• The Greatest Wealth Is Found When We Gather Together

    When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known...

    Written by:
    Chianti Lomax

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The Greatest Wealth Is Found When We Gather Together

When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known for a long time that I am a wealthy and blessed person. The wealth that I’m referring to has nothing to do with my bank account balance. The wealth that I’m talking about are the meaningful connections that have sustained me over the years. What I lacked in familial bonds, the divine provided in long-term platonic relationships.

One of the clearest indicators of someone who is flourishing is their ability to build and keep meaningful connections and quality relationships. When designing a life that supports your becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, the people who are closest to you can either support or hinder your progress. This is why I’m adamant about being intentional about my connections.

My “Presidential Cabinet,” which is basically what I call my trusted circle of friends, is filled with some amazing folks. I’m forever grateful for my community of friends that became family, strangers that became mentors, and colleagues that became accountability partners.

In the chapter “What About Your Friends?” from my book, Evolving While Black, I share with you that people who have strong relationships feel the support of family, friends, and others in their community. When you know you have a village of folks you can count on, it improves your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression.

An agreement I made with myself in my early thirties was to commit to choosing connection and community over isolation. This decision is the gift that keeps on giving. The investment you make in choosing your connections is the greatest pathway to wholeness, prosperity, and longevity.

What you should consider as you’re continuing to build out your own Presidential Cabinet

Your connections should include people who:

  • Energize you and help you to create a life of ease
  • Encourage you to make your mental and emotional well-being a priority 
  • Consider you for opportunities when you’re not in the room
  • Show mutual support and respect 

Now that you know what to consider, use these prompts to create a plan

  • Who’s in your Presidential Cabinet, and how do they support you? 
  • Who do you need to add, and how will they support your journey? 
  • If you change nothing, what will your life look like three months from now? How does this make you feel?

My hope for you is that you attract meaningful connections that bring you joy and make your heart smile, laughs that make your cheeks hurt, and love that covers you like a warm blanket. You deserve to feel loved, supported, and cared for.

Until we meet again.

Currently evolving,

Chianti

Evolving While Black
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Evolving While Black
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Chianti Lomax is a sought-after international speaker, certified mindset coach, and leadership trainer who thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, technology, and transformative coaching. As a registered yoga instructor, certified personal and executive coach, certified workplace mindfulness facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner, Chianti teaches doable habit changes to help increase our well-being and elevate the overall human experience. For more, visit chiantilomax.com.


Author photo © Ambreia Williams

Enriching Our Lives with African American Contemplativ...

My lifelong aspiration–and the goal of my new book, Joyfully Just: Black Wisdom and Buddhist Insights for Liberated Livingis to support people from all spiritual traditions and cultural backgrounds in using meditative practices to reclaim joy. Our spirits, bodies, minds, and hearts need to be buoyant to navigate the unceasing waves of grief, fear, doubt, prejudice, and devaluation that we experience internally, interpersonally, and communally. Joyfully Just is about tapping into that buoyancy, that levity, with diverse meditative practices.

In particular, Joyfully Just highlights practices, teachings, and insights from Buddhism and Black contemplative traditions. Black contemplative traditions include practices that bring forth insight and joy. You may have heard the expression “Black joy” and wondered, What is that, exactly? Black joy is self-transcendence. It is embodied resistance to shame, despair, and anything else that would limit our capacity to be just towards ourselves and those around us. It is the insistence on and expression of internal freedom despite external restrictions. Black joy is resilient creativity that creatively grows more resilience.

The Black wisdom traditions I explore in Joyfully Just include those shared through music such as Gospel, Blues, Rock, Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hop; language and dialect practices; and dance and communicative kinesic (movement and gesture) practices. The musical genres developed by Black Americans are universally embraced because they help all people engage creatively with the joys and pains of life. As such, Black music is often a contemplative practice that can ground us in empowered well-being, even amidst our worst pain. As we sing our Blues, we invigorate our lives with joy. That joy creates spaciousness around our suffering so that we can develop insight into its meaning and value. Take a moment now and see if you can think of one song from any African American musical genre that deepens your insight, helps you navigate your suffering, or expands your joy. Write it down so that you remember that it is but one example of how listening to Black music is a contemplative practice that enriches your life.

Black contemplative practices are often misunderstood—especially when they are appropriated. Sometimes they are underestimated as simply entertainment or frivolity. In Joyfully Just, I offer practices to shed light on how much insight and guidance for wise, courageous living we can–and do–receive from Black cultural traditions.

