Posts Tagged ‘zapchen somatics’

I just completed a weekend of working with a medicine woman here at Massage School. We started chatting about what I offer… and the list started growing long (not to brag or boast – I have been learning bodywork since 2003 – simply what is).

She has taken several levels of BodyTalk – a modality where we muscle test to see what is the priority for the client. It is a comprehensive and complex modality. I have only taken the first level – BodyTalk Access which was insightful and where I learned some beneficial techniques! Plus I have been fortunate enough to receive at least several dozen BodyTalk sessions from exchanging with a friend who has taken all the Advanced Courses in it. Therefore I feel like I have some knowledge of the protocol and the muscle testing for what is a priority.

I mention all that because I am now working on a protocol for a Kirby’s Modality BodyTalk style protocol. It is pretty crazy all that I can offer – especially with the half dozen or more modalities I am learning here in Massage School!

Oh – and I told the medicine woman about my conversation with my Tibetan Lama, Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen – a clairvoyant and exceptionally clear and lucid spiritual teacher. When my main bodywork teacher, Janet Evergreen, asked him about what she should call all that she does, he didn’t miss a beat saying, “Process Buddhism.” Now I pretty much offer most of what Janet does (having studied with her since 2005), so the medicine woman here said that I better add “Process Buddhism” to my protocol! 🙂

In case you are wondering, here is my list so far of what I offer: 5-Elements (Chinese Medicine basics), Craniosacral Therapy, Polyvagal Work, Pre- and Perinatal Therapy (and Education), Visceral Manipulation, other Process-oriented Bodywork, BodyTalk Access techniques, Zapchen Somatics, Kundalini Yoga Kriya, Chi Kung advice, Tai Chi basics, Acupressure, Swedish Massage, Hot Stones Integrated Treatment, Herbal Wrap, Shiatsu, Reflexology, Working with Essential Oils, Buddha-Dharma teachings (I am only able to share the basics but this is enough for most clients), Spiritual Astrology, Medical Astrology, Non-Violent Communication, Conflict Resolution Techniques, Process Buddhism would  fall under several other categories.

It looks like I definitely need to narrow this down! Or at least find an efficient way to muscle test and get a category pretty quickly. I might need to delete several items off my list.. time will tell!

I will keep working on this when I have time (we have 3 tests this week and we are preparing to teach Kundalini Yoga – not as a yoga teacher, just as a check mark to make certain we understand K. Yoga).

Thank you for reading!

Have a beautiful Spring day / evening,




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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

This post is a continuation of a descriptive piece from mid-March when I taught a class on relaxation and stress-relief to seniors. I’d recommend scrolling down and reading Part I through III to get some background info.

I want to start out by saying that I mentioned those first two Zapchen exercises only, and I want to stress this word, ONLY because we all know how to Yawn and Nap. There are some exercises which Julie Henderson came up with which inspire embodied awareness and increase potency, but if these techniques are not natural to us, then I’m not going to mention them.

In other words, there are some playful, fun techniques for coming down out of the head and resting deeper in embodied sensation and presence. Some of these exercises we learned as children, and then we have spent how many years as adults un-learning them! Well Zapchen includes a few such exercises to remind us what it is to be fully human – in touch with a light, loving heart, a potent, full pelvis and a clear, wise mind. Zapchen also includes some new techniques which we have had very little exposure to, let alone tried to do them ourselves. Maybe you could call these Zapchen Yoga, although I think it is all Zapchen Yoga.

Therefore, I am not going to mention the third exercise that we did. Oh, the suspense! Well, you will have to come see me for a session to find out. 🙂 I will skip instead to the fourth technique that we did, as this inspired the most laughs and humor anyway. So hopefully this is remotely entertaining:

The fourth exercise we did is called, “Funny Talk.” It has serious somatic effects on the body, so please, only try this at home if you have some time and patience on your hands, not to mention a talking buddy who is open and ready to let go 🙂

When we do Funny Talk, we put the tongue behind the lower teeth, touching them and then allow the tongue to fill the base of the mouth.  Yes, then you talk. It should sound funny, or at least not at all serious. Honestly, who can take themselves seriously when they are talking like this? Oh, and I should stress that there are researched, profound relaxation effects of doing this AND the exercise is by NO means a method used to mock anyone. If it is, then it is not Zapchen.

