Garuda in Flight

L’ Esprit: How the French Language Revealed A Deep Truth

The French Meaning of Esprit

I’ve always been frustrated by the French word, l’esprit, and the fact that it is actually not a cognate for spirit. In fact, the French have no word that equates to the English meaning of spirit. Rather, the meaning of l’esprit actually equates to the English word mind. When I first learned this some years ago, but long before I ever moved to France, I was disappointed.

I grew up in the 80’s when the fashion label Esprit was quite popular. And whether it was being subjected to their advertising campaigns or just my own meaning-making at work, I honestly thought it meant free-spirited. There was something about having that label tucked in the collar of my shirt that made my teenage self feel in touch with a quality I valued. Little did I know it didn’t really mean the same thing to me as it meant in its language of origin.

The Flight of Garuda

The other day, I was listening to a contemplative reading from a Tibetan Dzogchen text known as The Flight of Garuda. As I meditated with this teaching, I discovered that the French might very well have known, perhaps accidentally, what they doing with the word! Because instead of seeing mind as that noisy, distracting, analyzing, slicing and dicing, confusing, judgmental voice that makes it impossible to meditate or even as the efficient, intellectual, concentrated, discerning life-assistant that helps us survive, my definition of mind suddenly became crystal clear. Like a flash of light, my attention shifted from common mind to one mind.

True Mind

Mind, true mind, is a vast and open landscape in which the entire play of life takes shape. We share that one field. Your mind is my mine and vice versa. It isn’t what happens within it to which The Flight of Garuda points. Rather, it points to the pure, open expanse of the One Mind. One of the objectives of meditation is to first see through the personal stuff of mind to the transpersonal nature of this field, and then to see beyond the endless stream of content directly into that ever-pure, every-open, brilliant expanse.  In that way, it resolves my conflict with the French word l’esprit meaning mind and it integrates it with the English meaning of the word spirit.

The nature of the sun~ disc is radiance
That a thousand aeons of darkness cannot obscure.
Similarly, luminosity is the nature of one~ mind
That aeons of confusion cannot darken.

Non-Duality

This teaching also reminds us that Samara and Nirvana are the same. That’s because they are both concepts that exist with the field of mind. They are dualistic. To believe one is somehow better than the other is to ultimately believe in a fantasy, or just another side of Maya or illusion. Heaven and Hell. Right and wrong. Light and dark. You and me. Beyond such concepts lies freedom, in that field in which such concepts emerge and dance. We are far too fixated on the dance to see the space from which it all emerges.

So at the risk of simply playing with more concepts, which is all one can do when pointing to Truth, it seems to me a distinction can now be drawn between mind and Mind. Or perhaps it would be best to think of mind only as that primordially pure, insubstantial luminosity behind Life, and everything else, and I do mean everything, as the soup of selfhood.

We are reminded through The Flight of Garduda, again and again, to rest the little mind in the nature of Pure Mind:

All that appears is the magical display of the mind’,
And this whole magical show is empty and free of any ground.
When you realize everything to be your own mind.|
All that can be seen is empty, the dharmakaya.
One is not fettered by appearance, but by attachment.
So cut your deluded attachment, heart-children!

Living Beyond the Box

You’re probably familiar with the concept of getting “outside the box”, a way of living that frees one from the seduction of familiarity, limitation of unquestioned conditioning, and mechanical repetition of habit, but “beyond the box”?

I’ve lived a greater portion of my life outside a lot of boxes, an often lonely and misunderstood Cat in a boxexistence, but one I wouldn’t trade to get back in the boxes from which I’ve been freed. But lately, I’ve been thinking all I really ever did was adopt a different set of boxes, perhaps a little more spacious but still bordered by perceived limits.

Now that we’ve entered and passed through the Lion’s Gate of 2023, I am more curious now about learning to live beyond boxes entirely. This excites me greatly, not just as an idea but as a cellular sense that human beings are capable of so much more than we realize.

The Book Group Catalyst

I am a member of a book group that studies wisdom texts. For the past few months, we’ve been reading I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj. It’s been great. But during our last meeting, someone mentioned feeling like nothing changes.

The irony of our book group is that week after week, we read chapters that basically say the same thing in different ways over and over again, and the overriding message is, “You have to go within and look, silently.” (and yet what is within when you realize it’s all within?)

And yet, week after week, we all happily show up to talk and talk. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing so. It has its benefits.

But the irony doesn’t escape me. I can only assume we either 1) are really there just for the commradery or 2) are really there to assert and confirm our own matrices despite declaring we want freedom, or 3) simply don’t know how to get beyond our current structure and enter freedom. Maybe there’s another possibility or maybe the three are by degrees. I tend to think, for myself, that 3 is the truer.

And as for myself, I keep showing up because I love the reflections of these people, and I’m so grateful for the depth of conversation. But it is, if I am honest, not an application of what we read and not a means to awaken. Am I wanting sangha in a book group? That’s an unrealistic expectation.

Beyond the Box

How could we move beyond our current structure? And is doing so even desired by anyone else? For now, I’ll assume yes so I can continue to ponder the possibilities.

Maybe what is needed, in addition to meditation, is to have some kind of ritual that signifies we are “talking”, just making more noise. I’ve tried to do that with the opening meditations to some extent…to unify our energy and elevate our field. But is it enough? I feel like our conversations are really very much like the chapters…saying the same thing in different ways.

People might need to share opinion or personal meaning, confusion or insights. I sometimes do. So, I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t engage in this way. We’ve also started sharing music, poems, and artwork towards the end of group, though, and this strikes me as closer to source. I just wonder how we can keep moving upward? How do we keep evolving and not just “creaming butter”?

How do we serve as healers? How do we create, move, and send energy? How do we clean and transform it? Not as egos. Not as individuals, but as one body??? How do we perform miracles? We know there are all these horrible situations in the world. Maybe they are perfect. But maybe we can do something. Maybe we can generate fields of love and purify the crap.

Why else are we alive if we can’t affect change? Why if everything is within us do we assume there’s nothing we can or should do to heal that…that it isn’t our business? And why do the words “inner work” preclude that? I’m not interested in activism. I’m interested in shiftism. Is that just a different matrix…a bigger box?

We talk about inside and outside but isn’t it all inside, a reflection of the One? Or am I just confused?

Something So Big

The book group is a microcosm of our greater world and at least my own recognition that what once worked is no longer working and without adapting rather abruptly to massive change without losing our values such as truth, beauty, and human compassion, the world as we know it is going down.

Ramana’s very field, Yogananda’s very field, Jesus’s very field was healing. What if they had worked together? Historically, awakened ones have awakened alone, then taught alone. Why? Is that the only way? Can a community awaken? And why not? The paradigm is always teacher at the front, disciples to the back. What if there was no hierarchy? I don’t know why I’m so full of questions. I just sense something so big just around the corner…something so outside of anything ever conceived of.

“We come alone. We go alone.” That is said by many a saint and of course, relatively true for the separate self. But if we share the source, what is “alone”? Is it not just another meaningless concept? Or am I just spinning my own wheels here?

Is a different book the answer or is an entirely different paradigm in order or an additional group for those of us wanting to explore these potentials? Or is this all borne of my frustrated longing to serve and be useful?

I walk knowing I am in a dream. I walk and tell myself, “You’re dreaming. Wake up.” But some little switch in my brain hasn’t yet ripened or something.

