Tag Archive for: mind
Today is my birthday, the inception of a dangerous, inconsolable and heart-wrenching war in the Middle East. It is a particularly poignant fall day as one of my very close friends is dying. He is called a Vajra Brother, and we have many of the same teachers, and he sent this to me as a guide as to how to help him. I thought I would offer it to you all, as indeed, we all will pass, and there are some great instructions from two of my primary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. It borrows from the world view of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and there are things that all of us can begin to prepare for now, and to help friends to be without fear.
You can download an easy to use, pdf version here.
May it be of benefit in these hard times, and may all be free of suffering.
Training Guide to the Bardos of Dying, Luminous Dharmata, and Karmic Becoming
Compiled by the Pundarika Foundation
Everyone who dies experiences the bardos, but not everyone recognizes them as their own mind. Recognition depends entirely on the quality of my prior practice.
“Not everyone goes through the bardos in the same way. Only a few teachers assert that the journey is universal and that everyone will, for example, experience the deities of the bardo of dharmata in a similar way. Most teachers say that cultural differences and personal idiosyncrasies generate a variety of experiences. Why would a Christian or a Muslim, with very different beliefs, experience death the same way as a Buddhist?
As we will see, the journey through the bardos is a journey through the mind. In the Buddhist view, the essence of the mind is the same for all sentient beings. But the surface structures that cover that essence are different. Hence the journey through the surface structures (the bardo of dying), into the essence of the mind (bardo of dharmata), and then out of it (bardo of becoming) is not the same. But the general pattern of this three-stage process is universal, at least according to the [Tibetan] Buddhist view. Holecek, pgs. 6 – 7
The key to smoothly negotiating the difficulties of death is familiarity. If you deal with some of the details now you can relax at the time of death, and relaxation is the best instruction for how to die. Relaxation is born from familiarity.” Holecek, pgs 10 – 11
An Introductory Discourse by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Why should one learn about the bardo state? Usually we talk about three aspects: the present life, the bardo, and the next life. In the next life, following the intermediate state, we either wander further through samsaric existence, going to one of the higher or lower realms, or attain liberation and enlightenment. Right now we find ourselves in the present life, and the intermediate state, the bardo state, is between the two.
Sometimes six kinds of bardo states are discussed, but they can be condensed into four basic states. The first, the natural bardo of this life, continues from birth until the time of death. The second, the bardo of dying, is the period that begins when we meet with a fatal illness or expire. The third, the bardo of dharmata, occurs when we have fully passed away… Finally, the bardo of becoming is undergone if we have not recognized our nature in the bardo of dharmata.
In addition to these four bardos, two other bardos occur during this life: the bardo of meditation and the bardo of dreaming. The bardo of meditation is the experience of the meditation state. The bardo of dreaming is the dream state during sleep.
Literally, the Tibetan term for “bardo of this life” means “born and remaining.” We have been born from our mother and have not yet passes away. It is the period between birth and death. Here the important point in this lifetime is the bardo of meditation, which depends on receiving the oral instructions from a master and training oneself in them. Then, during the nighttime, one trains in the bardo of dreaming. If in this way one remains in the bardo of meditation throughout day and night, should one worry about any of the other bardo states? Being adept in the bardos of meditation and dreaming is sufficient. Nothing more remains to be done. But without reaching some degree of stability in meditation and the ability to recognize dreams, I am sorry to say, one cannot avoid enduring the bardo of dying.
A good Dzogchen practitioner, on the other hand, is liberated into the expanse of primordial purity during the bardo of dying. He departs through the Secret Pathway of Vajrasattva before expiring. If one is not stable at that point either one will arrive at the bardo of dharmata. Here the natural sounds, colors and lights manifest. Dharmata means nature, the unconditioned. The sounds, colors and lights are unconditioned; they manifest yet they are devoid of self-nature. If one also lacks stability in the bardo of dharmata, sadly enough, one will wander further down into the samsaric circle of seeking another rebirth within the six realms.
As I mentioned earlier, being liberated into the expanse of primordial purity at the moment of death is the best. At this point, one will go through the experiences of appearance, increase and attainment. The first of these three experiences, the whiteness of appearance, occurs with the descent of the white element obtained from one’s father. The second experience, the redness of increase, occurs with the ascent of the red element obtained from one’s mother. The third experience is the actual moment of death.
What follows the moment of this third experience is the fourth experience, the so-called ground luminosity of full attainment. A scripture states: “Then dawns the unconditional wakefulness of bliss and emptiness.” The wakefulness is empty as well as blissful, and if one can recognize it, it is exactly the mahamudra of bliss and emptiness, the mahasiddhi of awareness and emptiness, or the madhyamika of appearance and emptiness.
In most cases, however, following the three experiences of the whiteness of appearance, the redness of increase and the blackness of attainment, one’s consciousness, also called prana-mind, faints in the black experience of the white and red elements meeting together in the heart center.
This moment of unconsciousness is for all ordinary people simply an oblivious state, lasting for the most part for about three and a half days. On the morning of the fourth day, manifestations suddenly unfold as if the sky and earth were rent asunder. One has been unconscious, totally oblivious, not noticing anything up to this point, so one will wonder, “What happened?”
Conventionally, this is of three days’ duration, but actually there is no fixed measure. For those familiar with meditation, it lasts as long as their meditation state, the duration of non-distraction from mind-essence. For people without training in recognizing mind-essence, these “days” just flash past. For those with virtue and evil in equal measure, the duration is approximately three days. What actually happens at this point is that the fourth experience, the ground luminosity of full attainment, is not recognized and one falls unconscious. That happens for most beings. Quite a few people suffer at this moment because of their intense panic and fear of death. A cry of anguish follows, and then they lose consciousness.
After the passing of three and a half days, one awakens from this oblivious state wondering, “What happened to me?” The consciousness leaves the body through one of the eight or nine apertures. It seems quite strange that the mind, which is without any concrete substance, must leave through an opening of the body. If the mind departs through the top of the head, it is said that one goes to the higher realms or continues on the path of liberation. In fact there are several openings on the top of the head. One leads to the Formless Realm, another to the Realm of Form, and yet another to the Pure Lands.
After the consciousness has separated from the body, it will, in the bardo of becoming, go to one of the six realms in keeping with one’s individual karma.
According to the system of Karling Shitro, everything happens within the time span of forty-nine days: the peaceful deities manifest in the first week, the wrathful ones in the second week, and so forth. For some people everything just flickers by; for others it might happen slowly. Time and occurrence remain unfixed.
On the other hand, if one is a trained practitioner, one will recognize, “This is the experience of appearance!” when the whiteness appears, bright and vivid. And when the redness occurs, one will know, “This is the redness!” Finally, when everything goes black, one will acknowledge, “This is the attainment, the blackness!”
After these three experiences, one will also recognize when the ground luminosity of full attainment manifests like a lamp within a vase. At first there is an instant of fainting while the eighty inherent thought states cease. Nothing accompanies the cessation of all thought states but nonconceptual awareness as bright as a lamp in a vase. It is cognizant, nonconceptual, and remains one-pointedly, the union of luminosity and emptiness. That is the ground luminosity, which is like a mother. This means that dharmata, self-existing wakefulness, the sugatagarbha, is like a mother. The recognition of it, which one’s master has pointed out, is like a child. At this moment, the mother and child reunite. The traditional analogy is that it is “like a child jumping into its mother’s lap.” People who are experienced in such practice understand this, and everything stands and falls with that understanding.
At present, the vital point in our practice is to recognize the nature of awareness. We hear statements such as “Recognize your awareness!” or “He has recognized rigpa, the awareness!” Having recognized awareness during one’s lifetime, the key point here is to remain in it – to refrain from losing its continuity. At the instant of the cessation of the eighty thought states, self-existing wakefulness is vividly present – like pure and refined gold, the purity by itself. One can recognize it fully and completely. That is how it has been taught.
This moment has been spoken of thus: “One instant makes the difference. In one instant complete enlightenment.” In the moment of recognition one can attain full enlightenment. That is the meaning of the statement: “The best practitioner attains buddhahood in the dharmakaya at the moment of death.”
If one cannot recognize in that way, however, the next bardo, the bardo of dharmata, will manifest. After the elements and the consciousness have dissolved into space, the stages of space dissolve into luminosity, luminosity dissolves into wisdom, and wisdom dissolves into unity. Unity here means the peaceful and wrathful deities. Following that, unity dissolves into spontaneous presence.
Spontaneous presence refers to that which is originally or inherently present within the ground of primordial purity. Some people wonder, “Where do all these deities and lights come from?” They are the manifestations of the wakefulness spontaneous presence. In the practice of Thogal, as well as in the bardo of dharmata, many deities appear. Those deities are dharmata. They are not conditioned entities but are of an unconditioned nature. Having neither flesh nor blood, they consist of rainbow lights. The key point in the bardo of dharmata is simply to rest in awareness. Without such ability, this bardo lasts no longer than a few flickering moments.
Bardo teachings may sound very fascinating and colorful, but the vital point is one’s individual practice now. Why have medicine when sick, if one doesn’t use it? Without training, our studies become mere intellectual understanding. If study were sufficient, we could simply lean back and read a book about Dzogchen. In fact, there is no way around actual training.
The reading of The Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo aloud for a dead person according to the system of Karling Shitro, is to remind a practitioner who possesses prior training. It is definitely necessary. The most important point is that the reader be someone close to the dead person, one with shared samayas. If the deceased becomes irritated with the reader, there will be no benefit. The two people should, at best, share the same teacher and be compatible. In that case there will be tremendous benefits.
On the other hand, without prior training in recognition of mind-essence, one will be unable to attain stability in the bardo state. A person who never recognized his mind-essence will, in the first place, fail to cut through the misery and fear of dying, and later, when the intense and overwhelming experiences of the sounds, colors, and lights occur, he will be paralyzed with fear. The sounds will roar like one hundred thousand thunderclaps and the lights will shine more brilliantly then one hundred thousand suns. It is not just a dim glimmering light. Those are the sounds, colors, and lights of the bardo of dharmata. One will feel drawn to them. One therefore must attain at least some degree of stability through practice right now.
It is also important to have confidence in these teachings and to develop the determination to be clear-headed in the bardo and recognize what takes place. One must have confidence or all will be lost.
At best, one should receive the pointing-out instructions from a qualified master. Success in the bardo comes from applying one’s present practice of mind-essence at the time of death. Only training dispels the confusion that arises during the bardo state. That is why one must practice the stages of development and completion right now. Recognize this, and then one will experience at death what one is already familiar with through practice.
……The whole reason for receiving bardo teachings has been traditionally described as that of “connecting a broken water pipe.” By training right now, one will be able to continue the “flow” of practice through the bardo state to the following life. In the Dzogchen system bardo training is indispensable. If one has already reached perfection in the practice of Thogal, then there is no need for bardo teachings. In this age, however, life is short, diseases are many, and diligence is feeble. Although one may have entered the path of the Great Perfection, without attaining stability in one’s practice and not being able to know whether the time of death will arrive suddenly, one definitely needs the instruction on how to “connect the broken water pipe.” One will then be able to attain enlightenment in the bardo state, to proceed to a buddha field, or at least gain a rebirth in one of the higher realms. So these are necessary teachings, especially if one meets an untimely death.
