Monday, September 28, 2009

Deirdre Blomfield-Brown

I'd bet that only a very few people who read this will know who this person is, but i have to tell you that i absolutely love this picture of her. It appears in the November issue of the Shambhala Sun magazine.

It's hard for me to explain why i like it so much, but the short and long of it is i know who Deirdre has become in the 40+ years since that picture was taken. No, i've never met her, but like millions and millions of people around the world, have followed her through her books and CDs.

In this picture i see a young, very attractive woman. Married, intelligent (she has a bachelors and masters degree), outgoing, playful, happy, and with a look in her eyes that says she could be, in her mischievous moments, even a bit flirtatious. I see someone who, at one point in her life might have thought she had life by the tail. In this picture she looks like the girl next door, like the woman making copies at the copy machine at the end of the hall, like the woman standing in front of you at the check out counter in the grocery store, with one kid tugging on her sleeve and the other slung over a hip. She just looks like one of us.

But, according to her bio, her life fell apart. After picking up the pieces and putting it back together again, ... it fell apart again.

This time, rather than following the same patterns and rebuilding yet another life with the same drawings and plans, which apparently weren't working anyway, she decided to look inside and see what wasn't working with herself. To see what was broken in here, instead of out there.

Over the course of the years since that time, Deirdre has become Pema Chodron, one of the most loved and highly respected Buddhist teachers in the world — and, if anything, i am under-exaggerating here.

Like Kūkai a millennium before her, she chose the hard road over the easy, continue life as everyone expects you to, continue to live a "don't rock the boat and you may not sink," "don't open the outhouse door and you won't notice the smell," "just smile a lot and pretend and all will be well" kind of life. And, like Kūkai, she found that the hard road actually awakened her to a better way of life.

Aurobindo, in his Essays On The Gita talks about the "acceptance of the necessity in Nature for such vehement crises." Not the 'possible occurance,' but the 'necessity.' Pema says, in her wonderful book When Things Fall Apart, "We can use a difficult situation to encourage ourselves to take a leap, to step out into that ambiguity. This teaching applies to even the most horrendous situations life can dish out. ... That is why it can be said that whatever occurs can be regarded as the path and that all things, not just some things, are workable. This teaching is a fearless proclamation of what's possible for ordinary people like you and me."

Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, also tells us, "Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure." And the person who could be my favorite contemporary teacher, Daido Loori of Zen Mountain Monastery, says in one of his talks, "She called [silence] an evasion of truth. In a sense we can say that silence is just one side of the duality of speech and silence. So, how could silence be the entry of the nondual gate? What does non-dual mean, anyway? Is nondual the opposite of dual? That is just another duality. How do we transcend all dualities?"

The way forward isn't silently accepting that life isn't working as is. The way forward isn't to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the good-luck fairies will make everything OK. The way forward isn't to try and sweep every crisis under the rug and hope someone else will come by to clean it up later.

The way forward is to run right up to that gate leading out of our worries and troubles, plant our nose right in the middle of the gate so that we are forced to deal with its existence, and then work very, very hard to see that there really is no gate there at all — we are free to walk through whenever we want; and that process begins when we start with Daido's question, "How do we transcend all dualities?"

And this is why i love the picture so much. Sitting here in Lockport, in that one picture i can see the beginning of the path and the path after it has been walked from here to the horizon, and that gives me hope that if i keep pushing until my nose is raw, maybe someday i can see what Pema has seen.


Highest CD Rates said...

Really, I can not say who is she. But she is definitely cute.

Nancy Hilpert said...

Thank you for this post. I know exactly who that is--she is still cute although has no hair to 'do' anymore. While the hair may be gone (or just living in another duality) the spirit, the lively seeker has become the wise shower of the way. I was listening to "Pema Dear" just this morning as she was helping me to get unstuck. My husband burst in with a crisis and channeling Pema I was able to label it, not get swept up by his shenpa and to really listen, which is all he needed. I have seen that gate before and run away, or felt spite for its limiting presence and instead today i just stood and admired the gate for all that is was and pretty soon, it was gone.

Lao Bendan said...

Ah, that darn shenpa. So it's not just my house that's infected? I've found that when you can catch one, throwing it under your zafu and sitting on it for a half hour, or so, tends to frighten them enough that they make themselves scarce for a while. As you know, though, the problem is catching the little buggers in the first place.

Isn't it amazing what listening can do when done with your heart>

Thanks and have a good day.

silvia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
silvia said...

Having read her books and listened to her meditation audios very often, I'm one of her biggest fans. She's an amazing woman, an inspiration and a role model.

Lao Bendan said...

Silvia, thanks for the comment.

Yes, she is everything you suggest. I'd bet that there are a gazillion other people 'out there' who would argue with you and claim that they were one of her biggest fans. :-)

Here's the question for you, though. Yes, you have read her books. Yes, you have listened to her CDs. But, are you putting her ideas and teachings into practice *each and every day*?

Are you an intellectual fan or a practicing fan?

Have a good day.

Liz said...

Thank you so much for posting that picture! She is such an inspiration, and I often wonder what her former life was like...

Anonymous said...

Dredging up an ole' post.... (doing this from "the doghouse" as it were. (shrugs) I sure produced a doosy of a shempa this evening..... I may not be a "biggest fan" or a "intellectual fan" or a practicing fan... more like a newbie failing fan - who's not giving up... I have too much on my plate to even think that "giving up" AKA the easy-escape route is even an option. (sigh) back to it.....

Lao Bendan said...

"... more like a newbie failing fan - who's not giving up..."

That's a complete contradiction of terms. You can't use "failing fan" and "who's not giving up" in the same sentence, or at least not as you have used them.

As long as you haven't given up and continue to walk/stumble/crawl along the path, you are not failing. Everyone of us stumbles from time to time. Everyone of us slows to a crawl from time to time. The key is to simply keep on keepin' on.

In a way it's like when people have trouble forcing themselves to meditate on a regular basis. I always say that three-quarters of the battle is simply keeping your butt on the cushion. Let your mind wander if it has to, think about your plans to remodel your bathroom if you have to, watch an entire movie in your head if you have to... but keep your butt on the cushion.

In time your mind will settle down and you can get back to meditating. It's much harder to train your mind if you give up and step off the cushion.

So, you are not a 'failing fan,' just a fan that has temporarily slowed to a crawl. Keep up the good work.

Have a good week.

Neeti said...

Love this photo. Thanks for sharing.