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

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

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

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

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

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I #write utopian, #Buddhist-infused, #multiverse #scifi/rom #novels & why you should #read & share them.

Reposted from 10/30/13 and 2/5/15

Writers are often exhorted to write the books we want to read that seem not to exist, yet. I am following that advice with The Spanners Series, especially Volume I, This Changes Everything, which is now PERMAFREE, and also with subsequent volumes (Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, released 6/9/14; look for Volumes III and IV in 2015).

I am an avid reader and have probably read hundreds of thousands of books in my 56 years of reading independently and quickly, sometimes devouring ten books a week. If I say books like mine—a series like The Spanners—don’t yet exist, I’m probably correct.

logoAuthorsDen
All buy links, reviews, interviews, readings and more: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners Look right; scroll down.

Why am I writing #science-fiction/#romance, #Buddhist-infused, #multiverse/#multiple timelines #utopian #novels besides the reason already given? And, why should you read them? Because we live in a deteriorating, or degenerating Age, according to #Tibetan Buddhists (and probably many others I’m not bothering to research right now).

When I first hear this claim, I disbelieve it. Aren’t most things “improving” for humanity? Modern medicine, technology, transportation, knowledge of all types: in the 20th and 21st centuries, we are experiencing incontrovertible advances, mind-blowing progress, right? Plus, that POV is just such a downer!

Why would the Buddha’s followers propose and then Buddhist teachers and scholars maintain such a doom-and-gloom perspective on life? It’s not enough that Buddha focused his teachings on suffering and impermanence? Most Buddhists must be depressed: that’s what I thought.

I could understand why Tibetans, having been living under horrible oppression, genocide and cultural destruction under Chinese rule for decades, would be so pessimistic. But, we’re in the good ole’ USA: things are great here, right?

Not so much. I won’t go into the facts we all know now (even more than ever, thanks to Snodwen and Manning) about how screwed up the USA has been and still is, nor how terrible the economy is here and everywhere. I won’t provide the list. We all know too well the horrors of our modern life. Modern tragedies, however, are actually not even relevant to this discussion.

The “degenerating” part of our Age has little to do with actual external conditions. Our deterioration involves humans’ not being able to learn #dharma, not being able to find qualified and worthy Buddhist teachers, not being able to practice meditation well or at all. The Buddha’s teachings and Buddhists practitioners are what are degenerating, in what is called “The Third Age” or “The Latter Day of the Law.”

You can look this up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Ages_of_Buddhism

My point is, dystopian futures abound. Most sci-fi writers, even those that include romance in their stories, write of increasingly worsening conditions on and around this planet and across the Universe. They pile on the violence, showing increasing discord, more political and social unrest, deaths and destructions even worse than we have now. We already have too much awfulness for me to want to read about even worse futures.

Enough, already: I believe we need some hope, ideas of how else things could go, whether or not I always believe they will take these turns. Since I can’t find this optimism in the daily news or libraries’ and bookstores’ fiction, I decide to create it. I need this in my personal life, for the USA, for the continent, the water, air and land: I am imagining routes for improvement for the planet and the entire universe.

When I #meditate, especially during a #retreat phase in which I was #contemplating lives of beings in the “God Realm,” it occured to me repeatedly that we live in opulence amid squalor, all over the planet. Beauty smack dab in the middle of ugliness, every day. #Yin and #yang. We do have to “take the good with the bad,” but do we have to emphasize the “bad”?

I do not.

In my novels, even when things are “bad,” there is more good than bad. Buddha teaches often that we have to discern between “good” and “bad” even as we know these are illusory. Many teachings expound on how there is NO “good” or “bad,” no “birth” and no “death,” no “coming” and no “going.”

While you puzzle over that, I’m going to continue my utopian illusions in The Spanners Series. In my current and future multiverses, beings, including humans, will have love, better conditions and dharma: they/we have it all!

Furthermore, I’m going to HOPE—even though we are instructed to meditate partly in order to relinquish all hope and all fear—that YOU read my books and enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Please let me know! Write your comments here on this and other posts, on excerpts from my novel, and whatever else occurs to you. Let’s converse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video here:

https://youtu.be/S0d5KoF8288

or

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

or

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

Enjoy! Write back with comments, questions! Share!

