Abandon Any Hope of Fruition

When one of the emperors of China asked Bodhidharma (the Zen master who brought Zen from India to China) what enlightenment was, his answer was, “Lots of space, nothing holy.” Meditation is nothing holy. Therefore there’s nothing that you think or feel that somehow gets put in the category of “sin.” There’s nothing that you can think or feel that gets put in the category of “bad.” There’s nothing that you can think or feel that gets put in the category of “wrong.” It’s all good juicy stuff—the manure of waking up, the manure of achieving enlightenment, the art of living in the present moment.

Excerpted from:
Start Where You Are
page 100


A Few Great Moments with Pema Chödrön

Reflecting on Pema Chödrön’s 80th birthday, I thought I would share a few inspiring, heart-opening teachings. I was fortunate to do a Dathun (month-long sit) in mostly silence with Pema in the Winter of 1991, with a two dozen students. I never felt the month was long since we were joined by a few monastics who were preparing for a three-year retreat.

Pema taught from Atisha’s lojong (“mind training”) slogans based on the bookicon The Great Path of Awakening by the 19th century Tibetan Teacher Jamgön Kongtrül the Great.

“When I first read the lojong (“mind training”) I was struck by their unusual message that we can use our difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts. Rather than seeing the unwanted aspects of life as obstacles, Jamgön Kongtrül presented them as the raw material necessary for awakening genuine uncontrived compassion.”  – Pema Chödrön

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Below, sharing a few videos from Pema that I hope you will enjoy and benefit from.

Understanding Hard Times

The path of awakening has to include all of our experiences—both pleasurable and painful. In the face of adversity, can we keep from losing heart and instead use it to strengthen our compassion? And when life is going well, is it okay for us just to enjoy it? In this clip, Pema Chödrön expands on ancient wisdom for using the vicissitudes of life to help ourselves and develop compassion for others.

Aspiring to Open-Heartedness

The path of the bodhisattva presents us with many challenging ideals—for example, we’re encouraged to feel compassion for anyone who’s harmed us. In this clip, Pema Chödrön shares how we can be kind to ourselves as we practice opening our hearts at the very moment we feel least inclined to do so.

On Never Losing Heart

The path of awakening has to include all of our experiences—both pleasurable and painful. In the face of adversity, can we keep from losing heart and instead use it to strengthen our compassion? And when life is going well, is it okay for us just to enjoy it? In this clip, Pema Chödrön expands on ancient wisdom for using the vicissitudes of life to help ourselves and develop compassion for others.

On Being Present with Yourself

And three more of my very favorites:


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10+ Buddhist Teachers to Consider

The Buddhist tradition is an oral tradition, and receiving a transmission directly from a teacher can have a lasting effect on one’s practice. The teachers on this list are for the most part accessible to new students. They have not (yet) reached the celebrity status of Thich Nhat Hanh or the Dalai Lama, who you might be able to see in a very large auditorium, but with whom you would have a difficult time getting a personal audience. Of course teachers’ styles vary in accessibility and teaching method.

(We tried making a top 10 teacher list which is a rather silly idea. In the process, we kept finding more and more teachings that we could not conceive of omitting. Apologies to all the other amazing teachers not included in this page. Perhaps the best approach is to find a teacher with the qualities of these great teachers, who lives close by you, with a smaller following, and to whom you have some level of access.)

Khandro Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhism (Virginia, Tours Worldwide )

Khandro1.asp_1“Untouched, undisturbed, This life is perfect just as it is, But still I try to change the world.”

Khandro Rinpoche is recognized by the 16th Karmapa as a reincarnation of the Tibetan Dakini Khandro Urgyen Tsomo. Born into the Mindrolling practice lineage of Tibet, she comes from a long line of revered female masters. Based in the US, she travels frequently visiting sanghas in India and Europe. Khandro Rinpoche also oversees several charitable organizations working to educate and empower women in India.


Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Shambhala (Halifax and Boulder, Tours Worldwide)

Sakong july 07_new_cmyk“Karma moves in two directions. If we act virtuously, the seed we plant will result in happiness. If we act nonvirtuously, suffering results.”

Continuing in the path of his father Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the current head of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. He oversees a  global network of meditation and retreat centers that emphasize human goodness and social transformation. He is also the author of Turning the Mind into and Ally, a simple and straightforward  introduction to meditation practice. His popularity is growing among young people looking to connect their practice with social engagement, so he may not be accessible for long.

Sharon Salzberg, Vipassana (Massachusetts)


“Most of us are shrinking in the face of psycho-social and physical poisons, of the toxins of our world. But compassion, the generation of compassion, actually mobilizes our immunity.”