Well imagine doing this exercise with seniors, I guess who range in age from 65 to 80? Not sure about this though – they had gotten all dressed up as they wanted to look good for the class (apparently, I was told later). It was very precious. But I digress, yes, imagine doing Funny Talk with 12 seniors, the majority of whom have dentures… Here are some snippets from the class, and again, I am merely trying to be a reporter, not mocking anyone! Because one day, relatively soon, if I make it that far, I will be old too.

The woman next to me tried it and then exclaimed, “Oh my, I might push my bridge work out.”

Soon, a few seats down, a lady commented, “I would use my teeth if I had them in!”

About thirty seconds later, the retired beautician (with the hearing aids) exclaims, as if just registering the previous conversation, “I can’t push my teeth out – they are glued!”

A few minutes go by as I check in with other students, with a hushed conversation happening across the circle of chairs, and the beautician again, exclaims with a loud word amidst the whispers, “Polydent!”

We all burst out laughing, including her. I can feel parts of my skull and brain literally re-orienting as the laughter and the funny talk and the previous exercises work their “magic.” Then the lady next to me pipes up with,
“You know, this would be a great commercial for Polydent!” I could not agree more. Why hadn’t I recorded this class? 🙂

All in all, I was very happy to have gone down there to lead them. I kind of doubt they were expecting to slow down and practice this radical form of kindness… but they were happy nonetheless. I say this because I was very careful to not talk about coming back (they would have to formally invite me, especially with my not be an official teacher and all). So guess what?

The lady who has the magic touch with plants asked me first, “Will you come back and do this again?”

I asked, again just to be clear, “Is that a request?” Yes!

Oh – I had been asked earlier to keep going after the Funny Talk. One woman was just drinking in the neurological nourishment of these potent exercises and she wanted me to teach more. Nope! I responded, “I need to stick with my teachers’ advice and tell you that Less is Better than More. Please go back over the next few weeks and practice these exercises. Find one you like and stick with that one. Allow it to be fun and easy. Then I can go through some more.”

And then everyone seconded (and thirded, etc) the motion of having me come back. So I discussed it with the woman who originally scheduled me and we have set up a second day, about a month from now. I hope that goes as well or better than this class!

Some very wise words were shared amongst all of us. I learned much more than I taught for certain – don’t read a book by its cover, always be grateful for each breath you take, and value good friends and good company very dearly!

And if you happen to fall asleep in a chair, which is definitely not the norm for you, mutter “Sweet Jesus!” over and over until you feel better about the situation. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Thanks for visiting.

This is a continuation of a series of posts. I would suggest you go back (down) and start at least at Part I if not Part Zero.

As I mentioned, I was teaching a group of about 13 seniors techniques to help them relax and let go of stress.

Now it was time for the first exercise. Oh! Sorry to pause right out of the gates here – I must mention that, as with some spiritual practices, Zapchen exercises should be done with a qualified and experienced teacher. I have received transmissions for many of the exercises from Janet Evergreen, a senior teacher in the Zapchen tradition, and from Julie Henderson herself (she is the founder and creator of Zapchen Somatics). Personally, I am neither an expert nor a Zapchen teacher, but I believe Zapchen Somatics to be simple techniques to free ourselves of our habitual patterns of doom and gloom, in a fun, comfortable, playful, easy way.

With that said, it may seem that some of these exercises are “too easy” to work. But when you are with a qualified teacher, similar to other spiritual traditions, the teacher can pass on a transmission of the somato-spiritual state of ease, kindness and potency in their body. If we practice self-care on a regular basis (most humans do or at least want to), then the body can quickly “remember” how to get back to a state of deep, playful relaxation, if it has gone there before. But that is the key – we can only “know” that we have gone down an appropriate path if we are led by an appropriate teacher. If we happen to stumble upon a healthy path, we may forever be full of doubt and uncertainty until we gain confirmation from someone who has been down that path with confidence and clarity.