“Aren’t You A Yoga Teacher?”

Recently I was diagnosed with a degenerative disk disorder which was to large extent hastened by congenital physiology. This was preceded by a somewhat alarming loss (for a yoga teacher!) of mobility and strength. It required my yoga practice to completely change, for the 3rd time in my life. It might surprise you to learn that each time that has happened, my practice has deepened and matured… it has never been a loss. That’s because if we actually practice yoga in its truest form, it meets us as we are.

Many people, far too many, think of yoga as a workout.Aren't You A Yoga Teacher? That is to limit yoga to a fraction of its potentials to serve not just the body, but the breath, mind, and spirit. In addition, many people, again, far too many, have a perspective of yoga as requiring certain postures including those that are inaccessible to them, that must be done in particular ways.

If they know that they cannot meet some preconceived expectation, they don’t even try. Or, they go to the wrong teacher (wrong for them) whose style simple doesn’t fit their needs and then conclude that all yoga is not for them. It is unfortunate.

An Interesting Question

Yesterday, I has an encounter with an acquaintance, and when I mentioned that I probably shouldn’t be lifting things because of my back, she looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you a yoga teacher?” as if 1) yoga teachers should never be injured and 2) yoga teachers who are don’t know what they are doing.

There is unfortunately at least a grain of truth to each of those assumptions, at least in regards to a yoga practice. Of course, injury of many kinds can happen to anyone at any time that have nothing to do with one’s yoga practice. But it is assumed that a yoga teacher who knows anatomy and asana well enough shouldn’t be injured by their practice. And yoga teachers who do get injured are often injured because they don’t know their own bodies enough to listen and/or are driven more by accomplishment than by embodiment.

But…

For a long time now, since before 2000, I’ve been dealing with back problems. I only had a vague sense of my congenital condition. And though it had been pointed out to me by doctors in the past, it never presented as a problem, so I wasn’t really doing anything to prevent future problems other than just trying to remain fit and strong.

Unfortunately, I did some really stupid stuff when I was younger, felt invincible, and didn’t know how to recognize harmful activity. I also had a ridiculously strong work ethic that made it impossible for me to walk away, take a break, or give up entirely on tasks that I knew were compromising my body. They are lessons learned.

But time does take it’s toll on all of us. Change is inevitable. And no body is immune from the ravages of aging.

What I Wish I’d Said

What I wish I had said to this acquaintance was, “Thank God I am! I hate to think of what condition I’d be in if I didn’t have my yoga practice.” I truly believe that. Despite everything, I remain more flexible and mobile than a lot of people in my age category. And more importantly, I know how to rest and restore my body. I know what can relieve pain, and I know how to listen to my body when I try things that may very well be recommended for my condition but that don’t actually work for my body. Yoga has given me both an embodiment and wisdom that serves my evolution (aka aging) on this planet.

Of course, inherent in this woman’s question was also the misunderstanding of what it means to be a yoga teacher and that there’s some highly athletic aspect that assumes Olympic invincibility. I’m not a fitness teacher. I’m not a sports coach. I’m not even, in many regards, a yoga teacher. I’m a yogi who shares from her direct experience, and my wheelhouse is selfcare and restorative forms of movement. It’s yoga, but not in the Instagram sense.

Injury, fortunately, does not preclude me from either practicing nor sharing my yoga. In fact, it enriches both.

 

 

Projection

Sky Castle – A Brilliant Glimpse of the Dangers of Conditioning

I recently completed watching a Korean series on Netflix called Sky Castle. It was an incredibly eye-opening glimpse into the culture of the Korean family and educational system.

But I’m not writing about that aspect today but the more universal glimpse it provided into the what I’ll refer to as the fixed ego complex at the root of human suffering and the source of most if not every current global crisis.

Mirror of the Bigger Problem

What Sky Castle did so brilliantly (aside from being well-written) was present a very painful reflection of how our unquestioned beliefs, those most likely handed down through the generations or upheld by the greater society, hold the power to not only destroy us but those we love and everything we hold dear.

While I suspect most people would watch this program and not necessarily equate it with their own lives, that would be a grave mistake and a potentially enlightening lesson wasted: how rigid the mind can be! How twisted it can become. How easily it can justify our actions to ourselves and others. And like a deadly virus, how easily these poisons can spread from one person to the next and from one generation to another.

A Family Moves In

The family that moves to Sky Castle brings the fresh air and perspective the community needs so desperately in order to wake up. They are a disturbing force. We all need the occasional disturbing force to come into our lives and shake us out of our complacency. But often, we see such forces as, at best, inconveniences and at worst, as threats to our existence…which they are in a way. They threaten everything we’ve become so attached to, so identified with, that the very question of them is indeed threatening, not to our lives but to our sense of self.

Not surprisingly, this family became a target of the community for that very reason. Here were sane people suddenly introduced into a community of the completely insane pretending to be sane. The contrast was just too much to bear. And the extents to which members of this community would go to fight against this disturbing force, in order to remain “dug in” to their cherished ideas and ways of doing things, became criminal.

It may help to take a moment to address the definition of sanity. For my purposes, to be sane is to accept what is real. The be insane is to believe a lie (and often merely to assume). And within my definition is a pre-acknowledgment that our soul knows the difference, even if the mind can convince us otherwise. This is what creates illness and the dystopia of sick societies.

Does it remind you of anything? Anything at all? It reminds me of several things…for example, how hated prophets or other figures are who preach love over fear, or how reviled authentic whistleblowers are for making difficult truths public, or how persecuted and silenced anyone is today who questions the establishment (and by that, friends, I mean not just “the” establishment, but my establishment and your establishment!). My question for you, dear reader, is which one are you: the sane person daring to declare truth or the insane person caught in the trap of the fixed ego complex? We may be sure of our answer and yet, how on earth can we tell, especially if we have become cut off from our inner knowing by that very cunning and downright ruthless fixed ego complex?

Facing Ourselves

Sky Castle is about the path of facing ourselves and our deepest unresolved wounding, the very thing that fixes and then feeds and strengthens the ego complex in place. In the story, the evolution of the characters is driven by their suffering, often painfully slowly until it becomes so great that it can no longer be denied.

We are given that choice ourselves by life – to continue living in the sickness of separation or to heal and become whole. Will we take the gentler route and accept reality now or do we need the greater dose of suffering to break the hold of the illusions that have captured us? It seems the world is at a tipping point to decide that question now.

A Test of Sanity

We are not exactly the best measure of our own sanity and yet we are also the only measure of it in a twisted and corrupted society. How can we determine for ourselves if we are deluded, if we have fallen prey to generational conditioning, or if we’re being driven by our traumas and fear into believing falsehoods?

I think the number one indicator that something within us is off balance is defensiveness. How quick are we to rush in and shut someone up if their perspective runs counter to our own? To what extent are we willing to let go of our freedoms and volunteer up the liberties of others to alleviate our anxieties?

ProjectionA more difficult-to-see indicator is how often we project our own weaknesses or guilt onto others. Of course, we have to be willing to see this in order to acknowledge it. It starts by accepting the fact that we do this…we all do this. Willingness is enough to draw back the veil and begin to catch the ways we separate ourselves from others through judgments of better or worse, good or evil and blame. See those three fingers pointing back at you when you find yourself pointing at another.