I explore Buddhism and Black wisdom together because although the spiritual and religious traditions of Black people are diverse, as are Buddhist lineages, many secular Black wisdom traditions and overarching Buddhist principles share common insights. For example, Black musical traditions illustrate the unity of suffering and joy and the possibility for self-transcendence and enlightenment in any circumstance. The creative, lively resilience of Black life shows us, in so many ways, what enlightenment looks like in daily living.

Many African cultures, including African American culture, have rituals and practices that are uniquely contemplative and seamlessly integrated into everyday life. African dance is one example of this. African dancing is listening to the body, trusting the body to tell its story. African dance teacher Wyoma speaks of it as praying with the body.

How do you avoid cultural appropriation of Black contemplative practices? It’s simple, but not easy. When you engage with Black music, dialect, dance, or other cultural practices, reiteratively reflect on how you demonstrate or could begin to demonstrate love for and solidarity with Black people.

I invite you to ask yourself:

  • How is solidarity with and love for Black people already a part of my inner dialogue? Of my relationships? Of how I experience the world with joy?
  • How can I strengthen my connections with Black people and Black wisdom practices?

With these as lifelong inquiries, we gain insight into how Black contemplative practices enrich our lives, actualize our interdependence, and deepen our sense of connection with ourselves and the world.

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Kamilah Majied

Dr. Kamilah Majied is a mental health therapist, clinical educator, researcher, and consultant on advancing equity and inclusion using meditative practices. Drawing from her decades of contemplative practice and leadership, Dr. Majied engages people in experiencing wonder, humor, and insight through transforming oppressive patterns and deepening relationships toward ever-improving individual, familial, organizational, and communal wellness. To find out more visit kamilahmajied.com.

Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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Life After Awakening, with Adyashanti

Friends, I wanted to share with you a free chapter from Adyashanti‘s inspiring (and very provocative) book The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment.

More and more people are waking up spiritually. And for many of them, the question becomes: Now what? “Information about life after awakening is usually not made public,” explains Adya. “It’s most often shared only between teachers and their students.” The End of Your World is his response to a growing need for direction on the spiritual path. Consider this Adya’s personal welcome to “a new world.”

Here is the excerpt, entitled “Exploring Life After Awakening.” 

There’s a phenomenon happening in the world today. More and more people are waking up—having real, authentic glimpses of reality. By this I mean that people seem to be having moments where they awaken out of their familiar senses of self, and out of their familiar senses of what the world is, into a much greater reality—into some- thing far beyond anything they knew existed.

These experiences of awakening differ from  person to person. For some, the awakening is sustained over time, while for others the glimpse is momentary—it may last just a split second. But in that instant, the whole sense of “self ” disap- pears. The way they perceive the world suddenly changes, and they find themselves without any sense of separation between themselves and the rest of the world. It can be likened to the experience of waking up from a dream—a dream you didn’t even know you were in until you were jolted out of it.

In the beginning of my teaching work, most of the people who came to me were seeking these deeper realizations of spirituality. They were seeking to wake up from the limiting and isolated senses of self they had imagined themselves to be. It’s this yearning that underpins all spiritual seeking: to discover for ourselves what we already intuit to be true— that there is more to life than we are currently perceiving.

But as time  has passed, more  and  more  people are coming to me who have already had glimpses of this greater reality. It is because of them that I am giving the teachings in this book.

The Dawning of Awakening

This discovery I’m talking about is traditionally referred to as spiritual awakening, because one awakens from the dream of separation created by the egoic mind. We realize—often quite  suddenly—that our  sense of  self, which  has  been formed and constructed out of our ideas, beliefs, and images, is not really who we are. It doesn’t define us; it has no center. The ego may exist as a series of passing thoughts, beliefs, actions, and reactions, but in and of itself it has no identity. Ultimately all of the images we have about ourselves and the world turn out to be nothing but a resistance to things as they are. What we call ego is simply the mechanism our mind uses to resist life as it is. In that way, ego isn’t a thing as much as it is a verb. It is the resistance to what is. It is the pushing away or pulling toward. This momentum, this grasping and rejecting, is what forms a sense of a self that is distinct, or separate, from the world around us.

