This provocative piece, just posted from my friend Matt Licata, is why I write so often about shadow work and exposing our dark side on this Reiki healing and self awareness blog. The only real way to find the light within us is to face our darkness in self and in our greater society. He points to the phoenix fire of true healing and transformation. Shadow work is the hands-in-the-mud-spirit break you open path, however unsavory and rawly real.
“Much is said these days about healing and spiritual transformation, and the deep joy, clarity, and peace that are the promised fruits of the inner journey. Not much is mentioned, however, about the disappointment involved in waking up, and the immense deflation wired into the transformative process. It doesn’t really sell that well.
“Making the darkness conscious,” as Jung noted, “is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
Healing can break our hearts and shatter old dreams. It is oriented in birth *and death, creativity *and destruction, transcendent *and descendent currents, and must by its nature dance in the full spectrum.
Not only does it involve resurrection, but the chaotic glory of the crucifixion as well.
While it is natural to have a bias for renewal and rebirth, it would appear the beloved does not share this bias as he or she (or it or they) will make equal use of the alchemical processes of dissolution and putrefactio to open us into her world – each holy arrows in her quiver.
We want to heal but we don’t want to have to feel too much. We want to feel fully alive, but not too vulnerable and tenderized. This is so understandable and so human, and need not be shamed. But it doesn’t seem to always work like that, not in this star anyway, where shakiness is the portal.
At times, “getting what I want” is no longer a majestic or sensitive-enough reference point around which to organize our experience. Love is the new organizer and may have a different idea.
Relationships ending, dreams collapsing, careers recycling, the dissolving of the way it was all supposed to turn out: these yellowings of soul are not evidence of error, failure, or defeat, but of the relentlessly creative nature of love as it emerges here. One form dying so that another may come into being.
Yes, at times the burning can seem unbearable. Such is the nature of the human heart. We may burn until we are translucent, but it is by way of this burning that wholeness is revealed.”

Image by Sara Richter- Reposted with Permission from Matt

Rongzom Pandita

Quote from Rongzom Pandita (an 11th. century Buddhist Saint), reposted from a dear bright, lotsawa dharma brother John Whitney Pettit~

There’s been much discussion about behavior of lamas towards their disciples. Needless to say, there are all kinds of scoundrels masquerading as gurus. Here is what Rongzom Pandita (11th. century), one of the most learned Mantrikas of the Ancient Translation School, has to say about how gurus should NOT treat their disciples in the Mantrika (Ngagpa) sangha. Indeed he says, in effect, there is a “samaya issue” when teachers treat their disciples like dirt. Sorry to disappoint any of you masochists out there, but according to Rongzompa, we mustn’t delude ourselves by fantasizing that somehow, “we deserve it”.

“According to The Charter of the Mantrins, “one should not discipline disciples as if they were dogs.”


What does this entail and how does it connect to the ethics of teaching? Rongzom writes:

“[F]or example, when someone spends time with a fierce dog, at first, before they know the dog, they take caution and calm the dog, repeatedly giving it food, and speaking softly and kindly. When they get to know the dog, however, they insult and yell at the dog, and do not calm the dog. They beat the dog with rocks and sticks.

“The fault here is that after generating bodhicitta one will pledge (dam bca’) to take care of all sentient beings, after which one is not permitted to either deceive even ordinary sentient beings or make them unhappy (sun dbyung ba). That being the case, what need is there to even mention [this type of] training through trickery and dispiriting behavior, especially with regard to close disciples and companions who are connected through a holy being.

On top of being a great downfall, [this] forms a basis for rupturing the Vajra Enclosure because, for those who behave in this way, there is no state of agreement between the Vajra master and the qualified companions. Thus, for someone who disciplines students [as if disciplining] dogs, in return [his or her disciples] will lose faith, become dispirited, find joy in turning away [both teacher and teaching]. Therefore, I have decreed that people should not be disciplined like dogs.”

Source: Dominic Sur, “Constituting Canon and Community in Eleventh Century Tibet: The Extant Writings of Rongzom and His Charter of Mantrins (sngags pa’i bca’ yig)”, in Religions (2017, Vol. 8, No. 40, pp. 20-22/30; retrieved from

I wrote this a few years ago, a journal entry, when I had a lot of time to think about my former Buddhist Community, now struggling to survive and redefine itself. I was a member for over 20 years and many close friends there still, still here. These words meant a lot to me and reflected my rawest heart essence, my hope for profound, fundamental, ethical change in our Tibetan Buddhist tradition and longing for healthy and sane spiritual community and friends.
“I’m alone here in Crestone, deeply reflecting on all of the trauma that has transpired in the past few years in our Dharma communities, particularly Shambhala. I remember being in Bhutan in 1992 after Khyentse Rinpoche’s cremation, we were with the Sakyong in his room at night at the Olathang hotel, about 20 of us, talking, all was so real and gentle and close. He had just started to teach, he was shy, soft, a tad frightened to take us on for sure, and I was at his very first seminary. I loved him and still do, too many years and too much has happened to shake it. I remember an empowerment that he gave at his home in Boulder, now for sale, where I felt nothing but kindness, and never saw anything harmful, ever.
So very many years for me, for us, retreats, a lot of practice, a life devoted to what we thought was an enlightened society, now revealed as only a mere cult with abuse and power at it’s core? Now it’s all deemed as predatory and grooming to later to controlled, threatened with some spiritual punishment if one leaves or speaks out, indeed, social control tactics unethically used for centuries in religion. I believe every word of the survivors, and have been speaking out tenaciously for over 10 years because I could feel that there was something off when they were starting to mandate loyalty, and many in the sangha left, the contraction was a slow drip, core erosion. I spoke out because I could foresee it’s end and I wanted to preserve it.
How could this be, what did we really all create together, and how could it have gone so very wrong, and all of this dark stuff secret behind the scenes to the majority of us? Was my life, involved with Shambhala all a sordid dream? I just can’t believe it will all fall after 47 years, 25 of which I was in that community. I still love and miss you all, you were the only family I ever knew, and there was so much warmth and blessing, that I know was real.
We were not all blind cultists, broken sycophants. Some of the most powerful and benevolent people I will ever know are or were part of Shambhala/ Naropa/ Tibetan Buddhism. These centers and retreats offer community, amazing meditation practice that has been tested to cultivate the mind and open the heart, and provide solace for people in hard times. I guess that why I have been a proponent of healing, transparency and restorative justice. People, since time immemorial, can get into unhealthy patterns, abuse, and indeed absolute power corrupts absolutely. This Tibetan “Lamaism” is dying quickly now due to profoundly incorrect organizational methods. Does that mean that there is nothing of value in our care for each other, these powerful practices, or any hope of healing? ❤
Dawn Boiani

Paro Dzong, Bhutan

amy carlson

Trigger Warning- Cults

I heard rumor that you
wanted to go to the hospital
but your devotees
did not allow you to.

After you passed away,
they had so much faith
that they thought
your corpse would ascend,
yet never did.

Who is to blame?

The professions of
self exalted divinity
from a woman cursed
with severe and profound,
untreated mental illness?

Or the confusion
of her drugged,
devoted and
so hopeful believers?

They watched you drink
and swear yourself
to death in His name.

How very sad,
people with narcissism,
sadism or psychopathology
or just alcoholism
who lead
or are members of
so very many
spiritual groups,
that on the outside,
can look benign,
even benevolent.

Look under the hood
and you see
people and children hurt,
yes there is always some
divine justification.

One of my very own teachers
who I followed,
prayed to and funded
was a drunk behind the scenes,
he bit and hit his students
and forced them to
strip and dance nakedly
while they cried in protest.
I am complicit.

Who I am to judge
you or your followers
with righteous decry?

No one is impervious to the
dark side of religion, cults
especially people like me with hope,
seekers, we are vulnerable.

I can’t blame her or her followers,
as I too had a similar past.

Deifying people and
spiritualizing mental illness
and crimes against
humanity and children
must cease.

I pray to you Amy
God as we all are
that we learn from your loss.

We could have gotten you
the help you needed,
we all could hear the cries.

I’m sorry your life was so short.
I’m sorry we did not help you.
I’m sorry for the complicit and
broken hearts and
minds of your followers.

All we can hope to do now
is to wake up,
a martyr on the cross of
mental health awareness.

Yes, in heart you are indeed God
but you were sick
just sick, that’s all.

Let us never again ever
use spirituality
as a tool for harm~

even one more day.

