How Having a #Buddhist #Spiritual #Teacher Changes Me

Some of you may remember I began an at-home, mini-#retreat to study and practice in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma tradition of preliminary practices for #T’hödgal—the #Rushan exercises—with meditation, contemplation and study, in October, 2013. I planned to end this sequence by Tibetan New Year, Losar, March 2, 2014. I have written a few posts about some of these experiences and my reactions to them (the ones I’m allowed to publicize).

My spiritual teacher’s schedule is very full and it is often difficult to arrange to see him. Luckily, I found out yesterday that I was able to receive an appointment to see him February 26, which means my retreat ends in a week.

Immediately upon having the date and time for our next meeting confirmed (called an “interview” in this tradition), I could feel the familiar internal reactions that signal other responses that will occur over the next week, in anticipation and preparation for our meeting and my receiving the next teachings. Physically, I feel internal tremors, “butterflies,” flutters of fear and excitement in my mid-section and heart. My heart rate speeds up, my breathing gets shallow and I have to remind myself to take deeper breaths.

Mentally, my mind starts racing around to gather up what I might want to ask, tell, find out in our meeting, which is always too short no matter how long it is. I keep a notebook and start writing down my questions and reactions to the practices during my retreat and always moreso in the days right before we meet. The time with my teacher is precious and I want to use every moment well.

Last night, I again have lucid dreams and more dreams that I remember. Lucid dreams are the kind that occur when I, as the dreamer, know I am dreaming during the dream, waking up to some extent while having the dream experiences and notice that I am awake. Remembered dreams are the ones that wake me up completely or that are with me when I first get up in the morning.

LucidDreaming
image from givnology.com

Sometimes I remember dreams from the night before at random moments during the day as well. In each of these dreams, lucid or remembered, I’m having some conversation or encounter with my teacher.

In my dreams, we are talking about my experiences in this retreat. Or, I am asking questions and he is teaching on some related subject. Or, we are walking, preparing food, washing vegetables or dishes, cleaning a room together.

I had a dream that we were swimming in the pond at our retreat center together at night. Somehow, we could both go underwater and still breathe, talk, and relate to each other for many minutes without difficulty, all the while the moon shone through the water, lighting us.

I dreamed we were in a hot tub together, naked but unembarrassed, talking about accomplishments and experiences in one type of meditation (often termed experiencing “naked awareness” in English translations).

Many times in the “ramp up” to a scheduled interview, I hear him talking to me in my sleep.His speaking voice wakes me up. He is instructing, explaining, teaching on a relevant topic but not one I have actually heard him talk about before in our actual encounters. Although it wakes me up, I try to go back into the dream to hear the rest of what he’s saying, but that never works. I lie there, recalling what he said and what I understand of it. When I have a pen and paper handy, I write down what I can remember.

Also in the days or weeks preceding a scheduled interview with my teacher, I am more keenly aware of my faults and flaws. I try to remember to bring compassion to my self-critique. I also notice any small progress signs I might have and note them down.

Chagdud Rinpoche
H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and his reincarnation

Our teacher (his teacher and, for a while, mine), His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, often told us that there are several sure signs of progress to watch for which he offered in a series of questions to ask ourselves:

“Am I more patient?”
“Am I less angry?”
“Am I more kind?”
“Does compassion arise spontaneously within me?”
“Am I more generous?”

If the answers to any or most of these questions is “Yes,” then we can be assured that our practice is having good effects. If not, we need to adjust/rectify: our practice, our motivation, our commitment, our understanding.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the spiritual teacher is said to hold the key to one’s heart. Opening the heart (or, in Tibetan terms, the heart/mind) is fundamental to becoming receptive to the spiritual practices and their impact on us, allowing us to change, inviting the methods to work within us without impediment.

A teacher may play many roles. The only limitations to the impact of a qualified teacher are in our own minds.

Teacher-Roles
image from http://www.unfetteredmind.org

The story of how I “found” my spiritual teacher is a bit unusual in that I knew him before he became a Lama. However, I hadn’t seen him in ten years, only talked with him twice on the phone, before coming to accept teachings from him in 1999 and decide with him if he could be my teacher. He had told me on the phone that people who knew him “before” had had difficulty accepting him as a teacher and was warning me that it might not work for us, either.

I told him that I had already had many dreams in which he IS my teacher and I was confident it would work. Secretly, though, I was nervous and a bit doubtful, myself. I knew what he meant because the first person I had considered as my teacher was also someone I had known before and things were very difficult for both of us.

The day the retreat started that June day in 1999, we were all gathered in the shrine room (large space for meditation practice and teachings), waiting for him to arrive. I had no idea how the retreat would be structured, what went on, even where he would sit. There were thrones in the front of the room, but I had a hard time imagining that he would actually sit on one. Because Rinpoche then lived in Brazil, Rinpoche’s picture was framed and occupied the highest throne, in the center. There was one on the right side of it that was empty.

There was a curtain, a drapery wall, separating the shrine room from the porch eating area. It rippled and a man entered. At first, I didn’t recognize him as the man I had known. His hair was down past his waist and flowed as he moved. Last time I’d seen him, his hair was barely to his ears.

Even more different was the way he moved. More startling and unexpected was that I felt my heart burst open. My eyes filled with tears. In total silence and surprise, half bowed along with everyone else, I stood there staring at him. There was a glow around him that I could not actually see with my physical eyes but which I could perceive nonetheless. He emanated peace, confidence, warmth.

My heart was pounding and the tears increased as I watched him glide smoothly across the room carrying a single, long-stemmed rose in one hand.

He walked up to the throne with Rinpoche’s framed face on it. Gently and reverently, with immense love that I could feel from across the room, Lama Drimed placed the rose in front of the picture. Then, he gracefully stepped back several paces and did three full-body prostrations in front of that throne, offering respect and devotion to his teacher. I felt his devotion as pinpricks in my heart and my tears flowed.

long stem red rose

He finished his prostrations and walked over to the empty throne. Climbing up onto it, I could feel the rightness of it: it was his seat, his rightful place.

As soon as he sat down, the room of about thirty students erupted in motion: everyone began prostrating to him as he had done to Rinpoche’s picture. I stood there, trembling. Up until then, despite having attended several teachings, one retreat and several empowerments with other teachers, including Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, when I had done prostrations, I hadn’t felt anything. I did them out of respect, but without my heart engaged.

This time, as I bent to the floor to join the others in this ritual, tears fell on the carpet and my heart felt as if it would burst. The English translation for the words to the prayer we say as we do the prostrations echoed in my mind with new meaning:

“From now until I reach the heart of enlightenment, I take refuge in the Lama, who is the Three Jewels.”
Not “the” Lama: THIS Lama. I felt gnosis resonating in me as I prostrated.

My devotion and dedication awakened that afternoon as it had on no other day in this lifetime, yet it felt as if I were coming home. I had found my teacher, my spiritual guide and friend, the key to my heart/mind. Right there, that day.

Now, almost fifteen years later, I am even more devoted, dedicated, grateful and certain of my good fortune to have Lama Padma Drimed Norbu as my teacher. He scares me, he amuses me, he teaches and guides me. We argue, we talk, we laugh, we discuss. Lama Drimed as a Lama represents the embodiment of enlightenment. As a man, puts kale into his juicer and talks to me about my being a new sci-fi author. He makes me cry in gratitude, frustration, discouragement and awe.

I stretch, I learn, I grow. So does he.

In other times and now, in Tibet, India, Burma, Nepal, many Buddhist students have (had) to endure much hardship, danger, long journeys and infrequent opportunities to be with their teachers. Sometimes only once in a lifetime are they physically in the same places; being able to have an interview is even rarer.

snow travel
image from http://www.ornotmagazine.com

I am so lucky that he is alive and teaching, willing to have me as a student. The grace, good karma, great coincidence of our living in the same geographic area after many years of living other places allow me to see him next week just by driving my car about ninety minutes on good roads.

May all beings benefit. May all find their spiritual teachers and meet with them in this and every lifetime.

Thank you for being the key to my heart/mind, Lama Drimed. May you have a long, healthy, wonderful life filled with benefit and happiness.

Lama Drimed
Lama Padma Drimed Norbu

The three treasures and two promises

The Three Treasures
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness

The Two Promises

I vow to develop my compassion in order to protect the lives of people, animals, and plants.
I vow to develop understanding in order to live peaceably with people, animals, and plants.

Meditation with Daniel

This is a version of Buddhist vows created by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I really like this version. It’s described in a way that anyone could easily understand.

 

The Three Treasures
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness

 

The Two Promises

I vow to develop my compassion in order to protect the lives of people, animals, and plants.
I vow to develop understanding in order to live peaceably with people, animals, and plants.

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Being Kind to Yourself – Practicing Meditation

Meditation is good for your body, your emotions, your work, your mind, your relationships and your soul. DO IT!

Kindness Blog

Whether you are Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Jewish, Humanist, Buddhist or even a Jedi, already strong in the ways of the force, you can and will see clear and noticeable positive changes in your state of mind when you practice mindfulness meditation. This is especially so if you are suffering from stress, anxiety, pain or depression*.

basic-meditation-infographic-black

If you have an interest in meditation but are not sure where to start, contact us with your location etc and Team KB will happily point you towards resources and meditation classes that are local to where you live or work!

*If you are suffering from any of the above listed conditions, always consult your medical practitioner prior to starting any form of meditation.

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Was Einstein a Buddhist?

Of course any thinking person who studied Buddhism would see the correlations and similarities between Buddhist science, thought, philosophy and precepts to physics, astronomy, psychology, sociology and many other disciplines!

The Responsive Universe

Einstein

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 and is well-known for his scientific research in modern physics. Famous for his theory of relativity, much of his exceptional work is still considered a benchmark in the modern world of quantum science.

Across Facebook and Twitter I always see philosophical and even spiritual quotes from Einstein that not only portrayed him as a scientist but also as an awakened being.  Some of his writing seems Buddhist in nature. A German, Jewish scientist who found his True Nature? Publically, he called himself an agnostic, while dissociating himself from the label of atheist. Cleary he was not swayed by religious dogma, but he did see some amazing connections with instinctual consciousness and the Universe – these quotes below may reflect some of this energy and wisdom:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of…

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Are We Practicing Vajrasattva With Its Original Intention?

Thanks, OkieBuddhist! This relates exactly to the portion of my miniretreat in which I am studying Dzogchen practices (t’hregchod and t’hodgal) and enhances my understanding well. May all beings benefit.

Another Friend’s Death: Mortality in Daily Life

We #Buddhists contemplate, study, meditate on and live with #impermanence more than non-Buddhists, for the most part. We do not, therefore, feel as much surprise, shock, dismay, or indignation when relationships end, jobs evaporate, housing changes, animals and people die: that is the nature of impermanence, which we all live with every day. Mortality in daily life is commonplace.

However, that doesn’t mean we do not mourn. We feel sad, we grieve, we suffer personal or professional losses, same as anyone. We’re just not surprised. We don’t ask “why me?” or “why her?”

I lost another long-time friend, Cynthia Toth, a former housemate who is a Buddhist vajra sister this week. I say “another” because she is not the first and she will not be the last. But, she is my age. Somehow, when someone dies who is a peer, it feels “closer to home” in every way. Also, we had lived together in a Buddhist community household for almost a year, which literally brings this loss closer to my own home.

Cyn had been suffering from the aftereffects of ovarian cancer for several years and it actually surprised me that she lived as long as she did. Most with that diagnosis do not survive that long nor live as well as she did for the years they do have left. I admire Cynthia’s courage, applaud her support network and health care providers, and am glad she had that “extra” time because I know she used it well, in service and kindness to others.

This post is not an obituary for her (I am not qualified nor moved to write one), nor even an homage. More, I want to recognize our commonality: everyone dies. One way or another, “early” or after a long life, we all leave our physical bodies.

I have come close to death many times, due to accidents, illness and surgeries. At some point, that closeness will veer over the line into actuality and I, too, will die. Since I am almost 60, no one can say that I would have died “young,” regardless of when I die from now on. But, the older one gets, the “younger” every decade seems or sounds.

When we’re teenagers, being in one’s twenties seems “old” and anyone over forty seems “elderly.” Once in our twenties, we revise that to include people in their forties seeming “middle-aged” and those over sixty seeming “elderly.”

Now, sometimes people in their eighties don’t seem so old to me; dying in one’s nineties can seem “too soon” in some cases. When is anyone “ready” to die if they’re not in pain, not suffering, not alone? Even those who do suffer hang on, as if death were a consequence to be avoided.

The language we use to talk about one’s journey to death is so inappropriate, from my perspective: people talk about the dead person having “lost the battle” when death comes from cancer or other illness; many say a person has been “robbed” or had a life that has been “cut short” when the person was murdered or died from an accident. Even when someone dies of “old age” many talk about how we “lost them too soon,” as if remaining alive well into one’s 90s means we’re “found.” People talk about “cheating death,” “escaping death,” and mortality rates.

My favorite is the epidemiologist who tells us that the incidence of death has increased or decreased due to lifestyle or medicinal interventions or changes, ignoring the fact that everyone dies, which makes the incidence of death 100%, for everyone.

I am not hard-hearted: I cried when I learned of Cynthia’s death….and Russell’s and Jaye’s and Joan’s and Mary’s and Bob’s and Susan’s and Martha’s and Rinpoche’s and my father’s and my grandparents’ and Marcia’s and and and and so many others. I miss them. I wish some of them hadn’t died “so soon,” but I know some of them were suffering, which made their deaths a relief.

I cry, but I am not shocked or surprised. I celebrate their lives and am glad to have known them.

Thank you, Cynthia, for being in my life for a few years and all the ways you were of benefit to so many. I wish you well in your journey to your next incarnation. Maybe we’ll get together again some time.

Thanks, Candace Palmo, for posting this photo of Cynthia from your travels last year. Cynthia is on the left.

Cynthia and Candy 2012

When #Spiritual #Teachers Respond with #Countertransference

I do not have good #karma with spiritual teachers. I must start with that understanding, as a #Buddhist who does believe in karma. However, that recognition does not absolve the #spiritual #teachers who have wronged me.

I have had several teachers relate to me from their own psychological troubles (reliving their family histories) or who believed and then acted inappropriately and unfairly on the basis of unsubstantiated and inaccurate lies or rumors about their students (including, but not limited to me). These teachers are human, yes, but they are established (sometimes self-established) in significant roles of power and authority. I expected better. I needed them to be better.

India Tibet Dalai Lama

Let’s be clear: the power in these types of relationships is held by the teachers (spiritual or otherwise), not the students. Just as: parents have the power and children do not; bosses hold power, employees do not (unless they unionize…); therapists wield power, patients do not (until they’re ready to terminate therapy); clergy retain power, parishioners do not.

While it may be true that we in the underling role “give” or cede that power to those “above” us, more typically, the power differential is institutionally installed and our acquiescence required. Or, these power dynamics are emotionally unavoidable and we all succumb. In any case, the power lies with the “upper” level role inhabitants, not the “lower.”

What happens, what has already happened, when “good” teachers go “bad”? Sexual impropriety, financial greed and theft, many types of favoritism and other painful outcomes for students in the spiritual community of these wrong-headed teachers have occurred when these teachers abused their power. Most abuses have become exposed and even well-documented, eventually, but many remained hidden by students and teachers alike for far too long, to everyone’s detriment.

