Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Westerners

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July 11, 2016
Podcast

Insights at the Edge

Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Westerners

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Lama Tsomo—born Linda Pritzker—is an author, teacher, and ordained holder of the Namchak Buddhist lineage of Tibet. She’s the cofounder of the Namchak Foundation and the author of two books: The Princess Who Wept Pearls: The Feminine Journey in Fairytales and Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lama Tsomo and Tami Simon speak about her teacher Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche and what he has to say about karma, taking responsibility for our lives, and transforming resentment. They also discuss the science of visualization practice and how recent discoveries in quantum physics support key aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Finally, Tami and Lama Tsomo talk about motivation on the spiritual path and how clarifying that motivation can lead to lasting happiness.
(67 minutes)

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Coming Awake to Your Projections and Loving Yourself

Coming Awake Loving Yourself Header Image

When I was in my twenties, I noticed something odd.

Hanging out with my more conservative friends often meant that I’d be called out for my hippie tendencies. What was more, I found myself being swept along by the current of their opinion; I felt like a hippie around them. Because of that, I wound up falling into more “hippie-like” behavior.

With my more bohemian friends, though, I was referred to as The Conservative. And with them, I felt and acted more conventional. It was simply easy to fulfill their expectations. “What gives?” I thought. “I’ve been the same person this whole time!”

I wanted so much for everyone to just see me. What a painful and lonely feeling.

I wanted so much for everyone to just see me.

This phenomenon—being mistakenly and reductively typecast­—wasn’t just happening with my friends. It was happening with my husband. It was happening with my family members. And, it was happening within my own mind.

This kind of thing can make knowing and loving yourself a bit confusing.

WHAT IS PROJECTION?

Over time, I’ve come to realize that humans are constantly projecting. People I don’t know very well, my closest friends, my family members, co-workers… everybody does it. This can include assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, attributes, simplifications, unrealistic positives and negatives, and so on.

Have you ever noticed something like that happening to you?

Perhaps, as a woman, you’ve been treated like you’re not as smart or capable as you actually are. Maybe you’ve been feared as a man, seen as more aggressive than you actually are.

Perhaps someone treated you as a doormat when you’re not. Maybe someone thought you had more patience or expertise than you do. It’s possible and common to experience different—even opposite—projections coming from different people.

I’m uncomfortable with negative projections, but I’m uncomfortable with the positive ones, too. Because neither are the real me. At least, not what I believe to be the real me. And they certainly don’t include the whole picture.

Another thing: I’ve noticed that when someone makes a strong projection on me, no matter what I do, I just seem to confirm what they’re already projecting.

Through it all, I still just want to be seen.

By now I’m thinking of that famous saying, “Everyone’s crazy but thee and me. And sometimes I wonder about thee!” We’re thinking it’s everyone else who’s projecting like mad. Um, how about you and me?

Yuck. Is there a way out of this?

COMING AWAKE IN WESTERN THOUGHT

Coming Awake Loving Yourself Western

Let’s start with a look at how some in the West work with projection.

Psychoanalyst and spiritual explorer Carl Jung (1875-1961) had some very helpful things to say on this. He explored the idea that we all have some version of all characteristics and characters—both positive and negative—floating around inside of us, somewhere. And, for one reason or another, there are some we aren’t able to see in ourselves.

As our personalities form, we take some of those characters and consciously identify with them: I’m a savior/warrior. I’m the class cut-up. I’m a geek. I’m a bad boy. I’m the nurturing father. I’m the dependable one.

The qualities we’ve set out in the sunshine, for all others to see, get the chance to develop nicely. How lovely for them. But what about all of the other qualities and characters that we aren’t claiming with our conscious mind?

They’re underground—in the basement.

The ones we really don’t want to claim, we do our best to keep in that dank, dark basement.

Instead of getting a chance to develop and mature, our unclaimed characteristics just kind of… fester. They get frustrated and funky. And trust me—they don’t stay obediently in the basement forever.