Amy Carlson, the founder of Love Has Won, lived in my hometown, a spiritualist community in Colorado. The pain touches any of us who were involved with “guru” or leader based, high-demand groups or religions. If you belong to this Crestone Group, we are processing this online:

without filter- without pretense

At the Dome Huts Crestone CO

Action is the Antidote to Despair- Joan Baez

Here is my curriculum vitae or maybe my living obituary, or just a modest aspiration prayer~

I was born in Providence, Rhode Island on October 18, 1969.
My mom was from a conservative waspy English/ German family and out of rebellion and to my grandparent’s dismay, was dating my hippy, long haired, Italian dad. He rode a motorcycle, went to political demonstrations and was a philosophy major at URI in Narragansett. She was studying at RISD but had to drop out due to pregnancy at 19, and they both wanted to go to Woodstock, but I came in the way.

He later drank too much and was exceedingly violent and left us when I was 3, mom was only 21. She never recovered and didn’t treat me well, chronic p.t.s.d.- I looked like him and I think I reminded her of the pain, and having lost her teen years, and innocence, much too abruptly. My childhood was unbearable, physical and emotional abuse daily from both mom and a stepdad and I was sent to a New England boarding school at 13. My mother went to New York and worked for the United Nations, Unicef- ironically helping with young girls human rights and humanitarian causes. I got into JD Salinger, The Bhagavad- Gita, The Grateful Dead and acid and traveled with the Dead every summer like a carnie, selling tye dyed t-shirts to pay for the trips.

I got out of the drug, party and “on the road” scene and got more into meditation, yoga and lived in a house with a reggae band in Rochester, New York, who were involved with an organic food co-op. At 19, in 1989, I came out to Boulder, Colorado to study Buddhism, Tibetan Art and Writing and Poetics at the Naropa Institute. I formally became a Buddhist, taking vows in 1990, and did month-long meditation retreats, and even a few three month ones. My last semester was in Nepal, and I had the good fortune to have studied with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a powerful Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen master who was one of the principal teachers of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. The world became filled with hope, palpable magic and blessing that I still often recall.

I went back and forth, living in Asia- Nepal and India, for a few years, again selling things that I bought there to fund my trips to study with him. My dharma brother was Robert Gray, the brother of the famous author John Gray (Men Are From Mars…), they had old family oil money and funded my burgeoning trade business. I met my husband, now a clean energy/ Tele-medicine Scientist from Sweden in 2000, and we got together in 2001 and have been married ever since, with the exception of one year where we separated because I wanted to move to our second, retreat house in Crestone and he prefers the “city.” This toggle still remains.

I sold dharma supplies for about 10 years and volunteered as the webmaster for the Boulder Shambhala Center and as the advertising manager for the Shambhala Times. I taught meditation in prisons and volunteered at many dharma programs and was trained to be a meditation instructor. I sold my Zen Home Goods company in 2006; it went under contract the day I gave birth to my daughter, I had to sign the papers while in the hospital. Over the last few years, the exposures from the #metoo movement brought to light a lot of the hidden, sordid and exploitative conduct of some of our Buddhist teachers, one of my beloved, trusted and main ones and it was very traumatic to say the least.

I don’t know that I will ever recover as all of my primary relationships were forged there. It felt like everything I took refuge in and invested in was a paper tiger, a farce and triggered early imprints of abuse and betrayal. We as a community are trying to heal, learn, grow and rebuild, but those in spiritual power are fighting to retain old roles and control and believe that they are entitled somehow to the continued and covert abuse of students, women and godforbid our children- spiritual bullies, the most grotesque of crimes. This infuriates me to no console, but mostly, it breaks my heart and I have cried more tears than I could ever relay or admit here.

So here I am now, scotch taping together hope for us all each day, I worry about my own child, she has seen a world that I so hoped would be different. All I can do is work to try, with whatever small talent I have, some trace writing skill, or at least tenacity, some connections with powerful politicos and influencers to be part of the solution, to hopefully help to create a better world~ for her, for us all. May it be so. I love you truly, I love you all without bias, with a heart of compassion and faith in the goodness of us all, no matter how dark, no matter the human stain, despair and failure cannot and will not have the last word.

Dawn Marie Boiani

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SIMHAMUKHA Wrathful Lion-Headed Dakini

Reposted: Permission Requested of Author John Reynolds Vajranatha March 29th 2009

The Wrathful Wisdom Dakini Simhamukha

In terms of these Higher Tantras, a meditation deity (yi-dam lha) who is both wrathful and female is the Jnana Dakini Simhamukha. It is important to understand that, despite her exceedingly wrathful appearance and animal head, she is not a guardian spirit (srung-ma), subdued by magic, converted to the Dharma, and bound by oaths of service by some powerful Mahasiddha in the past. Rather, she is a wrathful manifestation of Guhyajnana Dakini, who, according to the Nyingmapa tradition, was the principal Dakini teacher of Padmasambhava in the country of Uddiyana. Therefore, although Simhamukha is a Dakini in her aspect, she functions as a Yidam or meditation deity and her special functions are averting and repulsing (bzlog-pa) psychic attacks that may assault the practitioner and the subduing of negative female energy as personified by the Matrikas or Mamos. These latter are wild uncontrolled female spirits inhabiting the wilderness, both the mountains and the forests, beyond the confines of patriarchal civilization.

These female spirits are generally hostile to the male gender. Simhamukha appears in a form wrathful, feminine, and demonic; indeed, her form is said to be actually that of a Matrikia or Mamo, not because her nature is evil or demonic, but because her wrathful aspect (khro gzugs) skillfully overcomes and subdues those violent negative energies.

Simhamukha is a Jnana Dakini or wisdom goddess. According to Jigmed Lingpa (1726-1798), the famous Nyingmapa master and discoverer of hidden treasure texts or Termas, Simhamukha represents a Nirmanakaya manifestation, appearing in time and history, whereas her Sambhogakaya aspect is Vajravarahi and her Dharmakaya aspect is Samantabhadri, the Primordial Wisdom herself.

Very often the Dakinis and the Matrikas were the old pre-Buddhist pagan goddesses of the earth and sky, although generally the Matrikas always tend to be more local in their nature. Dakinis may appear in many different female forms, young and old, some with animal heads. In Hindu tradition, the goddess Durga is called the Queen of the Dakinis and Matrikas or witches. In many ways, Simhamukha represents a Buddhist version of Durga, but instead of riding on a lion and brandishing her weapons with eighteen arms, Simhamukha has the head of a lion. Among the eight Tantra sections (sgrub-pa bka’ brgyad) transmitted to Tibet in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, there is the section called Ma-mo rbad gtong, “the cursing and spell casting associated with the witch goddesses,” wherein Simhamukha, as the chief divine figure, very much assumes the role of the Hindu goddess Durga in subduing demons and evil spirits and protecting practitioners from negative provocations of energy coming from the Mamos. Like other nature spirits, the Mamos are disturbed by mankind’s destruction of the natural environment and therefore inflict plagues, new diseases, earthquakes, madness, wars, and other calamities upon human civilization.

The Magical Function of Averting Psychic Attacks

As we have said, the principal magical function of Simhamukha is the averting or repulsing (bzlog-pa) of negative energy and sending it back to its source, whether that source is a black magician or an evil spirit (gdon). Such a provocation of negative energy is called a malediction (byad-ma, byad-kha), and this is illustrated in the story of Bari Lotsawa (see below). Most often the Goddess is invoked to avert psychic attack. As indicated previously with the Dakini Kurukulla, Tantric Buddhism sees this working with energy in concrete ways in terms of the four magics or magical activities. Although Simhamukha can work with any of the four, she principally relates to the fourth function or fierce magical actions (drag-po’i ‘phrin-las). Therefore, the dark azure blue-colored Vajra Simhamukha is placed in the center of the mandala. Spiritually, she represents the transformation of anger or wrath into enlightened awareness, and psychically or magically, she accomplishes the subduing and vanquishing provocations of negative energy (gdon) personified as demons and evil spirits. She is surrounded by her retinue of four Dakinis who resemble herself, except for their body-color and certain attributes: in the east there is the white Buddha Simhamukha who has the magical function of pacifying circumstances and healing, in the south is the yellow Ratna Simhamukha who has the magical function of increasing wealth and prosperity, in the west is the red Padma Simhamukha who has the magical function of enchanting and bringing others under her power, and in the north is the dark green Karma Simhamukha who has the magical function of vanquishing and destroying negative forces. Each of these aspects of Simhamukha have their own mantras and rituals. If the practicioner is working which a specific function, say for example, becoming successful at business or winning at the horse races, he would put Ratna Simhamukha in the center of the mandala, doing the visualization while reciting her action mantra. But in thangkas, Vajra Simhamukha is usually represented as a single figure without the accompanying retinue.

