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Mondays Mindful Quote: Pema Chodron on Difficult People

There is a new tradition starting today on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday I’m going to cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.

Here is today’s quote from the blog post 10 Quotes for a Mindful Day

 “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” Pema Chodron

Sure, it’s happened to me. I was driving on the road enroute to the office to see a patient and it seemed like everyone on the road was fleeing from some oncoming catastrophe that was about to hit at any moment (including me). One guy sped by me, cutting me off and was inches away from hitting me. “Hey,” I yelled hoping this guy gets in an accident to teach him a lesson. I felt the anger burning in my heart and mind.

I noticed my muscles tense and my hands white knuckling it on the steering wheel. “Wait a minute,” I thought “I don’t know this guy; I don’t know the issues he’s dealing with right now. He’s obviously in a place of unawareness or maybe even anxiousness. Maybe he actually is running or going to some catastrophe.”

I began to wish him well, safe from harm and from accident. I knew that if he actually was well, he wouldn’t be driving that recklessly and everyone, including him, would be safer on the road. So I had no qualms about wishing him well.

In this way, this man became my teacher, helping me understand that I don’t need to react so aggressively in my mind (or my behaviors). I can acknowledge my anger and still try and put myself in another’s shoes for the purpose of gaining perspective. It even helps me to wish another well as I know there are so many in pain and who are suffering and it’s often from a place of auto-pilot and unawareness where unskillful actions arise.  

I could have easily been “driven crazy” from this man’s actions. But instead he became a teacher for me.

In some instances of abuse and trauma, this may be a very difficult practice to do. That is ok; we don’t need to do it with the most difficult people in our lives. We can start with people who are little less triggering.

Who in your life drives you bananas? Can you put yourself in their shoes, seeing their pain, and begin wishing the well (knowing that if they were well then that would benefit you and many others?)  What does this teach you about yourself?

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Mondays Mindful Quote: Pema Chodron on Difficult People

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). Mondays Mindful Quote: Pema Chodron on Difficult People. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 24 Aug 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Aug 2009
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