I was standing in the kitchen of the outdated apartment we struggle to afford, injured dog across the main room looking out at me from his new crate hoping for potatoes, rubbing the pinched neck that was my pinched back a few days ago and getting ready for a job that like all jobs, I both love and loathe (and need even more than I did before taking said dog to the Vet), when I found myself smiling, bubbles of “I love my life” permeating the air.
It made no sense, wonderfully, and reminds me ~ spaciousness is always available. There is always room. One doesn’t have to pretend that things aren’t hard when they’re hard, or that there aren’t worries when there are. But that’s not all there is.
In celebration, here are a few more photos of Fairchild Gardens. 🙂
From Tuesday afternoon until Friday night, I slept, then Friday night through Sunday, attended an online (Dzogchen) retreat. Today, Monday, I’ve spent restless, neither sleeping nor awake, neither up nor down, watching snippets of things on my computer, half interested. I should be studying Spanish, but feel blurry-minded.
[ Entry: The week of our Covid-19, 2022. ]
Honestly, I’m already looking back on the retreat time, acknowledging the opportunity with a sense of importance and awe, although certainly, I wasn’t able to live up to what I’d envisioned my part of things to be: meditating in between sessions, taking contemplative walks. Quite ill, I had to make an on-the-spot exception, choosing to believe that given my situation, the teachers would have permitted my dizzy slouchy attendance.
At some point one of the Rinpoches did ask those in attendance not to take formalities lightly, not to lean back lazily listening. I was laying on my side as he said this, contemplating the ethics of recording the teachings, my eyes struggling to stay open, stomach cramping. They couldn’t see me, but in that moment I thought, even if they can, let’s just be really real. As my therapist says, life is “Come as you are.”
There’s a discussion to be had about accessibility, but this is a good example of why practitioners are encouraged to meet with teachers individually, address particularities and receive permissions in line with unique aptitudes and situations [a la skillful means].
In any event, I’m glad I made the call to attend; drowsiness and all, it was truly wonderful, and interestingly, my condition may have rendered me more receptive than otherwise. No temptation to multitask nor worry about what needed to be done in the apartment (there was plenty), I lapsed from time to time into vivid little dreams animating what was being transmitted, letting the boundaries blur until ‘I’ was neither here nor there.
It was especially interesting to lose myself into dynamics of translation, where it was sometimes impossible to see where translator left off and teacher began. The process was just so easy and wide open, not like work being done. I’ve experienced this a rare few times… ‘no doubt’ within some relationship dynamic; it can be close to the experience of creative flows one can’t consciously recognize until looking back, like “Man, where was I!?”
It was a loving retreat, focused precisely where my last blog post left off: timelessly luminous nature of mind.
After we closed, I fell asleep listening to a beautiful White Tara Lunar yoga nidra ritual through Tibet House US, feeling cradled and soft. Tara has been active in my awareness persistently for a few weeks now, as Green Tara in a sadhana shared by a friend where I also learned the Condensed Praises; as a friend at work by the same name who has been helping bring more awareness to the way I treat my body with food; to this practice; to happening upon another Lama suggesting Tara practices when praying for Ukraine, earlier in the day. Ah, and actually a few weeks ago I went into Second Life, showing the Green Tara Temple to another friend, and meditated there.
It’s funny to me that my friend Tara is not only not Buddhist, but doesn’t seem to have even referential knowledge of Buddha Tara. It reminds me how disparate our worlds can be, even as people who occupy the same city, job, age group, etc. I made a little comment once, that she was a buddha for me (I’ve learned a lot from her at work as well), and her face hardened a bit, not complimented, so I’ve never brought it up again, although we did have a nice conversation about faith in general.
I think she considers my Buddhism to be ‘belief’ in Buddha the way many Christians would say they ‘believe’ in Jesus. And that’s fine with me, for her to think that. Who am I to say it isn’t, anyway.