And finally, how often do we seek confirmation of our own biases to feel more secure in our identity? How often do we turn to friends we know will agree with us, or watch programs or read books that align with the thoughts we already have? How big is your echo chamber? Do we seek to understand and connect or do we seek to merely distract and entertain ourselves and then compare ourselves to others in order to solidify our sense of self?

There are other ways to affirm our sanity, through meditation and contemplation for example, or through the studies of ancient wisdoms written at a time when man was more connected to the Earth and to Spirit.  It doesn’t matter how we get there; what matters is that we acknowledge our collective sickness and strive to heal.

 

Walking Backwards to the Future

The latest ‘craze’ in fitness is walking backwards. But this post isn’t about the practice per se. Rather, it is about an insight that came to me while I was doing it.

It has been discovered that walking backwards help heal knees and improve all kinds of lower back and body issues. Because I recently hurt my knee, I’ve been practicing walking backwards as a way to heal and build back strength. One day, I turned my attention to the scenery receding away from me and was struck with an insight. I realized that everything I was seeing as it receded was actually my past and that the way forward, the path I couldn’t see as my back was turned toward it instead of my face, was the future. It was a spectacular perception shifting moment that I shared in a short on my youtube channel.

But as I continued to consider the deeper meaning of my experience, I realized my video is incomplete. I said something about ‘creating the future you want’, and I realized that there’s something more profound to be seen. The only moment of choice is the point of the body, whatever direction it might face. And that alone is the point of creation. But the future itself inevitably and always remains unknown. There are no guarantees that what we want to create will come to fruition. There are far too many variables. So what is it exactly that we ‘lean into’ when we walk into what we cannot see? It is the Great Mystery, the unfolding of Life.

I’ve always taken issue with material concepts of manifestation – ‘just want it and it’ll come true’. If that were true, I’d be a lot richer, a lot taller, and always happy and wise. Nowadays of course, the principal of manifestation is more akin to ‘believe it and it’ll come true.’ I know I’m not rich, at least in terms of dollars, I’ll never be taller, and I’m not always happy and certainly not always wise. So I’m not so sure believing is enough either. Nor is it meant to be. True manifestation is the allowing of what will be…the unseen unfolding.

Don’t get me wrong. Sure, in any moment with awareness, we can choose to have more optimistic thoughts. We can daydream and imagine the feelings of happiness and abundance. And that is very likely to impact our future reality to either a greater or lesser extent, but it all depends on our karma and the grace we’ve cultivated. It may also very well depend on our fearlessness. But ultimately, the future remains that unseen realm obscured by the maya we face with our vision when we’re walking forward. In other words, whether we’re walking backwards or forewords, we’re only ever seeing our past. It’s what has already unfolded. It’s what has already been created.

The thing is, if we put our faith in and ‘make matter’ that seemingly current reality, even though it is actually our past, it isn’t as easy to surrender to the unknown. We limit potentials and are forever caught in the duality of aversion and attachment. When walking backwards, we have no choice but to trust what is unfolding. And that alone makes the present moment so acute and precious.

I don’t know if I’ve articulated this very well. I think walking backwards is a great practice to shift one’s perception as well as one’s knee injury! Why not give it a try yourself and see what you discover for yourself?

Words with Selfcare Implications

“Cept” is a root word meaning to take or receive.

I love words and enjoy playing with them (even though I nearly failed Linguistics in college!)  Looking at them from different angles sparks my creativity and helps me understand myself. Let’s look at a set of words that all contain the  root “cept” and have important implications for selfcare. We’ll start with the most obvious ones dealing with the physical body, as selfcare is very often equated to care of the physical body or care of the person via the body.

These words all have a place in the realm of yoga, which of course, is one of the main ways I help clients develop their selfcare. How many of them are familiar to you?

 

Exteroception – awareness of external stimuli, be it temperature or birdsong

Neuroception – ability to feel safe and/or sense threat

Proprioception – awareness of the muscles, joints, and bones and their relationship to each other and to external space

Perception – cognitive/mental sensing

Interoception – internal states and sensory processing

Pranaception – breath awareness

 

Not all words that include the root of “cept” are related to the body, but the following 4 words still have an important connection to selfcare, but tend not to have a positive or negative charge in and of themselves. When you look at them, what comes to mind in terms of how these words might be impacting your selfcare?

 

Inception – the beginning or start

Conception – the act of conceiving or creating something; the birth process

Interception – preventing or stopping something in progress

Reception – a welcome, greeting or acceptance

Exception – objection (or criticism which perhaps would take ‘exception’ into our  next category)

 

Now I share with you a short list of “cept” words which symbolize the energies which we must guard against in our selfcare. As you consider each one, what comes to mind in terms of your own selfcare, perhaps more so on the mental/emotional than physical level:

 

Deception – acts of falsehood, hiding or distorting the truth

Misconception – a misunderstanding or mistaken notion

Misperception – a false or inaccurate idea or belief

Preconception – an idea or belief made without all the necessary information

Susceptibility  – to be easily affected or swayed by one’s emotions or to succumb without critical thinking

 

Now consider the following 2 types of ‘ception’ that describe spiritual acuity. Do they have a place in your current selfcare?

 

Pneumaception and Brahmaception – sense of the spiritual or subtle

Numaception – knowing of the unseen

 

Words are just words. And yet they are incredibly powerful and can give us tremendous insight into ourselves and our entire belief system. Words are often used to manipulate and control us (think advertising and propaganda). But they can also give us insight into how we operate and areas of our lives that are closed off to our true potentials.

Heart with "suffering is a call to love'

Make Life Simple

Humans have a funny way of complicating things. Even when we say we’re trying to make life simple, when certain things come too easily or appear overly simple, we tend to discount or ignore them, sensing they are unearned. We want the struggle, the anguish, and the complexity. We want our intricate stories and unique entanglements confirmed by our friends, astrologers, and youtube gurus.

Thankfully, in my own life, the more time that passes, the more simple things become. So at the risk of annoying those who like the struggle, the anguish, and the complexity, I’m about to answer some of life’s burning questions…sure to douse the theatrics and complications. But if you find this all too unsatisfying, trite, or banally oversimplified, feel free to look for better answers. I’ll meet you back here when you’re ready.

What’s my purpose?

To love.

Why is this [misfortune/test] happening to me?

So you learn to love.

Why am I so miserable?

You haven’t learned to love.

Why do I keep attracting the wrong man/woman?

You don’t understand love.

Why am I here? 

To love.

Why does this [thing] keep happening to me?

So you learn to love.

Who am I?

You are love.

How can I find happiness?

Love!

Why can’t I find happiness?

Because you keep rejecting and/or denying your nature…love.

And I guess it is now fairly safe to assume that the mind goes directly to the next obvious questions: “How do I do that? How do I learn to love? How do I accept my nature?”

And that, dear reader, is for one thing, a much better set of questions and also the point at which life will really start to change. But don’t expect any easy answers here. Follow your heart!

Is Your Physical Selfcare Short-Circuiting?

You may have the best of intentions when it comes to selfcare. Yet you may find that your methods aren’t improving your quality of life. If your physical selfcare is short-circuiting, I have some questions for you.

Have you ever:

–worn clothing that felt uncomfortable but instead of getting rid of it, continued to wear it?

