Category Archives: Chögyam Trungpa

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pathwithtextTo be honest, I was starting to think maybe I’d picked the wrong word this year. A month has passed already and instead of feeling immersed, focused, clear, I was feeling a little lost. Yoga and writing come more naturally to me, but I was finding it hard to meditate, let alone deepen my study of the dharma. This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, trying to find some direction or distract myself when I saw a post from Lodro Rinzler, “New video teaching up to kick off a year series studying Atisha’s mind training slogans.” I recognized the screen capture from an email I got at the beginning of the week from him, one that I’d filed away like all the others for some later date when I have “more time.”

You can sign up for Lodro’s newsletter and he sends a meditation challenge every Monday. Sometimes I watch, but more often I file it away for later. When I saw the post on Facebook, I actually read what it was about, and I was in.

Three years ago, Susan Piver was focusing her Open Heart Project Practitioner teachings around the lojong slogans. I enjoyed it so much, was learning so much. I have two books from Pema Chödrön about the same topic and was using them to help deepen my understanding. Then Susan made the difficult decision to discontinue the Practitioner program, and we never made it past the 17th one. So I was so happy to see that Lodro was teaching them, that he was committed to the full set of 59.

Lojong (or “mind training”) slogans are from a classical Tibetan Buddhist text, and are described by Pema Chödrön as offering “pithy, powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts in the midst of day-to-day life, under any circumstances.” The editor of the book by Chögyam Trungpa about these same slogans describes them this way,

The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind is a list of fifty-nine slogans, which form a pithy summary instruction on the view and practical application of mahayana Buddhism. The study and practice of these slogans is a very practical and earthy way of reversing our ego-clinging and of cultivating tenderness and compassion. They provide a method of training our minds through both formal meditation practice and using the events of everyday life as a means of awakening.

Pithy. Practical. Perfect. I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, kind and gentle reader, but it’s that practical application component that draws me to Buddhism. All the stuff about various deities and realms and karma is interesting to me as an intellectual exercise, but it’s the part where the rubber meets the road that I get excited about. I look to the dharma as a way to understand how to be a better human — how to meet what is beautiful and tender and keep my heart open, how to face what is brutal and terrible and not give up.

And the first lojong slogan is one of my favorites. It presents what are sometimes referred to as the Four Reminders. The slogan is “first, train in the preliminaries,” and those preliminaries or reminders are:

  1. Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life, the luck of a human birth
  2. Be aware of the reality that life ends, death comes for everyone
  3. Know that karma is real, actions have consequences
  4. Contemplate that as long as you are caught up in yearning for pleasure and shying away from pain, the suffering of suffering, you will remain trapped in unhappiness

I’ve written about the Four Reminders before. I was happy to revisit them this morning. Even happier to feel myself back on the path, encouraged by what Pema says about this study, that “when we work with the slogans, ordinary life becomes the path of awakening.”

Wild Writing: “As You Go Through Life”

The Poudre River, from our walk this morning, just before I noticed a mink running along the ice

The Poudre River, from our walk this morning, just before I noticed a mink running along the ice at the edge

We recently started our spring session of my Wild Writing class, and I’m so glad to be back at it. In class on Friday morning, after I read my last piece, Laurie said “blog it” before moving on to the next person, so here it is.

Prompt: As You Go Through Life by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Laurie doesn’t typically share poems that rhyme, but like she said, this one just has too many good lines. I was surprised when I Googled it to find a link to share with you that it was published in 1910, that the poet is long gone.

“Bend and let it go over you.” I keep coming back to this when I’m teaching yoga — that balance isn’t about finding a fixed point and sticking there, stable and still, but rather it’s about all the tiny (and big) adjustments we make to keep from falling over, to stave off collapse, and how even collapsing, giving up and going over, is part of balance. We fall over, we soften into it, and then, if we’d like, we get up and try again.