Having mentioned that you need to receive these teachings from a qualified teacher, I must caution you to not judge these exercises if you try them after reading this, without the presence of a qualified teacher, and they “don’t work.” I know for a fact they work, because in leading this group of seniors, we all dropped into a deeper state of fun openness and I personally moved toward greater inner stillness (internal equanimity), embodied potency and playful awareness. Many of their psychological walls came tumbling down, despite the fact that this was my first time meeting any of them, and the class did not even go for 90 minutes.

With all that said, the first exercise is yawning. There are many incredible health benefits to yawning, but I held off on mentioning these until after we had all yawned five or more times. It took a while to get to five though. Just about everyone was either ashamed to force themselves to yawn, or they could not do it without having it be spontaneous and organic. Well, it seemed I needed to get them started, so I yawned in a rather vocal manner. I have been told that when I yawn like that, that it sounds almost like I am doing warm-ups for voice class. Therefore, even these seniors could not help but hear the yawn.

I should probably mention too, that there is an energetic field around us. One of the participants mentioned that we have auras (I did not want to go here on such an early class) and once it was mentioned by someone else, I ran with that. Hey, if they mention it, obviously there is a reason it is coming up. If I mention it too early though, I could lose people’s attention and possibly their trust! Anyway, I said that I believed that yawning not only has physical effects on us, but as we yawn, we relax parts of our bodies and that this effects the energetic field around us. And I said that by changing (“relaxing”) the energetic field, that is how we “cause” others around us to start yawning. You could argue it is the sight of the yawns doing it, but I would add it is also a change in the field which your body “senses.”

[As an aside, it would be a fascinating experiment to see if you blindfold people and prevent them from hearing anything, and then you have others around them start to yawn, do they do start themselves?  I’m hoping this has already been tried, but if so, I’ve not heard of it yet.]

It was mentioned that several people thought yawning meant you were bored or tired. I knew that might come up, so I talked a little about how I believe that particular cultural mores to be horribly mistaken. When someone who I know yawns around me, I consider it a compliment (they are practicing self-care) or at least I certainly don’t think they are being rude! Yawning opens the throat, palate and TMJ; it produces saliva (helping digestion); yawning lubricates the eyes and has been shown to help with maintaining a healthy balance of serotonin and melatonin, among many other benefits. Therefore we yawned as much as we were able.

Some people covered their mouths as they yawned, as the cultural beliefs tended to be deeply ingrained! But eventually, nearly everyone yawned at least five times. Then we napped. Napping, if you have not figured it out yet, is one of the most important exercises you can possibly do (yes perhaps even more beneficial than yawning). There is evidence that napping, just for five to seven minutes, is very helpful for learning, for better efficiency and brain functioning.

My only regret from this class is that not enough people lay down to nap. And by not laying down, their bodies were still holding a little bit of tension and exerting a little effort to keep them in the seated position. In other words, by not laying down, they were not capable of letting go completely. There were several of us who did lay down, and by doing so, we were not tempted to start whispering. Eventually though, some whispering started among the seated people. The discursive mind can be so distracting – when we are not used to just letting go, we tend to revert back to previous patterns, which in this case were to chat and whisper. I did hear someone start after briefly falling asleep (while seated), and the phrase, “Sweet Jesus!” was muttered several times.

So we did yawning and napping to open the class. Actually, by discussing my ground rules, and then mentioning how it was my intention to rest down just a little bit more, and to practice just a touch more kindness to yourself (and therefore to others), it took 45 minutes to get through the introduction, the yawning and the napping. Therefore, I was not wordy for the next two exercises.

I will continue this stream in the next post. It should be complete within a few days. Thanks for visiting!

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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Thanks for reading and please leave comments.

After having worked like my life desperately depended on it for the past five weeks or so, I finally had an afternoon to rest down among supportive Dharma-practitioner friends (spiritual friends) in one of the most potent and juicy environments – at an annual winter retreat.

I have been feeling burnt out (already) at work and needing a break, so this breather was so very refreshing. I wrote down a little about the shift from “computer-game-mind” to returning to a community with heart.

