“Wild, Wild Country,” a Documentary about Spiritual Guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and His Followers: My Opinions, Personal Experiences and Reactions

Wild, Wild Country, a Documentary about Spiritual Guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and His Followers: My Opinions, Personal Experiences and Reactions

There are many similarities between “traditional” or “organized” religions around the world and all their sects and cults. The valuation of these distinctions depends entirely on the describer’s perspective, the point in history they existed, who is doing the defining, what the underlying politics and economics are for such definitions, what fears already lie in wait, and what the circumstances surrounding the group’s existence were/are.


image from https://triangulations.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/cults-vs-religions/

UPDATED RESOURCE from 8/1/18: UPDATED RESOURCE from 8/1/18: “Why are Cults so Difficult to Oppose?” https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2018/08/01/why-are-cults-so-difficult-to-oppose/ is a great, informative blog post/article about definitions of the continuum that includes cults and other organizational dysfunctions. Worth reading!

Watch Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell to see the cult of Jesus in effect, with songs and dances. Study the modern-day equivalents, such as the disasters that occurred when the USA government went against Waco‘s (around David Koresh) or Ruby Ridge‘s cults, or the suicide cult of Jim Jones and The People’s Temple, or Charles Manson and the murders he inspired, to see modern-day versions of the Jesus cult’s influences. Visit any Mormon polygamy family or group to see Joseph Smith‘s influence morphed into a cult. On and on.

There are many intentional religious communities, such as the Mormons, the Shakers, the Essenes, that would be (or are) considered cults. There are other groups of individuals that decided to live together in communes, communities, even towns or cities, whose organizations were eventually legitimized politically and socially, such as Puritans, Quakers, Twin Oaks, Findhorn and others.

Many first came to the USA from other countries to escape religious persecution. In their countries of origin, they were undoubtedly banned and were definitely considered dangerous criminals, heretics and illegal, which motivated or forced their unethical occupation of these lands. Even if these people had been exiled to the “New World” as recently freed or still-incarcerated prisoners, they soon formed or joined “colonies” that, after a bloody revolutionary war to declare independence, became “states” or “commonwealths.” When does incorporating legitimize a cult?

“History is written by the victors,” proclaimed Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain (when it was still the heart of a formidable United Kingdom)…. He should know. Nothing we hear or read regarding controversial historical events can ever be exactly what it seems.

Howard Zinn‘s A People’s History of The United States proves repeatedly and painfully how many lies are told by the “winners” to justify and glorify their victories. The actual stories of the invaders and thieves who came to the Western Hemisphere’s continents and islands and subsequently raped, pillaged, enslaved, lied, kidnapped, burned down and stole their ways across and all around these lands—which were already occupied—was recast to frame these criminals and slave-owners and those who benefited from/were related to them as “explorers,” “Pilgrims,” “colonists,” “settlers,” “Pioneers,” “plantation owners,” “farmers,” etc.

We want the divine to be visible on earth. We want a Messiah. We want to belong and be inspired. These are human desires.

Watching the six episodes of Wild, Wild Country, I was flooded with memories, emotions, thoughts and observations due to my own connections to these and similar people and groups. In this post, I reveal my own herstory and also share my opinions, observations and emotions stimulated by my viewing of this documentary about the Rajneeshees.

Wherever you are reading this, please post your own experiences, comments, insights here, or find the post’s comments section on my site on or after April 5, 2018: http://www.sallyember.com/blog


My herstory, with full disclosures:

—By the definitions, checklists and assessments offered as to what constitutes a “cult” (listed and quoted at the end of this post), I have been a member of, somewhat involved in, or around leaders/members of about twenty of these so-called “cults” in my life already. A few were great, start to finish/currently. Others started out all right and turned bad. Several started out weird and became familiar and helpful. There were many that exist(ed) somewhere in between these poles of experience.
—I have had personal friends, acquaintances and known several community members who were very involved with and were staunch supporters/members of the Rajneeshees Oregon community (featured in this documentary), although none of them lived there for very long or had only visited. I called them “Orange People” and treated them with varying degrees of indulgence, disrespect, acceptance, interest, derision, bewilderment, curiousity.
—I was born into the edges of one “traditional religious” cult that my brother and his family are all happily members of—Modern Orthodox Judaism—but I’m sure they would object to having their portion of Judaism classified as a cult, even though it meets most of the criteria.
—In addition to Rajneeshees`, I have known well/had reconnections with more than 100 roommates, friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances involved in cults and cult-like groups since 1972.

Here are the key groups I have been connected to over these decades:

  • The self-proclaimed Reverend Sun Yung Moon‘s Unification Church‘s (followers known as “Moonies”) bought and took over the University of Bridgeport (UB) in Connecticut in the late 1970s.
    I earned a Bachelors degree right before their takeover and was friends with a professor there who stayed through the takeover and after they departed. He did not become a Moonie, but during their administration, he became a Dean, then Provost, before retiring a few years ago.
    I became ashamed to have earned my B.A. from the place that became known as “Moonie U.,” always hastily adding after being forced to admit I had graduated from UB that I had left before the Moonies had come.

    The Cultiversity of Bridgeport
    article at https://theness.com/index.php/the-cultiversity-of-bridgeport/

  • I joined the teaching staff of a small but vibrant parent cooperative, private elementary educational institution, The Learning Tree School, that was nested within a larger community in southeastern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The staff and parents had created some living situations that included at least three multi-member households.
    I joined one that had a single parent, her daughter and her partner (brother of one of my co-teachers), a VISTA (AmeriCorps, now) volunteer for the school, myself, and a man who knew many of these people and needed a place to live who would become one of my life partners (see below).
    I first learned about many things that became central to my life while part of this community: Finnish saunas (VERY hot, with steam on wood stovetops in outdoor buildings, and always done while naked and with the cold /ice water interludes), massage, chiropractic care, The Ovulation Method of fertility awareness, medicinal herbs and organic gardening, vegetarianism, macrobiotics, Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC; see below), communal households and collective living (which I lived in/organized from 1977 – 2005), “open” relationships/non-monogamy, positive classroom discipline, collaborative/consensus decision-making, arts in education, “free” school philosophies, child-centered classrooms and so much more.
    The aforementioned male addition to our collective household and I started a relationship that continued for almost twenty years. He is the father of my only child, a Mevlevi Sufi (see below), and still a good friend.
    But, interestingly, as a somewhat traditional teacher and person going into this teaching position and community, I remained an outsider. They decided that I was too “strict” when I objected to the other teachers’ lack of supervision of the children during icy recess afternoons or at the beachfront (our school occupied the former boathouse of a mostly inactive convent in Tiverton, Rhode Island), and not “loose” enough with the students (I didn’t like it when they got u[ and left in the middle of a lesson and called them back inside). We parted ways after only one year.

  • Followers of Prem Rawat, known as “The Maharishi,” (followers known as “Premies”) included my first-year college roommate, my former brother-out-law and his wife, several of their friends and a housemate’s sister. Although I participated in a few satsangs (Hindu-esque rituals, listening to audio or watching video of the teacher, chanting, singing, incense), this was not at all appealing to me.
  • I know three types of Sufis:
    1) those who started The Abode of the Message—one of the places my partner and I considered living—an “Eco-Sufi Village,” in Lebanon, New York, which spun off into Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a “New Age” educational conference center in Rhinebeck, New York, and now, five other locations all still operating today. Both centers’ leaders follow(ed) the now-late Pir Vilayat Khan, and, later, his successor, Vilayat Inayat Khan but Omega welcomes all traditions, hosting many other leaders and educators.
    We weren’t drawn to The Abode community when we visited, so I didn’t return until I attended a week-long educational seminar at Omega in Rhinebeck about twenty years later. Great place! Just not for me;


    image of indoor meeting space, Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY

    2) those who are considered Mevlevi, often Turkish, who follow the teachings of the late poet, Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi). I knew/know many of these Sufis, including their now-deposed (due to a sex scandal) leader, Kabir [Ed] Helminski, in southwestern New Hampshire and southeastern Vermont (because my son’s father is a follower).
    My son’s father became a world-renowned master among the specialized Sufi Dancers known as Whirling Dervishes. He has traveled all over the world to whirl, starting in the mid-1980s, including at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
    Despite attending numerous Sufi family events and Semas, I never felt drawn to this path, either;
    and,
    3) students/followers of Sufi Sam Lewis (also known as Murshid Samuel Lewis and Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti), who helped invent a type of spiritual dances that were done in circles with partners and groups, in spirals and other patterns, which he called “Sufi Dancing.”
    My son’s father had lived at and known Sam at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico before Sam’s death in 1971. I first encountered and participated in Sufi dancing at Another Place Conference Center in 1978 (see below).
    Sufi dancing has spread throughout the USA and Canada and the world. In several USA places on both coasts and in New Mexico for over thirty years, I learned a lot of these dances and songs, some in English, some in Arabic. I love them because they were easy to learn and the dancing/singing quickly infused us dancers with sweet messages of love, hope, peace, joy and community camaraderie.
    But, group arts activity is not a path and nothing about it appealed to me besides the Sufi dancing.


    image from https://triangulations.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/cults-vs-religions/

  • I was friends with and knew personally several leaders/founders of the Contact Improvisation Dance groups and Dance/Movement Therapy that inspired “Dance Free” (in Cambridge, MA), “Dance New England,” dance camps, “Dance Spree” at Keene State College in New Hampshire, and the Counseling Psychology/Dance Movement Therapy Masters’ degree program at Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene, New Hampshire.
    I have had several housemates and good friends who taught at and/or attended Antioch New England’s various graduate programs, including this one, and the DMT/CP program is the one from which my daughter-in-law graduated in 2016.
    But, since I hurt my leg severely in high school and suffered greatly from nerve pain for about twenty years, vigorous dancing was not my path, either.

  • MSIA (Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness) founded by John-Roger, “The Mystical Traveler” (a close associate of Arianna Huffington), had many other well-known followers/adherents. Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul was an early leader.
    One of my sisters was very involved with this in the late 1970s. After she graduated college, she and her partner (later, husband) moved to Los Angeles, California, and that’s where she met up with these people. She decided to earn a master’s degree in counseling from their questionable and uncertified Koh-I-Nor University in Los Angeles. She worked for and was friends with Jack Canfield and his second wife for a year or so, then started having children and didn’t go back.
    My sister’s involvement scared more than appealed to me. I was glad when she left the group.

  • Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC), founded by Harvey Jackins, was created from what Harvey stole from the work, philosophies and techniques of Gestalt/Fritz Perls, Psychodrama/J.L. Moreno, L. Ron Hubbard/Scientology/Dianetics, and Alcoholics Anonymous/”Bill,” and the Big Book. Harvey and a few other “peer counselors” began to “train”and recruit participants and local, regional and global leaders (“Reference Persons”) through free introductory workshops, then pushing members into increasingly expensive beginning and required classes, that become more elite (and costly). The sequences of more “advanced” classes (like EST, Esalen, and many other groups/conference centers, what they offer gets pricey; see below) keep the organization funded. RC is a “peer counseling” technique which became the foundation of an international movement of anti-oppression, especially social, political, personal growth and activism, which I greatly appreciated and learned about intensively. Based in Seattle, Washington, the organization continues to this day and still sells information through Rational Island Publishers. A lot of the anti-oppression, anti-isms movements’ language, concepts, techniques and workshop leadership sprung from RC roots.



    images from https://www.rc.org/

    After Harvey‘s death in 1999, his son, Tim Jackins, took it over as the newly selected “International Liberation Reference Person.” RC leaders started multiple magazines/newsletters and used their increasing political savvy and leadership influence to help/staff many of the most significant civil rights and improvement movements of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the new millenium (environment, feminism/sexism, ableism, racism, sexual abuse memory recovery, ageism, peace and social justice, to name a few) that are still having an impact and still active worldwide.
    I started with RC in 1980 despite having had bad experiences with it in The Learning Tree School community (some co-counselors did not maintain confidentiality, e.g.; see above), then left it in 1984 to join and become a leader of CCI. I credit my ability to deal effectively and with courage when my own and others’ emotions arise, my raised consciousness (now called being “woke”) regarding all types of internalized and external oppression, my first understanding of the “isms,” social and political systems, leadership, group dynamics, catharsis (known as discharge, here) and much more to my experiences in RC and CCI.
    I met some great people who became lifelong friends, colleagues, inspirations and mentors for me through these organizations. I am eternally grateful that these organizations existed and were accessible to me in my early adult and new parent years. My first teachers and co-counselors earned my gratitude forever: Bonnie Insull, the late Jaye Alper, Anna Aasgard, Diane Balser, Katie Schwerin, Emmy Ianello, Sydney Amara Morris, Bill Whyte, Zea Moore, Jeremy Youst, Mario Cossa, Pamela Lerman, Susan Link, Beth Pearson, Thom Herman, and David Eisenberg.
    But, the rigidity turned me off, so I turned to CCI (see below).

  • Co-Counseling International (CCI) was a spin-off/rip-off of RC that formed in 1973 when a few disgruntled leaders and practitioners of RC didn’t want to follow the “blue pages” (stolen from Alcoholics Anonymous‘ “Big Book,” these were originally printed on blue paper; these list the guidelines/rules for social conduct for AA groups that Harvey adapted for RC groups), particularly rebelling against the strictly enforced rules that forbid socializing/befriending and having sex with people whom co-counseling participants knew only through RC as leaders or co-counselors. CCI-ers also wanted more respect for and inclusion of the “spiritual” component than Harvey and his co-leaders seemed to value or would permit. Adding the spiritual component and escaping the rigidity of RC appealed to me, so I switched alliances in 1983.
    I rose quickly in the local ranks, leading/teaching classes and workshops, weekend conferences and other events. However, there was too much irresponsible and non-monogamous sex going on among co-counselors, especially at weekend workshop events, even for me (who was in “open” relationships for more than half my adult life), For example, there were many public displays of kissing and fondling, seemingly required at the end of some weekend conferences in a kind of good-bye dance line set-up, that made me very uncomfortable. I usually declined to participate in these “group gropes,” but, as a co-leader, I wish I had tried to stop them completely.
    I stayed about three years with CCI, but left CCI once I started going to traditional therapy in 1986 (after the Choy/cult experiences—see below—destroyed my main friendships and co-teaching partnerships within CCI).

  • Some Sikhs were those who followed Yogi Bhajan and Kirpal Singh and his successors. Some started and ran the Golden Temple of Conscious Cookery restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    One of these Sikhs was a 3-year roommate (1987-1989) and friend of mine in New Hampshire.
    Being a complete vegan did not appeal to me, nor did that eating plan work for my body. I didn’t like the worshipping a human teacher aspects much. Plus, the turbans were a big turn-off.

  • The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, founded and led by Stephen and Ina May Gaskin, inspired/wrote Spiritual Midwifery. The Farm was one intentional community that my partner and I considered living in and visited in 1978. But, while we were visiting, they were experiencing a hepatitis outbreak: big turn-off.


    Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin of The Farm

    We knew several couples who had lived there but who had left and moved to New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the late 1970s (two couples had been in a “four-marriage,” which meant each of them had fathered a child with the other’s wife, but that child was raised as in ignorance until adulthood, believing him/herself to have been the child of the originally married couple). One of the families that we knew well (because my partner had been college friends with the mom) had had one of their children’s birth stories featured in the midwifery book.
    Because of The Farm‘s great information dissemination, we had access to one of the best books on home births, a great cookbook for home cooking for vegetarians (especially how to cook beans, tips on using pressure cookers, recipes for making everything from scratch), pamphlets on making/using tofu (The Farm community was instrumental in popularizing the use of soy in many forms). I became an excellent vegetarian cook, we had a home birth for our son, and we had several friends who were lay midwives (three midwives attended our son’s home birth).


    My son, his father and I, he in a Native American-style, homemade (by two of our midwives) cradleboard, May, 1980, Stoddard, New Hampshire

    I am very grateful to the Gaskins and their followers for all they have contributed to my and many others’ lives.

  • I knew a lot of “Mukties,” followers of Muktananda—born Krishna Rai— who was the founder of Siddha Yoga and popularized the spiritual residential centers known as “ashrams” in the USA.
    Students of Muktananda and his successors were leaders/members of several groups I was affiliated with, including Another Place Conference Center, Spring Hill Community, Opening the Heart, and Robert Gass and the Wings of Song band/chorus in the late 1970s and early 1980s (I am listed as “Sallie Fleischman,” a chorus member, on the second album, Many Blessings, released in 1980; I performed with the band from 1978 – 1980). We also had two Siddha Yoga practitioners for housemates. I also knew some Buddhist sangha members who were Siddha Yoga practitioners/leaders (known as “Swamis”) who had lived at the main ashram in New York state.
    But, other than the chanting and singing kirtan (Hindu sacred music), I was never drawn to visit an ashram or practice in this path.

  • Mettanokit (a Wampanoag—Native American—language name given to several communal households that were part of an intentional community in southwestern New Hampshire that my partner and I moved from Massachusetts to be a part of, attracted by this flyer:


    Mettanokit flyer, circa 1978

    This community was started by Native American activist and author, Medicine Story (Francis Story Talbot, Manitonquat, who has written extensively on his philosophies ad done a lot of work in the world related to these concepts), and his then-wife, Emmy Ianello, and several others. I lived in collective households with some of these members (Story, Emmy, Toqueem [child], Katie, Bill, Mia [child], Charlie, Aaron [child], Christopher and I were in the first group household, in Sharon, New Hampshire, 1978-79) in some combination for three years (and there were several home births in these households, including ours; see above).
    Although the community splintered and some moved to form other households—in Massachusetts, Another Place Conference Center (where many had lived prior to this; see above and below) who then bought and ran it for years, in other parts of New Hampshire, and some scattered—I became lifelong friends with the family who founded and still run Badger Balm, Bill Whyte, Katie Schwerin, and their daughters, Emily Schwerin-Whyte and Rebecca Hamilton, and Katie‘s daughter, Neumia Mason Burroughs.
    Joining this community was the reason I landed in New Hampshire, and these connections formed the foundation for my adult life, parenting and community for over twenty years. I am very grateful to have known and been a part of this venture at its inception.

