Practising Peace for Pema Chödrön’s 76th Birthday


I don’t think anyone has ever done a survey about how people find their way to the Shambhala path but I’m pretty sure that Pema Chödrön’s books were pointing the way for many of us—especially in the last ten years or so. Saturday 14 July marked Pema Chödrön’s seventy-sixth birthday. Midway into a one-year solitary retreat in the Colorado mountains, and for the first time in all her decades of teaching, she asked her students worldwide to join her in a one-day retreat called “Practising Peace.” And so in Shambhala centres and living rooms from Iran to Uganda, people sat together or alone in practice.

Here in Toronto about two dozen people met in silence for part or all of the day for sitting and walking meditation. Some of the sessions opened with readings from Ani Pema’s books and we also saw a video that she’d recorded earlier offering advice, encouragement, and meditation instruction. Of course one can pick up almost anything written by Chödrön and find profound teachings just by flipping through the pages but I was particularly moved by the reading that Kate Barry shared — the first few paragraphs from Start Where You Are called “No Escape, No Problem”:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. (p. 1)

The sun gleamed on the hardwood floors; the altar flowers were cheerful with orange dahlias; and then there was cake! Participants gave $160 in offerings to the Pema Chödrön Foundation to support the nuns of Tsoknyi Gechak Ling.

Cheerful birthday Ani Pema!