A strange thing has happened now that tossing and turning has fallen away from nighttime explorations; I find myself reliving alternate scenarios such as “What if married life with G had taken this turn?” Last night, I was the one working more, coming home to be shown our baby’s head lifting up with strength for the first time, other things. The dream was bright, not magical, but there was contentment.
When I have these dreams, there is often then residue of other dreams remembered, fragments of scenarios wherein I see my true wishes and have a chance to play them out, even if just a bit. They become experiences I have had, therefore are in a different category from pie-in-the-sky wishes. These desires genuinely feel sort of checked-off, although not fitting into what the circumstances of my life say is true.
Exploring virtual worlds was like this, too. Had I kept a journal then, I could have written that I began the day with a morning balloon ride before landing in a field of flowers where a deep international discussion ensued. I could have described dancing in outer space with someone who felt familiar, but I didn’t know, just as I might recount a dream. These accounts would have been true, suspending so-called knowledge that neither balloon nor flowers were real balloon and flowers. But what is real?
In some ways, those experiences felt more real, exactly because of the layer of true-knowing that they weren’t. That’s hard to describe, but neuroscience so far concurs that vivid imaginations and memories can weigh as much, matter as much–if not more–as so-called real life happenings, when it comes to our day to day responses and choices.
I believe we are less alive and awake in our lives when we forget what we’re experiencing at any given time, is not the whole truth. What we know about one another’s intentions, wrapped up in past experience and read-outs of such, is a story we’re actively telling that would disappear if we stopped actively telling it. So really, we have a great deal of freedom.
The starkest of my recent nighttime dreams remains that of mourning my grandfather’s death alongside my mother and sister, generating care and okay-ness, moving into a next, more loving phase of life together. That’s not the scenario that played out, but it has brought me comfort to go back to that dream, and that dreaming self, and say “I see you.”
When accused of ill intentions, or when I imagine that I’m accused of such, there is a deeply rooted knowing there, reminding me of what I really aspire toward when my guard is all the way down, which is love. Forgiveness too, yes, within that, but not a keep-the-fragile-peace forgiveness: an honest forgiveness, wherein people who love each other love each other in full view of failures and misunderstandings and doubts, as well as victories and reliefs and good works/intentions. Who wish each other well, even-or-especially in ways that don’t benefit our (material) selves.
One reason so much spaciousness occurred when my mother exited is precisely that the shaky ground which kept me on-guard all the time, finally just gave way as I feared. Which doesn’t mean I wanted it that way.
For a long time I couldn’t look objectively at my background, because to do so would make it very hard to continue that relationship without some kind of acknowledgement–not for the acknowledgement itself, but what the acknowledgement would mean for our future. Since then, I’ve been able to see that choices had already been made, to build a new life and backstory my existence contradicts; love for me might indeed require risking that construction. Judging by the way I’ve so far kept specifics mostly to myself however, only willingness to risk would be required.
None of this means love itself isn’t possible. Indeed suffering occurs when I try to deny love its place. I want to let love have expression, even when I don’t understand, even when I want to cry “Unfair! Unfair!” Leaving aside individual responses to particular situations in moments which arise, in general, I have to be on love’s side to be happy.
I’m reminded that during my first real therapy sessions, when (the first) Dr. W tried to take me through visualizations of support, building layers of ground beneath me, I still couldn’t find stability. Something insisted on holding out for The Real Deal. Those visualizations indeed turned out to be a kind of priming before the insight of groundlessness took precedence.
“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.” ”
― Chögyam Trungpa
Is there a chance the current wish-fulfilling dreams point to something yet deeper as well? What is the territory I’m actually meant to explore? Buddhism loves the concept of the wish-fulfilling gem, which I’ve taken to be (the mind of) Naturally Occurring Timeless Awareness, a la Longchenpa. These dreams may themselves act as objects of meditation, or taken together, as a singular koan.
“Naturally occurring timeless awareness—utterly lucid awakened mind— is something marvelous and superb, primordially and spontaneously present.
It is the treasury from which comes the universe of appearances and possibilities, whether of samsara or nirvana.