But with the dawn of  awakening, this outside world begins to collapse. Once we lose our sense of self, it’s as if we have lost the whole world as we knew it. At that moment— whether that moment is just a glimpse or something more sustained—we suddenly realize with incredible clarity that what we truly are is in no way limited to the small sense of self that we thought we were.

Awakening to truth or reality is something that is very hard to talk about because it is transcendent of speech. It is helpful, nevertheless, to work with some sort of a guidepost. The simplest thing one can say about the experiential knowledge of awakening is that it is a shift in one’s perception. This is the heart of awakening. There is a shift in perception from seeing oneself as an isolated individual to seeing oneself, if we have a sense of self at all after this shift, as something much more universal—everything and everyone and every- where at the same time.

This shift is not revolutionary; it’s the same as looking in the mirror in the morning and having an intuitive sense that the face you are looking at is yours. It is not a mystical experience; it is a simple experience. When you look in the mirror, you experience the simple recognition, “Oh, that’s me.” When the shift of perception that’s called awakening happens, whatever our senses come into contact with is experienced as ourselves. It’s as if we think with everything we encounter, “Oh, that’s me.” We don’t experience ourselves in terms of our ego, in terms of a separate someone or separate entity. It’s  more a feeling of the One recognizing itself, or Spirit recognizing itself.

Spiritual awakening is a remembering. It is not becoming something that we are not. It is not about transforming ourselves. It is not about changing ourselves. It is a remembering of what we are, as if we’d known it long ago and had simply forgotten.  At the moment  of this remembering, if the remembering is authentic, it’s not viewed as a personal thing. There is really no such thing as a “personal” awakening, because “personal” would imply separation. “Personal” would imply that it is the “me” or the ego that awakens or becomes enlightened.

But in a true awakening, it is realized very clearly that even the awakening  itself is not personal. It is universal Spirit or universal consciousness that wakes up to itself. Rather than the “me” waking up, what we are wakes up from the “me.” What we are wakes up from the seeker. What we are wakes up from the seeking.

The problem with defining awakening is that upon hear- ing each of  these descriptions, the  mind creates another image, another idea of what this ultimate truth or ultimate reality is all about. As soon as these images are created, our perception is distorted once again. In this way, it’s really impossible to describe the nature of reality, except to say that it’s not what we think it is, and it’s not what we’ve been taught it is. In truth, we are not capable of imagining what it is that we are. Our nature is literally beyond all imagination. What we are is that which is watching—that  consciousness which is watching us pretending to be a separate person. Our true nature is continually partaking of all experience, awake to every instant, to each and every moment.

In awakening, what’s revealed to us is that we are not a thing, nor a person, nor even an entity. What we are is that which manifests as all things, as all experiences, as all personalities. We are that which dreams the whole world into existence. Spiritual  awakening reveals that  that  which is unspeakable and unexplainable is actually what we are.

Abiding and Nonabiding Awakening

As I’ve mentioned, this experience of awakening can be just a glimpse, or it can be sustained over time. Now, some would say that if an awakening is momentary, it is not a real awakening. There are those who believe that, with authentic awakening, your perception opens up to the true nature of things and never closes back down again. I can understand  this perspective, since ultimately the  whole spiritual journey does lead us to  a full  awakening. Full awakening simply means that we perceive from the perspective of Spirit—from the view of oneness—all the time.

From this awakened perspective, there isn’t any separation anywhere—not in the world, not in the universe, not in all the universes everywhere. The truth is anywhere and everywhere, at all times, in all dimensions, for all beings. It is a truth that is the source of everything that will ever be experienced—in  life, after life, in this dimension or any other dimension.

From the perspective of  the ultimate, literally every- thing—be it at a higher or lower dimension, here or there, yesterday, today, or tomorrow, everything—is but a manifestation of Spirit. It is Spirit itself that wakes up. So, ultimately, the trajectory every being is on, whether they know it or not, is a trajectory toward full awakening—toward  a full knowing, toward a full experiential knowledge of what they are, toward unity, toward oneness.

But the moment of awakening may or may not result in a permanent seeing. As I said, some people will tell you that unless it’s permanent, the awakening is not real. What I’ve seen as a teacher is that the person who has a momentary glimpse beyond the veil of duality and the person who has a permanent, “abiding” realization are seeing and experiencing the same thing. One person experiences it momentarily; another experiences it continually. But what is experienced, if it is true awakening, is the same: all is one; we are not a particular thing or a particular someone that can be located in a particular space; what we are is both nothing and every- thing, simultaneously.

