My dear friend Paula, whom I met on retreat at Tara Mandala, was kind enough to take a picture of me receiving a blessing from Lama Tsultrim during the refuge ceremony:
My dear friend Paula, whom I met on retreat at Tara Mandala, was kind enough to take a picture of me receiving a blessing from Lama Tsultrim during the refuge ceremony:
The wake up conch sounded much like what I imagine a dying water buffalo would sound like. Only worse.
After discussing it with Lama Tsultrim, I took refuge with her. She gave me the refuge name Rangrig Wangmo, which is Tibetan for “Powerful Woman of Innate Awareness.” And she symbolically cut off a lock of my hair! A lot of us took refuge on the final day of the retreat. All of our hair was to be buried in the earth at Prayer Flag Ridge. It was a far more emotional ceremony, and more free-flowing, than when I took my Zen precepts.
The kitchen made doggy bags for all of us on the 1:00 shuttle! We were driving up to the community building and saw one of the staff, Jessica, standing by the side of the road holding out sack lunches! So we all got lunch before traveling on.
The grain, quinoa, is indeed high in protein and has become a staple of my diet.
Paula and I meet by phone weekly to feed our demons together. Her support has been essential to my on-going practice.
I was accepted to graduate school for Buddhist Studies by the University of Sunderland in the UK. The program is conducted via distance learning. Hopefully, I will end up with a Master’s Degree. It’s not the same program I was considering during the retreat, but one I only found out about the day after my return. Classes start September 23rd.
I’m going to Kripalu in Massachusetts to learn Chod from Lama Tsultrim this November. I already have my place reserved and my airline tickets purchased!
After refuge ceremony:
Mudras: some are for energy flow, some are just customary.
Dreams are good fodder for demon feeding.
We can map inherited demons from our parents. Allies, too. Also, our demons & allies flow down to children & subordinates.
Prajna Paramita practice: practice outside when you can. Face away from the sun. “There’s something about sitting on mother earth.” Practicing at night is okay.
7-5-09 12:30 PM
We had a temple tour with Tsultrim. I set my pack down, so didn’t have this notebook when she began teaching.
Demons of Elation
Spiritual materialism. Warning signs: cutting back or stopping practice, using power inappropriately. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a position of authority. Just work for something larger than yourself. Take long, strict retreats. If necessary, give up the fame & move on.
Demons of Egocentrism
This is the root of all demons. They all spawn from this. You need to know when your energy field ends & the next person’s begins. (Sharpen the saw! Mind your own business! are good practices.) Nature of Mind practice is very helpful with these demons.
We take refuge in all the wrong places: temporary relationships (because all relationships are temporary), substances, etc.
Buddhist refuge: a commitment to go for refuge in the Buddha, dharma, sangha. A commitment to begin the journey back to the ground of being.
5 vows go with this:
“To practice virtue & stop practicing non-virtue.” – the Buddha, summing up the path
On eating meat: okay if it’s passed through 2 hands, said the Buddha. “A sentient being is anything that runs away when you try to kill it.” – Tsultrim
“They want to live as much as I do.” – Tsultrim
Partner work reminders
Confidentiality: don’t bring it up, even to them, unless they do
Judgment: no comments!
Timing: watch your partner. Ask for a head nod when they’re ready to move on.
Language: don’t say “I want you to…” or “do … for me.” Stick to the script!
Purist: don’t mix in other therapies.
Scribing for a partner: just enough that they can recall it later. A word or two, or a phrase. Pay attention to your partner!
Between questions, “Nod if this feels complete,” before moving on.
I fed a demon with Angel. It was a very fruitful experience! [Angel is the staffer who drove me up to Prayer Flag Ridge.]
I’m on the 1:00 shuttle tomorrow, which means no lunch. Ugh. Maybe the kitchen will give me a doggy bag… 🙂
Prajna Paramita review
Lion: symbolizes the fearless truth of the dharma. “Because, in a way, the dharma’s not all that reassuring.” Uncompromising investigation into the nature of reality. 4 lions hold up the corners of the throne.