COMMUNICATING WITH OUR UNCONSCIOUS

We’re the last to be conscious of our own unconscious. There’s a bumper sticker for you! 

Jung popularized the concepts of dream interpretation and something called active imagination to try to coax our unclaimed natures into our conscious mind.

I was lucky enough to go to a Jungian Analyst who, borrowing from Fritz Perls’ Gestalt work, had me sit in another chair and become some disowned part of myself. I then went back and forth between the two chairs, having a conversation.

I found this approach extremely clarifying and helpful. I immediately tried it out with a client who had a terrible procrastination problem.

I had her go back and forth between two chairs: one was like her older sister, whom she saw as overbearing, and the other was like her more childish self. The two had a rousing debate over what she should do with her weekend—party or study. Each of them passionately insisted they had her best interests at heart. They were both right.

Then, I had her sit in the middle and be the peacemaker. She got her dissonant selves to forge a deal to alternate between partying and studying.

All of this was a revelation to her. She had identified only with the fun-loving gal. Then, in desperate moments, her other side would come out of the basement and become a crazed slavedriver. Through this conversation, she found that she could make a clear plan to have a balanced, happy weekend that didn’t jeopardize either her happiness or her grade point average. And it expanded her identity, her sense of herself. Her view of her older sister changed, too.

COMMUNICATING WITH OUR LOVED ONES

Here’s another idea. It goes something like this: We admit that we’re all projecting on each other all the time, and we’re each the last to know we’re doing it.

Usually, the projectee knows way sooner than the projector. So let’s make a deal: If you gently tell me what you’re perceiving (hopefully with specific examples, because I’ll probably be clueless), I’ll do the same for you.

We both give each other permission to do this. We both learn how to do it with skill and kindness.

Note that this approach works for both parties. The projector can let us know what they’re seeing; the projectee can share what they think the projector might be inaccurately (or incompletely, and certainly unintentionally) projecting onto them. And vice versa.

Imagine if, alongside doing the inner work, we all helped one another, too. We might get better and better at knowing ourselves—both the good and bad—and begin to take back our natures as a simple consequence of self-love and acceptance.

COMING AWAKE IN EASTERN THOUGHT

Coming Awake Loving Yourself EasternThe array of Tibetan practices offer a myriad of profound tools. These help us take our characters out of the basement and bring them into their fullest, most highly developed forms.

There are, for example, the One Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, as well as practices involving various enlightened masters. Each is an image of an archetype—a facet or principle of reality. Being principles of reality, these archetypes are all everywhere, including in each of us.

An archetype is like one of those snowflake stencils many of us created as kids by making little cuts in a piece of paper. You spray paint through it and when you take it away, voilá, a snowflake you can make again and again.

Once you use the stencil, you just see the painted snowflake. Jungians like to use the metaphor of a magnet hidden under a piece of paper that has iron filings on it. As you move the hidden magnet, it draws the filings into different shapes. We see only the shapes of the filings, not the magnet.

COMMUNICATING WITH ARCHETYPES: THE GREAT MOTHER

Let’s take the Great Mother archetype. 

In Tibetan practice, both men and women practice Green Tara. They invoke that principle from outside, and evoke it from the inside.

Since we have trouble relating to the pure unseen principle/archetype, we use image (a beautiful green lady), archetypal sound (mantra), and even smell (incense).

Coming Awake Green Tara

Image courtesy of Osel Shen Phen Ling: www.fpmt-osel.org.

We all tend to have internal conversations and dramas with people. But in this case, the setup for our connection with Green Tara is perfectly designed to give us a much more profound, powerful, and enlightened experience than, say, imagining calling our earthly mom on the phone.

Though our mom is just a human being, with faults and foibles, Green Tara is the image that naturally evokes the perfect facet of enlightened mind that is the essence of the mother principle.

The classic progression is that we consciously project Tara out from our hearts, where Tibetan Buddhists believe our mind mainly resides. We project her above us, seeing her clearly in our mind’s eye. 