It reminds me of the story Pema Chödrön tells about her teacher, how she asked Chögyam Trungpa in a moment she was having a really hard time what she should do, how to handle it, and he told her it’s like standing in the ocean, how each wave crashes into you, knocks you down, takes you in and under, but you get back up. And in time, you get stronger, you learn to move with the waves, and instead of feeling like you are drowning, like it’s so bad and so hard you are going to die, you are able to move with it, to meet and ride the wave. Bend and let it go over you.

I wonder if students who aren’t teachers understand that a teacher only ever teaches one of two things — what they know so well they have it memorized, so it’s safe and easy, requires no real effort and little attention; or we teach what we need to learn, what we are trying to figure out, what seems so big and complicated it feels like we’ll never be able to understand it, what terrifies us, what makes us tender. In one case we phone it in, in the other we send out an S.O.S., it’s almost a cry for help, but we know, we trust that there is help to be had, that our bones know, and if we keep asking the questions, either answers will come or we’ll surrender to not knowing.

Day of Rest

image by Eric

image by Eric

I’m feeling sad and a little angry this morning, confused. One friend’s sweet dog was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that can be very painful, so young that I still think of him as a puppy. Another person I adore had surgery yesterday because her cancer is back. Someone else I love and who deserves to be happy, to stay happy, is getting a divorce. Another friend had a garage sale to try and make some money for next month’s rent. Someone else I can’t imagine losing is drinking herself to death. And I don’t even want to talk about all the stuff in the news right now. The thing we all want is to be happy, comfortable, at peace, safe, and yet it seems so hard to get there, to stay there.

Buddhism would say that’s the root of our suffering: the longing to not suffer, the desire to escape it. It’s a real Catch 22 — we long to not suffer, but the circumstances of living are such that suffering is our fundamental experience, so in the end it’s the wanting to not feel pain that causes it, keeps us caught in the cycle of suffering. In an email yesterday, Susan Piver shared a quote from Chögyam Trungpa’s book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior that makes the whole thing a little less confusing, more workable.

Discovering real goodness comes from appreciating very simple experiences. We are not talking about how good it feels to make a million dollars or finally graduate from college or buy a new house, but we are speaking here of the basic goodness of being alive — which does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our desires. We experience glimpses of goodness all the time, but we often fail to acknowledge them. When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness. When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness. When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air. These events take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness.

If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings. We have moments of basic non-aggression and freshness…it is worthwhile to take advantage of these moments…we have an actual connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically, fundamentally good.

This is in no way suggesting that we simply “stay positive.” Rather it’s suggesting that in our confusion, we don’t allow our suffering to make us blind to what is good, that we notice and pay attention to everything — the yellow of the leaves, a sip of clean water, even the feeling of sadness that arises when something difficult happens to someone we love because we love them and we long for them to be happy and safe. As always, this makes me return to the one thing that makes the most sense to me: life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal — keep your heart open.

Something Good

elkhorn19
1. This photo on Unsplash is how I want to age, near the ocean, taking long walks and sitting in stillness, (although, where’s my dog?). It reminds me of poet Mary Oliver. And I still can’t get over this website, Unsplash, “All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.” And the photos are amazing!

2. On simplifying from Paul Jarvis.

3. The New Normal: Pieces of Grief by Stephanie Wittels Wachs.

4. Every marketing challenge revolves around these questions from Seth Godin.

5. Addiction Is a Disease of Free Will.

6. Wisdom from Hafiz,

I wish I could show you
when you are lonely
or in darkness
the astonishing light
of your own being.

7. When You Feel Pressured and Overwhelmed by Possibilities on Tiny Buddha.

8. money talks with mary anne radmacher by Sherry Belul.

9. Good stuff from Chookooloonks this was a good week list: Portrait of a Quiet Conference Leader and Finding fulfillment.

10. “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” ~Mexican proverb

11. YES! You Can Make Friends As An Adult! (And Exploding Other Limiting Beliefs), Shared on Rowdy Kittens Happy Links list.