Emptiness: “If an ant walked on this, would it experience it as a bell? If a dog looked at it, would the dog experience it as a bell?” “At what point does it become a table and for who is it a table?” “Your mother might be talking to your sister about you, thinking they’re talking about the same thing, but in reality, they’re both just talking about their ideas.”
The same is true of feelings, perceptions, karmic volition (impulses), & consciousness.
Not both, not neither.
9 breaths: passion, aggression, ignorance
Using a “support” in meditation: the breath, an object to look at, etc. An expression, like “Whatever thought arises: cut.”
Eventually, you stop and practice without an object. Then, even trying stops.
No object is used in Prajna Paramita practice. Fairly advanced method.
At death, 2 things are functioning: prana (lung) & karmic traces, which are part of the mindstream. At night, what is dreaming is the mindstream.
We’re extremely psychic after death. We often forget our part lives due to the intensity of being in the womb & being a baby.
We are addicted to clinging. When that stops, the mindstream clears. That is dharmakaya.
Dharma: the teachings
Kaya: formless dimension
Prajna Paramita sutra is considered very powerful & has healing qualities.
Peaceful deities are connected to the moon-disc. Wrathful deities are connected to the sun. When both are used, the deity is balanced.
Tsultrim believes there is an energy, a being, outside of our beliefs. Tara is one of them. We can connect with that enlightened mindstream. Sambhogakaya deities can be directly experienced. Dharmakaya deities are archtypes.
Prayer is opening your energy field to receive the loving energy that deities are putting out all the time (because it’s their nature to do so.)
You can receive a substance from them, called blessings.
Heart mantra – generates the power of the deity. Action mantra – removes the obstacle, takes the requested action, etc.
Machig said all demons are from the mind.
Transmission: transmit the experience (ex: the nature of mind) through words & practice. It’s personal. Being in person, you’re the in the energy field [of the teacher]; it’s a different experience than reading a book or listening to a tape/CD.
We just did clay work feeding our demons with a partner. Magnifique!
Dealing with resistance
Has not feeding this demon worked? No? Perhaps you can try feeding it just a little bit.
There is a tendency to recreate the demon because it’s familiar. It’s a habit. This is why in Chod, after the feeding, there is a teaching on the nature of mind. This is why we rest at the end of demon feeding.
Today has been a very emotional day, and I don’t feel much like journaling. In short, I snapped at someone (about a 2 on a 1-10 scale) and so apologized. That was the demon I fed using the clay, & it was very revelatory. Then someone else accidentally hit me in the head with a heavy cushion, & I felt all her embarrassment & regret.
I want to get to sleep early. I’m trying chamomile tea.
7-3-09 10:00 AM
You can work with dream images rather than finding the demon in your body & inviting it to manifest. It’s the unconscious wanting attention; give it attention & it can relax. Also, rather than use the literal image, you can use the feeling the dream provokes. Whether the person in the dream is dead or alive doesn’t matter; they’re all metaphors.
We worked with a partner. I fed my rage demon because of a powerful dream I had last night.
Demon work leads to non-duality. No deep analysis of symbolism is needed.
Demons don’t want to be fed out of existence! You can’t get rid of your demons by feeding them. We offer them love & compassion. Communicate with them, give them what they need. Work with them. You’re paying attention; you’re paying with your attention. We’re investing by giving them our intention & attention. Honoring the shadow.
Don’t get sidetracked by endless explanation & analysis.
The unconscious does not like to be commanded.
It doesn’t have to feel emotional to be effective.
The day thus far…
Got up at 6 AM & got a lift to the trail head. The last, steepest part was still a climb. It rained softly during Prajna Paramita practice. No matter. I was wearing Vin’s [my late brother-in-law] old rain jacket & draped a plastic trash bag over my lap.
My work crew (excuse me – karma yoga crew) & I are getting faster at sweeping & mopping. And I’m starting to dislike the job less.
Demon feeding was challenging. My partner did not guide me through the steps the way I thought she should! So I got to feed my impatience demon at the same time I was doing my “official” work!