I’m not writing today about the boldest, most overt abuses. I want to focus on my experiences of some of the more subtle kinds of problems between teachers and students, caused chiefly by the teachers. These #counter-transference dynamics have occurred all too often. The results? Destruction of the delicate balance that generated good will, trust and faith, ruining the community cohesion and causing unhealed and unforgivable schisms, to the point of permanent alienation between me and those teachers and the rest of their students.

Contributing factors: I am the same age or older than most of my spiritual teachers. I am a parent of an adult child, now, and a very strong personality in my own right. I am outgoing, intelligent, assertive, strong-minded and opinionated. I am courageous and able to speak up to “authority” in ways most adults are not. I am an experienced teacher and leader, myself. Many see me as competition or posing some kind of threat even when I do not present any such danger, having no motivation to be that way with them.

What types of responses do my traits evoke? My relationships with spiritual teachers and fellow students start positively enough. Early on, teacher and students begin to rely heavily on me for my organizational or leadership skills, my experience, my willingness to serve. They flatter, “support,” defer to me, giving me more and more responsibility, visibility, community roles.

Then, the negativity sets in, first among the students. I become the target of others’ envy or grudging admiration in public and private sniping. Peer conflicts like these I am used to but do not much like. Unpleasant but commonplace, I weather these minor storms. These skirmishes are not the difficulties. In fact, they are to be expected. Furthermore, we are taught to honor our sangha members and continue to ask forgiveness for our own minds’ foibles. We aim to see our ego-clinging as the source of any interpersonal difficulties: “Drive all blames into one.”

When teachers raise their voices at students in the Buddhist tradition, students are supposed to believe their teachers are expressing compassionate, enlightened wrath to help us with reducing pride and attachment. When teachers ignore us, we’re supposed to see our inner pique as a sign of our tenacious ego-clinging. When a teacher criticizes or praises a student, we’re supposed to see those actions as equal, not to care which is happening, not favor one experience over the other, cultivating the attitude of all experiences, all phenomena as “all one taste.”

Wrathful diety

Sometimes, those are the ways teachers operate. That fidelity to tradition can be excellent for students’ learning and spiritual growth. Students can thrive and develop our practices under these circumstances; students have been doing so for thousands of years.

Sometimes, unfortunately, teachers are just screwed up people with personal issues that they’re working out unconsciously, complete with seductions, anger and power plays, on us students. These behaviors are not acceptable.

The problems begin each time for me when my teachers succumb to counter-transference, unconsciously confusing me with their parents or other adults from their childhood, the people with whom they had/have troubled relationships and concomitant unresolved issues. Just my presence in their lives triggers old resentments, fears, angers and hostilities. They begin to publicly lash out, threaten and accuse me, yell at or blame me unfairly, or they ignore me completely.

All of their inner insecurities, cowardice and inadequacies arise, eventually to engulf them. They blame me.

red_tibetan_mastiff_201123201611343778027

Because Buddhism focuses upon annihilation of the ego, techniques such as those listed above are often utilized for reducing one’s pride, loosening attachment to status or positions of power. We students are taught to continue to hold our teachers with “pure view,” seeing them as embodiments of enlightenment no matter what they say or do. We are supposed to strive to have unblemished and complete faith in our teachers, to trust them unflinchingly, regardless of their outward displays.

We are also, however, supposed to utilize discernment and good judgment. We are not asked to nor should we abdicate our own adult responsibility just because of the time-honored model of spirituality we subscribe to and believe in and how well it usually works. The model works; the people do not, always.

Even on the rare occasions when I’ve had the chance to discuss these interpersonal problems with the offending teachers and they understood what was happening, they chose not to attempt to work on this, not to enter therapy or try other methods to end the counter-transference. They chose, instead, to limit or even cut off contact with me.

Not your mother

These are not deployments of compassionate, enlightened wrath, but rather, the actions of confused individuals who are exhibiting mean-spirited, unkind, disrespectful mistreatment.

I know; I know: these decisions run in opposition to the very teachings they profess to offer. You don’t need to tell me that!

It is devastating to a community and each individual student suffers enormously when a teacher goes “off the rails,” as we’ve seen. Personally, I can attest to the pain, sorrow, disappointment and disgust I experience each time I witness or am the target of such failures in our teachers.

Counter-transference

Being the target of a teacher’s counter-transference robs the student of a chance to have an authentic relationship of any kind with that teacher because the student is not able to be seen clearly by that teacher. The filtering creates a haze of confusion that the teacher puts between him/her and that student which prevents the actual character, words or behaviors of that student from being given untainted attention or fair value.

The ones selected to be lovers of those teachers actually suffer just as much as those, like me, who are blamed and vilified. None of us is seen as ourselves. None of us has a “good” teacher to rely upon; that teacher has checked out.

I never had a chance with some teachers to be seen as me, to be treated fairly and respectfully. Instead, I was viewed with negativity, deemed to be “irritating” or “difficult,” cast out or forced to leave to escape this treatment.

Yes, by the time this happened for the fourth time, I conceded that this is my karma. However, I don’t have to like it. I am saddened, isolated, hurt and frustrated each time. It doesn’t get easier, just more familiar.

There is no easy or, sometimes, any solution, short of wishing/praying that the offending teacher will get some therapy and deal with their issues more thoroughly, hoping they will get their mother’s or father’s face off mine. So far, this has not been the trajectory of these ruined relationships: few apologies and no repairs have occurred. Broken has stayed broken.

Each time, I hope (but do not much believe) my/our karma will change. I am a skeptical optimist.

What are the odds that THIS teacher, THIS time, will deal with his/her stuff and become the teacher I need and want him/her to become?

Not so good. I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ll just keep practicing and put my faith in the teachings, not the teachers.

Let me know when you find a confident one. I’ll give him/her a try.

For more information: <a href="http://goo.gl/tKUCoz&quot; Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship Originally published as Berzin, Alexander. Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca, Snow Lion, 2000; Reprint: Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2010title=”Relating to a Spiritual Teacher” target=”_blank”>http://goo.gl/tKUCoz

Link to 11 FAQs about #Buddhism

Buddhism FAQs and great answers from Barbara O’Brien’s Buddhism blog, a post aptly called Misunderstanding Buddhism. Subtitled: “Common Things People Believe About Buddhism That Aren’t True.” Read & Share!

I really like her section on Karma:

“6. Karma Punishes People Who Deserve It
“Karma is not a cosmic system of justice and retribution. There is no unseen judge pulling the strings of karma to punish wrongdoers. Karma is as impersonal as gravity. What goes up does come down; what you do is what happens to you.

“Karma is not the only force that causes things to happen in the world. If a terrible flood wipes out a community, don’t assume karma somehow brought about a flood or that the people in the community deserved to be punished for something. Unfortunate events can happen to anybody, even the most righteous.

“That said, karma is a strong force that can result in a generally happy life or a generally miserable one.”

karma-cleanse

About Buddhism Forum link

Barbara’s bio

A Jew tries #contemplating the #Hell #Realms according to #Tibetan #Buddhism

As some of you know, I’m engaged in a mini-at-home #meditation #retreat in which I am attempting to #contemplate the experiences of beings who inhabit each of the six #Realms according to #Tibetan #Buddhism.

the-6-realms-of-existence-1203257933471246-2-thumbnail-4

I have spent the last two months wending my way through each of the “upper” five and am now on the final, sixth and “lowest” of the Realms, the #Hell #Realm. Problem is, I don’t believe in Hell. This is a very big obstacle to doing this practice.

The first time I ever heard about this cosmology was in a ten-day teaching entitled “The Bodhisattva Peace Training,” conceived of and taught at that time by His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, one of the last authentic meditation masters to have been trained in Tibet before the 1959 Chinese invasion. He and his immediate family successfully fled to India and he eventually made his way to the USA. I met him and attended this teaching in the late 1980s, when he had been in the USA for several years.

I was a skeptic. I was resistant. I was only there because some of the people I most loved and respected in the world were already studying with and living at this main center in northern California and others I knew and respected and cared for were also studying with him while living elsewhere, including the friend who attended this retreat with me. We both came to it from New Hampshire where we both lived at that time. However, she was not at all skeptical or resistant, having met Chagdud Tulku in 1983 and already been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for several years.

Samsaric Wheel 6 realms

I, on the other hand, came under duress. I felt coerced by my friends to “try this out.” But, what they meant was, DO IT. They were so convinced that this was “it” that they had sold everything to follow this teacher and live at this center, which they helped purchase for the community of practitioners, the sangha.

But I, like several others who came to this retreat who were refugees from the explosions that had just been occurring within Chogyam Trungpa’s Colorado sangha, felt more “no” than “yes” about the entire package. I listened, I took notes, I attended, I considered.

Some of what Rinpoche (which is what everyone called Chagdud Tulku because “Rinpoche” means “precious one” and is a Tibetan honorific reserved for well-respected teachers) taught made sense to me. Some of it even touched me deeply, resonated within my heart and echoed in my mind as if meeting old friends.

Then he got to the explanation of the Realms, specifically the Hell Realms, and I just sat there, stunned. The descriptions of the experiences of the beings relegated to living in these conditions for untold eons started with statements about how these beings had been cast into these lowest Realms due to their unfortunate actions, karma, in former lifetimes. Specifically, they must have committed murder, betrayal of high beings, or some other horrific acts to have “earned” this incarnational location.

I could live with the concept of karma just fine. Cause and effect, do this and expect that. It seemed a bit simplistic to me and somewhat castigating or threatening, but it had a kind of logic to it.

You and karma

However, the rest was harder for me to swallow. Impossible, as it turned out. Rinpoche told us that there were many types of Hells and talked in detail about their conditions: freezing, burning, cutting, piercing; being forced to do repetitive, arduous work (think: Sisyphus); having one’s skin flailed off, regrowing it, then having it flailed off again, repeatedly; walking around in as much pain as we would feel if someone were scraping a fingernail on our bare eyeballs. And, more. Any one of these experiences, we were being told, could last for what would feel to these beings like eons, with no hope of reprieve. The best protection was never to land there. Rinpoche admonished us: “Be virtuous.”

I resented this attitude, which assumed that I and other students needed to be motivated by fear in order to be motivated to become a Buddhist practitioner. As a life-long contrary, hearing this kind of talk tended to push me in the opposite direction entirely. Then, Rinpoche got even more specific about the kinds of acts that landed one in a Hell Realm and I became increasingly insulted, even outraged.

At one point, when we were invited to ask questions, I raised my hand and asked something like this: “Do you really expect us to believe that all of this is real? Aren’t these just stories you tell children to frighten them into being ‘good’?” Yes, I was that disrespectful, something I am not proud of at all.

Rinpoche’s translator stared at me as if I had just cursed at him. Rinpoche, however, was tranquil, unperturbed.

NOTE: Rinpoche understood English quite well at this point, but his spoken English was difficult for most of us to understand. Sometimes he had someone who knew both Tibetan and English so that Rinpoche could teach in Tibetan, but this translator was tasked with rephrasing his Tibetan-syntaxed and oddly-accented English into more familiar English structures for the rest of us. She would take copious notes or listen as he spoke, then rephrase what he said whenever he paused for her to do so.

After Rinpoche responded to my questions, her translation went something like this: “Rinpoche says, ‘The Hell Realms are as real as this one. It is just your karma making it so you and most of us do not usually see, hear, or experience Hell Realms’ conditions right now. Consider yourself fortunate. Your karma has provided you with a precious Human birth. Use it wisely.'”

This did not help me one bit. Not then, and not for many years. In fact, I was so turned off by this and other experiences at this retreat and with my practitioner friends that I avoided learning any more about Tibetan Buddhism for eight more years. I would go visit them, but as friends. I would even see Rinpoche, who traveled with one or more of them and came East to New York or Boston a few times during those eight years, but not to learn anything he taught. Just to visit.

When I finally became more open to it (another long story), in 1996, it still took me several more years to understand and accept, even tangentially, all this Realms information. Which brings me to now, twenty-five years after that first exposure to the Hell Realms. I’m still on the fence.

I believe and I don’t believe. I know it’s possible that many types of experiences exist in many dimensions or realms that most of us do not perceive. I just don’t completely accept the entire story of the experiences as depicted in Tibetan books and by Tibetan Buddhist teachers of what these Realms are like.

I’ve struggled with these last two months’ assignments, feeling worse and worse about my lack of confidence in depictions of the experiences of beings in the Realms. I go back and forth between acceptance and rejection of these “facts.”

I can allow that Humans can live hellish lives, or parts of our lives can be hellish. Certainly some illnesses, injuries, chemical weapons or other horrible acts of war bring many types of hell to people and animals subjected to them. Napalm, nerve gas, cancer, amputations and phantom limbs, the D.T.s all fit into these stories perfectly.

31-realms

For now, I’m sticking with that version. I’m just too Jewish or too American or too modern or too stubborn (maybe that’s redundant…) to believe in the Realms as depicted.

I do believe in the lessons they are meant to teach, especially the most important ones: Be grateful to be Human, to have been born (this time, anyway) into a life of relative ease and leisure. Be committed to continue to enact and amass more virtue in my life, both for others’ benefit and for my future karmic outcomes.

I can believe in the importance of gratitude and virtuous behaviors. I have thanked and thank again the late Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (who left that body in 2002) and my current teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, for putting up with my difficulties and teaching me, anyway. Here are photos of Rinpoche before he left that body and of his new incarnation, and Lama Drimed, below.

Chagdud Rinpoche

Lama Drimed

Meanwhile, I have about a week to contemplate the experiences of Hell, real or imagined. Here I go.

#Desire Realm Torments and Teases

#Buddhist cosmology puts humans and animals together in what is translated as the #Desire Realm. The Realm I am #contemplating for this phase of my #retreat is The Hungry Ghosts (#Pretas) Realm, which comes “below” these two. Pretas are born into this Realm because of exhibiting strong possessiveness and desire in other lives. So, in all three of these experiences, desire is the culprit.

desire21

However, we can’t function without desire. Our motivations are rooted first in desire, even for the most altruistic intentions, until we are beyond all suffering and desire. Let me know when you achieve that; I haven’t met anyone yet who has. Even His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, speaks of anger and other common emotions that still arise for him. The major difference between someone at his level or close to that and most practitioners are two factors; how long the feeling lasts and what we do in response to it.

Most people, Buddhist practitioners included, get lost for a moment or longer (or forever, if the person has no skills or practice to deter it) in the intense emotions of the present circumstances. We also get lost in emotions from events in the past or while anticipating the future. Every interaction, everything that occurs is an opportunity to remember or forget.

desire defn

The best signs I can hope for in my life due to practice are to experience these emotions less frequently, less intensely and for shorter durations and not to get lost in them. The goal is not the journey. But, part of being in the Desire Realm as a human is to have goals.

What does it mean to “get lost” in emotions? For me, this part of the journey looks like this: when I’m lost, it means I forget about the nondual, oneness truth of all existence. I can’t feel my intention to benefit all beings. I lose track of my ability to feel compassion or to be even a little bit unselfish. I cling completely to the false reality of my tiny physical and ego-ridden self as if “I” am all that matters, or matter the most.