Settling down.
a few minutes pass…
noticing a baseline of anxiety and a rapid heart beat – is this usual? ugh I hope not!

luckily I arrived for the afternoon Zapchen session (see below about Zapchen), and of course my friends, having had three days under their belts, were diving in deep. Today is advanced techniques, which thankfully I have already done in numerous previous retreats. However, my body was in curiously rough shape…

But it only took an hour.

With yawning, sighing, resting down, I began to notice how tight certain parts of my body were – shoulders, lungs, pericardium and surrounding heart areas and once I became very aware of subtleties, I noticed that even the lining around my brain was contracted and it did not have any ideas about when it would be letting up…

the icy grip of computer-game-mind was showing its effects. With time, and with juicy guidance from a qualified Zapchen teacher, I began to allow the sunny potency of trust and self-love to penetrate the tight regions between and within cranial bones…

at first I thought it might take days or weeks to unlock the many frozen layers of fascia and dura mater within cranium, chest, but with awareness, and being gentle yet firm, I found myself being able to smile with slightly more ease…

Wow! Then the comment, “Make little kissy movements around the top of your crown…” I did not know how to do that. Followed by the awesome comment: “the juiciest moment is when you notice that your brain notices that it’s just been kissed!” Whoa… I could chew on that exercise and resulting subtle awareness for a long time!

So, with humming, with awareness and with breath and sound, I repair and re-member numerous layers of tissue today…

First I recollected all my scattered bits and pieces, then I set a clear potent intention, and then I rested in alignment once I got there…
“Gee! That’s different! And at this point, different is very good!”

So now, when I notice contraction setting in. Which direction will I choose? I need to make a daily, system-wide announcement that all the various (different aged) parts of myself are loved! Good good.

Happy New Year All! May all beings know a happy and healthy New Year, free from suffering and dissatisfaction and its causes.

Zapchen Somatics are a system of simple, potent exercises, techniques and games which lead human beings to rest down into their bodies, to be in alignment with ease and to be more self-loving and playful. All to the good really. Zapchen was created by Julie Henderson, Ph.D.

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a post arising from a recent retreat, about authentic kindness

Recently, I came out of a short six day retreat, but I felt like I had been accelerated very rapidly (shot out of a whirling sling to be exact) down my psycho-spiritual path. Prior to retreat, I had been lallygagging along, not really doing much practice or much in the way of deepening subtle awareness…

However, in retreat, we did silent meditation, Zapchen Somatics – taking meditation and awareness into the body through playful skillful exercises, and we also did dream acting / playing / sharing. I found this last piece to be the most potent. And I actually got to work / play with one of my dreams twice – we were a small group. It was so fascinating how one little section of one dream could reveal so much, and I’m sure I could keep working with that little tiny scene for days and days! Wow!

One result from doing this internal work with my shadow material was that I grabbed hold of my power. Technically, this potency that I found was not somewhere else, it was within me, but I accepted it, I became it, I embraced it. My voice also deepened a bit and definitely became more resonant. Once I stood in the place of my terrifying shadow, and got to say words as SHADOW and be its mysterious potency, I felt much clearer about how my fear of shadowy places is just a misunderstanding. It was a fear of the unknown, but it was not an appropriate fear. Prior to retreat, I had been reading many little quotes about stepping off the edge of a precipice into the unknown abyss. Well… That is what I needed to do! And luckily I had the resources around me to assist me with the process! And I did it.

So the reason for the title of this post is that I received bodywork a few days ago, which was a few days after retreat, and at the end of the session, I felt entirely embodied and empowered – at least as much as I had felt up to that point in my life. I was asked what I wanted to take away from the session, to take with me as I left the healing space. Taking a few seconds to become clear, I did not hesitate in saying, “I am practicing a new flavor of potent kindness.” This was pretty revolutionary for me, here’s why:

In Zapchen Somatics, Julie Henderson, the creator, says that there are three main centers in the body. The head, the heart and the pelvis each represent one aspect of enlightened mind – the head is clarity, the heart is kindness and the pelvis contains potency. She says that without authentically being in all three centers, we cannot practice the full version of any one quality (clarity, kindness or potency). What this means is that, to practice “kindness” without being clear, is foolish. To practice “kindness” without being in touch with our inner potency, is foolish. So I am referring to a wise kindness that is informed by both true clarity and authentic, embodied potency.