Then we had to draw. I hate drawing because I always got poor grades in it in school. Yet today, I was very pleased with my drawing! It doesn’t look exactly like the demon, but it’s an accurate representation.
Yesterday’s water intake was about 80 oz. My joints are lubricated & loving me!
I had lunch with Paula, Mary, & 2 other great gals.
Then I went to a talk & book signing by Olivia Hoblitzelle. Her book is about her husband’s passage through Alzheimer’s & her journey with him. Her talk was moving. I especially connected with her remark that caring for her husband was her spiritual practice. That’s how I feel about helping Lisa [a friend with cancer], & I told her so when she signed my book. I look forward to reading it; I think it has a lot for me.
The talk was outside, on the west porch of the community building. I saw a lovely beetle get himself “turtled” and rescued him with a piece of hay. He grabbed on with all six legs, so I set him on the hay bale.
I finally got to talk to my roommate, Marian. That’s the trouble with noble silence in the evenings: the only time you’ve both in the room, you can’t talk! Anyway, she’s a therapist & a feminist. I like her a lot! We only overlapped by about 2 minutes, but we made them count!
Right now I’m sitting in front of the open windows, door open into the hall for a nice breeze, sipping a mug of hot cocoa. Life is good! 🙂
I miss Michael. I wish I could be sharing these experiences with him. Each day, I think of him & what he’s most likely doing. I’m not sure whether there’s racing today at Laguna Seca, or if it’s just time trials. I hope he’s having a great time!
I’ve had an insight up here. I’ve been asking the universe for guidance regarding my career. I even thanked it for not giving me the plum job at UCLA. Yesterday, I began to see the plan unfolding.
Had I gotten the UCLA job, my plan was to enroll in a Master’s program in Criminal Justice. It’s not what I really want to study, but it could help my career – no guarantees. When I didn’t get the job, I let go of the plan. I don’t have the required time with my current teaching load.
Of course, I had never discussed whether to apply at UCLA, or whether to enroll at ASU on-line, with the universe.
Yesterday I remembered what I really yearn to study: Buddhism. A practical Master’s is my parents’ paradigm, not mine. The universe has already opened the door to a Master’s in Buddhist Doctrine; I just have to walk thru.
Then I thought about the CEUs available & whether I could still sign up for them. I had believed the universe was guiding me to be a spiritual teacher, & here was this opportunity. I thought the cost was $15 per CEU. I did the math for 27 CEUs, freaked, prayed, & went to sleep.
This morning I woke up with the very clear intention of getting the CEUs if it wasn’t too late. I can afford it if I forego other things.
Then I found out that the additional cost was $15 total. I signed up. And I think I’ll be getting a Master’s in Buddhist Doctrine…
I just now noticed how many flowers are in the dharma room: 3 bouquets & a single blossom, the last on Tsultrim’s teaching table. We have flowers at the Zen Center, too: 2 identical bouquets, 1 on each side of the altar. The ones here are each different, placed with abandon, flowers for flowers’ sake. It strikes me as very feminine.
Training – Demon Feeding
I just completed the drawing demon feeding with Chelsea from my karma yoga crew!
You can do the extended ally work either during the demon feeding or independently. Looking for the inner guru, access your inner wisdom. Allies are archetypes.
Working with Kids
Demon feeding often works in one shot. Drawing is very effective because (perhaps) they don’t criticize their own “art.”
Doesn’t have to be rational; it’s not logos.
Try different media. Ex.: watercolor is hard to control, has a life of its own, & some interesting things may come out of this.
I ate with Paula, Karen, Steve from karma yoga, & 2 others. Very pleasant.
Tonight’s practice was Chod. I fed today’s demon during it, & the demon because my ally. I love Chod! It’s very healing.
I made a massage appointment for 2:30 Sunday. I’m looking forward to it! They use aromatherapy & mantras, too. My massage therapist, Maya, is a Chod practitioner.
Lama Tsultrim announced that Marian Form had died today: the classy lady I met at Sprit Rock who had “I C U MARA” tattooed around her wrist. She had breast cancer. I knew that during our brief acquaintance. WE were hardly friends, but her passing still makes me cry. Or maybe I’m crying out of fear for Lisa and Holly. Even for myself.