So, as I see it, it doesn’t really matter whether an awakening is instantaneous or continuous. It matters in the sense that there is a trajectory—nobody’s heart will be totally fulfilled until that perceiving from the point of view of truth is continuous—but what is seen is an awakening, whether it is sustained or not.

This glimpse of awakening, which I call nonabiding awakening, is becoming more and more common. It happens for a moment, an afternoon, a day, a week—maybe as long as a month or two. Awareness opens up, the sense of the separate self falls away—and  then, like the aperture on a camera lens, awareness closes back down. All of a sudden that person who had previously perceived true nonduality, true oneness, is quite surprisingly now perceiving back in the dualistic “dream state.” In the dream state, we’re back in our conditioned sense of self—in a limited, isolated sense of being.

The good news is that once a moment of this clear seeing has actually taken place, the aperture of our awareness can never completely close down again. It may seem like it has closed down completely, but it never quite does. In the deep- est part of yourself, you don’t ever forget. Even if you’ve only glimpsed reality for a moment,  something within you is changed forever.

Reality is nuclear; it’s incredibly powerful. It’s unimaginably potent. People can experience a f lash of reality in the time it takes to snap your fingers, and the energy and the force that enters into them as a result is life altering.

Just one moment  of awakening begins the dissolution of one’s false sense of self and, subsequently, the dissolution of one’s whole perception of the world.

Awakening Is Not What You Imagine It to Be

In a very real sense, it is much more accurate to talk about what we lose upon awakening rather than what we gain. We not only lose ourselves—who we thought we were—but we also lose our entire perception of the world. Separation is only a perception; in fact, when it comes to our world, there is nothing but perception. “Your world ” is not your world; it is only your perception. So while it may seem negative at first, I think it’s much more useful to talk about spiritual awakening in terms of what we lose—what we awaken from. This means we’re talking about the dissolution of the image we have of ourselves, and it’s  this dismantling of who we thought we were that is so startling when one wakes up.

And it is indeed startling: it’s not what we think it’s going to be like at all. I’ve never had a single student come back and say, “You k now, Adya, I peered through the veil of separation, and it’s pretty much what I thought it would be. It measures up pretty closely to what I’ve  been told.” Usually they come back and say, “This is nothing like what I imagined.”

This is especially interesting since many of the people I teach have been studying spirituality for many years, and they often have very intricate ideas about what awakening is going to be like. But when it happens, it is always different from their expectations. In many ways, it is grander, but also in many ways, it is simpler. In truth, if it is to be true and real, awakening must be different from what we imagine it to be. This is because all of our imaginings about awakening are happening within the paradigm of the dream state. It is not possible to imagine something outside of the dream state when our consciousness is still within it.

How Does Your Life Change after Awakening ?

With awakening there also comes a total reorganization of the way we perceive life—or at least the beginning of a reorganization. This is because awakening itself, while beautiful and amazing, often brings with it a sense of disorientation. Even though you as the One have awakened, there is still your whole human structure—your body, your mind, and your personality. Awakening can often  be experienced as very disorienting to this human structure.

So it is the process that happens after awakening that I want to explore. As I’ve said, for a very few people, the moment of awakening will be complete. It will be final in a certain sense, and there will be no need for a continuing process. We might say that such people had an extraordinarily light karmic load; even though they may have experienced extreme suffering before awakening, one can see that their karmic inheritance, the conditioning that they were dealing with, wasn’t too deep. This is very rare. Only a few people in a given generation may wake up in such a way that there’s no further process to undergo.

What I always tell people is this: don’t count on that person being you. Better to count on being like everyone else, which means that you will undergo a process after an initial awakening. It won’t be the end of your journey. What I will attempt to do here is to point you in a direction that may be useful and orienting as you embark on that journey. As my teacher used to say, it’s like getting your foot in the front door. Just because you’ve gotten your foot in the front door doesn’t mean you have turned the lights on; it doesn’t mean you have learned to navigate in that different world that you’ve awakened to.

I’m very happy that this book, which is based on a series of  talks I’ve given, offers  me the opportunity to  address this subject—the question of what happens after  awaken- ing. The information that exists on life after awakening is not usually made public. It’s most often shared only between spiritual teachers and their students. The problem with that approach is that, as I’ve said, a lot of people are now having these moments of awakening, and there is very little coher- ent teaching available for them. In that sense, this book is meant to be a welcoming to that new world, that new state of oneness.

