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Lions Roar : September 2015
Tami Simon: Pema, you’re turning seventy-nine in July. I’d love to hear about the things you’ve learned that have made the most difference in your life. Pema Chödrön: The first is compassion, by which I mean the empathetic ability to stand in someone else’s shoes. One of the things about compassion is that the difficult things that happen in our own lives teach us the most about what other people go through. So I value all the really lousy times in my life. It has been the lowest times in my life that have helped me the most to understand other people. During the breakup of my marriage, a friend told me two things. First, he said, “Whatever you’re experiencing, don’t try to make it go away.” That was a mind-stopper, but I knew it was true. Then he said, “Whatever you learn from this, that’s what you’ll have to pass on to other people.” That’s been so important to me. Working with adverse cir- cumstances, not avoiding them or trying to distract myself from them, has helped me to wake up more in my life, to be more there for other people, and—this is always a big seller—to be happier. [Laughter] When I’m talking about tough times, I don’t mean just outer circumstances. I’m talking about what they bring up in your heart and mind. Not running away from the pain, learning to accept it as part of the human condition, has taught me everything. I’m at an age when people drop dead left and right. But death won’t seem like a tragedy to me, because I feel like I’ve learned so much from my life and it’s brought me such deep happiness. I don’t feel I got cheated or anything like that. Many people think they’re getting a bum deal in life, but that’s the very mate- rial of the path. This is very much a Buddhist tenet. I’ve learned a lot from my teachers and all the study and meditation I have “We’re actually complete and whole. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. ” — Pema Chödrön SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 45