  • Wiccans: I was close friends with several practicing witches whose beliefs were sometimes labeled “Wiccan,” “Pagan,” and “Womancraft.” I attended a workshop with USA’s most famous modern witch, activist and author, Starhawk, and visited and did rituals with several covens and Goddess groups that practiced “White Magic” in the 1980s.
    I learned to read Tarot cards, scry (see visions in crystal balls), do healings with placing crystals on people’s bodies and faces, cast a circle (create a safe/sacred space for rituals) and use the tools of Wicca. I had several crystals, crystal balls and my own athame (ritual dagger) as well as specific types of candles and incense.
    I learned a lot and enjoyed some of the rituals and gatherings, but when my closest friends who were committed practitioners of the Craft moved away, my interest dwindled.

  • Shamanism: (the Michael Harner-/Brant Secunda-inspired types). I knew a few who had studied with these leaders who brought the techniques back to New Hampshire.
    I attended some drumming/shamanic dreaming/vision circles in the 1980s.
    But, I had more interest in one of the drummers than the path, and when our friendship blew up (see Choy experience, below), my interests in Shamanism and drumming vision quests ended as well.

  • Robert Bly followers/drum circle men permeated several communities I was part of in southwestern New Hampshire and northern California.
    As a woman, this was not for me.

  • Radical feminism: I am still an adherent.
    I belonged to several feminist groups over the years, including the Rising Sun Feminist Health Alliance, which had founding members who were in the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (the authors of Our Bodies/Ourselves) as its leaders. I was also briefly on the Board of New Hampshire-NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). I also visited and/or belonged to vision groups, study groups, Grandmothers’ groups, Goddess groups, several women’s choruses, women’s groups, lesbian-bisexual women’s groups, LGBT groups, and feminist activist organizations in five states (some of which overlapped with Wicca, above).
    I attended a weekend workshop at Rowe Conference Center in Rowe, Massachusetts, in 1990, led by ex-communicated, feminist, former two-time presidential candidate, public speaker and author, Sonia Johnson. Sonia kissed any participant who wanted to kiss her at the closing circle ceremony. I did not volunteer.


    image from Citizens’ Party

    Because of my having attended a panel of the authors of Women’s Ways of Knowing and a workshop with Carol Gilligan and some of her co-authors and researchers of In A Different Voice in the 1980s, I decided to return to school to earn my masters’ and doctoral degrees in the early 1990s. I briefly belonged to the AWP (Association of Women in Psychology) feminist professional organization during that time.
    I have been a feminist since 1957, when I objected to traditional Reformed Jewish rituals and traditions that excluded or marginalized girls/women. I am still a feminist.

  • Eco-warriors and Peace Activists: I knew/was friends with some of the original recyclers, permaculturalists, organic farmers, people who started several food co-ops, a founder of Erewhon Natural Foods, founders/members of the New England Organic Farmers Association [NOFA], several environmental educators/faculty at Sargent Camp and Antioch/New England Graduate School in southwestern New Hampshire, and members of several similar groups I was loosely affiliated with for many years. Anti-war/Peace activism: included me and fellow high school students, starting in 1969 for the first Moratorium Day (anti Vietnam War national demonstration, for which I was suspended from school for wearing the black armband; 10/15/69), and continued for every war after that.
    I wish we prevailed more often.

  • Anti-nuclear power activists: I was a member of The Clamshell Alliance, which helped stop the building of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant’s second tower, close down the Rowe, Massachusetts, aging plant, and stop the building of several others around the USA in the 1970s-1980s, particularly successful after the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, nuclear power plant meltdown/disaster.
    Again, I wish we prevailed more often.

  • I learned T.M. (Transcendental Meditation, as taught by the followers of the Beatles’ guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi), right after graduating high school in 1972, but I didn’t join the group. I practiced T.M. twice daily for over 20 years.
    I have had friends and acquaintances who went to live at the USA’s T.M. center in Iowa, attended Maharishi University there and lived at the center in India. Some became leaders in the T.M. movement.
    But, I was in my thirties before I realized that this was a Hindu-based meditation practice, since I had stayed out of the groups (and was glad I had). I did the practice, which turned out to be a component of shamatha meditation (calm abiding) in Buddhism, but not the Hindu path.

  • Scientology briefly grabbed my brother’s attention in 1970, but he didn’t continue pursuing it after high school. In 2013, I met some colleagues who had been more involved in that and its spin-off, Dianetics, but who had also left by the time I worked with them.
    Neither of these appealed to me at all.

  • I was in, around, friends with, sent my child to daycare/preschool and school at/with several intentional communities in southwestern New Hampshire between 1978 – 1998, including Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf Schools/Anthroposophism groups (which I did not join, myself, but many friends became Waldorf teachers). I was the accompanist for the Monadnock Waldorf School‘s (MWS) Eurythmy program in 1987-88, before our son became a student there. Our son attended MWS from 1988-1994 (3rd – 8th grades), and we were active parents. I helped with drama productions, sex/health education, conflict resolution, craft fairs and childcare.
    I appreciated MWS‘ existence in our community, and most of my friends sent their kids to this and other Waldorf schools. But, I always felt like an outsider/dissenter to Anthroposophism because I never bought in completely. The Christian components, especially in the MWS school/community, were excessive and oppressive to me, as a Jewish Buddhist. I was relieved to be “done” with MWS when our son graduated.

  • In 1983, I first met author, channeler/clairvoyant, public speaker and workshop leader, Caroline Myss [pronounced “Carolyn Mace”] when she agreed to meet with me and my friend/colleague, Mario Cossa, to discuss the lost city of Atlantis for two children’s /youth plays we were writing. We became very good friends from then on, seeing each other almost weekly until she left New Hampshire to return to Chicago in 1992.


    Caroline Myss, from her website

    I also met and became friendly with the other founders and staff at Stillpoint Publishing, where she and Meredith Young (author of Agartha: Journey to the Stars) wrote and worked and two other friends of mine soon worked. I coordinated a workshop for Caroline to lead that took place at Another Place Conference Center (see above) in the fall of 1985 on the topic of her second book, Sacred Contracts and Your Archetypes, and I am mentioned in the forewords of three of her books.
    It was from Caroline and Meredith that I first learned about and became interested in “channeling,” so I was ripe to meet with and study with Lisa Leghorn in the early spring of 1985 (see below).

  • I have happily been a member and practitioner, myself, of another cult-like group (according to many definitions), Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhists, as led by the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. I spent about fifteen years co-leading and living in/participating in several of Chagdud Gonpa‘s meditation groups/centers (since 1988–first meetings/1996–joined up). First studying with Lama Lisa Leghorn/Lama Shenphen (see below), my then-partner and I helped start, lead, coordinate, sat on the boards of, and lived in several of these Gonpas (meditation centers/communities).
    I have done several “long” retreats—up to eleven weeks, all in silence—and many that lasted two – three weeks or a long weekend. I attended three 10-day Drubchens and several Drubchods (closed or open retreats with music, chanting, dancing and other rituals that lasted 24 hours a day), weekly or daily meditation sessions (pujas), and even trained to be and functioned as the leader (umzei) for these weekly sessions at several centers. I spent ten years exchanging English language tutoring for Tibetan language tutoring with a Tibetan man I met through one of these centers who became a good friend. I learned to read and write in Tibetan, but not to speak much and was never fluent.
    After philosophical differences among its leaders/Lamas caused schisms (between 2007 – 2009), I “spun-off” with Rinpoche‘s successor, who was already my main/”root” Lama, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu ([Al]Wyn Fischel; see below). He left Chagdud Gonpa‘s main center, Rigdzin Ling in Junction City (northern California, near Redding), in 2009 and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where I already had been living for about seven years.


    Lama Drimed (Wyn Fischel), my teacher

    I returned to Missouri in August, 2014, after the accident that caused a TBI for me in the spring of 2014; up until then, I met with Lama Drimed about once every few months for most of those years. Since I moved, I only returned to California once, in 2016, when I did get to meet with him. Otherwise, we email and have phone calls periodically and I still consider him to be my spiritual teacher. There are a few Buddhist groups here in St. Louis that I have visited, attended some events and kind of affiliated with, but none is the exact same kind of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism as mine, although three are very close “cousins.” I’ve gotten used to being a solo practitioner, though, at this point (spring, 2018).


    image from http://www.vijayatemple.orgA Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist class, similar to the ones I attended for many years

    I practice meditation in the Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition daily and throughout the day, formally and informally, to date (April, 2018), and plan to continue through my death and into other lifetimes.

  • I have always really wanted to be a part of a healthy intentional community, but NOT a cult. I knew the editors/founders of Communities Magazine, Paul Freundlich and his then-partner, in 1978.
    I knew and visited dozens of people who lived at variously located small- and large-group intentional community experiments, always searching for the “right” one for me.
    I was part of a group that tried to get a co-housing community started in 1990-91, but we disintegrated.
    I still long to live in that kind of setting and wish I could find the right community.

There are many more cult-like groups and people affiliated with them that I’ve known, but I’m stopping, here, since these are the main ones, including the story, below.


My Worst Cult-like Experience, with the Same Two Leaders as my Best

Some local teachers, Lisa Leghorn, with whom I was already studying, and, later, Wyn Fischel (who later were briefly married to each other), were pivotal influences in my life, beginning in 1985. They brought me into meeting and studying Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism with H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche because they each became Buddhist teachers/Lamas; see above), which saved and enhanced my life and spiritual development, unlike anything I have ever known before or since (and, by now, you can see I’ve “known” a lot of “paths”).

Lisa and, secondarily, Wyn were the connections that led me to meet with and join what became a briefly formed cult. This group centered around a Filipino faith healer known as Choy who lived in Baguio City, the Philippines. [NOTE: I can’t remember his real name. A Google search didn’t turn up any mention of him by his nickname. The only photos I have are personal, casual or posed group shots.]

This part of my cult experiences story started for me in March of 1985.
I had seen some flyers and ads and then heard from several friends about a “Psychic and Spiritual Development” teacher from Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Lisa Leghorn, who was going to speak and teach in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Lisa apparently offered private psychic readings by “Channeling” her “Spirit Guides” (this was very big in the 1980s). She taught classes in giving readings as well as how to dowse, use crystals for healing and focusing our energies, and learn to “awaken our psychic potentials. The flyers said that Lisa was going to give an introductory lecture and start a series of weekly classes in April of 1985. Since I had been seeing/hearing about it multiple times, it seemed significant and I was interested. I brought about a dozen people with me to this first meeting/lecture, a meeting that turned out to be momentous for many of us.

For Lisa, the story started when, in the fall of 1984, she had first met this Filipino faith healer, “Choy,” because a friend of hers had invited him to teach a workshop in northern New Hampshire which Lisa had attended. It was around that same time that Lisa started dating Wyn Fischel.

Lisa taught her Peterborough classes for about a year; Wyn started attending ours and her other one, in Hillsborough, then teaching his own classes himself in Keene, which several of my friends attended, in the summer of 1985. Lisa and Wyn then invited all their students to meet Choy when he came back to New Hampshire to lead another weekend workshop in September, 1985.

During Lisa‘s weekly psychic and personal development classes (which I attended from April, 1985, to March, 1986) and Choy‘s workshop, I discovered that I had strong and accurate clairvoyant medical and psychological diagnosis skills, similar to those of Caroline Myss (who was a close friend of mine for several years, while she and I both lived in New Hampshire; see above). In these class, I learned about chakras, energy fields, ley lines, light bodies, “layers of the field” of our auras and auras in general, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), polarity, past lives and regression, dream interpretations, and much more.


image from http://theawakenedstate.tumblr.com/post/72106305704/auras

These were all topics that interested me a lot, so I soaked in all in and returned for more, signing up for advanced classes, weekend workshops, and eventually, the trip to the Philippines (see below).

Lisa arranged for a group of us to go study with Choy in Baguio City, but we had to wait because of political unrest in the Philippines. While waiting for Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos to be deposed and flee and Corazon Aquino to be elected President, a dozen of us led by Lisa prepared through evenings, weekends, long weekends, and even a one-week retreat, under Lisa‘s tutelage, with weekend seminars and more classes during the late fall and winter of 1985-86. When it was safe, we went with Lisa and Wyn to study with Choy. Everyone stayed for one month; eight stayed longer; four of us stayed for two months.

After we had all returned, Lisa and Wyn (now married) hosted Choy Choy at Wyn‘s property (which had two buildings, a house and a studio/classroom) for Choy to do healings/see patients and teach weekly classes, which occurred three or four times each week through early September of 1986. The classes included a mix of esoteric/mystical Catholicism, shamanism, psychic/personal development and “New Age” components. I became somewhat of a “senior student” due to my quickly developing skills and knowledge of the local community. I and others brought many friends and family members to Choy‘s groups/classes or to see him as a patient. We sometimes had over 100 people coming visiting Wyn‘s Temple, NH, property per week, for about twelve weeks.

Near the end of that time, however, Lisa and Wyn, then those close to them, began to hear disturbing reports from patients and students: Choy was somewhat of a healing fraud. Turned out that he had told some patients that their conditions were “cured,” but these patients had come back, irate, waving CAT scans showing that their cancers had spread, for example. Worse, we found out that Choy had been sexually abusing some of his patients and my fellow students.

While I and others were first learning of the extent of Choy‘s horrendous behaviors and lies, it turned out that Lisa and Wyn were not so new to this information. They had known about some of the “lesser” sexual improprieties since the first impropriety, back in Baguio City. Then, for months, they had hidden that and other complaints from the rest of us, allowing Choy to stay while their silence protected and enabled Choy to continue and to escalate his abuses.

The ways that these lies were exposed imploded my community. In the aftermath, my credibility and trust between me and some of my friends were destroyed, since some of them believed—I was so close to Lisa and Wyn, how could I not have known what they knew?—that I had known more and sooner than I had. I completely understood their skepticism and mistrust; I was feeling that about Lisa and Wyn, myself, and I was furious with and felt horribly betrayed by Choy. These betrayals and abuses of trust devastated several key friendships and CCI (see above) co-teaching relationships for me and damaged my friendships with and trust for Lisa and Wyn for years.

The group-think that developed around Choy and the related events were, by far, the most cult-like of my personal experiences, and the worst. Some of my relationships never recovered because I was not believed or forgiven.

Even more difficult, Lisa and Wyn left soon after this all blew up. They said they had to go looking for a true spiritual teacher and community. They left me, and with them gone, I got all the blame and was the recipient of everyone’s hurt feelings for months after they left. This caused me great stress and sent me into traditional therapy (see above).

One good part: since I had already learned a lot and seemingly had a lot of clairvoyant and counseling/teaching skills, and as one of the most successful and senior students, many asked me to take over/help them out, and I was very willing and able to do that. Not everything Choy had done or taught was fraudulent, at least, not for me and many others.

That is often the case with cults: things with the leader/group start out good or even great, or everything is a mix of good/bad, until it all goes sour. I was traumatized and grieving, but through therapy, I began to heal.

I agreed to continue seeing clients, doing the counseling/hands-on healings/diagnoses, first in New Hampshire at my own home, then at offices I borrowed and eventually rented in Cambridge/Watertown, Massachusetts, once a week. I also started teaching classes that were very similar to Lisa‘s, which I had liked a lot and learned so much from that I wanted to share all that with others. I worked in this field for about two years.

In 1988, after two of my sponsors, who had also been clients and friends, were brutally murdered while on vacation, I stopped abruptly—out of overwhelming grief and guilt—because I had had no premonition of their being in danger. This tragedy and my powerlessness to prevent or protect them from it, as well as my increasing realization that these “classes” and “counseling” were not empowering, but rather, making my clients dependent on me, destroyed what had remained of my faith, motivation and confidence. So, I quit it all.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1987, Lisa and Wyn returned briefly to New Hampshire to pack up and sell their homes. Their search had succeeded: they had discovered Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism as taught by H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (see above), and his sangha (spiritual communities) had met with their approval. They had started studying with him right away and then decided to move to California to join his sangha. They helped to create the main center in Junction City, which was bought, up and running by early 1988.

Their decision to leave New Hampshire was not completely understandable, and I was devastated, furious, sad and bewildered. How could they do this? Another Asian male teacher? Really? I was derisive and disgusted.

Wyn did try to teach me some of what they had been learning (“The Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind”) before they left, even though I was less than receptive. This short “conversation,” which we had while he was hanging laundry outside to dry, was my first Buddhist teaching from him.

We did not part on great terms, but we stayed in touch (mostly, Lisa and I did, then Wyn and I). First Lisa was my Buddhist teacher, starting in Colorado in 1996, continuing in New York City and Boston when she and Rinpoche came to teach and give empowerments and Refuge. Lama Lisa was our guiding lama when I lived at and helped coordinate Buddhist centers in the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation network, one in Maine (1998-99) and two in Arizona/New Mexico (1999-2001).

While I was finishing my doctoral degree and then working full time, 1996-1998, I meditated daily to complete the Preliminary Practices (ngondro) and other accumulations of 100,000 mantras, utilizing visualization and other meditation techniques that qualified me to attend the first-year Dzogchen (“Great Perfection”) retreat with Lama Drimed as its leader. That is the way that Wyn became my “root” Buddhist Lama.


Lama Drimed and I, 1999, at Rigdzin Ling, Junction City, CA

This part of our journey took almost 15 years (see above). THAT is some strong karma, eh?


However, first, I felt very alienated from Buddhism for many years, even though I had met Rinpoche and his wife, Jane (who became Chagdud Khadro when he ordained her as a Lama) when Rinpoche and Jane came to Hew Hampshire at the invitation of my best friend (who had been involved with Lisa, Wyn, Choy, the Philippines, etc., then gone to study with Rinpoche at Lisa‘s request) in 1988.

Missing them and wanting to see what they had created and where they were living, I had even gone out to Rigdzin Ling (see above) to visit Lisa and Wyn, see their new Center/Gonpa, and to attend a 10-day Bodhisattva Peace Training that Lisa had insisted I go to, in the winter of 1989. But, it “didn’t take.” I wasn’t moved to start practicing.