Golden Tara to Who Helps Manifest and Fulfill Purpose

Meditating on Golden Tara shifts your sense of identity away from the smaller self that experiences itself as a separate being. When you identify with Tara in meditation and throughout the day, you realize that you are always in relationship with a fantastic, complex universe. Your energy increases because you no longer feel alone. You have Tara’s help, the help of friends, and countless other beings as well.

On the one hand, you are an infinitesimally tiny part of the grand whole. On the other hand, you have a role to play in the continuing creation of this complex universe. As you deepen and stabilize your inner Tara consciousness, your actions are imbued with love and compassion, arising from your understanding that you are an integral part of whatever you seek to change.

Remembering Tara also helps preserve your energies when you encounter unexpected obstacles; her golden light reveals the treasures hidden in the unwelcome stumbling blocks of life. Difficult challenges hold keys to awakening. Tara helps you approach problems as an inherent part of the journey, supporting you as you move toward them to uncover wisdom they might offer. They often provide a wake-up call to send you in a new direction, offering greater clarity about your life purpose.

This inclusive attitude creates more health in your personal ecosystem as well as the universal ecosystem. Ask Golden Tara to transform your challenging emotions into love and to increase your energy for discovering meaning and purpose in your life.

Tara’s Appearance

Golden Tara appears as the life-giving female buddha in a body of radiant golden light. She embodies the light of life itself. The vase in Golden Tara’s hand contains the power to increase our life energy, power, and material and spiritual resources. These resources support us in times of ease and times of difficulty, enabling us to discover and fulfill the purposes of our life on a moment-to-moment basis and over the arc of our lives.

For centuries, artists have created statues and thangka paintings of Tara, always adorned with jewelry. These sacred paintings, usually done on fabric and surrounded by brocade, portray the qualities of their subjects and convey teachings as well. Thus we take special note of Tara’s adornments. A crown rests atop her head. Necklaces of varying lengths cascade from her neck to her waist. Bracelets encircle her wrists. All have been crafted from gold with deep red and blue jewels woven into the designs.

Gold has been the preferred precious metal of jewelry makers for thousands of years. Gold is malleable; gold doesn’t tarnish. Golden light is associated with increasing life-force, healing, and holiness. Holy people of many faiths are often painted in an aura of golden radiance.

Many years ago, I heard a teaching that Tara’s jewels represent her experiences over lifetimes on her way to enlightenment and buddhahood. Profound understanding of the Buddhist teachings and her experiences as a woman led Wisdom Moon to vow to attain enlightenment as a woman and to persevere toward her goal. Tara’s life events were surely difficult and awe-inspiring, ordinary and phenomenal. All of them were precious contributions to her journey, which has benefited countless beings over hundreds of years.

The Mantra

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Ayur Punye Pushtam Kuru Soha!

“Ohm Tahray Tootahray Tooray Sarwah Ahyoor Poonyay Pushtahm Kooroo Soha!”

When you recite the mantra of Golden Tara, you are urging (kuru) Tara to increase (pushtam) your life energies (ayur) and merit (punye), your contributions to adding positive energy to beings around the world, near and far. Mantra recitations need not be limited to formal practice. Use them throughout the day to slow down and focus on whatever task is at hand.

The Practice

First, visualize the entire mandala of Green Tara emerging into the space in front of you. You are surrounded by your friends, loved ones, and supporters, and she is surrounded by your teachers and all the twenty-one emanations. After the opening prayers, imagine Golden Tara coming into the foreground of the mandala. Recall her praise while visualizing golden rays of light streaming from her heart as well as the golden vase in her right hand, which rests on her right knee, palm open in the gesture of supreme giving.

As you recite her mantra, Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Ayur Punye Pushtam Kuru Soha, imagine that you are absorbing this light and that other beings and other places are receiving the light of Tara as well.

Kuru, which appears in seven of the Tara mantras, carries a particularly bold tone. You’re not meekly asking Tara to help—you’re putting your whole heart and body into this request. “Tara, please do this for me. Remove blockages so more energy flows into my life and work! I’m counting on you!” The same tasks that feel overwhelming in one moment seem entirely possible in the next.