Then, equally importantly, when I do get lost, I am tasked with not condemning myself and not giving up. Learning to accept my failings, have compassion for my forgetting, recognize my humanness and even have a sense of humor about myself. I attempt to take myself more lightly while keeping my goals in mind.

Ruthlessness without condemnation is the key: being honest enough to face my foibles without falling into self-negating, self-deprecating messages. Actually, I’m doing pretty well with this part. I accept who I am at almost 60 years old much better than many people do.

Interestingly, the fact that I do not judge myself as harshly or frequently as others judge me has caused me a few problems. Apparently, misery loves company. Judgers want to see that their judgments have a negative effect. In my experience, when I do not take their derision or evaluations personally, they take offense. They claim I’m not listening, I’m not respecting them. They feel that I’m judging them.

What a strange set of illusions we share! My response to all that self-induced misery for those people is to feel compassion for their being lost and not get lost, myself. For refusing to allow their torment to bother me, I become unpopular.

love-irresistible-desire-irresistibly-desired

Oh, well. Luckily for me I stopped desiring popularity in adolescence. Wish the rest of the adults would grow up.

Until then, torments and teases in the Desire Realm continue and we do our best to ride them out and not make things worse. Join me in gentle humor at oneself and others (but keep your amusement about others to yourself if you want friends!).

Keep on.

Being a “next-thing” Junkie

Addictions are the topic of many blogs, research studies, journal entries, news reports and conversations. At this point in the Western lexicon, someone can be “addicted” to practically anything: drugs or alcohol, of course; shopping; gambling; sex; food, particularly sugar, caffeine or wheat; fame; books; porn; the internet; and, any of a million possessions, collections, hobbies or activities.

Turns out I am genetically or personally lucky enough not to have an actual addiction, even by the above standards (unless you count obsessions as addictions, which is another discussion). However, I am about to confess what I discovered during my first six-week #Buddhist #meditation #retreat: I am a “next-thing” junkie. Whatever I am experiencing, regardless of how wonderful it is, how much I like it, I am always looking to the next phase.

When I am swimming, I fantasize about what I’ll do when I am finished. When I am writing, I consider when I will eat and what. When I am in the shower, I wonder about what I’ll write that day. During a meditation session, whatever practice or portion of the text we’re in, I want to be in the next part. When I’m silent, I want to talk. When I’m in conversation, I long for silence and solitude.

When I’m celibate, I daydream about sex. During sexual encounters, I want to have the aftermath, the closeness and intimacy of the more emotional kind, to be finished with the physical part. On and on.

This is my version of being a “Hungry Ghost,” a #Preta, one of the creatures doomed to exist for however long karma dictates who have extremely large bellies and very constricted throats: constantly starving and thirsty but never able to be satisfied. That is my dilemma: I am never satisfied, or not for very long.

Preta

I am not unique. I am not alone. In fact, I am in this way more mainstream, more ordinary than I am in almost any other component of my unusual life. When I brought this discover to my great #Tibetan #Buddhist teacher in the #Vajrayana #Nyingma #dzogchen lineage of #meditation, Lama Drimed, he talked to me about the known 51 “mental factors” that are considered part of the possible experience of sentient beings.

Want to know how many ways we can be caught up in experiences, thoughts, feelings? Fifty-one. Count ’em.

Here they are:

THE 5 OMNIPRESENT (EVER-RECURRING) MENTAL FACTORS
1. Feeling (the first aggregate)
2. Recognition / discrimination / distinguishing awareness (the second aggregate)
3. Intention / mental impulse – I will …
4. Concentration / attention / mental application – focused grasping of an object of awareness
5. Contact – the connection of an object with the mind, this may be pleasurable, painful or neutral as experienced by the aggregate of Feeling.

THE 5 DETERMINATIVE MENTAL FACTORS
6. Resolution / aspiration – directing effort to fulfil desired intention, basis for diligence and enthusiasm.
7. Interest / appreciation – holding on to a particular thing, not allowing distraction
8. Mindfulness / Recollection – repeatedly bringing objects back to mind, not forgetting
9. Concentration / Samadhi – one-pointed focus on an object, basis for increasing intelligence
10. Intelligence / Wisdom – “common-sense intelligence”, fine discrimination, examines characteristics of objects, stops doubt, maintains root of all wholesome qualities.

THE 4 VARIABLE (POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE) MENTAL FACTORS
11. Sleep – makes mind unclear, sense consciousness turns inwards
12. Regret – makes mind unhappy when regarding a previously done action as bad, prevents the mind from being at ease.
13. General examination / coarse discernment – depending on intelligence or intention, searches for rough idea about the object.
14. Precise analysis / subtle discernment – depending on intelligence or intention, examines the object in detail.

THE 11 VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS
(Note that 18 and 19 are not necessary always virtuous. The first 3 are also known as roots of virtue.)
15. Faith / confidence / respectful belief – gives us positive attitude to virtue and objects that are worthy of respect. Three types are distinguished, with the last one being the preferred type:
a. uncritical faith: motivation is for no apparent reason
b. longing faith: motivation is by an emotionally unstable mind
c. conviction: motivated by sound reasons
16. Sense of Propriety / self-respect – usually the personal conscience to stop negative actions and perform positive actions
17. Considerateness / decency – avoids evil towards others, basis for unspoiled moral discipline.
18. Suppleness / thorough training / flexibility – enables the mind to engage in positive acts as wished, interrupting mental or physical rigidity.
19. Equanimity / clear-minded tranquility – peaceful mind, not being overpowered by delusions, no mental dullness or agitation
20. Conscientiousness / carefulness – causes avoiding negative acts & doing good; mind with detachment, non-hatred, non-ignorance and enthusiasm
21. Renunciation / detachment – no attachment to cyclic existence and objects
22. Non hatred / imperturbability – no animosity to others or conditions; rejoicing
23. Non-bewilderment / non ignorance / open-mindedness – usually understanding the meaning of things through clear discrimination, never unwilling to learn
24. Non violence / complete harmlessness – compassion without any hatred, pacifist
25. Enthusiasm / diligence – doing positive acts (specifically mental development and meditation) with delight

THE 6 NON-VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS

THE 6 ROOT DELUSIONS (Delusion is defined as any secondary mental factor that, when developed, brings about suffering and uneasiness to self or others.)
26. Ignorance – not knowing karma, meaning and practice of 3 Jewels, includes closed-mindedness, lack of wisdom of emptiness.
27. Attachment / desire – definition: not wanting to be separated from someone or something. Grasping at aggregates in cyclic existence causes rebirth & suffering of existence
28. Anger – definition: wanting to be separated from someone or something, can lead to relentless desire to hurt others; causes unhappiness
29. Pride – inflated superiority, supported by one’s worldly views, which include disrespect of others
30. Doubt / deluded indecisive wavering – being in two minds about reality; usually leads to negative actions
31. Wrong views / speculative delusions – based on emotional afflictions. Distinguished in 5 types: belief in the self as permanent or non-existent (as opposite to the view of emptiness); denying karma, not understanding the value of the 3 Jewels; closed-mindedness (my view -which is wrong- is best); wrong conduct (not towards liberation)

THE 20 SECONDARY NON-VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS
Derived from anger:
32. Wrath / hatred – by increased anger, malicious state wishing to cause immediate harm to others
33. Vengeance / malice / resentment – not forgetting harm done by a person, and seeking to return harm done to oneself
34. Rage / spite / outrage – intention to utter harsh speech in reply to unpleasant words, when wrath and malice become unbearable
35. Cruelty / vindictiveness / mercilessness – being devoid of compassion or kindness, seeking harm to others.

Derived from anger and attachment:
36. Envy / jealousy – internal anger caused by attachment; unbearable to bear good things others have

Derived from attachment:
37. Greed / avarice / miserliness – intense clinging to possessions and their increase
38. Vanity / self-satisfaction – seeing one’s good fortune giving one a false sense of confidence; being intoxicated with oneself
39. Excitement / wildness / mental agitation – distraction towards desire objects, not allowing the mind to rest on something wholesome; obstructs single pointed concentration.

Derived from ignorance:
40. Concealment – hiding one’s negative qualities when others with good intention refer to them this causes regret
41. Dullness / muddle-headedness – caused by fogginess which makes mind dark/heavy – like when going to sleep, coarse dullness is when the object is unclear, subtle dullness is when the object has no intense clarity
42. Faithlessness – no belief of that which is worthy of respect; it can be the idea that virtue is unnecessary, or a mistaken view of virtue; it forms the basis for laziness (43)
43. Laziness – being attached to temporary pleasure, not wanting to do virtue or only little; opposite to diligence [25])
44. Forgetfulness – causes to not clearly remember virtuous acts, inducing distraction to disturbing objects – not “just forgetting”, but negative tendency
45. Inattentiveness / lack of conscience – “distracted wisdom” after rough or no analysis, not fully aware of one’s conduct, careless indifference and moral failings; intentional seeking mental distraction like daydreaming

Derived from attachment and ignorance:
46. Hypocrisy / pretension – pretend non-existent qualities of oneself
47. Dishonesty / smugness – hiding one’s faults, giving no clear answers, no regret, snobbery & conceit, self-importance and finding faults with others

Derived from attachment, anger and ignorance
48. Shamelessness – consciously not avoiding evil, it supports all root and secondary delusions
49. Inconsiderateness – not avoiding evil, being inconsiderate of other’s practice, ingratitude
50. Unconscientiousness / carelessness- 3 delusions plus laziness; wanting to act unrestrained
51. Distraction / mental wandering – inability to focus on any virtuous object

from http://viewonbuddhism.org/mind.html

So, the next time you are trying to “control” your mind, or meditate, or refrain from a particular thought or emotion, consider this: another one is likely to arise in just a moment and you might prefer it.

#Impermanence can be our friend.

Who is YOUR inner “Hungry Ghost”?

http://www.yogachicago.com/mar08/hungryghost.shtml

Amy Weintraub (bio and links, above and below) writes very personally about her own inner “Hungry Ghost,” known as Pretas in #Tibetan #Buddhism, the 5th of the 6 Realms I am contemplating for my home retreat.

I’m just beginning this phase of my #Tibetan #Buddhist, #Nyingma #Vajrayana #retreat and wanted some inspiration. Found it!

Her last paragraph, quoted below, was IT for me. I hope it inspires you, also, in whatever #meditation, #contemplation, or other personal #growth and #recovery practices you are engaged in for your own improvement. Best to you!

Today, I write from the memory of seeing the Hungry Ghost in the mirror. There are times, even now, where I see her everywhere, when any mindless action I take follows the old call-and-response pattern of my life. I thoughtlessly judge someone I love. I reach for a cracker when I’m not hungry. I pour another glass of wine. And behind all these actions, she looms, ready to devour, with that E.T. head and too-thin neck, refusing to see the great blossom of her belly beneath, recklessly craving more. No room for my lungs to take a deep breath. No room for my heart to feel compassion for my life. Over the years that we’ve lived together, I’ve learned two things. When I feed her, I am left ravenous and longing for more. When I embrace her with compassion, the wild yearning is pacified and, together, we have learned to dance. Sometimes, my Hungry Ghost still leads the dance, but more and more, it is compassion that leads the way.

Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT (500), author of Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books) and founding director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, leads professional certification trainings in LifeForce Yoga for #Depression and #Anxiety for mental health professionals and #yoga teachers internationally. She is also a senior Kripalu teacher and mentor. Amy is featured on the CD Breathe to Beat the Blues and the first DVD home yoga practice series for mood management, the award-winning LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues. Her bi-monthly newsletter includes current research, news and media reviews on yoga and mental health. To sign up, go to http://www.yogafordepression.com. For more information, visit http://www.yogamind.com or call 773.327.3650. This is from a 2008 post, so not sure if it’s active, still.

Failing Without Failing at #Buddhist practice, part 452.

Last day #contemplating the Animal Realm for my #Buddhist #meditation #retreat

I do not know how to inhabit the mind or body or life of anyone but myself. Not really. I can pretend. I am imagine. I can sympathize. But, do I (or anyone) ever actually empathize, get inside the experience of another being and feel, see, think, sense it the way s/he/it does?

Well, if anyone can do this, I’d like to hear about it. I really can’t.

This part of my #meditation #retreat—#contemplations of the beings of the Six #Realms, as some of you may be following—starts with the “Gods” Realm; moves to the “Demi-Gods” or “Jealous Gods” Realm; then to the Human (I did almost all right with that one…); and now, my last day of the Animal Realm. Tomorrow I start trying to inhabit the “Hungry Ghosts,” or “Pretas” Realm. I end this section of the four-month retreat with the “Hell” Realm(s) (oh, yes; there are more than one of those!). I wasn’t ready to admit failure until the Animal Realm was about to end, so what does that say about my human arrogance, eh?

I just can’t become a squirrel, a dog, a fox, a minnow, an eagle, a spider—anything besides a human—with any credence or authenticity. I can fabricate, because I am a writer and I can use my fantasies to concoct whatever I want. But, actually, am I BEING a cat? NO.

Nor was I able to become a being that would be a deity of any description. I can predict I won’t be able to be a hungry or thirsty ghost nor any being inhabiting one of the many Hell Realms, either.

What keeps me going? Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist practices and meditation exercises in the Vajrayana tradition work even when the practitioner doesn’t understand or know what to do, does it incorrectly or incompletely, and basically messes it up. I know this because that has already happened for me with the preliminary practices (Ngöndro), all of the visualization/deity practices, and the first level of dzogchen (trekchöd). I knew nothing, didn’t even believe it all, didn’t understand most of it and it works, anyway.

What do I mean by “works”? Our main teacher, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, quoting the Buddha, would explain the signs of effective practice something like this: “If you are less angry and more patient, less selfish and more generous, if compassion arises even some of the time within you without effort, your practice is working. Keep going, either way.” People around me and my own assessments agree: my practice is working.

Why do these practices work even when the practitioner is a dolt, like me? Because these are not religious practices. They do not rely on someone’s beliefs to be effective.

Vajrayana practices (and most of Buddhist practices in any school or lineage) are scientific, tried-and-true, proven methods for training and taming one’s mind, opening one’s heart and developing spontaneous compassion, decreasing selfishness and anger, increasing patience and generosity and generally becoming a better, more beneficial person. Whether you like it, believe it, do it absolutely right or not, these practices succeed.

Think of Buddhist practice as medicine: does your belief in the drug or understanding of how it was created or the way it operates in your system really affect whether or not a prescription works? Of course not. You can be unconscious, an infant or demented and medicine still works.

Yes, perhaps everything is more powerful when we do believe, when we are comprehending. Certainly I know that the power of prayer and positive thinking has its place. But, I also know, from personal experience, that one’s inner feelings and doubts don’t really matter when the methods are effective. They just work.

Lucky for me, the only thing I need to contribute is perseverance. That I can do. I can keep going, maintain my commitment, continue the practices and hope for the best outcomes possible to benefit all beings. I am disciplined, if nothing else. Most of the time, that is.

I keep using the methods, taking the medicine. I made vows to do so and I maintain my vows.

Faith helps, for certain. I know that when the practitioner has deep faith in the dharma, the teacher, the practices, things go more smoothly and perhaps more quickly. Without at least some faith, it’s impossible to be motivated enough to maintain discipline. I do have faith in the teachers and the practices.