The Wrathful Archetype

Nevertheless, despite her wrathful appearance and her magical activities, Simhamukha is a manifestation of the enlightened awareness of the Buddha and her nature is compassion. Like the Archangel Michael, she slays the dragon representing the forces of evil and chaos. She only shows her fierce and angry face in order to subdue misguided beings, much like a mother disciplining her naughty child. The worldly gods and spirits are not enlightened beings; they are still conditioned by their ignorance and their karma and still abide inside of Samsara or cyclical existence. And sometimes they direct negative energy against humans in the form of maledictions and the practice of Simhamukha may be used to avert and repulse these psychic attacks.
Transcendent deities like Simhamukha are emanations or projections of enlightened beings and being archetypes they may serve as meditation deities. These figures are principally classified into three types, because meditation on them the serve as antidotes to the three principal poisons that afflict human consciousness:

1. meditation on peaceful tranquil deities transforms confusion,
2. meditation on wrathful deities transforms anger, and
3. meditation on lustful or joyous deities transforms desire.

Where do the ornaments, attire, and attributes of a wrathful deity come from? According to the Tantras, in prehistoric times on an island in the Indian ocean, Matam Rudra, a black sorcerer and demon king, threatened the very survival of the primitive human race. Therefore, the Bodhisattvas Hayagriva and Vajravarahi gained entrance into his gigantic body and blew him apart from the inside. Thereupon, they donned his attire and ornaments and proceeded to subdue the lesser demons, terrifying them with their wrathful appearance. Simhamukha wears these same ornaments. As the Queen of the Night, she keeps at bay the nightmarish demonic entities who ever seek to invade our sunlight world of consciousness from the twilight realms beyond. As the active manifestation of emptiness and wisdom, her lion’s roar disperses discursive thoughts. And she is naked because she is equally devoid of discursive thoughts.

If the Great Goddess can be said to manifest herself in the three archetypes of Maiden, Mother, and Crone, Simhamukha represents the Crone aspect of feminine wisdom. She is the archetype of the destructive Terrible Mother, who destroys and yet regenerates all life out of her cauldron. All phenomena dissolve into Shunyata or emptiness, and again all phenomena arise out of Shunyata. In many ways, Simhamukha appears to correspond to the Ancient Egyptian lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, whose very name comes from the root “skhm” meaning power, reminiscent of the Sanskrit word shakti. Sekhmet represented the fiery energy of the sun, the energy of her father, the creator god Ra.

But in the Western monotheistic tradition, there has been the tendency to suppress the archetypal feminine. She became eclipsed by the male Sky God of the Biblical tradition. This exclusively masculine Godhead could be tyrannical, vindictive, and punitive, as well as kind, fatherly, and forgiving. But in the Christian tradition, there has been the tendency to see God as all-good and therefore his dark side has been projected on to the Devil, who was expelled from heaven and now dwells beneath the earth. This reflects the psychological process of denying the evil within oneself and projecting it on to others. But in the Tantras, one fights fire with fire. To those who are without knowledge, Simhamukha is the demonic Terrible Mother, who threatens to devour her son, threatening his very existence. She represents everything that men find most terrifying in womankind. What is more terrifying than the lion’s roar heard in the dark jungle in the middle of the night? She represents the primordial fear of being killed and devoured by a savage female beast. It is the threat of annihilation. But to those who possess knowledge, the lion-headed goddess is the very form of emptiness. They have nothing to fear from the great void. She is the terrible lion-headed sentinel of time (chronos leontocephalus) who stands at the portal, the active manifestation of primordial wisdom, who destroys the notion of an unchanging permanent ego or substance.

Simhamukha according to the Nyingmapa Tradition

Acording to Khyentse Rinpoche (see below), the original scriptural source for Simhamukha is the Drwa-ba’i sdom-pa’i rgyud. This Tantra, where Simhamukha is linked with the eight wrathful Gauris (ke’u-ri-ma brgyad) and the eight Tramenmas or animal-headed sorceresses (phra-men-ma brgyad), appears to be connected with the Guhyagarbha Mayajala cycle (sGyu-‘phrul drwa-ba). In the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” (Bar-do thos grol), these Gauri witches, representing the eight types of mundane consciousness, and these eight animal-headed sorceresses, representing the eight objects of consciousness, appear to the deceased consciousness on the twelfth and thirteenth days of the Bardo experience after death. However, it is mainly through the Termas or hidden treasure texts discovered since the 11th century that Simhamukha is practiced among the Nyingmapas.

As we have said, according to the Sutra system, the practitioner takes refuge in the Three Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. However, according the Tantra system one also takes refuge in the Three Root of the Guru, the Deity, and the Dakini (bla-ma yi-dam mkha’-‘gro gsum). In the Terma system of Jatson Nyingpo (‘Ja’-tshon snying-po, 1585-1656), known as the dKon-mchog spyi ‘dus, “The Union of all the Precious Ones,” the principal visualization practice is the Zhi drag seng gsum. Here zhi (zhi-ba) means “peaceful,” that is, the peaceful form of Guru Padmasambhava known as Guru Zhiwa, dressed in his usual robes, holding in his right hand a golden vajra before his heart and in his left hand a kapala containing a long-life vase. Drag (drag-po) means “fierce,” and refers to the wrathful form of Padmasambhava known as Guru Dragpo, who is flaming red in color, attired as a wrathful deity, holding a vajra in his right hand and a black scorpion in his left. And seng means “lion,” and refers to the lion-headed Dakini Simhamukha (sen-ge’i gdong ma). These three, invoked as a trinity, represent the Three Roots of Guru Deva and Dakini. The famous Terton Ratna Lingpa (Ratna gling-pa, 1403-1479) also discovered many Termas relating to Simhamukha. Similarly, the famous child prodigy Tulku Mingyur Dorge (Mi-‘gyur rdo-rje, 17th cen.), who received the gNam-chos or “sky teachings,” channeled certain hidden treasure texts pertaining to her. Here and in other Termas there are presented different histories of how Padmasambhava received transmissions directly from his Dakini teacher in Uddiyana, Guhyajnana Dakini (gSang-ba ye-shes mkha’-‘gro-ma). One of the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava (mtshan brgyad) is Simha-raurava (Seng-ge sgra-sgrogs), “the roar of the lion,” which is linked with Simhamukha because Padmasambhava recived the transmission from Guhyajnana when he was in that guise. As already said, Simhamukha is regarded as an emanation of this Dakini from Uddiyana.

Because of the close link of Simhamukha with Padmasambhava, one could say she represents his Anima. According to the traditional history of the Seven Line Prayer (tshig bdun gsol ‘debs) of Padmasambhava, once an assembly of Buddhist scholars at Nalanda university debated with a group of Hindu scholars over certain matters of philosophy. But the Buddhist scholars soon found themselves loosing, and offered puja to the Dakinis, praying for their help. The melodious voices of the Dakinis prophesied that their brother, Padmasambhava, would come the next day to help them. The next morning, a wild looking yogi from the cremation ground nearby entered the hall and engaged the Hindu scholars in philosophical debate. By the end of the day, he had systematically demolished all their arguments. But many scholars remained obstinate, shouted insults at the yogi, and strode about the hall arrogantly. The Guru sitting calmly amidst the storm raging about him, allowed a thought of anger to well up within him and then he projected the fiery energy of this wrath into the space before him. It coalesced into the terrifying form of the fiery lion-headed Goddess. The haughty scholars were terrified at this manifestation and fled the hall. But the goddess pursued them, throwing them down of the ground. Terrified the begged for their lives and submitted to the Guru and his teachings.

Simhamukha according to the Sakyapa Tradition

But the revelation of the root mantra for Simhamukha is especially associated with the name of Bari Lotawa who came from the region of Dringtsam and it is said he was born in the same year as Milarepa (1040). Traveling to Nepal and India, he studied Sanskrit, translating many texts including a collection of sadhanas and a collection of magical rituals. While in Nepal, he debated with a Hindu teacher named Bhavyaraja, and when he defeated the later, the sorcerer launched a magical attack against the translator. In terror, he fled to Bodh Gaya in India, where his own spiritual master Vajrasanapa advised him to propitiate the Dakinis with puja offerings and pray for their help. In a dream, Simhamukha appeared to him and instructed him to go to a large rock to the east of Bodh Gaya and dig below the rock where he would find a hidden casket. He followed her instructions precisely and discovered the casket as described. Inside, written in blood on human skin, was the fierce mantra of fourteen letters that averts all magical attacks (sngags drag zlog yi-ge bcu-bzhi-pa). That night he performed an averting rite (zlog-pa byas-pa) and employing the mantra, he succeeded in hurling all the negative energy assaulting him back at its source in Nepal. The rebound was so strong that it killed the sorcerer. For the next year, Bari did penance and purification practices at the stupa in Bodh Gaya in order to cleanse the sin of his act.