I continued to see Lisa when she came to the East Coast with Rinpoche, as his attendant and translator (he had terrible English that few could understand) almost every year. During one visit, I half-jokingly told Lisa I wouldn’t start studying Buddhism until SHE started teaching it. In 1995, Rinpoche ordained Wyn as Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), whom he also made his “lineage heir” (an unheard-of move, since Rinpoche already had an adult son who was a Lama whom he bypassed for this honor) along with another senior student, Lama Tsering. Rinpoche was one of the first to ordain Western women (starting with Lama Inge Sandvoss) and continued to ordain Westerners until his death in 2002.


image from http://theind.com/article-permalink-1428.html of Rinpoche and Lisa, circa 1994

In 1996, Lisa was ordained by Rinpoche. She became Lama Lisa, then Lama Shenphen Drolma, and started teaching. I kept my word.

For more about this journey, see my two-part series, published online in 2015 in Buddhist Door, “A Reluctant Buddhist: How it Took Me Eight Years to Start Practicing in This Life,” Part I and Part II.


So, watching this documentary, Wild, Wild Country, about Rajneesh and all that, was a little like watching my own and others’ lives. Some of the Orange people/Rajneeshees were close friends, housemates, co-counseling partners, community acquaintances and others whom I had known and understood very well (see above). I had already read some books about this group, but there were a lot of facts and footage that shocked me during my viewing.

The Rajneesh meditation community started out so sweetly, with so much love, hope, utopian visions and plans, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in India and then many other countries, before they started the community/city in Oregon, USA.


image from documentary/Netflix; Ma Anand Sheela and Rajneesh, early years, in Poona, India

But, watching this documentary and remembering the friends and others I knew who had been involved with Rajneeshees made me feel so much sadness, anger, ad compassion. I was hurting for those—like the people I knew personally—who had been innocent followers and believers but who had been horribly betrayed, led astray, influenced unduly to do atrocious things or didn’t even know about them.

Some of what they set out to accomplish, some of the good they wanted to do in the region and world, did occur. But, so much damage was also done.

Watch, and do more research. Then, do more, if you want. Decide for yourselves. Here are my observations, reactions and options. See what you think…


Episodes 1 & 2, late 1970s – early 1980s:
—The promise, the joy, spiritual path and personal growth work, music and dance that infused the gatherings and parties. Recruitment, voluntary joining, friends and family members joining together made this lifestyle seems to appealing to many around the world.
—There were interviews, videos and photographs that showed so many people’s involvement being touted as “the best thing that ever happened to them.”
—They built an amazing, somewhat utopian-seeming city in a very short amount of time and housed and fed thousands. They lived without crime and seemingly in harmony for a few years while the numbers of those who followed Rajneesh exploded worldwide.

Episodes 3 & 4, 1983 – 1984:
Depicting all the ways in which it all goes to shit.
—Rajneeshpuram sent buses and advocates to many cities in the USA in the summer of 1984 to recruit homeless people into its community. They welcomed all of these formerly abandoned people (mostly males) and gave them a lot that they had been missing: security, housing, food, work, friends, respect. But, they did this in order to get these new residents to register to vote so the Sannyasin could take over government by choosing the leaders of Oregon.
—Wasco County, Oregon, refused to allow these newly legitimate residents to register to vote in the November, 1984, election, which shows how crazy the politicians and leaders of Oregon had become.


Rajneeshpuram, 1985, Welcome sign

Bhagwan was instructing Sheela; she did not act on her own or from her own ideas, solely.
—One of these new residents, a formerly homeless man who was mentally ill and violent, attacked and almost strangled Sheela to death. He was quickly removed from the community completely.
Sheelaand other leaders of Rajneeshpuram then made the decision to secretly (without the knowledge or consent of the affected community members) put Haldol (a strong anti-psychotic and sedative) into the homeless residents’ drinks (beers, mostly), which shows how crazy Rajneeshpuram leaders had become.
Ma Anand Sheela and other leaders soon evicted most of the “street” people/homeless people, only keeping those who could/would follow the rules. Sannyasins left the violent, mentally ill Rajneeshpuram rejects in nearby Oregon towns and cities, mostly Portland, showing automatic weapons to those who tried to stop these drop offs.
—Law enforcement came to “inspect” Rajneeshpuram. They were met with roads that were blocked by sannyasin vehicles and “road closure” signs. Officers’ cars went off-road and attempted to enter some buildings, but weren’t allowed in (“We can’t find the keys”), so they left. They missed seeing the labs in which bio-terrorism weapons were being developed.
Sheela planned and sannyasin carried out attacks, which included bio-terrorism (putting salmonella into the food of several salad bars in Portland) prior to the election in order to keep legitimate voters from voting in the November election. 750 people became ill in The Dalles from food poisoning. Many had to be hospitalized.
Sheela and other leaders continued to exhort the sannyasin into even more heinous acts (more threats to Oregonians, violence, including murders). Some sannyasin rebelled/refused or left; some followed her edicts and acted as her “soldiers.” They had disguises, safe houses, weapons, plans for assassinations and other crimes (including bombings) to be carried out against politicians and USA lawyers/leaders.
—Oregonians succeeded in outmaneuvering and thereby, outvoting the sannyasins, some of whom then refused to vote. So, their political take-over plan failed.
—Conflicts escalated after the election, with Sheela‘s making comparisons between Oregon’s leaders and citizens to Nazis and Hitler occurring frequently.
—Oregon set up a “hotline” for people to report possible crimes and dangers, statewide.
—Sannyasins committed arson in Wasco.
—Poisoned chocolates from Rajneeshpuram were delivered to Oregonian activists.
—Sannyasins poisoned water of USA attorneys and other Oregon leaders.
Ma Anan Hasya (a part of the so-called “The Hollywood Crowd”) became one of Rajneeshees‘s spokespeople and fundraisers and married Bhagwan’s doctor. Hasya helped sannyasins to buy mansions in Los Angeles and throwing huge parties to recruit members and donors. Huge amounts started to be spent to give Rajneeshees Rolls Royces, jewelry, property, and money. These gifts gave them access to Bhagwan, without Sheela.
—Divisions arose surrounding Bhagwan, with the starting of new corporations and leaders, creating jealousies, anger, and even more craziness among sannysins and leaders, between the LA and Oregon communities.
Bhagwan began using and became addicted to mind-altering drugs, His talks became less coherent. He became more paranoid, predicting chaos and dystopian futures. Talks began about building underground compounds, etc., to survive the apocalypse.
Sheela tried to get Bhagwan off the drugs, tried to rein him, to keep the police away. He refused her help and advice.
Sheela became more paranoid, distraught, isolated and dispirited, according to followers, in which many more factions/ divisions arose.

Episodes 5 & 6, 1984 – 1990 – 2018: Discovered, caught, arrested, imprisoned, freed, sold, disbanded, resurging, continuing
Sheela and her soldiers had electronically eavesdropped on Bhagwan‘s home and meeting rooms, every phone call, and every building in Rajneeshpuram, for years.
Bhagwan and his doctor were recorded discussing how to inject drugs to kill people, that they had ordered the drugs and buried them in Bhagwan‘s garden and began to build a crematorium.
Sheela believed Bhagwan and his doctor were planning Bhagwan’s death. Sheela asked who would kill the doctor to prevent this?
—One sannyasin volunteered, gathered the injection and syringe, planned and carried out this doctor’s attempted murder during the summer festival of 1985, believing she was saving Bhagwan, but only after that (in September, 1985) did she and Sheela and about 18 others loyal to Sheela leave Rajneeshpuram, fleeing their crimes and leaving a leadership vacuum.
—The USA government became even more intent on destroying/removing Rajneesh and Rajneeshpuram. Immigration, the IRS, zoning and other departments, including the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (the ATF, famous for blowing up many other communities in the USA), and the FBI conducted investigations.
—Investigative journalists helped provide the necessary clues and evidence which brought about the demise of the plans, leaders and the city of Rajneeshpuram. The FBI and other departments within the USA and Oregon government law enforcement groups uncovered crimes going back to their time in Poona, India (money-laundering, immigration fraud, theft, tax evasion, weapons charges, financial crimes of other kinds).
Rajneesh (sometimes called “Osho“) and the followers who didn’t flee with or feel loyal Sheela threw her “under the bus,” blaming Sheela and her alone for every bad thing the community members had done. They publicly burned her robes, called her horrible names, stated that she had written one of “his” books and burned those, and vilified Sheela.
—It was soon discovered that Bhagwan had actually ordered Sheela to do most of the illegal and unethical things she and some others had done. Bhagwan’s claims of innocence and ignorance were false.
—Public speaking, media appearances and newspaper interviews with accusations by Sheela and Bhagwan, each making claims against the other, continued for months.
—It always comes down to money. Sheela‘s posing naked for magazine spreads was one of her “exile” activities meant to earn/raise money.
—The former mayor of Rajneeshpuram, KD, had left and secretly made a deal with the Federal government. He pled guilty to some crimes to avoid other charges and got some immunity as well as placement in Witness Protection by testifying against both Sheela and Bhagwan and 5 others involved in planning/plotting the poisonings, wiretapping/eavesdropping, immigration fraud, financial misdeeds and murder attempts.
—The presence of multiple firearms, explosives and other weapons on each side made violence seem inevitable if authorities had tried to enter Rajneeshpuram.
—Ten followers who still lived in Rajneeshpuram were supposed to be arrested there along with Bhagwan but Bhagwan and they had fled using their own Lear jets, heading to Bermuda where they would not have been extraditable. But, both planes had to refuel. The FAA discovered their plans and arrested them when the planes landed to refuel while still in the USA (Charlotte, North Carolina). They had $50K, a lot of jewelry, his “throne,” and personal belongings.
Sheela and 2 others were arrested and extradited from Germany to the USA on the same day as Bhagwan was arrested in the USA.
Sheela pled guilty to all charges. She paid fines, did some prison time, then was deported after her release.
—Although Bhagwan had been allowed in 1984 to remain in the USA as a “religious teacher/leader,” he was found, arrested and brought up on on criminal charges in 1985.
—Many considered Bhagwan to have been a political prisoner, religiously persecuted and unfairly prosecuted and sentenced.


Rajneesh arrested in 1985. Image from http://www.oregonlive.com

—While under arrest, Bhagwan was brought to several prisons, strip-searched repeatedly, put into cells with dangerous criminals, and paraded before the media while “being returned to Oregon.” They had him on buses, planes, cars for almost three weeks, succeeding in forcing him to “surrender.”
Bhagwan and his attorneys made a plea deal instead of going on trial, even though the case against him was very weak. He probably would have won, but they settled because they believed the USA government would never have stopped going after him and his health wasn’t good enough for a protracted trial or legal fight.
—In November, 1985, Bhagwan agreed to be permanently deported back to India rather than go on trial or serve more prison time in the USA. His departure was filmed and his followers were very sad to see him go, but some followed him to India later.
—Sannyasin began to leave Oregon soon after Bhagwan‘s departure.
—The city/ranch was shut down, then sold. Some of later became a Christian summer camp and retreat center.
Bhagwan was only 58 when he died, in 1990, of heart disease…or, was he murdered by his physician and looted by this doctor and his “inner circle,” as Sheela and others claim?
—There are still Rajneesh individuals and groups of followers, new and original, worldwide: devotees, readers, meditators who learn(ed) about and do the practices Osho and his leaders promulgate(d), with the Osho Foundation and many other ways to earn/collect money continuing, to date, 2018.
Bhagwan was powerful and leading groups for not even 20 years; only about 4 of those years was he active and in the USA. Yet, Bhagwan/Rajneesh/Osho attracted, gathered and still has hundreds of thousands of followers/believers, some who have remained loyal to him and his “vision” for over thirty years.


Part of Rajneesh‘s (then called Osho) obituary, in 1990: “Baghwan [sic] Shree Rajneesh, the Indian guru who attracted thousands of followers at his Oregon commune in the early 1980’s before being deported from the United States, died yesterday of heart disease at his commune in Poona, in southern India, members of his entourage there told reporters. He was 58 years old.” from The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/20/obituaries/baghwan-shree-rajneesh-indian-guru-dies-at-58.html


For more info on the film

An interesting article, written not long after the movie dropped on Netflix includes a video interview with the filmmakers:
“This Is The Part Of Wild, Wild Country That You Didn’t See,” by KAITLIN REILLY, from 3/29/18, link is below.
https://www.refinery29.com/2018/03/195090/wild-wild-country-life-of-sannyasin-rajneeshpuram?bucketed=true

My comment on this article was left on the article’s site and reprinted, here:

I was personally friends and housemates with several “orange people” who went back-and-forth between Southwestern New Hampshire (where we lived) and Oregon during Rajneeshpurim’s heydey. I knew them “before,” “during,” and “after.”

Seeing this documentary brought back some powerful memories and even more questions. Many of the people I knew had already decided not to continue as sannyasin (renunciates; members of this spiritual community) and stop following Bhagwan years prior to the collapse and prosecutions, but some had continued and may still, to this day, in some form, follow those meditation and therapeutic practices.

How many local groups have continued for these 30+ years and how they managed interests me.

It’s really sad, to me, that the purer motivations, missions and plans of the committed, dedicated members of this community were hijacked and destroyed by the powerful and pathological leaders in the group. The conflicts created by them with the town were not inevitable, since I know of several Buddhist communities who came and co-existed peacefully, even as they grew, with small towns in Oregon, California and Washington during and after this same time period.

In my view, and I think in the view of the filmmakers, this intense, creative, innovative and very spiritual community DID become a dangerous cult, but it did not start out that way and it didn’t have to become that. This transformation was very sad for all involved and affected.

Best to you all.


For further reading, learning, discussing:

{NOTE: I haven’t read these books so I can’t comment on or recommend them. For more info, you can find many other summaries and references via Google, Wikipedia, etc.]

Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram: A Community Without Shared Values
by Lewis F. Carter
His blurb for the book, on Goodreads (link, below):

The Rajneeshpuram religious community established in Oregon attracted national attention when the group leaders were arrested and subsequently deported. The spiritual leader of the internationally based sannyasin religious group, guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, founded Rajneeshpuram as a model of sannyasin community formation. The sannyasin deny the legitimacy of all human institutions, accepting neither any general code of conduct nor any shared system of beliefs. This book is a narrative account of the controversial methods of group formation and control practiced by the sannyasin and of the events that resulted in the violence between the settlement and the surrounding community that led to the group’s dissolution. Based on first-hand observation and interviews, the book describes the conditions of life in the settlement and the causes of conflicts both within the community and with outsiders. The author argues that the sannyasin method of group control, relying on confrontation among members, the threat of banishment, and charismatic authority, restricted the sannyasin in resolving conflicts with outsiders for whom these methods of control were ineffectual. The first treatment of the subject informed by sociological scholarship, this study provides unique insight into the importance of shared values in regulating group processes and relationships with other groups.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8625715-charisma-and-control-in-rajneeshpuram

The Rajneesh Chronicles: The True Story of the Cult that Unleashed the First Act of Bioterrorism on U.S. Soil, by Win McCormack
https://www.amazon.com/Rajneesh-Chronicles-Story-Unleashed-Bioterrorism/dp/098256919X
The book’s blurb:

The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers were involved in nefarious activities including prostitution, drug smuggling, sexual abuse of children, and murder conspiracy. The Rajneesh Chronicles explains this behavior–and why the cult that committed the first act of bioterrorism in the U.S. was trying to cultivate a live AIDS virus.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, widely known as the “sex guru,” fled India in 1981 and came to settle on a ranch in central Oregon, where he and his followers established the illegal city of Rajneeshpuram. In their effort to preserve the city, the Rajneeshees attempted during the 1984 election to take control of the Wasco County government by poisoning two county commissioners and over 700 potential voters in The Dalles, the county seat, with salmonella―the first act of bio-terrorism in U.S. history. Armed to the teeth with semiautomatic weapons, they threatened to defend the city to the death against any governmental intrusion, and hatched a plot to assassinate a U.S attorney. When the commune finally imploded and authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that the Rajneesh nurse who had cultivated salmonella bacteria in the commune’s biological warfare laboratory was also trying to cultivate a live AIDS virus―–which deranged group leaders clearly hoped to unleash on the rest on the world.

The Rajneesh Chronicles is a collection of in-depth investigative and analytical articles published in Oregon Magazine covering the entire period from the time of the cult’s arrival in Oregon in mid-1981 to its dramatic disintegration at the end of 1985 (with an introductory chronology that extends the story up to the present). While most press treated the cult’s antics as a humorous sideshow typified by the Bhagwan’s dozens of Rolls-Royces, editor in chief Win McCormack and other of the magazine’s writers systematically exposed the full range of the Rajneeshees’ depraved behavior, including their involvement in prostitution and international drug smuggling, sexual exploitation of children, abuse of homeless people they imported into Rajneeshpuram to register as voters, and the use of brainwashing techniques bordering on torture. The tale of the Rajneesh has become an amorphous legend few inside or outside of Oregon actually understand. The Rajneesh Chronicles fully illuminates the shocking reality behind that legend.

[Books on Amazon written by other followers and journalists are listed below these titles.]

Don’t Kill Him!: The Story Of My Life With Bhagwan Rajneesh Paperback: A Memoir By Ma Anand Sheela, 2013
https://www.amazon.com/DonT-Kill-Him-Bhagwan-Rajneesh/dp/8172344449
Her book’s blurb:

As His personal secretary between 1981 and 1985, and the second-in-command of His organization, Ma Anand Sheela enjoyed an enviably close relationship with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Bhagwan called upon her when He wanted to discuss personal issues, crucial administrative matters, run minor errands, and to even place an order for a new Rolls-Royce. Ma Sheela was His confidante, His closest aide, the person He trusted more than anyone else. She ruled the entire commune under His guidance… until differences crept up. What followed next, soon became part of Bhagwan‘s infamous history, as after years of loyal service, Ma Sheela resigned from her position, left the commune, and fled to Europe with fellow members. An infuriated Rajneesh wasted no time in accusing her of planning a bio-terror attack, conspiring to murder important public officials, and running away with fifty-five million dollars. Ma Sheela pled guilty to some of the charges in court and spent thirty-nine months in prison. Now, almost two decades later, Ma Sheela, still in love with Bhagwan and His teachings, finally tells her side of the story, claiming that the truth was very different, and sheds light on that part of Bhagwan‘s life which has so far been shrouded in a cover of secrecy and darkness.

