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Smiling At Fear With Pema

August 4, 2010

Carolyn Gimian and Pema Chodron

Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chögyam Trungpa begins with this quote:

“When you are frightened by something, you have to relate with fear,
explore why you are frightened, and develop
some sense of conviction. You can actually look at fear. Then
fear ceases to be the dominant situation that is going to defeat
you. Fear can be conquered. You can be free from fear, if you realize
that fear is not the ogre. You can step on fear, and therefore
you can attain what is known as fearlessness. But that requires
that, when you see fear, you smile.”

Last year,  Smile at Fear was published by Shambhala, and it has resonated with a great number of readers. The idea that we could disarm our fear by smiling at it is a rather outrageous proposal, yet one that seems intriguing. Fear seems to be a topic for our time. Each of us is afraid of something: Afraid of losing our job, afraid our relationships won't last, afraid of dying, afraid of living—afraid of ourselves altogether. What can we do about it? That's the thing!

Chögyam Trungpa spoke and wrote a great deal about fear and fearlessness as well as about working with hope and fear. Pema Chödrön, the popular teacher, author, and Buddhist nun who studied closely with Trungpa Rinpoche, has also given great consideration to these topics.  When the book was in the final stages of editing, she concurred with me (I was the book's editor) that Smile at Fear would be a great title for this collection of teachings. She also volunteered to incorporate the material in the book into several forthcoming public programs, mixing it with her own understanding of this topic. She invited me to join her as the meditation teacher for these programs, and this collaboration has been great for the book and for both of us, I think.

Pema's second and final program is scheduled to take place October 15-17 in the Bay Area. The weekend will be held at the Craneway Pavilion overlooking San Francisco Bay in the Marina District of Richmond. With its beautiful waterfront views, the pavilion will provide a great environment for this urban retreat.

You can read more about the program and register for it at

The weekend is almost sold out, but Shambhala Publications and the Northern California Shambhala Center want you to have a chance to be there. They’re giving away one ticket for all 3 days to one lucky reader of this blog. You have to get yourself there—they aren't covering travel expenses—but this is still a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the teachings from this book.

How do you enter? Simply share your answer to this question with us: What do you think it means to smile at fear? Leave a comment below telling us and be entered to win a free ticket to this rare weekend retreat with Pema Chödrön’s. Travel expenses, again, are not included.

The winner will be selected by random draw on Monday August, 9.

Congratulations to entrant #501!

I hope to see many of you there. Pema has so much to offer us, and this  dynamic combination of her radiant and incisive teachings with those of the grand master of fear and fearlessness, Chögyam Trungpa, promises to be a powerful experience for all. When you bring a community of people together who share the willingness to open deeply to themselves and one another, the atmosphere and the effect are unpredictable but undoubtedly worthwhile. I look forward to smiling with you.

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