Tara Mandala Retreat 2009, Epilogue


The wake up conch sounded much like what I imagine a dying water buffalo would sound like.  Only worse.

After discussing it with Lama Tsultrim, I took refuge with her.  She gave me the refuge name Rangrig Wangmo, which is Tibetan for “Powerful Woman of Innate Awareness.”  And she symbolically cut off a lock of my hair!  A lot of us took refuge on the final day of the retreat.  All of our hair was to be buried in the earth at Prayer Flag Ridge.  It was a far more emotional ceremony, and more free-flowing, than when I took my Zen precepts.

The kitchen made doggy bags for all of us on the 1:00 shuttle!  We were driving up to the community building and saw one of the staff, Jessica, standing by the side of the road holding out sack lunches!  So we all got lunch before traveling on.

The grain, quinoa, is indeed high in protein and has become a staple of my diet.

Paula and I meet by phone weekly to feed our demons together.  Her support has been essential to my on-going practice.

I was accepted to graduate school for Buddhist Studies by the University of Sunderland in the UK.  The program is conducted via distance learning.  Hopefully, I will end up with a Master’s Degree.  It’s not the same program I was considering during the retreat, but one I only found out about the day after my return.  Classes start September 23rd.

I’m going to Kripalu in Massachusetts to learn Chod from Lama Tsultrim this November.  I already have my place reserved and my airline tickets purchased!

Stupa Rainbow

Tara Mandala Retreat 2009, Day 7


After refuge ceremony:

Mudras: some are for energy flow, some are just customary.

Dreams are good fodder for demon feeding.

We can map inherited demons from our parents.  Allies, too.  Also, our demons & allies flow down to children & subordinates.

Prajna Paramita practice: practice outside when you can.  Face away from the sun.  “There’s something about sitting on mother earth.”  Practicing at night is okay.

bios_yurt, water 124

Tara Mandala Retreat 2009, Day 6

7-5-09 12:30 PM

We had a temple tour with Tsultrim.  I set my pack down, so didn’t have this notebook when she began teaching.

Demons of Elation

Spiritual materialism.  Warning signs: cutting back or stopping practice, using power inappropriately.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have a position of authority.  Just work for something larger than yourself.  Take long, strict retreats.  If necessary, give up the fame & move on.

Demons of Egocentrism

This is the root of all demons.  They all spawn from this.  You need to know when your energy field ends & the next person’s begins.  (Sharpen the saw!   Mind your own business!  are good practices.)  Nature of Mind practice is very helpful with these demons.


We take refuge in all the wrong places: temporary relationships (because all relationships are temporary), substances, etc.

Buddhist refuge: a commitment to go for refuge in the Buddha, dharma, sangha.  A commitment to begin the journey back to the ground of being.

5 vows go with this:

  1. not to kill
  2. not to steal
  3. not to lie
  4. not to take intoxicants to the point of intoxication
  5. not to do sexual misconduct: getting in a relationship when you’re in one; or interfering with someone else’s

“To practice virtue & stop practicing non-virtue.” – the Buddha, summing up the path

On eating meat: okay if it’s passed through 2 hands, said the Buddha.  “A sentient being is anything that runs away when you try to kill it.” – Tsultrim

“They want to live as much as I do.” – Tsultrim

Residence Hall with the Temple in the background

Residence Hall with the Temple in the background

4:12 PM


Partner work reminders

Confidentiality: don’t bring it up, even to them, unless they do

Judgment: no comments!

Timing: watch your partner.  Ask for a head nod when they’re ready to move on.

Language: don’t say “I want you to…” or “do … for me.”  Stick to the script!

Purist: don’t mix in other therapies.

Scribing for a partner: just enough that they can recall it later.  A word or two, or a phrase.  Pay attention to your partner!

Between questions, “Nod if this feels complete,” before moving on.

6:17 PM

I fed a demon with Angel.  It was a very fruitful experience!  [Angel is the staffer who drove me up to Prayer Flag Ridge.]

I’m on the 1:00 shuttle tomorrow, which means no lunch.  Ugh.  Maybe the kitchen will give me a doggy bag… 🙂

Tara Mandala Retreat 2009, Day 5



Prajna Paramita review

Lion: symbolizes the fearless truth of the dharma.  “Because, in a way, the dharma’s not all that reassuring.”  Uncompromising investigation into the nature of reality.  4 lions hold up the corners of the throne.

Emptiness: “If an ant walked on this, would it experience it as a bell?  If a dog looked at it, would the dog experience it as a bell?”  “At what point does it become a table and for who is it a table?”  “Your mother might be talking to your sister about you, thinking they’re talking about the same thing, but in reality, they’re both just talking about their ideas.”