When practicing these teachings one must have confidence and trust and be free from doubt. This teaching is like a guide leading the blind in the right direction. To take the hand of such a guide, one needs trust. Without trust, one might lose one’s way. With trust, one will reach the destination. Mirror of Mindfulness, pgs. 2 – 11
Before death is upon me it is important for me to set my intention on training my mind to maintain stability in my dzogchen practice. It is so easy for me to get distracted in this life and, if not corrected I will be swept away in the coming bardos as easily as I can be swept into thought, emotion and action right now.
The Bardo of Dying
“The painful bardo of dying is painful because it hurts to let go. But now is the time when we have to. Letting go is just a euphemism for death, and releasing our grip is what transforms the painful bardo of dying into simply the bardo of dying.” Holecek, pg. 68.
Now is the time to:
• Realize with certainty that the whole purpose of the path in this lifetime has been to cultivate bodhicitta, correct my misperception and uncover self-existing wisdom so that cognizance (sambogakaya) knows its own empty nature (dharmakaya). At the time of death, with the dissolving of the elements and consciousness into space (dharmakaya), and space into luminosity, nothing of this conceptual mindstream remains to obscure natural mind’s empty radiance. My intention as a practitioner is to rest in ground luminosity of full attainment, and so reach the destination of enlightenment via the shortest route.
• Make my Dharma Box & finish my legal papers and directives.
• Tell my Dharma friends that before I die I need to be seated upright or in the Lion’s Posture. Direct them to burn my Dharma notebooks and journals with me upon my death.
• Plan my last thought, for it will influence my journey through the bardos. For example, I intend to think: “Now death is coming. It’s my time to die and my intention is to have a still, clear mind. I will supplicate my precious teachers, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Guru Rinpoche to be with me as I transit the bardos.”
• I intend to rely upon the stability of my practice. By practicing diligently right now, I will establish the ability to sustain rigpa. It will be invaluable in transiting the bardos of death and dying.
• Prepare for the journey so that my heart will be filled with bodhicitta and there will be a calm atmosphere. I know friends & family may be upset, but since I will need to focus, the kindest thing they can do for me is to remain calm, loving and supportive as I concentrate on my practice. I would be grateful if they could participate in the calm atmosphere of the room, which will be silent except for the prayers and mantras I have selected and the instructions whispered in my ear by my lama or Dharma friend. If it’s not possible for them to be calm and quiet, I cannot have them in the room and hope they will understand why.
• Understand what is dissolving. When elements composing the body dissolve, it is just the impure aspects that dissolve, leaving the pure aspects to move into the central channel. This makes for an increase in pure energy, wisdom-wind. With this accumulation of wisdom-wind, it’s much easier to liberate in the Bardo of Dying than it had been in this life.
• Know that actual experiences may not be in the order described, but it will all happen. If I’m not concentrating undistractedly on my practice, it will all pass by quickly. Only with stable awareness will there be time to recognize the nature of mind and attain liberation.
• Be happy and grateful that I have had a teacher and access to teachings that familiarizes me with what is to come in the bardos and how to practice for them! Through our connection, I have confidence that I will feel Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s presence and support.
• Although I intend to persevere in stabilizing my mind and rehearse going through the bardos without distraction, if I die suddenly the the most effective thing to do is chant Om Mani Padme Hum. I trust this will help me overcome the inevitable shock and confusion. I’ll need to recognize I’m dead, call upon Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s support and stabilize my mind in its empty nature.
Throughout the Training Guide, this color code is used:
Points in Turquoise are outer signs; red are Inner signs; Purple are secret signs. Green denotes practices that are appropriate at this time.
Blue denotes instructions for my Dharma friend.
The journey begins with experiencing the dissolution of the coarse body, its consciousnesses and the sense bases.
This is called:
The Four Instances:
earth into water, water into fire, fire into wind, wind into consciousness
Maintaining rigpa, the basic space of phenomena, without distraction is essential. Remember: All dissolution experiences in the bardos are simply projections of my mind.
Earth element (flesh & bones) dissolves into water element
• I feel physical and mental heaviness, as if I am being crushed
• Eye base, its consciousness and sight are vanishing
• Intense cracking resounds, as if a mountain is crumbling
• All that appears is like a mirage
• I can envision Rinpoche at my heart center and with devotion offer supplications
•Whispering in my ear, my Dharma friend can help me express “I’m experiencing
the process of death.”
Water element (blood, saliva, urine, etc.) dissolves into fire element
• I have leakage of fluids followed by intense thirst; the body is drying out
• Mind buzzes and is agitated; increasing irritability and loss of mental clarity
• Ear base, its consciousness and hearing are vanishing
• All that appears is smoke-like
• Sounds of great waves crashing resound
• I can envision Rinpoche at my navel center and with devotion offer supplications
• Whispering in my ear, my Dharma friend can help me recognize these signs
Fire element (warmth) dissolves into wind element
• My body rapidly goes from being hot to cold
• I can no longer speak
• My mental clarity vacillates; it’s hard to recognize people and I may have
• Nose base and its consciousness are disappearing
• All that appears is like fireflies or sparks
• Sounds of an immense fire storm resound
• I can envision Rinpoche at my forehead and with devotion offer supplications
• Whispering in my ear, my Dharma friend can help me recognize these signs
Wind element (breath) dissolves into consciousness
•My breath shortens, rattles and soon disappears
•My taste and tactile bases and their consciousnesses are vanishing
•All that appears is a brightly shining torch or butter lamp
• Sound like a dragon’s roar resounds
• Breath stops = clinical death
• Whispering in my ear, my Dharma friend needs to tell me this has happened and
it’s time to concentrate on the final dissolution that is now about to happen.
For the next three to 3 1/2 days my body should not be moved until death is completed with the inner dissolution of consciousness.
• The Kuntuzangpo prayer should be read at the conclusion of the three (+) days and its amulet is placed on my heart. If I have a “Bardo garb”, it should be burned on my body, along with all of my Dharma journals and notebooks when it is time for my cremation.
• If possible, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, or other lamas should be contacted to say prayers.
• Anis can be contacted through the Pundarika website to do weekly pujas from this point on through the 49 days. If a local lama or monk has been in attendance at my death ask him to continue as well.
• During this time the inner dissolution continues taking place as the white element from my father moves down to the heart and the red element from my mother moves up to the heart where they rest in union, squeezing out consciousness.
This is called: Appearance, Increase, Attainment, and Full Attainment
This phase of the Bardo of Dying marks the subtle dissolution and disappearance of
the consciousness of my conceptual, afflictive mind. With Full Attainment, I intend to experience the emergence of brilliant, unfabricated, non-conceptual dharmakaya. This is the natural, empty basic space of the self-cognizant nature of mind.
* The afflictive consciousnesses (6, 7, 8) of my mistaken thoughts and disturbing emotions now dissolve. The total dissolution of these consciousnesses, which comprise my dualistic mind (the ability to perceive, conceptualize, grasp onto objects, give rise to kleshas, and to project a self to others) and in particular the alaya-vijñāna (8th consciousness – the storehouse that carries my karmic seeds) are ceasing for this lifetime, just as the external breath in my physical body ceased previously.
* There are 4 stages: Appearance, Increase, Attainment, and Full Attainment
Each of these phases progressively dissolves the afflictions I have developed over lifetimes. The functions of my relative, conceptual mind are ceasing; my consciousness is ceasing to apprehend objects and engage conceptually with them. Finally, the samsaric appearances of this lifetime evaporate with the cessation of my
*What then bursts into appearance is limitless, pure, non-dual, non-conceptual, vivid
dharmakaya. It will appear brighter than 1000 or even 100,000 suns.
Appearance dissolves into the Mind of Increase: the Whiteness
• Vast and perfectly clear sky lit by a halo of light, also described as a luminous
white light, like a moonlit cloudless night
• All thoughts related to aggression cease
• Secret sign: nature of mind’s uncommon clarity free of concepts
• It’s helpful if my Dharma friend whispers in my ear: “No matter what
appearances arise, don’t attach to them. Maintain strong alertness and cut through appearances.”
Increase dissolves into Mind of Attainment: the Redness
• Luminous red light in a cloudless sky, like a beautiful sunrise
• All thoughts of passion and desire cease
• Secret signs: wisdom of increase, a natural ceasing of ignorance.
• Do not get drawn into this appearance…it is easy to get attached to its beauty! • It’s helpful if my Dharma friend whispers in my ear: “No matter what
appearances arise, don’t attach to them. Maintain strong alertness and cut through appearances.
Attainment dissolves into space: the Blackness
• Luminous dark sky without any sunlight, moonlight or starlight
• Thoughts related to ignorance cease and all conceptuality ceases
• Secret sign: wisdom of attainment, heightened experience of thought-free
indivisible bliss and clarity
• Again, it’s helpful if my Dharma friend whispers in my ear: “No matter what appearances arise, don’t attach to them. Maintain strong mindfulness and cut through appearances.”
• Inner respiration ceases, which is the actual point of my death and the end of this life.
• In this blackness it’s easy to fall unconsciousness and completely miss full attainment, waking up in the Bardo of Dharmata instead.
• I must remain mindful, stable and alert, for Full Attainment, my best chance for attaining enlightenment, is about to arise!
Full Attainment: space dissolves into Ground Luminosity
• This is the nature of Dharmakaya, free of limitations, dimensions or
• Vast and open like a clear, luminous sky in autumn, brighter than thousands of
• This is known as Ground of Dharmakaya and Mother Luminosity meeting the Child Luminosity I have experienced in rigpa practice. It is my empty essence, fully unveiled.
“Yogins who realize their very essence attain buddhahood once freed from the confines of the physical body.” Longchenpa, pg. 397
• This is when I can enter “five days” of non-distracted meditative concentration or tukdam. Its duration is measured by each “day” lasting as long as my meditation abides in non-conceptual wisdom times five (five minutes = 25 min). Without recognition of dharmakaya’s empty nature, each day is over in a second, with no opportunity to liberate.
• During tukdam my mind is still in the body, so I will appear asleep. There is warmth at the heart and there is no rigor mortis or smell during the time when my body is left in place.
• My Dharma friend needs to be aware of these signs indicating that my mind has not yet left the body and not disturb me or let anyone else disturb me.
• At the end of this phase, either intentionally or through the reactivation of the winds of karma, consciousness leaves the body through one of nine portals.“The red bindu continues its ascent and can sometimes be seen as blood coming out of the nose or mouth. The white bindu continues its descent and can sometimes be seen as a white discharge coming from the urethra. This separation of the red and white bindus releases the indestructible bindu at the heart, where consciousness is held.” Holecek, pg. 83
However, if I’m overwhelmed by the brightness of dharmakaya’s light, I will instantly fall unconscious and not have the opportunity to be liberated. Instead, I will wake up in the Bardo of Dharmata.
