Chödrön, Pema 1936- (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, Ane Pema Chodron, Pema Chodron)
Chödrön, Pema 1936- (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, Ane Pema Chodron, Pema Chodron)
Born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, July 14, 1936, in New York, NY; daughter of Reginald and Virginia Blomfield-Brown; married Peter Bull (divorced); children: Arlyn, Edward. Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College; University of California, Berkeley, B.A. Religion: Buddhist.
Home and office—Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Nun, educator, and writer. Worked as an elementary school teacher in New Mexico and California. Buddhist nun, 1974—; Gampo Abbey, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, director, 1984—. Previously served as director of Karma Dzong, Boulder, CO, until 1984. Teaches and presents seminars worldwide.
Nautilus Award for adult nonfiction, Networking Alternatives for Publishers, Retailers, and Artists, 2002, for The Places That Scare You.
The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving-Kindness, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1991.
Start Where You Are (see below), Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1994.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1997.
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2001.
Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings, compiled and edited by Emily Hilburn Sell, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2002.
The Compassion Box: Powerful Practices from the Buddhist Tradition for Cultivating Wisdom, Fearlessness and Compassion (includes title Start Where You Are), Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2003.
No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, edited by Helen Berliner, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2005.
Practicing Peace in Times of War, (based on talks; edited by Sandy Boucher), Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2006.
(Author of introduction and commentaries) Always Maintain a Joyful Mind: And Other Lojong Teachings on Awakening Compassion and Fearlessness, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2007.
Awakening Compassion: Meditation Practice for Difficult Times, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 1997.
Noble Heart: A Self-Guided Retreat on Befriending Your Obstacles, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 1998.
Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 1999.
Pema Chodron and Alice Walker in Conversation: On the Meaning of Suffering and the Mystery of Joy, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 1999.
Pure Meditation: The Tibetan Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 1999.
Practice of Inner Peace, Sounds True (Louisville, CO), 2000.
Author has made numerous other recordings of her talks (all available through Shambhala Publications; sometimes with others), including Karma and Kelsha; Pema's Monastic Experience; Three Methods of Working with Chaos; Stopping the Inner War; The Big Squeeze; Right Speech; Awakening from the Dream; The Nature of Ego; Facing Our Demons; The Root of Happiness; Losing Our Appetite for Aggression; Sitting as a Transformative Process; Generosity as a Transformative Process; Free from Fixed Mind; The Places that Scare You; Training the Mind; Uncovering the Bodhi Mind; Practicing Peace in Times of War; and The Myth of Freedom.
Pema Chödrön once told CA: "I began, not by writing, but by using transcripts of talks I had given on Buddhism. Both my first book and my second were simply edited transcripts of talks. My third book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, is approximately one-half transcribed talks and one-half chapters I've written from scratch.
"My primary influence has been my spiritual teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and I consider my writings to be my distillation and current understanding of what he imparted to me and his other students. When I am writing, I go into solitary retreat so I can write and contemplate without interruption."
Chödrön traveled to the French Alps when she was in her mid-thirties. There she encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche with whom she studied for many years. In 1974, while studying with Lama Chime in London, she decided to take her vows as a nun. Lama Chime eventually suggested that she study with Trungpa Rinpoche, which she did, remaining as his student until his death in 1987. Two years prior, Chödrön accepted the role of director of Campo Abbey, the first Tibetan monastery built in North America to teach a Westernized form of Buddhism. It was through these teachings that her first books took form.
The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving-Kindness is based on a series of talks she gave at Gampo Abbey in 1989. Chödrön encourages her readers to be at one with themselves without feeling embarrassment. It is through this feeling that she tries to teach her students to love themselves and thus the world. This she refers to as "waking up." No matter where one finds oneself in life, no matter what job one has or to whom one might be married, no matter what situation one finds oneself in, that is the vehicle for waking up.
In Start Where You Are, again taken from her talks, Chödrön reminds her readers that they do not have to wait for a perfect moment or a quiet time to begin to re-pattern their lives, to transform bad habits, to open up compassion. She teaches how to work with personal suffering as well as the suffering of others. In order to create compassion for others, she emphasizes that people must embrace the pain of their own lives.
Chödrön began to gain notoriety after her publication of When Things Fall Apart in 1997. Many people did not even realize there were female Buddhist nuns, but that was not the only thing that inspired her popularity. Chödrön outlined relevant Tibetan Buddhist beliefs easily accessible to a contemporary Western society despite the profundity of their meaning and affect. Through meditation, Chödrön writes, people can learn to release their fears. She also discusses how people can face their own aggression and depression, to embrace their cravings and resentments and thus heal themselves. "The readings allow us to reconnect with a truth already known," wrote Leo Kritz for Library Journal.