Side Note *** Please keep in the mind that to come into all three bodily centers can take years, seriously – for most people who live busy hectic lives, sustaining their families and social connections, doing this work can take decades. Therefore, if you are one of the billions of people who are cut off from one or two of these centers, don’t fret. Know that it is possible to come down into your body eventually, and when you do, it will be an incredible sense of liberation and ease. But until that time, do be kind and gentle with yourself and your process. End side note.

Therefore, when I say that I am practicing a new flavor of potent kindness, it is coming from the realization that previously, I did not practice authentic kindness. Because in the past I was definitely cut off from my pelvis. This is ultimately due to my karma, so it is no one’s fault but my own, however the way I could tell I was cut off from my pelvis was because of difficultly breathing really deep belly breaths, and because I had had some surgeries around my pelvis, and because I had birth trauma to work through, and… huff huff puff puff! 🙂 due to my conditioning – I don’t think either of my parents are ever in all three of their centers, so how could I have known that it was okay to fully embody them myself? Nope – not safe around them! And if my mirror neurons learned to cut off my pelvis from a young young age, how could I have known anything different?

So why do I say that I was not practicing authentic kindness previously? Because by being cut off from my pelvis and my potency, I was cut off from my creative, appropriately-self-oriented juices. By being in my head, as most Westerners are, and by occasionally drifting down into my heart, I was always “kind” and “sweet” and “well-loved.” Seriously?! No thank you! I am a man damn it! If 99% of the people I meet love me, that is actually a PROBLEM. It means that I was a big time pleaser, placator, push over, shape shifter and that I sacrificed my needs to take care of others’ needs. Again, I want to say a big, “No Thank You!!” to those energies and wish them well as I have separated from them. They served me well for 28 years and now it is time to wear my authentic power and potency all the time.

Therefore, I would recommend that you analyze your life, analyze your relationships, reflect on the way you react to certain people. Does everyone you meet love you? Do you bend over backwards for one type of personality or gender? Are you aggressive and hyper-competitive, meaning most everyone you meet does not love you? Do you feel cut off from your pelvis? Do you have sexual inhibitions or difficulty letting go and fully experiencing personal pleasure? If you can answer yes to any of these questions on a regular basis, then it means you are not entirely embodied yet, but don’t worry, you have lots of company 🙂

And yes, the rare individual can be in their heart only and neglect their head and pelvis, and there might be the rare individual who is in their pelvis, but neglect their hearts and heads (meaning they would be seriously driven, selfish, sexually motivated and have very little capacity for empathy, rationality and altruism). So it is good to determine where you are on this spectrum. But simply notice it – do not judge it. We are where we are for a reason. And we should start where we are. Don’t worry, don’t fret, just take a deep breath and try to relax, knowing that if you got this far through this blog post, then it means you most likely can embody fully with some work, with some effort and under the guidance of a qualified teacher. And most importantly, be gentle.

Our body tends to respond easier and more swiftly to kind actions and thoughts versus those contraction-creating methods in which we beat ourselves up. For me, I came to this little tiny, insignificant clarity/kindness/potency realization within seven years of cultivating deeper embodiment and intensely striving to gently pulse through the frozen tissue within. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have tons of work to do! I have just glimpsed what is possible and I still have years to go to stabilize this level of empowered embodiment! And I am human, meaning I make mistakes, I stick my feet in my mouth and I am very rough around the edges at times! So I have lots to do, lots to refine and luckily I have quality heart teachers to continue leading me down appropriate and authentic paths.

May sentient beings be blessed with auspicious circumstances and insights.

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A post about Kirby Moore’s personal reflections on his attempts at meditating and how the process is shifting.

In speaking with one of my heart teachers recently, it is clear that my awareness and sensitivity regarding meditation sessions have shifted. This concept is reinforced by my weekly conversations with the I Ching, which, when I work with a quality interpretation of the “Book of Changes” (I Ching), reveals humorous, informative and occasionally poetic observations.