We do this by inviting her, welcoming her, asking her to sit, offering her water, flowers. Then we say the mantra associated with her: Om tarey tuttarey turey soha.

Often we then imagine her descending into us, dissolving into us, becoming indistinguishable from us. We emerge as Tara ourselves, grounding ever more strongly in the owning of that pure archetype.

COMMUNICATING WITH ARCHETYPES: HAYAGRIVA

Let’s take Fred, for an imaginary example. He thinks of himself as a Mr. Nice Guy.

This means that when people want to walk all over him, he doesn’t have the wherewithal, in his conscious array of characters, to assert himself. His Tough Guy or Warrior is in the basement. It’s been lurking there all his life, and isn’t very presentable, as a result.

Whenever Fred gets cornered he suddenly bites the person’s head off … then regrets it later, and may not even get what he needs. Martha Beck refers to this as an “exploding doormat.”

Fred might do well to practice Hayagriva, a fierce, enlightened being of a class known as protectors. They can act with great ferocity, but always with wisdom and compassion.

Coming Awake Hayagriva 2

Magdalena Rehova / Alamy Stock Photo

If Fred were to inhabit Hayagriva the way we talked of inhabiting/owning Tara, he would find his way to the pure essence of that murky, funky character who popped out when he exploded. Once he’d spent time owning and inhabiting Hayagriva Fred is much more likely to skillfully, kindly, and firmly ward off people walking all over him.

Whether it’s a peaceful one like Tara or a more wrathful one like Hayagriva, we must fully own the archetype. It has gone from something we can’t see or feel, to a pure presence that we fully identify with.

COMMUNICATING WITH OURSELVES

Over time, as we get used to owning these presences consciously, we have little need to project it onto someone else. And in owning this purer form, we can often bring forth those qualities in everyday life. They’re much more at our fingertips.

In Tibetan Buddhist deity practice, the goal is to take us from our usual, banal and confused state, to dak-nang, or pure vision—seeing things as they really are.

Imagine if everyone did such well-honed practices, on a lot of different deities. I believe we would then be able to take the various characters out of our basements, develop them, and “play” them in various moments in life.

Playing with a full deck, you might say!

A CULTURE COMING AWAKE

Coming Awake Ocean Culture

Reality is a vast, perfect ocean that loves to create ever-changing waves and play with them. This ocean is bursting, overflowing with love and joy. But most of us waves don’t see it that way.

The essential intent of the Buddha is to use practices to wake ourselves from the dream/trance we find ourselves in. “Buddha” means one who is awake.

We don’t realize that we’re not just a wave, but made of ocean. We are all both wave and ocean.

COMMUNICATING WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE

Imagine if a critical mass of people became fluent in these skills and capacities, bringing us closer together in camaraderie rather than causing us to build walls of protection and projection against each other.

Imagine less of a need to blame others for our own issues. Less excuses to act snotty and selfish and ignorant and even rageful. How different this world would be.

I believe this is something we all must do to solve the problems that now threaten our happiness and our very existence. We must progress from the swarm of projections, both societal and personal, which cause such pain, to really seeing each other.

Then we could all relax our defenses—because those projections feel terrible—and we could work together to solve the dire problems we’re all actually facing together.

Beyond even that, we’d find that human relations can be much simpler than we thought! They can feel deeply connected, warm, and delicious. We can be seen in our full light.

* * *

In our Namchak Learning Circles, we encourage people to awaken to their unconscious selves. We offer a weekend training in working on projections, in which we learn not only about projections but about how to work compassionately and skillfully to talk about them with each other. As you have probably gathered, that last part is important!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lama Tsomo Author Photo

Lama Tsomo is a spiritual teacher, author and co-founder of the Namchak Foundation and Namchak Retreat Ranch

Born Linda Pritzker, Lama Tsomo followed a path of spiritual inquiry and study that ultimately led to her ordination as one of the few female American lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. 

