Reginald A. Ray: Dark Retreat

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November 16, 2010

Reginald A. Ray: Dark Retreat

Reginald A. Ray November 16, 2010

Tami Simon speaks with Reggie Ray, a teacher and scholar in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with four decades of experience with the practice of meditation. He’s the founder and spiritual director of Dharma Ocean and an author whose writings include Touching Enlightenment, Indestructible Truth, and Secret of the Vajra World, as well as several audio programs including Your Breathing Body and Meditating with the Body. Reggie is also a teacher with whom Tami has studied closely for the past eight years. Reggie discusses his recent experiences in dark retreat as well as the true goal of meditation and Reggie’s view of the meaning of spiritual practice. (51 minutes)

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Reginald A. Ray, PhD, is the co-founder and spiritual director of Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of Tibetan Tantra. He is a lineage holder in the tradition of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. Reggie is the author of several books including Touching Enlightenment. He makes his residence in Crestone and Boulder, Colorado. For more, visit dharmaocean.org.

Author photo © Dona Laurita | Foto di Vita

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Reggie Ray:
The Awakened State »
Hard Questions for a Vajra Master »
Dark Retreat »

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Subscribe to Insights at the Edge to hear all of Tami’s interviews (transcripts available too!), featuring Eckhart Tolle, Caroline Myss, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Adyashanti, and many more.

Meet Your Host: Tami Simon

Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo © Jason Elias

Also By Author

Reginald A. Ray: Hard Questions for a Vajra Master

Reggie Ray is a lineage holder of the great Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a faculty member of Naropa University, and spiritual director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation based in Crestone, Colorado. He is the author of several books, including Touching Enlightenment and Secret of the Vajra World. With Sounds True, Reggie has released audio learning programs such as Meditating with the Body and Meditation in Seven Steps. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon—who is a student of Reggie—poses a series of challenging and difficult questions to her instructor. (52 minutes)

The Tantric Consort: Awakening Through Relationship

Friends, I wanted to let you know about a four-part online video course that we created with Reggie Ray which explores intimacy as one of the most radical vehicles of spiritual transformation. The Vajrayana, or tantric tradition of Buddhism, teaches ways of being in relationship that serve as unique gateways to spiritual awakening. These teachings on the consort represent some of the most advanced teachings in Buddhism, and have been guarded and kept secret for the most part over the last 1000 years. What Reggie has discovered is that contemporary practitioners are uniquely situated to undertake some of their deepest spiritual work in the context of intimate relationship, however lack the perspective and practices needed to do so.

Watch Reggie’s video introduction here:

Learn more and access The Tantric Consort online course here.

Who Is the Tantric Consort?

The tantric tradition asserts that spirituality in its fullest sense cannot be an isolated, solitary, purely self-involved enterprise. Rather, we make the deepest journey of transformation and ultimate fulfillment only in relationship—with our deepest nature, with our unique karmic situations, with the people in our lives, and with the living universe around us. Through being in connection with these others, we are inspired, we love, and we open. We learn at the deepest levels that we are never one alone but always two-by-two, always in connection, always in the love relationship with all that is; and therein lies our life and our realization.

The tantric consort is the ultimate other. In fact, in the tantric tradition, it is said that moment by moment, he or she represents to us the entire phenomenal world. In other words, in the consort, we most deeply and completely meet the sacred universe in its entirety—a perhaps outrageous claim, but one that experience proves. Through the practice of taking the consort as representing the sacred totality, we learn to love more deeply than we ever imagined possible: first the consort, then everything that is. We see where we habitually hold back and hide out; we practice ways to release our masks, blockages, and obstacles; and ultimately we find union, where releasing our narcissistic fixation on ourselves and discovering our profound and eternal oneness with the consort—and through him or her the world—are the same thing. Ultimately, our ability to journey on the path of the tantric consort comes down to our own willingness, bravery, and devotion in cultivating an open heart and in learning to love the beloved openly and without limit.

By sharing ancient Vajrayana teachings on the view of the consort relationship as well as guiding us through specific, powerful meditations, Reggie leads us to both an understanding and an experience of the tantric consort as the gateway to our own awakening. He emphasizes learning practices that can be carried forward into our lives, including several heart-based meditations to be practices on our own or with a partner.

Many believe that the goal of spiritual practice is enlightenment or liberation, but the human being actually longs for much, much more. Instinctually, we yearn for what we know is possible: fulfillment, joy and union with all creation. Opening to our longing to connect with the tantric consort is the gateway and learning to relate with him or her openheartedly is the path.