Tara can help you discern the wisdom inherent in the obstacles you encounter in your life and practice. Meditate on the continuity in your life—the joyful moments, the extremely painful moments, and everything in between. Your experiences are not meaningless fragments. Imagine a mosaic forming as you piece the fragments together into a beautiful coherent pattern. Invoke Tara’s wisdom to give you greater clarity about your life purpose and the means to fulfill it.

Recite the mantra at least 21 times or 108 times whenever possible. Then rest in the vibrational field created by your chanting. Allow frustration and doubt to dissolve, releasing energy for healing. You become richer in inner resources, which leads to enriched outer resources as well, both material and spiritual. Affirm your connection to all life forms in the universe. Know that the benefits of your heartfelt wishes and efforts will flow from you into the world.

As you bring the session to a close, visualize Golden Tara receding into her place among the twenty-one emanations. See the whole mandala dissolve into radiant light, which flows into you and merges with your inner light. Dedicate the merit or positive potential generated by the practice to the healing of all beings—with no exceptions.

This is an adapted excerpt from Tara: The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha by Dr. Rachael Wooten.

 

rachael wooten

Rachael Wooten, PhD, is a Zürich—trained Jungian analyst and psychologist who has been in private practice as a therapist for more than 40 years. An enthusiastic interfaith activist, she has studied and practiced in Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and indigenous traditions throughout her adult life.

Rachael has been mentored by spiritual teachers such as her Tibetan root guru Lodrö Tulku Rinpoche and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. She has taught Tara practices under the authorization of Lodrö Rinpoche for more than 20 years. Rachael has offered Tara workshops through the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and C. G. Jung Society of the Triangle. She currently teaches a monthly Tara meditation group at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more, visit rachaelwootenauthor.com.

 

 

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Black Tara Who Destroys All Negativities

In the fall of 2010, our monthly Tara practice began at sundown at the end of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year, 5771. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the Days of Awe. During these ten days, observant practitioners reflect on the past year to repair harm they may have inflicted on friends, family, or members of the greater family of the planet. They apologize to others and seek to do t’shuvah to make amends if possible. People work consciously to repair and let go of past negativity and set intentions for the coming year to prevent further mischief.

Black Tara Who Destroys All Negativities was on the calendar for that night. We appreciated the synchronistic timing of the two events. I noted that Tara protects us from negativity, internal and external, and helps us release the effects of negative energies we’ve encountered or generated. This protection occurs in part from remembering our connection to the Whole—that we are nurtured and contained by a multilayered universe. When we help another, we are helped. If we harm another, we harm ourselves. Perhaps harder to grasp—if we harm ourselves, we harm the whole universe.

The teaching centered around the meaning of the mantra, which refers explicitly to ingrained behaviors operating outside of consciousness that wreak havoc in interpersonal relationships. Negative energies transferred from one individual to another are potent and destructive, and often have lasting effects.

Tara’s Appearance

Black Tara appears with her mouth wide open in a fierce expression. Like all the wrathful emanations, she sits on a fiery sun disc, which rests in the center of her lotus throne. The sun disc replaces the usual soothing moon disc. She holds a black vase, which contains the power to overcome even the most destructive and negative powers. In this aspect, Tara is known as the Destroyer of All Negativities.

The Mantra

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Vidya Avarana Ye Bhye Phat Soha!

“Ohm Tahray Tootahray Tooray Sarwah Veedyah Ahvahrahnah Yay Bay Peyt Soha!”

This mantra sheds more light on the meaning of the practice, when you might need to use it, and how to align your own intentions with those of Tara. It insists that Tara remove mental obstacles that block insight into your complexes or the emotional forces that obscure your understanding. Avarana refers to the causes underlying negative tendencies in yourself or others. These instincts, imprints, or potencies are ingrained, influencing behavior outside of awareness. They are unconscious, unquestioned, and unprocessed. They have been denied, repressed, or avoided. You or others around you might struggle to bring them to consciousness or have no wish to do that whatsoever.

As with many words in Sanskrit, vidya has multiple meanings depending on the context. Vidya often means “wisdom”; in this instance, it means “intentions,” particularly negative intentions. Bhye phat urges Tara to destroy these obstacles or difficulties!

The mantra asks Tara to overcome the negative intentions of the enemy. Use it when you want her complete protection in order to fully grasp the difficulties in your situation. Watch for signs that you are being infected or possessed by internal negativity, which would be a natural response to the energy coming at you. Don’t be naive about actual outer dangers you might be facing; you have to remove yourself from harmful situations.

