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

Chagdud Khadro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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#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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Please read this review and support The Buddhist Door!

Berzin book cover

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

#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

staying in love
image from http://indulgy.com

I went on an online hunt for the latest in advice, opinions, experiences and perspectives on this topic, intimate relationships and/or #love, from a #Buddhist perspective, restricting myself to postings from the last twelve months.

NOTE: Buddhists use this definition of “love”: the wish for the one you love to be happy. So, if you love someone, you will do everything you are capable of to help that person achieve temporary and long-lasting happiness—regardless of what loving that person requires of you—unselfishly, unstintingly, the way a parent would strive for a child.

Dalai Lama Love is wanting others to be happy
image from http://peacelovepotager.blogspot.com

Here are what I found and some of my comments and questions about how to be a Buddhist in close relationships.

Next? Your comments!


From the Buddhism Stack Exchange (“a question and answer site for people practicing or interested in Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice. It’s built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we’re working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice”), which has a page on Buddhism, marked Beta, with the subtitle from September 2, 2015: “Do buddhists fall in love?”
http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/11266/do-buddhists-fall-in-love

This site provides a lot of info on the various subdivisions of Buddhism, including Theravada, Mahayana and Zen, and Vajrayana. Since I practice Tibetan Vajrayana Nyingma Buddhism, I focused on the responses that seem to be from the Vajrayana point of view.

Several responses were posted, but my favorites are these two, excerpted below.

One writer, Andrei Volkov (“Non-sectarian practitioner in the tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, heavily influenced by Korean Zazen and studies of Pali Canon. Dedicated to serious practice since 1995, and independent of others with regard to the Buddha’s message since 2012”), posted his response to the question posed (with a lot of explanatory material from the questioner that accompanied this question), “Do buddhists fall in love?”

In Vajrayana schools…emotions, including romantic love, are considered a form of energy that can be put to use… Vajrayana would still appreciate the inherent fakeness of love, the mechanical nature of which comes from a match of partners’ stereotypes and preconceptions.

[E]ven if a Vajrayana practitioner could play with the fire both in context of its ego-melting properties as well as for pleasure, they would not take it one-sidedly as an untrained run-of-the-mill person would do….Vajrayana view includes both sacred and illusory aspects of love. In Vajrayana we are trained to see things from all the sides at the same time. Love is both sacred and a giant trick, as far as Vajrayana is concerned.

The predominant Buddhist sentiment here is that being disappointed/disenchanted (= “sober”) is a …healthier state than the state of intoxication by an object of mind. While Vajrayana is 100% aligned with this most fundamental of Buddhist principles, we do allow ourselves to get drunk, both metaphorically with love, and occasionally even literally—–while staying fully accountable for the consequences—–a trait of the universal adult.

I also appreciated this perspective, posted by “Buddho” (gave no bio info):

Modern neuroscience is catching up with Buddhism in this department it appears. Scientists have found romantic love activates the same addictive parts of the brain as cocaine….

…Buddhism likens romantic love to an addiction, an attachment, and a danger.

…However, love…can also be about selflessness, … sacrifice and … self improvement…. This is the raison d’être for the Vajrayana school of romance as a valid path to enlightenment….


Another point of view comes from Bkikshuni Thupten Chödron, teacher, author and Abbess. Ani [Buddhist honorific for a nun] Chödron is a Western white woman who was one of the first to take Buddhist nun’s vows. http://thubtenchodron.org/biography/

Ani Chödron posted a marriage ceremony prayer that she asks the partners say to each other and to their friends and family, which I excerpt, below:
http://thubtenchodron.org/1995/06/wedding-readings-dharma/

…We aspire to make our spiritual path the core of our life together. We will help each other on the path to enlightenment, watering the seeds of love, compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom in each other. As we age and undergo the various ups and downs of cyclic existence, we aspire to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

…We recognize that external conditions in life will not always be smooth, and that internally, our own minds and emotions sometimes get stuck in negative ways of thinking. When this happens, we aspire to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help us grow, to open our hearts, to accept ourselves, others and life itself; and to generate compassion for all others who are also unhappy or suffering at that moment. We aspire to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and will help each other see all the various sides of a situation and to bring acceptance, flexibility and equanimity to it.

