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Lions Roar : March 2014
A BOUT A YEAR and a half before Ani Pema Chodron teaches a pro- gram, she has to come up with a title for it. Now up on the stage at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, she quips that she never knows so far in advance whatshe’s going to teach, so she just comes up with something she figures she’ll inevitably say something about. Her title for this weekend is “Walk the Walk: Working with Habits & Emotions in Daily Life.” As Ani Pema sees it, walking the walk is about being genuine; that is, not being a fake spiritual person. “You got any idea what I mean by that?” she asks the retreatants. “One attribute that can be true of fake spiritual people is that they wear fake spiritual clothing,” she says, taking a light crack at her own tidy burgundy robes. But what being a fake spiritual person really means, she explains, “is that you’re suffering a lot and you want to mask your suffering with some kind of spiritual glow. You’re trying to transcend the messiness of life by being beatific and radiant.” In contrast, Ani Pema continues, “Walking the walk means you’re very genuine and down to earth. You take the teachings as good medicine for the things that are confusing to you and for the suf- fering of your life.” This weekend, there are 560 retreatants present, with an additional 1,200 people dialing in to the live stream from around the globe. As Ani Pema points out, most of us are attending because of our issues—our anger or addiction, our grief or loneliness. There are people here who are struggling with illness; there are peo- ple here who’ve lost their job. One woman is living with the memory of waking up to find her infant cold and blue. Someone else is trying to come to terms with her son’s homelessness. Every single one of us wants to hear something that is going to be of value in our life. Over the weekend, Ani Pema will teach us about four qualities that are key to waking up. She feels they are critical for walking the walk and experiencing genu- ine transformation. Each of her four talks will focus on one of these qualities. Stabilize Your Mind When Ani Pema’s late teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was a child in Tibet, his primary teacher was a famous master named Jamgon Kong- trul Rinpoche. One day, Ani Pema tells us, Trungpa Rinpoche went to his teacher’s “In the West, they use this to eat,” Kongtrul Rinpoche explained. “They poke it into meat and then they use it to lift the meat up and put it in their mouth. Someday, you’re going to go where people eat with these things.” At this point, Kongtrul Rinpoche smiled broadly at his prediction. “You might just find,” he concluded, “that they’re a lot more interested in staying asleep than in waking up.” Ani Pema believes that Kongtrul Rinpoche had a point: there is a lot of cul- tural support for unconsciousness in this land of forks. It’s human nature to want to be distracted from uncomfortable, pain- ful feelings such as boredom, restlessness, or bitterness. And now that we have such a multitude of ways to distract ourselves, from texting to television, it’s even more challenging to be awake and fully present. PHOTOBYJAMESKULLANDER/SKILLFULMEANSPRODUCTIONS Deputy editor of the Shambhala Sun, ANDREA MILLER is the editor of the anthology Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West, which will be released in April. Pema Chödrön with her friend and co-teacher Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel. 1 room, where he found him sitting in front of a window with the soft morning light falling on his face. In his hands, Kongtrul Rinpoche held a metal object that was shaped like a peculiar comb and was the color of the silver bowls on shrines. It was something Trungpa Rinpoche had never seen before. Even when we turn off the ringer, our cell- phone still vibrates and the pull to check it is almost irresistible. In the face of all this temptation, stabi- lizing the mind is the basis for showing up for our own life. “You could call it training or taming the mind to stay present,” Ani Pema says, SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 32