Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.
A Relationship Between Equals
Topic: Love, Compassion, & Kindness
We cultivate bravery through making aspirations. We make the wish that all beings, including ourselves and those we dislike, be free of suffering and the root of suffering. We use the same seven-step aspiration practice to soften our hearts and also to become more honest and forgiving about when and how we shut down. Without justifying or condemning ourselves, we do the courageous work of opening to suffering. This can be the pain that comes when we put up barriers or the pain of opening our heart to our own sorrow or that of another being. We learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our successes. In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
Early Life and Education
Pema Chödrön, born as Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936 in New York City, embarked on her educational journey at Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut, followed by the University of California, Berkeley. After her graduation, she dedicated many years to teaching elementary school in New Mexico and California. A mother of two and a grandmother to three, Pema has always been a guiding light for her family, instilling values and wisdom from her rich life experiences.
Spiritual Awakening and Ordination
In her mid-thirties, Pema experienced a significant spiritual awakening during a trip to the French Alps, where she met Lama Chime Rinpoche. This encounter led her to take her novice nun vows in 1974 in London, a pivotal moment in her life, further solidified by her ordination by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa. Her spiritual journey continued under the mentorship of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche from 1974 until his passing in 1987, deepening her Buddhist practice and understanding. In 1981, Pema was fully ordained in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in Hong Kong, marking a significant milestone in her spiritual path.
Teaching and Legacy
Pema Chödrön's commitment to spreading Buddhist teachings led her to assume the role of director at Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado. In 1984, following Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's vision, she moved to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to lead Gampo Abbey, a monastery for Western practitioners. Pema continues to focus on teaching in the US and Canada, interspersed with solitary retreats under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Her literary contributions, including "The Wisdom of No Escape", "Start Where You Are", and "Smile at Fear", reflect her profound insights and her commitment to establishing monastic traditions in the Western world.
The Places That Scare You
Chödrön, Pema. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Shambhala, 2001. P. 50
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