Salzberg is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, where she teaches Vipassana and loving kindness meditation. Her teachings have been hugely influential in bringing mindfulness practice to psychotherapy and stress reduction science. Her writing and teachings consistently translate age old dharmic wisdom into contemporary everyday issues infused with a whole lot of compassion and patience.


Pema Chödrön, Tibetan Buddhism (Colorado, Tours Wordwide)


“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

Much loved by her students and vast readership alike, Pema is the founding director at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Canada. Her compassionate yet direct approach has touched thousands of readers, helping them turn suffering into a path of liberation. She is the author of No Time to Lose, a beautiful and accessible commentary on the Path of the Bodhisattva by the 8th century Tibetan Monk Shantideva.



Tsultrim Allione, Tibetan Buddhism (Colorado)

lama tsultrim

We find conflict in so many places today, within ourselves, in relationships, between countries, and even in places we associate with peace, like the Himalayas. What is the solution? The Buddha teaches that violence leads to more violence. So how can we be actively engaged in change, yet not caught in patterns that perpetuate suffering? Meditation can create a working basis for changing the fundamental causes of suffering and moving toward natural liberation.

Born in the United States, Allione traveled to Nepal in the 1960s and became the first American woman to be ordained as a Buddhist Nun. She has since established herself as a scholar of Women in Buddhism. In 1995 Allione founded  founder and director of Tara Mandala, an international Vajrayana Buddhist community in Pagoda Springs, CO. Her book Feeding Your Demons, explores how to work with negative and emotions and illness on the path.


Shinzen Young, Vipassana (California, Teaches Worldwide)

shinzenyoung“Suffering = Pain x Resistance”

Young has taught Vipassana meditation in the United states since the mid-seventies. In Asia, he did extensive training in the three major Buddhist traditions: Vajrayana, Zen and Vipassana. He also has a spiritual background in Shingon Buddhism and native american traditions. Young’s secular approach and interest in neuroscience has made him popular among psychotherapists, scientists and researchers.

Young teaches workshops and classes in the U.S. and Europe and offers a home retreat programs via Skype and telephone. If you are interested in straight mindfulness practice, broken down to its basics, Young may be right for you.

He is the author of numerous books and recordings including: Working with Thoughts, The Science of Enlightenment, and Natural Pain Relief: How to Soothe and Dissolve Physical Pain with Mindfulness.

Bernie Glassman, Zen (Massachusetts, Teaches Worldwide)

368“When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. Peacemaking is the functioning of bearing witness. Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.”

Glassman is an innovative pioneer, American Zen master and social entrepreneur. He is the founder and spiritual leader of the Zen Peacemakers, an international organization of socially engaged Buddhists. Peacemakers lead witness retreats, practicing in difficult areas such as conflict-zones as well practice activism and advocacy for a variety of causes.

He has a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from UCLA in 1970 and developed the Greyson Mandala, a network of socially responsible of for-profit and non-profit businesses. Perhaps the most well known venture is the Greyson Bakery in Yonkers, NY. Since a a very humble beginning in 1982, the bakery now employees more than 75 people (many homeless or previously unemployed) and boasts $14 million in revenues.

Noah Levine, Shambhala (New York City) 

Noah Levine-head _2“Waking up is not a selfish pursuit of happiness, it is a revolutionary stance, from the inside out, for the benefit of all beings in existence.”

Covered head to toe in tattoos, Noah does not fit the mold of conventional Buddhist teacher. After his own transformation from rebellious teen to meditation master, Levine has emphasized the “against the stream” aspects of Buddhism, teaching students how to transform their anger and aggression into fuel for their path. Under his guidance, Dharma Punx meditation groups have popped up around the country, engaging in rebellion against ignorance and delusion.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (Tibetan Buddhism, Colorado)

kongWhen we trust our creativity we encounter a supreme kind of enjoyment – an amazement at the natural unfolding of life beyond our ordinary way of looking at things.

Recognized as an incarnate lama of the Nyingma school, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche teaches at a variety of centers and retreat centers in the US. Pema Chödrön herself is one of Rinpoche’s students. Rinpoche is also an abstract expressionist painter, and his sangha has attracted artistic types drawn by the merging of creativity and meditation.


Reginald A. Ray (Tibetan Buddhism, Colorado)  

Dr Ray Enhanced_1

“Meditating with the body involves learning, through a variety of practices, how to reside fully within our bodies.  What we are doing is not quite learning a technique, not quite learning how to “do” something. Rather, we are readjusting the focal length, the direction, and the domain of our consciousness. Thus, we gradually arrive at an awareness that is actually in our bodies rather than in our heads.  It’s not something you actually learn to do; it’s a way of learning how to be differently.”