12. The 19 Funniest Tweets From Women This Week. This series makes me laugh.

13. Wisdom from Chögyam Trungpa,

Being a buddha is not so much being a great scholar who knows all about everything and therefore is enlightened. Being a buddha, being enlightened, is actually being able to tune our mind into that state of being which already exists, which is already liberated, a long time ago.

14. The Dalai Lama’s Daily Routine and Information Diet on Brain Pickings.

15. Jon Stewart Blasts ‘A**hole’ Texas Officer For Pool Party Gone Bad.

16. Brittany Gibbons is the Bomb.

17. He Has A Bad Stutter, But When He Does His Stand Up Act, He’s A Star!

18. Why We Have to #SayHerName After McKinney.

19. Good stuff from Hello Giggles: Jemima Kirke just filled our lives with body positivity wisdom, and This 23-year-old is writing an Instagram memoir—and we’re already hooked, and Miley Cyrus’ ‘Nightmare’ is our new favorite breakup song, and Amy Schumer hilariously crashed this couple’s engagement photoshoot.

20. My plea to the Universe: Show me that I’m not alone from Andrea Scher.

21. How To Make Curly Hair With A T-Shirt.

22. Scientists Blow The Lid on Cancer & Sunscreen Myth.

23. Anne Lamott’s Comments About Caitlyn Jenner Are Just Plain Wrong.

24. Satisfying Arrangements Of Everyday Objects By Emily Blincoe on Bored Panda.

25. Truthbomb #818 from Danielle LaPorte, “(a prayer:) May my suffering be of service.”

26. Patient Japanese Man Takes Pet Giant Tortoise Out for Long Walks. I love how weird humans are, and I love that Eric liked this so much, he sent me the link twice not realizing he’d already sent it.

27. I Quit My Job Today. (And so can you!)

28. Note from the Universe:

In the “real” world, it’s better to have loved and lost, tried and failed, dreamed and missed, than to sit out your turn in fear. Because the loss, the failure, and the miss, however painful, are merely temporary market adjustments, soon forgotten. Whereas the love, the adventure, and the dream are like investments that, for the rest of your life and beyond, never stop paying dividends.

29. Wisdom from Lao Tzu, “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

30. thrive portrait: kelly from Chookooloonks.

31. This Guy Singing ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ With Strangers In Traffic Will Make You Smile. (Thanks for sharing, Shellie).

32. A Simple Guide to Making Better Decisions: Why Too Many People Get Paralyzed and What to Do Instead.

33. 5 Habits of Highly Effective Writers: Do these things today for a more productive and inspired writing life.

34. What’s next for me as a writer? on A Design So Vast.

35. sola dosis facit venenum from Rachel Cole.

36. The Gentle Path to a Simple Life from Be More With Less.

37. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

If you are in a time, beautiful friend, where you have done all that you can do…and now you must just wait…take heart. Don’t give up.

Sometimes all that you can do is wait for it to feel better, wait for a bad day to be over, wait for things to work themselves out.

Patience is hard to embrace, and practicing patience is hard to do. But patience teaches us tremendous lessons and rewards us with tremendous gifts. Patience makes us grow in ways that nothing else could. Most things that have lasting value come through doing difficult things.

Sometimes when you have done all that you can possibly do, you just have to wait.

Keep your heart open, keep believing what you believe. Keep your thoughts toward where you are headed, and how you WANT to feel, toward what is ahead. Do you best to learn in the moment. Do your very best.

Things will turn around, just like they always do. Life will work out, just like it always does. You will be through this before you know it.

38. 25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation.

39. 7 Amazing Quotes from David Sedaris’ Reddit AMA.

40. Cosette & Henri – A Story of Two Puppy Mill Dogs.

41. She was tired of just letting the depression consume her. So she set up her camera and took these.

42. Diane Sawyer Shares The ‘Genius’ Marriage Advice She’ll Never Forget (VIDEO).

43. Billy Bob Thornton Has ‘Never Trusted Happiness’ Since His Brother’s Death.

44. This 400 Sq Ft Cabin Is Cute, But Seeing The Inside…

45. Sanskrit Pronunciation of Yoga Poses.

46. 10 Photos of Interracial Couples Show the Impact of ‘Loving v. Virginia’ 48 Years Later.