Heart Sutra:

  • Form is emptiness
  • Emptiness is form
  • For is not other than emptiness
  • Emptiness is not other than form

The same is true of feelings, perceptions, karmic volition (impulses), & consciousness.

Not both, not neither.

9 breaths: passion, aggression, ignorance

Using a “support” in meditation: the breath, an object to look at, etc.  An expression, like “Whatever thought arises: cut.”

Eventually, you stop and practice without an object.  Then, even trying stops.

No object is used in Prajna Paramita practice.  Fairly advanced method.

At death, 2 things are functioning: prana (lung) & karmic traces, which are part of the mindstream.  At night, what is dreaming is the mindstream.

We’re extremely psychic after death.  We often forget our part lives due to the intensity of being in the womb & being a baby.

We are addicted to clinging.  When that stops, the mindstream clears.  That is dharmakaya.

Dharma: the teachings

Kaya: formless dimension

Prajna Paramita sutra is considered very powerful & has healing qualities.

Peaceful deities are connected to the moon-disc.  Wrathful deities are connected to the sun.  When both are used, the deity is balanced.


Tsultrim believes there is an energy, a being, outside of our beliefs.  Tara is one of them.  We can connect with that enlightened mindstream.  Sambhogakaya deities can be directly experienced.  Dharmakaya deities are archtypes.

Prayer is opening your energy field to receive the loving energy that deities are putting out all the time (because it’s their nature to do so.)

You can receive a substance from them, called blessings.

Heart mantra – generates the power of the deity.  Action mantra – removes the obstacle, takes the requested action, etc.

Machig said all demons are from the mind.

Transmission: transmit the experience (ex: the nature of mind) through words & practice.  It’s personal.  Being in person, you’re the in the energy field [of the teacher]; it’s a different experience than reading a book or listening to a tape/CD.

6:03 PM

We just did clay work feeding our demons with a partner.  Magnifique!

Dealing with resistance

Has not feeding this demon worked?  No?  Perhaps you can try feeding it just a little bit.

There is a tendency to recreate the demon because it’s familiar.  It’s a habit.  This is why in Chod, after the feeding, there is a teaching on the nature of mind.  This is why we rest at the end of demon feeding.

9:15 PM

Today has been a very emotional day, and I don’t feel much like journaling.  In short, I snapped at someone (about a 2 on a 1-10 scale) and so apologized.  That was the demon I fed using the clay, & it was very revelatory.  Then someone else accidentally hit me in the head with a heavy cushion, & I felt all her embarrassment & regret.

I want to get to sleep early.  I’m trying chamomile tea.

photo_sunset over trees

Tara Mandala Retreat 2009, Day 4

7-3-09 10:00 AM

Demon Feeding

You can work with dream images rather than finding the demon in your body & inviting it to manifest.  It’s the unconscious wanting attention; give it attention & it can relax.  Also, rather than use the literal image, you can use the feeling the dream provokes.  Whether the person in the dream is dead or alive doesn’t matter; they’re all metaphors.

We worked with a partner.  I fed my rage demon because of a powerful dream I had last night.

Demon work leads to non-duality.  No deep analysis of symbolism is needed.

Demons don’t want to be fed out of existence!  You can’t get rid of your demons by feeding them.  We offer them love & compassion.  Communicate with them, give them what they need.  Work with them.  You’re paying attention; you’re paying with your attention. We’re investing by giving them our intention & attention.  Honoring the shadow.

Don’t get sidetracked by endless explanation & analysis.

The unconscious does not like to be commanded.

It doesn’t have to feel emotional to be effective.

Using Art

2:55 PM

The day thus far…

View from Prayer Flag Ridge

View from Prayer Flag Ridge

Got up at 6 AM & got a lift to the trail head.  The last, steepest part was still a climb.  It rained softly during Prajna Paramita practice.  No matter.  I was wearing Vin’s [my late brother-in-law] old rain jacket & draped a plastic trash bag over my lap.


  • Instant oatmeal, with raisins, cranberries, almonds & walnuts I added
  • Cereal in soy milk
  • Hard boiled egg

My work crew (excuse me – karma yoga crew) & I are getting faster at sweeping & mopping.  And I’m starting to dislike the job less.

Demon feeding was challenging.  My partner did not guide me through the steps the way I thought she should!  So I got to feed my impatience demon at the same time I was doing my “official” work!

Then we had to draw.  I hate drawing because I always got poor grades in it in school.  Yet today, I was very pleased with my drawing!  It doesn’t look exactly like the demon, but it’s an accurate representation.


