Pema Chödrön vs. Marilyn Monroe.

Via on Nov 28, 2011

Do we prize “truth” on its merits, or weigh it differently depending on the source?

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
~ Marilyn Monroe




“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
~ Pema Chödron



So which is it? Can you glean wisdom from an actress who “lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse?” Or does wisdom need to come from someone dignified and educated, someone who has dedicated her life to teaching dharma?

Maybe we can make room for both. Maybe the truth is true wherever you find it. A graffiti scrawl, a lecture, a childish exclamation…even the longings of a desperately lost young Marilyn Monroe trying to make sense of life. Maybe in the midst of things falling apart, and coming together, and falling apart again, we learn where we can. We find our gurus wherever they show up. We don’t wait for the “right” conditions.

But don’t take my word for it:

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

Who was your most surprising teacher this week?


(Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She is the founder of Be You Media Group. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter.



33 Responses to “Pema Chödrön vs. Marilyn Monroe.”

  1. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    fair comment, however, the difference is right there is the quotes – marylin's is kinda corny and new agey, pema's contains real wisdom.

    pema is not saying anything like "everything happens for a reason" – she is saying learning to let go makes us more free.

    these sentiments are related in a certain way, but come from a much different level of depth.

  2. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    yes it is an interesting question kate! :) we are generally biased in all sorts of ways that prevent us from accurately seeing/interpreting…

  3. Andrea Balt Andréa Balt says:

    I don't think things happen "for a reason", as Marilyn states. I think you can use what happens for a reason, you can make a teacher of what happens to you. So…. I suppose my latest teacher were the cockroaches in my apartment. The bitches made me stronger. Now I don't gag or scream anymore. I gather myself more easily from nausea and emotion. :)

    And as for Marilyn vs. Pema, (aside from the whole of their personas), it seems like the background, unspoken issue would be wisdom vs. beauty… And I don't want to pick! I think there's a space for the sexy in the spiritual, just as there's a place for the spiritual in the sexy. Can I be Marilyn Chödrön? :)

  4. Valerie Carruthers Valerie Carruthers says:

    Terrific post, Kate. The sexy and spiritual, the profane and the profound. Teachings are everywhere all the time, hidden within all things and all moments. We'll get our understanding when we have opened our hearts and minds to see beyond the apparent differences.

  5. I think this is terrific, Kate. While i can appreciate the syntactical nuances in both statements, I do see a great similarity in both. Additionally, I think the overarching question you bring to bear is an important one. It makes me think of the double-edged expression, "consider the source". Generally, an expression like that has a negative connotation and is often associated with a vitriolic statement made by a person whose input is not to be considered of much value. I know that a statement like that has other meanings and connotations as well, but to your point, if we hear similar wisdom from two different sources, do we interpret the wisdom differently based on who said it? Nice work, Kate.

  6. Keren says:

    This post is a teacher in itself. Thank you. Namastè.

  7. All these comments have me picturing Marilyn sitting down with Pema. Can you picture it? Pema gives Marilyn a big hug, listens as Marilyn speaks and together they discuss life & spirituality. And I'm pretty sure they both come away from the table having learned from each other.

  8. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

  9. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Love this!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  10. Ashima Saigal says:

    What a thoughtful and wonderful way of looking at life. Our lenses can often cloud our true calling and learning. I must admit, after reading Marilyn Monroe's quote here I found distaste in my mouth and mind. I think your idea of rethinking that is important. I wonder if I hadn't seen her picture next to it and rather a Buddhist monk, would my mouth and mind like the taste? I do agree with you that gurus are everywhere and we are also our own gurus. I think we often forget about ourselves as the ultimate guru. The important thing is to be willing to keep our lens clear. Thank you!

  11. Anna Sheinman SOFLY_Anna says:

    Great Post! Everyone we meet is a teacher. My biggest challenge is to learn from the people who drive me crazy.

  12. Glory says:

    Thanks for any other informative site. Where else may just I get that type of information written in such an ideal method? I’ve a venture that I’m just now running on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

  13. […] 12. Blonde ~ Joyce Carol Oates. Marilyn Monroe is-it-fiction-is-it-a-biography goodness. Sad and lovely, like Marilyn. […]

  14. […] turn the page. Things fall apart, and come together, and fall apart again. It’s scary. There might be dragons. You might fall down a hole. You might discover treasure. […]

  15. […] of Betty White with a dash of Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball, and a princess or two thrown in for levity, and that’s just a hint of how […]

  16. livefats says:

    Interesting, Kate. Your question about sourcing is especially relevant as, of course, Pema Chödron's comes from his book When Things Fall Apart, but there is no evidence that Marilyn Monroe ever said, let alone wrote, the quotation in your piece that is often attributed to her. Does a "quotation" change its relevance or power, if any, by having a famous name attached to it?

Leave a Reply