47. 25 Portraits of American Indians You Might Not Have Seen (No Curtis!).

Something Good

1. The Daily Dharma Gathering from the Open Heart Project. Susan says, “Together with Buddhist teacher and awesome guy Lodro Rinzler, I’m pleased to announce a new program: three months of live meditation sessions Tuesdays – Sundays with some of the most accomplished and wise dharma teachers in the world.”

2. A Beautiful (and Budget-Friendly!) Laundry Room Makeover. As a person who keeps myself too busy, and an introvert who doesn’t have many people over to my house, most of my spaces look more like the before picture. What I like so much about this though is that it makes it so clear that if you put forth just a little effort, you can have a beautiful space. I’d like to be better about that.

3. The Struggle Is Real from Baby Weigel. I’m not a mom, but I love what Aubrey has to say here about the difficult choices we have to make sometimes about the things we love and what we do, how we spend our time. May she have an easy transition back.

4. Elizabeth Gilbert Has a New Book (and We’ve Got the First Look at the Cover!) on the Etsy blog.

8. cArtographies – Crystal Pite, a beautiful, inspiring video which led me to a similarly beautiful and inspiring project, “BC filmmaker and visual artist Brian Johnson profiles 19 BC-based artists, from a variety of disciplines, who are both inspired and challenged by their geographic surroundings.” Too bad the full video can only be watched if you are in Canada — lucky Canadians. You’ve got all the good stuff.

9. The Radiance Sutras, a beautiful text I found by way of this post on Kintsugi Dance.

10. How To Get Your Writing Mojo On from Laurie Wagner.

11. Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Episode 05 – The Eightfold Path.

12. The Splendid Table’s Refried Beans with Cinnamon and Clove, a recipe I found by way of Kirsten’s In the kitchen post. Another good thing from Kirsten this week was her post, Yoga and men.

13. A Yoga Teacher Training Certificate is Just the First Step on Elephant Journal.

14. Here’s Tina Fey And Amy Poehler’s Opening Monologue From The 2015 Golden Globes.

15. Good stuff on Slate: Children Photographed With Their Most Prized Possessions and This Guy Took a Photo Every Time He Saw Someone Reading a Book on the Subway.

16. 25 Ways to Stop Feeling Overworked and Overwhelmed from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

17. unexpected california eclectic on SF Girl by Bay.

18. Wisdom from Rachael Maddox, “Magic is the natural and spontaneous aligned activity that happens on the other side of presence and compassion.”

19. Some things that made me really angry this week: Charlize Theron Negotiates $10M Raise After Sony Hack Reveals Male Costar Was To Be Paid Millions More, and 100 serial rapists identified after rape kits from Detroit Crime Lab are finally processed, and The brutal secrets behind ‘The Biggest Loser.’

20. Self-Taught Chinese Street Photographer Takes China By Storm With His Perfectly Timed Photos on Bored Panda.

21. My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.

22. Trapped In His Body For 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free on NPR.

23. Ellen DeGeneres Humorously Responds to Pastor Who Accused Her of Promoting the “Gay Agenda” in Hollywood.

24. Quitting Sugar Is Not The Answer.

25. On Stuff by Meghan Genge.

26. Wisdom from Chögyam Trungpa, on how meditation leads to wisdom,

Out of that precision and refinement comes gentleness. You are not just paying attention, but you are also aware of your own pain and pleasure, and you develop sympathy and friendship for yourself. From that you are able to understand, or at least see, the pain and suffering of others, and you begin to develop a tremendous sense of sympathy for others. At the same time, such sympathy helps the mindfulness-awareness process develop further. Basically, you become a gentle person. You begin to realize that you are good: totally good and totally wholesome. You have a sense of trust in yourself and in the world. There is something to grip on to, and the quality of path or journey emerges out of that. You feel you want to do something for others and something for yourself. There is a sense of universal kindness, goodness, and genuineness.