–chose the stylish instead of sensible shoes and walked until you got blisters?

–were so busy that you forgot to eat?

–just wanted to get to your destination, so didn’t take car breaks on a long journey?

–sat in an uncomfortable position so as not to disturb others?

–got to the end of a long day only to realize you hardly drank any water?

–practiced a yoga pose even though something didn’t feel right?

–sit with your legs crossed so long they go numb?

These may seem like fairly insignificant discomforts, but each of these is a sign that somewhere along the line, you lost touch with your physical body, what I often refer to as your avatar, and failed to selfcare. Maybe it comes down to our conditioning around no pain, no gain. Maybe it is a belief that we have to try harder, do more, go bigger. Maybe we’ve learned all to well to invalidate our own experience. Or maybe it just boils down to a lifelong disconnect between mind and body (ironically the antithesis of yoga which is meant to unify mind and body).

So here’s how these kinds of habits can short-circuit any attempts at selfcare. I’ll use yoga as an example.

Someone might think, “I’ll take a weekly yoga class so that I’m doing some selfcare every week.” But here’s the thing; it isn’t enough to show up in a yoga class once or even three or four times a week. It’s more about how we show up. Are we present and aware or just going through the motions? As a yoga teacher (or yoga student!), I am sometimes astounded to see students (or teachers!) who are quite obviously uncomfortable push through some position or pose. Even when given a cue to check in, often they still don’t realize that they are doing something totally unnatural for their bodies.

For example, not everyone is comfortable sitting in easy pose with the legs crossed. I give options for comfort and yet, it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get a student to take the initiative to grab a blanket to place under the hips or to move against a wall so that they have back support and don’t have to try so hard.

Or I witness a student finally start to unwind in savasana, and so invite more time, but as class is coming to an end, I still have to get others up and ready to close. What inevitably happens more often than not is that the student will spring to attention with the others. Unfortunately, practicing bad habits reinforces them. They become so automatic we don’t even know we’re doing them and therefore can’t question them. We think we’re engaged in selfcare when we’re really, in essence, just pretending.

Mastery of awareness is the road to transformation.

So here’s my challenge for you. Over the next week or two, commit to discover all the ways you covertly deny your body whether in a yoga class or out. Are you: stifling a yawn, holding in a fart, overeating, holding your pee, indulging in an addiction that makes you feel ill, whatever it may be. Take a few notes and every time you catch yourself, no need to judge yourself. Just affirm to yourself, “I am committed to authentic selfcare.”

#selfcaresunday

#selfcaresunday?

There’s a hashtag out there called #selfcaresunday.

#selfcaresunday. It’s a great idea, right? Give overworked, overstressed, overextended people a reminder to take some time out for themselves. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but in my opinion, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The problem with our Western way of life, which frankly has infiltrated globally, is the idea that selfcare is something like church that we attend once a week to relieve our sense of guilt over mistreating others, only in the case of selfcare, it assuages the guilt we have over mistreating ourselves: “I’ve worked myself to exhaustion all week. Now I deserve to read my book for an hour,” one justifies only to dive headlong into repeating what wasn’t working in the first place…working one’s self to the point of exhaustion every week.

Selfcare, as in taking care of one’s self, shouldn’t even be a thing, if you ask me.

How about #selfcareeveryday! Selfcare shouldn’t be something we have to be reminded about or have to carve out special time for. It should be as natural as the rising and setting of the sun. It shouldn’t be a once-a-week treat. It should be ongoing, daily activities that one attends to whenever and as often as one can. Selfcare is a devotion to the self, this little God-given avatar with which we live our lives. It’s not meant to be a part-time hobby or something we really have to think about, plan for, and fight for.

Trouble is, for so many people, it is exactly that. It’s a battle. We have to fight our pressing responsibilities. We have to resist the expectations and needs of others. We have to wrestle with time and limited hours in a day. We have to plan ahead instead of just designing our lives for selfcare in the first place.

I’m telling you, selfcare doesn’t have to be so hard.

Nor does it have to be something so disconnected from who you are. Selfcare is first and foremost an attitude, not some switch to turn on when you remember it. Self-care is a vital aspect of overall health and wellness. It involves taking time to nurture yourself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Easy Steps to Selfcare as a Way of Life

  1. One of the simplest but also most effective ways to incorporate self-care into your routine is to start your day, every day, with a few moments of quiet reflection. This may be prayer, a few words in a journal, or a few deep breaths to set an intention for the day ahead.
  2. Another important aspect of self-care is physical activity. Whether it’s a gentle yoga practice or a brisk walk in nature, moving your body is essential for both physical and mental health. Make it a priority to engage in some form of physical activity every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  3. Daily mental and emotional selfcare can be as simple as practicing mindfulness or meditation or as involved as seeking out the support of a mental health professional or group if needed. It’s about feeding your mind with wisdom and learning to understand yourself and the ways you suffer. Youtube offers a wealth of short to long videos on wellbeing.
  4. Self-care also means setting boundaries and saying no to things that don’t serve you. This can be challenging, especially if you’re used to putting others’ needs before your own. But self-care is not selfish; it’s an act of self-love and compassion that enables you to show up as your best self in all areas of your life.
  5. Finally, don’t forget to indulge in some simple pleasures. Many are under the impression that this alone is selfcare, but it is really just one facet of it, and not nearly as important as the other four. Still, whether it’s a bubble bath, a cup of tea, a good book, or a special chocolate, taking time to enjoy the little things in life can do wonders for your mood and overall well-being.

Prioritize YOU

It’s true that by prioritizing your well-being and making self-care a natural, integrated part of your daily routine, you’ll be better equipped to handle life’s challenges with grace and ease. But that is just a great side-effect to selfcare. Selfcare is something to do for the sake of itself, out of the love that you are. Be kind to you!

Need help prioritizing your selfcare? Why not schedule a session with me? I’m here to help.

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Coach, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

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ChatGPT vs. Our Discernment

So have you played with ChaptGPT yet? I was going to avoid it, but then my French teacher suggested I use it in my studies. It’s been an incredibly helpful tool, and I’ve even used it for other research.

A Positive Message for Humanity?

In a Facebook group I am in, someone posted a “positive message for humanity” constructed by the AI ChatGPT. They asked it to ‘create'(I use that term loosely) something as if it had come from an ascended master. The message was indeed positive and outwardly loving, warm, and expounding of human ideals for a better world. Some who read it were even deeply touched or uplifted having read it. Here is a sample of the passage:

Love all, for love is the foundation of all creation. In the eyes of the Universe, there are no exceptions. Every living being is a unique expression of the Divine, deserving of love and respect.

Respect each other’s freedom, for it is a gift from the Universe. Allow each person to walk their own path, to learn their own lessons, and to experience their own journey.

Do not judge or discriminate, for all beings are equal in the eyes of the Universe. Honor the diversity that exists within humanity and celebrate the unique gifts that each individual brings to the world.

Protect and preserve the natural world, for it is a reflection of the Universe’s beauty and grace. Treat all living beings with kindness and compassion, recognizing that they too are expressions of the Divine.

Fascinating! My thought was, though, that perhaps this has implications in tuning one’s intuition for false messages, empty words, and manufactured talking points which is a current plague deeply affecting humanity’s ability to discern truth from the false. It is very easy to simply project our own feelings and meanings onto a technical configuration of words and thus, find it inspiring. Yet this is unfortunately what we do when our preferred politicians, corporations, or celebs give good lip-service blinding us to their true intentions (or lack of them).