Returning to Tibet, he conferred the Simhamukha practice upon Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (Sa-chen kun-dga’ snying-po, 1092-1158), both the oral instructions and the magical rituals [29] In this way, the precepts for Simhamukha from Bari Lotawa become one of the Thirteen Goden Dharmas (gser chos lugs) of the Sakyapa tradition. These teachings descended to Khyentse Rinpoche who was himself a Sakyapa Lama.
In the 17th century there was an important master belonging to the Bodongpa lineage, the Togdan Namkha Sangye Gonpo (Nam-mkha’ snags-rgyas mgon-po), but he followed the tradition of Bari Lotsawa when practicing Simhamukha. He was called a Togdan (rtogs-ldan), literally meaning “one who possesses understanding,” because he was a wandering itinerant yogi. He was cured of leprosy because of a vision of Simhamukha. But later he also had personal contact with Guru Rinpoche in his pure visions and was instructed in Simhamukha practice according to the Anuyoga system of non-gradual or instantaneous generation of the deity. Sangye Gonpo explained that at the end of the practice one should integrate oneself into the state of contemplation that is the Great Perfection or Dzogchen. This is quite different from the usual Simhamukha practice in the Sakyapa tradition and in the Gelugpa tradition that inherited the latter.

The most extensive Tibetan commentary on Simhamukha practice is that by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). This text draws on both the Nyingmapa tradition, where the Dakini is associated with Padmasambhava and on the traditions of the Newer Schools, especially the Sakyapa and the Bodongpa. The text is entitled “The Excellent Vase of Precious Jewels” (Rin-chen bum bzang). Here are found a number of sadhanas and magical rites connected with Simhamukha, as well as a history of the revelation of the practices connected with Bari Lotsawa and Sangye Gonpo. The text compiled by the first Khyentse Rinpoche is mainly based on the teachings of Sangye Gonpo, but the former collected many different texts and put them together in a single volume.

Khyentse Rinpoche gives three sadhanas for the outer, inner, and secret forms of Simhamukha, composed by Padma Gargyi Wangchuk (Padma gar gyi dbang-phyug), also known as Jamgon Kongtrul (‘Jam-mgon kong-sprul, 1813-1899). The latter was his colleague in the non-sectarian Rimed Movement in Eastern Tibet in the 19th century. The outer sadhana (phyi sgrub) is for the Vajra Dakini Simhamukha, which is the usual form depicted in thankas (her descriptiojn is given below). The inner sadhana (nang sgrub) is for the Padma Dakini Simhamukha who has a red body and a yellow lion’s face. She serves for both increasing wealth and enchantment. The secret sadhana (gsang sgrub) is for the exceedingly wrathful black Krodha Kali Simhamukha (khros-ma nga-mo), “the wrathful black goddess,” who appears to annihilate the delusion of ego, symbolized by the insatiable demon king Rudra, much like Durga cutting the head off the demon king Mahisha. The secret sadhana is also connected with the practice of Chod (gcod), the severing or cutting off of the ego. For this reason, this form of Simhamukha is also called Vajra Nairatma (rDo-rje bdag-med-ma), “she who destroys the notion of an ego.”

In general, the ritual practice for Simhamukha proceeds in the usual fashion of Dakini sadhana and puja, as for example, with Vajrayogini. The practitioner places a kapala or skull-cup filled with wine on a tripod in the center of the mandala in the shrine. A metal mirror is laid across the skull-cup. This mirror has been covered with red sindhura powder, in which are inscribed the triangles of origination in the form of a hexagram. This symbol is called the Dharmodaya, or source of all phenomena, and at its center is inscribed the letter HUM, which is the seed syllable of the wrathful goddess. A vase containing consecrated water is placed beneath the tripod. The vase, the kapala, and the Dharmodaya are all conventional feminine symbols. Around them, the various offerings and ritual implements are arranged.

Description of the Dakini Simhamukha

In the sadhana for Vajra Dakini Simhamukha, written by Jamgon Kongtrul, the goddess is described as follows:
“The color of her body is a dark azure, like the dark color of the gathering storm clouds. And she is exceedingly wrathful. She has a single face and two arms. Her lion’s face is white in color and turns slightly to the right. The expression on her face is fierce and wrathful. From her three red eyes come flashes of lightning and her lion’s roar is like thunder. The hair of her head is long and black and made of iron. From this mass of hair that is billowing about everywhere (as if in a storm) is projected miniature phurpas like live sparks. With her right hand she flourished a five-pronged vajra in the sky and with her left hand she holds before her heart a kapala skull-cup filled with blood. She has a khatvanga staff cradled in the crook of her left arm. She girds her loins with a skirt made of a tiger skin and, as a mantle, she wears the hide of an elephant and a flayed human skin. In all respects, she is garbed in the eight-fold attire of the cremation ground. She adorns herself with a long garland of dried and freshly severed human heads, as well as with necklaces of human bone. She is adorned with various kinds of fearful apparitions and at her navel is the sun and moon. Her two legs are extended and drawn up in the dance position of ardhaparyanka, while she stands amidst the blazing masses of the flames of wisdom. At her forehead is the white syllable OM, at her throat is the red syllable AH, and at her throat is the blue syllable HUM. Then from the syllable HUM in her heart center there emanate rays of light, and from the great violently burning cremation ground in the land of Uddiyana, which is in the western direction, is invoked the Jnana Dakini Simhamukha, who is surrounded by retinues of hundreds of thousands of dreadful Matrika goddesses, together with the ocean-like hosts of guardian spirits who are her attendants.”
Re-emergence of the Feminine and Reintegration within the Mandala

Thus, the Dakini, in the Buddhist context, represents a re-emergence of the feminine at all levels in the domain of the psychic and the spiritual, not simply as an adjunct to a male deity, but as an independent force in her own right. According to the Anuttara Tantras, on the occasion of the third or wisdom initiation, when the candidate is escorted by the Guru from the entrance-way at the eastern gate into the center of the mandala itself, he encounters face to face Wisdom in the form of the Dakini. Without this integration with the feminine, the psyche of man cannot become whole or enlightened.

Historically, Western consciousness has tended to suppress and exclude from heaven, the domain of the spiritual, both the feminine and the shadow side of things. However, in the Tantric Buddhism of Medieval India and Tibet, especially in the Anuttara Tantra, we find the interesting process of reintegrating both the feminine and the shadow side back into the mandala of the psyche, not as secondary or minor figures at the periphery, but taking center stage in the mandala as the immediate manifestations of enlightened awareness. The method employed here is alchemy, the process of transformation (‘gyur lam), where the negative emotions are not denied, but their energy accepted and transformed into enlightened awareness in the form of the meditation deity.

John Reynolds- Vajranatha


The Lion-Headed Dakini (Simhamukha)The Lion-Headed Dakini (Simhamukha)

The Lion-Headed Dakini (Simhamukha)


Today we bid farewell to one of the original beat poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti who died at 101, please listen to him read the Assassination Raga.

As many of you who follow me know, I had the good fortune of studying Buddhist studies and creative writing and poetry at Jack Kerouac School of  Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa (Institute) University from 1989-1994 and came back to TA there a few times.  Almost all of the living beat poets would convene there every summer to teach classes and we would read together and there would be weekly impassioned performances at the Boulder Theater. It was an interesting mix of sacred and profane- tortured souls sipping cigarettes and dark espresso to a semi- psychedelic magic sex dharma- ‘we are here to change and awaken society’ brightness. I’m privileged to have been and be- even a tiny part of it. The photo below was our current class while I was at Naropa, a tad thinner and god only knows how many years younger, but my heart, somehow more healed in it’s rawness.

You can see Anselm Hollo, Jack Collum, Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg. Below that is the only known picture of me during the Summer Writing program. Many classes took place outdoors on the lawn, and our readings outside in a tent. It was a magical time, and I think you don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone. A lot of my teachers, most from Naropa, have passed on now, and I’m making a strong decision to wake up and be happy each and every day in this brilliant and fleeting life. There are no guarantees, no ultimate insurance plan that we will have another life, or continue in any way.  Let’s make this one real and not squander even one second. 101 Lawrence…well done!

Love to you all, from the depths of me.

daw at naropa outside

Can you tell who is me, 1993 or 1994. Naropa Summer Writing Program, Boulder Colorado.