Reggie Ray is the founder and spiritual director of Dharma Ocean, an organization dedicated to the practice, study and preservation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings. Reggie is also a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism. His book Indestructible Truth is a rich but accessible introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.


Jack Kornfield, Vipassana (California, Teaches Worldwide)

Kornfield“Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.” (From Buddha’s Little Instruction Book)

Jack Kornfield is well known for popularizing mindfulness practice in the west. He trained with forest monks in Thailand and the renowned meditation master, Mahāsi Sayādaw in Burma. He has written several introductions to mindfulness including Buddha’s Little Instruction Book and Meditation for Beginners. Trained as a clinical psychologist, Kornfield has also written and taught extensively on the relationship between Eastern and Western psychology.

Joan Halifax Roshi, Zen (New Mexico)


“We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.”

Joan Halifax is an American Zen Priest and abbot of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM. She is also a medical anthropologist and pioneer in the field of end of life care. She has studied death and dying and trains healthcare workers in the spiritual aspects of end of life care. She is also a member of Zen Peacemakers, and the director of the Upaya Prison Project, which teaches meditation and other mindfulness practices to inmates as a means to ending the cycle of incarceration.

Check out her awesome Ted talk Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy.

Lama Tsering Everest, Tibetan Buddhism (Brazil)

x“The Dharma is very counter-intuitive. Our own intuition is generally very self-centered, and it’s very oriented towards success and happiness for ourselves and our family, and so when we start to face unconditional love, compassion, and the wisdom of the nature of form, sound, and thought, it’s not really very logical for our ordinary mind. And so it takes a tremendous capacity and ripening for a person to be able to really be receptive, and then to really be able to hold it.”

Born in the United States, Tsering has been the Lama in residence at the Chagdud Gonpa Odsal Ling center in Sao Paulo for over 20 years. She established the center on her teacher Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s request to create a seat for the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in Latin America.

She is renowned by her students for her warm, humorous and accessible teaching style.

Adyashanti, Non-Duality (San Francisco, Teaches Worldwide)

adyashanti-2“Freedom is not necessarily exciting; it’s just free. Very peaceful and quiet, so very quiet. Of course, it is also filled with joy and wonder, but it is not what you imagine. It is much, much less. Many mistake the intoxicating power of otherworldly charisma for enlightenment. More often than not it is simply otherworldly, and not necessarily free or enlightened. In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good.”

Adyashanti (meaning “primordial peace”) is a spiritual teacher, writer and founder of Open Gate Sangha. Although trained in Zen, Adyashanti’s teachings are informed by Christian mysticism. The Truth he points to is not confined within any religious point of view, belief system, or doctrine, but is open to all and found within all.

Enkyo Pat O’Hara, Zen (New York City)

Pat_Enkyo_O'Hara_11“This process of stilling the mind and opening the heart brings a great feeling of ease that courses through the body, releasing the sensation of holding back, of fragility or tightness, and freeing us to work with the challenges of life.  I call that true intimacy.”

A Founding member of the Zen Peacemakers, O’Hara is the abbot of Village Zendo in New York City. A socially engaged Buddhist, much of her activism has been focused on HIV/Aids and gay, lesbian and gender issues. Her first book, Most Intimate–a Zen approach to life’s challenges, is an accessible introduction to Zen practice and includes exercises for individual and group practice.



Dzogchen Punlop Rinpoche, Seattle (Tibetan Buddhism)

Penlop-smilingLove is when you are thinking: “How can I make you happy?” Attachment is when you are thinking: “Why aren’t you making me happy?”

Considered one of the highest Tulkus in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen Punlop Rinpoche is a revered teacher and prolific scholar of Buddhist Philosophy and Psychology. He is also the United States Representative for the 17th Karmapa. In addition to his contributions on buddhist scholarship, Rinpoche also blogs regularly for publications such as Huffington Post and Elephant Magazine. He is a proponent of American Buddhism and insists in his book Rebel Buddha that Dharma can transcend its cultural context.



Tsoknyi Rinpoche (Colorado) and Mingyur Rinpoche (On Retreat), Tibetan Buddhism 


“If you have a hundred thoughts, you will have a hundred helpers in your meditation.”

Sons of Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen, Tsoknyi and Mingyur are both accomplished teachers and authors. Mingyur’s engaging teachings style weaves ancient teachings together with scientific research in a playful and fresh way. His most recent book, The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happinessis a New York Times best-seller.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche has been teaching for over 20 years, and travels frequently. Like his brother, Tsoknyi has an interest in the relationship between modern science and Buddhism and his teaching often explores the dialogue between the two.