Today, she works to share the teachings of the Namchak tradition, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Utilizing her psychology background, Lama Tsomo works to make it easier for Westerners to bridge contemplative practice and modern life. She is particularly passionate about reaching young people and supporting those working for positive social change. 

Fascinated by science from an early age, Lama Tsomo’s teachings often reference the science behind meditation and the proven neurological impact. She holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is the author of Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? An Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice and co-author of The Lotus & the Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity.

Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist...

Lama Tsomo—born Linda Pritzker—is an author, teacher, and ordained holder of the Namchak Buddhist lineage of Tibet. She’s the cofounder of the Namchak Foundation and the author of two books: The Princess Who Wept Pearls: The Feminine Journey in Fairytales and Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lama Tsomo and Tami Simon speak about her teacher Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche and what he has to say about karma, taking responsibility for our lives, and transforming resentment. They also discuss the science of visualization practice and how recent discoveries in quantum physics support key aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Finally, Tami and Lama Tsomo talk about motivation on the spiritual path and how clarifying that motivation can lead to lasting happiness.
(67 minutes)

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What are flower essences?

The goals of flower essence therapy include: ease in accessing higher vibratory states like joy and gratitude; enhanced mind-body-spirit balance, presence, acceptance of emotions and integration of difficult vibratory states; encouraging flow states like creativity; manifesting; supporting balance; expanding awareness of self and the Universe, ancestral connection and healing; and helping us to be of greater service to ourselves, others, and the Earth.

Flower essences work by way of the following:

  • synchronicities—helping us connect seemingly unrelated or previously unseen opportunities or happenings
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  • invoking intention—the more time and space you can offer, the more likely you’ll be able to feel flower essences. For example, taking them with a light meditation, a visualization, while doing yoga or some other kind of bodywork or prayer  

flower essence illustration

How to Select a Flower Essence

Flower essences can be purchased from a quality producer, or you can make your own. Here, I will discuss how to select and apply ready-made flower essence remedies. You can learn how to wildcraft your own flower essences with me in this video.

When you’re starting out with flower essences, it can be overwhelming—so many producers and so many essences! I like to encourage people to remember that it’s your relationship with the plant that is the most important thing in selection. Your relationship with the remedy is the co-creation with that plant. The more you work with flowers, the more you will be able to feel and trust this part of the process.

 

The following are some ways to begin exploring flower essences:

  • Depending on what issue(s) you’d like to address, begin by taking one to three essences that resonate with you. Many producers offer sets of remedies that have a particular focus. You may want to purchase a set to experiment with, such as the FES’s Range of Light, Delta Gardens’ Protection Set, Alaskan Essences, or the Bach Essences.
  • Consider flower essences that invite presence, relaxation, protection, and grounding.
  • If you want to study the essences more carefully, consider making flashcards or purchasing the flower cards (Alaskan Essences, FES, and Bach make sets).
  • If you’re curious to learn more about how a plant might connect with your ancestry, consider doing some research on how it was used historically.
  • Perhaps there’s a flower you’re curious about, or have seen in nature. Ask this plant if it would like to work with you.

flower essence

 

Here are five basic ways to select a flower essence:

  • Intuitively: A flower essence might come to you by way of revealing itself in nature, or appearing in a dream.
  • By dowsing: Using a tool of resonance, such a pendulum, to test for essences.
  • Through muscle testing: A simple way to muscle test is to make a ring with the index finger and thumb of your nondominant hand. If you would like to test for a yes for an essence, say the name of the plant and flick the circle with your dominant hand. If the circle holds, that’s a yes. If it breaks open, that is a no.
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  • Through blind testing: By drawing a card or randomly selecting an essence from a set. This method works well with children.

Any of these methods can be integrated into your ritual. Before making remedies for other people, it’s a good idea to spend some time with the flower essences yourself. The flowers will have much to share with you. Also, the more experience you have with the essences yourself, the better you will understand how the essences will work for others.

This is an excerpt from The Bloom Book: A Flower Essence Guide to Cosmic Balance by Heidi Smith.