Pray and hope with me, if that pleases you. Have some faith in whatever you believe in. Continue. Support others to continue.

Thanks. I appreciate it. Onward.

Mayflies, Pumpkin Pies and #Impermanence

Mayflies live their entire adult lives during only a few hours or perhaps up to three earth days. They belong to an entire order of insects, Ephemeroptera, which means lasting a day in Greek.

Adult Mayfly

Pumpkin pies also usually last only a few hours or up to perhaps a couple or three earth days (depending on how many are baked and how many are eating them).

Pumpkin Pie

With these and so many examples of #impermanence surrounding us, how is it that we can be so surprised when someone leaves us through choice, accident or death? We ask, “Why?” as if there would an answer different than this, just for us, just for this occasion: “because everything ends.”

Why are we so caught up in our illusions of continuation that we neglect to recognize the preciousness of each moment, each hour, each day we inhabit these fragile, ephemeral bodies? We meet, greet, hang out with friends, family, colleagues, groups of loved ones and leave without realizing that one or more of us may never see one another again in these bodies, in this lifetime.

I am struck at this time of year especially by how much we take for granted, how many of our days we deny the temporary nature of the license any of us has to go on living. I feel lucky that, as a #Buddhist, I intentionally spend a part of each day in an integral part of my practice reciting and recalling the truth of impermanence. We do this whether we are #Zen, #Theravadan, #Vipassana, #Mayahana, Vajrayana or non-sectarian practitioners.

Impermanence is one of the key concepts we learn as beginning students of #Buddhism and we contemplate it repeatedly: everything is impermanent and bound to die. Everything that exists ends. Everyone who is born dies. Nothing earthly lasts. No one escapes this fate. Relationships, jobs, activities, emotions, diseases, meals, sexual encounters, pleasures and pains of all descriptions eventually end.

I am in a state of melancholy. I am ebullient and filled with hope. I am curious. I am anxious. I love. I fear. I receive. I give. I end.

During my mini-#retreat I begin each day with the Ngöndro, the preliminary practices for #Vajrayana #Nyingma #Tibetan #Buddhist #meditation. These practices themselves begin with “The Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind,” and one of these is the contemplation on impermanence.

The way this contemplation affects me has changed over the the 17 years I’ve done this practice daily. At first, I was resistant, looking for the loophole. Maybe everyone ELSE dies, but I will not. Maybe YOUR relationship, YOUR job, YOUR life ends, but MINE continues. On and on, denial after denial, to the point of absurdity.

At one point, some friends and I joked that one of us was the “designated dier,” meaning, the one we chose would die on all of our behalves so that the rest of us, i.e., we, would not have to die. We volunteered D. He objected, but we prevailed. We kept telling him this for many years. Luckily, he’s still alive, so I do not feel guilty about this. However, I do remember feeling a tremendous sense of relief that the group had not chosen me to be the designated dier; I do feel guilty about that relief.

Regardless of anyone’s guilt or innocence, being chosen or not, D could not take my place or anyone else’s. We all die.

More than many people I know, I have lost friends and relatives to death, starting when I was 7 years old and was with one of my great-grandmothers when she died while getting dressed. Since I didn’t know she had died at the time, I was not afraid, merely puzzled that she would choose to lie back on her bed to take a nap while putting on her stockings.

When I was given to understand that she had died, I realized that I hadn’t been scared because there had been nothing frightening or startling in her death. One minute, she was talking with me (in Yiddish), putting on her clothes. The next minute, she stopped talking, laid back, her stockings in her hands, and was silent, the stockings resting on her body. No clutching at her heart or head, no screams or moans. Just gone.

While the dozens of others who have died around or right in front of me did not go so silently or easily, I still do not find death frightening. Sad, often. Feeling sorrow and compassion for those in pain or suffering, surely. But afraid? No. I often miss the person who dies for many months or years, grieving with great sobs, laughing and reminiscing about those I yearn to see again.

But, I never think: “Oh, why did s/he die?” I know the answer.

We all die.

The best any of us can hope for is to appreciate one another while we are alive. So, this is what I try to do. I tell people I’m grateful. I say “I love you.” I give them what I can of mine: time, stories, gifts, resources, help, support, encouragement. I let them know often, not just when they’re sick or I’m in pain, how much they mean to me.

Many call me “sappy,” or “sentimental.” I prefer to view my actions as realistic. We truly never know when we are going to die, which of our loved ones will die and when, between one visit or encounter and the next. Not knowing this, I treasure each call, each visit, each email, even when I don’t tell them this.

What else can we do? You tell me. Comment here. And, go tell someone you love that you love them. Again.

#Buddhist #Meditation #Retreat part 4: Animal Realm contemplations

Some of you know I’ve been doing an at-home, part-time #Buddhist #meditation #retreat in the #Vajrayana #Nyingma #dzogchen tradition of #Tibetan #Buddhism for about two months and plan to finish on Tibetan New Year (#Losar) on March 2, 2014. This retreat consists of the preliminary practices, or #Rushan, for #T’högal. Some of what I’m learning and doing are only to be discussed with dzogchen teachers or similarly or advanced practitioners, but some I can talk about. I share what I am able and wish to in these blog posts.

This portion’s contemplation and prayers are on beings of the Animal Realm. Of all the 6 #Realms, as Tibetan Buddhists conceive of our shared illusory reality, the Animal Realm is the closest akin to ours, so close that Humans can co-exist consciously with Animals. This means we can readily see, smell, hear, feel, and taste Animals in our everyday existence. For most Humans, our senses are not so easily stimulated by beings of the other Realms.

The first time I heard teachings on the 6 Realms, as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought the teacher was being metaphoric or joking. I was so stuck in my senses’ ordinary experiences that I could not believe the other Realms actually co-exist with ours.

There are some Buddhists who do treat the 6 Realms as a metaphor. These meditators prefer to use these concepts to recognize the ways that humans experience all of the Realms’ conditions while being human rather than believing that there are actual beings living in each of the Realms. I leave it up to you as to how you conceive of the Realms and the beings’ experiences.

For me, it’s more important to contemplate those experiences and generate empathy and compassion for them, regardless of how they occur. The main characteristics that Tibetan Buddhists assign to Animals as distinct from Humans are explained in this way by Barbara O’Brien in her article on the Buddhist Wheel of Life (samsara, in Sanskrit):

“Animal Beings (Tiryakas) are solid, regular and predictable. They cling to what is familiar and are disinterested, even fearful, of anything unfamiliar. The Animal Realm is marked by ignorance and complacency. Animal Beings are stolidly un-curious and are repelled by anything unfamiliar. They go through life seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort. They have no sense of humor. Animal Beings may find contentment, but they easily become fearful when placed in a new situation. Naturally, they are bigoted and likely to remain so. At the same time, they are subject to oppression by other beings — animals do devour each other, you know.”
http://buddhism.about.com/od/tibetandeities/ig/Wheel-of-Life-Gallery/Animal-Realm.htm

I don’t happen to agree with this conceptualization of animals; I never have. I do not see all animals as “ignorant,” and some definitely have a sense of humor! They are certainly a lot less bigoted than most humans I know and know of. As for the being “subject to oppression” part, even devouring each other, we’d have to include humans in that activity, wouldn’t we?

Animals are also most certainly NOT “un-curious,” and many employ what Temple Grandin calls “seeking” behavior in their everyday lives. (Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals , Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). In fact, Grandin’s research proves that animals need more than their basic physical and psychological requirements to be met. Yes, animals need (or certainly would prefer) to be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress. However, Grandin proves resoundingly that animals respond positively when allowed to use “seeking behaviors” and “play.” Some animals, particularly pigs and primates, can malinger, become self- or other-injurious, kill or even die without these outlets.

I spent a few weeks listening to this amazing book on CD this past summer, not yet knowing I’d be doing this retreat or contemplations this fall. Generally, I have not had a close relationship to animals or pets (except for others’ pets I happen to live with or encounter over the years). However, forging new relationships with animals via interspecies communication devices and aliens-humans encounters and relationships are central to my sci-fi novels in The Spanners Series, so I listened to Grandin’s book and watched the biopic about her early life (“Temple Grandin,” starring Clare Danes as Grandin; great movie) as research for my series.

Now that I’m in this section of my retreat, I find myself remembering many parts of both the film and the book, considering animals from Grandin’s perspective rather than Tibetan Buddhists’ concepts. Her philosophies, attitudes and understandings are closer to my own. I go further than she does, though: I am more in harmony with Douglas Adams, the late, sorely missed and amazing author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-book “trilogy.” One of these volumes is entitled: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. In this, Adams posits the superiority and other-worldly origins of dolphins, which I have no trouble believing.

I also believe in the superiority or at least equality with humans regarding intelligence, compassion and creativity, of all forms of cetaceans, elephants, wolves and many primates, cephalopods and others in the Animal Realm. To me, it’s impossible to ignore or deny the ways elephants grieve and remember, wolves communicate with their packs, whales gather intentionally for fun and protection, and many other examples of animals’ social, altruistic, creative and communicative behaviors not at all inferior to humans’ activities. I also can’t ignore or deny how disappointed I am in the selfish, unintelligent and socially perverse ways of humans.

This week, as many vegans rail against humans eating turkeys as well as pigs, fish, chickens, cattle and whatever other animals humans eat, I have to remind myself and others of the inherent suffering in all existence, the nature of samsara, according to my Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Humans can’t survive without killing, even when it’s unintentional. We kill billions of beings every day in service to providing us with shelter, food (even vegan food), clothing, work, transportation, education, tools and entertainment. We can’t plow fields or harvest their bounty without killing. We can’t breathe or walk without killing. Every day and every night, all twenty-four hours of every day of our existence, we are murderers.

Contemplating this and Grandin’s book and life make me want to mitigate the suffering of animals, for sure. However, I do not pretend I or any human can eliminate it. We can’t eliminate our own suffering, either. What we can do is change the ways it occurs, lessen or alleviate it, and feel compassionate about it enough to respond appropriately and less selfishly.

So, if you are NOT a vegan, here is my advice: do not waste your animal food. Only purchase, cook/prepare what you and your loved ones will consume. Honor the spirits of the animals who gave their lives to feed you with prayers, thoughts, songs, smoke, herbs: something sacred. Be conscious as you spend your time this week and every week hereafter of the gifts animals give us and the ways we exploit these gifts. Be humble. Be grateful. Be caring.

I will try. I hope you do, also.

Recently Deceased #Buddhist May Attain Rainbow Body

This article is quite amazing in its description of what happens when an accomplished Tibetan Buddhist practitioner leaves the physical body. Those of you interested, follow this link and read about what’s happening to this particular Lama and what is possible.

This type of current occurrence is rare and rarely discussed so openly. It inspires faith and renews my commitment to practice.

“Auspicious News: My Teacher Lama Karma Attains Rainbow Body!
Composed by His Eminence Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche and his disciples on the 23rd of November, 2013, the auspicious day of Lha Bab Duchen, the Buddha’s Mother’s Day, at the auspicious place of the Dzogchen Retreat Center, USA.”

https://www.facebook.com/notes/dzogchen-khenpo-choga-rinpoche/auspicious-news-my-teacher-lama-karma-attains-rainbow-body/10151794778007773

#Contemplating my deceased father

Feeling stuck in this Human Realm section of my mini #Buddhist retreat on beings of the Six Realms is definitely part of being human. I find the uniqueness of the human experience involves many complicated emotions and conditions I don’t recognize as occurring (although they certainly might) in other Realms’ beings.

The difference between simple desire or lust and attraction mixed with yearning, for example, comes to my contemplation during this phase of my meditation. Also, complicated grief, i.e., mourning someone we also despise or fear, feel resentment for or otherwise experience relief at the passing of, doesn’t seem to happen among animals. I always think of complicated grief this time of year since both of my father’s parents died in their nineties in November and he died in February in the 1990s.

My father, Ira Fleischmann, incorporated a volatile mixture of bravado, greed, insecurity, rage, brilliance, humor, tenderness, violence and fear. He was extreme in his swings and mercurial in his moods. He could make people roar with laughter and cower in terror within minutes.

Ira 1959 Dad, around age 21, 1950.

After he had been dead for about five years (he died at almost 62 of a sudden heart attack in 1991), new research and study I was doing in graduate school led me to realize that he had suffered from depression and anxiety, unmitigated and unmedicated. Western men often exhibit rage and violence instead of the underlying melancholy, grief or depression.

He had been bulimic for a few years when I was in high school, so his brain was definitely mis-firing, as we now know bulimia indicates. From when I was about three and my brother, four, he had been violent and abusive toward both of us and spent much of our childhoods and adolescence beating on one or both of us, pulling my hair and yelling at everyone in our household except my youngest sister. I used to say I grew up in a war zone, but as I got older, I refrained from using that metaphor, knowing more about actual war zones.

Many people thought my sociopathic father was charismatic and appealing. He was brilliant but largely unrewarded and unnoticed for it, short in stature and on money. His creative application of the law and business ethics often veered over into criminal behavior. He was dishonest, easily bored, restless and dissatisfied.

Because of his unmet desires and lust for wealth and status, he changed jobs or started (and failed in) several careers (corporate attorney, insurance salesman, CLU/CPA, pension fund and investments manager). We found out after his death that he had created a second identity, maintaining an office and business cards in that name for who knows what nefarious purposes. My sisters and I went to look at it in the days after his death, shocked into giggling at the empty office with the fake name on the door just a few miles from his home.

He was also a hobbyist architect, constantly re-drafting his dream house after taking the family on Sunday drives to inspect mansions that were under construction. We’d pick our ways carefully through the unfinished homes as he’d proudly point out the master suite, the living room, the kitchen as if these were his designs and his houses, strutting through what appeared to be an undifferentiated maze of debris and open framing, to me. He was always hopeful that his ship was coming in, but ready and willing to steal the cargo, even from friends, when it didn’t arrive.

After his third wife had revealed her secret of alcoholism about two years into their marriage, they had both gotten into co-dependent/AA-style support groups and reading materials. These experiences and information-gathering had helped my father enormously even though he wasn’t addicted to any substances himself. Learning from the books and meetings, my father had developed some insight into his own violent, frightening and financially insecure childhood, coming of age during the Great Depression and World War II (he was born in 1929) as a Jew in the Midwest, USA.

He adored his grandchildren (my brother gave him four and I one before he died) and was beginning to appreciate his life and the rest of his family when he abruptly died. Because of his re-education and intense self-analysis and my own years of therapy and meditation, he and I had been having our first period of peace since my early childhood, enjoying a tentatively harmonious relationship at the time of his death.

I had loved and even admired my grandfather and did not know how much he and my grandmother had hurt and abused my father before he started talking to me about that while examining his childhood. If he had died even a few years earlier, my grief for him and later, for them, would not have been complicated.

Knowledge and insight are useful, but they did instill other feelings into my mourning. Even today, over twenty years after his death and about that long after they died as well, I continue to puzzle over their lives and my own. I see my irritability and quick judgments, tendencies to be arrogant and disparaging toward others, as coming from that side of my family. I am ashamed and humbled by my failings and theirs, unfortunately passed down through generations, even if somewhat improved in each successor.

Like my father, I am quick to anger and resentment, condescending and insecure. I am also untrusting of authority and unwilling to be obedient without question. Unlike him, I have never hit my child or disparaged him verbally, I have not lied, cheated or stolen to acquire money or possessions, and I do not suffer from depression, bulimia or anxiety.