Homage to the unwavering state, free of elaborations.”
Body is getting ready to work at the store, second day back after a month’s leave. Mind hasn’t quite caught up; it floats like a balloon a little behind, working through the thousand half-teachings ingested while on break. To soothe mind, I suggest we lean into appreciation instead, let understanding tend to itself.
Which jostles loose the preoccupation.
I arrive to work on time, overriding compulsively early tendencies. No car meditation; instead I listen to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way to get into some mood. It’s one of a handful of songs that take the edge off, let me ease into a more public persona, along with Shania’s Up!, or ABBA’s I Still Have Faith in You. Tier B is a slightly different vibe, with Barbra singing On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or Judy’s The Trolley Song. Once in a while, NCT’s Baby Don’t Stop hits the right spot. Or, despite my efforts to resist, BTS.
You get the idea.
People think I’m joking when I set goals not to arrive to places early, assuming this to be a humble-brag, but shifting gears has always been a challenge for me, no matter how fond I am of bardo teachings. In fact, this is probably why I’m so fond of them. The buffers I install around modes and roles become modes and roles themselves, which isn’t really a problem until a small meeting requires large buffers, squeezing out other worthy things. I would be well on the way with my knitting project if instead of arriving too early to a tiny check-in-and-fix with my teacher, I simply risked being a few minutes late.
Although several diagnoses might be suggested by such tendencies, my therapist never goes there. Instead she often praises the toolbox I’ve built for myself. The car can be a great place for meditation, after all. Having worked with, and having friends on the non-neurotypical spectrum, has also imparted perspective.
Andrew Holocek on Buddha at the Gas Pump. So many wonderful quotes, but his passionate interest in dream yoga is why I’ve read some of his books several times. I may not lucid dream much these days, but the interview was a spark ignited to remember this way of being.
“Awareness of Being, is bliss.” Nisargadatta
I’ve felt a little shamed out of sharing dreams over time, concerned doing so was full of self, rather language to study with others inclined. I do actually believe, as many teachers do, that dreaming can be a rich practice ground, coupled with view, yet know that becoming fixated on what dreams mean to “me, my fortune, etc.” solidify rather than liberating experience. Over-editing what one shares may be as much of an issue.
Whether small amounts of practice in sleep are equivalent to large amounts of time in other kinds of meditation as some say, I’m less sure of. “Dreaming is code language for manifestation of mind” Andrew says, and an awakened one (Buddha) wouldn’t experience dreaming and daily life differently. They might live life itself as a malleable dream-like reality.
This wonderful image and description is fromOkar Research Blog, which I highly recommend glancing at:
Gyuma Chenmo (Dream-Dakini)….is the Dakini of dream., invoked and visualized in dream yoga-practice in the Ma Gyu (Mothertantra).
A few new-to-me terms came up in the interview. as well I’ve studied very little Hinduism or even Advaita Vedanta, but it comes up along the way.
Turiya In Hindu philosophy, turiya (Sanskrit: तुरीय, meaning “the fourth”) or chaturiya, chaturtha, is pure consciousness. Turiya is the background that underlies and pervades the three common states of consciousness. The three common states of consciousness are: waking state, dreaming state, and dreamless deep sleep.
Turiyatita – state of integration where awareness is never lost [“beyond fourth”] / pure consciousness/non-dual awareness
Turīyātīta (तुरीयातीत):—Pratyabhijñā claims that the state of perfection achieved by its sādhana is beyond and above the turīya, the “fourth state” of the Upaniṣads: it is Turīyātīta, Śiva-consciousness, in which the individual experiences the self as identical with the entire universe and with Śiva. [Wikipedia]
Turiya, also called Chaturtha is the stage of transcendental consciousness where the individual experiences ultimate reality and truth. This state is inexperienced by the five senses and indescribable, incomprehensible by the mind which is tied to continuous cycle of births. The transcendental mind is within itself a possibility of creating anything and everything that mind conceives and the possibilities are infinite. In this state the individual experiences the sleepless sleep or bliss, witnessing similarities of macrocosm and microcosm and is well aware of the union of Self and Absolute. Here the individual is aware of his own consciousness but remains in object-subject relationship with the world around. This is intermediate Savikalpa Samadhi.