 

Heidi Smith, MA, RH (AHG), is a psychosomatic therapist, registered herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Within her private practice, Moon & Bloom, Heidi works collaboratively with her clients to empower greater balance, actualization, and soul-level healing within themselves. She is passionate about engaging both the spiritual and scientific dimensions of the plant kingdom, and sees plant medicine and ritual as radical ways to promote individual, collective, and planetary healing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner and two cats. For more, visit moonandbloom.com.

 

 

 

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Building the Bridge Between the Heart and the Mind

How can we drop what we are holding on to, if we do not first look for the hand that is grasping so tightly?

Have you ever noticed that you have two distinctly different personae and tend to vacillate between them?

One is very rigid and concerned with the outcome of everything. It worries and frets, its gaze mostly downcast. It doesn’t rest easily, even keeps you up at night sometimes. It acts almost like a dog chasing its tail. It circles obsessively over every detail and unknowable outcome, chasing the same things in a constant repeated pattern. It is cunning, convincing, and tyrannical in nature. It is feverish and ungrounded. Changing, morphing, and flopping from one story or idea to the next. This is your unharnessed mind. The persona you take on when your mind is not connected to the compass of the heart.

For most of us, that’s the dominant persona. But the other aspect of you, as if by some divine intervention, will from time to time slip past the censor of the mind and cheerfully take over your being with its boundless and uninhibited spirit. This personality doesn’t worry. Its face is often lifted, looking in wonder at the shifting sky and swollen moon. Lips curled into a slight smile. It is fluid and flowing, as if it’s on a river of unending joy. It acts like water and reflects light. You feel buoyant. This is your heart-centered self, your true self.

Because most of us moved into our mind long, long ago as a way of protecting our hearts, we now live most of our time in that rigid, concerned first persona. Without even realizing it, we allow our minds to stand between us and our true nature. We have no (conscious) idea how much our minds are acting as a defensive block against our soft and tender core, constantly at work trying to find ways to keep us from feeling, from hurt, from heartache. The price we are paying, however, is that we are also kept from accessing source.

In order to be heart minded, we need to bring the heart and mind into harmony and partnership with one another. For this to happen, we have to train the mind not to fear and close off from the heart, and instead, serve our heart and implement its wishes. In order to do this, we have to undo our mind’s association of feelings of the heart with hurt and harm. In situations that would ordinarily have us retreat or retaliate, we need to remain conscious of what’s happening and choose to soften and lean into our heart’s center. Each time we practice this softening, we send a new message to the mind that signals that we are safe, willing, and wanting to live in this more open, more sensitive way.

Over time, if we are resolute in our intention to step into our heart, our mind will become less rigid in its defenses against feelings and tenderness, and gradually we will become more heart centered.

Remember, we are not trying to pit the heart and mind against one another; we are trying to marry their aptitudes.

Let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you. You notice your mind begin to race and attach to fearful thoughts. The anxiety then morphs into panic, which courses through you and makes you feel like jumping out of your skin. You begin reaching for an escape, resorting to some form of substance or distraction that can act as a numbing balm.

What just happened? Because you avoided your distress, you are only slightly comforted. A part of you remains braced under the distraction, in fear of the next time this could happen. Your mind’s instinct to protect and defend has been confirmed.

Your heart is neglected and still aching.

But let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you and instead of looking for an escape route, you go to a quiet room to confront the feeling. You let go of the notion that something is wrong and respond as if something very right is taking place. You know some part of you is calling out for your love and attention.

Let’s say you close your eyes and open your heart to the bigness of the feeling. You create space around it simply by looking without resistance at its contours. You know the only antidote is self-love and hospitality. The mind stops racing away from the distress, which makes room for the heart to begin healing and soothing the body. Your mind learns a new route. You are gifted with courage and resilience.

The only difference between these scenarios was one simple choice: to remain a bystander as the mind continues to ignore the call of the body and heart or to act in ways that support leading from the heart, so the mind can follow.