Like my father, I am funny, brilliant, tender and creative, holding down a variety of jobs and having had several successful careers but easily bored and ready to move on frequently. We both were teachers and public performers, good at both math and languages. We both enjoyed knowing a lot of information about many topics and playing softball and tennis. He taught me to swim, play chess, and love the piano. He had a great voice, singing along with popular and operatic songs with equal ease, and I love to sing as well. He also screamed and terrorized people with just a few words; I can do that. I have done that.

What have I learned in these weeks of contemplating my deceased father and myself, indeed, all humanity? How complicated, and, as Sting sings, “how fragile we are.” I wish we could have known each other at these ages. I am close to the age he was when he died; he would have been 84 right now.

Sting sings: “Nothing ever comes from violence; nothing ever could.” But, a lot of learning comes and spontaneous compassion arises from facing our foibles and mistakes and meditating on the Human condition.

We might have talked about all of this for these past twenty years and more. Miss you, Dad. You would have liked Sting’s song. Listen, now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLdJwzSbM-E

Dilemmas while #meditating on being human

During each of the current days I am #meditating during this mini-#Buddhist, at-home #retreat, I #contemplate what it means to be human. I examine the emotional, physical, interpersonal, mental experiences I am familiar with myself and then I attempt to empathize or at least sympathize with others’ experiences as deeply as possible: the pains and pleasures, sorrows and joys, defeats and successes, fears and hopes, worries and excitements. What motivates every being is clear: each of us wants to be happy.

However, as I know for myself and observe in others, we often are extremely inept, even self-sabotaging in our attempts to achieve happiness. Furthermore, this happiness is only ever temporary. Impermanence is a fact of existence.

Spending so much time and focusing so such keen attention on humanness intensifies my recognition of these failed attempts on my own part and for others. Also, I become more acutely conscious of my failures to acquire even a bit more comfort.

At the pool, I have my “favorite” swimming lanes. These are the ones I prefer because of their proximity to the inflow jets, which act like those in a hot tub. The pressure from this inflow eases the tightness in my back when I hang in front of it. Or, these are the ones I like because they’re closer to the ropes and have more room around the “lane” (this pool, for unknown reasons, does not rope off lanes, only sections). Or, I like this or that lane because, when I do the backstroke, the line on the ceiling’s architecture exactly matches the line I am supposed to follow that represents my lane (which is faintly painted on the pool’s floor), so I have a fighting chance to stay in my own lane (appreciated by all).

Seems so silly, so trivial, so selfish and absurd when I lay it out like this. Yet, as I enter the pool building every morning, I feel a tightness in my chest and my breathing increases, signaling anxiety. Worried questions hum beneath the surface of my thinking: “Will I get a ‘good’ lane?” “Will I get a lane at all?” “Will the people in adjacent lanes bump into me?” Luckily, swimmers can pre-select our lanes as soon as we arrive, before we get into our suits. My anxiety is relieved as soon as my lane is chosen.

I am told the policy is to choose the lane I want and show my choice by placing an item on the floor above it, signaling that this lane is taken. Then, I go change and return to my “saved” lane and get in to swim.

This system works well enough, usually. When I get into the pool area, I choose a “good” lane, which is empty. I put a kickboard down and go to change. But, yesterday I approached my saved lane and saw that someone else was swimming in it. I waited until she was at the wall and I tapped her: “Excuse me,” I said, “You’re in the lane I saved.”

“Oh, no,” she replies. “There was no one here when I got here.”

I pointed to the blue kickboard on the floor in front of the lane and say, “This is my kickboard. I put it here a minute ago and went to change.”

She looks at the kickboard and up at me and says, “You’re supposed to put something else on the kickboard. How do I know that it’s really saved and not just abandoned by the previous swimmer?”

I look at her, dumbfounded, feeling my anger and irritation rising. This stupid, selfish woman is ruining my swim and my swimming time is elapsing as I stand here and discuss her mistake with her. I am also laughing at myself, inside, and pitying her. But, I am mostly fuming. “I don’t have anything else to put there. Just me.”

“You could have have put your goggles down,” she says.

“Look,” I say. “You made a mistake. Please just find another lane.”

“You could find another lane,” she points out.

“I could,” I say, “but this is the lane I saved and you didn’t. So, please move.” Now, I feel as if we’re in grade school arguing over who got here first. I feel ridiculous, but this is the lane I like, remember? I really prefer it.

“Oh, fine,” she says, irritably. She moves to an adjacent lane and swims off in a huff (I didn’t know that was possible, but she did it).

I get in the pool, hang in front of the jet which is now “mine” and feel horrible. Terrible. Anxious, embarrassed, selfish, tight, ridiculous. What kind of a Buddhist am I? A shitty one, obviously. Completely self-absorbed. Small-minded. A failure. Am I happy now, in my favorite lane? Of course not. I feel bad.

I want to apologize. I want to give it back to her. Even that seems silly. I just swim, meditating on humanness and foibles, mine especially, as I swim.

Eventually, I get into the rhythm of it and calm down. I look over and notice she’s gone already. She probably only swims 20 minutes to my 45 and I could have just waited.

Feeling even more ridiculous and small, I continue my swim. I attempt to offer myself compassion, tenderness, amusement. My attempts are mostly failures.

Few choose the Tibetan #Buddhist or other culture’s #Vajrayana path, even though it makes it possible for practitioners to attain long-lasting, many lifetimes’ happiness in one lifetime. Why? Because we practitioners become unflinching observers of our own minds and behaviors. We commit to, we must continue facing ourselves every day, all day (and all night), in every situation, not just while “formally” meditating. It’s frightening, or at least humbling, to notice day after day what I have not achieved after meditating on this path since 1996. Sheesh.

I have a long way to go in my practice. Good to know. I plan to keep going. And, keep swimming.

#Meditation: it’s not for wimps.

Jackson Peterson writes about Realization and Liberation

Jackson Peterson, teacher of Non-dual Traditions: #Dzogchen, #Advaita, #Zen and #Mahamudra at #Meditation Teacher and Life Coaching, posted on Facebook today something so inspirational I have to share it before I devote some of my day to its contemplation. Find him at: http://www.wayoflight.net/‎

The Five Principles of Realization and Liberation

The first principle is becoming aware of our thoughts and the nature of thought.
“By taking the position of just being an observer of the thoughts and images that come and go, we discover all thoughts are the same: they are temporary appearances that come and go like clouds in the sky. Give no importance to one thought over another.
“If we pay no attention to any thought but remain in the ‘observer’ role, it seems the space of awareness becomes more open and thoughts less demanding of attention. We discover all thoughts are without substance and importance. We could say our thoughts are ’empty,’ like clouds: appearances without any core or entity.

The second principle is recognizing our stories and emotional dramas are structured only from thought, our ’empty’ thoughts.
“In continuing to observe our thoughts, we should notice how they tend to link together in chains of meaning and particular significance. It is this linking together of thoughts that creates our stories, beliefs and emotional dramas in a convincing and powerful way. As a result, we may spend most of our time going from one mini-daydream to another. It is this trance-like state of mind that we need to break up again and again, as often as possible.
“We do that by shifting our attention from thought to the presence of the five senses in immediate now-ness. Just notice your physical environment and the direct sensory experience, free of analysis. Practice this shifting away from mental engagement in thought to noticing your physical environs as often as possible. Hopefully the trance-like habit of living in your thoughts constantly will be broken.
“In this way, we can free ourselves from anxiety and emotional suffering as both are caused by the mind’s stories that are rarely challenged. It is possible to discover that our stories and emotional dramas are as empty as last night’s dreams. In fact, our daydreams and stories are no more real than our dreams at night. We discover our stories are also just as empty as the clouds that group together in the sky in various formations that disperse and disappear in the next moment, leaving no trace.

The third principle is recognizing that one’s sense of self is also only an empty story made of thought. [Self is] a mental construction without an actual identity as an entity that exists independently and with self-determinism.
“Studies have determined that our coherent sense of personal identity doesn’t appear until about the ages between 18 and 24 months. That means, previous to that time, there was no personal ‘me’ story or self-image. That also means the newly appearing sense of ‘me’ is totally the result of thought-stories that the mind constructs about identity. There is no personal self present other than this make-believe ‘me’ story.
“Even science makes clear there is just one unified field of energy as the universe without separate parts. The entire field is interdependent without any breaks or splits in the unity. The sense of being an independent entity. like a ‘personal self,’ is just an illusion and has never existed in fact.
“By observing the ‘me’-thoughts that arise from moment to moment, we can notice the ‘personal me’ is nothing more than a chain of linked thoughts about identity that are supported by memories and imagination. Seeing this directly and clearly, not just intellectually, the emptiness of personal identity becomes obvious to the mind. [A]t [this] point, the illusion ceases. But that cessation will only occur according to the degree of the depth of this self-inquiry.
“If it doesn’t occur, the understanding is too shallow and not convincing enough to the deeper levels of mind grounded in conditioning and habitual ‘selfing.’ In such a case, one should revisit the first and second principles again and establish a deeper state of observation regarding the experience of the ‘me’-thoughts arising and dissolving until it becomes clear that no personal self exists outside of the mind’s belief otherwise.
“When recognition arises, it becomes clear [to the meditator] that the notion of there being a personal self is as empty as a single huge cloud that dominates the sky yet disappears in the next moment without a trace.

The fourth principle is recognizing what exactly is the nature of that which is observing and experiencing the empty nature of thoughts, stories and personal selfhood.
“What is doing the ‘recognizing’? What is this impersonal aware consciousness that perceives and knows? In these recognitions, there seems to be an ever-increasing evolution or revelation of wisdom. As a result, one’s cognitive space seems expansive, open and vividly transparent without a center.
“What exactly is this state of impersonal consciousness? It clearly has a sense of being aware, empty and knowing. Can we be aware of being aware? Is this aware consciousness present in all experience, inseparably so?
“Let’s look directly at this impersonal, aware knowingness: In a well-lighted room, close your eyes. Notice at your eyelids that the light of the room shining on your eyelids creates an inner glow upon your closed, translucent eyelids. You will see an orangey-red color at your eyelids. What is it that is observing this color?
“It will seem as though your aware consciousness occupies a place a few inches behind the eyes and its attention is directed at the eyelids in front. Notice your aware presence as being the place from where you are looking forward at the orangey color. Are you ‘aware’ of the color?
“Now be aware of your awareness just as it is. Does this awareness have any color, shape, substance or dimension of its own? Or is it simply an empty presence of aware knowing?
“Review these last two questions again and again until it becomes clear that ‘you’ are actually this empty, clear and aware knowing. When this is seen clearly, instead of recognizing the emptiness of thoughts and self as the empty nature of the clouds that appear in the sky, the empty nature of the sky itself is recognized: the empty cognitive space in which all appearances appear and disappear.

The fifth principle is recognizing the inseparable relationship between one’s empty, aware ‘seeing’ and the five senses.
“One can’t find awareness separate from one’s sensory perceptions. There isn’t first a sensory perception and then an awareness of it. The five senses are this ‘knowing awareness’ seeming to be split up into five separate sensory components.
“These sensory capacities are not limited to the physical five senses. ‘Knowing awareness’ can perceive independently of the five physical senses with no limitations regarding time and space.
“Merging our attention fully with the five senses instead of with the mental phenomena of thoughts, stories and beliefs in personal identity, reveals a state of total ‘nowness’ beyond thought and mind. A limitless vista of knowing transparency and Clear Light reveals itself to be our true nature, beyond any descriptions or assumptions of mind. In merging our attention totally with the five senses, the luminous nature of appearances reveals the empty vividness of our Aware and Knowing Space.

“If one incorporates and integrates these five principles into one’s daily practice, in my opinion, no other methods or practices should be considered necessary.”

I appreciate Jackson Peterson’s clarity and analysis enormously. I do take exception to his final paragraph, however: only someone who already had spent many years with at least one if not more other practices could attain this clarity and be able to meditate successfully with these 5 principles. Therefore, it is specious and disingenuous, in my opinion, to recommend to people who may be beginners or who are probably less experienced than he that doing these meditations is all they would ever need. Not so.

A #job I already have: wish it PAID!

A #job I already have: wish it PAID!

Please click on the link, above (the title is “live”), and read the entire post, which explains each requirement and you’ll know that I and many people I know and am related to qualify in all the following areas!

Excerpts from the post:
We are seeking unlimited clandestine bodhisattvas for immediate employment in the universe.

We don’t know how many we have already hired, since they’ve gone undercover, but we know we have space for more. Our mission is simple: Support all beings to be connected and free from fear. Our method is simple:

Enlighten yourself.

Here are a few requirements for the job. [Applicants/Workers must be/know/have the attitude of]:
Allow-er
Everpresent
Divining Bod
Galactivated
Wounded healer
Epiphantic
Mathemagician
Loco-motive
Humilitarian

Application requirements:

1) Decide, from this moment on, that every moment is holy.

2) Clarify your ultimate purpose: to enlighten yourself in support of all beings.

3) Connect to the world around you. Find peace in yourself, and radiate it outwards.

Compete, much? “Jealous Gods Realm” section of my #Buddhist #Retreat

Out of the “God Realm” into the “Jealous Gods Realm” for this next portion of my at-home #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma #Dzogchen #Buddhist #meditation/#contemplation #retreat. Week 3 of about 20 weeks.

The basic practice during these “Realms” weeks is to contemplate enough to “get inside the experience” of each of the Realm’s beings as if I am one, to recognize and inspire compassion in me for their suffering. Then, when I meditate on these experiences, I pray to alleviate their suffering, to purify their and my karma for rebirth in that realm.

I went to online teachings for inspiration so that I can share excerpts here. Check this out for a great explanation of the trials and tribulations of being a Jealous God, from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo (link below):

“[Jealous Gods are filled with]…competitiveness, egocentricity, and jealousy….[J]ealous gods do nothing all day long but … compete with one another….[T]hey are constantly waging war with one another….

“There is actually a terrible and immense suffering that comes with the jealous god realm. Even though you know you are powerful, you are powerful in an odd way… like the person who has built a fortress, an impenetrable fortress, and nothing can come in….[B]ut everybody knows you really can’t build an impenetrable fortress… [b]ecause death can come in, sickness can come in….Their kind of suffering is like that.

“…[They know] that the other gods are just as powerful and can come in…so they are jealously guarding their safety….[which] only increases the jealous god’s need to go out and attack the other guy, compete with the other guy, and get on top of the other guy. Their experience is warlike…. You win, you lose, you win, you lose….That is the experience of the jealous gods. They love to dominate others. That’s their habit.

“In the realm of the jealous gods, they are so concerned with their own safety and jealously guarding their safety, as well as competing with others for that safety, that they have not one moment with which to practice #Dharma. Dharma would be to them the same as if you were to, say, talk to a warrior type that was schooled only in being a warrior.

“Okay, back to Star Trek, whaddya say? Let’s say you talk to a Klingon, like Warf, and you say to Warf, ‘Yo, Warfy-baby, here’s what we need to do. Instead of you being a warrior with all your stuff on’ (you know, he wears all this stuff and looks pretty powerful) ‘why don’t you sit down and meditate gently, like a little girl? Why don’t you sit down and meditate very quietly, and in that way you can be very strong.’ What would Warf say about that? Warf would say, ‘Pleeease!’ Warf wouldn’t have time to hear about this.