With Tsultrim’s permission, I did Ji Jong Bosal chanting for her in the temple. Farewell, Marian. May you have a good rebirth, gain enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.
It was too dark for me to find my way down to the residence hall. Coco, the “house mom,” was still at the temple and guided me down, holding my hand.
7-2-09 10:00 AM
Prajna Paramita review.
Dharmakaya deity is a metaphor for something that’s formless. They don’t have as much “personality” as the sambhogakaya deities. Dharmakaya deities are usually naked, very little adornment. Sambhogakaya deities have adornments representing the 6 paramitas [generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, meditation, wisdom].
I didn’t sleep well last night. At 5:21 AM I decided not to get up at 6 for sunrise Prajna Paramita practice. I didn’t want to fall asleep again during Tsultrim’s talk! However, my mind was much more active during breakfast & karma yoga.
Morning teachings were great! I fed my fear of abandonment demon.
Lunch with a very chatty lady. She was probably quite nice, but she couldn’t stop talking about her academic & career accomplishments long enough for me to find out.
Just like home! Now, alas, I’m craving sugar & carbs again.
Something here is upsetting my stomach. I’m not drinking tap water. The only other constant in my diet is the Goddess salad dressing. I’ll change & see what happens.
After lunch, I took a nap. A storm came & went, & I enjoyed the sound of the rain.
Training [Feeding Your Demons]
The difference between wants and needs.
Wants are on the surface, the superficial level, the way the demon “gets” you. Needs are what the demon is trying to address thru acting out. The demon will never be satisfied until its needs are met. That addresses the cause.
If the demon gets its need met, what is the feeling state it will be in? This may represent the need.
Ultimately, all of our demons need love & attention. We give compassion to a part of our psyche that we’ve been ignoring. “That’s not me, that my depression, addiction, etc.” Machig said we’re showing the demon its true nature.
Machig’s 4 demon types:
The basic level, belief that it’s always outside of us. (External locus of control.) Comes thru the senses. Reacting to an out sensation. Social fears. Physical illness.
Come up without any out simulation. It may once have had an outer source, but if it comes up without a trigger, now it’s inner. All relationship demons.
How to recognize a demon from a spiritual message: a demon drains your energy. A demon eats at you.
911 was a collective, cultural outer demon we’re still affected by. Other examples: the holocaust, homophobia, racism. Families have collective outer demons, like the death of a member, that can spawn individual demons for some of them.
Inner: depression not cause by a specific event. May be influenced by out events. Machig said we carry our inner demons all the time.
Keep partner work strictly confidential. Don’t even bring it up to them – their demon- unless they mention it & want to discuss it.
Role of active witness. Guide your partner through it. Follow the 5 steps on the form! J Judge how much time they need for each step.
Don’t give advice or comment, even after the session.
The active partner may write down the experience at the end, or the witness partner may scribe as the mediation goes.
Both partners generate intention.
As witness, if the active partner gets emotional, you don’t have to fix it, and you don’t have to be afraid.
The gods are our hopes, the other side of the coin from demons. Gods are obsessive, unhealthy longing, like an addictive craving. Then it may turn into a demon, like addiction does when it goes from longing to demanding. Addiction is a god-demon.
Longing for love; extreme form is stalking. The feeling that everything would be resolved if _____. “If only…” I think mine is financial security! And monogamy! Isn’t that interesting…
As the witness it’s okay to feel emotion with your partner. Just don’t get carried away! Be fully present for them.
Gods in this sense are like hungry ghosts. Ambition could be an outer god.
Don’t ask “why” in this process. That gets into analysis. We want to keep this in the body & out of the intellect.
Witness: don’t interject, not even a “hmm.” Don’t ask more questions. Stick to the script!
Give the active partner some time to rest at the end of Step 5.
I’m drinking ginger tea for digestion. No salad tonight, but my stomach’s upset again. So it’s something other than the dressing. Good. I love that dressing.