—Many books written by Rajneesh himself are also still available online and in libraries.


Cult or Not a Cult?

from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/06/the-seven-signs-youre-in-a-cult/361400/, we have this: “Several years ago, the founder of IHOP [International House of Prayer], Mike Bickle, created a list of seven ways to recognize the difference between a religious community and a cult. Written down, the signs seem clear.” (see below)

7 Ways to Recognize a Cult:
1. Opposing critical thinking
2. Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving
3. Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture
4. Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders
5. Dishonoring the family unit
6. Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership)
7. Separation from the Church

from https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/religion/2016/09/15/what-makes-cult-cult/90377532/, we have: “What is a cult? A cult is a group or movement held together by a shared commitment to a charismatic leader or ideology. It has a belief system that has the answers to all of life’s questions and offers a special solution to be gained only by following the leader’s rules. It requires a high level of commitment from at least some of the members.”

4 dimensions to a cultic group:
1) Charismatic leader
2) Transcendent belief system
3) Systems of control
4) Systems of influence

from http://andynaselli.com/sociological-characteristics-of-cults we have: “Sadly, some Christian groups share these characteristics to some degree.”

6 Sociological Signs of a Cult:
1) Authoritarian Leadership
2) Exclusivism
3) Isolationism
4) Opposition to Independent Thinking
5) Fear of Being “Disfellowshiped”
6) Threats of Satanic Attack

from http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm, we have: “This checklist [has been] published in the [new] book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006). It was adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.”

Checklist of Cultic Characteristics includes:
1) The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
2) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
3) Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
4) The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry�or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
5) The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar�or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
6) The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
7) The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
8) The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
9) The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
10) Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
11) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
12) The group is preoccupied with making money.
13) Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
14) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
15) The most loyal members (the �true believers�) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

from https://aeon.co/essays/theres-no-sharp-distinction-between-cult-and-regular-religion, we have: “Often (just as with pornography), what we choose to see as a cult tells us as much about ourselves as about what we’re looking at….Groups that have approved, ‘orthodox’ beliefs are considered legitimate, while groups whose interpretation of a sacred text differs from established norms are delegitimised on that basis alone. Such definitions also depend on who is doing the defining.”
and
“There might not be Satanists lurking round every corner, lying in wait to kidnap children or sacrifice bunny rabbits to Satan, but the dangers of spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse in small-scale, unsupervised religious communities, particularly those isolated from the mainstream or dominant culture, is real enough.”
and
“Of course, the uncomfortable truth here is that even true church (large, established, tradition-claiming church) and cult aren’t so far apart – at least when it comes to counting up red flags. The presence of a charismatic leader? What was John Calvin? (Heck, what was Jesus Christ?) A tradition of secrecy around specialised texts or practices divulged only to select initiates? Just look at the practitioners of the Eleusinian mysteries in Ancient Greece, or contemporary mystics in a variety of spiritual traditions, from the Jewish Kabbalah to the Vajrayāna Buddhist tradition [happens to be mine]. Isolated living on a compound? Consider contemporary convents or monasteries. A financial obligation? Christianity, Judaism and Islam all promote regular tithing back into the religious community. A toxic relationship of abuse between spiritual leaders and their flock? The instances are too numerous and obvious to list.”
and
“…no amount of commonsense reasoning can amount to a legitimate deterrent [to a member of a cult]: the ultimate cosmic meaningfulness of one’s actions transcends any other potential need. And to be in a community of people who can help reinforce that truth, whose rituals and discourse and symbols help not only to strengthen a sense of meaningfulness but also to ground it in a sense of collective purpose, then that meaningfulness becomes more vital still: it sits at the core of what it is to be human.”
and, finally
“Cults don’t come out of nowhere; they fill a vacuum, for individuals and, as we’ve seen, for society at large.”

My response to an extremely disturbing and misleading post about #meditation and #yoga

My response to an extremely disturbing and misleading post about #meditation and #yoga: “Meditation and Yoga: A deeper Look into Practices that are Deceiving Christians Today.” Link to full post, below.

#Meditators, #Buddhists, #Hindus, and anyone who practices either #Christianity or yoga will be particularly interested in this “discussion.”

Warning one: if you are a #Christian who meditates or does yoga, this entire situation will REALLY bother you in ways I can’t even begin to predict. I do apologize, even though none of this is on me except for my response, below (which the blog posters probably will delete, so that is the reason I post it all here).

Warning two: the full article is extremely lengthy. If you don’t want to read it all, I certainly understand.

If you’d like to know more and TRUE information about meditation or yoga, please find a reputable source, such as a qualified and experienced yoga or meditation teacher near you, and/or read accurate books, such as Gates to Buddhist Practice or Being Peace, or pick up a magazine that focuses on either topic which has been around for many years, such as Yoga Journal or Lion’s Roar, and/or talk to actual people who have spent many years practicing/teaching meditation or yoga.

Please leave comments HERE, since these posters will probably delete yours as well: http://www.sallyember.com/blog or here: https://wp.me/p2bP0n-23k

MY RESPONSE:

Apparently, you and Carolyn consider yourselves to be the only types of legitimate “Christians” who are allowed to exist and be safe from “satan” and wrong thinking; somehow, you have deemed yourselves entitled to tell everyone else how wrong their practices, beliefs, churches, leaders and family members are. The sin of PRIDE mean much to you?

Also, there are so many false and misleading statements in this article, particularly those things listed under the headings “Truth” and your so-called “definitions” of words you know nothing about, that I can’t even go point by point: it would take weeks.

Since you both believe in hell, you will undoubtedly burn in hell for all eternity for spreading this kind of deceptive, hateful, untrue, ridiculous and disgustingly ignorant message disguised as “helpful information about ‘meditation’ and ‘yoga.'” You are horribly wrong IN EVERY WAY and you are hurting people (many of whom ARE actually Christians) who are tremendously benefiting from having these practices in their lives.

The best I can hope for you two is that, after you die, you both reincarnate as BUDDHISTS to find out how wrong you are.

If you have any integrity at all, you will NOT delete this comment. I expect, however, that it will disappear. SO I am copying it and pasting it onto my blog, with your link, and that will cross-post to dozens of places and reach thousands of people.

LINK TO THE FULL ARTICLE:
https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/127642918/posts/5538

Through Sept 30, 2017 is the time for #10Q ! “Reflect. React. Renew. Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

It’s not to late, and you don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free! http://doyou10Q.com and #DoYou10Q are the connection points. This year is 10Q‘s 10-year anniversary, so many new events and giveaways are occurring. Check them out!

Check out any local Partners with 10Q: http://doyou10q.com/partners: Reach out to Josh Kanter, Reboot’s outreach and partnership manager, at josh @ rebooters DOT net or (go to the site for his phone number (in the USA)].<

You can still respond to all 10 Questions through September 30, online, and have them put into the "vault" for yourself for next year's reflections.

10Q: “Reflect. React. Renew. Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.

“Answer one question per day [or more than one per day, if you have some to catch up on] in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

“One year later, the ‘vault’ will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

“Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that, too.

“Next year, the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

“Do you 10Q? You should. If you have, already, enter the “giveaway” by sharing one or more experiences and using the hashtag, as directed:


Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins September 20, 2017, and goes for 10 days
http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of my responses to the Questions, from 2016, 2015 and 2014:

2016

–Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My Answer:

I had an up-close-and-personal experience with the American judicial and jury system and I was very disappointed and discouraged from it all. From the attorneys to the judges, the jurors to the laws: all crap, and not in favor of actual justice for the plaintiff, ever, as far as I could tell.
I was severely injured (and still recovering) in a trip-and-fall in a restaurant that was clearly liable and negligent, causing there to be obstacles in the path of a patron which a patron could not easily see. The jury actually agreed on that. However, due to archaic laws, lobbying by the insurance greedies and other mistakes in jurisprudence (which disallowed anyone from actually informing the jury how the “awards” they intended to go to me would be apportioned or the fact the restaurant owner would not pay a dime due to his having insurance), I got nothing, my lawyer was out $30K, and I owe many thousands of dollars to family and friends. I am grateful to all who have helped and continue to help me, but resentful and angry at the unfair outcome of my two+ years of misery.
I am an educated, white, older woman with intelligent and supportive friends and family. I can only shudder to imagine how this “justice” system grinds up those without support or resources and other people who are already on the short end of every stick.
USA justice isn’t.

–Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

The Marriage Equality Act’s being confirmed as the law of the USA by the Supreme Court was a giant step in the right direction for equal rights for all individuals regardless of sexual orientation. As a bisexual woman who eschewed marriage for many reasons, inequality being among them, I am glad to see people who want to get married being able to do.

2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

My Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

My Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

How do you want to 10Q? It’s up to you!

3 Films/Events from Unify.org and others

3 Films/Events from Unify.org and others
[Announcements and images from Unify (http://unify.org)]

ONE:
#makingfriends “Making Friends Across Religions”

A short film… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGMQsJ0VzAk

“On June 14, 2017, many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions.

“Friendship and getting to know one another are the antidotes to negativity and divisions in society, enhancing understanding and unity.

“We pray that the message and example of unity, shown by these leaders, will contribute to bridging divisions by inspiring you and your friends to start new conversations with people of different faiths. Follow the example, spread the message.” http://lionsgateevent.com/


TWO:

8/8/17, 2 PM YOUR TIME


#Globalmeditation on 8/8/17, 2 PM EDT USA:

“The ‘Lion’s Gate Synchronized Global Meditation’ combines several powerful planetary alignments, including the Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius, the Lion’s Gate (or Egyptian New Year) and the 30 year anniversary of the Harmonic Convergence.”


THREE:
#CalmOneCalmAll 8/2/17 at 2 PM YOUR time, JOIN IN:
“A Moment of Calm: Global Forgiveness Moment”

watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FloNvmQCZ0A

“Become a part of the growing wave of peace. Join the ‘Global Forgiveness Moment ––The Moment of Calm’ from wherever you are. Simply observe TWO MINUTES of silence on August 2 at 2 PM to forgive and experience the calmness within.”

REBLOGGING: Great video talk by Lodro Rinzler, the author of “The Buddha Walks into a Bar,” regarding his newest book, “The Buddha Walks into the Office”

REBLOGGING:
Great video talk by Lodro Rinzler, the author of The Buddha Walks into a Bar, regarding his newest book, The Buddha Walks into the Office. Here is his website for more information about him, his books, etc.: https://www.lodrorinzler.com/

First video on the reblogged page (link is below) is an intro. Go to the second one.

Has a simple guided #meditation near the beginning, which is a basic intro to #Buddhist meditation.

Then, starting at around 29.00: “Our lives are a mandala. There is something at the center of it, of all of our lives, and we are either consciously aware of it or unconsciously living it.”

He leads the audience through a wonderful exercise of helping one become more aware of the #mandala of one’s own life, as a values-clarification and awareness-building activity, by putting a quality we want to cultivate at the center and others components where they fit regarding how closely we see each one to that central aspect, and how each aspect connects to others.

Worth doing for life, not just for work.

I wish he had used the word “ethical” as often as “meaningful” for types of work one can engage in for money, because plenty of people would think earning the most money, even while harming others, is “meaningful.”

But, working on behalf of oneself and one’s own interests alone is not what the Buddha meant, IMHO, by “Right Livelihood.”

Definitely listen to the Q & A at the end. Very good exchanges and more info, there. An hour well-spent.

LINK:
https://tgrb.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/the-buddha-walks-into-the-office

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s New Year’s Message for 2017

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s New Year’s Message for 2017 is included in this article about meditation, mind-training, hope and optimism.
Read, watch videos, be blessed, share:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/01/the-dalai-lamas-message-to-the-world-for-2017/

From Elyane Youssef, writing on another favorite site of mine, Elephant Journal. Subscribe! http://www.elephantjournal.com/

#ElevatetheVote in/for the USA NOW, 11/8/16: #Meditate at 6 PM EST

#ElevatetheVote in/for the USA NOW, 11/8/16: #Meditate at 6 PM EST

“Hello” from the global Elevate the Vote team, “in devoted collaborative service from California, Texas, Tokyo, Australia, and Arizona! We are excited to share that over 21,000 people around the world have signed up have signed up to meditate with us on November 8th!”

elevatethevote-1
JOIN US ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE CONSCIOUS REVOLUTION!

“Please take a minute to add yourself to the map by clicking here or here: https://elevatethevote.com/home.
If you have any tech difficulties email support@elevatethevote.com

elevatethevote-2

from their website or https://elevatethevote.com:

Our mission is to inspire meditation flash mobs at polling stations across the U.S. on November 8th with others joining globally through a livestream broadcast.

Our intention is to elevate the consciousness of every U.S.A. voter on election day,
impacting how we feel about ourselves, politics, this election, and each other.

We will send you access to the livestream audio meditation on November 6th – On the broadcast website you will also be able to check-in and submit your photos!

If you aren’t joining a polling station flashmob in the United States, please join us from wherever you are – and if you haven’t joined the Facebook event, click here or here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1833891426856145/ to do so!

The livestream meditation will be a guided inspirational 30 minute experience followed by 30 minutes of silence.

Please take a few minutes to share this invitation through email,
a phone call, or facebook event – each person who joins creates a
powerful ripple effect into our world through their presence and actions.

Together we are demonstrating there is a different way of relating to politics than we primarily see on the media – that we can act on our passion for change with respect for different perspectives and with care for each other.

It is an honor to serve together towards a better world for future generations.

Emotions are running high for millions of us. Together we can bring inner-peace to the front lines of the election process, giving us all an opportunity to experience the election in a new way.

Many of us know that meditation has an impact both in our individual lives and the world around us – our goal is to inspire a tangible shift in perspective and unification of our global community.

From a place of Depth, Compassion, Unity, and Understanding.

E Pluribus Unum” = “Out of Many We Are One
– Inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States – 1776

The US is a diverse nation with extreme differences. Our democracy is not perfect. And neither are we.

This mass meditation is an opportunity for us to come together and heal the divisiveness, showing the world and our children what is possible with inner peace, respect, and unity.

Our collective action makes a statement. It can change everything.
People will notice. Minds will change. Hearts will open. The world will be different.

We know it is only a matter of time before our political systems transform. Humanity is heading towards an enlightened society and every person, being, and system is transforming from the inside out.

May this mass meditation be a step forward for all of us.

For all of humanity.

Thousands of local, state, and federal officials will be elected on November 8th.

May our collective vote serve our nation and serve our planet.

We pray for the highest outcome possible.

We Vote with our Presence.

The global synchronized meditation will broadcast live at
3:00 pm PST /6:00 pm EST to smartphones across the nation and around the world.

Thank you for your care,
Elevate The Vote Team

10/2-10/11/16: 10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

You don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free! doyou10Q.com and #DoYou10Q are the connection points.

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10-q-logo

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that, too.

Next year the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

doyou10q

Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins October 2nd, 2016

http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of mine from 2015 and 2014:
2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Your Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Your Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

Your Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Your Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

Your Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

Chagdud Khadro’s 2016 Summer Teaching Tour #Buddhism #Teachings

Chagdud Khadro

chagdud-khadro-2015-copy
is the American-born widow and former student of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche who was ordained as a lama as well.

I have been with her many times for teachings with her as Rinpoche’s translator and with her as the teacher. For those who don’t know, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche passed in 2002, but he was my first empowering lama and my root lama’s, Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed)’s root teacher.

I first learned P’howa (the practice that includes transferring consciousness intentionally at and after the body dies or helping others do that, including those who are brain dead, already dead, or dying/dead animals) from Chagdud Khadro at a three-day event I organized for Chagdud Lhundrup Ling (A dharma center I helped start) in Maine in 1997: she was fabulous. I had the good fortune to attend several other teachings she gave or translated for Rinpoche or rituals she attended as a lama in New York, New Mexico and northern California between 1997 – 2007. I keenly appreciated her humor, knowledge, insight and compassion.

If you live near or can get to any of these events, these teachings and rituals are rare and precious. They are in the Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition but made accessible to Westerners who speak English. Well worth your time if you’re already a practicing #Buddhist, a meditator or interested in #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Buddhism.

Spread the word! Donations requested; no one turned away for lack of funds.

Chagdud Khadro’s 2016 Summer Teaching Tour
#Buddhism #Teachings

P’howa Retreat
Reno, NV
July 9 – 10
More Information: http://goodnesssake.org/special_events/special_events.shtml#phowa

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
La Jolla, CA
July 11
robertrosson2000 @ yahoo DOT com

Rigdzin Dupa Drubchod
in attendance at Ati Ling/PPI – Cazadero, CA
with Tulku Jigme Rinpoche (Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s son)
July 13 – 19
More Information : http://atiling.org/events/102-rigdzin-dupa-drubchod-2016

White Dakini Drubchen
in attendance at Tara Mandala – Pagosa Springs, CO
with Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche and Lama Tsultrim Allione
August 7 – 16
More Information: http://taramandala.org/program/white-dakini-drubchen-2/

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde – Cooperstown, NY
August 20 – 21
More Information: http://gomdecooperstown.org/august-20-21-chagdud-khadro/

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
Syracuse, NY
August 22, 7 – 9 PM
More Information: http://chagdudgonpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Syracuse-Flier-Khadro-2016.pdf

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
&
Emotions as Obstacles; Emotions as Wisdom
Chapel Hill, NC
August 27 – 28(times vary: check flyer)
More Information: http://chagdudgonpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Khadro-NC-FINAL.jpg
cindy.palay@ gmail DOT com


Chagdud Gonpa Foundation
341 Red Hill Rd
Junction City, CA 96048 USA
530.623.2714 ext 126

What Matters

What Matters

As I approach my 62nd birthday (August 22), I reflect on the news stories I see/hear almost daily, now, that corroborate and validate most of my life’s choices, values and beliefs. Sharing, now, so you don’t all have to re-invent the wheel. Mostly I/we were right. Get with it.

Interactions matter. Treating all humans with respect and meeting humans needs (food, clothing, shelter, meaningful and well-paid work, safety) properly are right. Equality, egalitarianism, acceptance, compassion, kindness and respect are the right ways to greet, treat and live with all others, regardless of perceived or actual differences among us and changes in circumstances. Ending oppression, discrimination, bias, prejudice and all forms of subjugation must occur.