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

Live in or want to go to #Bali to study #music, #dance, #psychodrama, #yoga?

Live in or want to go to #Bali to study #music, #dance, #psychodrama, #yoga? Check out Motivational Arts Unlimited/ Consultants, Mario Cossa’s upcoming classes, workshops, retreats and other events!

Musical Theatre Dancing Class- Starts 21 Feb, 2016
Intro To Psychodrama Group- 22 Feb, 2016
Tending The Garden Of The Soul: A Retreat For Personal Restoration And Renewal- 17-23 July, 2016

What is MAU? MOTIVATIONAL ARTS UNLIMITED is established to provide training and personal growth experiences using creative and expressive arts (especially drama and movement) in combination with yoga and other types of body work to support positive life change while reflecting the cultural and spiritual awareness of its community in Bali, Indonesia.

MUSICAL THEATRE DANCING FOR FUN AND FITNESS
Sundays 10-11am : 21 & 28 Feb and 6 & 13 March
Tuesdays 3-4pm : 23 Feb and 1 & 15 march
(no class Tues, 8 March in preparation for Nyepi)
at Ubud Fitness Bottom Floor – Jalan Jero Gadung – Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Mario in Anything Goes
Mario Cossa is in the center of this photo of Dames at Sea

Musical Theatre Dancing For Fun And Fitness
Whether you have been tapping your toes for years or have never heard of “jazz hands,” you can join the fun and enjoy a good aerobic workout set to an assortment of musical numbers from a wide range of shows. Simple choreography will keep it lite and easy as we soft shoe and Busby Berkeley (etc.) our way through a fun workout.
See video »https://www.facebook.com/926608724051297/videos/1111316422247192/
Tuition: Rp 100,000 per class (including tax), come with a friend and pay 2 for Rp. 150,000 (tax included) or pre-pay 4 classes : Rp 350,000 (including tax)
Pre-registration requested
e-mail: mario AT dramario.net or call (0)361 479 2782 or go to our FB Event Page.

PSYCHODRAMA FOR PERSONAL GROWTH
A 2-hour introductory session
Monday, 22 Feb, 2016 – 6-8pm
In Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
(Directions provided when you pre-register.)

Intro to Psychodrama

Psychodrama For Personal Growth
“Psychodrama,” from its Greek roots, literally means “the soul in action!” Developed initially by J.L. Moreno in the 1920s, it is currently practiced, with many variations, throughout the world. Moreno was also a pioneer in Improvisational Theatre and Social Network Theory and felt that since our lives are lived in action and interaction, sitting (or laying down as the Freudians practiced) and merely talking was not an effective means of promoting greater health and developing a broader role repertoire. Join in the co-creation of a safe and supportive group environment for personal exploration and transformation.
See video


Registration fee (to cover venue cost): Rp 30,000
Pre-registration requested.
e-mail: mario AT dramario.net or call (0)361 479 2782 or go to our FB Event Page.

Tending the Garden of the Soul

I think it is essential sometimes to retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your beliefs and experiences completely, and look at them anew…
If you can do so, you would be open to the mysteries of nature and to things that are whispering about us, which you would not otherwise reach. ~ J. Krishnamurti

Join us for a 6-night, restorative retreat in the magical garden island of Bali to renew your connection to nature and to the Self. In the lush sanctuary of Villa Gaia (http://www.gaiaretreatcenter.com), we will use the concepts and practices of Jungian depth psychology and Morenian psychodrama to co-create sacred spaces in which soul-making can take place.

For C.G. Jung, the Soul is visible in the rich images of our dreams and imaginings. For J.L. Moreno, the Soul is encountered in action and in our social relationships. This retreat offers grace-filled opportunities to share with others an exploration of your inner garden landscape and to encounter your inner gardener – the One Who Tends the Soul.

DATES: Sunday 17th July to Saturday 23rd July 2016
TUITION: US$1,250 for shared room or US $ 1800 for private room. (Residents of Bali who elect to reside off site may participate in the retreat and enjoy shared meals for a fee of US $650.)

