Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, speaker, author, and all-around rock star of kindness, turned 76 years old this past Saturday. Happy birthday, Pema!
Well known for her ability to bring Buddhist teachings to the Western world in a widely accessible way, Pema helps us laugh at ourselves while imparting valuable wisdom. Just the sound of her voice radiates peace, and she has had a profound effect on my life. Here’s a brief look at her style, where she explains why the best spiritual teachers are actually the biggest troublemakers in your life:
Pema is in a year-long retreat in the mountains of Colorado, but she created a video in celebration of her birthday to give us all some instruction on the way of meditation.
I celebrated with others in community at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver on Saturday. We watched Pema’s video, experienced three 20-minute sessions of silent, open-eyed meditation (two sitting, one walking), discussed our experience briefly in small groups, and had one final sitting meditation.
In the small group, I talked about how I had learned to meditate with eyes closed and had some difficulty with the fixed, open-eyed gaze. “What did it bring up for you?” the teacher asked. “I can feel the discomfort of my body more,” I said, laughing because the knot underneath my shoulder blade seemed to bring searing pain with eyes open and was manageable with eyes closed.
“Just as we don’t cover our ears during meditation, neither do we cover our eyes,” he advised. “The challenge is to find that place of peace regardless of the external environment.” He smiled at me kindly, and I quietly integrated the exquisite beauty of that lesson. “Try to work with it,” he said. Thank you, teacher.
Another woman talked about how much anger was coming up for her during her meditation practice that morning. “What Pema would say is to practice unending kindness toward yourself during those moments,” our teacher said, and we all nodded. Even the Buddha felt the emotions, from what I understand. The path to perfection is not judging yourself or the emotions, but rather sitting in harmony with them. That is the practice of peace that comes with meditation.