The Practice

Visualize the entire mandala of the twenty-one Taras arising out of vast space in front of you. Green Tara appears in the center in her radiant body of green light. Imagine your teachers surrounding her and all her other emanations in the background behind them. Finally, invite your friends and supporters and all beings you wish to receive the blessings of your practice. Recite the preliminary prayers. Then imagine that Black Tara Who Destroys All Negativities moves into the foreground, seated on her lotus throne with a sun disc in the center. She holds a black vase, which contains the power to destroy even the most virulent forces in the universe. See light streaming out of her heart and from her seed syllable Tam (“Tahm”) standing on a moon disc inside the vase. Just as a seed contains the entire essence of the plant it will become, the seed syllable Tam contains the entire essence of Tara’s infinite powers.

tam

If visualizing a Tibetan syllable proves difficult initially, simply visualize light streaming out instead. The light destroys all malice and negativity.

Invite Black Tara to protect you from the negative intentions and actions of others. Set your own intentions to release the shock of the impact of such energies on your body, psyche, and spirit. Ofer Tara all of your dark emotions; ask her to protect you inside and out as you engage with our imperfect world in which aggression and hatred are too easily encountered.

Recite the mantra, Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Vidya Avarana Ye Bhye Phat Soha, at least 21 times or 108 times whenever possible. Then rest in the subtle vibration created by the mantra recitation. Notice the qualities of the energy around you. Remember and be grateful for the inherent goodness in the universe that is continuously giving birth to positive impulses inside of you and other beings in the world.

Black Tara brings you back to the radiant spaciousness at the core of your being. As she dissolves obstacles created by negativity, try to identify the signs of true knowing versus the cynical and damaging commentary of the complex. Learn to distinguish what’s coming from inside, what’s coming at you from outside, and how the two are related. Reach out to the cosmic Mother Protector in the form of Tara. Reach inward to her indwelling presence and open yourself to access wisdom and compassion, which offers the greatest protection no matter the circumstances.

As you bring the meditation to a close, visualize Black Tara receding into the background among all the other emanations. See the light streaming out of the entire mandala and then allow the mandala with all its beings to dissolve into space. The light flows into your body and heart, vivifying and stabilizing the essence of Tara within you, and then disperses into the universe. Dedicate the positive potential of the practice to the healing and awakening of all beings everywhere, with no exceptions.

This is an adapted excerpt from Tara: The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha by Dr. Rachael Wooten.

rachael wooten

Rachael Wooten, PhD, is a Zürich—trained Jungian analyst and psychologist who has been in private practice as a therapist for more than 40 years. An enthusiastic interfaith activist, she has studied and practiced in Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and indigenous traditions throughout her adult life.

Rachael has been mentored by spiritual teachers such as her Tibetan root guru Lodrö Tulku Rinpoche and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. She has taught Tara practices under the authorization of Lodrö Rinpoche for more than 20 years. Rachael has offered Tara workshops through the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and C. G. Jung Society of the Triangle. She currently teaches a monthly Tara meditation group at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more, visit rachaelwootenauthor.com.

 

 

tara 3d cover

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The Way of the Feminine to Save the World

You feel special. Sometimes this feels like a curse. Like no one will understand you. Ever. Like you will always be an alien walking among regular humans, pretending to blend in. You have learned to live with this gulf, but what you really crave is community. You long to belong to the human family. To Mother Earth.

Participating in the human condition can be bewildering. It is just not always cozy and easy—rather, it’s humbling at best, downright humiliating when it is not flowing. It can seem so much simpler to ride solo, slaying your own dragons and singing the ballads you wrote about yourself. Collaboration can be tedious, and the prevailing masculine value system may have conditioned you to feel like you are giving away your power when you share it with others.

So what? Give it away. The time of the singular sage bestowing his unique wisdom is over. That was a method devised by the men in charge who sought to regulate wisdom. They taught us to suffer alone in the desert for forty years, collecting our insights in a secret box called “Esoteric Knowledge.” Then, we were supposed to dispense those insights stingily to those who proved themselves worthy by also suffering alone for the requisite forty years in the desert.

It turns out that the world is filled with special beings, grappling our way through the anxiety of solitary conundrums and tasting the occasional reprieve of connection. When you realize this, your body lets out its breath and relaxes. The curse lifts. You come in from the cold. You hold out your cup, and some other special being fills it with sweet, milky tea spiced with fragrant herbs. You drink.