Please Note: Participation is limited to 14 on a first-registered-first-served basis.
A registration deposit of US$500 is required to hold your space. Deposit is refundable through 1 April, 2016; half-refundable through 15 May, 2016. Bank transfer fees are the responsibility of the participant. Balance of payment due 1 July, 2016.

Gaia retreat center
Gaia Retreat Center

Residential Tuition Includes:
Transport from airport to Villa Gaia Retreat Center
Accommodation, Tax and Service Charge
Buffet breakfast – Monday through Saturday
Four lunches (one on your own during Wednesday’s free afternoon)
Four dinners (two on your own during Tuesday’s and Thursday’s free evenings)
Eleven Facilitated action exploration sessions
Facilitated Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Facilitated By: Mario Cossa, RDT/MT, TEP, CAWT and J. Kaya Prpic, PhD, Diploma Candidate – CG Jung Institute, Zurich.
Registration Enquiries and Forms:
soulgardendreaming AT gmail.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Swan Song of my #Buddhist Mini Home #Retreat Sung a Bit Early

Some of you have been reading/following the posts about my #Buddhist mini home #retreat which began in mid-October, 2013, and was supposed to end March 1, to coincide with #Tibetan New Year (Losar) on March 2, 2014. However due to the schedules of Alameda County’s jury duty roster (which tapped me starting March 6, perhaps) and my teacher, Padma Drimed Norbu, or Lama Drimed, my close-of-retreat meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, February 26.

So, the Swan Song of my Retreat is being sung today. I plan to finish with a tsog (see first posting, in October, for detailed explanation of this ritual), since that is the way I began and I appreciate the function and symbolic bookends of that choice.

Here, to finish my posts about this experience, I give an honest report, comparing my plans with the actuals, now that it is closing.

clock
image from http://www.jadcotime.com.au

TIME: I had planned to spend 4 – 6 hours/day on meditation, contemplation, study and practices for this retreat. I was unable to do this for most of the days for many reasons.

Self-publishing my first ebook, which uploaded for pre-orders Nov. 9 and for sales Dec. 19-20 while writing and then finishing Volume II while job-hunting and going to (unsuccessful, so far) interviews while doing extensive marketing and learning about all that MAY have something to do with the change in time allotments. I was a tad optimistic.

I did spend at least one and sometimes three hours or more, but never 4 – 6 hours on any day except the first two and this last day (the tsog takes at least 4 hours, from prep to clean up).

Except for a family visit for one week in December, I did not take any days off. Even during that week, I practiced every day, just not for more than one hour.

ACTIVITIES: For some parts of the contemplations of the Realms., I was supposed to enact them. I was also supposed to sit and chant a mantra. However, I could not enact most of these beings’ experiences in the Realms nor sit and chant the mantras.

When I tried to sit and chant the mantra (which was just one word), I would get immediately foggy, sleepy and unable to continue.

Furthermore, my lower back, injured and unhappy about sitting even on chairs, refused to allow me to sit in an upright position on the floor or a cushion, even on my bed, for more than 10 minutes without agony.

back-pain-

I utilized an alternative method that kept me awake: a walking meditation. I could complete the accumulations and meditations in that way. This did not quite evoke an enactment, but I was outside and observing with ongoing attempts to internalize each Realm’s beings’ experiences in my mind and body. Limited, but some success.

However, I can only walk for one hour or so on any given day due to a chronic injury to one leg, so my progress in these accumulations (to get to 100,000 for each of the Six Realms) took many days per Realm.

walking meditation
image from http://www.peerfit.com

I had plenty of time, so 9 – 11 days per Realm seemed all right, but somewhat disappointing. Although, from today’s perspective, I wonder why I was in any kind of rush?

I was tasked next with reading and contemplating the readings/teachings of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s original teachings, transcribed in 1989. That was an amazing experience because I knew him then and I knew many of the people who attended that retreat when it occurred, so I could picture his giving the teachings and the others gathered there, the translator’s comments and facial expressions very clearly. Many blessings and gratitude for them during this next phase of my retreat.

