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As some of my long-time readers may know, I have been on a “spiritual” journey since 2002. That was the year I started studying Zen Buddhism, did my first meditation (without an authentic teacher) and had a near-death, out-of-body experience while having my appendix removed – which is a story for another time. I credit the year 2002 as a major turning point in my life. I started studying Western Astrology (and Karmic, Evolutionary and Spiritual Astrology) a year later and then got into Reiki and Craniosacral Therapy by 2004 / 2005 respectively. So there was a lot happening internally, which I was not aware of at the time. When I had the out-of-body experience, I met my guides for the first time, and I suspect that meeting (whether they are internal or external guides) was a catalyst for many changes to come.
It was in 2006 that I felt I finally came home when I met my Drikung Kagyu Lamas – Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen was one of my first heart teachers. He gave me refuge and Bodhisattva vows initially. Then it was through his hints that I started investigating Drupon Thinley Ningpo more seriously – and eventually I would realize that Drupon Rinpoche is my main teacher. It was in 2006 that I attended my first serious Buddhist (teaching) retreat. And sleeping in a tent across the street from the Lamas’ house meant I was still in the mandala 24 / 7. I was a volunteer at the center and I cried, laughed, hiked and I absorbed as much as I could about this familiar new paradigm.
And I learned about doing the Drikung Ngondro practices – specifically about the refuge section. Ngondro means to “go before” or “preliminary” practices. These are specific to each lineage with slight variations between Kagyu and Nyingma and Gelugpa, etc; but some of the practices are the same. (I have several posts on here about the refuge section of Ngondro – see the archives.) Anyway, I learned a little about doing prostrations and doing the refuge practice. Actually, when I began doing my prostration accumulations, I knew very little about what I was actually doing or why. But I am a Pisces and faith is not my shortcoming. So I had and continue to have faith in my teachers and in their teaching the Buddhist path. And I knew that doing as many prostrations as I could manage (without causing myself harm) was the way to go.
Therefore in the four to six months after that first retreat, I completed thousands of prostrations. I feel that this big initial push was the catalyst for my de-structuring to start rapidly. In the next year or two, I would complete thousands more, continuing the momentum leading to my body / mind’s abandonment of old, out-dated structures. I should note that the typical “finishing” point of the refuge accumulation is 111,111 prostrations. I am still not there yet. (I am just an ordinary human being and life has kept me quite busy, but I am looking forward to completing my accumulations.)
So I had begun the De-structuring process without even knowing I had done so. I pushed myself to get through the local community college (2007) and then I applied and got into UVa. And I nearly completed my B.A. at UVa (2009) before the rough storms of inner destruction ravaged my energy levels and sapped my motivation to network and connect with many people. For three years I thought I had some health problems as I would go through waves of varying fatigue and increased introversion. Luckily I had a good mentor for this in Julie Henderson – I would check in with her about once every six weeks. And I had my blood tested – and the doctors did not find anything “wrong” with the results. Khandroma Julie told me to just stick with it. She said the process of de-structuring could easily take three years – in terms of what I was going through. But she said that the other side was well worth these shitty side-effects. She said that the combination of my Dharma practice, my studying / doing Zapchen Somatics (and doing some intensive retreats in this modality) and studying / receiving bodywork in Craniosacral Therapy was contributing to the destruction / re-formation of inner structures. Basically I had dived in without knowing where I was going, but thankfully I had a teacher who knew the Western mind well enough to explain what I was experiencing. * * * See my footnote at the bottom of the page please * * *
Today, near the end of 2013, I can say that I think the process of de-structuring is nearly over. My energy levels are returning (especially when I practice solid self-care). My awareness of my poor habit choices is very clear. I know right away when something is not good for me – I receive bodily sensations which I am able to interpret. I am able to embody and ground and come into alignment within minutes, even if I have chosen a poor habit for a few hours prior. And I am able to approach more types of individuals and be more compassionate toward them, as I am able to empathize with them easier (and I am now less reactive than I was seven years ago). Plus I now get a lot out of doing the Zapchen Guru Yoga practices and of course I get a lot out of doing the Drikung Kagyu Guru Yoga practices (not that I have any experience, but I do feel much clearer and cogent when I do either of these!)
As you can probably discern, I am very happy I began this process. And I am extremely grateful to all my teachers, mentors and guides. Without them, I would have swerved off the path long ago and who knows where I’d be! And this is my own path. I have included bits and pieces from several traditions and I have made it my own. I still have much to learn and as I mentioned, I am still toward the end of the De-structuring process. I don’t know what it will look like when this is “over.” (If I can even say that! I suspect that psychological learning is life-long.) But I am excited about the possibility of feeling more alive, more joy, more ease and being more authentic. And I have definitely started re-orienting to this “new” me.
I should mention that you should find an authentic spiritual teacher before you begin any rigorous spiritual or meditation type exercises. I’m not sure a yoga teacher always counts (unless they have more than just an X*100 hour teacher certification under their belts – they need to embody what they teach). You need to find someone who can communicate with you with ease and someone who knows your mind and your habits and your predispositions. Diving into a yogic / spiritual path unassisted (like only through reading books) can lead to confusion and misunderstandings at best, and in the worst case scenarios, someone can blow a fuse by pushing themselves too hard without a teacher to track them. So do be careful and find an appropriate guide!
* * * Footnote: I am not publishing this material as a way for someone who is on a “spiritual path” to use this knowledge as a way to avoid getting appropriate health check ups. Even if your spiritual teacher thinks he or she knows what is happening inside your body, if you are in pain or are having unusual symptoms which last for more than a couple weeks, you should really consider going to see a licensed health care provider. I personally am not a doctor and I do not claim to treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any disease or illness. * * *
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