RespectKindness
image from http://www.tomvmorris.com
Respect

Government and economics matter. Democracy (when it works) and socialism are right: we must listen to and take care of each other.

Conflict resolution matters. War is wrong, especially war that only makes profits for a few corporations and individuals and ruins land, kills/maims people and destroys economies for everyone else. All the “police actions”/wars the USA has engaged in since World War II (and some of our actions during World War I and World War II) were/are horribly wrong. Millions have been harmed or died for NOTHING except to enrich a few. We must learn to communicate better, de-escalate, use diplomacy, engage in dialogue, compromise and yield.

Give-peace-a-chance-no-more-war1-e1442090350987
image from http://www.popularresistance.org
Peace

Health matters. Eating healthfully and organically is right: better for us, better for the farmers, better for the environment. Contact sports that cause head injuries must end: change the rules or close down those sports completely for children and teens and give adults information that allows them to make educated choices about participation. Sugary foods and drinks, salty and fatty snacks and other negative-impact foods should be made less available and/or taxed very highly so fewer people can eat/get them so readily.

Other beings matter. Treating animals with respect at all times if we are going to use, eat (which some would argue is wrong), imprison and otherwise subjugate them (less stress and pain during and before slaughter, while being raised and during captivity of all kinds) is right.

Consumers’ choices matter. Choosing to purchase items that are made by people who are paid well, treated well and free to come and go is right. Choosing to purchase items whose production (harvest/manufacture/acquisition) does not harm or destroy the planet, the economy, or the people involved is right.

you-can-make-a-difference
image from http://arabedrossian.org
Healthy planet

Parenting requires time, effort, knowledge, education and support to be done well. Childcare can be a positive aspect of young children’s lives as long as they also have good parenting.

Minds and bodies matter. Meditation, yoga, stress management, play, listening to each other better, being outdoors more and learning/listening to music/making art all help families, businesses, schools and individuals in every possible way. Beauty, nature and gratitude are important. Learn/include and do these. Drink a lot of clean water. Sleep more and in better conditions.

healthy body and mind
Healthy choices

Reproductive freedom and rights are integral to a woman’s dignity and independence and are the business of no one else besides each woman and her chosen medical team.

Religions whose leaders or principles restrict the freedom or impinge upon the safety of or intend to demean anyone, inspire divisiveness or hatred, or foment disrespect for non-believers or some members of their own sects because of gender, age, sexual orientation or other characteristics are not to be tolerated any longer and must be ended.

BigotryLifestyle550
image from http://www.patheos.com
Civil and personal rights

Facts are not subject to opinions. No one cares what anyone thinks about facts. Facts are not optional. People who misunderstand, misuse or misguide themselves or others regarding any facts (about the impacts of climate change, the dangers of fracking, etc.) are not to be given any credibility or listened to by anyone with even moderate intelligence.

Tyson quote
Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Ph.D., facts quote

Play time matters. Violence begets violence: video games, TV shows and films, music lyrics that demonstrate/engage users in repeated and frequent incidents of violence (personal, sexual, group) desensitize the viewers/players and generate much more violence overall in the culture. Games/shows that degrade women/girls and depict members of particular ethnic or other groups as “the enemy” or the objects of degradation cause users/viewers to adopt these perspectives and behave badly towards these individuals in actual encounters. Children’s and teens’ time using these games or watching these shows must be curtailed. Bring back more outdoor play, longer and better equipment for recess play indoors and outside. Sports and games that encourage coaches/leaders to discriminate among, exclude or otherwise demean participants or activities in training or play that cause players harm must be changed or stopped.

recess
Play

Excellence matters. Skills, talents, education and intelligence are not all equally distributed or acquired. We are not all the same even though we are to be treated with equal respect. Not everyone wins. Everyone is not equally good at everything. Not everyone can earn an “A.” 49.9% of any group is below average, by definition. Get used to it.

Collaboration matters. Governments, organizations/groups of all types and businesses of all sizes operate more successfully when they utilize collaborative, inclusive engagement rather than hierarchical, exclusionary dominance do better economically, have higher morale, have lower attrition/crime rates and better attendance/participation.

collaboration-background4
image from http://www.cptwebs.com
Collaboration

I could have provided a lot of research URLs to back up each of these claims, but I don’t need to, any longer. They are all true. YOU do the research.

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

May 27 – May 30, 2016, all-day, four-day mini-retreat at home: YIPPEE! Did it! First one since my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)/concussion/broken nose/hurt eyes in April, 2014; first one in St. Louis. [I called it a “mini” retreat because I usually did at least three weeks’ and up to 11 weeks’ retreat, prior to this.]

I offer this post as a description and explanation for newbies and the curious, but I do not discuss the details of my practice with anyone but my teacher and fellow practitioners.

SCHEDULE:
A typical meditation schedule consists of Tüns (meditation/practice sessions) segmented by meals, breaks, exercise, sleep and personal hygiene time. When we do individual retreats, often we set our own schedules. I modeled this summer’s mini-retreat schedule mostly on the same schedules I followed while on individual retreats at the main meditation center (Rigdzin Ling in northern California), and at my residences in Silver City, New Mexico, and Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Hayward, California, 1999 – 2014.

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

3:30 – 4:15 AM— Wake up, ablutions, etc.
4:15 – 5:30 AM— First Tün (meditation/practice session)
5:30 – 6 AM— Breakfast
6 – 10:30 AM— Second Tün (with two ten-minute breaks)
10:30 – 11 AM— Lunch
11 AM – 12 PM— Third Tün
12 – 1 PM— Nap (during first third, usually; see below). Otherwise, Fourth Tün
1 – 3 PM— Exercise (swimming/driving to and from) with moving meditation for 35 minutes while swimming
3 – 5 PM— Fourth/Fifth Tün
5 – 5:30 PM— Dinner
5:30 – 8 PM– Fifth/Sixth Tün (with one ten-minute break)

Total meditation time: about 11-12 hours/day, so about 40 hours (I ended before dinner on May 30).

LOCATION:
When I was fortunate enough to be at RZL, I often sat on a cliff overlooking a pond, river and mountains in the distance, above the main buildings of the center. For other types of practices, meditators prefer or must be indoors or even in a cave or place of complete isolation and darkness for most of the time.

Many people doing the dzogchen Tibetan Vajrayana practice of awareness (rigpa) meditation, trek chöd, as I do, prefer to sit where we have an unbroken view of the sky.

man sunrise meditatiion
NOT what my home retreat looked like at all, this year

There aren’t many cliffs and sky views near where I now live, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving to a spot at which there would be no food, no bathroom, no easy place for this mostly injured body to sit, and no place to swim. Hence, a home retreat. I could almost see the sky, sometimes. I could see trees, bushes, a street and parking lot. Didn’t matter at all. I wasn’t involved with any of it. We keep our eyes open for this type of meditation, but with a “soft focus,” not paying particular attention to anything while noticing everything.

living room retreat spot 2016
Where I did most of my sitting practice: on the living room couch, learning against these cushions on the left, looking out the glass doors of the patio/deck to the right.

WHAT WE DO and DO NOT DO:
We also hear, smell, feel everything. We are not “checked out,” if we are practicing successfully. We are fully awake while doing our practice, sitting in oneness—in awareness (rigpa, Tibetan)—as often as we are able. We return to this awareness every time our attention wanders. That is the practice of trek chöd (Tibetan), in the simplest terms.

For this type of meditation practice, in retreat, practitioners usually don’t recite mantras, pray (except at the beginning and end of each retreat or even each Tün, if we want), use our malas (Tibetan prayer beads on a string, predecessor of the Catholic’s rosary), chant, visualize, play ritual instruments, enact stories, light incense, fill/offer water bowls, open our shrines or speak. Our practice is stripped-down to sitting and breathing.

The entire retreat is usually conducted in strict silence, which means that we make no eye contact when we do encounter people and we do no talking, writing, reading, or any other communicating (when necessary, we use “functional speech” only). We put away and turn off all cell phones, computers, communication or writing/reading/viewing devices of all kinds. We don’t write letters or answer the phone unless we are in a longer retreat during which we must communicate with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors occasionally to reassure them we are all right or respond to something urgent.

When we are fortunate (and/or wealthy), we have someone to “serve” our retreat: they shop for, prepare and serve our meals, sometimes even cleaning up for us, leaving us free to meditate for more time each day. That is part of the wonderful service that active meditation centers often provide retreatants. Sometimes, though, during non-busy times, when I was at the center, I still had to cook and clean up after my own meals, but I didn’t have to shop.

For home retreats, I have to do it all myself. I manage that by cooking a great big pot of soup and another big amount of something I can dole out each day for my two main meals and then have something small (a bowl of cereal, e.g.) for dinner.

Eating lightly at night is important for me, anyway. During a sitting and silent retreat like this, unlike the more active ones, our appetites get smaller and smaller as the retreat progresses, so we need less food.

THE RETREAT COMMITMENT:
It is important to make a firm commitment to one’s retreat by scheduling the entire period in advance and sticking to it. It is also important to make a daily schedule and adhere to it. Many also maintain/take a vow of celibacy to maintain during retreat (no sex or sex acts); some do not.

We all abstain from intoxicants (recreational drugs, alcohol) during retreat. If we have taken Layperson’s Buddhist Vows (or Five Main Precepts), as I have, we also never get intoxicated/inebriated. I don’t drink or use drugs, anyway, but for many meditators, retreat boundaries include that they refrain from engaging in the use of these substances during retreat.

Even if we get sick, someone dies, and/or there are other seemingly significant events that occur, we strive not to break our retreat commitments. Unless it is to save our own or someone else’s life or involves getting medical care to restore our health so that we can practice better afterwards.

It is important to let our friends, family and neighbors know, especially if we are doing a home retreat, that we won’t be answering phones or responding to texts or emails, for example, during these times/these days so they don’t worry. That way, we prevent someone from getting “wrong view” about meditation/meditators (e.g., not understanding our commitment, they think we are rude, unkind, insensitive, unless we communicate to explain).

We do not waver from this commitment or break our silence for any reason. These commitments and guidelines are called “retreat boundaries.” At the risk of generating “static” and negativity for our next potential retreat, we do not leave the grounds of a closed retreat (the “cloister”) or end our retreat prematurely. Some teachers give dire warnings about practitioners’ breaking boundaries that will result in creating negative future retreat karma, but I don’t like responding to threats. I maintain commitments because I want to do it.

Making and keeping these commitments strengthen the practitioner’s practice foundation and create/maintain a strong “container” for successful meditation practice. I feel good when I keep my chosen boundaries.

This time (or for any other home retreats), I did not have a completely strict, cloistered retreat: just isn’t possible. I drive to and from the pool, shop on the the first day for food and cook when necessary (more often on longer retreats). I also responded to a few communications from people who didn’t know I was in retreat and/or to reschedule things I had forgotten to reschedule. But, mostly, I did keep the strict retreat boundaries and commitments.

THE RETREAT EXPERIENCE:
Buddhist teachers talk about the entire retreat’s span of time as being divided roughly into three parts: “getting in,” “being in” and “rising out.”

“Getting in” is the first third. During this, we acclimate to being on retreat, letting go (sometimes slowly, sometimes more readily) of our daily concerns, activities, personae, thoughts, obligations and settling in to the schedule.

We always “open” our retreat with setting our intention and reaffirming our motivation and with gratitude, with prayers and thanks to our teachers. Usually, other directions are given to us in advance by our teachers.

Sometimes, we make offerings and/or have a ritual feast and prayers (tsog). Sometimes we continue our daily practices for the first day or so. Sometimes we do some preparatory readings (from teachings, notes, books) to remind us of the practice we are about to engage in and how to approach it.

Frequently, a lot of tiredness manifests early in this first third. If so, it is recommended that we nap a lot, recovering from the stress and strife of our usual lives’ demands. The peace, quiet and low-key nature of retreat bring us to a recognition of how exhausted and depleted we have gotten. Extra sleep is then necessary to restore ourselves and to be able to practice better for the rest of the retreat.

The middle third is “being in.” By then, accustomed to the schedule, needing fewer or no naps, we are ready and eager to practice for each Tün. We know what we are doing, we are glad to be doing it, it’s working as well as it will. Depending upon how long this period is and how quickly we are able to dive in, we can get very deeply immersed or only partially, but this is the main part of our retreat’s practice time. Whatever signs of accomplishment we may get usually begin to show up in this portion.

The last third is “rising out.” Sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly, our minds and bodies begin to leave the depths and rise to the surface, preparing us for returning to our daily lives. For longer retreats, we spend part of this time still in retreat and the last part of it again in practices of formal gratitude. We “close” on the last day with offerings and/or a ritual feast and prayers (tsog), and dedicate the merit (the blessings and benefits of our practice) to all beings.

For the last day/hours or so, we are actually not still in retreat, exactly, but beginning to engage again in the more “ordinary living” aspects (whatever we haven’t been doing and must return to, such as driving, doing laundry, talking/communicating again).

We often don’t realize how deeply we are “in” until we begin to “rise out.” When we have been in a strict retreat for more than a few days, this gradual “return to duties” is very important for safety and acclimating to ordinary life. Otherwise, we can get into serious trouble or even accidents if we go back too suddenly to our busy, complicated home lives and schedules.

WHAT’S NEXT?
We usually meet with our teachers during or after our retreats (when we are so lucky as to be able to do that), to “offer our retreat experience” to the Lama by telling him/her about our experiences, insights, possible signs of accomplishment and/or knowledge acquired/applied successfully. We also bring questions, problems, concerns and “stuckness” that occurred during our retreat to this same meeting (or whenever we next meet) so that we may request guidance and answers from our teachers.

Usually during these meetings or subsequent ones, we get instructions, guidance for the next period of our practice, assignments/options for reading and/or attending live or video teachings. We might even schedule our next retreat(s).

I didn’t get to meet with my teacher at the end of this retreat, but I did see him for a private interview just last month, so I feel very blessed.

HAVING A MEDITATION TEACHER:
Tibetan Buddhists stress the importance of meditating under the guidance of and with instruction from a qualified meditation teacher. I completely agree with this. It is not sufficient to talk with other meditators, read books, listen to teachings on video or audiotapes or in person and then put ourselves into retreat and get ourselves out and go back to our lives.

Without a teacher who is more experienced and qualified to teach and guide us to listen to our experiences and direct our practice, we are certainly running the risk of there being a lot we will miss, misunderstand, misinterpret or just plain get wrong.

There are many qualified teachers in many parts of the world, now. I have put live links to some of them, above, when listing my teachers or main center. There are listings of some centers in Buddhist magazines, websites and other places online.

If you are not lucky enough to have found a teacher with whom you work well or you don’t live close enough to any teachers or centers who host visiting teachers, keep looking/trying. It is well worth the effort.

Where are the Buddhists Around Here?
There are several centers who host qualified teachers in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest, of all Buddhist traditions. Very close to where I now live is a Tibetan Buddhist practice group that includes some people who have met some of my own teachers and who use some of the same practice texts that I do. There are two others groups that are “cousins” to my lineages/practices and some of those people have also met some of my teachers and share some practices with mine. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, Katag Chöling, is about a six-hour drive from here, in Arkansas. These are listed, below:

Blue Lotus Dharma Center somewhat eclectic, mixed Tibetan Vajrayana and Chan (Chinese Zen) practices Blue Lotus Dharma Center
Do Ngak Chöling Tibetan Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism http://dongakcholing.org/
Katag Chöling Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, https://katogcholing.com
Kagyu Droden Kunchab—Saint Louis, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, http://www.kdkstl.org

MY TEACHERS:
I am beyond-words grateful to my teachers.

Lama Drimed
My beloved Buddhist teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), about 2012

Whatever I was able to accomplish from this mini-retreat or any other part of my practice was entirely due to the blessings, teachings, support and care from my dear teachers, particularly Lama Drimed and the late H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (photos above and below), as well as my mom (in whose home I now live), other Lamas, especially Lama Shenphen Drolma and Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche, and sangha (spiritual community of fellow practitioners scattered now around the world) of meditating sisters and brothers: THANKS to you all!

Chagdud Rinpoche
the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, my first empowering lama and my teacher’s teacher, about 2001, and his Yangshi (designated and recognized reincarnation), about 2013

I dedicate the merit (benefits) of my retreat to all beings.

Video of #Tibetan #Buddhist Center in Brazil that is part of my #Sangha

If there is a companion video to this excellent one of our sister sangha and main center in Brazil, Chagdud Khadro Ling, for Chagdud Gonpa’s Rigdzin Ling in California, our main center, I don’t know of it. If you do, please share! If you’ve already seen this, sorry for the repetition.

Chagdud Khadro Ling temple
Khadro Ling‘s main temple in Tres Coroas, Brazil.

In Portuguese with English subtitles, beautiful photography and informative narration and scenes of #Tibetan #Buddhist practice, shrines, temples, items, meditation and practitioners, this video captures the quality and feeling of the land, buildings, intention, activities–the ambiance–very well.

The center (Rigdzin Ling) I spent so much time in from 1999 – 2008 (first visited in 1989; did up to 11-week-long retreats there, two more that were 6 -7 weeks and several that were 2 – 4 weeks, silent retreats, and several 11-day-long ceremonies/meditation practices, Drubchods) is in northern California between Eureka and Redding, but it looks a lot like these photos and our practices are the same.

RZL Tara House
Rigdzin Ling‘s main temple, Tara House, in Junction City, CA USA

For those who do not know, some background: This is my sangha (spiritual community of practitioners and teachers), started by my original teacher, His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, the teacher discussed in this video. Rinpoche passed in 2002. His newest (15th) incarnation/yangshi/tulku is about 10 years old, now.

Chagdud Rinpoche
H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in 2001 and his yangshi in about 2009

To give perspective, Rinpoche was a contemporary of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama: they studied with many of the same teachers before the Chinese invaded Tibet and both escaped to India in 1959 as young men. Rinpoche came to the USA (California) in the mid-1980s with his American wife (second), Jane, who became known as Chagdud Khadro (in the video as well). They started building centers along the USA’s West Coast. In 1991, as the video states, they visited South America/Brazil and moved there in 1995.