27. 23andMe is a DNA analysis service providing information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA, ancestry-related genetic reports. I kinda wanna do it.

28. How to set goals & commitments that you’ll actually keep from Alexandra Franzen.

29. Good stuff from Be More with Less: Defeat the Clutter that Defeats Your Purpose and Women Can Be Minimalists Too.

30. Please Don’t Start Meditating (Unless You’re Willing to Change) from Lodro Rinzler. Also from Lodro, A Meditation for Morning Intention.

31. My Accidental Book Deal from Laura Simms. I love this part,

The editor had already reached out to another coach about being the author, but she already had a book in the works and couldn’t take another one on. She recommended me.

That’s it.

Someone recommended me. I’m not close to this person, we’ve never met in person. We’ve exchanged some complimentary words on Twitter. That’s the extent of our relationship. She just thought I’d be a good fit for the book.

And I had almost four years of writing samples on my blog to speak for me. And had released two ebooks on my own. And built a decent social media presence. Of course, there’s that. Let’s not discount all of that work. If luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then I had done my side of the equation.

So that’s my accidental book deal. The book that showed up when I was just minding my own business, doing the work, and being visible.

32. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: Benefits of Massage (Infographic) and 10 Signs You’re In A Codependent Relationship.

33. Good stuff from Lion’s Roar: Buddha’s Daughters: An Interview with Insight Teacher Gina Sharpe and George Takei’s six best Buddhist posts.

34. Truthbomb #711 from Danielle LaPorte: “Make choices that liberate you.”

35. The 17 Naughtiest Dogs Of 2014.

36. Trust the Timing of Your Life, wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

37. Blink Now. “The BlinkNow Foundation’s mission is to provide an education and a loving, caring home for orphaned, impoverished and at-risk children.” This organization was founded by a single teenager, who is now Mom to 50+ children she’s adopted. Kinda makes you want to get off your ass, doesn’t it?

38. Sukha on the Squam blog.

39. Authentic Success in the New Year ~ with a little help from Liz Gilbert.

40. Your Turn Challenge, starts today. Read more of the backstory in Seth Godin’s blog post, Getting unstuck (a one week challenge).

41. Photo Battle: Katja Blichfeld vs. Ellen Van Dusen. So fun.

42. Neil Gaiman Shares The Easiest Way To Become A Successful Writer on BuzzFeed.

43. The unofficial comfort foods of every state in America. I wholeheartedly agree with the choices for Colorado and Oregon.

44. Syrup sandwiches and stolen toilet paper: Reddit users describe growing up poor.

45. A Note from the Universe, “All deliberate change, Jill, first comes from denying the logic that most gives you comfort.”

46. The Most Important Question of Your Life from Mark Manson. It’s not what you think.

47. Changing the World, One Word at a Time! | The Queen Latifah Show.

48. This Video Encouraging Women To Be More Active Has Gone Viral on BuzzFeed.

49. The Reason You Make Unhealthy Choices. Spoiler alert: “Self-compassion — accepting yourself without judgment when times get tough — is linked to better health behaviors.”

50. Rowdy Kitten’s Happy Links: From The Good Life to Gratitude. Tammy was one of the contributors to the Self-Compassion Saturday eBook and shared the link on her list this week.

51. The myth of perfection from Susannah Conway.

52. The things we’d rescue from the fire from Judy Clement Wall. The New York Times piece Judy links to is also worth reading, What Would You Grab in a Fire?

53. 19 Badass Instagrammers Who Prove Yoga Bodies Come In All Shapes And Sizes on BuzzFeed. Just one of the reasons Instagram is awesome.

54. When Their Cat Found Baby Ducks, They Never Expected This To Happen. So much cute.

55. Letter from the Birmingham Jail from Seth Godin.

Taking Refuge

my meditation shrine

my meditation shrine

The first time I attempted meditation was almost 20 years ago. I was reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart and books on writing by Zen Buddhist Natalie Goldberg. I was fascinated by the philosophy, the perspective, the practice, and willing to try anything that might help me cope with the difficulty of my life, my emotions and my mind. Even though I found it beneficial, sat regularly for a short time with a Zen meditation group and on my own, the practice didn’t stick. I didn’t even finish reading Kornfield’s book.