The two can be wonderful allies if we let them.

As we become heart minded, we begin transforming our human experience from something out of our hands to something very much in them. We begin to cultivate joy instead of haphazardly stumbling upon it when we are willing.

Each moment, our bodies are counseling us to make choices that bring us closer to love. The wisdom of the heart and body is there for us, always, if we listen and let it lead.

For a guided practice in learning to stay in our hearts during difficult times, follow along with Sarah in this video.

 

This is an adapted excerpt from Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love by Sarah Blondin.

 

Sarah Blondin

Sarah Blondin is an internationally beloved spiritual teacher. Her guided meditations on the app InsightTimer have received nearly 10 million plays. She hosts the popular podcast Live Awake, as well as the online course Coming Home to Yourself. Her work has been translated into many languages and is in use in prison, recovery, and wellness programs. For more, visit sarahblondin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let the Dark Places Be Teachers

FIND THE SOURCE

This is a tender exercise, a tracing of pain, the path back to the deepest wound. For myself, a huge hurt that I carry is often the source of great realizations and growth. I’ve worked with many different types of therapy for years to figure out where my pain stems from, and my curiosity has been my greatest guide in this effort. I want to know why I am the way I am, and my trauma informs so much of my mindset. Do you know where your pain comes from? Does it point back to a certain occurrence? Do you have only a vague idea, a slight memory, that seems to be the source? What do you do to familiarize yourself with the hurt you carry?

quote 1

There are countless, well-trusted methodologies to help us become acquainted with our pain, and when we dig into this work, the cave of our understanding becomes incredibly deep.

I like to turn my pain into a guide. I follow its directions, meditating on where it all began. It’s at these starting points where I find the most potent feelings. My heartbreak from a failed relationship will often give me a chance to let out my sadness in verse, but not before I try to unpack the whole story. Only when I attempt to understand the many aspects of this failed relationship can I fully feel it and pay tribute to it. I begin this kind of investigation by rambling in my journal. Then, if I feel inclined, I might pull the heart of my understanding into poetic form. I recently wrote a book of poetry called Help in the Dark Season, which focuses on my childhood trauma, the way it affects my adult relationships, and the modes of healing that have helped me grow. Writing this book was extremely hard, but after I finished, I felt like I’d turned coal into gold. I pulled back the curtain inside myself and let light do its thing. Now I not only get to feel the inner effects of my work but I’m also able to witness the importance of sharing this book with others, the way my words act as a key to unlock their personal process of healing. The result of this revealing has been an honesty and a newness that I couldn’t have reached without the alchemy of writing poetry.

I urge you to do this hard work with your trauma, if you’re able. Give yourself permission to move into the realm of blame. Maybe move beyond it toward forgiveness.

quote 2

Our traumas create our fears, and our responses to these fears can be as poetic and beautiful as we make them. Let your pain be a source of inspiration, turn this heavy load into poetry, own it, use it, and take as much from it now as it has taken from you in the past.

Close your eyes and meditate on the hidden ache you carry. I like to start with my childhood because that’s what makes sense for me, but you can start anywhere along your timeline. Do you see any images attached to your discomfort? Can you try and put words to your grief and your loss? Who hurt you? What was their childhood like? Why did they do what they did? Make use of the pain of being alive. See the universality in whatever caused you harm, and focus on the connection to others who have survived similar experiences. When I sit with my wounds, I find my resilience, and that makes me want to linger there, gather up the lessons left in the aftermath, and use them for my own creation. Writing about my pain enables me to claim it as my own, and this ownership is empowering.

quote 3

How can you show your reader your personal methods of self-care in a poetic way? Maybe start by writing a list of poems or even song lyrics that have been healing for you in the past. I have poems dog-eared and underlined in every book on my shelf, and I’ll pull them out in a moment of need. They’re my reminders that yes, it is indeed hard to be alive for everyone.

This is an excerpt from Every Day Is A Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment by Jacqueline Suskin.

jacqueline suskin

Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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