Tulku Jigme, CTR, Chagdud Khadro, 2001
Tulku Jigme Rinpoche (Rinpoche’s son), Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, and Chagdud Khadro, Brazil, 2001

The person Rinpoche designated to be his spiritual heir and director is my root/main teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, known as Lama Drimed.

Lama D in forest tsog 2013
Lama Drimed, forest ceremony (tsog), 2013

May all beings benefit, all Lamas live long and continue to teach, and all practitioners continue to meditate and serve all beings.

Watch the video here:

https://youtu.be/S0d5KoF8288

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0d5KoF8288

or

For more information: http://www.chagdud.org

Enjoy! Write back with comments, questions! Share!

http://www.sallyember.com is my main site and blog and has info about my Buddhist-themed science-fiction/ romance/ utopian/ multiverse novels, with discount codes and links, reviews, book trailers, more, about the first 3 ebooks and paperbacks in The Spanners Series, as well as posts about my #meditation practice and retreats.

How Do We Know if Our #Meditation Practice is “Working”?

How Do We Know if Our #Meditation Practice is “Working”?

man sunrise meditatiion

So many of us learn to meditate and then wonder: how we are supposed to be able to discern the effects of our practice?

More specifically, how can we tell if we are doing it correctly? Or, how do we know if we are meditating for enough time each day? How do we know whether we have the “right” practices and if these the ones we ought to continue doing?

Many of my Tibetan Buddhist meditation teachers have given talks in which these and similar questions arise. The teachers’ responses are usually to turn it around and ask us practitioners to consider these simple “measures” of our practice’s effectiveness:

  • Am I more patient?
  • Am I angry less often?
  • Does compassion arise in me more often and spontaneously?
  • Am I kinder more often and more easily?

Then, if we are studying with a meditation teacher, we are asked to contemplate these questions:

  • Do I have strong faith in my heart in my teacher and in the dharma?
  • Does my teacher come to my mind spontaneously while I am in a sleep state, while dreaming and/or in times of crisis?
  • Do I have less hope and less fear?
  • Do I experience clarity more of the time?

How are YOU doing, by these measures, with your meditation practice? If the answer to most of these questions is “no,” please find a qualified meditation teacher to discuss your practice with you and get you on the right track.

Maybe you need to meditate more time per day or keep your practice time and session length more consistent. Possibly, you need to “mix it up,” change what you’re doing. Get up and walk or go sit outside, change your shrine or altar around.

If you’re chanting or visualizing, maybe you need to return to calm abiding (shamatha). If you’re unfocused, maybe vipassana or mindfulness practices are better for you for a while.

There are over 80,000 methods of meditation and practice for “taming the mind.” One or more of them is right for everyone at some point, but many of us need to change our practices throughout our lifetimes and changing circumstances.

meditation better than nothing

We need a qualified meditation teacher, someone we can trust to guide our practice and help us keep it fresh and effective. Books and groups are great and support our practice, but nothing takes the place of having a spiritual guide.

It is said that the spiritual teacher that fits us best has the key to open our hearts. Merely to hear the teacher’s name or see his/her face, even in a photo, can have a profound effect. I hope you can find the right one for you.

Here is mine: Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed).

Lama D laughing 2012
May all beings benefit. May he live long and flourish. May all practitioners be so fortunate as to find your living teachers and be able to study under their guidance.

How to choose a spiritual teacher, what kind to select, and how to know if your relationship is worthwhile and effective as well as healthy? Read my review, then get the excellent, comprehensive book by Alexander Berzin, Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship, on Buddhist Door, from last fall (2015): http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/wise-teacher-wise-student-tibetan-approaches-h

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2016! Update, Stats and more about Posts from 2015 for the site: Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2016! Update, Stats and more about Posts from 2015 for the site: Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Welcome to all my new readers, followers, and returning ones to this year-end review. I am grateful for all of your attention, especially when you reblog, comment, ask questions or poke at my opinions.

I also started inviting my CHANGES guests and a few others to be Guest Bloggers on my site and their posts were very popular! Check them out here: Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame.

Other news this year: I was invited to be “interviewed” or featured and/or was a guest blogger on over two dozen more sites, including one that paid me for my submissions, and a few online radio shows!
Please check my links (on http://www.sallyember.com —look right; scroll down) for each of these posts and go visit, comment, enjoy. Highest-traffic sites, so far, are:
The Story Reading Ape“— http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com
Blog Critics,” for film and TV reviews (and many other types of posts, but those are what I submit)— http://Blogcritics.org and
Buddhist Door,” for which I have submitted a two-part series about my personal journey of becoming a Buddhist as well as one book review (so far)—http://Buddhistdoor.com

Biggest news would be the new release in The Spanners Series and the release of all three of the first Volumes into paperback format as well as ebooks, as of 12/8/15 (see below for details). I ALWAYS post about and link to EVERY review, however, brief or whatever its opinions, as long as it is legitimate (the person actually read my book) and honest.

SO, please do read my books and submit reviews to the usual sites AND send me the URLs, especially if you post it on your own site, so I can drive traffic to your site!

AND, comment here: what do you think of my new business cards (I designed them, so be a bit nice, please)?

2016 Business Cards

Send all inquiries, requests, invitations, submissions and URLs to: sallyember AT yahoo.com

THANK YOU all for being a part of this writer’s blog and other experiences this year!

I hope you continue to visit and offer to guest post. Also, let’s keep re-blogging each other’s posts.

Please do invite me to be an interview guest or be featured and keep exchanging comments!


Quick 2015 Year-in-Review Stats and Info:

  • Sally Ember, Ed.D. blog/site has about 572 total followers:
    506 followers on WordPress and another 67 on Tumblr (which is a reposting site for this one).

    500 follows

  • I posted 300 separate times (not all mine; about 15% are re-blogs) as of 12/28/15.
  • This blog was viewed over 17,000 times with visitors from 139 countries. Most views/visitors: USA (11,200), followed by UK (1,018), then Canada (821), Australia (325), Germany (242), India (235), France (171), Brazil (162), Greece (152), South Africa (139).
  • Most of my “referrers” were Search Engines (6,808), with Facebook a distant “next” (396, but I show over 2350 “friends” and another 1006 following The Spanners Series page), followed by StumbleUpon (192), Google+ (138, despite having over 3000 followers and another 215 following The Spanners Series page), Twitter (134, despite having over 5400 followers), WP Reader (65), Pinterest (62, but showing over 500 followers), my Tumblr reposting site (23, with 67 followers), a few individual webpages, then LinkedIn (at a measly 13, despite having over 700 followers).
    The Story Reading Ape‘s site sent me more visitors than LinkedIn (18)! Thanks, Chris Graham!

  • Nicholas C. Rossis was again my most active commenter: THANKS, Nicholas!
  • Only 47 of the 300 posts garnered any comments at all. But, I passed the 500 LIKES milestone this year!

    500 likes WP-1x

  • Most popular day and time: Sunday, 8 AM (Central USA time)
  • ALEXA ratings, as of 12/29/15, for Sally Ember, Ed.D. are
    2,556,701 out of all websites in the world
    has 102 sites linking in to it (“backlinks”)
    and, is 272,166 out of all websites in the USA

  • Most-viewed day and posts: November 1, 2015, with 247 views:
    “I CONQUERED #CreateSpace! This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series is in Print starting November 13, 2015!” and several others from previous days/months, even 2014, were viewed on this date.

    3 paperbacks

Link to full annual stats report: https://sallyember.com/2015/annual-report/


If you are new-ish to this blog, I am a sci-fi/ romance/ utopian/ multiverse/ paranormal (psi) author who also has a keen interest in many other subjects, most notably: science, social issues/ politics, writing/ publishing/ book marketing/ reviews, and spirituality/meditation. Because of a fall that caused a concussion in April, 2014, I also became engrossed in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI, concussion and its aftermaths, especially as these impact meditation.

In addition to the posts listed, below, I also have Author Interviews (with me as the subject), videos of each of my CHANGES conversations (we’re up to Episode 46, to date), links to my guest blog posts and much more on my website (I’m providing the link here in case you’re reading this elsewhere):
http://www.sallyember.com

This year, after a forced one-year hiatus from fiction writing due to my TBI, I was able to finish Volume III of The Spanners Series, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change! I also put it and Volumes I and II into both ebook AND paperback formats, now on CreateSpace and Amazon, in time for Volume III’s release (12/8/15). (All buy links are on my pages; look right and scroll down.) To accomplish that, I started my own publishing imprint, Timult Books.

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My broad interests are loosely grouped into the categories I’ve tagged and which appear on my page’s “cloud” and are listed, below. If you missed a post, enjoyed a topic but didn’t realize I had more posts in that same area, or want to comment on any of this year’s posts, now’s your chance! Please do comment! I reply to all. And, feel free to share/reblog, curate/use any of my content (giving me credit, please, and excerpting ethically, of course).

I hope your holiday celebrations or whatever activities you have been doing lately have brought you joy. Best to you all!

head shot 2015 summer


TOPICS:

About My Books and Other Science-Fiction

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News, excerpts, links, sales/discount codes, blurbs and more!

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final cover print

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Creativity at Work, Here

Poetry, short stories and other creative writing not related to my Series.

About Science

Re-blogs, summaries, analyses, inquiries, theories. Focus greatly on astro- and quantum physics, astronomy, technology and inventions, medicine. I re-blog on these topics.

About Social Issues and Politics

I am a USA citizen (born and always lived here). I identify as a feminist socialist who votes in EVERY election. I usually register as a Democrat and also vote Green or Independent. I disagree with almost every one of USA’s recent foreign affairs and domestic policies and ALL wars since 1945.
We should have had single-payer health care for all since 1960. Damn Richard Nixon and his cronies in the health care “industry.” I use and advocate for an intelligent mix of “alternative” and “modern” medical methods.
I am a pacifist, Buddhist-raised-Jewish meditator. I am bisexual and an LGBTQQI2-S advocate (if you don’t know what those initials mean, you probably won’t want to read my posts on those topics unless you’d like to become better-educated).
I use science to make decisions, and climate change is real. I am an environmentalist, civil and animal rights activist/advocate who is pro-legalization of Cannabis and Marriage Equality. I work against all oppressions and “isms” actively and despise the cosmetics, “weight loss” and “beauty” industries. I use politically correct speech and in my writing and expect others to do so.
I re-blog on these topics.
I do NOT invite contentiousness or going-nowhere types of arguments. Believe whatever you do but don’t try to invalidate my views, especially on my own site. I do invite dialogue, new information and dissent that is respectful, as well as corrections.
Visit here knowing all that and you’ll be fine!

About my show, CHANGES conversations between authors,

an online, LIVE video talk show on YouTube via Google+ HOA (Hangout On Air)
Seeking guests (see below, in Announcements), and up to Episode 46 already, as of November 1, 2015!
I re-blog my guests’ news and about their new releases.

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About Meditation and Spiritual Practice

I am a devoted, practicing Tibetan Vajrayana Nyingma Buddhist since 1996, and a meditator since 1972. I write about my experiences and re-blog others’ and information about these topics regularly, including book reviews (see above, Buddhist Door.com).

About Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Concussions
I suffered on in April, 2014, and am still recovering. Many posts about this in 2014 and still some in 2015. These get a lot of views, so I guess many are interested in concussions and their aftermaths. I focus a lot on the impact this TBI has had on my ability to speak, write and meditate. I plan to continue. I re-blog on these topics.

About Publishing, Book Marketing, Writing, Writers

I welcome guest posts from Indie and Self-published or “hybrid” authors here. I re-blog a lot of great posts from book marketers, authors and other bloggers/writers.


Announcements:

#Crowdfunding with #Patreon: Sally Ember’s Campaign needs supporters! You can get rewards (from a free ebook for donating $4 or more, to discounts on editing, proofreading and/or writing tutoring services from Sally for larger donations) and support her writing, talk show and creativity by donating on Patreon.com/sallyember.

Seeking authors to be new guests for CHANGES as I resume shows after January 13, 2016. Please visit my page, here, and find out what your steps are for coming on and follow them! https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d/

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Seeking Guest Bloggers: Wednesdays are my invitation days. If you’d like to guest blog, please visit this page and let me know! Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame.

Seeking collaborators to engage in what I am calling Crowdcreating for both Volumes VIII (young writers and those who write for YA/NA audiences) and IX (adult and senior writers) of The Spanners Series: co-write, contribute ideas, collaborate on sections or entire chapters with me!
Deadline is January 31, 2017.
Details are in the back of each Volume (another good reason to buy and read my books!).

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Find out how…:
“…did I end up becoming a devoted, long-term student of Nyingma-lineage Tibetan Buddhism, studying, practicing, and completing my Ngöndro (foundation practices) in two-and-a-half years (“as if my hair were on fire”) while in full-time graduate school, working full time, and raising my son?

“…did I go from being unwilling even to enter the teaching venue or shrine room to being eager and willing to help start and/or expand and also, sometimes, live in and be a cook, coordinator, board member, bookkeeper, umze (chant leader), stupa mantra roller/packer, and more for not one, but three Dharma centers (in Maine, New Mexico, and California)?

“… did I transition from not even talking to Wyn for ten years to having him as Lama Drimed (Padma Drimed Norbu) become my root lama and main, then sole, Dzogchen meditation teacher and practice and retreat guide?

“…did I come to learn Tibetan well enough to be able to read, write, speak, and translate?”

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life-part-ii


Missed Part I? Find it from September 4, 2015, at Buddhist Door
http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life

Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship – Book Review by Sally Ember, Ed.D., featured on The Buddhist Door website

Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship – Book Review by Sally Ember, Ed.D., featured on The Buddhist Door website

Thanks to Frances McDonald and others at The Buddhist Door for this opportunity to be a reviewer for your site! As a long-time student of #meditation (since 1972) and a #Buddhism student since 1996 in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana tradition, I was pleased to review this book.

Anyone interested in knowing more about how to choose a spiritual teacher or mentor and all the varying types of these there can be, how to be in a better relationship with one or more than one teacher, how and why to end that relationship, and what its pitfalls might be, and so much more, would benefit greatly from reading this book and keeping it around to refer to frequently.

Please read this review and support The Buddhist Door!

Berzin book cover

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/wise-teacher-wise-student-tibetan-approaches-healthy-relationship-book-review

10 Days. 10 Questions: #10Q

10 Days. 10 Questions.
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If you are Jewish or celebrate Jewish holidays, sunset on 9/13/15 began Rosh Hashonah, the #Jewish New Year: L’Shana Tovah (May you have a sweet and healthy New Year)!

Whether you observe Jewish holidays as a #Jew or Jewish ally or are interested in Jewish customs and new traditions, you may be interested in this new tradition, #10Q, for personal growth and reflection. The “10” refers to the 10 days that include the first day of the two-day Rosh Hashonah celebration and the Day of AtonementYom Kippur—September 22-23, on the other end.

There are many traditions associated with each of these holidays and the days between, but I do not practice them because I am not an observant Jew; I am a practicing #Buddhist. However, last year I found out about 10Q and really appreciated it. So, I did it in 2014 and I am doing it again this year.

Just a reminder: the 10Q site goes into lockdown at the end of Sunday, September 27th. You have till then to fill in your answers and send them to the Vault for safe-keeping. After that, you won’t be able to see the answers until next year–and if you don’t send them into the Vault, you won’t ever see them again. Once you submit, you can relax and look forward to the eve of Rosh Hashanah 2016, when your 2015 answers will be coming back to you.

I recently received my responses to last year’s questions, received earlier this week, as promised (see below for explanation of 10Q). It was fascinating to me to read what I had written because, as many of you know, I suffered a severe brain injury in April of 2014; last fall, I was still in very bad shape, mentally. I don’t even remember much about writing these responses much less what I wrote, so it was with great curiosity that I opened the reporting email with my responses inside.

These 10Q‘s 10 questions (one for each of the 10 days) are very personal; I do not choose to share my responses. But, I will say this: the exercise of responding is a great one, regardless of your religious affiliation.

Summary: I achieved many of the goals and aspirations I put out in my responses!

I heartily encourage each of you to visit this site and respond to the questions, starting on Rosh Hashonah, 2015, which is tomorrow, Sunday, 9/13/15. Read more about 10Q and then click on a link or two, below.

There are/were also live 10Q events happening in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco (see below) and perhaps elsewhere, or you could have one. Check these out!

May all beings benefit.

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.

When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that too.

Next year, the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

Click here to get your 10Q on.

10Q began September 13th, 2015

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.
Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

10Q LINKS:
http://doyou10q.com/about
http://doyou10q.com/faq
http://blog.doyou10q.com/

10Q 2015 QUESTIONS (I plan to add one each of the 10 days):
“1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?”

“2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?”

“3. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?”\

“4. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?”

“5. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? ‘Spiritual’ can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.”

“6. Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?”

“7. How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?”

“8. Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2016?”

“9. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?”

“10. When September 2016 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?”

“BONUS Q: What are your predictions for 2016?”

10Q 2015 EVENTS:
San Francisco:
Ctrl + Alt + Del: Tashlique at Ocean Beach
Sept. 14, 2015, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Ocean Beach near Fulton (across from Beach Chalet)
FREE
https://www.facebook.com/events/1624398931151639/

Reset your system with our modern spin on a 600-year-old Rosh Hashanah ritual called tashlique. This custom of ridding ourselves of all our bad vuggum (karma) from the previous year and getting a fresh start for the new one is traditionally enacted by tossing bread into the ocean. Join us by the shore at Ocean Beach (near Fulton) for a brief, engaging ritual and joyful noise accompaniment from shofar* blowers, bag pipers, members of Jazz Mafia and the Ministers of Sound of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Bring stale bread to share and a shofar, if you have one, to blow along with some of San Francisco’s finest players. Enjoy our twist on the traditional sweet with s’mores and Rocky’s Fry Bread.

New York City

NYC 10 Q event Blank-Slate-Full-Plate-Final-9-2-15
September 23, 2015, 6 – 9 PM

Los Angeles
One Day Retreat in Topanga, CA: Reflect & Renew

10 Q Topanga Taste-of-the-East-Revised-2015
September 19, 2015, all day
Facilitated by Michael Kass & Zoe Gillis

Featured today on Buddhist Door, Part I of my stories of being a “Reluctant Buddhist.”