“Instead of focusing on some thoughts and feelings and pushing away others, just look at them as feathers flying in the wind. The wind is your awareness, your inborn openness and clarity.”

Lama Palden Drolma, Tibetan Buddhism (California)

lamapalden“Many times I have heard a Westerner ask a Tibetan Rinpoche,’are the deities real or are they archetypes?’ Every time the master has answered that the yidams, the protectors and the deities are as real as we are. Just as we exist so too do they exist.”

In Western culture, we lack female archetypes that embody the complete range of our potential qualities, but in Buddhism we see embodiments of all aspects of pure form.

Palden Drolma became one of the first women to be authorized as a Lama in the Vajrayana tradition. She is the founder and director of the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a retreat center in Marin County, CA. Lama Palden is also a psychotherapist and is interested in the intersection of psychology and spirituality.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhism (California & Virginia, Teaches Worldwide)

Tenzin & tanka“Ignorance can be compared to a dark room in which you sleep. No matter how long the room has been dark, and hour or a million years, the moment the lamp of awareness is lit the entire room becomes luminous. You are that luminosity. You are that clear light.” (From The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep)

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche was one of the first teachers to bring the Bon tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to the west. The indigenous religion of Tibet, Bon is a unique variant of Tibetan Buddhism. He has written extensively on the Bon tradition, receiving several research fellowships for his work. In 1998 Rinpoche founded the Serenity Ridge Retreat Center, the international headquarters for the Ligmincha institute–his organization dedicated to preserving Bon Buddhism.

Ethan Nichtern, Shambhala (New York City)

ethan nichtern color_highres“One of the greatest lessons that comes from meditation is that a relaxed curiosity about life and sleepwalking through it are two radically different choices.”

Nichtern is a young shastri (or senior teacher) in the Shambhala tradition. He is also the founder of the Interdependence Project, a secular Buddhist center in New York City. His quirky, down-to-earth teaching style has brought a generation of young people onto the cushion for the first time. He is the author of One City, a look at Buddhist social engagement, and most recently The Road Home: A Contemporary exploration of the Buddhist Path.

International Listings of Buddhist Teachers:


Female Teachers in Buddhism


What is Buddhist Meditation?

Most of us live at the whim of our wild minds. Because life is so unpredictable and impermanent, our mind tries desperately to control and manipulate our experience. When problems arise, we usually try to think them through, relying on our habitual patterns to get by. “This is a fantasy,” says meditation teacher and author Pema Chodron. “Each moment,” she writes,  is totally unique and unknown…Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay.” Meditation is the practice of getting in touch with reality behind the “conceptual overlay” over and over again.   

Living in a quick fix culture, it’s easy think the purpose of meditation is to feel good. Instead, the purpose of practice is to stay present with whatever is coming up. Attending to the feelings underneath the storylines naturally lessens the pain caused by concepts that solidify and grow our suffering. “meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on,”  Pema writes.  “The meditative space is like the big sky— spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises.”

Here are some of the central components of Buddhist meditation:

Cultivating Mindfulness and Awareness
When we meditate, we are strengthening faculties of mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness is ability to hold focus on a specific object. Awareness is our broader field of attention. In practice we’re using awareness to bring us back to mindfulness over and over again, making our mind stronger the more we sit.

Synchronizing Body and Mind
Often times we feel that our body is going in one direction and our mind in another. Because of this disconnection, it’s hard for us to know how we truly feel. We may be following a storyline in our head and ignoring our heart. Getting our mind and body on the same page lets us act with genuineness and integrity in the world.

According to Meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, “Synchronizing mind and body is not a concept or a random technique someone thought up for self-improvement. Rather, it is a basic principle of how to be a human being and how to use your sense perceptions, your mind and your body together.”

Developing a healthier relationship to our thoughts and emotions
Contrary to the popular notion (or fantasy), the purpose of meditation is not to stop our thoughts. Rather, the purpose is to be present with our thoughts without chasing after them and building elaborate story lines to get ourselves caught in. After we practice for awhile we may find that thoughts are relatively empty.

By observing our mind without judgement, we can see the nature of our thoughts  more clearly with some sense of equanimity.

Just as the purpose of meditation is not to stop thinking (not that this ever worked), we also don’t want to ignore or numb feelings.  The magic of sitting, is that when we properly  acknowledge (without indulgence) our feelings they naturally are liberated. Pema Chodron gave the analogy that we should treat our thoughts and feeling sort of like seeing an old friend at a train station. You would of course wave and say hello.