Chagdud Rinpoche
Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and his tulku

At one point near the end of the booklet, though, I wondered if I had the wrong set of teachings, but I contacted Lama Drimed and he assured me it was correct; I had written the title down incorrectly in my original notes. Why did I fixate on that, I wonder?

Next, in tandem, I was to do some physical as well as meditative activities I can’t describe here. I can say, however, that I failed miserably (and not surprisingly) at doing the physical ones, and almost as miserably (and quite surprisingly) and the meditative ones. Need to discuss these with Lama D tomorrow, for sure.

I was also supposed to do some of the recommended sadhana (written/chanted) practices almost daily (my choice which of them to do, Lama D said) and tsogs on each full moon.

Epic Fails, both.

For reasons I still can’t explain, even to myself, I did not do the tsogs except for the first one and the one today, even though I purchased supplies for doing them.
After about day 4, I did not do the sadhana practices. Not at all. Not once. I do not like them, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.

Well, you get the picture. I just didn’t feel it.

Should I have done them, anyway? If I had been part of a group that was doing them daily, I would have done them. I would have been there and attended and participated. Left to myself, I did not feel moved to do them. So, I did not.

discipline lacking
Discipline Quote by Marie Chapian

Can’t understand my reluctance, but it was insurmountable, or I just gave in to it. Can’t say for sure how things would have been different if I had been more diligent, reliable, responsible.

I do have all these proud and arrogant parts that tell me and others stories about how disciplined and reliable I am, so it’s ironic and kind of sad that it turned out that I’m not so much of either, even though I also say that my practice is the most important part of my life.

OUTCOMES:
Mixed.

Glad I blogged. In-reading my posts, which are a kind of journal, I can see I did get quite a lot out of many parts and was more devoted and disciplined than I give myself credit for, today. Not great, but good (in some parts).

Obsessing today about whether my lack of accomplishments in those or any of the activities may disqualify me from continuing or receiving the next teachings. Should have done something about that before, when I was overly indulgent, lazy or just unable, eh?

Well, if that happens, all right. Can’t go forward until I’m ready.

Lama Drimed will know.

One thing I am is honest.

metta-prayer

May all beings benefit from my retreat, however it may be assessed. That I do wish, fervently.

5-month Blogaversary this Week: Stats & Questions

This week marks my 90th Post and my 5-month Blogaversary. I appreciate greatly how authors, artists, writers, editors and many creative people join together to help increase one another’s reach and visibility on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Booklikes, Shelfari and increasingly, on Google+.

Here are my end-of-first-five-months’ stats and questions (mostly for other authors). Please leave responses to mine or add your own questions in the comments section on the WordPress or Tumblr blog post site. (You will have to sign in via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or your own WP or Tumblr account on these sites to comment.)

First, many thanks for the support and receptivity: on WordPress, my blog now has 50 followers (MY GOAL for 1/1/14!) and 12 on my Tumblr site (which has all cross-posts from the WP site), for a grand and wonderful total of 62 #FF who receive (and an unknown number who read) my posts.

I’m inviting guest bloggers this year.
QUESTION: Would you like to guest blog? (I am restricting guest blogging [for now] to followers of my blogs on WP or Tumblr: good reason to become a follower!)
Please let me know when and on what topic(s).
Topics on which I welcome guest posts: Buddhism, meditation, yoga, meditation retreats, having a spiritual teacher, the influence of your spiritual practice on your writing; writing, publishing, marketing our writing; or, any of the many topics I have already blogged about (read my past posts for hints!).

sallyember.com has gone from being “invisible” (no ranking at all) via ALEXA (Google’s ranking system) to being in the top 3.5 million websites worldwide in only five months.
QUESTION: How much does an ALEXA ranking mean, and what is your site ranked?

Concurrently, Twitter followers have grown from 7 in August to over 1700 this week (almost reached my randomly set goal of 2000 #FF by 1/1/14). @sallyemberedd finds me there. Special thanks to #ASMSG, the World Literary Cafe @worldlitcafe and Keith Fritz’ Author Megasheet on Google for such great contacts and networking opportunities which help build visibility and connections on Twitter. Due to cross-posting via Facebook, Pinterest and my blog, I don’t always post directly on Twitter, but I do have an active presence there.
QUESTION: How much do Twitter followers actually read further/click on Tweets’ links and which ones appeal most to you?