“Neither would any warrior who was trained to think of being strong and protecting one’s turf, and only thought like that. Neither could a person like that ever think that meditation or Dharma practice or anything like that is strength… so they will push that away, not having time for it…. They simply don’t have the instinct and they will not practice Dharma. They just will not practice Dharma. They’re too busy.”

Since I’ve already established that this practice inspires intense identification with the beings of the realm being contemplated, I plan to invoke silence as much as possible when interacting with others to avoid getting into fights!

Wish me luck! No, CHEER ME ON! I WANT TO WIN! LIBERATION FOR ALL!

http://www.tibetanbuddhistaltar.org/the-realm-of-the-jealous-gods/

#Tibetan #Buddhism: “God Realm” characterized/plagued by lethargic pleasure.

My teacher, the amazing Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, gave me this caution just before our interview/his teaching ended last month: “You may experience some of the same things each realm experiences as you #contemplate and #meditate intensively on each realm.” I blithely nodded, thanked him, went on my merry way.

Why is the teacher always right? Are we so predictable? Are these practices so powerful, so thoroughly reliable that they affect everyone pretty much the same way? Guess so, if I’m any example.

Started my home #retreat, as some of you know, two weeks ago. My first topic, as you may also know, for #contemplation and #meditation, is the “God Realm.” Went OK for the first few days. Then, I began to feel, oh, I don’t know, LETHARGIC. That is not my normal state.

I have been increasingly focused on the wonderfulness of my life. Food: I’ve gained 5# in these 2 weeks, despite walking over an hour and swimming 45 minutes almost every day, usually BOTH, which is the wrong direction for me to be going! Sleep: I LOVE my bed, my pillow, my blankets, snuggling into it (yawn yawn yawn). Sex: not having any, but very intensely wish I were. Weather: sunny, rainy, overcast, windy all make me so happy! Into music, movies, TV shows, internet games, so many ways to have pleasure and lose track of time.

I’m realizing these last few days that I’m veering into overly indulgent, almost successfully talking myself out of “working too hard,” “meditating so much,” “getting up so early” daily. My counts (I have to attain 100,000 repetitions of the mantra before I move on to the next Realm) have been slower and lower each day.

I am usually ferociously self-disciplined; some have termed my commitment and maintenance of my practice, my work, whatever I choose to do, scary. What is going on?

Ahhhh. Ohhhh. God Realm karma manifests as indulgence, lethargy, pleasure-seeking, “I’ll deal with everything tomorrow” attitudes.

Damn Damn Damn. CAUGHT. Hoisted on my own petard. So obvious. Why did it take me over a week to figure it out???

Lethargic mentally as well?

THIS ENDS NOW. Still have 30K to go, but I’m getting those mantras and meditations done this weekend. NO EXCUSES. Got to move into the next realm ASAP.

Wish me luck. No, wish me ENERGY and COMMITMENT. I have too much LUCK!

BTW: next realm involves being suffused with jealousy, dissatisfaction, arrogance and insufferable selfishness, overlaid with incredible power and status. Guess who’s going to be the life of every party for a week or more?

#Free #ebook if you have class or Book Club and want to co-develop a #curriculum using Volume I, “This Changes Everything,” “The Spanners Series” (or any future Vol.)

Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series
could be free to participants in your class or Book Club!

Are you a teacher or curriculum developer? I have worked in those fields a lot! Do you belong to or moderate a Book Club?

Let’s co-develop discussion questions, activities and projects for your classes/group to inspire your students/participants to read parts or or all of my ebooks, starting with Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series.

Middle/high school and college teachers of English or science fiction literature, world history, ancient art and artifacts, physics, astronomy, social science, communication, art, psychology, sociology and writing could use this Volume and the others in the Series as jumping-off points for great projects, further research and discussions. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is due out in spring, 2014.

Appendix D in each Volume provides the actual individuals, by category, that are referred to in the Series. In several chapters, there are also specific political, artistic, geographic and historical references and descriptions related to the themes and topics in the Series.

The novels are in the science/speculative fiction/romance genres for a mixed audience of adults, new adults, and young adults. The Series’ themes, characters and plot points incorporate Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, physics, astronomy, multiverse/multiple timelines, social speculation, sexual orientation and gender identity, psi/paranormal skills, aliens/life on other planets and orbs, politics and government, Nazca lines, pyramids Roswell and Area 51, and much more. (Synopsis and Table of Contents for TCE at the end of this post.)

Volumes II – X coming in 2014 and soon after. Alternating (even-numbered) Volumes utilize narrators and points of view from young adults, teens and children.

I will provide Volume I or any of the Series’ ebooks free to students using my ebook in a class and to Book Club members as long as one copy is purchased (usually by the leader/teacher).

Also, I live in northern California and am willing to travel if you’d like the “author visit” or “author reading” or “author Q & A” session for your group. Since I used to teach middle and high school as well as college and graduate school and have been a reader since I was 3 years old, I would be delighted to speak with students and readers anywhere, any time, about my books, about writing, and about the themes in The Spanners Series.

Pre-order at half-price or purchase after 12/20 (see below). Then, if you are interested, email me to discuss! sallyember@yahoo.com

Pre-orders at $1.99 11/5-12/19 on iBooks, B & N nook and Kobo via Smashwords; release date via Smashwords and on Kindle and other sites starting 12/20/13, @ $3.99.

Contact me here any time after December 20, 2013, to download the free ebooks (I will give you a code).

Meanwhile, review this TOC, below, and check out excepts via this website or on The Spanners Series by Sally Ember Facebook page (which has more!), and let me know what you think of using this book for your Club or class.

This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series
Synopsis
After several millennia of mostly secret visits and contact with Earthers, members of the Many Worlds Collective (MWC) Council decide that a Liaison, dubbed the Chief Communicator (CC) must be contacted and that this contact must be made public in order to avert multiple types of disasters on Earth. The visiting members of the MWC come in hologram form to the selected CC (Clara Branon, 58, living in northern California) for the first time on December 21, 2012.

As a “Spanner,” Branon is one of millions of “Baby Boomers” who survive across two centuries and bridge the divide (hence, “Spanners”) between nonpublic and public contact with the MWC and many other major changes that occur during these decades.

Because most Earthers are not prepared to accept this type of reporting or storytelling as nonfiction, this first and some other volumes of the series are of the realistic fiction/science fiction/fantasy genres. Many of the characters, events and locations are actual; some are not, or haven’t happened (yet) at the time of first publication.

In This Changes Everything are: a love story, spanning about 40 years; dialogue and scenes of the relationships among the CC and her mother and siblings; communications between the CC and her adult son; dialogue between the CC and some friends; info about the selection and identity of the chosen media contact for the CC, with excerpts from her journal; news stories about the CC and the MWC events from Earth media as well as MWC media; background about the CC and the reasons for her being selected; excepts from minutes of meetings of the InterGalactic Council of the MWC; and much more.

After the MWC educational resources and information become widely available, in 2013, all time is now known to be simultaneous. Writing from any point in time and timeline is means that the love story and other aspects are depicted in multiple versions. Will Branon and her Future or Fictional Husband be together? Which “re-set” of the Transition After Public Contact prevails?

Tone is humorous/serious; mode is utopian. Narrative includes history, poetry, literature, music/lyrics, science and technological advances, paranormal skills, law and government, Buddhism and other religions, meditation, social-emotional intelligence, time and space travel, interspecies communication, and social/futuristic depictions of the Earth, post-MWC public contact.

This Changes Everything is the first of The Spanners Series, which chronicles the public contact between the CC and the MWC and the impact of these contacts on Earthers and the MWC over the 30 years that Branon is the CC. Chapters are written from several perspectives. Some Volumes in series purport to be nonfiction or have nonfiction sections.

Genres and Audience: Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction/Romance, Adult/ New Adult/YA novel

Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE First Contact between the Many Worlds Collective
(MWC) and Clara Branon, Ph.D., in northern California, December, 2012
INTERLUDE I Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log What is Fiction?
CHAPTER TWO Minutes from the Fission Subcommittee, MWC Intergalactic Council Earth Date: August 5, 1945 Page 6 of 9
INTERLUDE II Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Clara Freaks Out
CHAPTER THREE “‘They’ Never Leave: the MWC and Earthers; or, Crop Circles, Alien ‘Abductions,’ Whitley Streiber, Roswell/Area 51 and other MWC Blunders” Opening Remarks given by Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., Chief Communicator and Liaison between Earth and the Many Worlds Collective Global Unity Leaders Council #1, 6/8/15, The Hague, The Netherlands
INTERLUDE III Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Who are “The Spanners”?
CHAPTER FOUR Many Worlds Collective Intergalactic Travel Authority Accident Report Earth Location and Date: Roswell, NM, USA, July 8, 1947
INTERLUDE IV Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Ackerman Family’s Adventures in Psychokinesis
CHAPTER FIVE The Mayan and Current Calendars; or, Why First Publishable MWC Contact Occurs on December 21, 2012 Vid Interview given by Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., Chief Communicator and Liaison between Earth and the Many Worlds Collective January 6, 2014, with Media Contact, Esperanza Enlaces, Interviewer
INTERLUDE V Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Clara Develops Trust in The Band
CHAPTER SIX Epifanio’s Version Epifanio Dang Tells His Story
CHAPTER SEVEN MWC Collective Artists’ Guild’s Philosophy and Policy on Off-Planet Installations Approximate Earth Locations and Date: Teotihuacan (Mexico) and Sudan (Africa) Pyramids, 250 BCE
INTERLUDE VI Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Clara Describes Her Earlier Timulting Experiences
CHAPTER EIGHT Second Public Contact between the MWC and Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., or, This Is Not a Dream
CHAPTER NINE From Esperanza Enlaces’ private journal entries, February 13 – December 23, 2012
INTERLUDE VII Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Confessions of a Bad Poet: How I Become a Writer
CHAPTER TEN How Our Contacts Become Public (thanks to my son, Zephyr Branon, and the 2013 world-wide web [www])
INTERLUDE VIII Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log “Clara: the Outsider Who Becomes the Ultimate Insider” rehearsal for interview with Espe for May 2, 2013
CHAPTER ELEVEN First Internet News Stories, posted simultaneously on The San Francisco Chronicle’s website as well as salon.com, Reuters.com, slate.com
and hundreds of other sites January 5, 2013 and the Changes Publicizing the MWC Contact Bring
CHAPTER TWELVE Individuals from the Many Worlds Collective: Their Names and Their Worlds (as Earthers know them)
INTERLUDE IX A Compilation from Clara Branon’s Personal Journals All the Epifanios
CHAPTER THIRTEEN Do Solar Storms Make Us Do It? Conflict, Wars, Violence and Other Human Flaws Are Not Our Fault?
CHAPTER FOURTEEN Exploding and Imploding Earthers; or, What the Buddha Taught That Made His Followers’ Heads Explode Public Talk give by Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., Chief Communicator, new Nobel Laureate Nobel Peace Prize Recipients Ceremony, 12/12/16, Oslo, Norway
CHAPTER FIFTEEN Generated by Events of January, 2013 – March, 2013 Contact-Induced Injuries Report made to MWC Intergalactic Council April 27, 2013 Earth Date
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Whom I Saved and How It Happened; or, “I Told You So, Part I” (for my brother, Dr. Thomas Ackerman)
INTERLUDE X Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Being Changed “For Good”
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN MWC Lottery Winners Determine First Public Delegation to Earth Story posted on mwcw.lottery.verse December 8, 2012 Earth date
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN How Ongoing Contacts and My Role as Chief Communicator Change(d) Me
CHAPTER NINETEEN IGC MWC Musicians and Artists Festival, first-ever held on Earth Sydney, Australia, August 15-22, 2022 Earth dates
INTERLUDE XI Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Even Social Media Have “Previews”
CHAPTER TWENTY Who Survives and How We All Change: Learning about Re-set
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE From Esperanza Enlaces’ private journal entries, April 18 – May 20, 2013
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
“Imagine: The Elimination of Nations, Boundaries, Citizenship, Race, Religions, Politics, Hunger, Poverty and War; or, What John Lennon Knows” Public Talk given by Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., Chief Communicator, Templeton Prize Recipient for 2014 5/12/14, London, England
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Minutes from the Jesus Subcommittee MWC Planning Committee Meeting Capernaum, Galilee (Israel, Africa), November 13, 32 A.D. Earth Date Page 2
INTERLUDE XII Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Explanations, Appendices and Acknowledgements
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR The Love Story Embedded in This Story; or,
“I Told You So, Part II” (that’s for My Future Husband, Epifanio Dang)
INTERLUDE XIII Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log When Trouble is not Trouble
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE Interspecies/Interplanetary Marriagebond Laws stories posted on mwcw.laws.verse May 30, 2023 and February 10, 2035 Earth Dates
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX Other versions of Clara and Epifanio’s Love Story (either/ors and both/ands)
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN Sono-Pictorial Languages of Cetaceans, Sign Language and Vocalizations of Primates and Other Species’ Communication Modalities on Earth and Afar
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT There’s No Time Like the Present; or, (as Zephyr Branon coined) Timultaneity: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Outside It
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE The Media and Clara POPULAR MEDIA
“Lost and Found: How My Time with the Aliens Helped Me Lose 130 lbs. and Find Love” (interview with Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., by Esperanza Enlaces O Magazine [Oprah Winfrey’s periodical], September, 2014 Earth Date)
CHAPTER THIRTY “The Future of Earth and the Many Worlds Collective,” Panel Discussion at the Ceremony for the Retirement of the Chief Communicator Part I San Francisco, California, USA, Link MediaVerse Studios December 22, 2040 Earth Date
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE What Happens When we Die? Clara Learns About Return and ReInvolvement
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO “The Future of Earth and the Many Worlds Collective,” Panel Discussion at the Ceremony for the Retirement of the Chief Communicator Part II San Francisco, California, USA, Link MediaVerse Studios December 22, 2040 Earth Date
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE Clara Explains Human Relationships to The Band: The Romantic Paradox
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR Photos and Captions
INTERLUDE XIV Excerpts from the Chief Communicator’s Occasional Log Clara’s Apology Letter to Epifanio
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE Even the Chief Communicator Disappoints Her Mother
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX “It’s Not Over ‘Till It’s Over”

“The #Death #Illusion”

Best quote (from Conclusion) from this important, lengthy instruction and explanation of the illusory nature of self and death: “The appreciation that everything reflects everything else, is the undoing of the belief in inherent separateness and along with it, conflict and fear. Under these conditions, the heart opens. There is the recognition that even the autumn leaf is not fundamentally different from the spring leaf. The autumn leaf is life, in a borderless, impermanent flux of causal continuance. It never was itself, and so the appearance of its ultimate death is an illusion.”

Emptiness Teachings

 

INTRODUCTION

~
Humans tend to regard themselves as supreme by nature, in contrast to what is viewed as a primitive world.  We live with a sense of divinity, assumed to distinguish us from everything else.  People commonly assume that they are at least subtly God-like, marked by what is called consciousness.  A dividing wall is imagined to separate mind from matter, the animate from the inanimate.  Consciousness is our divine self, and death, a fall into lowly materiality.
~
The inseparable interrelatedness of people to everything else generally goes unacknowledged.  The world is provides us with things, but we are not of it, hence the extensive environmental disregard.  This dualism also requires that we either accept eternal selfhood or be doomed to oblivion, death, as a descent into a senseless abyss.