Last year, I met with the number of noted Buddhist teachers here in Crestone Colorado, including Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Thrangu Rinpoche about the future of our Dharma practice after some of the concerns of the #metoo movement and many scandals were exposed. We had heartfelt, forthright discussions concerning misconduct, abuse, authoritarian power, cults and cult-think and how, if at all possible, to move forward as a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. Here is my recollection of their personal advice to me and us all, musings from retreat.

direct link



Narcissistic/ Borderline Abuse is much more ubiquitous than we know. Any contact with unfeeling, abusive people can be some of the most heartbreaking and damaging relationships we ever encounter and without education, can literally destroy lives, careers, health and families. Every one of us, most likely at some stage of life, has had some contact with a disordered person. According to the DSM-5, “one in 25 people will have the disorders associated with ‘no conscience’ which include anti-social personality disorder, sociopath, and psychopath.”

With the days of predatory social media and online dating, these numbers are ever increasing, as social media and dating apps provide access to unsuspecting, well intended and open people, who naturally trust. We believe that others act with good intentions, integrity and would not break unspoken social norms. The problem is… that a certain percentage of our population has no conscience and simply cannot love, all they can do sadly is use others to boost their inflated ego as narcissistic supply, and extract whatever they can from those willing to offer. When they see no more use or are confronted, it causes dangerous, narcissistic injury and the target is discarded and useless to them. All attempts from the victim to heal, resolve, understand, problem solve or at least have basic human closure are “ghosted” or denied. Often the disordered person who forged intimacy, trust and “trauma bonds” will turn on their targets when they plead for resolve as if they themselves are the victims. We talked a lot about D.A.R.V.O. where the offender acts and believes they are now the victim and can become callously vengeful. Idealize, devalue and… discard, it’s formulaic and always the same.

I speak of this process often because I see so many people including myself have been deeply hurt or devastated by conscienceless predatory people. The harm can be quiet and insidious, and you can become easily emotionally addicted to an abuser. It’s not easy to leave them at all, and often friends say “just forget them and get over it.” I have a girlfriend that’s been on dating sites for a few years and the very moment that she does something wrong or the person loses interest and finds someone who they consider to be better, oftentimes if not all, the men don’t even so much as reply to text even after a relationship had been forged for weeks or even months. Ghosting- no reply, they are gone, you mean nothing, see ya. I guess this is the world we are living in right now, people are just treated like ego’s fodder and we live to collect as many Facebook and Instagram likes as we can. I can’t imagine now, the daily heartbreak and damage that happens on dating apps. These electronic relating worlds seem to be birthing more and more narcissists by the moment, replacing love addiction, predatory games and trauma bonds for real love.

What can we do to protect ourselves, is there a solution?

It’s very difficult to heal from relationships with disordered people. In my case I was born into a family with a full spectrum narcissist, so I didn’t have the grace of learning about red flags and what people to accept and what people to avoid. I had no choice but to relate with this person for the greater part of my life. However right before I had a child, in order to not recreate unhealthy family patterns, I sought a deep therapeutic help to understand the dynamics of the long term insidious soul crushing abuse. Through a lot of therapy, journaling, self-awareness and self care, turned the corner to find a sense of self value and self-love, despite the many years of being minimized and devalued, which still sadly continues to this day.

I’ve come to a point where I can accept and understand, that it’s built into the type of mental illness and disorder that a narcissistic person cannot, *ever,* self reflect, apologize and see their fault. All that a narc/ borderline is capable of doing is projecting that onto others what’s called “object other or splitting.” This process is complex and you can read about it if you ever find yourself in contact with one of these people. For me, the beginning of the healing process is simply knowledge and awareness and separating out myself from the disordered person. Once I can see their state of mind and m.o., I could begin to heal and I stopped blaming myself for everything they wanted to blame me for, and most of all stopped any type of codependent attempt to try to fix or heal them. Fixing is untenable, you simply can’t have a healthy relationship with an untreated disordered person ever, it’s a zero sum game.

N.O.R.P. Thinking

We can’t underestimate the power of transparency and having these types of discussions, education and knowledge is absolute power. I have volunteered to teach meditation in prisons, and every year we would have to renew our training and safety protocols for entering into the prison milieu. One of the things that they told us is that there’s a difference between the way that normal ordinary rational people thinking and criminal minds. They actually created an acronym for that called N.O.R.P. vs. the criminal minds of the “offenders.” They told us that people like us, come into the prison population as missionaries or trying to teach meditation or some type of trauma support. The people that teach these programs have all of the best intentions and are open hearted and altruistic. The security guards who were running the training would warn us that prisoners did not share the same type of thinking. These are people that are ok with breaking boundaries, laws and social norms. They cautioned us that the prisoners would be looking to see if they could find a psychological or emotional vulnerability so that we would feel sorry for them and maybe take pity on them them and help them in some way either financially or maybe when they got out, or to get out. They would tell us that they would be looking at our jewelry to assess how much money we had etc. In sum, their mindset vs the N.O.R.P. was really different. We were coming in to try to help and oftentimes people with criminal minds would be looking in a predatory way, looking to how to game us and the situation. The trainers wanted to make us really highly aware of how the criminal mind operates without there being a sense of conscience.


Once I got into the prison population even with this awareness and engaged with everyone more deeply, I did see many many moments of genuine grief and regret. I saw cruel, unhealthy issues with our penal system that have to do with race and oppression, but this is a complex social topic that is for another article altogether. It is relevant to this discussion in trying to heal from narcissistic or borderline abuse, because we need to understand that there are certain people that simply see the world in a generally conscienceless, predatory way. Is there any hope or treatment, well, stats say that some personality disorders are treatable, especially borderline, as the heightened emotionality and anxiety very often leads way to self reflection and great regret. I would give up on no one if the pain and their fundamental aloneness prompted them to treatment, but we can’t hold out for that. As someone who deeply loves a full spectrum narcissist, and full spectrum is defined as un-treatable, holding out hope is unhealthy, codependent, life wasting and delusional. The soul damage done to a child raised by a narcissist or BPD can have lifelong impacts, and they in adulthood are very vulnerable to recreating familiar patterns and subconsciously seek out what’s called trauma reenactment. In the past few years, survivors have thankfully created a powerful social movement of bringing tremendous awareness to the narcissist’s destructive capacity, and through healing and solidarity we can protect ourselves and each other.

I discovered a woman Maria Consiglio, who is going very deep into her own healing and writing a book on narcissistic abuse recovery. I wanted to share some of her top insightful, heartbreaking and inspiring thoughts and healing suggestions, you can follow her on Instagram. All of the below content is credited to her. *Trigger Warning…*


“Kill the part of yourself that still wants to save someone after they walked away while your were drowning.” Maria Consiglio

Trauma Bond

Victims often feel like they are addicted to their abusers. When a person goes back and forth between being nice and then being abusive and rejecting, it causes the victim to become highly addicted and bonded to the narcissist. This creates a Trauma Bond. These bonds are powerful and extremely difficult to break. Victims become addicted to the relief they feel when the narcissist shows them love, or gives them any form of positive attention. This starts a cycle where victims feel anxiety and uncomfortable until the next time the narcissist is less abusive or nicer. This creates an addictive pattern where you literally get addicted to those small moments of relief when the abuser is being nicer or more pleasant. This cycling of back and forth behavior of being good and being bad ensures the narcissist that you become addicted and less likely to leave them. This gives them tremendous power over you.

The After Effects Of Narcissistic Abuse

Even if you are over the narcissist, you still experience so much psychological trauma. Your brain is affected, your functioning is affected, and the way you see the world is affected. There is so much damage in these relationships, the stress alone has dire affects on your health. Your body can not constantly be in hyper-vigilance mode and not be affected. Your cortisol levels are high and you are exhausted, mentally, emotionally and physically. You feel different like you don’t fit in the world anymore. You feel broken and like no one understands. How could they, when you didn’t even know the extent of the damage that was ensuing. You come out of this relationship scared, bruised and completely lost. Not knowing if you will ever feel the same again. Feeling like you will never fit into the world again. They break you down in a way that there are no words that could accurately explain or describe.


“Don’t expect a narcissist to be there for you. Not only wont they be there, but they get mad that you even expect them to be.”
“Some narcissists believe their own delusions. They believe their own mask, they actually think they are good people, no matter what horrible things they do. Narcissists can justify anything they do. Remember that, when you keep hoping for some accountability from them.”

