A former actress and student of Gurdjieff’s teachings, Mitra Lee Worley discovered Buddhism in 1973 when she attended a theater conference in Boulder, hosted by members of the Buddhist community of Chogyam Trungpa. Subsequently she was invited to teach acting at the Naropa Institute where she began meditating and attending talks by Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1975 Chogyam Trungpa asked Lee to head the Theater Studies program at Naropa. She studied Mudra Space Awareness practices and shepherded the theater program through its precarious early years. She also helped launch the Ngedon School of Buddhist Studies and taught courses in that curriculum for many years. In 1996 she received an MA in Buddhist Studies, Tibetan language track, from Naropa University. At Naropa, Lee met Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and became his formal student. She soon became the practice coordinator in Boulder and later the national practice coordinator for Nalandabodhi. Lee says that she basically sees herself as a practitioner and would like to be a role model and champion of practice on and off the cushion. “I look for the truth that underlies the dharma,” she explains, “and seek ways to bring them into moment-to-moment life beyond any dogma.”
In 2005, Lee was appointed as one of five Western Nalandabodhi teachers and given the title “mitra” (friend). She was one of five of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s Western students appointed to be senior teachers within his lineage for the Nalandabodhi sangha. Rinpoche gave them the title Mitra (“spiritual friend”) and authorized them to impart a broad range of teachings and carry significant spiritual responsibilities in relation to the students of Nalandabodhi.