I wondered whether people would be able to distinguish between an AI message generated by ChatGPT and an actual teaching from a sage, for example. Would people be able to discern which was which? That would be interesting!

My ChatGPT Experiment

ChatGPT vs. Indian Sage

So I decided to conduct some experiments of my own. What would be the result if I asked ChatGPT to create a teaching in the style of the nondual sages of India such as Ramana and Nisargadatta. This is the result:

Greetings, seekers of truth. I am here to share with you the timeless wisdom of nondual teachings, which have been passed down through the ages by the sages and saints of India.

At the heart of these teachings is the recognition that there is only one ultimate reality, which is pure consciousness or awareness. This consciousness is not something that can be grasped or understood by the mind, for it is the very ground of being, the source of all existence.

To realize this truth, one must turn inward and abide in the silence of the heart. This means letting go of all concepts and beliefs, and simply resting in the awareness that is always present, here and now.

The mind may resist this, for it is accustomed to seeking outside itself for happiness and fulfillment. But the true happiness and peace that we seek can only be found within, in the stillness of our own being.

ChatGPT vs. Rumi

“Greetings, seekers of truth?” This seemed about as deep as a 500-word blog post about…well…any topic. I figured it was far too obviously AI. So then I thought, why not have ChatGPT create a devotional poem in the style of Rumi? Maybe it would be better at that. This was the cheesy, cliched result:

Oh beloved, my heart sings with joy, For in your presence I am whole, You are the light that guides my way, The fire that ignites my soul.

Your love is like a gentle breeze, That soothes and comforts all my fears, It washes over me like a river, And drowns away my doubts and tears.

In your embrace, I find my rest, My worries and my cares dissolve, For you are the one who holds me, The anchor of my heart’s resolve.

Oh how I long to be with you, To bask in your eternal grace, For you are the source of all that is, The giver of love and endless space.

So let me be your humble servant, And sing your praises night and day, For you are the only truth I know, The reason why my heart can say:

“I am yours, and you are mine, Forever bound in love divine, In your embrace I find my home, The place where all my fears are gone.”

ChatGPT vs. Channelling

Anyone familiar with Rumi would likely spot this as a poor imposter. It’s close, but there’s very little nuance. So in one final attempt, I instructed ChatGPT to construct a channelled message as if it came from beings of another dimension. This was the result:

Greetings, dear ones. We come to you from a dimension beyond your own, where the veil between worlds is thin and the boundaries of time and space are fluid.

We are here to offer you a message of love and hope, to remind you that you are not alone in your journey through this reality. We are with you always, watching and guiding, and sending you the energies of light and healing.

The world in which you live is undergoing a profound transformation, as the old structures and systems give way to new ways of being. This can be a challenging and confusing time for many, as the familiar ways of living and thinking are no longer effective.

But know that this is part of a greater plan, a shift in consciousness that is taking place across the universe. You are being called to awaken to your true nature as spiritual beings, to remember your connection to all that is, and to take your place as co-creators of a new reality.

The path before you may be uncertain, but trust that you are being guided towards your highest good. Follow the promptings of your heart, and let go of the fears and doubts that hold you back.

Remember that you are never alone, for we are with you always. We are the ones who whisper to you in the stillness of the night, who guide your footsteps on the path of life, and who hold you in our love and light.

So take heart, dear ones, and know that all is well. The future is bright, and the possibilities are endless. You are loved, you are guided, and you are never alone.

Now, this sounds like just about every other channelled message out there and so I have to say, “Good work, ChatGPT!” I honestly don’t think I’d know the different between this and a message from Kyron for example. But, is it good because it closely simulated an actual channelled message, or was it only successful because most channelled messages are as stiff and lifeless as AI? Which begs the question…where do channelled messages really come from?

One Thing’s for Sure

The evolution of AI is going to reveal a lot to us about ourselves in the years ahead. I just hope we don’t forget that there’s an invisible but uncrossable bridge between the human capacity to create and technology’s capacity to construct.


About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

The Deep State

The True Deep State

Sorry to disappoint, but this post isn’t about that psychopathic underbelly of world governments and twisted corruption of unelected elites and their attempts to control the world and all of its resources, including you. But it is about the metaphor of what has become known as “The Deep State”. It’s a meaningful phrase, indeed.

While the deluded controllers do, in fact, exist, they are no more powerful and no less illusionary than any other aspect of the dream we are collectively dreaming; they are a phony deep state. The only real deep state, the only one worthy of our attention, is the one within. And the way we defeat not only “The Deep State” but our suffering is by getting to know this true deep state.

I propose to you three essentials for the age in which we find ourselves:

Overcoming Fear

Stop obsessing over the latest preposterous and onerous plans devised and supposedly incoming for the future of humanity and stop giving your precious attention to mental patients with platforms. Take care of the mental patient in your own head (we’ve ALL got one). When you feel your fear-button pushed, notice it, laugh it off, and turn your attention back to your real life. Keep your focus on what you want, not what “they” want. It’s time to unify to protect the real, not our opinions. Don’t let them confuse you, throw you off, or reshape the building blocks of reality. But how you ask?

Turn It Off!

Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, stop watching and listening to the bloody media. Those talking heads are a mirror of our distorted, corrupted limited mental capacities. We are in an age where discernment is critical. The mind, with all of its biases and confusions and missing knowledge isn’t going to get you there, period. And not one single media source, professor, astrologer, or guru will get you there either. You have to learn to get quiet. And you have to spend time there. It’s absolutely essential to tune out the noise so you can finally begin to hear the truth again. It is something that will arise from inside. It’s a completely solitary inside job. So prepare yourself for a little battle with loneliness; it’ll have to be faced.

Meditate

Okay, yes, I know. You hear this suggested as the answer to every illness, stressor, crisis, trauma, and problem. It can feel completely invalidating and condescending to our personal problems. Meditation itself, as a concept, is not the answer to anything. Meditation as a state of being, however…that’s a practice worth finding your way towards. No, the rewards aren’t immediate. Yes, there are all kinds of resistances and progress plateaus to overcome. But somehow, someway, each of us must find what works to get us out of our fragmented heads and into our integrating heart. It’s not about “just sitting there”. It’s about being open and empty. And you have to want to know your Self, the truth of you, more than anything else in the world. 

We are in a new era. It’s time for the deep state to run the world. The question for you is, which deep state will run yours?

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

juggernaut

The Self-Improvement Juggernaut

The Self-Improvement Juggernaut

There was a time in my life, as there is in many lives who grow up submersed in the Western cultural values of striving and “being better”, that I was obsessed with self-improvement. I read all the books about “how to be a better this” and “how to be better at that”. I went on retreats and took on practices to make myself happier, more productive, more creative, less neurotic, less angry, more abundant and on and on and on all in an effort to prove myself worthy of existence.

When I reached one self-inflicted goal, I immediately set another and another all in the name of becoming a better person and ensuring that I was living up to my potential. It was not only exhausting, it was expensive. And while I may have had some truly valuable experiences and come away with knowledge that indeed made my life a little better, none of it ever satisfied the unquenchable thirst at the root of what was driving me…a sense of not being good enough.