Her suggestions for healing:

Important Things To Do When Going “No Contact”

  • Block Narcissist on all social media, telephone or what ever else connected you to them.
  • Do not look on their social media page to see what they are doing, or if they have a new supply.
  • Do not respond, if they find a way to connect with you. Stay firm in your convictions.
  • Allow yourself to grieve. You may be grieving a false person, but you still need to get that grief out of your system.
  • Do not obsess about the good times or think about the fond memories with the narcissist. Remind yourself of the horrible abuse. And why you are no longer together.
  • Join a support group. It is a very difficult process to go through alone.
  • Have friends available to help talk you out of calling the narcissist.
  • Focus on yourself, practice extreme self care.
  • Look for a therapist to help you heal from all the trauma, you experienced. (either a trauma therapist, or a therapist who understands narcissistic abuse)
  • Have faith in yourself, believe for the best, and have faith for a better future.

-Maria Consiglio


image of woman free use from pexels

Tomoe Gozen
A Ronin is a Japanese Samurai Warrior that has lost his (or her) master and yet wanders boldly and bravely into their life. Many of us are taking a hard look at religion, a “religious path” and longing to make real personal, spiritual progress before this life is over. The problem is, that often people follow these religions with great devotion and expense, and yet find after many years that all of the amazing qualities promised, are just not occurring. Why? They promised us that if we do these practices and did everything that they said, that we would be free of pain and evolve into something greater, even magnificent. For example, in the yoga community, they have a famous quote:
“Practice and it’s all coming.”
Anyone who’s ever been involved with a high demand group, or a very controlling semi-cultist religion might want to read this book immediately. It’s called Cults in our Midst by Margaret Singer of Colorado. She discusses basic, standard tenets of spiritual/ religious abuse and control, it’s always the same, formulaic. For 25 years, I was closely involved with some Tibetan Buddhist communities and could see the same problems recur: power, control, hierarchy, people fighting to be close to the teacher and people in power, treating others unwell as they maintained their positions. They used subtle threats of spiritual punishment had no grievance board or place to work out issues or offer feedback. For years as an insider, I thought that the valid concerns I kept seeing were “me”, well…
After the exposures of #metoo movement, a lot of these organizations are now being questioned and some of them are even dismantling. Many have fallen apart with some pretty painful, scandalous hemorrhaging, and it was really hard for me to process. We have some very deep personal vows that we take with our guru, an authoritarian teacher. I was told if we ever break them or speak ill of anyone or anything that we would become ill, or have serious personal life obstacles and then be born in some type of torturous compassion-less hell in an afterlife.
Even though I’m married to an evidence-based scientist and was educated and went to some of the best schools, I actually really believed in this stuff on a deep level and was frightened. I sought out help from people who understand religious dynamics and that brought me to an organization called Recovering From Religion, which offers a community support group and even a 1-800 number/ 24 hour chat, if people find themselves in a spiritual crisis! I went to some of their meetings in Denver, and I wanted to share with you some of the wisdom about how people can be harmed by religions.
Here were their healing suggestions for those who wanted to deconstruct their acquired belief system and heal. There were people there who grew up as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, some very heavy-handed religions that made people feel bad about themselves, period. We, together, tried to heal the pain and confusion from our religion or organization. It can be so incredibly hard, especially if you’re born into a religion that’s hardwired to see the world from that lense and oftentimes people’s entire families, relationships and entire milieu are part of the constructs of these heavy handed, black and white, spiritually retributive religions.



  • We do not talk anymore in terms of “magical thinking,” things that are not based in consensual evidence-based reality for example: imagining all of the different fantastic reward and punishment things that could happen in some afterlife, any afterlife or previous life, devils, angels, Buddhas or gods influencing us from another dimension. We do not point to there being some type of unseen, righteous moral authority that’s calibrating our good and bad deeds and judging us from a place that we can’t perceive. We do not talk in terms of any type of magical thinking as being real. In sum, we take a full stop to- archaic beliefs, religious crazy and conspiracy theories. Even if any of this afterlife, interdimensionality or other-worldliness is true, we remain in consensual, earth based reality.


  • We decide that we no longer want to participate in any type of religious tradition or paradigm or organization that is incapable of questioning itself and learning to grow beyond it’s structure. It’s religious rites and tenets cannot be so fixed that it creates a closed contracted, limited belief system. Oftentimes, High Demand Groups, cult-like communities or very closed fixed religions will suppress, defame, invalidate, attack and even modern-day shun, anybody that merely questions it’s values, formula, beliefs and ethics. This closed, contracted system simply can’t benefit human evolution in a genuine path of questioning learning and growing. The Buddha himself, said “don’t take anything I’ve taught on faith, please question everything I said, your own experience is what matters and be a lamp unto yourself.”


  • Avoid destabilizing traditions that make you feel like you doubt yourself, that you are bad that you’re evil, or that you’re going to hell, or that you’re sick. It happens all too often, that religions try to co-opt and monetize some type of purification, absolution or spiritual evolutionary process. Oftentimes the whole thing becomes a business and all of the amazing qualities promised never really occur, even after following their practices and paying with a lifetime of devotion. One of the most debilitating conflicts of interest is spiritual codependency, taking complete trust and refuge and someone or something outside of yourself, to help you to grow and to fix all of your problems. This quest is perilous and keeps us looking outward and it’s nearly impossible to grow with the mind turned in the wrong direction.


This is the best quote from an article called How Cults Work by Julia Layton. It summarizes the type of control and induced dependency in the spiritual communities: Induced Dependency– Cults demand absolute, unquestioning devotion, loyalty and submission. A cult member’s sense of self is systematically destroyed. Ultimately, feelings of worthlessness and “evil” become associated with independence and critical thinking, and feelings of warmth and love become associated with unquestioning submission.” This pretty much sums up my religion also known as Lamaism, or at least the exploitative parts of it.
I actually had the good fortune of studying with a powerful, old, ancient wisdom Buddhist Yogi. I would fly over to Nepal every year and climb the top of the mountain and stay with him. There was one time where I think I asked for too many teachings and practices and it was clear that I wasn’t even putting to practice the ones that he’d given me before. I asked for some blessing, and empowerment and some high spiritual this and that, he said:
“I’ve already told you all that you need to know, I want you to go out and practice what I taught you.” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
He never asked me for money or commanded me to do any type of administrative work, only to practice. There was never any sexual impropriety, any type of manipulation on his part and he did not want to use me for anything in any way. He simply gave me some very powerful meditation instructions that were simple and subtle and required quite a bit of time to go pretty deeply and hopefully, establish some type of quality of simple clarity and compassion in my being. There was one time he even taught us a practice called Guru Yoga where you imagine all of the ancestral qualities of an enlightened, powerful teacher above your head. Even as he was giving this instruction, he was very very careful to not attribute all our openness and sacredness to him personally. He said “you can imagine it’s me but it’s not me.” What you are connecting to is, beyond me.
I’m so grateful that my spiritual teacher worked with us in a very personal way and had so much integrity. With any trace of this spiritual codependency or grasping arising, he would gently redirect us back to our own strength and heart. In this way, eventually we can grow up and stand alone in our power. This was the essence of a healthy relationship with a real master, guru or spiritual teacher, and I feel fortunate. In retrospect, I’ve seen many religions, yoga and spiritual communities become these giant monstrosities of control and commoditization, and I’m not altogether sad that a lot of them are dissolving. My teacher passed in 1996. Many of us, Ronin like spiritual refugees, hold the hope that something ethical, transparent and beneficial will arise in their wake. Genuine rock real, raw, falsity-free spirituality.
The master-less Ronin uncovers her own deep power. Look for what is healthy and empowers and strengthens you, rather than makes you dependent upon a priest, teacher or their methods, to be absolved to heal to grow or to learn anything.

 Sloughing off any traces of spiritual codependency, allowing ourselves to think critically about what is helpful to us verses what is just the socialization of religion and spirituality, is such a powerful and first step in finding a way to really grow and to develop into the best people we can be. We might then, from our own wisdom, find true spirituality and release any limitations from the bounds of constrictive religion.

Cults in Our Midst Image of Tomoe Gozen was a onna-bugeisha, who appeared in 14th century Japanese literature. According to lore, she served Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei War and was a part of the conflict that led to the first shogunate. Her family had strong affiliations with Yoshinaka. Wikipedia

There’s an amazingly powerful, loving and gentle teacher you might have heard of named Mingyur Rinpoche. I am a close student of his father and brother and “grew up” with this family while I was living in Nepal for many years. I lived at his brother Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s monastery in Swayambhunath, and had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with them personally. I began reading Mingyur’s book, In Love with the World. It’s about himself, Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan monk-yogi teacher who took to the streets with no money and no provisions, to bravely do a three year retreat and trust that he’d survive. He didn’t tell anyone that he was going do this; it was an old yogic masters practice to just “enter in to the action” and have no defined place to go.