Featured today on Buddhist Door, Part I of my stories of being a “Reluctant Buddhist.”

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life

Thanks, Frances McDonald and Buddhist Door, for this opportunity.

Look for Part II to go LIVE on 11/13/15, my dear Lama Drimed’s birthday!

May all beings benefit.

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.: written in response to Black, Bisexual, and Buddhist: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is not afraid to embrace who she is. by Kimberly Winston, August 05, 2015
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel relates that she “often sees surprise in the faces of the students as she is introduced.” She believes this is due to the fact that “she doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.”

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Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, photo from TRICYCLE article in online Buddhist magazine, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

She recently published: The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender, known here as “her second book of dharma, or Buddhist teachings, published in February by Wisdom Publications. In it, Manuel, who follows the Zen tradition, calls on Buddhists not to ignore those ways they may be different, whether it’s because of their color, gender, or sexual orientation.”

She and others call this idea a “‘multiplicity of oneness’—–[which] is somewhat controversial within Buddhism, where the teachings have tended to focus on moving beyond the physical to find the spiritual. But Manuel and a handful of other Western Buddhists—–including a number of African-American teachers–—are embracing the idea as crucial to enlightenment, a state free from anxiety that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.”

Manuel and I have a lot in common, so I felt moved to respond to this article about her and her teaching, her writing and her spiritual life. I resonate with some aspects; others are quite different for me.

Manuel is 62; I am about to be 61. That means we are contemporaries who are natives of the same country.

She reports that she “has had a multiplicity of lives, all of which inform her work.” My C.V.—my academic and total resume—is over seven pages long. I have also moved over thirty times, having lived in states on both coasts, the midwest and the southwest of the USA. These varied aspects of my professional and personal lives must constitute a “multiplicity,” don’t you think?

Her personal history includes “violence, poverty and prejudice,” which my life contains, also. Heavier on the violence and prejudice than the poverty, for me, but all were there.

Manuel states that she has “been an activist since the tumultuous 1970s”; I started being a vocal, active feminist activist while still in grade school, moved into anti-war and anti-nuclear power activism, continued with feminism and got into reproductive rights activism and other issues as well. I started earlier by about 10 years, but then we both kept on keeping on.

Manuel says that she “has also known fear and rejection because she is bisexual,” but I mostly do not have that experience, perhaps because I didn’t “come out” publicly as bisexual until the 1990s, when it seemed almost no one cared anymore and I was a confident adult with a supportive community and family. I did lose a female friend in college in the early 1970s when I clumsily invited her to be my lover, but usually I did not experience either rejection or fear due to my sexual orientation. Not everyone I approached agreed to be my lover, but their rejections had nothing to do with my being attracted to both genders. So, our lives diverged there significantly.

She “was raised a Christian but discovered Buddhism in 1988,” whereas I was raised Jewish and discovered Buddhist in the early 1980s. However, I had already been meditating in the Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) tradition since 1972. Similar, but not the same, here.

Mostly, though, we share significant components of our cultural, personal and historical location and background. The major difference is that she is Black and I am White/Anglo. Our other intersecting social identities create affinities that few other commonalities could, especially since our experiences led us both to become immersed seriously and deeply in Buddhist practice.

Appallingly, however, she had the misfortune to have had a couple of Zen teachers who “suggested if she ‘dropped the labels’ of ‘African-American,’ of ‘bisexual,’ of ‘woman,’ she would ‘be liberated.’ That is ridiculous and has nothing to do with authentic Buddhism. I’m sorry she had those teachers or allowed them to affect her. Obviously, by trying to accomplish this (the impossible), she was not “liberated.” Furthermore, these attempts did not ease her suffering; in fact, she reported that she became more unhappy.

Eventually, she discovered on her own what Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism (my tradition) has always taught: embrace everything, cling to nothing. While bushwhacking her own path through Zen traditions that were not friendly to her, she arrived at, in her words: “’complete tenderness’—–the experience of walking through her pain, knowing it, living with it, but not being controlled by it—–by confronting her suffering caused by her upbringing and identity as an African-American bisexual woman.”

I challenge this idea, though, that her suffering was “caused” by her identities at that point. I would conclude instead that her suffering was exacerbated early in her Zen journey by the ignorance and arrogance of those Zen teachers who misdirected her, then aggravated by her willingness to follow their misdirections for too long. It isn’t who she was that was the problem; it’s he ways a few teachers positioned who she was with respect to her spiritual path that caused her pain.

Despite being misled by some teachers, Manuel continued within Zen all the way to becoming ordained as a Zen Priest, when she was “given the name ‘Zenju,’ which means ‘complete tenderness.’” She now leads a small, all-female sangha that meets where she lives, in Oakland, California (near San Francisco), many of whom are also identifying as women of color.

I’m glad she found a way through all that, but it was so unnecessary. There are many USA-based Zen sanghas, some right near her that I am personally aware of, in which she would not have had those experiences. We could say it was her karma to have had those encounters, and we’d be correct, since everything we experience is always due to our karma.

But, it is not inherent to the nature of Zen or Buddhism to treat students in those ways. I need to emphasize this truth, since it appears from this Tricycle article and perhaps her book (I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure) that it is inevitable that students of backgrounds similar to hers will encounter prejudice and extreme difficulties due to their social identities everywhere they go in Buddhist communities. Simply not true.

I have observed, though, that too many Buddhist communities in the USA and Canada are populated by a disproportionate number of middle- and upper-class Whites/Anglos in comparison to the number of participants from other ethnicities and class backgrounds. I’m glad to say that these imbalances have been recognized by most leaders and other members: many sanghas are doing extensive outreach to rectify them.

I don’t know if Manuel’s Oakland Zen sitting group is deliberately all women or intentionally mostly women of color; perhaps it is open to everyone, but her being who she is, as the teacher, attracted more practitioners similar to her. That does happen, that spiritual teachers attract students who see themselves as similar to their teachers.

The only similarity that actually matters, though, is that we are all human and we all need to train our minds, develop more compassionate hearts, and liberate ourselves from delusions that cause suffering. Therefore, I believe deliberately segregating ourselves by gender, class, background or any other social identity is a mistake when it comes to creating and maintaining spiritual community. I know there are specific occasions when such segregation can be useful or necessary, but mostly, let’s not.

Clearly, the Buddhist path works well for Manuel and she believes it can work well for other women of color, bisexual or not. In that, we agree.

The Buddha supposedly taught over 84,000 types of meditation so that each individual who wants to practice will be able to find a path that works. In a large enough community with sufficient numbers of paths and teachers, I’m sure that is possible: everyone who wants to learn to meditate in the Buddhist tradition could do so.

Northern California, USA, is such a locale, with dozens or even hundreds of Buddhist teachers and sangha options scattered throughout the rural, suburban and urban areas, each slightly or very different from the other. I used to live there and I miss it a lot.

St. Louis, Missouri, USA, is not such a locale. It is not bereft entirely of Buddhists or Buddhist communities, but there is none in my exact tradition. I find that I am not so interested in attending the groups that are dissimilar. I enjoy meditating on my own just fine. I do miss my sangha and those important, guiding interactions, but not enough to join some other group, yet.

Meanwhile, this female, bisexual Buddhist who was raised Jewish and is White/Anglo is meditating and attempting to liberate in this lifetime alongside or including, but not despite, my social identities. I am lucky to have occasional conversations with my spiritual teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, by telephone, and regular contact with geographically distant sangha members via SKYPE, social media and email.

May all beings benefit. I wish you all the best in your practices.

Buddha thinking creates happiness

#Meditation Rebuilds #Brains: #Harvard’s Research Offers Proof!

#Meditation Rebuilds #Brains: #Harvard’s Research Offers Proof!

The methodology and research conclusions from this recently published study are astonishing for several reasons that matter a lot to me. Some of you know that I fell last April, breaking my nose and causing a concussion which has impaired my cognitive processes AND affected my ability to meditate enormously. I am all for finding out more about what helps brains heal and work better in us all.

My descriptions and opinions are in this post, linking this research to another recently revealed study on brain functionality. Links to original articles, below.

Test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard University.

Researchers found that remarkable positive outcomes can occur after only 8 weeks of being in this meditation course, even though, for about half the time, the learners barely knew how to meditate at all. Individuals meditated for an average of “about 27 minutes per day.”

What were they learning? How could such a brief experience and small lifestyle change have such tremendous impacts?

Simple mindfulness sharpens one’s ability to focus. Increasing the skills related to paying attention, following one’s thoughts or one’s breath are the easiest types of meditation to learn. These are also the most basic and accessible forms of meditation for Westerners because the current version contains nothing religious, almost nothing that feels “cultural,” native to the Eastern countries from which these techniques originated.

mindfulness meditation

image from http://www.theguardian.com

In most mindfulness classes (which are not the same as many meditation classes), participants and leaders do NOT bring Eastern “forms” into the experience.

Most mindfulness groups do NOT:

  • light candles
  • burn incense
  • prostrate or bow
  • chant syllables (mantras) in Sanskrit or other foreign languages
  • pray
  • wear special clothing or colors
  • call the teacher by an unusual title (“Lama,” “Rinpoche,” “Guru”)
  • treat the instructor as a spiritual guide or leader
  • use photos or statues of Eastern figures or past teachers
  • discuss “lineage”
  • set up a shrine or altar.

If mindfulness groups use music or musical instruments (drums, bells, horns,”ambient” recorded music), they use them as part of the meditation experience, to set a mood, mark the time or start/stop a session.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and many others from the Vipassana/Insight Meditation centers have distilled the essence of these beginners’ meditation practices into palatable, sanitized chunks able to be digested in fewer than two months by even the most resistant Western learner. There are now hundreds of books and thousands of resources and settings that you can find that include or teach mindfulness, from the family to corporations, schools, businesses, government and hospitals.

Pain clinics, anxiety/panic and addiction rehabilitation programs, trauma recovery centers and many more segments of the medical and therapy community have been teaching mindfulness without even using the word “meditation” for decades, bringing these techniques to the populations most needing to learn how to deal with strong pain (physical or emotional or both. These participants have been shown (in previous research) to have benefited enormously from mindfulness meditation classes.

What they discovered is brand-new evidentiary proof of the positive effects of mindfulness on the meditator’s brain! Prior to this study, meditation researchers had “found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration” but couldn’t prove these resulted directly from meditation, until this project.

hippocampus-300x227

image from http://meditation-research.org.uk

The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imager) scans showed “before” and “after” films of these meditators who used “mindfulness exercises” for less than half-an-hour daily. Just utilizing this small amount of beginning meditative techniques achieved: “a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.”

If such results can be seen in merely 8 weeks, with beginners, doing the minimum amount of basic mindfulness, imagine what experienced meditators who use more advanced techniques and who meditate for an hour or more per day can accomplish in effecting changes to our brains and therefore, our self-awareness, compassion and introspection?

A related and recent study conducted by Dr. Abigail Marsh of Georgetown University, http://college.georgetown.edu/collegenews/why-do-strangers-help.html , used fMRI scans (functional MRI), which involved asking research participants questions while the scan is operating. She then looked at the differences in the amygdalas in the brains of diagnosed psychopaths (those who have little or no reaction to others’ pain and no moral inhibition against causing others pain) compared to social/community altruists (in this case, those who had volunteered to donate a kidney).

Amygdala Altruists

image from http://www.vox.com

Marsh’s fMRI scans showed that there were marked differences in the size and functionality of each group’s amygdalas, the part of the brain associated with processing emotion, inhibiting aggression and encouraging “helpfulness.” Altruists have larger, better formed and functioning amygdalas.

That altruists would have more compassion, less aggression and more helpfulness can’t be surprising. That their/our brains are physically different is now proven but still kind of awe-inspiring, to me.

fMRI psychopath altruist

image from http://journal.frontiersin.org

The logical next steps from a social change standpoint are to find out if engaging in regular meditation of any type could result in psychopaths’ being deterred/cured, AND if we can foster/enhance the development of altruists as well. What part could mindfulness play?

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you already know how to meditate in any way, DO IT! Even 5 minutes per day or more short sessions sprinkled throughout a day matter a lot to our well-being, especially to the gray matter of our brains.

If you do not yet know how to meditate, there are hundreds of ways to learn mindfulness and other forms of meditation: online courses, in-person classes (some are offered for credit at secondary schools, community colleges and universities; some are free), workshops, audiobooks, CDs, online forums or chat rooms abound with opportunities.

If you suffer from a medical or psychological condition that could be improved or managed better by the application of meditation techniques, such as mindfulness, many medical facilities now offer classes such as the one mentioned in this study AND many types of insurance now pay for these classes! Ask your doctor or counselor.

Mindfulness for Psoriasis

image from http://www.mindfulnesscds.com

Also, many religious groups already have been providing and now offer more types of group learning and individual counseling that include meditation instruction even when the religion is “traditional.” So, if you’re a practicing Christian, Jew, Catholic, Muslim or other mainstream religious adherent, ask your religious community where you can learn to meditate.

BREATHE

meditation at college

image from http://iup.collegiatelink.net

Link to full article about Harvard research quoted in this post: http://www.feelguide.com/2014/11/19/harvard-unveils-mri-study-proving-meditation-literally-rebuilds-the-brains-gray-matter-in-8-weeks/

Link to original article first seen by me on Wildmind‘s site: http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/harvard-unveils-mri-study-proving-meditation-literally-rebuilds-the-brains-gray-matter-in-8-weeks

CONTROVERSY: #Buddhists and #Organ Donation at #Death

As some of you know, I have been a practicing #Buddhist in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma tradition since 1989, informally, and since 1996, formally (in this life, anyway…). These traditions, as taught to me originally by the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and by many of the Western Lamas he ordained, including my current teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed, as he is known), include very specific preparations for death which we do as a part of our daily practices as well as recommendations as to how we want others to handle our dying and death processes and manage our dead bodies.

CTR

H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

In fact, packets and instructions have been sent to students detailing what to give loved ones, friends, medical professionals and hospice workers–anyone attending our dying process and death event—so that, if we are unable to verbally convey our last wishes, everyone will know what we want to happen (and not happen). These written instructions, which each person can modify to their choosing, have been very comforting and useful for the friends and sangha (Buddhist community) members who have faced this while dying or being around meditators who are dying or who have just died.

Because Buddhists in our tradition (and many others) believe that a recently deceased person’s consciousness stays in or around the body for many days after death (up to 49, but certainly the first 3 – 7, for meditators), most directions talk about not moving or even touching the body (or touching it only in specific places, avoiding touching the bottoms of the feet, for example) in order to help the deceased meditators maintain the meditation and move our consciousness intentionally onward while we are are “in” this bardo period (between place/time, rough translation).

Buddhists have special rituals, such as Sur and P’howa, taught and practiced daily or weekly, which involve visualizations and prayers. We also usually include “offerings” of incense or other burnt substances (as in Sur) and music, such as the clanging of the tingshas (small, heavy ritual cymbals) or ringing of bells, and chanting specific mantras to honor, assist and “feed” the recently deceaseds’ wandering spirits during this time.

To commemorate someone’s death, we also light butterlamps (oil lamps or candles suffice), release animals from captivity who were marked for death (bait fish, worms and prey animals in pet stores, for example), dedicating the merit of these actions to their passing more positively while in the bardo and when entering into their next lifetime.

fish release saving lives

“Taiwanese Buddhists release catfish into a river during a ‘mercy release’ ceremony in Taipei.” image from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

With all of this attention to maintaining the dignity and meditation of the dying and dead person, how/when could one donate organs? Sangha members posed these questions to Rinpoche before he passed and to living teachers, with mixed responses. Some indicate that if you want to be an organ donor, you have to choose to give up your chance to do these practices during and after dying/death. Personally, I think this view is an opinion that could be challenged. However, it is widely circulated.

So far, I don’t know of any sangha members who died who also donated their organs, and several have died in the last ten years whom I knew personally and well. I decided to be an organ donor before practicing Buddhism in this life and I have signed up in every state I’ve lived in since, including my most recent move to Missouri, whenever I get a new driver’s license.

I believe in organ donation because it’s the right thing to do, in my mind. Also, six people I know and love received life-saving organ and/or bone marrow donations. I was tested (but not selected) to be one of those donors about twelve years ago.

Jaye Laughing

My dear, recently departed friend, Jaye Alper, enjoying her extra years because of a donated kidney.

How do I reconcile being an organ donor with being a serious meditator who does these time-of-death practices? Like this: None of these pre-modern-science meditators ever faced these decisions and dilemmas, so how could they have prepared for, much less taught about how to make organ donation choices?

Points to consider:

  • Our consciousness does not reside in this body; we use it for a while and then our consciousness moves on. We Buddhists all agree on that, yes?
  • This existence is all illusory, including being in this body.
  • The highest act of generosity anyone can make is to give one’s body. We visualize this in Chöd practice and other meditations daily; why not DO it? Actually GIVE our body parts!
  • At my time of death (and right before, if I’m brain-dead but not physically dead, yet), the most useful thing I can do is to donate my organs so that others may live, see, breathe, etc., by using them.
  • I certainly won’t be needing my organs any longer at that point.
  • If my commitment to meditation practice is strong and steady, it won’t matter where my consciousness “is” when this body is dying and dies. How could it? How much can it really matter where and how this body is moved or touched, then?

Also, and I don’t mean to sound condescending, I believe that a large portion of Buddhist tradition and thought, particularly that which comes from Tibet, is steeped in the superstitions, fears and other unsupportable beliefs that pre-dated Buddhism, such as those from Bön. Furthermore, indigenous Shamanic traditions rooted in many Buddhist cultures share these older views.

However, our commitments to practice generosity, be less selfish, try to make others happy, and our motivation to save lives and alleviate suffering are supposed to triumph over fears for all of these faiths. I hope we can agree on donating organs in these modern times.

Most Motor Vehicle Bureaus have a organ donor registration as part of the license-getting or -renewal process. if you don’t drive, find a way to become listed as an organ donor. Get tested to be a live donor by participating in the Bone Marrow registry as well.

organ_donor_card_

We are all going to die. We meditate on impermanence, on death, every day. We get used to it, as meditators. Let’s do more than become accustomed to death: let’s use it for benefiting others.

