We are very sad to announce that Cathy Pressman died Thursday, August 11. Cathy was a very longtime student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and a very dedicated member of the Buddhist community for many years. She also had very deep and strong connections to the Native American world. Please keep Cathy in your practice and prayers.
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Dearest Friend of long ago--after your buddha realm vacation, come back to wherever I end up, please.73
Cathy Pressman eulogy, August 14, 2022 Boulder, CO by Cynthia Kneen
There are names you receive in human-oriented traditions like Buddhism, Shambhala, indigenous groups, religious rites of passage, tribal rites of Passage…
So Cathy had received a refuge name, a bodhisattva name, and a secret name from Trungpa Rinpoche in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. These are meant to help you on your path. And then she also received a Shambhala name, which is not meant to help you develop. It’s your warrior name, the brave person you already are. The other warriors call you this when they need help. “Hey, ---SoAndSo---! The attack against the intangible is happening over here! Come here and help!” And you as a warrior say, “OK, I will!”
Cathy’s Shambhala name is Incredible Peony.
Think of your experience of a sunflower, an orchid, a pansy … they are so distinct. Then, what is your experience of a peony? “Oh, a peony! It’s going to open, and open, and open, and open, and open ---- petal by petal endlessly.” Heartfelt, and unstoppable.
Cathy had deep trust in the universe, in herself, and that things would work out. Deep trust in what is obvious and true, that we miss all the time. This intangible dynamic we are in that is hard to speak about, hard to see -- she trusted it, and her place in it. And she worked very, very hard at the practicalities to make sure things worked out for her and those she loved. And when they did? “Oh” --- as if she had nothing to do with it!
To me, she was like Dogen Zenji or an authentic Japanese samurai –-- full of contradictions, with a big heart, and very, very strong. One of the mysterious doctors she consulted said: “You are the most yang person I’ve ever met.”
Sometimes she would get fed up with ignorance and people. Direct, gruff like Dogen looks he was, she’d say, “When I die, I’m not coming back here. I’m done with this. I’m going somewhere else!” She was disgusted with human cruelty, disgusted with society’s contradictions. If she thought you had a good heart, you were her friend. If she thought you had a bad heart, you were useless. It was breath-taking. I was attracted to the hint of danger in our relationship, that I could be fired if I was off, because 100% I.did.not.want.to.be.fired.
In the last year, she said, “OK, I’ll come back, but first I want a vacation! I want to go to a spa in a Buddha realm and just rest, then I’ll come back.”
I think she felt being human was fundamentally absurd, and her hard work was to respect it and love it, be ready to play, and give everything she could to help.
We had a wonderful walking practice. No gossip, barely catching up with our lives. Just observing, enjoying, looking, sharing, imitating people, dogs, plants, trees, --- thinking of metaphors, fast associating like comedians or jazz musicians do. It was joyous, definitely not politically correct. This is what we did together minimum once a week for years – practice affection for the observables in collaborative meditations, such a joy.
More than anything, she let me love her. This was such a gift to me. It helped me understand what I could do to help.
May the spirit of her Incredible Peony-ness remain in my heart. May it always be shown to all people. May the spirit of her bravery permeate the whole world.
Year After Year
How many mornings have we made
this trek to the tent? Late summer,
the morning light shifting as the days pass.
Some days the sun is too hot on our backs,
others a grey chill surrounds us.
Grouchy, joyful, agitated, at ease.
Our feet still crunch on the dirt road.
Rocks sit fully present along the way.
Prayer flags flutter all in a row.
E ma ho E ma ho E ma ho.
During an annual program with Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Cathy Pressman’s sudden passing is a deep shock to her family and so many friends. She has been an indelible presence as a person in the Buddhist community and Native American circles for decades. She has left an imprint of a life filled with dedicated spiritual practice, enduring friendships, service to others, wonderful wit and intelligence, crystalline honesty, acute sense of living Dharma, and care for others on a grand scale.
Catherina Pressman, maiden name Catherina Perkins, was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, on Jan. 12, 1945. She attended the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in New York, and worked at B. Altman, an upscale department store in Manhatten. She later became a pastry chief after moving to the Bay Area of California. So much for her secular life!
During the adventuresome late 1960’s, she traveled to Sweden with the fabled Hog Farm, an itinerant collective of hippies gathered together by a colorful character named Wavy Gravy, a "mobile, hallucination-extended family, active internationally in both music and politics”.