Rinpoche was set up to do a three-year retreat in a cabin with attendants and had simplified his whole life and administrative roles to prepare. On the first day the attendant came and they found a note on his meditation cushion explaining that he was going to go into the streets to wander and just experience the rawness of life and trust that he would come back to us in three years after his retreat is completed, and for us to not worry. We that knew him, were so very worried. His mother, reportedly cried without console. He has a large worldwide organization called Tergar, and indeed his students were concerned.

We found out later that at times, he came close to starving and despair. He met up with his attendant named Tashi when begging in Boudhanath Nepal, around the Stupa (Buddhist Monument). Tashi recognized him even as an unkempt beggar, and they traveled together for a bit. He slept on the street and in caves and sometimes begged enough for hotels. He was used to being revered and grew up with servants, wealth and privilege and was heartbroken when people passed right by him, when he was close to starving. He came back after these three years with more depth, more alive and with more  profound compassion than ever. Someday, when they let us travel again, I want to go back to Nepal for a simple cave retreat again, where these great masters practiced in simplicity. I highly recommend his book of you haven’t yet read it. Rinpoche we are glad you came back safely and your bravery inspires us all.

I’m thinking a lot these days about yogis and yoginis and being the most wholesome we can be in these dark times. My dharma and yoga practice has graciously strengthened since we’ve had to stay home more. No matter how apocalyptically dark, no matter how much pain and despair, there is always a core of calm and warmth that we can access. The media, news and social media do not define us. I feel a new evolution and renaissance within and without that we can co-create, emerging. We must do away with old ways, male dominated greed and corruption, and the monetizing and institutionalizing of, not only the tantric Buddhist tradition that Rinpoche was trained in, but everything. Change happens through honesty and transparency and brave voices that demand a revolution and a new human way must emerge for us all to survive. A new day of Goddess and Sage, real yogic wisdom is dawning, and I’m happy to live in this time. I feel more than ever, like Rinpoche suggests, In Love with the World.

Here are some heart warming yogini line drawings from artist, Ally Kitowski to inspire our meditation and yoga practice. I just found them this morning and they visually embody this feeling of being in love with our world.

Ally Kitkowski

Another Day Another Dala ❁
Fineliner and Digital Art ☽
Creating in Breck, Colorado ❅
DM for Prints & Inquiries ©

Lineage fathers,
I supplicate your sordid
AH divinity.


I had the privilege of meeting Burroughs at the Naropa Institute in the early 90’s, I recall him being very stoic, and indeed no one could prevent him from smoking inside. He smoked slowly intentionally, and the oddly disturbing and reverent imprint of him, never left my mind.

I also had the further privilege of taking a class during the Naropa Summer Writing Program with Allen Ginsberg. All of the living Beats would, and still convene there annually. I remember the first time rising to read my poetry in front of him, and he being a tad misogynistic, asked me firmly to sit down, but I remained standing to read.

He gave me one transmission that always stayed, but I tend to not follow, as my process is to write exactly the words as they appear with almost no editing.

He said that that a poet should use words that communicate feeling that appeals to our direct, consensual senses: sight, sound, taste, touch. He told me to refrain from interpretative words like the base, subjective word “beautiful.” He suggested rather to evoke the experience of beauty as a wordsmith,  “the yellow of morning forsythia bursts forth,” the scent of Christmas cinnamon, pine and solitude.”


Thank you, to my rawly human, base and indeed beautiful, lineage fathers, may the wisdom muse forever imbue my soul.

Buddhists scholars historically, are fond of lists. Many are feeling that this exceedingly male dominated tradition led way to some dated, heavy handed tenets and it’s been suggested to rewrite them, remove punishment and hellish fears altogether. Tantric vows bind the  yogic meditation practitioner to their own goodness, purity and heart. These revised root downfalls, are rewritten to inspire, rather than trap and frighten, feedback welcome!

1. Mutual Commitment. A trusting and mutually respectful relationship between teacher and student, both have permission to offer feedback. This teacher could also be the “inner guru,” one’s conscience, strength, wisdom, heart and inner truth.

2. No Harm. Try as hard as we can never harm anything, to be patient and compassionate, and if we fail, make amends.

3. Conscious Communication and Transparency. Have open, democratically based  communication, active listening, honesty and transparency in any organized community, workplace, family or spiritual group.

4. Exertion. Always try our best to help society with exertion, never be lazy or narcissistic or pass the buck, the Dharma is not an escape.

5. Joy. Connect to what is wholesome in ourselves and others, see the beauty in life. That warmth and well-being is contagious.

6. Self-Knowing. Like the Buddha suggested, always be critical of, discriminating, do not assume as true, any doctrine or instruction from anyone, irrespective of status or title. Find out through practice and introspection, what is true.

7. Equal Nature. Do not use the Dharma as a credential, feeling that one is more evolved than any other, teachers especially. We all possess the same Buddha Nature and potential. We do not deify people, nor the teachings.

8. Clean Living. Care for our Body, Speech and Mind and world as a whole, commit to clean, simple, Eco-living.

9. Interconnectedness. Know that everything arises through many causes and conditions, and stay strong through adversity, knowing that everything changes.

10. Intelligent Helping. Try to help everyone with impartial compassion, but it’s ok to set boundaries with people who consistently hurt you.

11. Meditation and Yogas. Try to practice meditation and calming breath, formally, at least a little every day to maintain our strength during challenges.

12. Be Positive. Use positive encouragement and affirmations for us all to be inspired to learn, grow and heal.

13. Let It Go. Forgive yourself and others, do not hold grudges, guilt and self deprecation in the mindstream.

14. Respect. People of all genders, race, age, creeds and nations, be non-sectarian, celebrate diversity, and be a genuine, loving person.

Traditional “Samaya” Vow Root Downfalls:

1. disrespecting the vajra master
2. transgressing the words of the buddhas
3. insulting one’s vajra brothers and sisters
4. abandoning love for sentient beings
5. abandoning the bodhichitta in aspiration or application
6. criticizing the teachings of the sutras and tantras
7. revealing secrets to those who are unworthy
8. mistreating one’s body
9. abandoning emptiness
10. keeping bad company
11. failing to reflect on emptiness
12. upsetting those who have faith in the teachings
13. failing to observe the samaya commitments
14. denigrating women

more details:


Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

What is Enlightenment? Series Part 4.- The Afterlife?

What really happens when we die, we would all love to know once and for all. Is there an afterlife? A young Colorado dharma woman passed away last year, and I read some her last beautiful and poignant words to us again and again that I’d like to re-share here:

“As I feel the time drawing nearer. As I go to bed every evening uncertain if my heart will continue beating through the night. Or wondering if I can stand up in the morning. As the nurse informs me of estimated timelines based on what she is seeing and I sink into how brief my time left on this gorgeous planet is. As I fathom no longer hearing the birds chirps in the morning, seeing a violet tree blossom out my window, taking a walk through a meadow, or feeling the rain on my bare skin. The grief I have around leaving this world is mounting. Yes. I have peace around crossing over. But that does not mean that my heart is not breaking into a million pieces. The world is so beautiful. More so each day. The love is so limitless. The moments each one so sacred. And my heart is just splitting wide open. I have the most amazing angels around me at this moment doing the hardest work there is. Holding space for someone who is letting go and witnessing that process.” *

May we all appreciate the beauty of this very short life. Sometimes, it’s the impermanence that makes us appreciate, and “we” may not continue. Often I think that most religions offer a promise of some personal continuity, and I’m questioning that now. That hopeful promise of reincarnation/ everlasting life can make us complacent, when in fact all we may very well have are these moments.

Thank you to this woman who passed, for the clarity and reminder. Maybe it is this life that is where the sacredness is, religions often promise something next and just what if indeed, this is it? Probability, for me, if I look up into the sky with an open mind, at the stars and galaxies, one might feel that religion is made by humans, and it is relative not absolute truth. If this life is it, would we then, be kinder, would we make it count? Maybe it’s actually “reverse nihilism” to hold the promise that we continue and invest in some unperceived spiritual self rather than right now?

Self Knowing- Self Empowerment

The famous Tibetan teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche gave a three word dharma teaching once. I think he had called students together in the middle of the night, while everyone was on retreat in Colorado. His words were: “NEVER FORGET HINAYANA.” Hinayana, which means “lesser vehicle” is a slightly pejorative term referring to the original teachings of the Buddha, from India that relate to discipline, desireless-ness, and analysis. I always thought that Trungpa was referring to curbing our sometimes wild hedonistic conduct from the 70’s, but in these degraded times, I now see it refers to one of the even more fundamental instructions of the Buddha. In the Kamala Sutra, The Buddha instructs his students to not believe ANY doctrine he said unless they could verify it in their own experience. We should never, ever lose the wisdom of our own insightful discrimination, nor believe any tenet whatsoever with blind obeisance anything: karma, realms, any afterlife, 17 hells, the ‘path’, enlightenment, unless one experiences it within oneself. Religions, throughout history have many colorful stories and  suggestions about what happens when we die, and near-death experiences, but no one has provided any reproducible, empirical proof as of yet. Oftentimes also, our current religions views, texts, teachings and rites may have be written and rewritten by men, and significantly altered from the original source and intention. You could say that our Buddhist meditation practice was the first evidence based science, using the mind itself, our human experience, as the experiential lab.