The Bardo of Luminous Dharmata
“Now when the bardo of dharmata dawns upon me,
I will abandon all thoughts of fear and terror,
I will recognize whatever appears as my projection
and know it to be a vision of the bardo; now that I have reached this critical point, I will not fear the peaceful and wrathful ones, my own projections.”
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
• If I recognized my true nature in the Full Attainment experience of the Ground Luminosity, then I have attained enlightenment in the great original state of primordial purity and will not go into this next bardo.
• If I became unconscious & didn’t recognize the nature of my mind upon seeing the brilliant light of Ground Luminosity, I’ll wake up in the Bardo of Sambogakaya/ Suchness, the Bardo of Dharmata.
• The Ground Luminosity of Dharmakaya that appeared at the time of death during Full Attainment was completely pure in nature and had no appearance. Arising out of it is this next bardo, the Bardo of Dharmata, also called Bardo of Luminosity and Suchness. It has been likened to the Big Bang in that it’s full of densely packed dynamic energy. This is inherent buddha-nature expressed in sounds and lights and will rapidly emerge as form. It is “spontaneous presence,” out of which all phenomena of samsara and nirvana will arise, and into which they will eventually be reabsorbed.
• Expressions of wisdom-mind appear in this bardo because I’m now free of the ordinary eight consciousnesses and their reliance upon sense objects. It is the pure knowing of the suchness of everything, knowing the luminosity and empty nature even though there’s form.
• Sambogakaya luminosity, the unconditioned nature, is the essence of all the experiences in the Bardo of Dharmata including the frightening images. It will take meditative effort to realize these are from my own mind because they appear to be outside of me and as such will feel like the relative reality I’ve left behind.
• I must remember that all appearances are the nature of my mind and as such, are the basic space of phenomena that I have trained in during rigpa practice during this lifetime. In light of this, Rinpoche recommends watching scary movies to train in recognizing the illusory nature of fearsome images and experiences.
• At this point there still are opportunities to recognize the nature of my mind. However from here on, through the Karmic Bardo of Becoming, it will be increasingly more difficult for me to recognize the nature of mind. I need to remain alert, especially now as I encounter the experiences of spontaneous presence in their intrinsic dynamic forms and not in the forms I am used to.
The following are experiences I will encounter as they appear to Nyingma, Kagyu, Vajrayana and Dzogchen practitioner. Different images may be projected by practitioners of other lineages and non-Buddhists. These, like all else, are only projections of my mind; recognition of their empty nature will bring liberation.
• The hundred peaceful and wrathful (heruka) deities, which are manifestations of the wakefulness of spontaneous presence. These deities are unconditioned and composed of rainbow light, no matter how real or solid they appear.
• The five Buddha families: Vajra, Ratna, Padma, Karma, Buddha.
• The four wisdom lights of blue, yellow, red and white (the fifth, green, will not manifest here).
• Finally, wisdom, which is originally present within the ground of primordial purity, will dissolve into spontaneous presence.
If I depart the Bardo of Dharmata without attaining liberation, the last remaining possibility is:
The Karmic Bardo of Becoming
“Do not be distracted. This is the dividing line where Buddhas and sentient beings are separated. It is said of this moment: In an instant, they are separated, in an instant, complete
enlightenment.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This is the time to not be distracted by all that will be going on. Use as much effort as it takes to stay focused and still. Although it is difficult, non-distraction can bring liberation, even in this final bardo.
• In about 4 1⁄2 days my consciousness begins to wake up.
• Having no physical body, just a mental body with lifetimes of collected karmic patterns, I will be automatically tossed about by every subtle thought and emotion that arises. I will arrive instantly at any place my mind touches upon. This mental body is easily distracted and easily forgets what is going on and what has to be done to bring about liberation or a good rebirth.
• This can be a very disturbing and frightening experience if I lose mental stability and do not recognize my own mind’s nature. I must use any meditative strength I have to stay mentally clear and alert.
• My karma, based on my life and previous lives, will lead me to be reborn in one of the six realms: god, demi-god, human, animal, hungry ghost or one of the hells. None of these are eternal “places”, but are qualities of mind and samsaric states projected by minds. They are determined by my karma and at this point, by whatever ability I have to practice at this time.
• It is said that chanting Om Mani Padme Hum can close the door to the six realms.
• If I’ve made an aspiration for rebirth in a pure land, focus on it now and visualize it and its yidam. This is a very good choice – but I must practice for it to occur.
May I have a safe journey and a beneficial rebirth …..Om Mani Padme Hum!
What is the best thing a student can do before death?
Refresh the teachings. Whatever you have received, go through your database of teachings and refresh it. There are a lot of teachings, but try to capture the essential points of what you have received. The main points are to be detached and to refresh your recognition of the nature of mind.
What is the best meditation to do before death?
For older students, find the nature of mind, which is mind beyond death and dying. This mind doesn’t die. Find that mind and rest there. For newer students, they can rest in meditation. Mostly it depends on each person, according to their own belief to create some hope. It’s ok to connect to your own belief to find some peace.
What is the best thing to do when someone is actually dying?
There are several options here. One option is if you have a yidam, you can grab onto that. By doing that, the yidam binds your mind. Again, whatever is happening, whatever is dissolving, the best thing is to maintain the unborn mind, the recognition of mind. Don’t be afraid of the dissolution. Things may be dissolving but you are resting in the nature of mind which is beyond dissolution and death.
What is the best thing for the sangha to do to help the dying person?
If you know the person’s yidam, that is very good. Invoke the mind of the yidam, and mix your mind, the mind of the dying person, and the mind of the yidam together – then rest in the nature of mind. That is a very big support for the one who is dying.
Should the sangha do the yidam practice along with dying person?
Yes. If the helping person is familiar [with] and understands the yidam practice, then they can remind the dying person of the qualities of the yidam. It is also helpful to recite the mantra of the yidam. The dying person can recite it and the sangha at the side of the dying person can rest in it with them….It is also good to read vajra songs and doha [songs] of fearlessness. Beginner practitioners can also do this. Read teachings on mahamudra, dzogchen, and other inspiring readings, along with the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The helping person has to have some kind of intuition and be able to adjust according to the person who is dying. If they are Christian, say something to connect them with God. If they are Buddhist, say something to help them connect to the underlying mind. If they are a free thinker, then help them connect with the peace in their mind in order to let go of fear. You have to see and understand the person in order to know how to best say: “Relax, let it go”.
Provide what gives them hope beyond life – whether it’s God, the pure lands, or the underlying, unchanging mind. Most importantly, the helping person needs to use their intuition and wisdom to properly convey what they understand, and to match the belief of the dying person.
What’s the best thing to do when someone wakes up in the bardo after death?
The first thing to do is to recognize that you are dead. Secondly, you should know that all the phenomena that you are experiencing now are bardo phenomena. Know that everything is the expression of your own mind. Think to yourself “I’m not going to go crazy with the expressions of my mind. I’m going to try to find the nature of my own mind, which is beyond the delusion.” Everything that is happening is the expression of your mind. It is better to not get caught up in that expression but to capture the seat of the nature of mind.
What is the best thing that sangha can do to support someone after they have died?
In a general way, every week you can do practices for them, because every week they have a chance to change their life, to change the course of their bardo experience. The most important thing for changing in the bardo is to know that they have lived their life properly and can therefore let go of that life with confidence. On that day you can do more puja or prayers, or you can go through the Tibetan Book of the Dead, day by day. If you can read it in the house where they live, where they spent the most time, that is best, because they usually come back to familiar places. They probably will not recognize that they are dead, and then they may click onto some good things, like remembering the teachings and what they should do.
Any final comments, Rinpoche, if you were at the side of someone who was dying?
Two things. First, if they are willing to hear your advice, then give them hope. Tell them that the relative is dying, the ultimate is not dying. Give them hope that they can recognize the ultimate, the nature of their mind, the mind that is unchanging and undying. You have to give a little promotion on the deathless side. Secondly, then the
phenomena of this life that they are leaving, that they used properly – just let it go.
Holecek, pgs. 303 – 306
From Joan Halifax, who has worked with the dying for over 30 years:
“The concept of a good death can put unbearable pressure on dying people and caregivers, and can take us away from death’s mystery and the richness of not knowing. Our expectation of how someone should die can give rise to subtle or direct coerciveness. No one wants to be judged for how well she dies! “Death with dignity” is another concept that can become another obstacle to what is really happening. Dying can be very undignified. Often, it’s not dignified at all, with spoiled bedclothes and sheets, bodily fluids and flailing, nudity and strange sexuality, confusion and rough language…good death, death with dignity – can be unfortunate fabrications that we use to protect ourselves against the sometimes raw and wondrous truth of dying. “
Kuntuzangpo’s Prayer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSbldGbH3Ok ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Reproduced from The Pundarika Foundation
The Bardo Supplication by the Lord of the Conquerors Kunga Paljor, source for oral Bardo
Teachings by Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Dying with Confidence, Anyen Rinpoche
Freedom in Bondage, Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Schmidt
Kindness, Clarity, and Insight, The Dalai Lama
Life in Relation to Death, Chagdud Rinpoche
Mind Beyond Death, Dzogchen Ponlop
Mirror of Mindfulness, Tsele Natsok Rangdrol and Erik Pema Kunsang
Preparing to Die, Andrew Holecek
Rest for the Fortunate, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche
The Precious Treasury of The Way of Abiding, Longchen Rabjam
The Precious Treasury of The Basic Space of Phenomena, Longchen Rabjam
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
Tibetan Book of the Dead, various translations; the most useful is: an adaptation by Jean-Claude van Itallie, Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud
Treasures from Juniper Ridge, Padmasambhava
Please listen to my personal story.
October is the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October was first declared as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989. Since then, October has been a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors and be a voice for its victims, and I wanted to compile a list of resources for those in need. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality and way more ubiquitous than previously understood.
Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior and silencing as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control and can happen in interpersonal relationships, families and organizational communities like a church. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, deep lifelong wounding and even sadly, death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime, but there is help and hope, you are not alone!
Although there has been substantial progress in reducing domestic violence, the numbers are shocking. There is an average of 20 people who are physically abused by intimate partners every minute! This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. These numbers, and my own experience as a survivor, inspire me to do whatever I can to help vulnerable fellow women and children to seek healing and safety.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner.
Millions of Americans, mostly women, live like I did in daily, silent fear within their own homes. In addition, every year millions of children are exposed to domestic violence, and they often go unnoticed, with no adult to protect them. I wish, in retrospect, that someone had seen the signs in my family and intervened. People also know about child abuse and, mindbogglingly, do nothing about it.
Domestic violence incidents affect every person within a home and can have long-lasting negative effects on children’s emotional well-being, and social and academic functioning. We must shed light here now. Please listen to my personal story above about hurt and hope, and get help now.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has compiled a list of helpful resources for parents and caregivers, children and teens, mental health providers, child welfare workers, law enforcement professionals, educators and school staff, and policymakers.