Turiyatita or Chidakasa is the stage where the Self ceases to function since the ‘mind-space’ transforms itself into mindless-space in absolute spirituality, which never manifests itself. At this point, there is no question of return to oneself, since it becomes one with the Supreme by the grace of unmanifested spirituality and obliterates dualism. Here there is selflessness, no-mind, no-duality the object-subject relationship disapear. This is ultimate, highest state of non-dual union with ones own consciousness this is Nirvikalpa Samadhi. https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/five-stages-of-consciousness
I couldn’t help but hear Krishnamurti in this. There’s also a section in I AM THAT where Nisargadatta describes knowing himself as timelessness. “Timelessness” he said, “knows time, but time can’t know timelessness.” (You can’t get there from here.)
There’s an ‘ocean is also in the drop’ argument that might be made, but maybe another day. 🙂
If the meditator is able to use whatever occurs in his life as the path, his body becomes a retreat hut. ~ Jigme Lingpa
So, for all my listening to Buddhist audios and contemplating bardos, when I came out from under anesthesia I was playing Pokemon rather than chanting mantras or meditating on bliss! My fingers were pushing buttons of a (nonexistent) video game controller as I emerged, solving who knows what. Funny.
I had tried to let the process be a micro run-through of what many say it is like to die [entering alone], attempting a sample of mind. I did see that although loneliness doesn’t have to be the case–my great grandmother talked to angels in her hospital room before passing–there did seem to arise stark aloneness for me beforehand, and with that, anxiety.
Pronouncing the aloneness was indifference of medical staff talking over my head about how long or short their shifts were, which ones were unlucky in getting which patients. An anesthesiologist asked for music preference; I began to chime in, but it wasn’t me she wasn’t asking. I wasn’t there as a person to interact with.
There was also the pre-registration question of religious affiliation, to which I answered “None”, then questioned what I might have said. As much as we live in a time when everyone easily professes to be meditating or doing yoga, Buddhism still gives pause.
Still, I should probably have some answer. I’ve accepted that the death process described in Buddhist texts is not possible for most lay practitioners in the US (especially those outside of near Buddhist community), and part of me thinks, that being so, what does it matter if a priest or rabbi comes to my bedside? Perhaps any stranger with a kind heart will do, or a “none”, like me.
(I wanted to be a nun when a child, until told that was just for Catholics.). 😉 Buddhism didn’t arrive on my radar until I was at least 17.
Another take-away is that I’m actually less guarded than I thought. I love the wise humor of a Pokemon game mingling with bardo teachings; it feels like a mischievous lesson about lightening up! The bardo course isn’t so different from a modern video game if you think about it… meeting monsters, discerning false leads, not going this way but that, keeping a clear mind sans panic, etc.
“Don’t worry, there is nothing real about your confusion.” ~ Lojong
I’m surprised! It’s been over a week since I wrote the previous entry, during which time I’ve listened to several Vajrayana related audio books–a few multiple times. Not all the lessons (mostly talks given during retreats) hit me the way Bliss of Inner Fire did, but understanding feels to have taken a leap, integrating the disparate knowledge too easily left in piles all over my mind.
Integrated knowledge comes with such feeling of relief! So much that seemed wasted or lost reveals itself as quite there, within a larger vision. All is re-contextualized as the mandala mosaic finds its flow again.
Energy is freed!
I’m so glad that although it seems indulgent to hunker down into binge mode with these books, I’ve continued. The freed energy contains its own will to follow through, and understands how best to concentrate those efforts. Now, to let it.
A few years ago, I changed strategies about spiritual practice, frustrated with what I labeled my obsessive and indulgent tendencies: staying in learning mode and not ‘doing anything with’ what I’d been learning. But I wonder now, whether that shift was unwise, untrusting of intuition. “Not doing anything with” is a judgement made by someone on the outside, not actually what I believe to be true.
