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☾ Pema Chödrön

Hey there! Welcome back for another blog post on Empowering women, women who inspire us and who are just pretty awesome! We both really wanted to do a women empowerment week for The Spiritual Mamas as we both feel like some woman who do amazing things don’t really get noticed, our culture and community, especially now is focused on looks and social media and not so much about what people are doing for their community.

So, connecting the two (social media and women empowerment), we decided to highlight a few women who have done some amazing things for their community and their country/planet etc….

We have already covered 2 incredible, women in our blog posts and today we will be covering another, before we get started, I just want to highlight that we have 8 woman on The Spiritual Mamas Instagram page with short facts about them so go and check it out, but we wanted to go more in-depth on four women and that is why I am here.

It’s taken me a while to decide who I will pick for my second empowering woman (over a week!) and if I’m honest I have never heard of this woman before, it was by pure chance that I found a quote by her, yesterday in fact and I had the need to google her and I am so glad I did! I immediately felt this was the woman I should be writing about; I have been reading up on her and her life and what she has achieved and cannot wait to tell you!

Today I will be writing about Pema Chödrön, Pema is an American Tibetan Buddhist, an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Pema has written many books and is a principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, can you see why I picked her? She is amazing right? So, lets start from the beginning.

Pema was born Deidre Blomfield-Brown in 1936 In New York city, she grew up in a Catholic family on a farm in New Jersey and attended Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut at Berkeley.

Later on, Pema obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Sarah Lawrence College and then a master’s degree in elementary education from The University of California, Berkeley.

She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema married at 21 gave birth to two children, Arlyn Bull and Edward Bull but was divorced in her mid-twenties, she then remarried and then divorced a second time eight years later after her husband had an affair, she cites the moment her husband revealed his affair to her as a genuine spiritual experience – a moment where time truly stood still.

While in her mid-thirties, Pema travelled to the French Alps and met with Lama Chime Rinpoche who is a Tibetan Buddhist, Tulku and Dharma teacher and she studied with him for several years. Pema became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London.

His holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to England in 1974 and Pema received her ordination from him. Pema first met her root teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who was a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master and holder of both the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism in 1972 and Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Chogyam, and it was with him that she eventually made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987.

The sixteenth Karmapa requested she received the full monastic ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong, she became the first American in Vajrayana tradition to become a fully ordained nun, how incredible is Pema, I was just blown away reading about her life and how she wasn’t scared to do what felt right, even if no other American woman had done it before! Just incredible.

In the early 1980’s Trungpa appointed Pema director of the Boulder Shambhala Centre (Boulder Dharmadhatu) in Colorado and then she moved to Gampo Abbey in 1984 to the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in North America for Western men and women, which she became it’s first director in 1986! Yaas queen!

In 1991 Pema’s first book, The Wisdom of No Escape was published and in 1993, she was given the title of Acharya (Acharya is used to address a teacher or a scholar in any discipline).

In 1994, unfortunately Pema became ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, gradually her health improved but during this period, she had met Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and he became her teacher.

The same year she published her second book, start where you are and in 1996, she published her third book When things fall apart.

In 2005 Pema became a member of The Committee of Western Bhikshunis and in 2016 she was awarded the Global Bhikkhuni Award, presented by the Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association of Taiwan. In 2020 Pema retired from her acharya role from Shambala International, in part due to the group’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations, she said “I do not feel that I can continue any longer as a representative and senior teacher of Shambhala given the unwise direction in which I feel we are going.” We love a woman who stands up for what she believes in!

Pema teaches the traditional “Yarne” retreat at Gampo Abbey each Winter and the Guide to Bodhisattva’s Way of Life in Berkeley each summer.

A big theme of her teachings is the principle of “shenpa,” or “attachment,” which she interprets as the moment one is hooked into a cycle of habitual negative or self-destructive thoughts and actions. According to Chödrön, this occurs when something in the present stimulates a reaction to a past experience, can I just add that she is 85 and still doing all of this!

To me Pema Chödrön is an inspiration, for her to get so far in a world where women don’t really get to that level is incredible and that she still speaks her truth, shows her strength!

I hope you enjoyed reading a little about Pema, I very much enjoyed writing about her and definitely feel inspired by her. Thank you, Pema, for all you have done! For inspiring us women!

Before I go, I just want to add a few quotes from Pema as if it wasn’t for finding her amazing quotes, I wouldn’t be writing about her, plus every quote I have read I have resonated with so enjoy and thank you for reading!

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
“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.”
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”
…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.”
“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…”
“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.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

Love & Light

The Spiritual Mamas x

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