Crisis situations often stem from multiple unaddressed issues with a person’s ability to exist comfortably in their environment. Whether you are in crisis, approaching crisis, or supporting someone in crisis — slow down, take a moment to sense what is happening in your body, and remember that you do not need to navigate this alone.
PROJECT LETS PEER SUPPORT SERVICES:
Text 401-400-2905 for urgent support with psychiatric incarceration/involuntary hospitalization.
OTHER CRISIS RESOURCES:
• Create a safety plan or Psychiatric Advance Directive
• Peer Respite Centers
• Emergency Action for Panic Attacks
• Questions to Ask Before Giving Up
• Crisis Information: Important Stuff to Know Beyond Awareness
• The Project LETS Crisis Approach
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
This is the foremost first step for people experiencing Domestic Violence (D.V.) Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at:
1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
Call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)Chat live now
Text “START” to 88788
D.V. can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socio-economic backgrounds and education levels. If there is no physical or sexual assault, sometimes the abuse is covert, and very hard to recognize.
Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, silencing and secrecy and economic exploitation or deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time and can be in families or entire communities. Abuse can have life-long scars, but with awareness, treatment and support, we can learn to heal and be safe.
The Power & Control Wheel of Abusive Relationships
This was given to me a few years back by a counselor. Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner, family member or community uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel consists of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse. This was very insightful because abuse can happen even if it is covert. It took me YEARS to see this and I’m beginning to stop recreating this in my life. Please get help if you are in an abusive relationship or community, you are not alone, regaining your strength and healing is possible!
The Living Recovery Program
I’m taking this program right now, created by a fellow survivor, Sandra Brown, and it has been very helpful for domestic violence survivors, and survivors of narcissistic/psychopathic/Cluster B personality disordered abuse.
*Correction, in the Youtube audio journal, I mention “Ventral Vagal,” I meant to say “Dorsal Vagal.”
Please listen to my audio journal about scapegoating here-
The origin of the word scapegoat:
The concept of scapegoating dates back to ancient times when a sacrificial goat would bear the burden of the community’s sins and be banished. In dysfunctional family systems, scapegoating serves a similar purpose. The scapegoat becomes the target of blame for the family’s problems, shielding other members from confronting their issues and responsibilities. This role is often assigned arbitrarily and is not based on the scapegoat’s actions or character.
“And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering….Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.” (Leviticus 16:5,7-10)*
Who is the Scapegoat in Dysfunctional Families?
Growing up in a toxic, narcissistic family as the scapegoat, can leave deep emotional wounds that persist into adulthood. I have firsthand experience with this process, please listen to my audio journal above. I was and am hated by my some of my family of origin and told repeatedly that I should not have been born. About a month ago, I got an email, unprovoked from a distant cousin, riddled with obscenities, reflective of the toxic family’s vitriol and targeting.
Being the scapegoat often involves being unfairly blamed, criticized, and marginalized, leading to deep, lifelong trauma, self doubt and low self-esteem. Unhealed, we can have the strong tendency to recreate this again and again in our adult families or community. I sought out unhealthy communities and dynamics and recreated these patterns for years. However, healing is possible with awareness and insight. Let’s explore the origin of scapegoating and dysfunctional family systems, followed by ten essential steps to begin the journey of healing from this traumatic experience. Additionally, we provide below, a powerful guided healing meditation to find inner calm as we progress with our recovery process.
Dysfunctional family systems are characterized by unhealthy patterns of communication, emotional neglect or violence, lack of boundaries and abuse. Narcissistic parents and entire family systems, may exploit and manipulate family dynamics to maintain control and power over a targeted child, as that child becomes the human garbage receptacle of the family shadow. The scapegoat often emerges as a convenient target for the narcissist’s projection of their own inadequacies and insecurities. The harm can be generational trauma, unwholesome patterns and indeed, secrets.
Ten Steps from Survivor to Thriver:
1. Acknowledge the trauma: The first step to healing is recognizing and acknowledging the deep, emotional wounds inflicted by being the family scapegoat. Understand that you are not to blame for the dysfunction, and it is okay to seek support and healing.
2. Set boundaries: Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial in breaking free from the patterns of scapegoating. I heard somewhere that you can not simultaneously heal from trauma and be continually exposed to it. Learn to protect yourself emotionally and limit or even cut interactions with toxic family members if necessary.
3. Seek therapy or counseling: Working with a qualified therapist or wellness coach experienced in trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics can provide a safe space to explore and process your feelings, gain insights, develop coping strategies, and eventually, resiliency.
4. Practice self-compassion: Be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion. Understand that the negative perceptions ingrained by the scapegoat role do not define your worth or identity. Forgive yourself if you have recreated this role again and again, and make an aspiration to evolved out of any victim mentality.
5. Challenge negative beliefs: Challenge the negative beliefs instilled during the scapegoating childhood. Replace them with positive affirmations that reinforce your strengths and worthiness. E.g. “I am a good person, and loveable and I forgive myself for my mistakes.”
6. Cultivate a support network: Surround yourself with supportive and understanding friends or a chosen trusted family member, who did not participate in the scapegoating, who can offer empathy and encouragement throughout the healing process.
7. Identify healthy coping mechanisms: Engage in activities that promote emotional healing, such as journaling, creative expression, mindfulness, and physical exercise. Humour also dis-empowers toxic people, and families!
8. Practice forgiveness (if and when ready): Forgiveness is a personal choice and should only be considered when you feel ready. It does not mean condoning or excusing the abusive behavior but freeing yourself from carrying the burden of resentment. Knowledge about how and why these patterns emerge generationally helps to heal, and, indeed knowledge is power.
9. Focus on personal growth: Invest time in personal development and pursue interests and passions that bring you joy and a sense of fulfillment. Create a vision board- make an aspiration list for today, this week, this month and even year.
10. Embrace your authentic Self: Reclaim your identity from the scapegoat role and embrace your authentic, heartfelt, strong and healed self. Celebrate your uniqueness and make choices that align with your values and aspirations. Every day is new, and we can recreate our lives and shed old patterns. One of my teachers once said “joy is our birthright.” May it be so!
Guided Healing Meditation:
[Trigger Warning: Please note that this guided meditation and discussion about scapegoating may bring up strong emotions. If you find it overwhelming, take a break and return to it when you are ready.]
1. Find a comfortable and quiet space where you can sit or lie down. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, releasing any tension with each breath.
2. Visualize a golden light surrounding your body, emanating warmth and protection. Imagine this light expanding with every breath, forming a cocoon of healing energy around you.
3. Focus on your heart center. Visualize a small, wounded child version of yourself standing in front of you. This is the inner child, carrying the scars of the scapegoating experience.
4. Approach the inner child with love and compassion. Embrace them gently, letting them know that they are safe now and no longer alone in their pain.
5. Listen to the inner child’s feelings and thoughts. Validate their experiences and assure them that they are not responsible for the family’s dysfunction.
6. Imagine a beam of healing light emanating from your heart and enveloping the inner child. As the light touches them, see their wounds begin to heal, and their pain transform into strength.
7. Reassure the inner child that they are worthy of love, acceptance, and happiness. Encourage them to let go of the burden of scapegoating and step into their true, authentic self.
8. With each breath, feel the connection between your present self and the healed inner child strengthening. Know that you carry this newfound strength and resilience within you.
9. When you are ready, slowly bring your awareness back to the present moment. Feel the support of the healing light and the presence of your inner child within you.
Healing from the trauma of being the adult scapegoat in a toxic, narcissistic family requires courage, patience, and self-compassion. Remember that recovery is a gradual process, and seeking support from professionals and understanding friends can provide immense comfort and guidance. By following the ten steps and engaging in healing practices like the guided meditation, we can begin to transform our experience, embrace our authenticity, and pave the way for a more fulfilling and empowered life.
All my love,
Origin of the Communal Scapegoat From The Torah: The traditional reading for Yom Kippor morning focuses on the offerings that Aaron is to bring before God as atonement And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
16:6. Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household.
16:7. Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting;
16:8. and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel.
16:9. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering;
16:10. while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.
16:11. Aaron shall then offer his bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and his household. He shall slaughter his bull of sin offering,
16:12. and he shall take a panful of glowing coals scooped from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground aromatic incense, and bring this behind the curtain.
16:13. He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, so that the cloud from the incense screens the cover that is over [the Ark of] the Pact, lest he die.
16:14. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger over the cover on the east side; and in front of the cover he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
16:15. He shall then slaughter the people’s goat of sin offering, bring its blood behind the curtain, and do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull: he shall sprinkle it over the cover and in front of the cover.
16:16. Thus he shall purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins; and he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their uncleanness.
16:17. When he goes in to make expiation in the Shrine, nobody else shall be in the Tent of Meeting until he comes out.
When he has made expiation for himself and his household, and for the whole congregation of Israel,
16:18. he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and purge it: he shall take some of
the blood of the bull and of the goat and apply it to each of the horns of the altar;
16:19. and the rest of the blood he shall sprinkle on it with his finger seven times. Thus he shall cleanse it of the uncleanness of the Israelites and consecrate it.
16:20. When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward.
16:21. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man.
16:22. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
Image from Pexels and
Over the years, I’ve consulted and mentored with a few experts in the field of anxiety, alternative medicine and functional medicine. These two doctors that helped when I’ve had questions or intermittent bouts of anxiety and insomnia had positive, encouraging and alternative views about anxiety. They offered treatments that do not involve taking anti-anxiety medicine, antidepressants or any type of allopathic medicine.
As a health and wellness coach, I of course, cannot advise people to either take medicine or not, and please never discontinue your prescribed medicine without a doctor’s careful supervision. My personal choice is to work with the propensity to have anxiety in a holistic, whole-person way, and these are invaluable tools irrespective of your medication usage. Every small change helps; I suggest making just a few incremental changes when we are trying to change a hardwired habit or propensity. This list of 12 steps came as a summary and mind/body suggestions from one of my excellent Mind/Body Medical Doctors here in Boulder Colorado, and I personally have benefited from these suggestions and resources so wanted to share them with you:
A New Way of Thinking About Anxiety
The Mind/Body doctor wanted to emphasize that anxiety and insomnia is a very common problem, and not a psychiatric disease. Anxiety, as far as he is concerned, is a normal brain responding in a very common way to experiences it has had. He said that it was very important to understand that we are not broken and we do not have a “disorder” that has to be “fixed”. He noted that people who suffer with this, have some brain circuits that developed outside of our conscious awareness, and we can work towards self healing.
He states: “I think we do ourselves a grave disservice when we call anxiety a “disorder”. It is a physiologic condition (not a psychiatric “illness”) characterized by increased adrenaline, cortisol, histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. We may be having these symptoms more frequently than we would like, but this is not a disorder or a disease. Diabetes and appendicitis are disorders/diseases and can be treated medically, but anxiety is a condition that has been shared by almost everyone on the planet, so let’s not call it a disorder. Now that we understand how your own brain (autonomic nervous system) is causing your symptoms, we can take some steps to change the patterns your brain is running.” Bradley D Fanestil, MD.