Also, my original Spanners Series page on Facebook now has over 450 LIKES (my modest goal for 1/1/14 was 200!) with many “LIKE for LIKE” events hosted on FB and contacts via Facebook groups, such as the Science-Fiction/Romance Brigade, the World Literary Cafe, Clean Indie Reads, Authors Social Media Support and many others, to offer THANKS for this amazing rise in connections on FB in recent weeks (at the beginning of December, my series page had fewer than 200 LIKES). I also have a lot more “friends” (as Sally Sue Fleischmann Ember) via these same networks and groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism.
Question: What impact do FB LIKES have on an author’s visibility, in your opinion? If you are an author and your LIKES have risen lately, how exactly have you experienced a change in sales, interactions, or network invitations that you can attribute to this increase?

I am fairly new to having a series page on Google+ (3 weeks), so my Spanners Series page there only has 9 #FF. But, I (as Sally Sue Ember) have joined many groups and hope to increase the number of people in my circles and who follow the series page by connecting and networking more via these opportunities as well. Groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism are my main ones here, too.
QUESTION: How do you use Google+ and what is your opinion of it?

On youtube, I now have 3 videos of me reading from or talking about The Spanners Series and particularly Volume I, This Changes Everything (about one/month) since October, 2013, but only a handful of viewers, so far.
QUESTION: If you are an author, do you have a book trailer or other writing-related videos on youtube? How successful has your video presence been for driving traffic to your books’ sites, for sales, for views?

Again, partly thanks to networking and support via #ASMSG, on Goodreads, This Changes Everything is getting 4- and 5-star reviews and ratings and moving up on many lists on Listopia. As a member of only about 12 months, my “friends” number has grown to over 650. I also joined some groups here as well.
QUESTION: How do you use Goodreads as a reader? What about as an author?

Since the release date (12/19/13) of This Changes Everything, the first ebook in the The Spanners Series, TCE has been moving erratically but promisingly through the sales rankings on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords (don’t have rankings, yet, on iBooks). Many more reviewers are about to post their reviews over the next several weeks, which will help spread the word even more.

Examples: on Amazon, TCE has risen into the top 58,000 (out of 8 million) books on Amazon, and my author rank (so far) has risen to 89,000 (out of over 500,000).
On Kobo, TCE has moved up over 2000 other books in all Fiction and over 300 other books in Romance, Paranormal (through a mix-up, it’s not in Sci-fi, where it belongs) since it’s release date.
On nook, TCE has been in the top 500,000 overall (out of over 2 million books).
QUESTION: If you have published and sell ebooks in the last 12 months, what advice would you give to new ebook authors about these types of stats?

TCE is also on Shelfari, Booklikes and several independent sites (sites that post ebooks, reviews, author interviews and stories about indie books/authors). On http://www.sallyember.com, on the right of each page. Scroll down for live links.
QUESTION: What alternative sites feature you or your writing? What are your experiences with these? Do you do “blog hops,” “cover reveals,” cross-posting of other types? Advice?

The eleven Boards I have on Pinterest which I add to frequently, relate to my writing, the series, authors and music, locations and information connected to the series and my life. Started with NO followers in September; now have almost 70. sallyember is my Pinterest address (button to this on my website).
QUESTION: How do you use Pinterest? Experiences?

Through all these and other efforts and, again, much support from friends, family and colleagues/network members, including on LinkedIn, my KLOUT score has risen to over 61 (anything over 50 is considered good; over 65 is considered excellent).
QUESTION: What is your KLOUT score? How important do you think this ranking is for a new author?

I recently joined some LinkedIn groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism. Since I’m so new to these (less than 1 month’s membership in most), not sure of the impact, yet.
QUESTION: What LinkedIn groups do you belong to/recommend and why?

Enough for now. Thanks for reading, responding, explaining, advising, recommending, warning, sharing. Best to you all!