Our way, the way of the feminine, is to find out what everyone is good at and praise them for it and get them to teach it to one another. Maybe you know something about the hidden meaning of the Hebrew letters, or how to build a sustainable home from recycled tires and rammed soil, or loving-kindness meditation. You, the one who knows the Islamic call to prayer, climb this minaret and call us all to prayer. You, the one who knows how to sit quietly at the bedside of the dying, show us the way to bear witness. You, the one who knows how to get us to wake up to the shadow of privilege, please wake us the #*#@ up. It will be chaotic, all this community building, but your cooperation will save the world.

Besides, it will be fun.

I Did a 40-Day Rest Cleanse and Here’s What Happened

For 40 days, I had the most soulful rest. And I did it in the comfort of my own home, with a full-time job, a family, and a social life.

Every day I awoke around 5:30 am and tiptoed to my Rest Cave (set up in a corner of our spare room). I laid on my back on an exercise mat (under my favorite blanket with a sleep mask) and plugged earbuds into my phone. Then I hit play on Karen Brody’s Daring to Rest yoga nidra meditation and let her soothing guidance lull me into a state of deep rest—or as Karen puts it, a return to myself. If you’re not familiar with yoga nidra, it’s a meditative practice for entering one of the deepest states of relaxation imaginable. And you do it lying down.

I’m not a morning person, but getting up to lie down (ironic, right?) was lovely. The stillness of the early morning quickly became my friend.

For the first 15 days, I listened to the Rest Meditation (20 minutes) to shed physical exhaustion, followed by 15 days of the Release Meditation (30 minutes) to let go of limiting beliefs. The last 10 days consist of the Rise Meditation (40 minutes), allowing life purpose exhaustion to lift, so that you can hone in on your true-hearted desires. Every five days I read a chapter in the book itself, Daring to Rest, for insight into what I was experiencing and supportive practices.

Gradually these aspects of my life began to shift—providing a depth of experience new to me, and oh so, beautiful.

  • An underlying sense of sweetness in my day. I discovered a natural flow to my day, felt light and at ease in my skin, and second-guessed myself less.
  • Deep intuition. Karen guided me to breathe in through my heart, then follow my breath, see where it landed, and listen for what she calls a “soul whisper”—a word or image that offers a clue to how you’re really feeling. Some days all I could think about was my to-do list or obsess over a worry. But when my soul whispers did arrive, they were often crystal clear and I journaled about them.
  • Patience and connection. Mornings were less frantic. When my seven-year old son had stressful moments getting ready for school, I felt calmer and more present for him. When we walked to the bus stop, my awareness of the outdoor world was more acute—the blue sky, cloud formations, the crescent of a morning moon.
  • Craving control. On days when I felt overwhelmed or anxious, my inclination to relieve those feelings with a glass of wine or binging on television lessened. Sometimes I would simply sit, gaze outdoors, and do nothing more. In those moments, I loved not feeling the need to do anything—not clean, not sort the mail, not check Facebook. I began to understand rest outside of my Rest Cave.
  • A connection to beyond. This was a big one. Karen calls it your “council of women” and teaches you to summon it for love and support. It can be women in your circle, women who have passed, even women you don’t know personally. I saw my grandmother (who died before I was born) looking at me lovingly and felt my sister-in-law, who I’ve known since I was a baby, standing beside me. At times the feeling of these and other women was so strong that tears ran down my cheeks.

While my life became deeper and rosier, it was not until I went cold turkey for a few weeks that I realized just how powerful this rest cleanse was.  I’ve always been someone who can go the distance, then neglect the sustaining part, like training for a half-marathon but not running for months after the race. And it’s so easy to fall back into old habits.

So now I’m learning how to translate this cleanse into an ongoing practice, for which Daring to Rest offers sound insights. My Rest Cave is an essential element. It’s not only a dedicated space for yoga nidra, but one for self-care in general—to journal, to listen to music, to just be.

Karen ends every yoga nidra meditation with the words, “Be good to yourself.” And in that spirit, I invite you to download her free Rest Cave Guide to create your own. And once you do, I dare you to rest and see what happens!

Christine Day has been a member of Sounds True’s sales and marketing team for more than five years and loves diving into our books on a personal level to learn both theory and practice. She also works on Sounds True’s children’s books and enjoys doing storytimes at her son’s elementary school.

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