Suggestions for Education and Treatment
1. Watch this TED Talk by Johann Hari. His book has way more great information and he usually recommends that EVERYONE with anxiety or depression read his book called “Lost Connections”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB5IX-np5fE&t=873s From his TED Talk: “If you’re depressed, if you’re anxious, you’re not weak, you’re not crazy, you’re not in the main a machine with broken parts. You’re a human being with unmet needs.”
2. Watch this TEDx Talk by Tim Box about anxiety. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZidGozDhOjg
3. Or this TED Talk by Kelly McGonagle about stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=360s
4. Consider reading “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Claire Weekes MD
5. Read this blog by David Hanscom MD (author of “Back in Control: a surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain“. Also, internet and podcasts.
*If we have issues with anger (not everyone does), here is a podcast where David Hanscom is interviewed about anxiety and anger: https://vidalspeaks.com/podcasts/emotional-healing/dr-david-hanscom-anger-and-forgiveness-episode-84/
6. We might talk more about the power of mindfulness and meditation in the future. There is a LOT of scientific evidence that brain chemistry, brain circuitry and even brain VOLUME changes with mindfulness practices.
For now, he recommended that we start doing an “active mini-meditation” – for just 3 seconds – multiple times per day:
A. Drop your shoulders.
B. Do a three second “active mini-meditation”, drop your shoulders and then take one slow deep breath in and out through the nose.
C. Repeat throughout he day, when needed.
7. If we have been told we have ADD or ADHD, consider reading Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate.
8. Watch this 4 minute Gabor Mate video clip:
9. Watch this TED Talk by Phil Borges, director of the movie “Crazywise”-
10. Try expressive writing – ok to not continue with it if we do not perceive any benefit, but just try it for 2-3 days and see if we notice any less tension in your system or any other benefits. After that, we can decide if it is something we want to continue regularly or not at all or just on certain days.
11. Commit to engaging with the idea that we can take control over our own nervous system.
Mind Body Medicine is a form of Self-Care, and requires for us to do some work.
Our symptoms are in no way our fault. Instead they emanate from neural circuits in the brain that began outside of our conscious awareness. But even so, there are ways to rewire these neural circuits so that we can feel better. Medications and procedures might temporarily blunt symptoms, but only YOU can change the neural pathways that your brain is running, so he insists that we start educating ourselves.
12. Education, education, education. Look at the suggested videos, start reading books. We should learn as much as we can about new neuroscience in order to understand how our subconscious brain (our Autonomic Nervous System) is running alarm signals and to start believing that we can get control over it, and heal completely.
Working with these alternative doctors and both Mind/Body and Functional Medicine, has been invaluable to me over the years as part of my healing process. The doctor that I went to, Bradley D Fanestil, MD. was actually covered by insurance, as a lot of policies are now honoring alternative medicine like chiropractic, acupuncture, preventative medicine, wellness medicine and even Reiki healing. Dr. Fanesil, met with me for almost two hours awhile back and he was so excited about his craft and his understanding of the bio-mechanics of anxiety. He passionately wants to impart to all of us, how these issues are hardwired into our autonomic nervous system and, according to him, are not considered a mental illness. Anxiety and insomnia are natural, common and normal responses to trauma, stress, adrenal fatigue and certain life experiences. With a few small mindfulness techniques, education and self care, over time, he believes that we could heal and restore our systems completely.
Well, the first thing I’d like to say if you suspect that you may have mental illness or a personality disorder or you have gotten an official diagnosis is… don’t panic! The fact that you’re here reading articles like this or seeking therapeutic help is rare. Self awareness and treatment is invaluable for people who suffer with personality disorders and it’s a huge step forward to even begin to see that one needs help. Congratulations are in order! I do not purport to be a psychologist, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and have worked as a mental health counselor and wellness coach. More than training, I have been the recipient of narcissistic abuse for the good part of my life from my primary relationships. As a survivor and hopeful thriver, I have a lot of first hand experience with the dynamics of relational abuse and have encountered many modalities for healing, that I’d like to share.
Compassion for All
A lot of the self-help books and trainings and even therapists are geared toward helping the people who are the recipients of abuse. However, I’m finding that there’s not a whole lot out there to help people if they find out that they themselves have a personality disorder. Many professionals and online forums consider people who are narcissists, or people to suffer from antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) to be wholly dysfunctional, predatory and conscienceless. Many therapists refuse to work with deeply rooted untreated personality disorders like borderline as the borderline can be emotionally manipulative and harmful, even to the therapist. They talk at great length about cutting people out, no contact, boundaries from “toxic people” and how to walk away.
One of my Buddhist teachers in contrast said, the people that are unwell, hurt, angry and reactive are the ones that need our love the most. I still love the disordered person that is in my family, I know they will never seek treatment. Yet, I see their past, their trauma that caused them to become like this: reactive, rageful and never, ever admitting fault, it’s always everyone else’s issue and they are the poor victims of mistreatment. Inside, they are broken, hollow and alone. Education is the key, for me to be able to create a safe environment to be around this family member. What they had to endure just being them, is enough “punishment” for their lifelong and continuous hurt to me. I’m grateful actually, to have been raised by a full spectrum narcissist and then to seek out a spiritual community headed by someone with a similar psychological profile. I admittedly struggle with being a wounded healer, codependency and care-taking as the fallout of my upbringing. However, they say “take it to the path,” the pain, many tears and years of therapeutic and healing modalities has I hope, caused me to grow and love even more deeply.
There is Hope
I would like to offer a different perspective on how people with personality disorders came to be and feel that if they were to ever seek help, no one is beyond redemption. I believe that no human being, even hardened criminals, even if they go so far as to identify as a predator, abusers who uphold the persona of the “wolf in sheep clothing” con men, gang members, people in political power, people that hold trusted roles as spiritual leaders but are exploitative and use people to glean sex, money, power, control and narcissistic supply, could not be treated and learn to uncover their innate dormant conscience and no longer harm others.
If the disorders that we experience come from: early childhood physical or sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, loss of a parent, growing up with a lot of intensity or trauma, then in order to survive, the child learns to dissociate and protect the vulnerable part of them from being hurt. As they age they perceive people who love them as people who are going to hurt them, a myriad of maladaptive, reactive, controlling or dissociated behaviors can ensue. Experts say often that the age that the abuse started is the age where the person stopped developing emotionally. Often you have people that are adults on the outside but yet broken, the “walking wounded” on the inside. This is not evil, this is sad, and we must safely help each other as much as we can, both “victim and perpetrator” in this hard and fragile life.
This organization, The Compassion Prison Project does a lot of work to help us all to be “trauma informed,” having compassion for unfortunate people that come from trauma and abuse that results in committing crimes. The project offers ways for us all to understand and heal, rather than mere punishment of doing years of time. I myself, used to volunteer in prisons and saw large, muscled, grown men, with tattoos, seemingly hardened, cry and express real regret. These images stay indelibly, with me.
Indeed, some people are born with neurological deficits which are the constructs of antisocial personality disorder, the traditional psychopaths or sociopaths. These are traditionally defined as people that are not capable of feeling real love, compassion, empathy or having any conscience. The statistics are staggering- 1 in 20 people are considered to be on the spectrum of antisocial personality disorder so there’s a very good chance that each of us encountered someone like this in our lives or… maybe ourselves? If you have been diagnosed with a personality disorder and you’re trying to seek help you are not too far gone to be considered un-treatable, then it’s time to take this very seriously and begin the process of self-awareness and healing right away as to not hurt yourself or others any more. The pain of living with untreated personality disorders can create a lonely and hollow life for the person that suffers from this and the impact on people’s family and social relationships can be devastating.
If you suspect you may have a personality disorder, first and foremost, I would adopt this mantra-
“I am a good person but through this illness, I have hurt myself and many people. I am so proud that now, I’m brave enough to see it, and will diligently seek help. I know I can get better and stop these negative recurring patterns. I will someday become a loving, healed and helpful person.”
Here are some helpful steps as to how to get treated:
- I would read this book immediately it’s called the Five Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life. I listened to the 5 hour Audible version, gripping and insightful! https://www.amazon.com/Types-People-Ruin-Your-Life/dp/0143131362
- Find a therapist and commit to seeing them weekly for an extended time. You can even try some of the online free therapy: https://www.onlinetherapy.com/free/
- There are powerful, compassion and empathy generating meditation practices called Tonglen that exchange yourself for others, so you can feel what it’s like to be abused and mistreated.
- If your doctor or therapist suggest medication take it diligently.
- If you have problems with alcohol or substance abuse, go to detox, often covered by insurance and then join a supportive 12 Step Community.
- Consider consulting with a Functional Medicine Doctor, there are many powerful OTC supplements that can help.
- Consider a longer term, immersive treatment program, like the one at Menniger, they have been around since 1925- https://www.menningerclinic.org/for-patients/admissions-appointments
- Journal– Make an extensive list about every single thing you have done to hurt others in your whole life prior to treatment and if possible, contact all of them to apologize, even if it has been decades.
- Real Self Love– Forgive yourself for any harm you have done by acting out of the untreated personality disorder or mental illness.
- Self Energy Work– Learn how to do reiki healings, EFT tapping or self care acupressure like Jinshin-jitsu, take regular warm baths, support, cradle and re-parent a taxed, damaged nervous and adrenal system.
- Seek Emergency or therapeutic help if you uncover memories that are too painful or encounter any mental or emotional state that’s too much to handle alone, or if you have any desire to harm yourself or others.
- As you get stronger and better and are in treatment, if you have committed crimes, you may choose to work with your counselor and contact a lawyer and turn yourself in and explain that you were mentally ill when committing them, and plea for a lesser sentence or a mental illness waiving of sentencing.
- Make sure that you follow the law, always, there are no exceptions or special permissions for you. If you belong to a rebellious group of friends or religion that gives you special permissions to break the law and harm others, leave any unhealthy culture or organization that supports and enables disordered thinking.
- Vow to be mindful of your body, speech and mind, notice if there’s a tendency to feel hurt, reactive rageful and when you notice this come up, take a deep calming abdominal breath, feel your body, look at the other person with kindness and start again.
- A well balanced nutritive diet, daily exercise and sunlight are the basics of any human mind-body-spirit health!
- Contrary to popular thought, I do not recommend meditation, solitary retreat, withdrawal or solitude for long periods of time or any high yogic practices until you have been treated and are stable and psychologically healthy.
- Self Talk– believe that each day is new, each day is a new you, full of potential and renewed!