…We aspire to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment and to apply Dharma antidotes when these arise in our minds and to help each other do so, also.

…Day to day, as we progress along the path, we aspire to be patient with ourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually…

I have attended a few Buddhist wedding ceremonies and heard about others. They usually include a portion of the vows that ends with “until impermanence intervenes” instead of the more traditional and secular “until death do we part.”


I’ve also heard and read Buddhist teachings that indicate one great reason to be in intimate relationships, whether platonic or sexual: when we are in relationship, we see our own minds better and face our challenges daily with ourselves.

I can attest to the experiences I have had with this exact situation from times I have been on individual, silent retreats: as long as I do not interact with anyone (no eye contact, no conversations, no communication of any kind) and, better yet, don’t even encounter anyone else in a significant way, I believe that I am doing “great” with my practice. I am so patient, so generous, so kind, so loving, so compassionate, so able to rejoice in others’ successes and happiness, so calm and so earnest about wanting to alleviate suffering for all beings. Oh, yes. Ahhhh.

On retreat, I am practically a saint….until I am thwarted or confronted with someone’s saying or doing something I don’t want or preventing me from getting what I do want.

Could be that someone puts their shoes where I usually put mine. Sometimes, I have to wait longer than usual for a meal. Perhaps someone stands where I want to stand, preventing me from seeing something I want to see. Maybe someone “takes” “my” parking space.

parkingspot
image from http://www.smilesforall.com

Provoked by the smallest of infractions or distractions, my ordinary mind and all its selfishness, attachment, pride, jealousy, anger and ignorance rear all their heads at once. There go my delusions of equanimity and of Bodhisattva grandeur: shattered!

The only “realization” I can honestly claim to have is this: I am so far from liberated, I can’t even read the sign for “enlightenment, this way —>.”

It seems to be true that the main spiritual advantage to being in an intimate relationship is that we get our spiritual comeuppance every day, many times a day, and can harbor no such illusions about our proximity to “enlightenment.” When we are engaged in intense, personal relationships with others and paying attention to our own minds, whether that occurs with colleagues, a lover/partner or with friends, our tasks are to be grateful for the challenges, to be glad of the opportunities to grow and improve.

Buddhist teachings exhort us to continue focusing our criticisms on ourselves and our generosity on our partners. We learn to see every interpersonal encounter as a chance to “look in the mirror” and see ourselves better rather than “look out the window” and point at or blame others for our confusions, hurts and complaints. We consider our sangha, the other members of our spiritual community, to be our “guide,” which means they show us the nature of our minds merely by being in our lives.

Lao Tsu knowing others knowing ourselves

This does not mean we shouldn’t remove ourselves from an abusive relationship or ignore people who harm us or others. That is a misconstruction of these instructions. Buddhism also doesn’t encourage “co-dependency” while inspiring unselfishness: fine lines, always.

We simply try to maintain our focus on our own minds when we are feeling angry, resentful, proud, jealous, or afraid. We are attempting to see clearly the nature of our emotions as empty—having no substance—and to discover the source of our own suffering as ignorance, on the path to becoming more patient and spontaneously compassionate toward others.

CONCLUSIONS

If we aren’t interacting in any serious way with others, if we have no “skin in the game,” if all our relationships are superficial, short-term, and insignificant, we won’t be inspired to improve ourselves because, as I believe about myself when I’m alone on retreat, we’ll mistakenly conclude that we are “just fine the way we are.”

Are you in any relationships in which you are “all in,” allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable, exposed, authentic? Or, do you hold yourself back, keep some in reserve, never fully commit or reveal yourself? Only by immersing ourselves in an intense human relationship of some kind can we fully learn to understand our own minds and emotions honestly.