So what has changed? Or maybe a better question is what has not changed? Heh.

First, in my conversation with Julie Henderson (Ph.D, founder of Zapchen Somatics, a recognized Khandroma – meaning a woman teacher of Tibetan Buddhism or in her case, the word Yogini seems to be a better fit), I was reminded that of course my relationship with meditation is changing. That is normal and the way of things. If it was not changing, that might be a problem! 🙂

Julie pointed out that most people need years [anywhere from 3 to 20] of initial sitting – we gotta get our butts on the cushion! But then we internalize some form of the practice and we start to progress along the path. At first, we carry all our neuroses with us to our meditation sessions, but eventually, we can truly rest the mind when we sit. This next sentence is a bit of a joke: It’s really quite simple – we are moving toward resting the mind in a light, easy natural state; simply relax the mind. Ah, if it was only that easy.

Okay, so what is changing? In the past, I had a tendency to push. I wanted to force my way to enlightenment – push my way through any and all obstacles I encountered! No prisoners… Ugh! Well that has given way to being consciously gentle and kind, on a moment-to-moment basis.

As Julie says, and please keep in mind this takes years of practice, “first, free your breath [using techniques I and others have taught you], next return to alignment [this would be emotional, physical and motivational alignment – again using techniques from Zapchen, Dharma and other modalities] and then soften your eyes [this last suggestion is the hardest by far in our Western culture, and it also takes years of letting go to arrive at a point where we can notice (energetic) eye strain].” It really does not get any more difficult than this. Of course, there are practices which I have agreed to practice, but other than those, there is no longer any need to push, no need to force anything, and especially no need to insist on my way being right. Doh!

So what else is changing? Well I am no longer able to sit for such long periods of time. Actually, I suspect I have never been able to sit for long periods while resting in easy alignment. But that is another change – recognizing easy alignment, recognizing messages from my body/mind and honoring what I hear. What do I do if I’m not able to sit for long periods? Well for one, I can do shorter sessions and more of them if I like. So instead of trying to rock out hundreds of prostrations at a time (which the I Ching continually tells me causes me to get “tangled” and “exhausted”), I can do a dozen or more, over several sessions in a day.

Let me unpack a few of these concepts – what is resting in easy alignment? I define this as being aware of our needs – on physical, mental, emotional and psycho-spiritual levels. If we need to rest, as in lie down, there is no point in our trying to push through a half-hour meditation session. That is definitely not easy alignment – if our neck, or shoulders, or head, or jaw (or something else) starts to contract and tighten up, then listen to what your body is communicating! Rest down or deal with the emotional component of the body’s request if need be. And in case you are unaware, prostrations are a form of bowing, which in Tibetan Buddhism is one of the preliminary practices, and they are associated with going for refuge (in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or enlightened community).

Julie mentioned that some of her advanced students sit for only three to four minutes per hour. Huh? When I heard this, my mind was unable to process the information at first. That did not seem to compute. But now, upon reflection, it makes complete sense. (Oh – I also realized I am definitely not one of her advanced students!!!) If we dedicate our lives to being more kind and compassionate towards ourselves (because this is how we translate these vital traits onto others), then our practice should soften and refine itself in response.

So my life is changing as a result. Instead of pushing to do an hour plus practice each morning, I do a little, check in, maybe eat breakfast, then do a little more, then go about my day. If I need to rest, I do that first and foremost! Imagine that, liberation upon napping… In the afternoon and evening, if I have the energy to do more practice, then I do a little more. I try to constantly check to see if / where I am contracting and what that might mean. Softening, sensitizing, mindfulness is becoming easier. Good good.

But I still have much work to do. The I Ching pokes fun at me from time to time, saying things like, “your response to stagnation is shameful,” or “you are surrounded by abundance, that would be the abundance of obscuration [delusion].” Ouch! But the truth hurts, and as one of the characteristics of enlightenment is clarity, and one aspect of clarity is a willingness to know the truth (no matter what we discover!), then I am slowly and painstakingly making progress. I’d rather know how I can improve than to wallow in my normal affliction-filled patterns. 🙂

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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  You may also want to take this post in sections – I wrote a long one…

Ever spoken with a mentor or teacher or someone you respect and hold dear, and then a few days (weeks, months) later had another teacher recommend what seems like a relatively opposite direction from the first?  Let me explain..