I think we should indeed, Never Forget Hinayana, and always ensure that whatever teaching or dogma is offered, passes the litmus test of our own experience, and basic ethics. One example is- Tibetan astrological dates, some scare people with reward or punishment “karma multiplier days,” and some say certain weeks in a year one should never travel and these things really evoke fear. They are arcane Tibetan cultural superstitions, not existing somewhere in some ultimate spiritual authority.


We must retain or take us back our essential power of discrimination as the Buddha insisted. If it seems: untrue, harmful, infused with cultural taints and mores, creates any mental or emotional harm, is unethical, exploitative (financially, sexually, emotionally or spiritually), implausible or just plain wrong, it’s probably not the authentic Dharma, and should be firmly corrected or discarded. I’m concerned about the very viability of our Tibetan Buddhist tradition now, and we must update for it to endure.


Many of us in the west found Buddhism as an antidote to some of the antiquated, heavy handed, punishment based religions that we grew up with. We were longing for something we could trust, for true kindness, simplicity, ways of living life without a savior, no fear of hell in an afterlife and authoritarian religion’s mandates.Guess what many found, more of the same, if not worse. Tibetan Buddhism  is exceedingly complex and has actually 17 hells instead of one, and we offer our teachers 100% power and control. I can only pray that it is able to update as it takes it’s root in the west, and westerners are not blamed for “not understanding” it’s dated orthodoxy. If we can recognize this, the Dharma can indeed grow and flourish, if not, it may continue to contract.Furthermore, when spiritual hierarchy, like Guru worship and judging people as more or less “evolved” is used to access value- to exalt, ignore or exclude people, it creates indelible harm. Everyone possesses the exact same raw “Buddha Nature” and is composed of the very same elements. The value of life to it’s possessor, is equal.

Matter is the Sacred Five Elements

It is said that the five basic elements, earth, water, fire, wind (air), space make up all manifestation, the basic building blocks of form. They say that~ as we are unenlightened we see these as “matter,” but if we meditate a lot with some of the higher yogas, we see the elements as sacred, we call them then, the essential “5 Buddhas,” of light and manifest wisdom.

With this logic, the “material world” is not unenlightened, inert matter, but rather a fantastic dynamic display of energy coming and going. It starts to look a lot more like quantum physics when you directly see “matter” in it’s oscillating, semi psychedelic light form. When you see this, there is no “you,” no personal self that exists nor continues, nor is there a creator. However, it is no less magical or fantastic. This, from my meditation experience is what we are a part of, and made of and will be again when we pass.

We are the stardust of the universe and we, parts of us, elementally, make up all that was or ever will be. Isn’t that fantastic enough? Why must we impose images of Gods, Demons, Angels, Buddhas, human imputed moral rewards and punishments on a vast and cosmic interconnected system? Seeing this, feeling it to me, is my religion, and my promise of continuity, my solace. This world, the elements, as they are, amazing, life right now, in awe.

“A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.” Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

*This quote is from a mutual Facebook friend Ali, who, so sadly passed from complications from anorexia and lyme at a very young age. May her last post touch many hearts.

Dawn Boiani, Owner Sakura Designs, Mantra & Yoga Mala Bead Makers

  1. Dawn Boiani says:

    So there were some after thoughts and discussion with a few friends, and although we realize some of the suggestions are utterly heretical- we should be able to debate like the old monks from Nalanda to test everything we believe. It is not breaking our vows to go deep and question. I think so much of what we believe has deviated from what the original gentleness and simplicity and methods of the original Buddha might have taught, to anyone.Look for example, at the compassion of Christ and his patience and tolerance and what men did to it after his teachings got written and rewritten and reinterpreted use for money and power and created gold gilded intolerant orthodoxy. I think we might have built-up the same control based heavy handedness that is part of *human culture* not part of any thing that exists as a real true helpful and liberating spiritual path. It is indeed time that we examine this with great honesty and going very very deep into ourselves, ourselves only- in quietude to find out what is there.Reply
  2. Sangye says:

    I think foundation is a good word – and when the ethics and original teachings aren’t even allowed to be discussed without people treating you like a dogmatist or fundamentalist you know you are in a whole different religion. The ethics are also there to protect the whole system of study and practice so it doesn’t fall into disrepute which it has done now in many places due to trying to downplay ethics.In the case of Rigpa and other groups students were attacked merely for asking for an explanation in public. This was considered to be a samaya breakage but the very same action had been a promise “if you are confused then come for clarification” but that was not honoured. So it was done in a way where people did it as a group after individuals kept being selected for various punishments and reputation attacks by bringing their grievances.Reply
  3. Tahlia says:

    I agree. For me, this me, there is only this life. Even if there is some continuity of moments of consciousness propelled by some subtle casualty, this I will never be again. Here, now, I am a distinct human being, that will never be again after my time is over, and there is true beauty and sacredness in that, and yes, in every precious sacred moment.Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.Reply



In the future, the “Shambhala Warriors” *must be involved with politics, engaged Dharma, and social action* to help our world. This is not a time in human society for retreat and ignoring or losing heart. This is what Joanna’s teacher said:

“There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. At that time great powers have arisen, barbarian powers, and although they waste their wealth in preparations to annihilate each other, they have much in common. Among the things these barbarians have in common are weapons of unfathomable devastation and death and technologies that lay wast to the world. And it is just at this point in our history, when the future of all beings seems to hang by the frailest of threads, that the Kingdom of Shambhala emerges. Now, you can’t go there because it is not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala Warriors….
“Now the time is coming when great courage is required of the Shambhala Warriors: moral courage and physical courage, and that’s because they are going to go right into the heart of the barbarian powers to dismantle their weapons. They are going to go into the pits and citadels where the weapons are made and deployed. They are going to go into the corridors of power where the decisions are made, to dismantle the weapons in every sense of the word. The Shambahla Warriors know that these weapons can be dismantled because they are made by the human mind. They can be unmade by the human mind. The dangers that face us are not brought upon us by some satanic deity, or some evil extraterrestial force or some unchangeable preordained fate. They arise out of our relationships and habits, out of our priorities. They are made by the human mind; they can be unmade by the human mind.
“Now is the time the Shambhala Warriors go into training. They train in the use of two implements. One is compassion and the other is insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena. You need both. You need the compassion because that provides the fuel to move you out where you need to be to do what you need to do. That means not being afraid of the suffering of your world. When you’re not afraid to be with that pain, then nothing can stop you. You can be and do what you’re meant to.
“But by itself that implement is very hot – it can burn you out. So you need that other tool – you need the insight into the radical interconnectivity at the heart of existence, the web of life, our deep ecology. When you have that, then you know that this is not a battle between good guys and bad guys. You know that the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. And you know that we are so interwoven in the web of life that even the smallest act, with clear intention, has repercussions through the whole web beyond your capacity to see. But that’s a little cool; maybe even a little abstract. You need the heat of the compassion – the interplay between compassion and wisdom.”
“But insight alone,” he said, “can seem too cool to keep us going. So we need as well the heat of compassion, our openness to the world’s pain. Both weapons or tools are necessary to the Shambhala warrior.”

— Joanna Macy

Before His Holiness Chatral Rinpoche passed away (at age between 103 -105 years), a disciple asked him,

“How will the rise and fall of the Dharma be like in the future?”

Chatral Rinpoche replied,

“Support and take refuge in those spiritual masters who focus their practice in solitary retreat. Before one attains enlightenment, one should also enter into solitary retreat to focus on one’s practice under his or her close guidance and mentorship.

If not, it will be just like now, where everywhere is flooded with Khenpos who give empty talks.

Those ignorant ones, who run after fame and fortune, and establish their own factions, will cause people to have aversion for Buddhism and lead to the extinction of Buddhism sooner or later.

Hence, it is said that the authentic Dharma is not in the monasteries, it is not in the books and not in the material world, but within the mind. There is a need to awaken it through practice and to realized (actualized) it, in order to be called the continuation or preservation of the Dharma.”

His Holiness himself left two messages as his final testament. He said, “First there is no need to search for my reincarnation after I have passed. Second, don’t be sad.”