I continued to struggle for eleven more years before finding my way back to a cushion. A friend recommended Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart and mentioned that the local Shambhala Meditation Center had a program coming up I might be interested in, “The Art of Being Human.” I read the book and went to the training, and started to practice in earnest. For two years, one weekend a month I was either attending a retreat or staffing one. I read and studied and practiced. This was the same time I started to practice yoga regularly. Things were falling into place.

And then everything fell apart. I had already been dealing with a difficult work situation, was stressed and in crisis, when my Obi was diagnosed with a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. At the same time, my friend Kelly was diagnosed with cancer. That summer I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to participate in a longer retreat, Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the two years of training I’d been doing. Not long after I returned home, Obi died. Six months later, Kelly died. Even though I didn’t leave CSU entirely, I effectively quit the job that was so problematic.

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

I was completely heartbroken, utterly lost, so confused. After two years of regular practice, I couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I sat on my cushion to meditate, I fell part, felt so raw, came unhinged and couldn’t stop crying. I was angry — if this practice couldn’t help me feel better when the worst happened, what good was it? I smile to remember it now, that way of thinking about what practice was supposed to do for me. What I understand now that I didn’t then is that my raw and tender broken heart, being able to feel that, experience it, sit and stay with it is exactly the point, not making it “go away” or fixing it like I thought.

Practice starts precisely where we find ourselves, which for many of us is a place of heartbreak, suffering, alienation and doubt. But it is precisely there, within those circumstances, that we start. ~Ryushin Sensei

For at least a year, I tried to find my way back to my cushion. I would practice in fits and starts, but it never seemed to stick. I continued to practice yoga and slowly started to write more regularly. I started taking ecourses and began this blog. I started building a routine, finding a rhythm. And then I found Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project, (OHP). I signed up for her newsletter and started meditating with her. Her wisdom, kindness, and friendship, along with the OHP community, helped me find my way back.

meditating with Susan

The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you — when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever — you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about taking refuge vows. I’ve been telling people for so long “I study and practice Buddhism, but I’m not actually a Buddhist, haven’t taken vows or anything,” that I wondered if I ever would. But I’ve been feeling a longing, a growing awareness — this is my path, I’m committed to it. Like I told a teacher once, “if this doesn’t work, nothing does.” For whatever reason, this is just what makes sense to me. It helps me to live my life, to be in the world, to cultivate kindness and wisdom, sanity. And yet, I have been waiting, for either an opportunity that was close to home or one Susan Piver could attend, because it felt important to me to have her there somehow, since she’s the primary reason I’d be there.

Then I got certified to teach yoga. We studied yogic philosophy as part of our training, meditated, did mantra and kirtan practice, learned various breath practices and the sanskrit names for the yoga poses, read the yoga sutras — and I loved it all, saw so many similarities between it and my tradition, but also became very aware that it wasn’t my path. Yoga is one of my practices, and part of my path as such, but I’m not so much a yogini as I am a Buddhist who does yoga.

Becoming a yoga teacher made it clear it was time to make a true commitment to my path. I searched to see where I might go to take my vows, and saw that the Boulder Shambhala Center was offering the ceremony two days before my birthday. Susan couldn’t be there, but she did write my letter of recommendation. The teacher who would be performing the ceremony had taught at my Warrior Assembly, and when I arrived the night we went to make our official request to make the vow, a friend was leading our meditation session. It was time.