I mentioned in my previous post how blessed I feel, having multiple mentors and elders in my life who are often called spiritual teachers.  And it is true, I have met some incredible teachers.  But if we seek advice from multiple spiritual teachers, and if these teachers come from different lineages and traditions, is it possible that their advice might start to (seem to) pull us in multiple, difficult-to-follow-all-at-once directions?  Oh, and if we have a strong intuition, or a body that we have developed a stable and kind relationship with, then we might start to feel that our intuition is also throwing some additional, separate advice into the cauldron…  At present, this seems to be going on for me.

One Tibetan Lama recommends, do as much of the preliminary practices as you possibly can.  If pain arises, then stop or do another practice which might help mitigate the discomfort.  Push push push! But kindly…  Another highly respected Lama suggested a couple of practices for me to add into my daily routine, which seem appropriate (but might be difficult to put into practice because they require extra time).  And then a third teacher says that I should be gentle and kind first and no matter what happens, I should enjoy the practice I am doing.  This advice has also been woven into the recommendations from Tibetan Lamas, but it stills seems a precariously tight rope to walk – push but only so hard, rest but only for so long, be kind yet diligent…  In reflecting on the above material, I am struck by the importance of knowing myself – am I using one teachers advice in a lazy fashion to avoid or put off doing what another recommends?  Am I actually pushing too hard and needing a slight reprieve?

Here is a list of advice from my teachers, which you might say, is a spiritual Bucket List (linking this to my recent posts):

1) Finish School

2) Learn (to speak) the Tibetan language

3) Push through the Preliminary Practices (and complete them)

4) Do a couple of (additional) brief practices, daily if possible

5) Get a job so that finishing school is easier (no brainer)

6) No matter what, enjoy what you are doing, and if not, then rest and practice quality self care

7) Choose one or two Zapchen exercises that I enjoy and do them for a few minutes a day

8) Practice restraint, stop ingesting poison

And now a bit of commentary on these suggestions:

1) If you have read many of my previous posts, you may recognize that I bring an astrological perspective along with me wherever I go.  So to throw in an astrological wrinkle: At times, I often feel that being a Pisces with Neptune square my natal Sun (8th house of other people’s money and values) from the 5th house (creative expression, fun-loving-spontaneity, children), along with having Saturn in my natal 2nd house of material possessions and values, creates the phenomena for myself where I don’t have much in the way of material ambition or attachment to valuable “things.”  Yes you just read that correctly – I have gone through life, at least on the material level, living quite below the poverty level, however perhaps reflected in my being a Leo Rising, I hide my impoverished nature behind a proud, refined public front.  And I am actually quite content living below my means, or at least I was…  Therefore I feel that going through school and pushing myself in a “worldly” direction works to counter my natural tendency of meditating first (naturally transcending material / bodily needs, whether for good or bad).  Of course there needs to be balance in this regard too.

Also, being the type of person whose “right brain” (hemisphere) is more dominant – intuitive, creative, abstract orientation quite refined, etc, I believe 1) has to do with discovering inner mental balance for myself and not to mention developing marketable skills in the world so I can become financially stable and therefore be of more benefit to others.

2) When I study the Tibetan language for many hours on end, I push through some enormous resistance and I hate the process as it is unfolding – seriously, it can be excruciating.  After I push through the resistance and complete a big project however, I feel complete, unconditional bliss arise, sometimes lasting several hours.  So I know that whenever I learn Tibetan, whether it is in this lifetime or the next, I will be a happier individual.  I also know that the Geshe who recommended this to me was extremely skillful and clairvoyant (when he died or dissolved back into the mandala, he exhibited signs of accomplishment).  As a result, I am looking forward to putting his advice into practice.