Then Cathy met Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She launched into a life of acute inquisitiveness, devotion, and endless service to others. One of her favorite songs in the 60’s was Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. When she first met Trungpa Rinpoche, she said “I have met my Mr. Tambourine Man!”
She went on to study and practice with Trungpa Rinpoche. Many times when he visited the Bay Area, she took care of his household and cooked for him, which strengthened her connection with him. In 1980 she attended Vajradhatu Seminary at Lake Louise, Canada.
Cathy embraced Trungpa Rinpoche’s Shambhala teachings, becoming the Director of Shambhala Training in the Bay Area, and for years taught Shambhala Training. The principles of Shambhala became firmly engraved in Cathy’s personality and life.
In the early 1990’s she became the director of Rocky Mountain Dharma Center (now Drala Mountain Center) along with Eamon Killoran and moved there with her husband, Ben Pressman. They divorced in the late 1990’s.
Cathy was, for many years, the primary caretaker of Lady Konchok, and cooked for her and Lama Pegyal, and their son Gyurme Dorje. She was devoted to them and developed a close friendship with the whole family.
Following the death of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Cathy connected with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. For the last few years, she attended his teachings in Crestone. She also made a connection with Anam Thubten, and was the cook for his first Chöd retreat in Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation.
One of her strongest spiritual connections was with the Native American community and spiritual practice when she was introduced to the Lakota Sun Dance ceremony. Cathy met Howard Bad Hand, a Lakota singer and healer from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. After a few years providing support for the Sun Dance he led at Rosebud, she began to dance herself, completing a 4-year commitment as a dancer. She was a strong dancer and loved her time in that circle. She said that dance came along at a time when she was in great need, and she felt the Sun Dance had saved her life. Cathy made many friends on Rosebud and was greatly loved there, for her commitment to the dance and to Lakota spirituality, and equally for her wonderful generosity and sense of humor.
In recent years, she worked as a companion for elderly people, cooking for them and spending time helping them.
In every world she became a part of, Cathy extended her spiritual practice as unending hospitality, openness and care for her friends and for everyone she came into contact with.
Cathy is survived by her two sons, Obie and Josh. She leaves behind a vast legacy of connections and care and she will be missed by so many. Thank you Cathy!
I loved Cathy. She was one of very few people I could have a totally open conversation about anything, no need to hold back or fear of judgement. Brutally honest, fearless, completely wonderful, with a whole lot of laughter. I will miss her terribly.
For Cathy, Great Eastern Sun Dancer
Cresting the rim
of this close Eastern hill,
A vast fresh horizon
appears alit with Golden Sun
Like the wind
You have headed straight that way!
“And before the sky there are no fences facing…”
You are always razor sharp
With a giant heart
Pierced with prajna and bodhicitta.
What could be more enduring?
What could be more endearing?
What could be more captivating?
A single prayer flag
dancing in a stiff breeze,
from this central tree…
a final wave from this world…
It was a good day to die!
Because you yourself are so good
Beneath the open sky!
Break loose your tether, take your victory round!
Expand out from this arbor of form and sound
to that widest circle, by love bound
After all, you met face-to-face the Sun,
and are now now meeting him again,
Be at your ease, perpetual friend!
“Yes to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands, with all memory and fate, driven deep beneath the waves”…
“Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.”
Go well sister,
Ah Ho Mahasukha!
Ki Ki So So
Love always, Clarke Warren
Dear vajra sister, journey well!
Cathy was a friend in San Francisco, Seattle, and at RMDC when I was staff there. She had a magical way of turning grumbles into laughter. I will miss her; expect to see her again next lifetime!
Beautiful golden lotus of generosity her continual service to our sangha never stopped. no one could beat her down.
Cathy was a friend to me and to many. Cheerful, engaging and always ready to share her thoughts on things. One memorable time was years ago in Crestone when she and Vicky Hitchcock unexpectedly needed to move to my house there for Tsokyni Rinpoche’s retreat. I fussed in making sure everything was just right, worrying all the time it wasn’t. Cathy then looked at me directly and said gently, “You have everything you need”. It stopped me on the spot, stopped the fussing and I could relax, knowing this to be true….not only for this time for for all times. It became my slogan. Thank you Cathy for being just you, and for your innate wisdom of seeing things just as they are. With love, Katherine (or Kath as she called me).
I knew Kathy when she and Eamon directed RMSC. She was delightful
and had a great sense of humor. She was a good one.