  • Squash boats stuffed with quinoa & veggies
  • Salad – I had the Goddess dressing again, & so far, no upset
  • Sweet potato fries

Yesterday’s water intake was about 80 oz.  My joints are lubricated & loving me!

I had lunch with Paula, Mary, & 2 other great gals.

Then I went to a talk & book signing by Olivia Hoblitzelle.  Her book is about her husband’s passage through Alzheimer’s & her journey with him.  Her talk was moving.  I especially connected with her remark that caring for her husband was her spiritual practice.  That’s how I feel about helping Lisa [a friend with cancer], & I told her so when she signed my book.  I look forward to reading it; I think it has a lot for me.

The talk was outside, on the west porch of the community building.  I saw a lovely beetle get himself “turtled” and rescued him with a piece of hay.  He grabbed on with all six legs, so I set him on the hay bale.

I finally got to talk to my roommate, Marian.  That’s the trouble with noble silence in the evenings: the only time you’ve both in the room, you can’t talk!  Anyway, she’s a therapist & a feminist.  I like her a lot!  We only overlapped by about 2 minutes, but we made them count!

Inside Room

Right now I’m sitting in front of the open windows, door open into the hall for a nice breeze, sipping a mug of hot cocoa.  Life is good!  🙂

I miss Michael.  I wish I could be sharing these experiences with him.  Each day, I think of him & what he’s most likely doing.  I’m not sure whether there’s racing today at Laguna Seca, or if it’s just time trials.  I hope he’s having a great time!

I’ve had an insight up here.  I’ve been asking the universe for guidance regarding my career.  I even thanked it for not giving me the plum job at UCLA.  Yesterday, I began to see the plan unfolding.

Had I gotten the UCLA job, my plan was to enroll in a Master’s program in Criminal Justice.  It’s not what I really want to study, but it could help my career – no guarantees.  When I didn’t get the job, I let go of the plan.  I don’t have the required time with my current teaching load.

Of course, I had never discussed whether to apply at UCLA, or whether to enroll at ASU on-line, with the universe.

Yesterday I remembered what I really yearn to study: Buddhism.  A practical Master’s is my parents’ paradigm, not mine.  The universe has already opened the door to a Master’s in Buddhist Doctrine; I just have to walk thru.

Then I thought about the CEUs available & whether I could still sign up for them.  I had believed the universe was guiding me to be a spiritual teacher, & here was this opportunity.  I thought the cost was $15 per CEU.  I did the math for 27 CEUs, freaked, prayed, & went to sleep.

This morning I woke up with the very clear intention of getting the CEUs if it wasn’t too late.  I can afford it if I forego other things.

Then I found out that the additional cost was $15 total.  I signed up.  And I think I’ll be getting a Master’s in Buddhist Doctrine…

3:57 PM

I just now noticed how many flowers are in the dharma room: 3 bouquets & a single blossom, the last on Tsultrim’s teaching table.  We have flowers at the Zen Center, too: 2 identical bouquets, 1 on each side of the altar.  The ones here are each different, placed with abandon, flowers for flowers’ sake.  It strikes me as very feminine.

5:18 PM

Training – Demon Feeding

I just completed the drawing demon feeding with Chelsea from my karma yoga crew!

You can do the extended ally work either during the demon feeding or independently.  Looking for the inner guru, access your inner wisdom.  Allies are archetypes.

Working with Kids

Demon feeding often works in one shot.  Drawing is very effective because (perhaps) they don’t criticize their own “art.”

Doesn’t have to be rational; it’s not logos.

Try different media.  Ex.: watercolor is hard to control, has a life of its own, & some interesting things may come out of this.

10:03 PM


  • Split pea soup
  • Quinoa in another form
  • Another casserole w/ lots of veggies

I ate with Paula, Karen, Steve from karma yoga, & 2 others.  Very pleasant.

Tonight’s practice was Chod.  I fed today’s demon during it, & the demon because my ally.  I love Chod!  It’s very healing.

I made a massage appointment for 2:30 Sunday.  I’m looking forward to it!  They use aromatherapy & mantras, too.  My massage therapist, Maya, is a Chod practitioner.

Lama Tsultrim announced that Marian Form had died today: the classy lady I met at Sprit Rock who had “I C U MARA” tattooed around her wrist.  She had breast cancer.  I knew that during our brief acquaintance.  WE were hardly friends, but her passing still makes me cry.  Or maybe I’m crying out of fear for Lisa and Holly.  Even for myself.

With Tsultrim’s permission, I did Ji Jong Bosal chanting for her in the temple.  Farewell, Marian.  May you have a good rebirth, gain enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.

It was too dark for me to find my way down to the residence hall.  Coco, the “house mom,” was still at the temple and guided me down, holding my hand.