Another experience from retreat: (I am not tagging this in a slight effort to keep it tucked away – only so dedicated readers might find it)
The yogini who organized this beach retreat, her father passed away about a week or two before retreat started. It was expected, after he wrestled with Alzheimer’s disease for many years. But deaths in the family are never easy – they almost always bring up something. Not to mention too much personal info, let’s just say, she was glad that she had the time in retreat to work with her father and repairing their relationship which she never could in real time (due to his dementia and other reasons).
Anyhow.. she asked me if I had the Phowa text in my small collection of pechas – or practice texts. Sure enough I did.
She asked if I wanted to join her in performing Phowa during a lunch break one day. Sure, of course. It is a powerful practice where we connect with the Lineage Lamas and ask for their blessing, for ourselves, the deceased and all sentient beings. It is a complicated practice and one that requires that we receive a special transmission of the technique of how to do Phowa from a qualified Tibetan Lama. Therefore I won’t go in depth.
There are many stories of high Lamas performing Phowa and then the deceased manifests signs of having gone on to a higher rebirth or even a Buddha’s Pure Realm. There apparently are signs that the body can manifest to indicate that something like this has occurred. So far, I don’t think I have personally seen any. But I have heard that the crown of the head can change – enlarge slightly – if the person’s consciousness exits that way (toward higher realms). Again though, I am not an expert.
However, at one point in the practice, there is a section where we practice ejecting our consciousness from our bodies, to be ready for the time of death. When we are doing this practice as a healthy, breathing person, we have to visualize a certain deity sitting on the crown of our head, with his big toe closing the “blow hole” as it were – closing the exit from the central channel, so that we don’t accidentally eject our consciousness in a way that we can’t come back from. (I’m not an expert here, if you have questions about this, find a qualified spiritual teacher who knows Phowa really well.)
In case you did not get this from that last paragraph above: Phowa is a serious practice with significant ramifications. You have to receive the Phowa transmission from a qualified Tibetan Lama before attempting to practice it. Not to mention the special instructions about how to actually do the transference of consciousness.
The Phowa transmission is given all around the United States from time to time, and throughout Europe and South East Asia. So if you look around, you can probably find a Phowa teaching happening somewhere nearby!
With this disclaimer out of the way… this retreat was extra clarifying for me. I believe this is because I quit my full time job six months earlier. Now I had the time to practice true self care outside of retreat – slowing down, doing yoga most days, sitting on my cushion most days, taking refuge most days, etc. This allowed me to encounter levels of clarity I had not seen before, on retreat. (see previous posts)
So sure enough, even doing Phowa brought an unusual experience.
Just when we got to that section on ejecting our consciousness, I may not have been visualizing the deity sitting solidly on my crown or my visualization of his big toe covering my “blow hole” was not very clear. When I pushed my consciousness up my central channel, and up to the top of my head, it kept going… And suddenly I found myself in a dark space of living voidness – it was like being in a moving, coagulating spaciousness. If I were sitting in a nebula with a new star forming nearby, that might come close to what I experienced. Only for a few seconds, and then I came back into my body.
That is it. Nothing too crazy!
Go back and read about my other retreat experiences if you have not already.
I will post more about my thoughts on this retreat in a day or so. Now that I have had about ten days to let the 10-day retreat begin to integrate.
Thank you for reading!
May all of our New Years 2018 be auspicious!
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