The critical voice has lessened with meditative spacious and therapy, yet I do survey the landscape from time to time, grieve what has been forfeited in pursuit of its pacification. I ask, What would someone who loves me, say? She would say that although my process may not look like that of others, it is worthy nonetheless.
When things come together and open, I’m reminded how fortunate I am, to be on the path I’m on… that even dropped in the middle of a family that could be hellish and frightening, abandoning and cruel, my aspiration stubbornly leans toward compassion, practices of love and bliss and goodness.
From the corner of a room where my mother’s body lay beaten, I wrote this poem.
French doors frame a trapped child frozen In an instant.
Soul split, I walked away, leaving in tact the rest I now return for, with a pen.
The above was written over 30 years ago, dropped whole onto the page. I then read it, realized it was true. Writing has always been integrating, healing. Fortunate are those given (nod to Pullman) a subtle knife.
I set out to do a few restful-yet-meaningful things while out on a leave this month. Yet, surprise surprise, found several other rabbit holes instead, all of which led predictably back into my comfort zone of philosophy/creativity. The hook this time, was serendipity, looking into what progress might have been made on a study exploring such since last I checked (nothing that I could find). See: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-01405-7
This scientist identified a few ways serendipity seems to come about, an intriguing one of which of which is ‘controlled sloppiness’. The word itself traces back to a 1700s Persian fairy tale about The Three Princes of Serendip who were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” (Wikipedia) The description conjures a Monty Python skit, doesn’t it? Or something along the lines of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
I found a few podcasts, which led to audio books (I’d recommend The Flip as pretty okay with flaws), which I listened to while playing Archeus, a Pokemon game. 🙂 I then wandered over to Audible again and for laughs thought to look at Tibetan Buddhist offerings (I had low expectations). One can easily find Pema Chodron or a few others on audio, but what I wanted was something in keeping with my theme: imagination-based, tantric.
And what do you know, there are a few books by Lama Thubten Yeshe, even free with my Audible membership; the one I’m reading so far is perfect! Well, perfect without being perfectly read, for instance “Rinpoche” is pronounced “Rinposhe” throughout. Once you consider how often that word is used in any Tibetan Buddhist context, you’ll understand it is no small issue. 🙂 However, the pronunciation soon felt like a small price to pay for the wisdom that unfolded, resonated, soothed. It even became endearing after a while.
It’s an odd thing, but probably not as unusual as it feels to me, that I’ve never finished preliminary practices in a concerted way. I fell in love with certain mantras and visualizations, have practiced those fervently at times. Nevertheless, I’ve also been unusually fortunate in teachers and spiritual friends, some who have practiced traditionally for multiple decades, others who have beautifully cobbled together practices of their own. Life keeps giving me a lot to take in and far too much to narrow down, endless windfalls.
I want to remember something stated strongly in the book: Empowerment (ritual) only activates what is already there. The practices are about allowing allowing. Whether or how I do them is about my own receptivity, whether I give myself permission… sabbath for man rather than man for the sabbath, etc.
I once asked a teacher to help me grok the idea of karma in more than a zero-sum, exchange-level sense. It was early on and I’d not yet learned much about dependent co-origination. Even if I had, all that would have changed about my question is that I would have articulated it with more complexity and confidence.
What I wanted to understand was the experience of karma to a person, viewing their own life, but what I said was something like “A grand blossoming tree, heavy with fruit, grows healthily in the same grove another withers. Why?”
Perhaps I should have asked, “What’s a good way to work with the uneven and contradictory way (my) karma appears?”
“Appears” is a key word here. Being presented with a paradox/puzzle is a signal to grapple with non-duality; one is being asked to stay with a koan long enough to see meaning evolve. That’s tantra. The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa talks a lot about the “stubbornly persistent illusion” of karma and time, without using those terms, but I hear it. There’s even a me who groks it… the me who believes cultivating the inner garden comes first, trusts doing so. She’s the Mary, of ‘Mary and Martha’ fame, who leaves the guests and dirty dishes for later while Jesus speaks.