3) Nearly every Tibetan Lama I have attended teachings from, has said that the Preliminary Practices (the Ngondro) are the most important practices of all.  And if I understand these Lamas and their teachings correctly, I believe that in the beginning we have to prepare our body and mind to be able to receive and grok the higher teachings / practices and without doing so, we can cause harm and dangerous confusion to arise if we push through the advanced practices without being ready.  So the preliminaries are very important.

5) is pretty obvious – if you are in debt, then get a job to get yourself out of debt and back on the moving forward track!  (I skipped four on purpose.)

6) But the dilemma arises when we come to number six…  I am trying to discover a good balance between practice, work, self care and if there is any time left over (he, he, he, these days that is funny) play.  Okay, so I work 40 plus hours a week and then I need a few hours a week to unwind, massage my aching legs and feet, so that time is taken care of.  When I am at work, I try to maintain right view and if I have some down time, I will recite a few mantras or remember contemplations on emptiness, but work has been very busy as of late (waiting tables) and trying to keep a spiritual mentality in a bar setting is challenging for me.

My body, due to several little health problems, can only take but so much (I know what you might say, “Kirby you are young, so just push through these complaints!” and I would respond by getting very perturbed at your suggestion and mentally blocking anything else you say out, because you don’t understand my situation and are ignorant if you think you do, while saying what you just said).  Therefore, with what little time and energy I have left, how much Zapchen do I practice, how much meditation, how much time do I spend going for a brief hike?  That is where I am lingering these days, but thankfully, in addition to receiving clear messages from my heart (intuition), I work with the I Ching, so I am also receiving confirmation of the choices I make.

7) For anyone who does not know what Zapchen is, I would highly recommend experiencing it first, before trying to “figure it out” and certainly before judging it.  However, in a nutshell, Zapchen exercises are little things we can do (with proper motivation and intention) to move toward lasting well-being, resting in alignment and moving to a state of spontaneous re-orientation toward a relaxed yet alert state.  Julie Henderson is the creator of Zapchen Somatics, and she has done an exquisite job blending light-hearted exercises with empirical science to produce a complete toolbox of vital exercises for well-being.  One of her teachers, His Holiness the Drukpa Kyabgon has gone so far as to say that the Zapchen exercises, when done under the supervision of a qualified teacher, can be as potent as the Ngondro practices.  Anyway, now that my sales pitch is over, back to my spiritual bucket list.

I tend to do some stretching and some light Zapchen exercises when I wake up.  This does several things for me – it clears my head (eliminating the need for coffee), it awakens and enlivens the chi energy – allowing me to feel full and charged in very little time, and it inspires joy.  Sure, there might be one or two mornings where I have celebrated a little too hard the night before, when resistance and irritation will arise, but more often than not, this brief obstinacy does not last long.  So this is an easy one to check off my list.

8) Finally, last but not least, and actually, the item on the list which should come first (seriously!).  I say it should come first because in the basic teachings of Buddhism, throughout all schools and all traditions, we need to eliminate the causes of suffering in order to create the causes for lasting happiness.  Therefore, we need to discern where we venture off the path, practice restraint and get our butts back on the path as soon as possible – in other words, figure out where and how we are ingesting poison and put a stop to that first.  Then we can walk the path with more ease.

Well, those words sure sound good, clear and easy to (mentally) understand.  But when you have some bad habits as deeply ingrained as I do, walking the talk is very challenging.  Therefore, I am only able to talk the talk at the moment.  I am still eliminating the sources of poison in my life.  I am tired to swinging between the extremes of blissful elation and angry depression – so having vacillated for some time now, I am finally practicing restraint.  In the past, when I really pushed hard, and did hundreds of prostrations (virtuous activity), I would notice an equally potent move in the opposite direction (away from virtue).  So now I am doing less, but my pendulum is almost done with its annoying swinging.  So that is all good!

So I guess the answer might lie in seeking out ONE teacher and then following their advice over the advice of others once you are sure you want to work with them.  Or, you can bounce ideas off several, which is what I seem to be doing, all the while trying to follow the advice of one root lama / teacher.  If you are intelligent and discerning, then you will notice that your authentic teachers’ advice all leads to the same place.  I hope this sheds light on a curious topic.

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