The Freedom to Choose Something Different with Pema Chödrön

July 1, 2015

Ever feel triggered and stuck in a reactive tailspin despite all your efforts? It is from this place — this hooked feeling — that we find ourselves responding in less than ideal ways. These are the moments when we may speak with venom, act out, or completely shut down when faced with challenging situations.

It is only later, when we’ve had the opportunity to calm down and reflect on our actions, that we wonder where we went wrong and how we could have chosen a more grounded response.

In The Freedom to Choose Something Different, Pema Chödrön examines and illuminates this nebulous process, clearly identifying where and when you have the opportunity to change your habitual response patterns. . . to choose something different. In this eight-part video course, Pema personally walks you through the landscape of these internal thunderstorms and guides you through the tools to cultivate inner freedom.

Discover more in the FREE introduction to the Online Course.

Pema Chödrön

Ani Pema Chödrön was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, Ani Pema traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to Scotland at that time, and Ani Pema received her ordination from him.

Pema first met her root guru, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Rinpoche, and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Sixteenth Karmapa, she received the full bikshuni ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong.

Ani Pema served as the director of Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave her explicit instructions on establishing this monastery for western monks and nuns.

Ani Pema currently teaches in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Ani Pema is interested in helping establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West, as well as continuing her work with western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings. Her non-profit, The Pema Chödrön Foundation, was set up to assist in this purpose.

She has written several books: The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are, When Things Fall Apart, The Places that Scare You, No Time To Lose, Practicing Peace in Times of War, How to Meditate, and Living Beautifully. All are available from Shambhala Publications and Sounds True.

Author photo © Liza Matthews

Revised March, 2019

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Pema Chödrön: Living with Vulnerability

Pema Chödrön is an American-born Buddhist nun who currently resides at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. Her many publications include How to Meditate, Getting Unstuck, and Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better. This special episode of Insights at the Edge—originally broadcast as part of the Living with Vulnerability online program—features a deeply heartfelt conversation between Pema and Tami Simon. Here they discuss why it can feel so hard to live with your innermost self open to the world. Pema emphasizes that choosing to be vulnerable brings a more genuine and fulfilling experience of your daily life. Finally, Tami and Pema talk about listening to the inherent lessons of your emotions and why acceptance of the moment will open you to ever-greater opportunities for joy and enrichment.(66 minutes)

The Freedom to Choose Something Different with Pema Ch...

Ever feel triggered and stuck in a reactive tailspin despite all your efforts? It is from this place — this hooked feeling — that we find ourselves responding in less than ideal ways. These are the moments when we may speak with venom, act out, or completely shut down when faced with challenging situations.

It is only later, when we’ve had the opportunity to calm down and reflect on our actions, that we wonder where we went wrong and how we could have chosen a more grounded response.

In The Freedom to Choose Something Different, Pema Chödrön examines and illuminates this nebulous process, clearly identifying where and when you have the opportunity to change your habitual response patterns. . . to choose something different. In this eight-part video course, Pema personally walks you through the landscape of these internal thunderstorms and guides you through the tools to cultivate inner freedom.

Discover more in the FREE introduction to the Online Course.

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The Place You Awaken

Establishing a place for regular outdoor meditation and nature observation is often referred to as a “sit spot” or “medicine spot”.  Like the Buddha, who found his own tree of awakening, we too can go to nature and practice being awake to the reality of the present moment.  This practice can also help us become more intimate with all the qualities of the land we live with.  

If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t really recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognize that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way.” 

San bushman

Guided Sit Spot Practice

  1. Go to a place in nature that is close to where you live and that you can visit regularly.
  1. Take a few moments to center yourself, breathing in and out, and arriving fully in the present moment.
  1. As you are ready begin to walk mindfully with an intention to find a spot that calls out to you, a place you can sit and deepen your relationship with this place.  The spot should feel welcoming, safe and comfortable.  It could be under a tree, beside a boulder or in an open space.  Often, east facing spots can be nice for early morning sits.
  1. When you find a spot that feels good, in your own way, ask permission of that place and wait to see what comes to you.  If you feel invited, sit.  If not, keep looking.
  1. Once in your spot, sit comfortably and become as still as you can.  Imagine that you are melting into the earth, becoming a part of the land.  Sit for at least 15-30 minutes, noticing any movement, sounds, or other sensations and activities.
  1. Return often.

Find more practices for connecting to nature in Rewilding: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature by Micah Mortali.

Read Rewilding today!

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