Began The Sole Panacea, a book about the Vajra Seven Line Prayer–a main text encountered throughout (Tibetan) Buddhist study. The first encounter with the prayer I remember, was at the Tsoru Dechen Rinpoche group here in Miami, where I later took in-person refuge vows (following remote ones) and began more formal practice. The prayer was one of many texts in a folder I was given a few visits in. Hm, that must have been in 2009! However, it was later, when introduced to Padmasambhava by a friend whose thanka image on a Mac Book desktop sparked my curiosity, that a real relationship with the figure, the prayer, the accompanying mantra began (as much as any idea of beginnings can apply) to form. Lately I notice I’m encountering more expressions of Padmasambhava, suggesting I look even closer.
The Prayer – photo below copied from Sevenlineprayer.com : [The version I practice is slightly different]
I’ve barely left the book’s intro and already have happened upon wonderful angles which when allowed to sufficiently sink in, subdue tendencies toward scattering attention and shallow focus I can’t contend with on my own. The first comes with the line I’ve titled this entry: non dual wisdom-light phenomena. This speaks to that ‘next step’ some humans seek to accomplish during our chance at precious life–a shift which comes not just with add-on spiritual language but indeed with ‘new’ awareness and ways of being, seeing, which means a whole new world of phenomena to be gotten acquainted with. It feels really clear, reading the way the book describes non-duality, that this simply is the practice.
I wonder what it would be like to live the subtle as default. Is that allowed? 🙂
There was a time in which mantras and recitations were keystone of practice, yet after moving into a small apartment, sharing thin walls with others, I, without intention or much awareness have practiced this way less and less. I feel it. Today is Losar, the beginning of a period in which accumulations are said to be multiplied, so would be a perfect time to renew, dedicating with a wish for peace, ongoingly and forever.
There is no 100% analogy, but one of the ideas I like to consider contemplatively is ‘outward’ life as a mirror of mind, and mind as a kind of petri-dish in which influences have a chance to interact. It does seem to me that although I can’t always choose the influences (I can choose some), I can and do bring a kind of base solution of mind into which those influences sit. The solution may be heavier or lighter, more or less agenda’ed or relaxed; influences and impressions will sit a longer or shorter time before giving read-outs or a suggestion.
Those awaited for precious read-outs might then be almost too subtle to hold, or read like giant billboards fallen across my path, forcing me to stop, or act.
Ah, I just had the biggest smile thinking of the film LA Story.
I wonder if it is still as great as I remember. 🙂
This isn’t meant to be a commentary on free-will btw, because I’m only describing how things seem. Admittedly, it is a dreamy sense of everything, likely rooted in years of dream practice and fantastical imaginative play.
But I think there’s something to it, too.
Now that I attend therapy sessions only every other week, there is so much to catch up on, but also greater chance for happenings to have taken a few different turns, or for circles to complete. The patterns are more intricate and leveled. Like this morning… I began with health, since health and anxiety around health appears to be a driving narrative at the moment., but the health conversation moved quickly into recent decisions I’ve made to trust myself in ways I hadn’t recognized myself doing, and some dare-I-say-it, stable corewell-being at the center of that confidence.
Valentine’s Day this year (even though I spent the actual day at a doctor’s office) was a chance to recognize the loving gestures I’ve made toward myself, believing my own impressions when chances have arisen to turn against myself instead. As we talked, disparate strings showed themselves to be not so disparate after all. I shared too, what I first framed as a very silly dream that nonetheless kept whispering “Look more deeply.” And indeed the dream became quite profound when mixed with my therapist’s humor and validation, our shared laughter bubbling over like that mischievous teenagers. Suffice it to say, there was an unlikely and out-of-place experience of intimacy, in which a pedestal-ed teacher was wonderfully ordinary.
In that ordinariness, life was easy, alive and free, and there was not a thing in the world I needed to do to earn that. Just let it be.