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Lions Roar : September 2015
it. Let’s use the example of feeling ashamed of yourself. Just in little bites, so it’s not too traumatizing, experience the hor- ribleness of feeling there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Then when you see somebody else doing something they’re ashamed of, you can really empathize with them because you’ve been there. When things are happy and comfortable in your own life, think of others and wish for them to have the same positive experiences. And when things are painful or sorrowful for you, also think of others and wish for them to be free of those nega- tive things. Let everything that happens to you connect you with other people. With both joy and difficulty, we usually tend to go inward. This is the opposite—we go out. Tami Simon: Historically the vast majority of Buddhist teachers have been men. In your experience, are the teachings different when they’re expressed by women? Pema Chödrön: Oh, for sure they are. Tami Simon: In what way? Pema Chödrön: When I first connected with my root teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I was living in San Francisco and I was a nun already. We had some wonderful people who came to teach, but they were all men. They were really smart, and I don’t want to say they taught the dharma intellectually—because it was experiential, too—but it was definitely smart, you know. And it never occurred to me that I could teach because I felt intimidated by them, even though they were very helpful to me. Then, a woman came to teach and it was completely differ- ent. It was very soft-edged and completely experiential. Her teaching was based on personal experience and how the teach- ings mix with your everyday life, rather than anything scholas- tic. Afterward, I thought, hey, maybe I could also teach. Before, I had felt there was no way could I ever do that, but now I felt like I could. Perhaps that doesn’t completely answer your question, but teaching by women is very, very different and it reaches people in a different way. So you really need both. You definitely need both. Tami Simon: The Pema Chödrön Foundation is very interested in ensuring that Buddhist nuns have the same access to study and practice as monks. Pema Chödrön: This is particularly an issue for Tibetan nuns, because culturally they were always held back. Now there’s more opportunity for them and we’re really supporting that. But for Western Buddhist women, my experience is that we’re not held back at all. I don’t think so. That’s my experience. Tami Simon: Well, let’s drink to that being true. [Clink water glasses, applause, laughter] SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 47