Out from Under the Self-worth Steamroller

It was grace, or quite frankly what felt like hell at the time, that woke me on this hamster wheel. Who exactly was I trying to improve? Why did she need improvement? And would she ever be good enough? From the perspective of “self-improvement”, of course she wouldn’t! I went through a period of realizing it was all useless. I’d never be that perfect self I had to be to accept myself. Somehow, I had to stop resetting the bar and quit the self-improvement race. And I knew I had better find another way to accept myself, “as is”. Slowly, selfcare began to replace self-improvement.

I wanted to heal this bottomless pit of worthlessness, but not with anything external to myself. I let an identity that I had built up go (or to be more accurate, it was ripped out from under me). I even gave this ‘false self’ a little ceremonial burial. I started to focus more on doing things that made me happy…not things that made me look good to others. I began to learn to self-nurture. Just like a plant cannot possibly be expected to thrive if conditions aren’t right, I had to realize that my ability to live up to any potential was not dependent on constant self-improvement, but rather on how well I took really excellent care of me. It was a start.

From Self-Improvement to Selfcare

It’s been many years since and now my focus is quite a bit different. It turns out that even a material sense of worth wasn’t enough for me. I needed something far more wonderous and powerful. This came as not just selfcare, but capital S Selfcare. I am still just beginning to understand that any growth I may experience is not the result of tireless egoic efforts of striving to control or improve some faulty version of myself, nor even the rather the result of receiving proper light, nutrients, and other environmental factors (of both my inner and outer environments) that this being needs to flourish. More than anything, it is a direct consequence of being connected to the truth of Self, my God-given beingness.

Self-acceptance is an ongoing affair, but I do realize that my personality is itself. I can let it be what it is, with all its silly flaws. I belong to something much greater, a force that brought me into this world and a force that will see me through it and then see me out. I decided to the best of my ability, to trust in that nameless love and in that life that courses through my veins. I just have to take tender care of this vessel in which I reside. Everything else just happens. I can let come what comes and let go what goes. At least, that’s my daily practice.

What’s Driving You?

I’m not saying that self-improvement is wrong. Obviously, if you didn’t graduate from high school and return to get a GED, that’s entirely admirable. If you are overweight and you don’t like how it feels and decide to do something about it, that’s great. If you want to learn to be a better communicator, why not? But with any self-improvement endeavour, the question is what’s driving you? Self-hatred? Feeling not good enough? Winning the validation of others? A bottomless pit in your core?

Are you on a never-ending quest of self-improvement? Is it working? Do you love yourself more? Are you kinder towards yourself and others? Or are you always resetting the bar…never quite reaching some idealised version of yourself? When will enough be enough? Maybe it’s time to find a new motivation for doing what you do and let the Light that you are take care of it all.

 

8 – Death & Dying: Helping a Loved One

A straight-forward series of posts on the delicate topic of Death and Dying

Over the last several posts, I’ve shared what I have understood of my recent exposure to the Tibetan Bardos teachings. Today, I present some of the ways we can support those we love who are in transition or who have already passed.

I hope that you understand that we do not need to be experts on these teachings to benefit from them ourselves or to help our loved ones benefit. We just have to have an open mind and of course, be able to recall what we’ve learned at the time it is needed. I came across an article before writing this and I share it here because it speaks more about the importance of our own state of mind in being with those in transition.

When with someone who is transitioning, be affectionate, keeping the person calm and warm. It is most important to control your own emotions around them as these can create strong attachments or fear. Also, it is best to limit distractions (television, lively conversation, all but gentle, lyric-free music) so that they can focus on the work at hand…dying.

We can be of most help to others by pleasing them: honoring their wishes, remaining positive in spirit, surrounding them with cherished memories, and offering our forgiveness and compassion. In so doing, we open them to receiving any guidance we have to share through what we ourselves have learned through the teachings, not as some dogma of which they must be convinced but as an interesting possibility, making it possible for them to be aware and watchful for the experience of it.

This is work that can be done while our loved ones are still with us or even after their passing. It’s never too late. In fact, certain prayers or rituals should only be said and done after physical death and not before.

There are many different kinds of rituals that can be done, at different timings (for example a ritual every seven days starting from day after the 3rd day of outer death), some that address specific Bardo issues and others that are more general. I won’t go into them in any detail here, but I list them as a means to enable one’s further research:

Bardo Rituals

Pacification of Wrathful Energies
Summoning Consciousness
Help for Wandering (Lost) Beings
Help to Move Up the Realms (from hell realm, to hungry ghost, to animal to human…)
Butterlamp or Candle Offerings
Mantras
Food Offerings (burned)

The last two, mantras and food offerings, I performed on behalf of my brother after his passing many years ago. It felt so loving to prepare some of his favorite foods and send them to his spirit. I will never forget chanting one day with my sisters when a framed photo of him literally shot itself off the mantle and onto the floor. There was no explanation for this…no earthquakes or strong winds. Nothing around it shook. It was clearly intentional. I wasn’t sure if he was asking us to shut up already, but at least I knew he was listening.

While I may continue to write about the subject of death, this is my last post in regard to my training with Choekhortshang Rinpoche, whose name I can now pronounce. He can be followed on Facebook where you can find more about opportunities to learn from him.

I would also like to offer the following resources for further study:

Tibetan Book of the Dead
Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia

May this series be of benefit to all sentient beings who find it, helping us all realize True Nature. And certainly, may it help you prepare for the inevitability of your own encounter with death.

Namaste!

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

7 – On Death: Two More Chances

A straight-forward series of posts on Death and Dying

Last time, I wrote about the most auspicious opportunity to awaken that comes to us in the Emptiness Bardo. The last two means by which one can awaken along the Bardo journey I now present to you here. Though my wish for all sentient beings is that we can take full advantage of Dharmakaya and remain forever free of cyclical existence, it is perhaps in our best interests to keep the following information tucked somewhere in our consciousness, just in case!

2nd Choice State: SAMBHOVAKAYA

In the Clarity (Rigpa) Bardo

In the Bardo of clarity, there is no familiarity. The first experience is the sound of emptiness followed by the light of clarity or rays of unity. If one recognizes even this is yet again just the mind, one can become realized. Any former physical form (or rather, the memory of it) dissolves into light. Those who fail to see the truth or who refuse to accept it might return as spirits to the world they knew. Others will establish a “life” in the Bardo.

3rd Choice State: NIRVANAKAYA

In the Sidpa Bardo (of Becoming)

If one remains heavily self-identified, there is still one last chance to be freed from the Bardo journey. If one can become aware that death has occurred, there is the realization that one must move on. One’s karma plays big part in whether or not this happens and what manifests. (This is, of course, true at every stage.) The forces of resonance and attraction will draw the being toward a new life…hopefully as another sentient being able to continue the path until full awakening can arise.

This state makes me think of the times when I have had to tell spirits that they are dead in order to be free of them in environments they were “haunting”. It always seemed to work. Perhaps they simply needed to be told this truth…they were dead and needed to move on. (Sometimes, even the living need this reminder!) At any rate, it is a simple enough thing to do and may be an act of compassion for those wandering the netherworlds rather than fearing them as hungry ghosts.

Next time, more practical tips on how to help our transitioning loved ones, perhaps the most relevant of the last 7 posts!