Generating compassion for ourselves and others

Meditation is an opportunity to practice compassion and gentleness with ourselves everyday. In practice, we experience where we are right now, without trying to change or manipulate our experience. We may not have that job we wanted, or that person we’re pining after, but we can be content with our selves as we are right now. Observing our mind without judgment, naturally helps us be more open with others and stay present in difficult situations. If we’re not constantly judging or condemning ourselves, we won’t judge and condemn others so quickly.

Meditation is discovering the natural state of mind that is already present. Practice is a process of uncovering all the storylines and beliefs that cover over our original, open and unbiased wakefulness.

In Zen Mind Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes, “Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment.“

Meditation & Neuroscience – 10 reasons to have a daily meditation practice

In the past decade breakthroughs in Neuroscience have revolutionized how we view the brain. Rather than hard-wired and static, scientists now see brain as having flexibility of response and the ability to adapt and heal itself. When you meditate you are actively making new neural connections. The process of sitting accelerates that process by creating space for fresh responses outside of our habitual patterns.

10. Your learning and memory will improve

In order to learn and better remember what we take in, it’s important that we train our minds to stay open to new information. When our minds are filled with what we think we know, there is little space for anything more. Meditation allows us to remain open to new information without blinding ourselves with our habitual emotional responses to new information. In a study published in Psychiatry Research, scientists found that participants who completed an 8-week Mindful based stress reduction program had increases in grey matter concentration in regions of the brain involved in learning and memory processes.

  1. Your focus will improve

flower stemThe prevalence of attention deficit disorders in our society has exploded in the past 20 years. These days, laptops and smart phones keep us glued to distracting images and videos at an almost constant rate. Sitting and slowing down, even for 10 minutes a day, can open up new neural pathways that promote calmness and focus. An Emory University study found that the process of continually bringing ones attention back to an object of focus, as one does in mindfulness practice, strengthens the neural pathways for keeping attention.

  1. 8. Daily Practice Reduces stress anxiety and depression

Recent studies have demonstrated that Stress can tax our system enough to actually change the structure of our brains. The area of the brain called the Hippocampus is covered in receptors for the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol release can lead us into a downward spiral of anxiety and depression, turning stress into more serious chronic disorders. In a study of meditators who practiced thirty minutes a day, brain images showed increased grey matter in the Hippocampus, rebuilding this area previously damaged by stress.

  1. Decreases Pain

The practice of gently observing sensory information in our environment and body can change our relationship to physical discomfort. Often times we experience pain with a mixture of judgment that magnifies the intensity of our discomfort. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that after four days of mindfulness meditation training in the presence of painful stimulation, participants reported significantly reduced pain unpleasantness by 57% and pain intensity ratings by 40% when compared to the control group.

  1. Increases Positive Feelings

Meditation practice doesn’t just mitigate negative feelings; it can also give us a more positive outlook on our lives. Significant research has been done on “loving-kindness” meditation, a practice that incorporates visualizations, mantras and reflection. Resting the mind in compassionate space can disrupt what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill,” the propensity of humans remains at a stable level of happiness despite positive changes in their lives.

  1. Increases feelings of connection and empathy

Our society is becoming increasingly inter-connected by large impersonal social networks. As a result, our daily interactions with friends and coworkers are often mediated by a computer screen or smartphone. This can lead us to feel alienated from ourselves and disconnected from others. In 2008, a Stanford University study explored the effect of loving-kindness meditation on feelings of connection. After participants completed a brief guided loving kindness meditation, they were told to direct their feelings of love and compassion towards a photograph of a stranger. Participants reported significantly increased feelings of empathy and connection after the exercise.

  1. Improves creativity

Anyone who has sat a meditation retreat will tell you they experienced an increase in natural creativity after a prolonged sit. However you don’t need to sit long to experience the fresh sense of wonder that meditation practice produces. UC Santa Barbara’s Brain Research center has explored how mindfulness correlates with better insight-problem solving, our ability to creatively find solutions outside of logical reasoning.

  1. Improves our ability to Self Reflect

When we’re rushing around constantly, its difficult to tune into how we are feeling. Sitting still allows us to connect with our lives and act in our life with purpose and meaning. When we make decisions based on our habitual patterns we cannot make fresh changes in our life. Scientists have found that meditators have a greater ability to connect with their emotions, synchronizing their mind and body to help them act from the heart.

  1. Helps us establish a feeling of worthiness

Above all, meditation helps us feel worthy of being human, which may not be measurable through brain chemistry. Sitting lets us tap into that original state of being and original intelligence that we always have access to. When we feel worthy of being human, it affects our lives in more ways than we can imagine.