Afternoon training was great. My roommate, Marian, volunteered for the partner demon feeding practice [demonstration]. She was very open, & it was a moving experience.
I’m getting a ride from staff up to Prayer Flag Ridge for the sunrise Prajna Paramita practice. It’s an idea I got from Paula, who said, “I came here for the teachings. I know how to exercise.”
The ginger tea tastes good. I hope it works.
7-1-09 10:00 AM
Training w/ Lama Tsultrim
Prajna Paramita practice & demon feeding. Prajna Paramita is the gateway to the non-dual.
Kapala is based on teachings of Machig Ladron. Machig did Prajna Paramita training from childhood through her teens.
Interface of Buddhism & psychology: Kapala training. Chod is demon feeding, but too “foreign” for most Americans.
Tsultrim’s teacher of 18 yrs. Sent her a letter stating that psychology had no place in Buddhism, & feminism was non-dualistic. She took 4 yrs – 1 in solitary retreat – deciding to go her own way.
“Buddhism has to find its way in the West. It has to fit and it has to work for us.”
“Kapala” means skull cup – the container for feeding your demons.
Machig was born in 1055. Buddhism was reviving [in Tibet] at that time.
Release the ego, which is between us & that “vast presence.”
Our true nature is empty, luminous, cognizance.
Prajna Paramita – hands in the dharmashakra mudra.
Right – upper, outward, absolute truth
Left – lower, inward, relative truth
Bell: emptiness, feminine, sound doesn’t exist but it’s there
Vajra: masculine, transformation of the 5 skandas into 5 wisdoms, thru emptiness in the middle.
5 skandas become the 5 male Buddhas
Lion throne symbolizes the fearlessness of truth. Prajna Paramita sits on one, as doe the Buddha, & some Neolithic goddesses.
Purification of stale prana
Refuge was the first ceremony the Buddha did after his enlightenment. The 3 refuges of Buddha, dharma & sangha are subsumed in Prajna Paramita. Buddha as example, as human who woke up.
Namo – homage in Sanskrit
indescribable: beyond words
unfabricated: not made or developed, a state which is already present waiting for me to stop looking the wrong way. Discovery, not creation. Uncorrected.
Great Mother: all pervasive matrix. Great in the sense of profound. Mother: what we all come from. All Buddhas came from her.
Neither manifest nor empty: beyond establishing (it is) or negating (it’s not). Allowing paradox. Allowing a place for paradox. A state of non-judgment. She’s not something you can get a hold of with language. She must be experience. Non-verbal awareness.
Genetrix of the awakened state: she wakes us up.
Womb of totality: analogy to describe the primordial state. She exists outside conditioned existence. She permeates everything.
Tsultrim wrote the refuge prayer [from which the above phrase come], based on traditional sources. Also she wrote the bodhichitta & dedication [sections of the Prajna Paramita practice]. Prajna Paramita is nature of mind [practice] wearing pink. (Or yellow, in this case.) She has a quality of warmth. Feminine & nurturing. Mahayana.
All sentient beings have Buddha nature. Our fundamental condition is awake. Humans are unique in that we know that we know; we are aware that we are aware.
“Single-handedly” – the courage of the bodhisattva, who commits to saving all sentient beings by herself. “Sentient beings are numberless; we vow to save them all.” A goalless goal.
“My parents” – all beings have been our parents at one time.
Dharmakaya – the pure potential that has no form. It is the nature of the Great Mother.
Prajna Paramita practice is the absolute level, not the relative.
Prajna Paramita has 2 main seed syllables: Ah & Mum. Seed syllable: vibrational field. All deities have a vibrational field from which they arise.
Misc. notes on the day.
Woke up on my own at 6:00, made it out by 6:15. The hike to Prayer Flag Ridge was brutal. 20 min. at a quick pace set by our guide. I was out of breath, had both ears aching, & my teeth hurt. But sunrise Prajna Paramita practice was worth it!
Karma yoga involved sweeping for 45 min. The other people in my group, Chelsea & Steve, did mopping, too.
