Turning Toward Pain
Pema Chödrön discusses her discovery of Buddhism and explains how pain can be a great spiritual teacher.The Sun magazine by arrangement with the author.
Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, is widely known for her down-to-earth teachings on compassion and meditation in the Shambhala lineage of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Her books, including the best-selling "When Things Fall Apart" and "The Places That Scare You" are popular among people from many spiritual traditions. Chödrön, whose Buddhist name means "Lotus Torch of the Dharma," was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936 in New York City. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Chödrön spent many years as an elementary-school teacher and in the 1970s began to study Buddhism, which she turned to earnestly in the wake of her divorce. She was ordained a Buddhist nun in 1981 and today is the resident teacher of Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastic center in Nova Scotia. Now in strict retreat much of the time and suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, Chödrön occasionally teaches at the abbey and a few other retreat centers, including Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, New York, where the author, James Kullander, the executive editor at Omega, conducted this rare interview.
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You've been a Buddhist monastic since 1974. That's a long way from being a wife, a mother, and an elementary-school teacher. What attracted you to Buddhism?
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