There is no shame in being diagnosed with any type of depression, bi-polar personality disorder or mental illness. (!) The statistics for us all collectively suffering after the past few years with the disasters, pandemic, loss of life, isolation and economy are all pervasive. I know it’s easier to be in denial, project and blame others, that’s how personality disorders keep their stronghold on those who suffer, but I trust that somewhere, people know when they are unwell and need help. We must remove the mental health stigma, get whatever help needed, to create the best life for ourselves. I love the mantra:
Hurt People Hurt People, Healed People Heal People
Taking steps toward our personal inner health- mind-body-spirit becomes the building blocks of a healthier society, families and spans into the next generations. There are so many amazing powerful and transformative healing resources out there. We can bring light to our shadow, and admit if we are in pain and we’ve hurt others and need help. We can take whatever steps we can to become the best, most healed people we can be! As long as we are still here, with faculties intact, there is always… hope.
Disclaimer and Emergency Information
Disclaimer: Please do not use these articles as a way to diagnose yourself or others. These articles are for educational purposes and they are links, reposts and personal opinions of the author. If you relate to any content, we have a list of hotlines below that you or a loved one can use to seek help for abuse, trauma or mental health issues. Some content can cause “triggers” as sensitive content is discussed.
Resources: National Child Abuse Hotline (US and Canada): 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) TTY: 800-787-3224 Video Phone for Deaf Callers: 206-518-9361
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) TTY: 800-799-4TTY (800-799-4889)
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (US and Canada) or 85258 (UK) National Runaway Switchboard: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)
You know, I happen to be Buddhist, but one with an inquisitive mind. We have what we know as the Buddha’s First Noble Truth and that is: “Life is Suffering.” However, it’s a misnomer to just stop there and concede to a life of misery. I think a lot of students and even some teachers feel that we just need to wake up to the that fact this life is hallmarked by sense of misery and dissatisfaction. One even wrote a book called: “Not For Happiness,” depressing. However, leaving this first noble truth truism as a final statement, in my opinion, would be the antithesis of what the Buddha had intended with his teachings and realization. Why? Because his subsequent teachings say… there is indeed a way out of suffering- we don’t have to be miserable! That was his very quest. That’s the entire point of what it means to be a Buddhist; we believe that at some point, we will not be forever bound and controlled by a mind that makes us unhappy.
Some teachers talk about our need to be comfort seeking and seek pleasure and use our Buddhist practice as sort of a health and mental improvement task, an ego boost and an effort to make “samsara comfortable,” but I beg to differ. I ascribe to the theory that “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Have you ever had a backache or headache, and it didn’t feel great but maybe inside you felt such a sense of warmth and well-being or were doing something super fun, that you were just able to ignore it and didn’t let it ruin your day? That is pain but not suffering; our difficulties can take place in a larger space of accommodation.
I recall one day, I was feeling particularly depressed and anxious and just didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It was a sunny day, I could see the white and pink magnolia tree outside and morning birds chirping, but I was miserable. A lot of hopeless thoughts and negative self talk was swirling around in my mind and making me really sad, without any energy. I started to just imagine in that moment, is there anything beautiful that I can recall? Then I remembered one of my friends, he used to be a pretty close Yogi friend who lives on what might be, lifetime retreat. During the warmer months, he wakes up every morning and makes some tea and does meditation and yoga outside on a colored, hand-loomed woolen Tibetan carpet on his porch, greeting the sun. Just the memory of him, sitting in the sun inspired me and I jumped up out of bed, took a shower did little bit of yoga and meditation myself, and all of the mind-made depression and anxiety completely dissipated, like a cloud clearing!
I know it’s hard for a lot of us to do hours of sitting meditation we have a very movement and “doing rather than being” oriented society- get up and go and always be busy, distracted or doing something… anything! You know the old work ethic Christian proverb: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Maybe a lot of us aren’t cut out to be super disciplined yogis and mindfulness, this panacea that will heal all woes. I checked with a lot of my friends and in all honesty, a lot of them admit to not really practicing meditation very much, a lot of us are Buddhist in name or theory only. So even if you’re not destined to become a yogic mahasiddha or totally liberated and enlightened in this life, I think we can borrow from a lot of the exceedingly simple and powerful healing modalities that can make great improvements toward our happiness, reduce anxiety and increase well-being… every single day! I don’t think that any religion, even Buddhism has the only way or copyright- patent-and trademark on one particular route toward spirituality or human well-being. I actually think the Buddha would endorse this approach, after all, the third and fourth noble truths clearly say that we don’t have to live forever, bound by mind-imposed suffering, and it can be as easy as changing a thought. Here are a few tips to cheer up and indeed use this “Life For Happiness.”
Simple Practices to uplift your mood and start and finish your day feeling refreshed, happy and be more joyous:
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is required for positive mood. Serotonin production happens whenever we get sunlight through our eyes and feel the warmth the on top of our head. Ensuring that we go out for one half to one hour per day is an inexpensive, nutritive and easy method to increase our mood. Be sure you take your sunglasses off for fifteen minutes.
Forest bathing–sitting quietly among trees–has been proven to have many mood-boosting benefits. In Japan “forest bathing” is prescribed by doctors and even covered by medical health insurance!
“Earthing,” that is simply putting your bare feet on the earth where there’s some moisture and coolness for contact. This can re-calibrate and regulate your entire energetic system and lead to wellness and well-being. Release any stress, pain, sadness, anything into the earth that you are ready to let go of, when you contact the ground. It might take some time to ground entire body, but you only need about fifteen minutes every day.
Exercise, as we know is a fantastic mood-booster. Walking, hiking and running could be easily done by almost anyone and doesn’t even require a lot of special equipment. To reset your mood and get the greatest health advantages, 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day is ideal, but every little bit is helpful!
Standing or sitting up straight and holding your head up actually provides a neurotransmitter activity increase to your brain, and opens the whole energetic system. So check your posture regularly and ensure you’re not walking around with your head hanging down, sulking or staring at your phone! Observing your posture will also assist you to prevent or reduce chronic pain.
Not getting enough water will increase your fatigue and drain your joyful mood. Make sure to keep a glass of water besides you at all times and drink through the day. I love to drink 16 oz. of warm water with a packet of orange emergen-c each morning before I do anything else. “It’s got electrolytes.” This provides a bit “mini-cleanse” each morning.
Obviously, if you think about it, all of these things may be done at the exact same time, take advantage of where you live, the mountains and foothills, or your local park, and go on a walk or climb. If you can, just be sure to take off your shoes and dip your legs in a mountain stream!
Getting the maximum out of sleep and having an effective morning and evening routine, 15 minutes of meditation, journaling and eating antioxidant fresh fruits and vegetables are additional areas which will greatly improve your happiness joyful disposition and endurance.
So you see, there are many simple of ways to increase your well-being, which can be easy, natural, free and safe. One hour per day, out of 24 toward self care could be the difference between a joyous life- or not! You owe it to yourself, integrate these six powerful steps into your daily routine, Just for Happiness!
I was a hopeful spiritual seeker and found the exotic and colorful, Tibetan Buddhism when I was 19. I recall when I started on this Buddhist path and went to Naropa, a Buddhist inspired university, they gave me all types of warnings, saying “think twice before you embark upon this path.” They said it was powerful, transformative and even dangerous. I went over and lived in Nepal and studied with a very powerful yogic master and one of my other teachers said “well the further into it you get the more committed to it you’ll have to be.” I didn’t really pay attention or understand what he meant at the time.
I must admit I was kind of mesmerized because we have different levels and different teachings that are considered advanced and secret, and the moment I heard the word secret I had the feeling that just I had to have *all* of the teachings. 25 years later, I actually had the good fortune (or burden) of going pretty deep and collecting almost the entire wide breadth of the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric path. Indeed I had now, a one way ticket to blissful enlightenment, or so I thought.
Some of the fundamental teachings say that ‘Life is Suffering’ but we could, if we meditated and implement these practices, actually find a way out of suffering. What they don’t tell you however when you come through the doors and you start meditating and having all the warm fuzzy feeling of a blessed environment and friends, is that you’re ready to embark upon a path that’s going to go deeper and overturn and break you like you’ve never known before.
The Dharma centers never really put that type of “warning” information of what’s really going happen to you on the advertising brochures. So for many years, I did simple sitting meditation and then compassion practices and then some pretty fruitional powerful yogic practices. I remember doing my preliminary practices, you have to basically throw your body to the ground hundred thousand times like a reverent squat thrust in namaste.
I would often find myself crying and I didn’t quite understand why. I think doing these practices shook up dormant grief and while it was happening, it was painful but then after the practice session, I would always feel really cleansed and bright. The Buddhist saints of old, that created these Buddhist foundational practices have perfected a mind-transformation technology that knows how to cultivate us, so that we become open conduits for more wisdom and evolution.
The further into this path I got, it sometimes feels like it’s like two steps forward and one step back. Last year I did a month long meditation retreat and I was feeling super joyous and positive. Every morning waking up, roasted coffee and doing yoga with sunshine, silence in a lovely retreat home. I was actually a little bit spiritually prideful and smug, feeling that I had really achieved the state of complete peace where all of my anxiety, desire and deep-seated fears had now, completely subsided.
Then… something happened where I had a strange confluence of meeting someone, a catalyst “twin flame” type, that triggered the deepest and darkest stuff that I had no idea was still within me. I went from feeling completely enlightened, on a crystalline rainbow cloud, to some of the darkest night of the soul sludge, you could possibly imagine. I’ve spent the last year crying about stuff that I don’t even have a name for. Things like early memories of being neglected in the crib, child abuse, regret for my mistakes and hurting people, looking at moments where I feel that I am not lovable or good. I was having really deep self reflections about whatever obstacles prevent me from having self-love, self forgiveness and loving others with real compassion and clarity. OMFG.
I’ve had to spend a good part of the year going inward and journaling and seeking tons of professional grief counseling and meditating and mostly just crying pretty much sometimes one or more hours per day. My family has looked at me and wondered “what is happening to her how can she be so incredibly heartbroken what is going on?” Was she abused, hormones, no one and nothing could help me, but me. However I know myself, there were a few deep healing crises before, and I trusted that this is a just giant karmic chunk arising and with sufficient time and care and patience, I could see it all clearing and dissipating.
I’m actually so grateful to have this dark stuff come up, it’s like the healing crisis of Ebenezer Scrooge in the book A Christmas Carol, where at some point you really have to face your own patterns, karma, personality, your own obstacles and your own blocks and make a decision about who you want to be at a crossroads in your life. I’ve now reevaluated what feels false in me, in my life, in my marriage and in my career; pretty much every single thing I’m reflecting on now. So this is been an excruciatingly painful, deep healing insight, going into the muck of tears and fears, and plunging out gnarly, dark stuff that I was previously unwilling to look at.
It’s not yoga mats, candles, bells and phurbas… our most powerful spiritual implement:
Some of my new age friends have judged me for not being “love and lighty” enough and even some dharma friends for seeming stuck or “dramatic” (?(*&*%!!), but I know that the way out is through. I must endure facing whatever karmic baggage that I’ve been carrying around for this or many lifetimes. Some of these friends in both the city and country, sadly, are clearly suppressing and bypassing and only acting “spiritual,” you can see and feel that they haven’t done this deep soul work yet. So with the painful confluence of meeting this dear Dharma catalyst friend that caused this whole healing crisis to be set into motion, I’m really grateful for this process because now I have a chance to really grow up spiritually.