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

Inner Death and the Sands of Time

6 – On Death: Dharmakaya – Precious Seconds to Awaken

A straight-forward series of posts on Death and Dying

According to the Tibetan Bardo teachings, there are three opportunities for full enlightenment after one dies. Dharmakaya is the first and most precious of these, and is considered the ultimate or absolute body, beyond form, substance, concept and even the ideas of existence and nonexistence.

This is probably a topic which I am least qualified to write about and one which I intend to spend more time studying, but I’ll give it a go, as my intention here is two-fold, processing what I’ve learned through writing and writing in service to even one being who would benefit from an introduction to this wisdom.

Below is a brief summary describing Dharmakaya, comprised of three “seconds” (in quotes because the last second itself is comprised of three parts) and how one might recognize it during one’s own transition. I will just say, as much as this information is related in a linear fashion, my sense of it is that it doesn’t necessarily follow our understanding of time.

Dharmakaya - Seconds to AwakenTHE BARDO OF EMPTINESS

The First Precious Second:

This is considered the most fortuitous opportunity for self-realization, when all appearances fall away.

The eyes have rolled and the final breath has been taken. The senses have turned inward. The gross body has dissolved. The energetic body has dissolved as well revealing a subtlety that was always there between mind and body, now revealed. It is all that remains. The illusory world falls away and with it, all appearances.

At this point, one drop of father essence or male bodhisattva seed descends down from the crown into the heart. In that second will come a shining vision or perhaps a feeling akin to a column of smoke rising which pacifies all emotions of the angers, leaving a sense of pleasure in its wake. If one is aware, one can abide in that purity.

The Second Precious Second to Awaken:

Here, one drop of essence of mother or female bodhisattva seed ascends up from the root into the heart. In this moment, there is a flame of a butter lamp burning and a redness that colors everything like a red dream. All afflictions of desire and attachment are pacified, giving a blissful feeling and revealing naked mind. If one is aware of this, one can awaken.

The Third Precious Second (comprised of three) to Awaken:

This final second for enlightenment in this most blessed juncture for awakening is actually followed with two more opportunities at other stages of the Bardo journey, is comprised of three seconds marked as a black, radiant near-attainment of mind. Three drops come from the heart itself back into the heart. All goes dark. It is said to be an experience like a sky full of stars. All ignorance emotions are pacified. Pure mind abides. If you see it, your very own dharmakaya, and if you can stay there, you will be realized.

I should mention that if the being fails to self-realize, then there may follow total unconsciousness and all activity ceases. Decaying back in the physical world starts. Perhaps this explains why certain realized masters or even Christian saints have remained composed and fresh long after death; they realized Dharmakaya. It is so beautiful when wisdom transcends mere religious belief.

But, in case you haven’t already noticed, things tend to happen in threes. So, there are actually two more kayas, Sambhogakaya and Nirvanakaya, in which one can awaken. I’ll talk about those next time.

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

Inner Death and the Sands of Time

5 – On Death: Inner Death

A straight-forward series of posts on the delicate topic of Death and Dying

Last time, I posted about death as we tend to think of it — a gross physical process. Today, we’ll encounter two additional stages that appear in the Tibetan Bardo teachings.

These next two stages of death are perhaps a little harder for the typical Western mind to grasp. After all, for the majority, if you can’t see it or prove it scientifically, it doesn’t exist, right? (And these days, even if you can see it, that doesn’t mean it’s worthy of belief!) But the Tibetans understand that there is an internal death that must take place; in other words, the energy that is identified with being a person must dissolve. This is what happens at the subtle stage of Inner Death.

INNER DEATH

Practicing yogis, energy workers, healers and the like will have a much easier time understanding the Inner Death during which the 5 pranas or subtle winds (prana, apana, samana, udana, vyana) and 5 chakras or wheels of energy (as opposed to the 7 of other systems) and their elements collapse down. In other words, the energy channels of the body must also die, not just the gross physical manifestation.

The result of this is collapse is a highly concentrated mind…all that remains of the person we knew. There wouldn’t necessarily be any obvious signs of the Inner Death taking place but the one experiencing it can know it by its visions and lights, that is if that person knew to look out for them. (And now you do!) It’s a mind/body experience without the body…so very like dreaming. It bears similarities to the “light at the end of the tunnel”, which in itself is a pretty fascinating phenomena commonly reported in near-death experiences, giving the Western concepts something in common with Eastern ones.

Different elements are said to give off different lights as they dissolve:

Earth – may see yellow light
Water – may see blue
Fire – may see what appear to be fireflies
Air – lightening visions, red and green (marked by a feeling of tension and grasping)
Space – complete darkness

Unfortunately, at this stage, there is a danger of the mind becoming unconscious, making it impossible to continue one’s journey with awareness.

SECRET DEATH

Finally there is the Secret Death. Secret, to remind you, just means ‘hidden’ from anyone not ready/able to receive them. Here consciousness leaves the body, and though it was not specifically stated, I took this to mean that it returns to the greater mind, the Absolute. This is the real and final death and perhaps the most mysterious of the three because of its hidden nature.

But of course, as any Tibetan will tell you, that isn’t the end! Causes and conditions can lead to other lifetimes or even Buddhahood. In fact, it is said that the best opportunity to become enlightened upon death happens between the Inner and Secret Death stages. One’s lifelong spiritual practices, if they had any, would become most valuable here. I’ll write more about this opportunity in my next post.

PS:
A brief mention for the zombie fans out there. If a dead person refuses to leave their body, this can result in the arising of the zombie state. Pulling the hair at the crown, pulling the ears, or shouting in a body’s ear can help nudge the spirit out and guide it to liberation. The question remains, are zombies something we need to fear while we live or after we die and find ourselves traversing the Bardos? Hmm…

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

4 – On Death: Outer Death

A straight-forward series of posts on the delicate topic of Death and Dying

Over the next couple of posts, I’ll be going over what I understand to be the three types of death—outer, inner and secret— as reported in the Tibetan Bardo teachings, and more specifically today, the outer death.

Outer death is the death of the physical form and the way Westerners typically think about death. Our loved one stops breathing. The heart stops. That’s it. Dead, however much we wish they weren’t. However, according to Tibetan traditions, this signifies only one level of the total dying process. Furthermore, there a aspects to this outer death which are only acknowledged in the Tibetan system.

The outer death is a reversal of the creation process I wrote about HERE. So, starting with the element of earth, there is a dissolution of the physical form moving through each of the elements exemplified in the following ways:

Earth

  • senses and their cognition get weaker and as earth element decreases
  • the body shrinks
  • feelings of heaviness
  • loss of touch
  • spleen energy dissipates

Water

  • body dissolves back to semen and blood (back to water)
  • kidney/bladder energy dissipates
  • lips dry
  • thirst
  • elimination slows
  • hearing loss

Fire

  • liver/bile energy dissipates
  • person gets cold
  • loss of taste
  • mumbling
  • other organs as containers fail

Air

  • lung energy dissipates
  • sense of smell goes
  • breath weakens
  • intestinal control goes

Space

  • heart energy dissolves
  • the power of manifestation/creation leaves

Unless we are in the caring professions and work directly with the dying, we don’t often notice or think about these aspects of dying. Certainly looking at this transitional process through the lens of the elements offers us a deeper understanding (and hopfully allowing of and trusting in) the experience.