boulderrigden

Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center Main Shrine Room

I asked Susan her advice about taking vows in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, and she said, “Relax. Watch your mind. Enjoy. Relax. Repeat … And remember, you have nothing to prove. This ceremony is to mark something that has already happened.” I tried to remember this as I waited for my interview with Acharya Ferguson (“Acharya” in this tradition basically means “senior teacher”), and even though he’s the kindest person and I’d met him before, I was still nervous. The purpose of the interview is to make a formal request to take the vow and for the teacher to come up with the dharma name you’d be given the day of the ceremony. We were told that he might ask us questions, but might not. The person who went in just before me was talking and laughing with him, and I wasn’t sure what to wish for — if he didn’t ask me any questions, was that good or bad? Part of me wanted him to see me and for my presence to be so vibrant, my true self so clearly embodied and present that he would know just by seeing me. I think I was also afraid if I opened my mouth, I might say something weird because I was anxious and end up with an odd name that didn’t fit, didn’t make sense to me.

In Tibet, children are given a nickname when they are born. This is what everyone calls them until they are old enough to take their refuge vows and receive their adult, Buddhist name. In that culture, everyone given a name uses it. In the West, many dharma students don’t actually change their name, but rather use it as a contemplation. We were told that the name isn’t meant as a compliment or a challenge, but rather something to consider as we practice, intended to offer insight, and that it was entirely up to us whether we wanted to officially change our name, use it in that way. I felt sure my name would be a message, that it would provide me a new understanding of my path. And during my meeting with Acharya Ferguson that night, he did ask me a few questions, and I could see the exact moment he knew the name he’d offer me.

heartgiftOn the day of the ceremony, I focused on Susan’s advice. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Acharya Ferguson gave a talk in the morning about what it meant to take refuge, and then we did sitting and walking meditation until lunch, contemplating what we were about to do. After a break to eat, we came back and had a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom. ~Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The ceremony itself was a funny combination of something like a baptism and a wedding, along with something else entirely. After you take the vow, reciting it three times after performing prostrations, the teacher (referred to in this case as a preceptor) snaps his fingers, and it’s at that moment the vow is made. My favorite moment was that finger snap. It was so simple and yet so definite. My next favorite moment was receiving my dharma name.

As I stood in line, listening to all the other names, I wondered if mine would be so good. Every person’s name seemed so rich, so full of beauty and possibility and wisdom. Every name that was read, I thought “oh, I wish that was mine!” I worried I’d get something that would be awkward or confusing. I’d talked to other people about their names, and listening to them describe their lingering confusion, I anticipated my own.

dharmanameI didn’t need to worry. There’s a rightness to the name I was given. I will continue to contemplate it, but my first thought was an appreciation of the way it married the concept of vastness, openness, emptiness with embodiment, movement, physical expression. I used to long to be a visionary, an oracle, a seer, a prophet of some sort, but I’m understanding more and more than my purpose is to be a container, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

You go through this ceremony which is like part baptism and part wedding and you expect to be born again somehow, cleansed or something, a new beginning, but really I’m just back in the heat of my own stew, laughing at how silly I was to think anything was going to be magically changed by it. I have to do the work, show up and practice, it’s up to me and that’s never going to change. This is my path, for sure and for real.

The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

Something Good

1. My Sisters, The Sugar Junkies on Guinevere Gets Sober.

2. The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober, Jennifer Matesa’s latest book which releases in a few days. I was lucky enough to get an early copy, and it’s so so so good. It gives you the research, the facts, and examples of the stories of various specific people, as well as Jennifer’s own story of addiction and recovery. As with her other writing, this book is brutal in its truth, but elegantly written, compassionate, and so helpful.

3. I am so in love with the new banner on Rowdy Kittens. Tammy shared a link to the site of the artist who created it, and the first post on her blog is all about an offer she’s making to illustrate blog headers. I have been thinking about the site I’m building for the work I’ll be doing teaching and writing, and I am so excited about the opportunity to commission Philippa. Her work is exactly what I was picturing in my head. Thanks, Tammy!

4. 27 Stressful Things You Tolerate Too Often from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

5. Roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and apples recipe from Back to Her Roots. Roasted brussel sprouts are one of my favorite things.

