for a few hours!). Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us!
    Karmen recently posted…How to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your website

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      Thank you Karmen! I learned to consciously live in the moment when my son was born and subsequently, even more so when my mom was sick. She was the most cheerful and inspiring person I know. And it is true that when we learn to appreciate the little things and enjoy them, everything else looks much much better. I know how wonderful it must feel to have your baby run up to hug you!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…16 years of Collecting Smiles

  • Reply
    Elize Swanepoel
    July 16, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    These are great quotes. I particularly like this one: “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy”. This is so true. I used to stress so much about the things that is beyond my control. These days, I remain calm and I tackle each situation as it presents itself. Things have a way of working out and its no use stressing too much about the things we can’t fix or control because we just can’t. Sooner or later things will get better again.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:36 pm

      Dear Elize, isn’t it so true that we cannot control everything in life? The wisest thing is probably to accept that –then everything fall in place. And sometimes we have to let go of stuff to create fresh space for wonderful things to happen. And yes, my favorite phrase in life is: this too shall pass! Thank you for your comment!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Have You Earned Your Tomorrow?

  • Reply
    Elle Sommer
    July 16, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    Oh wow Vidya. Amazing quotes. I love them all. And this one “Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into the circle wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will. It’s going to stick around until you learn your lesson, at any rate” is how I mostly live my life. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lynne Huysamen
    July 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Wow Vidya you want me to just choose one quote that is my favourite? No can do, I loved them all but I couldn’t really even take them all in in one go. I have saved this to come back to again.

    Such wisdom in all of these words. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, so I have had to learn many life lessons and make many changes in my life that have been rather challenging. I really enjoyed all of these quotes and it is so good for me to read them so I will come back soon to fill my soul with some more positivity!

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      I know Lynne! It is a longish post! I originally thought of ten, but I’ve read Pema’s books and every line is inspiring. So I went from 10 to 50 to 100 and finally stopped myself at 108. Don’t laugh, but I enjoy coming back to my quote posts every once in a while! Thank you for your comment–I admire you for everything you are and do! Hugs!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…How building your Emotional Intelligence can make you Happier and Healthier

  • Reply
    Melissa
    July 16, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Love this! I wrote a few of these down for myself too 🙂

  • Reply
    Felicia
    July 16, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Wow! Did she really come up with all of these amazing inspiring quotes?! My favorite is number 2 “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” That quote hit me right in the gut. I loved all of them but that one just hit home for me. Thank you for these I am saving this page and will be reading them over and over
    Felicia recently posted…Best Amazon Prime Day Deals!

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      Thank you Felicia! Yes, I love that one too. It isn’t always easy to accept it but it is the truth. Hope you are having a great weekend!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Being Here Now #GratitudeCircle

  • Reply
    Debbie Hampton
    July 17, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    There are too many good ones for me to pick a favorite. Pema is what I call my “go-to guru”. I remember when I read my first book by her. I thought it was radical. “Lean into the pain.” What?!? Her teachings went against everything I had learned, but they brought so much healing and peace. Thank you for this.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Isn’t she just great? I love her sense of humor in delivering her wisdom! Thank you so much Debbie! With all that’s going on in the world, we are fortunate to have such down to earth inspiring people!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Are you always looking for an audience?

  • Reply
    Zeenat Merchant Syal
    July 20, 2019 at 12:31 am

    I’m totally loving this collection of Pema’s quotes Vidya! So happy to find them all in one place. So much insight and wisdom in them. And those posters…oh my totally gorgeous! xoxo

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 20, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      Knew you would like this post, Zeenat! I know we are both quote junkies! Thanks for appreciating the graphics!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Have You Earned Your Tomorrow?

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