~
While the notion of human privilege appears to be an advantage, it is our affliction, resulting…

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“‘Who’ or ‘what’ is watching” my “inner brain movie show?”: #inspiration from #Buddhist #Psychology

Today I’m inspired by this post, from which I quote. I hope you’ll go read it all, contemplate then meditate on it, enjoy and share it.

“‘[W]ho’ or ‘what’ is watching that inner brain movie show? …[I]t turns out that the one watching the ‘outer world’ is also part of the inner show. The brain configures a self or seeming ‘person’ as the observer. The illusion of there being a self or person inside the body as the body is generated from memories, body images, conditioning and subconscious drives. This ‘person’ is constructed exactly in the same manner as who we seem to be in our dreams at night: a projection of memories, conditioning and other subconscious material.”

“There is no person or ‘me’ beside the imaginary one generated by the brain. The whole idea or concept of a person or a ‘me’ is also just a concoction of that same brain. Understanding this clearly is seeing the real meaning of “emptiness of self.'”

from Jackson Peterson, “Teacher of Non-dual Traditions: Dzogchen, Advaita, Zen and Mahamudra at Meditation Teacher and Life Coaching”
a posting on the “Buddhist Psychology” group’s page on Facebook that he entitled: “Deconstructing our World and Sense of Personal Self”

#Buddhist philosophy: Clean my face, not the mirror

I threw out my third glass of water, believing there was another bug or dirt swirling around in it, before I realized the intruder is in my right eye, not the water. I have another detestable “floater.” Almost 60, I am acquiring more of those suckers each year. I HATE FLOATERS! But, did I need to waste all that water to figure this out? Right.

I feel even worse that I was easily fooled into believing the problem was external to me. I should have known better.

About 25 years ago, still in my thirties, I noticed the phone at our house was not working right. I kept having to ask people to speak up because their voices were coming across too quietly on our phone. It was an old, corded phone (remember those?) but our only one. Easily could just be that it was defective, but we couldn’t afford to get a new one (they were quite expensive and we were poor).

Over the next few months, I would go to others’ houses and use their phones on occasion. I began to have the same issue. I wondered for many months “What is wrong with all these phones? Is it the phone company’s lines?”

Until I heard myself saying to too many people (mostly men, with low voices) I was talking to who were right in front me, “Speak up. I can’t hear you. You’re mumbling (this last to my innocent son and male partner) and heard echoes of both my father and my grandmother (his mother) in my impatient questions, I never thought the problem was with my own ears. But, it was. It is.

I had my ears tested: I found out that I will continue to be losing my hearing, slowly. Just as they did. Right.

According to Buddhist philosophy, whatever the problem seems to be rooted in, we should actually be in the habit of assuming the cause is in us, not “out there,” regardless of the “evidence.” When we are upset: angry, worried, sad, hurt (especially hurt), we should not look out the window at the world, at others, to find the source of our discomfort. We should look in the mirror.

When my face appears dirty, do I clean the mirror or clean my own face? Right.

Prior to practicing Buddhism and understanding something about my own mind by doing so, when my life would get difficult I would often go into hyper-control mode. I was not nice about it, either. Sorry, family; sorry, friends.

Buddhist teachings offer and I slowly became able to understand this metaphor: when I am walking on a very large field filled with sharp stones, is it feasible and effective to cover the entire field with a protective blanket to protect my feet or should I just put on some shoes and cover my own feet? Right.

Easy to understand, harder to apply. Especially when I feel that surge of righteous anger at being disrespected, misunderstood, mistreated in some way by another, I can still forget to apply these incontrovertible facts:
1) this situation, this relationship arises due to my karma (prior actions, thoughts, words in this and/or other lifetimes);
2) these current thoughts and feelings are in my mind and are mine to manage;
3) the only aspects I can actually successfully control (and not always, even when I try) are my reactions and responses.

Regardless of how strongly my knee-jerk reactions are, such as “How could this be my fault?” “I did nothing wrong!” “It’s her fault!” “It’s his responsibility!” “These are their mistakes: they’re WRONG!” “They’re to blame!” it’s all on me to manage my own reactions and see my part in the human drama we’re all playing out.

Better to save the water, keep the phone, put on shoes, clean my own face and look more closely in every mirror than to keep misunderstanding my life and wasting resources on wrong turns, dead-ends and misplaced attempts to change others and circumstances out of my control.

I apologize in advance to everyone I forget to apply this with; I will forget. But, I also will try to remember. Got the washcloth right here.

Why do we forget what works for us?

Why do we forget what works for us? Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, throughout a lifetime we accumulate habits and reinforce the ones we have. Even when we know what works best or better, we do not always do that. Even worse, I notice that I actually forget how good something tastes or feels when I haven’t been eating or doing it for too long.

I forget how good I feel after doing something or eating something that is healthy, short-term as well as long-term. It’s not as if I don’t know what works best for me, for this body, for this life. I know and I do the opposite. Or, I know and I seem not to care.

Most of us aren’t pathologically self-destructive, so how do we form unhelpful habits?

When I first started practicing #meditation (#Transcendental, or #TM) I had just graduated high school. I had no habits around #meditating. I didn’t even know what it was. My newly acquired interest and commitment became a habit: for eight years, I #meditated twice a day for 20 minutes per session, 99% of the days.

Really? I was that disciplined, that committed at almost 18 years old? No. I became that kind of person. I developed a liking, then a respect, then an appreciation, then almost a superstitious reliance on my twice-a-day meditation sessions.

I meditated in cars (not while driving, since this type recommended closed eyes!), on buses, trains and subways, in airports and waiting areas of every description, in empty classrooms, on my bed (sitting up), on a chair, on the floor, by a pool or lake, at the ocean, alone and amidst people. I meditated in my shared dorm room and then apartments or houses even when others were right in the same room, talking. I just didn’t let anything stop me and I could do it that easily.

For eight years I meditated twice each day; then I had a baby. At that point, being a breastfeeding mom, I reduced my usual allotment to once a day and was grateful to have that 20 minutes. I then began to learn about other types of meditation, took some other classes (Wicca, Shamanism, “Eastern” but not TM-style, “New Age”) read some books. I tried each of these and would practice them for a while, still keeping to a schedule of doing some meditation every day for at least 20 minutes. As my son got older, I put in a hour in a row most days. Sixteen more years of “dabbling” but continuing to meditate.

At first, starting in 1996 when I had then been meditating in other ways for 25 years, I did have a daily practice because I committed to completing the Preliminary Practices (Ngöndro) in a timely fashion. This requires a large amount of time because the practitioner has to accumulate over 100,000 repetitions of each of 4 different mantras while doing each one’s visualization and sometime physical movements at the same time as chanting the mantra.

It took me 29 months, which is about the usual for someone not doing Ngöndro full time. By completing that, I was eligible for and attended a #retreat the summer of 1999. During that 7 weeks, I learned more practices, some of which required no mantra or physical movements, just sitting. But, only one was like TM. The rest were brand-new to me and some were difficult to adopt as daily practices.

One of these that is easy to do daily is Dzogchen, or the “Great Perfection,” as it’s usually translated. Dzogchen is not discussed with non-practitioners much, and I will not break that tradition. There are good reasons for that secrecy. However, I will say this: I really resonate with this practice and still have it as my main meditation practice.

After #meditating most every day for 25 years, I believed that I had a habit of meditating. Not so true, I found out, as I got more into #Buddhist meditation.

The problem? Me, of course. But, in my defense: there are too many types of meditation in my #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma Longchen Nyingtik lineage, too many possible ways to practice, too many commitments, too many choices to do them all each day. No one could. How to decide?

Having to decide, I realize now, is my main downfall in maintaining a habit. It is better for me to have a structure that I adhere to “no matter what,” that requires no decision-making, no choosing between this or that.

For my home retreat, there are too many choices and I am falling into bad habits already. I am allowing distractions (yesterday’s was having the internet be “down” in our area for more than 12 hours, starting at 7 AM), chores, my #writing and #editing, and the choices themselves to confound me.

I do not yet have a good schedule, or structure, for my home retreat days. I hope to develop that in the next several days.

Wish me luck.

More about living in a “God Realm”

Yesterday my at-home #Buddhist #meditation #retreat, week one, contemplating living in a “God Realm,” took some interesting turns due to “regular life.” That’s the beauty and the challenge of having a home retreat: life keeps on happening, and not very far away or able to be ignored. Need to deal with my car, keep connecting with some people, job-hunt and apply, have a job interview (when invited), shop for essentials, tend to chores.

As a writer who is finishing Volume II, This Changes My Family and my Life Forever, and marketing (release date, December 20) Volume I, This Changes Everything of The Spanners Series, I am also writing, marketing, learning about ebook publishing, indie pub networking and methods, editing/revising, weighing in on cover art for Volume I (thanks, #Willowraven!) and learning about this whole ebook process for the first time from Mark Coker of #Smashwords (thanks, Mark). My days and some of my nights are quite full, already. Adding in 3 – 6 hours of meditation each day (sometimes more) is quite a feat. I’m not bragging; just explaining. Something’s gotta give.

So, yesterday, the meditation time “gave” to the car repair and friend times. However, I did walk and meditate/contemplate while my car was being assessed (one hour). During that hour, I walked around downtown Hayward to do errands (bank, library) and then sat in an rarely-used chess-players’ seat at a small city park.

No one else was in the park. In fact, it was officially “closed,” but the walkways were open. I and a dog-walker were the only park users when I was there. I could picture the park on busier days, ghost figures filling the space: the traditional-old-men-playing-chess images, some teens hanging out on the benches, a stroller-pusher or two, a dog-walker or two. But, since it held no other appeals, with no playground, no fountain or pond, no climbing structures, no other places to sit, I ran out of ideas. Besides the two chess stations and two park benches, there were a few patches of grass (well-trimmed), some flowering shrubs, one tree: that was the corner park.

Meditating/contemplating living in a God Realm caused me to look around more closely as I walked and then, sat. I discovered several aspects of this downtown that struck me as relevant. First, there are a lot of abandoned or empty, unmarked buildings and vacant lots among some seemingly open ones or those not due to be opened, yet (it was before 11:30, so many places weren’t open, yet). In this particular moment, one day in 2013 in Hayward, California, I could see evidence of better days.

One large, brick building had odd-shaped and oddly placed spaces high on one wall facing the busiest intersection. I puzzled out that these were vacancies left by large, individual letters which must have been adhering to the brickwork to display the owner’s or business’ name. Gone. But, before that era ended, those people must have been very wealthy to have owned such a large, prominent downtown structure. Most owners live in a God Realm, until they don’t.

They would have had servants and workers under them, surplus income to spend on themselves. They would have indulged themselves and their family members in luxuries and vacations, had most every whim fulfilled. Fancy clothes, fast and expensive cars, jewels, lavish parties, food and beverages, entertainment, sex, exotic pets, travel to beautiful locales, music and art would have filled their lives. Let’s give them good health, love and intelligence, too. A perfect human existence, probably in the latter part of the last century or earlier.

Where are those owners now, if any of them are still even in those human forms? Assisted living or nursing homes? Scattered from Hayward, younger family members out of touch or estranged? Dead already? Where are their money, those luxuries, that business? What happened to their residences, cars, clothes and other possessions, friends and colleagues? Gone to others or just completely gone. Empty. Abandoned, like this building.

Even when “everything is perfect,” it can’t last. Even if the outer pleasures continue, the enjoyers do not. These “Gods” age, get infirm, die; or, die suddenly. But, die they must, taking none of that gilded life with them.

I returned to retrieve my car (can’t be fixed until part arrives. I chose Halloween for my next foray into town, since I have a medical appointment that day, anyway). Driving the short distance home, I contemplated the ephemeral nature of all life and the futility of accumulating wealth, possessions, pleasures and such.

We may be living in a God Realm or not, but what we all share is impermanence. Whatever ways we are enjoying or suffering through our existences, our pleasure or pain is just a moment in the great span of time. Whatever we have, whatever we want: Feel it, live it, then go on to the next moment. That is the merry-go-round of samsara.

Prayers for all beings to recognize the illusory, temporary nature of samsaric existence and to buckle down (or ratchet up) to be on the path to individual liberation. Bodhicitta and gratitude for my path filled my heart as I re-entered my home, my retreat space.

#Meditation with #Contemplation on Dying without Regret

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? Comment here! I am doing meditation practice intensively for many months as part of my life-without-regret plan.

Yesterday during my second day of walking meditation on living in the God Realm, I walked through my neighborhood, Cherryland, CA, an unincorporated part of Hayward, in a new direction, on streets I haven’t walked, before. There was a wide variety of landscaping, from untended dirt to blooming plants, especially very large, standing roses, and dwellings (ranging from assisted living, apartments, and tinier cottages than mine to what I’m sure was a mansion when it was built in the early 1900s). Such a haphazard continuum of land use and conditions of the habitations gave me ideas for all the Realms’ meditations to come.

This week, I am focusing on the God Realm, so I lingered in front of the beautiful fountains and shrubbery, adored two little front-yards’ ponds and then went to sit in the neighborhood park on this beautiful fall day. The feeling of the sun, the peacefulness, the sweet-smelling breezes, the cloudless skies, complete freedom, all at 70 degrees combined to give me a perfection moment.

A girl about 4 was playing with “Papi” (Grandfather). Papi had 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. His granddaughter would 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 them ahead of her, coming too fast and out of her reach. 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 in the God Realm is just like that: everything is beautiful, within reach, delightful, fun and able to be changed at our command. As Gods/Goddesses, we live impossibly long lives, replete with splendor and abundance of all that we could possibly desire.

Yet, those 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 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. Gods/Goddesses have an inordinately lengthy time, to match our long lives, to contemplate our lives and deaths as we die; that’s part of our existence. Royals have long, self-recriminating death throes that go on and on, all the way until we land in our next incarnation, which happens to be in the Hell Realms. What a way to go.

All our self-castigations are for naught: no matter how many ways we imagine we could have done things differently, at death, it’s too late. Regrets are useless as we die.

Buddhist teachers often say that the best humans can hope for, especially the ones who do not have the teachings and practice of dharma in their lives, is to die without regret. How many of us could die today and die without regret, dharma practitioners or not?

Something to aim for: 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? Comment here!

#Buddhist Cosmology in my #Retreat

Tibetan Buddhists view our experience in a variety of ways that I, as a Westerner, have found very difficult to accept. In fact, the first time I heard about the “6 Realms,” I thought the teacher was joking around or being metaphoric, and when I realized he was quite serious, I was outraged and insulted. How could he expect me, an adult woman, to believe in such “fairy-tale-like” settings, characters and circumstances as “Hell Realms,” “Hungry Ghosts,” “Demi-Gods” and “Gods”? I could understand and accept the “Human” and “Animal” realms just fine; here we are. Not so sure about their being two separate “realms,” but I could let that be. The rest were much harder to believe, especially since most humans can’t see or visit these supposed realms or their inhabitants.

