#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

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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.

18 Tweets/3 photos inspired by the live speech of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, 2-23-14, Berkeley, CA

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the long-time spiritual leader and former political leader of Tibetans in Exile visited the United States for several weeks in February, including a meeting with President Obama (link to news report about that visit below this post) and right here in the East Bay, Berkeley, California, today (Sunday), 2/23/14. It was sold out, but streamed live. I watched.

Here are 18 Tweets and 3 photos as well as link for more information about the Tibetan Freedom movement, below, inspired by today’s talk.

1. The Tibetan children’s singing of the Tibetan National Anthem w/H. H. the #DalaiLama followed by USA’s is both sweet & bitterly sad, to me.

2. Right now in Berkeley with Congressional Rep. Barbara Lee [Berkeley, CA, USA 13th Congressional District]

HH DL in visor 2014
image taken from live stream by Sally Ember, Ed.D., with cellphone camera; from video by http://www.ustream.tv/channel/how-to-achieve-happiness

3. H. H. went to put on his visor because lights too bright.

4. After Rep. Barbara Lee of #Berkeley intros H. H. the #DalaiLama, they sit together in his chair; he tells her: Stay there while he talks!

HH DL and Barbara Lee 2014
image taken from live stream by Sally Ember, Ed.D., with cellphone camera; from video by http://www.ustream.tv/channel/how-to-achieve-happiness

5. #DalaiLama: “Climate change is a disaster and will get worse.” “Individuals need community to be happy.” “Oneness of humanity is essential.”

6. #DalaiLama: “Money only provides you physical comfort,..not inner happiness//Genuine happiness not depends on external//Be compassionate.”

7. #DalaiLama is talking about sincerity of heart and I keep hearing the song from “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “You’ve Gotta Be Sincere.”

8. #DalaiLama:”The 20th century was the century of bloodshed and violence//should have paid more attention to compassion, love, harmony, peace”

9. #DalaiLama:”The Leading Nation of the Free World….should make significant contributions to education//Build sense of oneness of humanity.”

10. #DalaiLama:”All religions emphasize love & compassion//all should teach these//help bring inner peace//become a compassionate human being.”

11. #DalaiLama:”All religious traditions use different methods & philosophies to reach the same aims, to be compassionate// religious harmony.

12. #DalaiLama:”A nation’s being secular means to be not at all negative towards any religions: respect all faiths and nonbelievers.”

13. #DalaiLama: (not a quote; summary) To challenge the religious or political elite requires us to go against those that exploit the people.

14. #DalaiLama:”Honesty and inner values bring immense benefit to individuals and society//That is how to achieve happiness in life.”

15. #DalaiLama Q: how to motivate children to be happier and do well in school? “Not only through words, but through actions.”

16. #DalaiLama Q”What happens to the soul or loved ones after death?” A Death means “change your old clothes for new clothes” change body only.

17. #DalaiLama More about how to die: “Depends on beliefs.” “Consider God or meditate on compassion, whichever you believe in. Visualize love.”

18. #DalaiLama Q=”What do you do all day? What do you like to do for fun.” A= Daily, I dedicate my body, speech & mind to the welfare of others.

A better photo from this year, looking about the way His Holiness did today, visor and all, but with a different assistant next to him.
HH Dalai Lama different speech 2014
image from Tibetan TV, then article.wn.com

Want to learn more about and perhaps contribute to Tibetan’s Freedom Movement? http://www.freetibet.org/donate/now

Want to learn more about His Holiness’ visit with President Barack Obama this past Thursday, 2/21/14?
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/02/obama-host-dalai-lama-at-white-house-20142215611541188.html

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.

#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!