Why hold back? None of us lives all that long….

I am not in a close relationship with a lover right now, but I wish I were. I am in close contact with family members and a few friends, but none of those relationships brings the challenges right to my heart/mind that a lover does. Maybe some day, again…

Trouble is, I am very picky and I have a lot of experience, so I am not inclined to be in a relationship just to be in one. Not now.

My personal ads (when I ran them) did not get many relevant “hits.” Could be because these are my criteria and descriptions: “Serious meditators, only. People my age (61) or thereabouts, only. Kind, intelligent, humorous, interesting people only. No drinkers or smokers. One or no pets. No kids at home.”

I’m willing to be with either a woman or man, which opens up the field considerably, but my chosen categories otherwise make my acceptable potentials (and those who might find me appealing) very small. Also, I’m a Buddhist who was raised Jewish, a feminist and a radical, politically. Unless the other person is, also, or has experience with people similar to me, they probably won’t understand or respect me properly, nor I, them.

Then, add in these facts and you’ll see the pool shrinks into one that holds almost zero candidates: I don’t like to shop except for food that we’ll eat, and I prefer organic and food farmers’ markets, when possible. I don’t wear make-up or perfume or dress up readily. I don’t shave. I don’t wear bras. I’m honest. I’m somewhat psychic. I’m short, but people tell me I’m intimidating even when I don’t say a word. I’m a writer, a blogger, and a talk show host who likes to spend a lot of time alone to accomplish these things. I swim a lot, but I can’t hike (bad leg and back). I don’t have much money (yet). I eschew most sports, don’t like gambling, am not pleased with or want to go to most movies.

I get up at 3 AM and go to bed at about 8 PM, although, with naps, I can push the bedtime back a bit. I’m extremely intelligent and highly educated (doctorate), and I’m not as patient as I ought to be with potential partners who are not well-educated, don’t read much, and/or don’t know how to express themselves and/or don’t talk much. I’m very funny and I appreciate humor, but not if it’s disrespectful or implies derogatory opinions of groups or individuals.

I don’t like most movies or TV programs and won’t watch them. I fall asleep at classical concerts (although I like some of that music) and detest opera. I don’t want to attend most plays or public performances, but there are some I really would like to see.

I’m also not a “Barbie doll.” Therefore, I don’t want to be with someone whose main criteria for a lover start with or center on appearance and “fitness.” I appreciate certain physical qualities, but those aren’t my “screen” and I am not interested in people who screen that way.

I want friendship and interest first, love to have a chance and time to evolve, and for sex to occur as we get to know each other, not as the way to get to know each other. I haven’t had sex for over five years. I can wait.

You see the problems, yes?

subset almost nil
image from http://www.cs.uni.edu

If there is anyone at all left in my subset, what are the odds that this person is alive and living within 15 – 20 miles of me in St. Louis, Missouri USA, right now, AND that I would meet up with him/her by chance and s/he would recognize me and I, him/her?

Let me know when you find such a person(s).

The truth is, because I have had dozens of relationships in my life, from those lasting one-night to twenty+ years, and I have an adult child I am close to and love dearly, as I do his partner, and I have many friends around the country and connections around the world, and relational experiences from dozens of years of living collectively, working closely with and living with people, I have the grounds for being choosy. I’d rather be “alone” than be in a relationship that isn’t healthy or spiritually nourishing.


Love isn’t easy. Love doesn’t always offer fun and sex. Love doesn’t usually include roses or violins.

Is love worthwhile? How should a practicing Buddhist (or anyone conscious) best engage in close relationships?

You tell me. http://www.sallyember.com/blog

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

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

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

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

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

May all beings benefit.

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

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

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

ZenjuPic4
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, photo from TRICYCLE article in online Buddhist magazine, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddha thinking creates happiness