Death-meditation

image from: http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com

How great it is to live in a time that allows us to gift others with our body parts and help them live better, healthier, longer lives? As we get closer to the USA celebration of Halloween and the Mexican commemoration, El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), 10/31, how fitting is it to consider death in productive ways?

Click below to sign up and become a registered donor. Pass this on, please.

http://www.transplants.org/become-organ-donor

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

rosh-hashanah-the-jewish-new-year-falls-on-the-hebrew-calendar-dates-2

image from: http://9pixs.com

“The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) or the ‘Days of Repentance.’ This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur.”
from http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm

10 Days. 10 Questions.

http://doyou10q.com/

Whether you’re an observant Jew or not Jewish at all or don’t observe Jewish holidays for whatever reasons, this exercise/personal/spiritual practice is an excellent self-assessment/check-in tool to be used during the special ten days that are between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This can be done online, but you can use it during those days or other days, offline or on, for whatever purposes you want, which I highly recommend.

Here is the way 10Q works:

10Q : Reflect. React. Renew.

Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

  • 1) Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.
  • 2) When you’re finished, hit the button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.
  • 3) One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for further private reflection.
  • 4) You may keep your responses secret or share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community.
  • 5) Next year, the whole process begins again. Could become an annual ritual even if you’re not an observant Jew.

Do you 10Q? Try it. You will like it.

And, in case you are observant and want to have Tashlich, the ceremonial casting away of “sins,” misdeeds, regrets, mistakes, which usually requires having some moving water nearby that you can go cast these symbolic negativities into during the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, you can do THAT online as well!

iTashlich
http://www.itashlich.com

May all beings benefit and have a better year than ever before. Blessings and sweetness to you all! L’Shana Tova!

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

rosh-hashanah-the-jewish-new-year-falls-on-the-hebrew-calendar-dates-2

image from: http://9pixs.com

“The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) or the ‘Days of Repentance.’ This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur.”
from http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm

10 Days. 10 Questions.

http://doyou10q.com/

Whether you’re an observant Jew or not Jewish at all or don’t observe Jewish holidays for whatever reasons, this exercise/personal/spiritual practice is an excellent self-assessment/check-in tool to be used during the special ten days that are between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This can be done online, but you can use it during those days or other days, offline or on, for whatever purposes you want, which I highly recommend.

Here is the way 10Q works:

10Q : Reflect. React. Renew.

Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

  • 1) Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.
  • 2) When you’re finished, hit the button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.
  • 3) One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for further private reflection.
  • 4) You may keep your responses secret or share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community.
  • 5) Next year, the whole process begins again. Could become an annual ritual even if you’re not an observant Jew.

Do you 10Q? Try it. You will like it.

And, in case you are observant and want to have Tashlich, the ceremonial casting away of “sins,” misdeeds, regrets, mistakes, which usually requires having some moving water nearby that you can go cast these symbolic negativities into during the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, you can do THAT online as well!

iTashlich
http://www.itashlich.com

May all beings benefit and have a better year than ever before. Blessings and sweetness to you all! L’Shana Tova!

#Injuries to the #Mind, #Brain and #Psyche that Cause Difficulties with #Meditation

I have been noticing, since the fall that injured my brain via a #concussion in early April, that I have had unusual and unique (to me) difficulties with meditation (and life) ever since. Add to this several other “injuries” to my mind and psyche due to: disastrous #heartbreak; a difficult #move cross-country (i.e., getting rid of almost everything, going far away from my spiritual/ meditation teacher and spiritual community/ sangha to relocate to my childhood hometown); long-term, chronic #unemployment; disappointing #ebook sales (due to my having been incapacitated during key #marketing time after my accident); unexpected and painful changes to my #health; turning 60, which have led to my noticing many other problems with my #meditation practice in the last several months that I’ve never had before this (I’ve been meditating since 1972 and doing this practice since 1999).

I think, under these circumstances, which would put me over the top on any stressors test, I am doing quite well. However, I want to meditate, not just do well. Why does my mind keep skittering away from my focus when I try to meditate? What is happening in this brain/mind of mine? I have done many retreats, some as long as eleven weeks, and never had anything like these problems before. My talks with other meditators without brain injuries confirmed that only we injured seem to have these types of difficulties.

But, why? And, what to do about them?

I kept hearing this quote as I continued my attempts:

meditation better than nothing

I pray that this is true….

Since I am a life-long researcher and the internet provides endless opportunities for me to look for “answers,” I looked around for others’ stories, cautionary tales or suggestions. I wanted to find more injured meditators I could commiserate with or teachers who could offer me advice.

What did I find? See below.

Not surprisingly, when I looked for links between “stress” and “meditation,” I found millions of links (17,700,000) referring to the help that meditation provides us when we’re stressed. Meditation for stress reduction, managing stress, alleviating stress, etc., abound on the internet and elsewhere.

NOT ONE article or study to be found that discusses how stress impacts meditation. Really? Really.

Here was my “path”:
“Searches related to meditation problems life stressors” which then provided these other key word strings:

  • meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress relief

  • guided meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress and anxiety

  • meditation for stress management

  • meditation depression

  • meditation for stress or sudden shock

  • meditation for stress and anger

Frontal lobe meditation before and after

image from: http://www.paramyogaindia.wordpress.com

I also tried: “Searches related to impact of stress on meditation,” which yielded about 6 million results, but always in the reverse: how meditation helps with stress.

Okay. I must be going about this all wrong. I tried the verbal “OKAY GOOGLE” command and asked: “OKAY GOOGLE: Why am I having trouble meditating?”

I got 1,020,000 results, but these all revolved around problems “beginners” have with “monkey-mind,” or problems many have with setting aside time, being consistent, staying with meditation once they start, etc. I couldn’t look at all one million results, but the associated key word strings confirmed my suspicions: OKAY GOOGLE still did not understand my problem.

Google did offer other choices (some quite hilarious, under the circumstances):

“Searches related to why am I having trouble meditating”:

  • i am having trouble pooping

  • i am having trouble getting pregnant

  • i am having trouble sleeping at night

  • i am having trouble breathing

  • i am having trouble breathing and my chest hurts

  • i am having trouble swallowing

  • i am having trouble breathing deeply

  • i am having trouble logging into my facebook account

I even tried getting more specific with OKAY GOOGLE, asking: “Why does my concussion make it hard for me to meditate?” This query led me to even stranger associations than before, including recommendations for those with concussions to meditate to help heal from their concussions.

Huh?

I don’t know whether to be flattered or to cry when this also had my own article from my blog post in May as the number 3 listing among 11,000,000 results:

concussion | Sally Ember, Ed.D.

sallyember.com/tag/concussion/

May 2, 2014

If I’m one of the “experts,” here, we’re all in trouble.

Don't follow me I'm already lost

image from http:///funny-pictures.picphotos.net

So, I was going to give up on finding “help” but then I tried this search string: “research meditation frontal lobe injuries” and hit the jackpot.

First, this quote (unattributed) kept appearing: “Meditation is a frontal lobe activity,” which affected me deeply. My accident, for those who don’t know, involved my hitting a wall face-first, breaking my nose and impacting my forehead, behind which is the frontal lobe.

Here are some selected quotes from the best article I found, from the UK, that clarifies a lot about the functions of the frontal lobe, its effects on and participation in the activity of meditation, and many other aspects of my experience: very illuminating and helpful.

Case study on function of the frontal lobe

“The frontal lobes play a major role in the regulation of our emotions and behaviour as well as planning, decision making, social conduct, and executive functions. They are vulnerable to damage… [and] are thought to be our emotional control centre [sic; UK spelling] and home to our personality.”

“The frontal lobes are vulnerable to injury and damage due to their location at the front of the skull and their ample size. Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies have revealed that the frontal area is the most frequent region of damage following brain injury (Levin et al., 1987). Statistics show that there is no other component of the brain in which impairment can cause such a wide array of symptoms (Kolb and Wishaw, 1990).”

This began to intrigue me, especially the part about the “wide array of symptoms,” which I can attest to experiencing. Some of my “symptoms” have seemed to be unclearly connected to the concussion until I read more of this article.

“The frontal lobes are involved in problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement [sic; UK spelling], impulse control, social cognition (Benson, 1996) and sexual behaviour. Motor function is also seen to be controlled by the frontal lobes (Leonard et al., 1988).”

I have noticed my balance is off, my proprioceptors are off, my sense of security on my feet is reduced, but until I read this, I wasn’t sure if I was suffering from a bit of PTSD and wariness about falling again or actually having trouble. The latter, I believe now, is the case.

“Broca’s Aphasia has also been linked with frontal lobe damage (Brown, 1972). It is supported that frontal lobe damage has an effect on memory and attention (Stuss et al., 1985).”

Ding ding ding: points for all. Unfortunately.

“Mesulam (1986) pointed out from his studies, that some people who have suffered frontal lobe damage show impairments in their everyday life; however they show little or no impairment on clinical neurological assessment tests….[One injured patient was] unable to make decisions and plan…often unable to make simple everyday decisions, such as which toothpaste to buy, what restaurant to go to, or what to wear even after endless comparisons and contrasts Damasio (1985)….This may be characterised as a failure of future memory, the ability to encode delayed intentions, and act on those intentions when the appropriate time arrives.”

Usually I am extremely decisive. Even when there are complex factors, even when I feel ambivalence: before this accident and its injuries to my brain, I was considered a person others could rely on to make the choices they could or would not make. Since then, I have had hesitation, confusion, bewilderment, inability to weigh costs and benefits and many other unusual reactions to being asked to choose even the simplest things. Now I know the reasons for this befuddlement. Good.

“Interestingly, some patients who suffer from frontal lobe damage often do not show any defects on neuropsychological tests. However, when observed in unstructured real world settings, patients frequently demonstrate cognitive difficulties, neurobehavioral symptoms, and deficits in their executive functions.”

I would say, without a doubt, that the most severe deficit to my executive functions has been first my complete inability and then my reduced ability to meditate, since meditation has become the foundation for all the thinking, choosing and behaving in my life via values, personality and habit changes.

TBI as a puzzle

image from: http://www.brainline.org

I can see ways I’ve regressed since the accident and these are disturbing in deep and superficial ways. I’m more impatient, more quick to anger, easily provoked to sadness or hurt. I hide it from those close to me but take it out on customer service representatives of mega-corporations which happen to provide terrible service. Not proud of this at all.

“Studies have found high frontal lobe activation during meditation (Herzog et al, 1990; Lazer et al, 2000).”

IF I COULD MEDITATE, I would, also. I miss meditating so much. But, now I know a bit more about the reasons for my difficulties.

I hope this post and the rest of this article (link, below) help others in similar predicaments.

http://www.ukessays.com/essays/psychology/case-study-on-function-of-the-frontal-lobe-psychology-essay.php#ixzz3ClAyyWOc

Keep trying, keep going: got to believe it will improve.

I’m also going to see if I can talk (or video chat) with my meditation teacher some time soon. I need something.

A quote from Thich Nhat Hanh is what I plan to contemplate until my meditation practice gets back on track.

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

The #Freedom to Die without Regret: Post for #RaveReviewsBookClub #Blog #Recruitment Day

What will you do today to be able to end your life at the uncertain time of your death with as little regret as possible? The freedom to die without regret is the aim of many meditators and those with spiritual practices of other types. I have been living a better life, striving to be a better person, doing meditation practice intensively for many decades as part of my “live-and-die-without-regret” plan.

One day last fall, I walked through my neighborhood in northern California in a new direction, on streets I hadn’t walked before. There was a wide variety of landscaping, from untended dirt piles (for what purpose?) to blooming plants, featuring some very large, standing roses bushes all in a line. The dwellings ranged from assisted living, small buildings with apartments, and tinier cottages than mine to large homes and a few of what I’m sure were mansions when they were built in the early 1900s. To my eye, this “neighborhood” contained a haphazard mix of land use and varied conditions of the habitations.

mansion with ponds

Mansions’ grounds looked something like this. image from betterdecoratingbible.com

I lingered in front of the beautiful fountains and shrubbery of one of the mansions, moved on to adore two little landscaped ponds and wondered what inspired their creation. I then went to sit in the neighborhood park on this beautiful fall day.

The combination of the 70-degree temperature, the bright sun, the park’s peacefulness, the sweet-smelling breezes, the cloudless skies, my own independence and freedom (having recently been laid off), created a “perfection moment.” Into this scene walked two more people.

A girl of about four pranced in and began to play with her “papi” (a Spanish term for “father,” but is used for almost any older male relative or even one’s boyfriend or husband; he appeared to be her grandfather). Papi had carried in a large bubble wand and jar of bubble mixture. Their game involved his dipping the wand and waving it to let the bubbles flow toward her in the light breeze. She would then shriek in delight and leap, run, stretch high, crouch and kick to get the bubbles within her reach to pop them.

She buzzed around the playground, laughing and calling out, “Papi! Papi!” with joy each time she popped a rainbow bubble. He laughed with her delight and kept sending them to her. At one point, his enthusiasm and the breeze conspired to put the bubbles a bit ahead of her, coming too fast and out of her reach.

bubbles

image from http://www.designdazzle.com

Indignant and out of breath, she went over to him, stomped her foot, put her hands at her hips (in her best imitation of her mom?) and said, “Papi! Wait for me to come to you!”

“Oh, yes, of course, mi Princesa!” he replied, bowing, and did as she asked.

Satisfied, she resumed her annihilating spree with vigor.

Life sometimes is just like that: everything is beautiful, within reach, delightful, fun and able to be changed at our command. As humans, especially many who are living in relative peace, many of us live long lives, replete with splendor and abundance of all that we could possibly desire.

Yet, our lives, as any, are actually just rainbow bubbles, able to be burst at any time by another’s actions, or the breezes, or by striking an object, or just by our coming to the ends of our bubble existences: POP and life is over, royal or not.

Then, unlike a bubble, which seems to be free of self-reflection, we know we just died. Some of us die slowly, having time to contemplate our lives and deaths as we die; that’s part of our existence. A few of us have long, self-recriminating death throes that go on and on, all the way until we land in our next incarnation or experience whatever we believe is “next.”

Our death-bed remorse and self-castigations are for naught: no matter how many ways we imagine we could have done things differently, as we lay dying, it’s too late. Regrets are not what we want to be left with when we die.

Many spiritual teachers often say that the best departure any human can hope for is to die without regret. How many of us could die today without regret? Do you have that freedom?

no_regrets medallion

image from http://www.chfi.com/

Some ways to reduce regrets (add your own): Spend more time with loved ones. Finish that project. Offer apologies. Go on a vacation. Appreciate, love, thank people, repeatedly, for their presence in your lives, out loud, to their faces, and/or write thank-you letters. Give to charities. Take that chance. Share your possessions, time, other resources. Tell stories. Learn another language. Play music. Make art. Dance. Sing. Read. WRITE. Ask for others’ stories. Donate land, restore something, fix things. Organize your papers. Toss embarrassing “evidence” NOW.

If you become incapacitated, have you designated someone to have financial/legal Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney? Do you have a Living Will that includes a declaration of intent when “heroic measures” are indicated? What about a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order? Who knows where all these papers are located?

Who is your “executor”? That is a role EVERYONE needs to have filled, not just those with a lot of money or property.

For those left behind: Write a Will and have it witnessed and notarized. Sort through and discard things so your friends and relatives won’t have to do that. Designate who gets what, clearly.

Plan for your death: what about your body’s disposal or burial (organ donor? cremation?). Your funeral? Do you have or need to purchase a burial plot? Are your death expenses covered? What ceremonies do you want and to whom have you described them? Has the music been chosen? The guest list provided?

Something to aim for: the freedom of dying without regret. And, since we do not know the time, manner or date of our death, start NOW on that course.

What will you do today to be able to end your life at the uncertain time of your death with as little regret as possible? I encourage you to do that. And more tomorrow. That is freedom.

*******************************
Today’s post, on the theme of “Freedom,” is part of a the Rave Reviews Book Club’s July Blog Hop. Please click on this link and VOTE on my post if you like it best. Go read some others, too!

rave-reviews-badge
Blog Recruiting Day Voting Link

Are you an author who wants to belong to a supportive, helpful group? Please read the FAQs, here, and if you like what you read, join the Rave Reviews Book Club today (click below). Join the Twitter Team, exchange reviews, support each others’ cover and book releases, share tips and be part of great network of authors.

Click on the link for more information and a membership sign-up form.
Mention ME: Sally Ember, @sallyembedd. Thanks!

I can #Meditate, Again! Ahhhh!

Good news! First time, since the fall that caused a broken nose and concussion on April 1, that I spontaneously dropped into meditative awareness/rigpa!

Dzogchen_A

image of DzoghchenAh” seed syllable for Rigpa from en.wikipedia.org

As some of you know, since the concussive injury to my brain, meditation was, at first, painful/impossible, then elusive/difficult and NOT recommended by the neurosurgeon (who commanded I REST my brain) (see earlier post on concussions’ effects on the brain regarding meditation and other effects from April).

This week I began returning to intentional meditation, slowly, in small sessions, coming up to the day (TODAY, 6/23/14) the doctor will (hopefully) clear me for all mental activities.

Reading a blog post in which the word “wisdom” appeared is what triggered the “ahh” moment! Thanks to fellow bloggers!

It’s like returning home. Tearfully happy today.

Rigpa3-225x300

image from http://www.artsyshark.com (Terri Lloyd): “Rigpa 3″

As I kept reading others’ posts and perusing online sites, every slightly related word or image seems to trigger the same spontaneous meditation response!

I feel a bit like Helen Keller in Patty Duke’s depiction of her in The Miracle Worker: after Helen first realizes that the finger spelling Annie Sullivan has been doing for so many weeks has meanings, Helen runs around touching things and people and returning to Annie, asking for the spelling/word that goes with each.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUV65sV8nu0

I’m in that dashing-around phase, testing my new meditative “chops.”

It’s a kind of ecstasy!

Heartfelt and many lifetimes of gratitude to my wonderful teachers, especially my root teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu.

Lama D laughing on throne

Lama Padma Drimed Norbu at Rigdzin Ling, 2008

May all beings benefit, may all of our precious our teachers’ lives be long, healthy and happy, benefiting all beings in all lifetimes.