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times covers similar topics as her previous books, but here she focuses on bodhichitta, a practice in compassion, tenderness, and awareness. The book offers practical exercises for everyday use, some of which are based on the principles of generosity, discipline, patience, enthusiasm, mediation, and unconditional wisdom. Mark Woodhouse, for Library Journal, wrote: "Chodron has once again proven herself to be one of the very best working in this crowded field," teaching Buddhism to Westerners.
Chödrön has also produced many audio recordings that give insight to her teachings. In 1999 she released an audiotape covering a conversation she had with author Alice Walker, who had bought some of Chödrön's tapes about meditation and compassion after a personal friend of Walker's died. Pema Chodron and Alice Walker in Conversation: On the Meaning of Suffering and the Mystery of Joy was taped live at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts and introduces listeners to the practice of tonglen, a method of overcoming fear of suffering and awakening compassion.
Chödrön's popularity has grown along with her renown via her tapes, books, and appearances on television shows, such as Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason, which aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The author's books have even been discussed within the restaurant business, as evidenced by a Nation's Restaurant News article by Jack Hayes in which he refers to the author's book, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings. Hayes noted: "While Chodron's popular books are said to help people find their compassionate nature, her writing also celebrates the courage it takes to live with impermanence, which is all about the daily unknowns of running restaurants."
Comfortable with Uncertainty includes 108 excerpts from the author's previous works. Each excerpt deals with uncertainty as a part of everyday life, how to deal with uncertainty, and how to try to live in the moment. Referring to the book as "top-drawer," Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, writing on the Spirituality & Practice Web site, went on to note: "Perhaps the most memorable passages in this anthology are those in which Chodron explains or ponders the profound meanings of the fifty-nine slogans, all of which come across as exercises to reverse the ego's logic."
No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, edited by Helen Berliner, is the author's take on the Way of the Bodhisattva, an eighth-century teaching document by Shantideva known as Bodhicharyavatara. Based on talks given by Chödrön in Nova Scotia, the book features all of the original text's chapters except the chapter on "wisdom," which the author believes needs an entirely separate book to explain. The text includes Shantideva's verses and the author's commentary. A Middle Way contributor noted that No Time to Lose "does not appear so intellectual or erudite as to be off-putting for the beginner." James R. Kuhlman, writing in the Library Journal, similarly commented that the author "gives general readers as well as serious students an easily understood explication."
According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Practicing Peace in Times of War, also based on talks by the author and edited by Sandy Boucher, is "a solid reinforcement of what [the author] has been saying for many years and in many books." Among the topics the author discusses concerning aggression are ways to control emotional reactions to hostility; the benefits of insecurity; and the universal nature of all people, including liberals, conservatives, religious, and nonreligious people, to be close minded.
The author's 1994 book, Start Where You Are, is also included in The Compassion Box: Powerful Practices from the Buddhist Tradition for Cultivating Wisdom, Fearlessness and Compassion which was published in 2003. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "a popular primer on compassion-in-practice."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, January, 1997, Leo Kritz, review of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, p. 104; February 15, 2000, Nann Blaine Hilyard, review of Pema Chodron and Alice Walker in Conversation: On the Meaning of Suffering and the Mystery of Joy, p. 217; August, 2001, Mark Woodhouse, review of The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, p. 116; November 1, 2005, James R. Kuhlman, review of No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, p. 81.
Middle Way, August, 2006, review of No Time to Lose, p. 120.
Nation's Restaurant News, January 23, 2006, Jack Hayes, "Successful Restaurateurs Are Willing to Find Fun, Opportunity in Uncertainty," includes discussion of Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings as applied to the restaurant business, p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of The Places That Scare You, p. 80; August 4, 2003, review of The Compassion Box: Powerful Practices from the Buddhist Tradition for Cultivating Wisdom, Fearlessness and Compassion, includes mention of book Start Where You Are, p. 75; August 29, 2005, review of No Time to Lose, p. 52; June 12, 2006, review of Practicing Peace in Times of War, p. 47.
Beliefnet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (September 22, 2007), James Kullander, "Turning Toward Pain," interview with author.
Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason,http://www.pbs.org/ (August 4, 2006), "Bill Moyers and Pema Chödrön."
Buddhanet.net—Masters and Their Organizations,http://www.buddhanet.net/masters/ (September 22, 2007), biography of author.
Head Butler,http://headbutler.com/ (September 22, 2007), Jesse Kornbluth, "Pema Chodron," review of When Things Fall Apart and profile of author.
Pema Chödrön Home Page,http://pemachodron.org (September 22, 2007).
Spirituality & Practice,http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ (September 22, 2007), biography of author; Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Comfortable with Uncertainty.
Teachings of Achyra Pema Chödrön,http://www.pemachodrontapes.org (September 22, 2007), includes biography of author and available books and recordings.