As was the case for so many of us, I came to Homer on a whim, and stayed. That summer of 1992, it was a tenting-in-the-rain routine on Ohlson Mountain. All the years since have been equally engaging; nothing to disappoint. My gratitude goes wholeheartedly to the countless, magnificent friends, patients, students, colleagues, community members and housesit critters. My appreciation for each of you is beyond words.
It is nevertheless time for me to leave Homer in order to focus on my Buddhist work and personal practices. My office will close Oct. 25. For the last five years I have been traveling a lot in Asia and Europe. Some of you have known me long and well enough to witness and understand my various transformations. For those who are unfamiliar, here is some history.
Before coming to Homer I had been practicing as a physician assistant, focusing on adolescent and poverty medicine in inner city D.C., then graduated from the New England School of Acupuncture in 1985. Eventually I worked as senior teaching faculty and student clinic director at the Minnesota School of Acupuncture and Herbal Studies, teaching modern Japanese Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It was after these experiences that I opened my acupuncture office in Homer. My goal has been to provide efficient, effective, ethical medical treatment regardless of patients’ ability to pay.
Behind this western scene, however, has been my spiritual world. I began formally meditating in 1971. In 1975, I started studying Hindu-based tantric meditation with an Indian master. At that time I knew I would one day be a nun, but had not a clue how or when or where that would happen. My Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayana) practices have developed steadily over the last 30 years.
In the late 1990s I left Homer for a few years to focus on my spiritual practices, which included going more deeply into art. One’s effectiveness is only as good as one’s consciousness. To practice good medicine one obviously must learn the science and how to use it. I wished also to approach treatments with a flexibility that I describe as art-mind. So back to Boston to get an MFA in fine arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University (primarily in drawing, printmaking, paper making and sculpture). That led to teaching at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna and Homer.
Some years ago my Buddhist teachers, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche (both former heads of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, and teachers of the H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama) identified me as the reincarnation of a Tibetan woman lama, Jetsün Mingyur Paldrön (1699-1769). She was the first woman in a lineage of women lamas of Mindrolling Monastery in Tibet (now also in India). They then presented me to the Dalai Lama, who tested me and confirmed my identification.
It was with His Holiness that I renewed my vows: Refuge, Bodhisattva, Vajrayana and renunciate/monastic. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche gave me the name Mingyur Chökyi Ösel Rinpoche. (“Rinpoche” is an honorific title of respect, translated as “precious one,” and used for a Buddhist — female or male — who has been identified as the reincarnation of a named former lama. My rinpoche name translates as “unwavering dharma protector of the clear light or luminosity.”)
During this process I traveled several times to Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, India and Europe to do Buddhist work. Mostly it involved helping to equalize the status of women in the system, to write commentaries on Vajrayana philosophy, to work with traditional Tibetan doctors and to do acupuncture in villages, monasteries and nunneries (especially for ex-political prisoners and those tortured by the Chinese).
Because of the political situation in Tibet, it would not have been safe for me to travel there as a nun or to be known as a rinpoche. So finally, after returning from Tibet, I was able to put on my maroon and yellow robes (of the Nyingma school) and shave my head. For me it is a long awaited homecoming.
My immediate destination for the next six months is a personal retreat for meditation, writing, and studying. (And probably an hour a day of drawing.) It has been an honor to practice medicine here in Homer. As I go now full time into Buddhist community (sangha) I will always hold each of you in my mind and heart. Wonderful wishes for your health and happiness,
— Chökyi Ösel Rinpoche/Ellen Chambers