One of the greatest solaces is that I have found some strength to be able to go deep into the dark shadow and know that whatever we experience will pass. If you’re crying out great amounts of grief or anxiety you can always tell yourself this, “how I’m feeling right now is just a temporary state,” so therefore you can experience it fully without any type of blocks or resistance. Just let all of the stuff that’s there come up and out, like purging venom from a bite. It’s really a privilege to have the time and space to go deeply in this life. A lot of us have to work full time and rarely get any retreat time and healing time or time for grief that really needs to be processed. So, I invite all of us as much as we can, even take a whole weekend, take time with yourself and give a voice and space to whatever is there- sadness anxiety, personality shortcomings and really self reflect. This is the very essence of the genuine spiritual path and it’s not at all calm and peaceful, it’s more akin to acute anguish, consternation at times, until these deep blocks clear. My teacher Tenzin Wangyal always says:
“The way to find the light within you is to face the darkness”
May all of us really take the time needed, to uncover the powerful and radiant light that already exists within us.
Written By Dawn Boiani-Sandberg
Owner of Buddhistmala.com
“Don’t look outside
outside love is great
we need it
but without essence love…
we might not be able
to receive love
because we are
from our hollowness
we must receive love
from the basis of
we must give love
from this wellbeing
Please expand this love…
gradually the essence love
will express it’s own
as loving kindness
it carries a wish for
everyone to be happy…
and this essence love
expresses as compassion
may all beings be free
the guts will arise
from this essence love
you need nothing
you are fulfilled by the
you are no more hungry
you are the love
the only thing is that
you give love now
and this kind of confidence
will emerge out of
Short excerpt from Sept, 2020 Zoom Retreat on Essence Love (Tib.) ཐིག་ལེ
Tsoknyi Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist Teacher who lives in Nepal. Widely recognized as an outstanding meditation teacher, he is the author of three books: Open Heart Open Mind, Carefree Dignity, and Fearless Simplicity.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~Rumi
Spiritual Bypassing, Using Religion to Build Up Ego
As westerners who chose to be involved with eastern religion, it is safe to say, we were looking for something greater. Tibetan Buddhism took root in the United States during the 1960s where people were spiritual seekers and often involved in the psychedelic movement. A lot of us came from a great amount of curiosity, disappointment and loss. A large portion of us came from dysfunctional families, divorce or even outright abuse. We were told that if we were to take complete refuge in this religion that all of our cares would cease. We could follow a very tried and true graduated path that would bring meaning to our lives, quell our emotional, spiritual and psychological problems and result in us attaining enlightenment, if we devoted ourselves to it sufficiently.
The problem is, is that unless we come into the spiritual path with having a basis of feeling well, a basic sense of warmth, well-being, groundedness, and the harsh barbs of our trauma being resolved, there’s a tendency for ego to slip in and use even positive methods of liberation for its own constructs. If we use the dharma to feel superior, pretend that we are more knowledgeable, spiritually evolved than others, hide, cower and escape from our vulnerability, our fears or our deep karmic wounding, the dharma itself becomes a method to spiritually bypass and therefore itself, a worldly dharma. Spiritual bypassing is akin to hopping over our issues, our deep karmic blocks by denying, projecting them into others or ignoring, and then using one’s religion or spirituality as a faux front.
We will have devoted our lives to something wheres it is impossible to make any progress because the fundamental obstacles have never been touched, opened and routed out. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. It is like my teacher would say-clearly explains this process in his book
“If we don’t practice properly and really use these methods to evolve, it’s like going to an island of diamonds and coming back empty-handed.” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
84000 Methods Can Be Absconded By Ego
Ego is very slippery, like a shapeshifter, and can use these methods in the dharma to build itself up. We often see fluctuation between pompous credential or an opiated escape, neither are enlightened. For example, if the way that you hide from pain is that you have some type of avoidant personality disorder and withdraw, will you find a particular part of the vast body of Buddhist teachings to confirm your propensity. You will then withdraw from society and hide and consider yourself really spiritual and in concurrence with the scriptures.
If you happen have a propensity for hedonism or sexual addiction, we have a controversial Saint named Drukpa Kunley who would unhesitatingly sleep with whomever he wanted to. You could use Dharma teachings to say that “morality is relative” and everything is part of the absolute manifestation of sacredness, and thereby justify sexual misconduct. How can this be spiritual? Both are sides of the same type of spiritual ego, and none of these propensities, I believe, can make any progress in this life until they breakdown the constructs of what they’re using to cover. Sadly, for many I see no sign of hope as of yet, it is all about “virtue signaling,” being “spiritualistas” or “spiritual slactivists.”
Guru Devotion as a Weapon
One western Tibetan reincarnated teacher called a “tulku” recently said to me:
“The intense mind control and hierarchical culture of obedience is something I’m really uncomfortable with now. I actually think more people got hurt through that than from sexual abuse itself.”
Yes we have a religion where we offer the guru absolute control and blind obeisance. You can imagine if anyone has seen the miniseries Wild Wild Country, how well that works out. We have this unbreakable vow that we take with the teacher, that if we break or leave the teacher or community or speak ill of them or even have a negative thought, we’re supposed to go to this terrible mind torture hell in the afterlife, and/or be riddled with personal obstacles and punishments. This vow which is supposed to help us to make spiritual progress is often used as a weapon of control and ownership of students. This does nothing but create cult-like communities and spiritual, psychological and emotional harm to so very many.
We can credit a lot of this social dysfunction to the term toxic masculinity. Human society has a very long history of the suppression of the feminine, considering emotionality to be weak and women to be subordinate, unstable, second class citizens or even, in some cultures, property. Many men to this day, often believe that they are far superior to women with an undercurrent of continued social misogyny that exists in all cultures. I personally practice in a very male-dominated religion in Tibetan Buddhism where we are instructed to worship these men as divine. In that culture they have a word for women which literally translates as lesser human. Very few women have any power or real voice and it is disheartening to see this panel of colored robed, throned men telling us how to live. Many know that behind the scenes there are volumes of power, control, sexual misconduct, financial and ethics issues galore. I say it is high time for women to take leadership roles in both religion, spirituality and politics, to clean up a lot of this toxicity and corruption.
A study in the Journal of School of Psychology uses the following definition to explain toxic masculinity: “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.”
In modern society, people often use the term toxic masculinity to describe exaggerated masculine traits that many cultures have widely accepted or glorified.
This harmful concept of masculinity also places significant importance on ‘manliness’ based on:
- lack of emotion
- sexual virility”
Real Spiritual Work Is Dirty
Karmic knots, emotional issues that we hold keep us stuck, however there is hope. By touching the wounds, our tears and fears, we can wholly liberate them. This is the crack of light that is possible. People come in to a tradition with trauma, loss, in pain and longing and are instructed to apply these high eastern yogic methods. It is not working; we need a new way of real liberation which includes deep fundamental trauma work and the base of healing before embarking on any spiritual path.
My Teacher’s Advice
I was practicing meditation in Denmark and really reflecting about my life. I’ve mentioned before, that I came from pretty serious child abuse and neglect, and I was crying about how it would ever be possible for me to feel happy and healed in this life at all, ever. Then, during my meditation practice an insight came to me. I could take the foundation of this pain and the abuse that I experienced early on, and try to heal from it and then use it later on in life as a way of deepening compassion for others that might have experienced something similar. That was the impetus for why I started to teach meditation in prisons, and learned so much about human growth, regret and real hands-on spirituality. I think if anyone wants to do any type of real spiritual work you have to get down and dirty, here are 4 steps to get started:
- Spend time with yourself in a very raw and honest way and feel where you’re stuck.
- We can journal about where our strengths and weaknesses are and look at ourselves with tremendous honesty.
- If we notice that we have some type of these dormant fears and wounding and pain, take the time to honor stuck places.
- We can use the retreat time that we have to face our fears head-on, cry out all the tears until there are no more, like a sponge ringing out dirty water.
It is so helpful to make the effort to cleanse these psycho-spiritual and emotional blocks built up from our lifetime or more. In this way, we can truly become a clear vessel that’s capable of wisdom. Without having gone through this messy, difficult dark night of the soul process, there’s a strong possibility that we are using our spirituality or religion in a deluded way, to cover the deep-seated blocks that we’re unwilling to face.
East Meets.. West
I think these Indo-Tibetan methods used 2500 years ago in India and in Tibet, were exceedingly valid and powerful methods of transformation and spiritual development. In our materialistic west, which allows no time for grief, we have often a lot of gross trauma and imbalances to heal before we can even start sitting meditation. If we don’t do the trauma work and we just sit alone with ourselves, let alone do any of the higher tantras which involve powerful methods of yogic practice ritual, those methods become ways to make us further imbalanced and can be actually dangerous. So this trauma work, taking time to delve deep into what has been hurtful, processing fears, going very deeply to core childhood or karmic wounding, is an essential step before we embark upon any more lofty spiritual path. Many often benefit from personal or professional support for this healing process. We could say that this is the basic foundation of the spiritual path. Real human strength and evolution is forged through bravely facing fears, heartbreak and tears, not bypassing or some renunciant escape. So go ahead, get curious about the cracks in our deepest, hidden wounds. Our hearts long to emerge from the shadows and see what type of welcome light can eventually come in. I have faith that with effort, we all have a capacity to learn, grow and heal, no matter what we have experienced. The human heart is forever fundamentally bright, and sometimes, the accumulated tarnish, just needs a bit of polishing.
Written By Dawn Boiani-Sandberg
image from pexels
If I can quote Al Gore “every day when you turn on the news, it’s like a page from the Book of Revelations.” If we aren’t sad and anxious a bit now, there might be something dampened with our sensitivity! However, I’m living proof that the old that adage is true that “the darkest hour is indeed right before the dawn,” and I’d like to share my story. A series of very challenging things happened to me a few years ago: an exceedingly painful conflict with a friend, some hormonal changes and some possible legal issue happened right before getting on a plane for a family vacation in Europe. It was like a perfect storm. It was intense, emotional, I was frightened and nothing was settled.
When I arrived in Europe I had the normal jet lag, but at that point my mind and heart were spinning about all these personal issues. I had to leave with them still being unresolved. My nervous system and and my internal circadian clock became seriously out of whack. I spent my family vacation in Europe trying to meditate and sleep, but all of the problems circled around in my mind.
When I got back to the United States, I had reverse jet lag again and the problems were still painful. That set into motion about 6 months of intense anxiety, resulting in seemingly unsolvable insomnia. It was bad, I was sleeping only a few hours a week, and had terrible nightmares and existential fears when I did. I have a funny religion that believes in hells, obstacles, curses and punishments and that definitely exacerbated this internal struggle. It was like the dark night of the soul, akin to Ebenezer Scrooge, but it went on for 6 months instead of only three nights! It took all strength in me to overcome this.