In subsequent years, I read and heard teachings about the 6 Realms in which some teachers did explain the metaphoric nature of the experiences of beings in these realms, without renouncing their actual existence. I could live with that. I certainly have direct experience, myself, with individuals’ or my own experiences corresponding exactly to those of the creatures who inhabit each of the lesser-known 4 realms listed above.

Contemplation of the experiences and circumstances of beings in all 6 Realms, particularly those that are painful, difficult, frightening or desperate, both for purposes of developing an understanding of others’ feelings and situations as well as to generate compassion toward, or at least acceptance of those very different from our own is key to Tibetan Buddhist practice. Through this intense contemplation and using our imagination to attempt to inhabit the very bodies and minds of these beings in their extremes of circumstances, we are therefore led to understand the impermanence of all who live on this 6-Realms- samsaric wheel of life, to pray for ourselves and all beings to attain liberation from it. That all beings, including ourselves, attain freedom from endlessly being reincarnated into one Realm or another with ceaseless suffering and no chance of liberation of our minds or bodies from this suffering, which is the definition of samsara, is the primary goal of Buddhist practice.

For the first portion of my retreat, this is the contemplation and these are the goals I am attempting to accomplish.

Starting with the “God” Realm, which is distinguished by its lush, extremely easy and comfortable circumstances, providing its inhabitants with abundant riches and resources, all that they could wish for in material goods, food, and luxuries, more than anyone could ever need or want, I immediately see that I live in what many in our world would consider a God Realm. I may personally not live at its pinnacle, but I know people who do and I live very close to having complete autonomy, which is in itself a God realm experience. I spend these days noticing the riches, the freedoms, the leisure I have and that many around me have.

I am grateful, appreciating deeply how differently I could be living, how those right near me are actually living with fewer resources and having more difficulties than I, even though I very much need to find another job (unemployed, again), have particular aches and pains and never enough money. I have the riches of dharma, unmatched by any material goods.

This is the perfect time, these are the perfect teachings, I have the perfect teacher, I am part of the perfect sangha (assembly of masters and student practitioners), these are the perfect circumstances. I could not be more fortunate. May all beings benefit.

Difficulties “getting into” Retreat mode

How does a retreat begin?

The first teaching I remember receiving about doing meditation retreats provided this helpful guide: However long a retreat is, a meditator spends about 1/3 of it “getting in,” 1/3 being in, and 1/3 returning to ordinary life.

Here are my difficulties with getting into Retreat mode:

1) My mind won’t settle. I feel restless, antsy, unable to settle, as if there are other things I’m supposed to/would rather be doing. Suddenly, every undone thing looms large, especially if I have the unfortunate coincidence of being at home. Certainly I should first clean everything, re-arrange everything, organize everything, catch up on filing and correspondence, pay bills early, balance my checkbook, contact this or that friend or family member, etc.? Of course, these tasks do not present themselves as “urgent” until after I begin my Retreat!

2) My body won’t settle. My body’s condition becomes much more intrusive: every itch, every ache, every pain, every need. “Oh, I’m so thirsty. Oh, I’m so hungry. I really need a nap. Oh, I really need to stretch, to move, to walk, to change position.” My hair is too long; it’s too short. I have to file my nails. What’s going on with that mole? I have to pee again. “Is it lunchtime, yet? I should probably have a lot of smaller meals and not wait for lunchtime.” I yawn incessantly. I should take my shower now. I writhe. Every part that can make a pitch for my attention does. My back hurts, my legs hurt, my neck hurts, my shoulders hurt. I’m so tired. On and on and on.

3) My speech won’t settle. I talk to myself. Most of #2 and #1 are said ALOUD. I give myself instructions, encouragement, admonishment, kindness, ruthlessness, strictness, permission: everything is said, more than once, WHILE I am chanting mantra in my mind, which makes the visualization and actual practice mostly crap on a stick. Did I mention that I criticize myself? I talk to my teacher (who isn’t here, of course, and can’t hear me; at least, I hope he can’t hear me. He would be mighty bothered if he could). I talk to the objects of my devotion, subjects of my visualization, previous masters and teachers. They mostly do not answer me. I talk in my sleep.

4) I make and do not stick to a schedule. If I’m not at a retreat center whose meal times require me to be somewhere 3 times a day and around which I revolve everything else, it takes a while to convince my “inner whiny girl” to stick to a schedule. Even harder, I’m discovering, is sticking to a schedule that changes many times per week and includes “ordinary life.” This is a new challenge, and even though I’m on Day 3, I’m not feeling good about how I’m doing with it, yet. Did I mention self-criticism?

5) I am a “next-thing” junkie. Whatever I’m doing, I obsess about what is next and seem to want to be “there” (until I get there). I’m also obsessed with time measurements. I waste concentration “doing the math”: if it takes me X # of minutes or hours to accomplish Y how many hours or days is it until this section is completed? How long until my next break? How long until break is over? How much sleep am I getting? How long have I been doing this part? How much longer must I continue to do this part? When do I get to do the next thing? What’s for my next snack/meal? What about after that? After that? After that?

6) I have too much to do. Since I am doing a home retreat, there is no one “serving” it, or me. I have to do all life’s regular chores and do retreat, also. Since I’ve had it “both ways,” I can say I infinitely prefer being at a retreat center (and so grateful for the times I have been) and not having my home, chores, and responsibilities facing me all day, every day. But, it’s not my karma right now to have that privilege. So, here I am. Stuck with questions and decisions (more to obsess about). “When do I shop? When do I clean? When should I do other chores? When to cook? What do I prepare? What about snacks? When do I clean up the kitchen/do dishes?”

This retreat is planned to last at least 4 1/2 months (until Losar, Tibetan New Year, 3/2/14), or until I complete the assignments and feel “cooked,” whichever comes second.

Doing the math (see #5, above): I started Oct. 18. If I go until March 2, that is 13 + 30 + 31 + 31 + 28 + 2 days = 135 days. I am taking “off” a few days around American New Year’s for family visits, so call it 129 days. 1/3 of 129 = 43. My 43rd day is Nov. 30.

I remember clearly from previous retreats (lasting from 1/2-day to 11 weeks, for me) how getting into retreat is always gradual and difficult, until it isn’t. Just like life.

I can now officially relax, stop kvetching, and just be with what is (KIND OF THE POINT!!!) until November 30 or thereabouts, since that is how long it may take me to “get into” this retreat fully.

By then, I’ll be deeply “in” it and won’t be obsessing, anyway….at least, until about mid-January. Sigh.

#Buddhist #retreat happening at home 10/18/13 – 3/2/14 Day 2

At the direction of my amazing teacher, Padma Drimed Norbu (known as Lama Drimed, or LD in these pages), of the #Tibetan #Buddhist #Nyingma Longchen Nyingtik #Vajrayana school/lineage, to whom I am eternally grateful, I began a partial retreat at home yesterday, on the day of the lunar eclipse/full moon, 10/18/13. I plan to continue for parts of almost every day through Losar (Tibetan New Year, 3/2/14) by spending at least 4 and usually 6 or more hours per day meditating and studying.

What will I be doing? Special daily practices, including “The Heart Sutra,” Prajnaparamita; the preliminary practices, Rushan, for Thödgal, which is part of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) in the Nyingma school; reading about the Rushan practices from teachings of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (both of our root teacher, who passed from that body in 2002) about how and why to do these practices; contemplating CTR’s and LD’s teachings; doing the exercises related to those teachings; and offering full moon tsogs (ritual meditation practice with food/alcohol feast offerings).

So, yesterday was the first full moon of this retreat period, the entry day I chose, for the first tsog. For various reasons, mostly personal preference, it has been several years since I offered a tsog, but it all came back to me (except the melodies, but that’s all right; I mostly chanted/read in English rather than Tibetan, to feel the meanings of each part, anyway). It was very comforting, soothing, moving: like coming home to familiar friends and sacred locations, words and experiences. My emotions, thoughts and mental states were uplifted by doing these practices and offering tsog.

For those unfamiliar, a Tibetan Vajrayana ritual tsog has several parts in the Nyingma tradition, and each has many layers of meaning and intention. First and foremost, the tsog is a generosity practice. Included in it are recognition of one’s true nature, repeatedly, so that all the rest of the ritual occurs with more success and depth: we make auspicious wishes for the benefit of all beings, evoke gratitude to and devotion to our teachers (the lineage masters), going all the way back to the Buddha; chant/read many reminders of our highest motivations and how best to practice and conduct ourselves in our lives; we are constantly pointed to the illusory nature of all phenomena and ways (“skillful means”) to pierce the illusions to see absolute truth (“wisdom”). Throughout the ritual are repetitions and images in great detail that lead one’s mind to focus its attention on the “four immeasurables”: compassion, rejoicing in others’ fortune (sympathetic joy), love and equanimity.

Quite often we are led to rest our minds in the spaciousness of awareness (rigpa), which includes all four of these, all in nonduality. The candle light (“butterlamps”), bowls filled with water, flowers, incense, ringing of the bell, snapping of the drum, mudras (ritual hand gestures), posture, arrangements of items and order of the sadhana (written text for the ritual) are all offered for these purposes with nothing withheld, and even more are offered in and via our imagination, to benefit all beings. We acknowledge and feel remorse for (“confess”) our mistakes in practice and in life, pledging to do better in the future with the support of these truths and methods.

We ask for the help of all enlightened beings who exist in every form by inviting them to partake of this tsog and all of our offerings. Over and over, musically and mentally, chanting and visualizing, we give and give, everything we are and have.

By the end of the four-hour tsog ritual, I felt cleaned out, refreshed, re-opened, delighted, anchored and ready for the commitment I’m making to this sequence of mini-retreat days and their activities. My mind sparkled.

The eclipse wasn’t visible (too much sunlight in this part of CA at its peak at around 6 PM), but I felt the energy of my tsog and the rightness of the timing in every cell of my being. I slept better than I’ve slept in I don’t know how long and awoke energized and happy.

These next several months bring many challenges: I’m still job-hunting; still marketing Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, which goes up as an ebook via Smashwords next month (as soon as cover art is completed); still writing and hope to be finishing first draft and several revisions of Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever; starting Volumes III and IV and pieces of the others up to X of The Spanners Series; still swimming almost daily at least 45 minutes; still trying to improve my health and maintain improvements gained.

Even so, this is the best time: I just received the teachings and instructions from Lama Drimed earlier this week for the first time; I am alive and relatively healthy; I can make my own schedule (at least, until I get a job); and, I have the leisure and luxury to put myself into this retreat.

So, I’m doing it.

For those of you who have read this far, thanks. This retreat and my writing schedule are the reasons I will not be answering the phone or email, not be online or available, for many hours over the next several months. I dedicate the merit of my practice to the benefit of you: my friends, my family, my readers/viewers, and to all beings.

I plan to write about my retreat (to the degree I am allowed; most of the details and experiences are not for the public) here on my blog.

Stay tuned! Be well and best to you all!

#Buddhist #retreat happening at home 10/18/13 – 3/2/14 Day 2

At the direction of my amazing teacher, Padma Drimed Norbu (known as Lama Drimed, or LD in these pages), of the #Tibetan #Buddhist #Nyingma Longchen Nyingtik #Vajrayana school/lineage, to whom I am eternally grateful, I began a partial retreat at home yesterday, on the day of the lunar eclipse/full moon, 10/18/13. I plan to continue for parts of almost every day through Losar (Tibetan New Year, 3/2/14) by spending at least 4 and usually 6 or more hours per day meditating and studying.

What will I be doing? Special daily practices, including “The Heart Sutra,” Prajnaparamita; the preliminary practices, Rushan, for Thödgal, which is part of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) in the Nyingma school; reading about the Rushan practices from teachings of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (both of our root teacher, who passed from that body in 2002) about how and why to do these practices; contemplating CTR’s and LD’s teachings; doing the exercises related to those teachings; and offering full moon tsogs (ritual meditation practice with food/alcohol feast offerings).

So, yesterday was the first full moon of this retreat period, the entry day I chose, for the first tsog. For various reasons, mostly personal preference, it has been several years since I offered a tsog, but it all came back to me (except the melodies, but that’s all right; I mostly chanted/read in English rather than Tibetan, to feel the meanings of each part, anyway). It was very comforting, soothing, moving: like coming home to familiar friends and sacred locations, words and experiences. My emotions, thoughts and mental states were uplifted by doing these practices and offering tsog.

For those unfamiliar, a Tibetan Vajrayana ritual tsog has several parts in the Nyingma tradition, and each has many layers of meaning and intention. First and foremost, the tsog is a generosity practice. Included in it are recognition of one’s true nature, repeatedly, so that all the rest of the ritual occurs with more success and depth: we make auspicious wishes for the benefit of all beings, evoke gratitude to and devotion to our teachers (the lineage masters), going all the way back to the Buddha; chant/read many reminders of our highest motivations and how best to practice and conduct ourselves in our lives; we are constantly pointed to the illusory nature of all phenomena and ways (“skillful means”) to pierce the illusions to see absolute truth (“wisdom”). Throughout the ritual are repetitions and images in great detail that lead one’s mind to focus its attention on the “four immeasurables”: compassion, rejoicing in others’ fortune (sympathetic joy), love and equanimity.

Quite often we are led to rest our minds in the spaciousness of awareness (rigpa), which includes all four of these, all in nonduality. The candle light (“butterlamps”), bowls filled with water, flowers, incense, ringing of the bell, snapping of the drum, mudras (ritual hand gestures), posture, arrangements of items and order of the sadhana (written text for the ritual) are all offered for these purposes with nothing withheld, and even more are offered in and via our imagination, to benefit all beings. We acknowledge and feel remorse for (“confess”) our mistakes in practice and in life, pledging to do better in the future with the support of these truths and methods.

We ask for the help of all enlightened beings who exist in every form by inviting them to partake of this tsog and all of our offerings. Over and over, musically and mentally, chanting and visualizing, we give and give, everything we are and have.

By the end of the four-hour tsog ritual, I felt cleaned out, refreshed, re-opened, delighted, anchored and ready for the commitment I’m making to this sequence of mini-retreat days and their activities. My mind sparkled.

The eclipse wasn’t visible (too much sunlight in this part of CA at its peak at around 6 PM), but I felt the energy of my tsog and the rightness of the timing in every cell of my being. I slept better than I’ve slept in I don’t know how long and awoke energized and happy.

These next several months bring many challenges: I’m still job-hunting; still marketing Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, which goes up as an ebook via Smashwords next month (as soon as cover art is completed); still writing and hope to be finishing first draft and several revisions of Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever; starting Volumes III and IV and pieces of the others up to X of The Spanners Series; still swimming almost daily at least 45 minutes; still trying to improve my health and maintain improvements gained.

Even so, this is the best time: I just received the teachings and instructions from Lama Drimed earlier this week for the first time; I am alive and relatively healthy; I can make my own schedule (at least, until I get a job); and, I have the leisure and luxury to put myself into this retreat.

So, I’m doing it.

For those of you who have read this far, thanks. This retreat and my writing schedule are the reasons I will not be answering the phone or email, not be online or available, for many hours over the next several months. I dedicate the merit of my practice to the benefit of you: my friends, my family, my readers/viewers, and to all beings.

I plan to write about my retreat (to the degree I am allowed; most of the details and experiences are not for the public) here on my blog.

Stay tuned! Be well and best to you all!