6. Who is in charge of you? Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook. My favorite line is this: “ultimately, other people can only help me; they cannot save me.” Also from Elizabeth on Facebook, Every Journey is a Spiritual Journey and The Most Strangely Reassuring Advice I Ever Received.

7. 5 Signs You Are Coming Alive on Rebelle Society.

8. Wisdom from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

9. Wisdom from Dilgo Khyenste Rinpoche, “Try to see all your joys and sorrows as if you were watching a movie, letting go of of the idea that you have to strive hard to avoid what is unpleasant. This will make your happiness indestructible.” (Thanks for sharing, Sandra).

10. ST. VINCENT – Official Trailer (2014) [HD]. This movie has some of my favorite actors. Anyone seen it yet?

11. The Dark Knight of the Soul on The Atlantic, which discusses the potential dark side of meditation.

12. Wisdom from Walt Whitman, “I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness.”

13. Deep Thoughts From a Late Bloomer on Flingo.

14. A Loving Pledge to Smarten the Fuck Up on Rebelle Society.

15. At The Age Of 29, Brittany Is Ending Her Life In A Courageous Way.

16. Talking to a Dead Man: Conversation with a Gang Member in Detroit on Medium. The man in question says at one point, “More kids mean more poverty, more crime when they join the gangs, more trouble for everyone. It should just all end with us dying.” I sure hope there’s another way…

17. Video: Here’s Life Inside A Bed-Stuy Squat. So incredibly sad.

18. Mary Lambert talks her new album, new girlfriend and new attitude with the New York Post.

19. Wisdom from Tara Brach, “Mindfulness is a pause — the space between stimulus and response: that’s where choice lies.”

20. Wisdom from Chögyam Trungpa,

It is said in the texts that those who have attained the highest level of enlightenment suffer more than ordinary people. Their suffering is like the difference between having a hair in your eye as opposed to feeling a hair touching your palm. You feel much more. In other words, they are more in tune with how other people feel. That kind of discomfort is necessary in order to work for others. Positively speaking, it’s like the ache a mother or father would feel if their child cries. But there is another form of discomfort that arises from losing your grip on how to maintain your ego, which is not necessary. That kind of discomfort is an extra burden. So suffering could be very helpful or it could be somewhat of a nuisance.

21. 8 Compelling Reasons to Live with Less from Be More With Less.

22. Why You Should Start Blogging (Even If You’re Not a Writer) on Medium.

23. Unbearable Compassion from Ram Dass, in which he says, “if you armor your heart you starve to death” and,

Here’s where the faith comes and the faith is deepened through your own practices, through your own direct experiences. It’s not belief that someone hands you. It is faith that comes from your own direct experiences. So you learn to keep your heart open in hell. Finally.

24. Which reminded me of this, Louis C.K. Hates Cell Phones, and what he had to say about “the forever empty.”

25. Marriage by Jeff Oaks.

26. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson,

To do this work, you have to know center. You have to know it well enough to let circumference shift without collapsing the shape of you. You have to know center well enough that you can hold space for those you love when they lose their step, when they lose center, when they falter. To do this work, you have to be willing to hold center like a focal point so those who crash on your shores can do so without fear that you will make it about you. Even when it affects you to your core. Even when it hurts you to see them hurting or struggling or making dumb decisions or acting base or mean. Because to do this work, you have to be spacious enough to actually hold space for others. To do this work, you have to be committed to being a light in the darkness, an anchor in the many baffling storms we endure. If you drown every time someone you love is drowning, this is not the work for you. If you lose your center so easily when someone you love is lost, this is not the work for you. If your reaction to hard times or discomfort is judgment and aversion, this is not the work for you. If someone else’s trauma inevitably becomes your own, then this is not the work for you.

27. Big challenges and small wins from This (Sorta) Old Life. Because, this:

In the midst of a big hard time, it’s good to have some small wins. It’s good to be reminded that little fixes can make a big difference in how we feel. It’s good to feel competent. It’s good to remember that no time is all good or all bad, and that the important thing is to keep moving forward, doing what we can. Sometimes that’s the only way we can do home, and life.