Are you looking for spiritual guidance, and for teachers and mentors who can enlighten your life with their understanding and wisdom? There are many such teachers in the world, but a few stand out particularly through their kindness and insights.
Pema Chodron (Chödrön) is one of these teachers. Pema is a modern-day Buddhist nun. To many, she is best known for her humour, gentle kindness and wisdom. Her many books are instrumental in helping people come to terms with difficult life issues, overcoming pain and thriving in everyday life. Pema’s quotes bring great inspiration, covering pain, loss, turmoil and love and many other topics.
In this article, we briefly discuss Pema’s life story. We follow her achievements as a Buddhist nun in a Western context and share some of her most precious quotes. We also discuss briefly some of the key books she has written and that are loved and appreciated by many throughout the world.
Pema Chodron – An Unusual Life Story
Pema was not born a Buddhist. In fact, Pema was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in New York City on July 14, 1936, and grew up on a New Jersey farm. She married early at age 21 and went to study at the University of California. Soon after, she started work as an elementary school teacher, married and had two children.
Pema’s first marriage did not succeed. It was dissolved by her mid-20s, followed by a second marriage. Again, this marriage did not work out after her husband confessed he had an affair and wanted a divorce.
The shock and trauma of these early failed relationships upended Pema’s life and the values she had believed in. Seeking a way to come to terms with her experiences, she explored various forms of therapy. She experimented with living in an ashram for a while and even sought out Scientology. However, she found that nothing helped ease the fear and rage she felt.
A Spiritual Journey
Her path eventually became a spiritual journey. This truly started when she came across writings by her future teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Amazingly, Pema had met him in earlier days when he visited her classroom to talk to her students. His insights greatly resonated with her. Eventually, he became Pema’s first spiritual teacher and encouraged her to pursue a monastic life.
After extended studies with Chögyam Trungpa, Pema was ordained as a novice nun in 1982. She continued to study with Chögyam Trungpa until his death in 1987.
Gampa Abbey and Pema Chodron Foundation
Once ordained as a nun, Pema was initially appointed the director of the Boulder Shambhala Center. However, her teacher encouraged her to found Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1984. The Abbey is her true home, where she remains to this day as the spiritual director.
Pema describes the Abbey as the place where she was finally able to let go of all her fears and ego. She shares her wisdom and insights on a daily basis through her teachings, courses, books and podcasts. She is dedicated to expanding the Buddhist monastic tradition and wisdom in the West, teaching in Canada and the United States.
Pema also raises funds for good causes through the Pema Chodron Foundation.
Pema Chodron Inspirational Quotes:
Buddhism – and especially a monastic life – is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, as with any spiritual philosophy, Buddhism offers much wisdom to anyone, no matter what background or creed.
Pema’s quotes, in particular, are illuminating and often make instant sense. They are very short and powerful, encouraging us to contemplate their meaning and apply this to our own life situation. Below are some of our most favourite quotes.
- “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves”: We can’t truly love others unless we can love ourselves.
2. “You are the Sky. Everything else is just the weather”: Don’t sweat the small things.
3. “The most difficult times for many are the ones we give to ourselves”: We tend to make our lives difficult through negative self-talk. By seeing the positive in us and forgiving the negative, we can move forward in life.
4. “If we open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teachers” – Other people can indeed drive us crazy. We can learn much about ourselves by exploring our reaction to them and ways of forgiveness.
5. ” Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”: Often, nothing is scarier than facing the truth. By accepting that fear and moving through it, our lives will develop in unexpected ways.
6. “Life is a good teacher and a good friend”: Life has everything to teach us if our eyes and hearts are open. Life lessons are those most schools can’t teach us.
7. “The Ego seeks to divide and separate. Spirit seeks to unify and heal”: Life is a “mine” field: the more attached we are to people and possessions, the less we are able to share and let go. Allowing a spiritual dimension into our lives helps us let go of attachment, and foster goodwill and healing.
“8. “Each moment is an opportunity to make a fresh start”: We can change our life at any time in very profound ways. Therefore, each moment is a new opportunity.
9. “We can learn to rejoice even in the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice”: Happiness lies in the small things that give our lives meaning. A butterfly on a flower, a smile from a stranger, a lovely meal with a friend – the list is extremely long! But first, we need to notice these blessings.
10. “If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them”: If we make sure that we look after and take responsibility for ourselves first, we are in a much better place to fully understand and support people around us.
Over a lifetime spanning over 80 years, Pema has been a very productive writer. From a large selection, we have chosen just three that are of particular importance and helpfulness. They have inspired many on their path of learning about life and working through life’s difficulties.
This is an invaluable handbook for exploring our lives – wherever we happen to be. With insight and humour, Pema gives us guidance to face our current problems with fearlessness and a compassionate heart.
Pema wraps her teachings around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist slogans that form the basis to create a better life. Readers are encouraged to work with and meditate on these and through this, learn to resolve inner issues and move to a greater place of joy, well-being, and confidence.
Change affects all of us at different times during our lives, and whether we want the change or not. Change can be a good thing. However, it can also be scary, difficult and confusing. We may intuitively resist it as something bad. But we are not alone in this.
Pema teaches a traditional Buddhist practice called the Three Vows or Three Commitments to help us work through and accept change, even if surrounded by confusion and chaos. In this book, Pema encourages us to be more present in the moment, without any preconceptions or worries about what might happen or not. This practice helps us look at the world in a more relaxed and open way and offers a pathway for greater peace.
This is possibly the most popular book by Pema Chodron.
Who has not faced a crisis in life, a time when everything seems to fall apart and all we feel is pain, anxiety and confusion? Pema gently instructs us to move towards the pain and face it, rather than trying to escape from it. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge and wisdom from the Buddhist philosophy, she offers life-changing tools to help us transform suffering and negative patterns into positive insight and joy of life.