It is then that we move onto the more mysterious and subtle inner death, and I’ll describe that process in my next post.

I would like to again mention in thanks that I was the beneficiary of this knowledge as shared by Choekhortshang Rinpoche. If you are fascinated and would like to delve deeper into the Bardo teachings, there will be future opportunities to do so. The description above, indeed this series of posts, is not by any means complete and simply meant to provide a tantalizing introduction to this important wisdom.

May those who would most benefit from reading this, find it. And may the act of writing it be of merit to all beings.

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

Coming Into Existence

3 – On Death: Into and Out of Existence

Welcome to the 3rd installment of writings on the Tibetan teachings of the Bardos. You can find the 1st installment HERE and the 2nd HERE.

Coming Into Existence

Today, I will be sharing the Tibetan view on how we come into being. This is important to understand because when we die, we take the reverse path. So understanding one is understanding the other.

Space

First there is simply space. This space contains mind…or perhaps it is more accurate to say that space is mind. Up until receiving this transmission, I had compartmentalized the concept of space from mind. I had a concept of mind, the thing to observe in meditation, as the thing that is always full of thought, ideas, concepts, reasons, etc. Now I understand the mind itself is that purely empty expanse in which all such mental stuffs arise.

Karmic Winds

In that emptiness, the dance of the elements commences starting with a karmic wind or breath that stirs as a result of the grace and compassion of the gods. This breath then becomes fire (passion) which expands and ripples out, becoming water (blood/fluids) which then hardens, turning into earth and becoming flesh or matter.

Manifestation

From there, things become physical as the heart forms as the basis of our internal world, the navel develops our connection to the outer world (think umbilical cord), and each of the elements take their home in our various organs: air in the lungs, fire in the liver, water in the kidneys, and earth in the spleen. The senses develop as doorways between the inner and outer worlds.

This is perhaps a simplification of something far more complex, but you get the poetic idea. There is chain of events and all conditions must be met for life to come into being. It might not be ‘scientific’ according to Western standards, but it does not dismiss the miraculous mystery of life, as science often does, reducing life to a sterile, tiny pocket of limited understanding in the vast spaciousness of the mind.

So next time, we will begin to look at this process in reverse.

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

2 – On Death: When You’re Dead, You’re Dead (or Are You?)

A straight-forward series of posts on the delicate topic of Death and Dying

Welcome to another installment on Death & Dying. In this post, we begin our dive into the Tibetan Bardo teachings.

Most would assume that once you die, you’re dead. The Tibetan, however, have a different perspective. They believe first of all that there are, if you will, levels or stages of death:

  1. outer death (that which we typically conceive of as death when the last breath is taken)
  2. inner death (the dissolution of the subtle, energetic body)
  3. secret death, secret simply implying hidden but in so much as someone who isn’t ready won’t be able to understand (when individual consciousness becomes unconscious or transcends).

They also believe that it takes at the very minimum three days for this to occur, or to occur to such an extent that the deceased will be spared from any residual discomfort. In other words, we ought not to bury or cremate our loved ones for at least three days, lest we put them through some kind of torture. Bear in mind this torture is not the physical kind, obviously, but born of the stubborn tethering of the mind to the body and not realizing that one has passed…or in rare cases, not having completely died. In fact, there are instances of those who have been assumed dead, buried even, only to be discovered still alive a short time later to the shock of those doing the discovering!

When I heard that the ‘apparent’ dead might still suffer as if in their bodies, I was a little concerned about my father’s death years ago. When he died, everything happened very fast. He was cremated, if not the next day, then the one following. I remember how sweet our family experience at the funeral home was, full of joyful laughter that probably looked like a total loss of sanity to the funeral director. But Dad (and his sense of humor) was truly present with us as we chose his urn, all five of us pointing at the exact same time to the exact same one among a wall full of different styles. Since it hurts to think of him suffering from a too-quick cremation, I choose to believe he was already very much aware he was not his body and all too happy to have it over quickly. I am also reassured because he was ill for some time and was aware of the gravity of his situation.

Actually, despite this minimum of three days, it is believed that it takes 49 days or seven weeks to move through the entire after-death bardo journey. Therefore, our loved ones remain near during that time (and many of us feel and know they are always around even afterwards in different ways), feeling separated by an unsurpassable boundary, as they process their past, resolve feelings from their most recent life, and consider possible futures. This journey is marked by present confusions and obstacles and the visions that enter the mind that continues to exist after bodily death. The dead must overcome temptations, Bardo beings and illusions, and the various traps that would render them “stuck” in the Bardos, unable to transition to another life or to self-realization altogether.

Therefore, it is of great benefit during this 49 days to offer up prayers, rituals, happy memories, and any offerings to assist the loved one’s transit. I will write more about this perhaps at a future time.

Next time, I’ll go into a little more detail about how we come into and go out of existence according to the teachings. Until then…

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

1 – On Death – Are You Ready to Die?

A straight-forward series of posts on the delicate topic of Death and Dying

I know. I know. It’s everybody’s favorite topic to avoid. Forget the fact that we’re all dying the minute we’re born. Forget the fact that everyone we know now will be dead in, at best, 100 years. Forget the fact that life has been pushing death in our faces for the last two years (to say nothing of countries that have been facing it on a daily basis for much longer). It’s a disturbing taboo subject. And so naturally, I am enthralled!

In my last post, I began a conversation about death sharing some insights from philosopher Alan Watts as well as a recent dream I had. Over my next few blog posts, I will be sharing what I learned in 2022 having received the transmission of Tibetan Bardo teachings with Choekhortshang Rinpoche. Bardo, if you are unfamiliar with the term, literally means ‘journey between two lives’. It also refers to those opportunities for realization that come during/between the death stages outlined in these teachings.

In the West, we are most familiar with the tantric approach to the dying process or journey between two lives. What I received, however, was the Dzogchen approach. I was humored by Rinpoche’s explanation of the difference which says everything it needs to about Western culture. The tantric approach is like an action adventure movie, full of drama and complexity. The Dzogchen approach is pure simplicity. (That one! I’ll take that one.)

Death was also a confronted aspect in my Toltec studies in which a friendship with the Angel of Death reminds us that everything is on loan to her. Furthermore, a ritual writing of one’s Book of Death helps one along the journey of personal transformation, to confront what must die in order to be free. In that regard, the focus was more of the death that happens before death, the death of the identity and conditioning in which we had no choice. But it, of course, prepares one for the ultimate death, too.

But I see how the Bardo teachings can also apply to the egoic death before physical death as well. In fact, life is not ended in a single death. Life is full of millions of little deaths…of moments, of relationships, of circumstances. And our aversions, attachments, and ignorance (the three poisons according to Buddhist teachings) are what make us suffer each of those little unavoidable deaths. Naturally, when Selfcare is our concern, we are working to minimize our suffering, so this wisdom becomes a very helpful tool.

This is my 3rd exposure to these teachings, the first being a part of Ngondro, the foundational practices of Tibetan Bon Buddhism, the second being Chod, practices for overcoming fear. Each exposure deepens my insight a little more, but I’m obviously far from being any kind of expert. I’m just a student, mostly interested in finding ways to apply ancient teachings to my own modern life. But I’m happy to process my understanding here and share it with you.

So stay tuned…

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

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