My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.
P is for Pema Chödrön ,Buddhist nun and teacher. She is the director of Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She has written several books - The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are, The Places That Scare You - among them. Her root teacher was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama. There is way too much for me to say about her - but instead I invite you to experience her. There are many talks and podcasts to be found on Youtube or on her own site (link at her name). How does she inspire me? I met her when I first became a Buddhist twenty-five years ago. I spent a month in retreat at Gampo Abbey (for my fortieth birthday) and she led the retreat. I spent the following summer being taught by her and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's son - the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche - the spiritual head of Shambhala International - at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. Her teachings are always fresh, inspiring, bold and extremely compassionate. She laughs and is completely irresistible. She wakes you up and it is as if you fell into a cold mountain stream. She looks into your eyes and you will uncover that bit of you that you thought you needed to hide. And she will love you.
Sometimes my friends think I can do anything. They do. And one of those friends heard from Pema that she needed a haircut - "Jan can do it!" my pal said. This is a nun. With straight short hair. I did it but I doubt she was happy with it. But never a negative word crossed her lips. Not to me anyway. And it is one of the supremely nice memories of my life. I'll be thinking about it when I lie dying. She was so generous that she let this crazy woman cut her hair.
Here are just a few jewels from her:
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
“If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them.”Here she is with some guy she met somewhere...? And here is Gampo Abbey - and yes, it is that beautiful.
P is also for Nancy Porter-Steele. Nancy is a psychologist and teacher who I had the supreme privilege of being mentored by for many years. She and her husband, Curtis Steele, brought me a world of change with their loving, fun, and heartful guidance. After training with them for several years in Transactional Analysis, I became their partner in several wonderful projects. We taught at two universities and grew a community of therapists in Halifax. Nancy and Curtis were taught by Mary and Bob Goulding, and those of us who were lucky enough to be taught by Nancy certainly enjoyed the stories we heard about these two pioneers of redecision therapy. Besides teaching alongside Nancy, she and I co-edited the Transactional Analysis Journal - the TAJ - for several years. I loved doing this with Nancy - she is a wonderful writer - clear and direct. It was like learning the tango with a master! I learned so much from her and hear her quiet deep voice in my ear quite often!
I hope you have someone like Pema or Nancy in your life - someone who hits the bulls-eye of inspiration with the arrow of truth and love! Do you?