I couldn’t stay awake for Tsultrim’s talk, & my notes from that period make no sense. Luckily, she was going over material I had heard before, for the most part.
I had lunch with Paula from Santa Monica, whom I’d met on the shuttle, & some others. I feel like Paula & I are becoming friends.
After lunch, I made some purchases at the bookstore: some aromatherapy products I was running out of, a wrist mala, a silver chain since I’d been looking for one & this was a good price, bug repellant, and an alarm clock.
Then I broke in my new clock with a one-hour nap.
Lama Tsultrim’s afternoon talk was amazing. I’m so grateful to be here.
Dinner was with Paula & yet more ladies. After dinner, Paula & I sat on a log, talked, & enjoyed the view. Then back up to the temple for sunset Prajna Paramita practice on the west porch.
I’ve drunk more than 100 oz of water today. I’m still feeling the altitude, but I have no back pain from sitting. My right IT band has flared up, & I’m stretching it.
I’ve managed to squeeze a shower in tonight, & now it’s off to sleep!
6-30-09 Tara Mandala
I have arrived! After getting up at 4:30, Michael driving me to the airport, going thru LAX security, 2 uneventful plane rides, and a shuttle trip with 3 fellow Californians – I’m here!
The land is beautiful. It’s too far from the sea for me to hear her call, though. I see some time with the ocean upon my return to the coast. Even so, this is a place of palpable power, & I will enjoy it while I’m here.
The accommodations are posh. The residence hall reminds me of old European hotels with the restrooms down the hall – except that the rooms are on a much larger, decidedly American scale.
My roommate, Marian, is also a journaler. As a result, we haven’t talked much yet. She got here first & unpacked before I arrived, thoughtfully leaving plenty of space for my stuff.
General Daily Schedule
6:00 & 6:15 Wake up conch
6:45 Practice at Prayer Flag Ridge
9:00 Karma Yoga
I’m curious what the wake up conch will sound like! My karma yoga assignment (i.e. work practice) is to clean the entryway of the Community Building. I usually get kitchen duty on retreats, which I enjoy. I guess the universe decided it was time for a change! Works for me.
The retreat is silent from 9 pm to 1 pm the following day. I look forward to the silence. 🙂
We met outside, on the west face of the stupa. I walked over with Paula from Santa Monica, who I met on the shuttle. She picked the cushion next to Tsultrim, & I sat by her.
We meditated in silence, then chanted Prajna Paramita. We lit candles I carried them as we circumambulated. I went around 3 times, which if I remember right, brought long life when done around the scarab in Luxor, Egypt, which I did in 2001. We each picked a place for our candles. I was the first person to set mine down. I put it halfway up on the south side of the stupa. Traditionally that side is associated with pride, but Tsultrim said it also represents feelings of inadequacy. Its antidote is equanimity & its element is earth. I want to develop equanimity & be grounded, so I chose that as my intention for the retreat.
We concluded our opening ceremony with a dedication of merit. Afterward, I walked around it a few more times. I rested my head against the stone of the south face. It’s like a huge battery, tingling with power.
I’m having an adjustment period with the altitude, having gone from sea level to 8,000 feet. I tire quickly. If I rush, I get out of breath & can feel the lactic acid burn in my quadriceps. Therefore, I don’t rush. I allow plenty of time & practice walking meditation everywhere I go.
I first met Lama Tsultrim Allione last September at a retreat on “Awakening through the Sacred Feminine” at Spirit Rock. I felt an instant connection with her. On the last day of that retreat, I told her that I’d like to study with her again. She invited me to attend Kapala Training Level I, which was scheduled to coincide with my husband’s annual motorcycle trip with “the boys.” I felt my karma unfolding, and wrote as much in my journal on that day.
And so, nine months later, I was flying to Colorado to attend Kapala I.
As I’ve done with previous retreats, I’m going to repost my paper journal here. I will, however, omit the specific, detailed instructions on the meditative practices, out of respect for the teachings. I am not qualified to “transmit” the Tibetan practices I learned, and partial information can be a dangerous thing.
May all beings benefit!