I realized later, that the root of anxiety is actually heartbreak, a person can withstand a few painful, dramatic things and recover from them quite well. However, if a number of things occur at the same time, the heart reaches an overload and can’t process so much grief and stress all at once. Your nervous system goes on overload. It could be considered the infamous nervous breakdown. I reached out to everyone to try to help: doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. I kid you not, I was so desperate I even has a soul retrieval done by a shaman! Medical doctors tried to put me on sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medicine, whatever could help me. I was only sleeping a few hours a week, and couldn’t function in my daily life well. I was so worried that my health, mind, heart and marriage were going to be irrevocably damaged. The biggest fear was that this would be forever, would I lose everything, even my life?
So what I did, is that I was not going to take this laying down. I did not want to go on any type of allopathic medicine. They all have side effects and do strange things to your mind. Oftentimes these toxic, addictive sleeping pills stop working after awhile. You have to take more over time, and I didn’t want to be addicted to anything ever. This was not the right path for me, but I’m not suggesting that anyone stop taking their doctor prescribed medicines, as that too, can be dangerous.
What I did is, I created a holistic approach to healing anxiety and depression and getting my body back into order. I started to eat really well, exercise, journal and breathe deeply. I sought counseling to do very very deep trauma work and tried to resolve the original issue with my friend. I sought the help of friends, professionals, and more than anything believed that I could get through this difficult time. I found a good Functional Medicine doctor who was not a proponent of any type of sleeping pills or medicine for depression. He rather, put me on a protocol of fresh foods, greens and natural supplements that you could get at the health food store, to support the nervous system. For about three months, I took a very heavy protocol of herbs and over the counter supplements like: 5HTP, Gaba, Inositol, and started to take some type of very simple herb and spice based Tibetan Medicine as well. I found an amazing book, if people are having trouble sleeping called the Effortless Sleep Method that you can buy for $5 as a Kindle book on Amazon.
This all completely conquered my insomnia through a natural way, and got me sleeping deeper than ever. I realized that my anxiety was not an enemy but it was a friend. It’s the body’s light handed warning signal saying that you’ve taken on too much. It’s intention is not to be a burden for you, but it’s to remind you that it’s time to go deeply into self-care, simplify and helps to ultimately *prevent* disease.
So now, if I ever feel that I’m taking on too much and the “winds” are getting disturbed, or I’m feeling a lot of sadness or overwhelm, I take that as a sign to go immediately into calmness, meditation, and simplify my life and then restart. If you have been battling with anxiety, depression or insomnia, I’m living proof then you can recover from these imbalances go deeper into self care, form a very deep relationship with your own energetic system and come through the other side and flourish better than ever. No matter what’s happening on the “outside,” there is a strength of real self love and balance, that we can uncover. Nothing at this point, seems to be able shake that from me now, and I’m so very grateful that I went through this. We all can shine again and completely overcome anxiety and depression, with some holistic effort.
Written by Dawn Boiani, owner Sakura Designs
Image from pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-flowers-917076/
Love (again) in the Age of Corona
With our recent days of social isolation, we have looked more and more online and to social media for connection, to work, and stay in touch with family and friends. A lot of us now live in these virtual worlds a good part of the day. What we always must remember is that the founders of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter researched and utilized methods to make these platforms become as addictive as possible to users. They carefully researched the stimulus response design from slot machines and the baiting of time delayed, anticipation-reward, that has been used to have people become highly addicted to gambling.
So, if one already has any propensity for addiction or loneliness or simply too much time on their hands, any of us can fall prey to becoming addicted to the internet namely, any social media platform. I’ve seen friends spend countless hours per day, even myself, online having long discussions with people about political or philosophical things or posting things to become attention seeking. I fear that a lot of our healthy relationships are being traded for wanting these Facebook or Instagram “likes” where we get, a Pavlovian chemical bump of confirmation, in a time where all of us feel estranged and alone. I’m concerned about the healthiness of this trajectory in our society and with our children; we all spend way too much time in social media or on computer games or “working.” I feel that our overall general health flourishing and welfare is affected by these electronic milieus. One of my Facebook friends said “on my deathbed I’m sure I’m going to regret not having spent enough time on Facebook.” So I’d like to consider really looking at the addictiveness of the internet and social media, and how it can exacerbate any propensity that we have for addiction especially attention seeking and love addiction.
The Internet Exacerbates Love Addiction, Codependency and Unhealthy Attachments
It is natural and healthy to long for intimate connections. Oftentimes, because of unprocessed grief, hurt in past relationships and lingering childhood wounds, many find healthy, sustainable relationships to be a difficult and daunting task. Perhaps we have some kind of deep trauma or betrayal in our past, like parents involved with a traumatic divorce, or neglect, and these wounds are to this day, unresolved. Memory doesn’t really have a time limit, therefore we keep acting out of broken patterns. As adults we can choose individuals who are emotionally unavailable or people that we have to “fix,” a mirror resonant with our own broken hearts. It happens unconsciously, we seek to correct the pain of these unresolved past wounds, that occurred if we were young, often pre-concept, so they are by nature, hard to access. Some of us may even have been abused physically, emotionally or verbally, and therefore have difficulty discriminating. We can choose unreliable people and can not sustain any trust. If we felt undesired, unloved as children and teens, we can recreate a rejection propensity called “trauma reenactment,” and wind up feeling rejected, yet again, by these inaccessible partners.
Painful experiences that are unhealed become repeated pessimistic thoughts, negative emotions and then behaviors, which become the constructs of a poorly functioning self. Abandonment or neglect, early on, can result in codependency and addiction to, well, anything. Love addiction is highly seductive, because we really do flourish in relationship, and long to connect as part of our emotional, human, survival. There are strong chemicals released in the brain that encourages passionate love, like endorphins, oxytocin and phenylethylalanine. When we fall in love, there is a spike of phenylethylalanine, (a.k.a. the ‘love molecule’) you could say we get addicted to our own brain chemistry. The same is triggered in social media when someone “likes” what you post. We can be unconsciously driven into cycles of obsession and pursuing the object of our desire, one person obsessively, or Facebook “friends,” but you see, none of this love is real or healthy. This toxic pattern of love and internet addiction pushes real people, family and healthy relationships away, and we isolate more, and become sadly more lonely, even with tremendous effort to remedy it. Ah, the tragic face of addiction, and this one, internet and social media addiction is rampant and ubiquitous these days.
We can continue this unhealthy cycle over and over again, which generates the exact same painful emotions we may have had in youth: abandonment, fear, anger, pain, emptiness and notably loneliness. Love addicts often exacerbate this, by choosing someone who’s emotionally unavailable. Another facet of love addiction is actually, someone who is love avoidant. Yes, cue the noble Buddhist renunciation “path.” According to Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, love avoidance is the systematic use of blocking and escape techniques to prevent intimacy. We can prevent vulnerability and intimacy by creating intensity outside the relationship, normally with a few other unhealthy addictions, like sex, gambling, alcohol or drugs. The term codependency is used so often and many of us don’t really understand what that means. It means basically that people are your drug of choice. We feel broken, unwell and lonely, and we look to someone outside of ourselves to make us feel better and to define our self worth.
Love avoidants were frequently enmeshed with a clinging parent of the opposite gender. The love avoidant has an intense fear of being suffocated, overwhelmed or engulfed. They are inclined to stay in relationships usually from obligation or guilt rather than love. The love addict’s neediness, joined together with the love avoidant’s core wound, would cause that relationship to be dysfunctional and break down. There is often a perfect toxic pairing of an addict with a codependent, a push me-pull you, runner, chaser and fixer. Each person is, covertly wounded and unwell, and in need of real self care and healing, independent of the relationship, or even the internet for that matter! This dynamic can repeat again and again, and make having a sustainable connection with another nearly impossible. The problem is, if we are either addicted or avoidant neither one has well-adjusted relationship skills that result in becoming a well functioning, happy person. We can put a huge amount of effort, days, weeks, years or an entire lifetime, into becoming happy through these maladaptive ways, like searching for internet likes and e-connections, and windup having a fragmented, broken, lonely and a fundamentally unsatisfactory life.
Mindfulness tips to assist us to create real, healthy, loving relationships:
1. Health– make a choice to become as happy and healthy as we can be, in mind, body and spirit. That inner and outer shine as well authentic mental and emotional health, is a genuine love magnet! Walk outside, fresh air and sunshine, they say 10,000 steps a day!
2. Conscious Eating– The right foods, exercises and supplements may go a considerable way in promoting the healthful new you! Find out about possible food sensitivities and have your blood sugar checked. Food sensitivities, gluten intolerance, vitamin deficiencies and insulin resistance lead to mood swings and/or nervousness.
3. Feed your Heart and Soul. Limit internet and social media time to no more than 1-2 hours a day! A spiritual practice like mantra, prayer, inspiring reading, poetry or yoga soothes us to be at peace. Silent sitting and mindfulness meditation has been shown to bring calmness and can alter our brain waves and decrease hypertension and heart strain. Healthy, loving relationships provide relaxation, comfort and needed healthy chemicals like oxytocin from touch. Cherish people that care, really listen and want the best for us. Discriminating who is healthy for us and letting go of those who are not, is extremely healing and also an essential step towards being fulfilled and intimate, in a rewarding way with others.
4. Bring light to our Self Doubt. Negative self talk and pessimistic thoughts could be hindering our whole life. These are negative programs which have been running subconsciously since we were young, and can be very deep, and hard to access. Such beliefs as, “I am not lovable, I am not important, or I am unattractive” affect what we will manifest into our lives. Pay honest attention and write down all negative self beliefs and guilt about past actions on a paper. Then, burn that paper with a candle, releasing old patterns that no longer serve. You can use an affirmation, like “I am lovable, I am whole, I forgive myself for all past mistakes.”
5. Lastly and above all, learn to really love yourself. Addiction and maladaptive patterns just can’t survive with the power and efficacy of true self care, warmth and self respect. We cannot expect others to love us if we do not love ourselves, nor can we love anyone in excess of our self love. Hold our heart, hug a pillow and cry, release any old painful “knots.” We may find it necessary to get support. I have sought help many times, and challenge to myself to go as deep as I can, explore some of the hidden patterns from a wounded past and youth. Very deep things can clear like a cloud vanishing, and it doesn’t have to take years.
There are also free, online meet ups and support groups like: CODA, Love Addicts Anonymous, AlAnon, and Adult Children that can help with codependency, love, media or any addiction. We also might consider mindfulness awareness programs. Programs like mindfulness based relapse prevention shows a lot of promise with negative pattern redirection. In addition, web and app based mindfulness recovery programs work well. For instance, the Craving to Quit app provides an excellent mindfulness training which was developed at Yale University, and offers a connection to virtual community where individuals may get peer and expert support. Let’s all take this downtime to unplug more, feel whole, refresh, shine light on shadow patterns and restart life anew, to find real love and healthy, meaningful relationships. That would indeed be, something to “like.”
Warmth and wellness to all, always,
Meditation woman photo: https://pixabay.com/users/leninscape-2892621/