Here is a summary of the course’s four parts:

Session 1: Relating with the Other as Sacred

The Vajrayana View of Consort Practice

Why is relationality the essence of Vajrayana spirituality? What special role does the consort play within the Vajrayana? Where do these teachings come from and how can the ancient practices of working with a consort be applied to our modern lives? What differentiates the consort relationship from conventional relationships? How does the consort appear in our life?

The guided meditation we will learn in Session One is The Thousand-Petaled Lotus Practice: Beginning to Open the Heart. Just as we establish the view on a conceptual level in order to engage in consort practice, we must also establish the ground of an open heart on a visceral level. The Thousand-Petaled Lotus Practice will become a gateway to all further consort practice for us.

Session 2: Genuine Presence

The Practice of Being a Consort

In Session Two we will discuss the qualities of a consort relationship—as well as each partner’s individual practice—that create a powerful container for spiritual transformation. Themes will include: staying close to your inspiration, becoming vulnerable, the nature of commitment in the consort relationship, courageous honesty, and relaxing the judgmental mind.

The commitment of tantric consorts to work with one another’s fullness—the brilliant array of light and dark, wisdom and neurosis, empowerment and injury that we each possess—becomes an invitation for consorts to explore their own vastness and become who they truly are.

We will also learn a meditation called Dissolving Blockages and Uncovering the Heart’s Unconditional Openness. Through our persistent, gentle practice we begin to wear away the armor that surrounds our hearts, revealing a luminous love that naturally opens to and receives our partner.

Session 3: Obstacles and Antidotes

Practices and Techniques for When the Going Gets Rough

In the consort relationship we are bound to encounter even more emotional and psychological “triggers” than in a conventional relationship, because we have explicitly committed to spiritual awakening, which requires that we go to and through the uncomfortable places; that we surf the endless waves of our own growth edges.

When those unavoidable experiences arise, how can we learn to welcome them with open arms, rather than to cower and escape into habitual behavior patterns? Session Three’s discussion will be on cultivating our bravery as spiritual warriors so we can engage these encounters differently than we have in the past.

In this session Dr. Ray will lead us through a meditation that applies especially well to moments of upheaval in relationship: Learning to Behold Our Intimate Partner with Our Heart.

Session 4: Meditation in Action

Healing Core Traumas with the Consort

It is said in the tradition that the consort “unbinds the fetters of the heart,” meaning that he or she frees us at the deepest levels of our being to love and to open that love to the world. Through consort practices, over time, the most hidden, unconscious blockages are called into consciousness so that we can see them, work with them, and resolve them. Often the emotional twists and distortions that underlie our current conscious ego prison go back to preverbal levels. Yet, as modern psychology shows us, these unconscious patterns control and limit what we can feel and see and experience, and ultimately block our ability to love fully.

This session will discuss the path of consort practice in its ability to heal and resolve our deepest wounds. Facing these traumas with the support of our tantric consort is a slow but liberating process that opens up our own capacity to experience life’s joy and fulfillment.

This session’s final guided meditation is a powerful one that can be practiced on one’s own or with a partner: A Consort Meditation for Dissolving Core Traumas and Obscurations. Dr. Ray will lead us through this meditation technique that can be applied again and again, either when core traumas arise naturally, or when we sit down with the intention of specifically engaging certain aspects of ourselves or our partner that we know need healing.

 

The Purpose of Life is to Love

Within all of the great wisdom traditions we find an emphasis on love, kindness, and opening our heart to others. It is quite natural to open in this way to our family and friends, but what the great traditions teach is that this reservoir of love inside us is unlimited, extends to all living beings, and even to the universe itself. This reality of love is not an abstract experience, notes respected meditation teacher Reggie Ray, but something that is alive the core of who and what we are. One way to envision the spiritual journey is as a pathway which unlocks the love in our hearts, thereby enabling us to become fully human.

Please enjoy this short video from Reggie on the unfolding of love.

 

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Give a listen to this inspiring discussion of the embodiment of internal fortitude and wisdom known as sisu; how adversity provides an opportunity for resiliency; post-traumatic growth and positive psychology; the difference between sisu and grit; the visceral, somatic nature of sisu; taking risks instead of giving in to fear of failure; experiencing an initiation into your own strength; life—an ultramarathon we’re all running; flexibility, reason, and the choice to be gentler on yourself; finding harmony between the hard and the soft; journaling your own stories of sisu; self-forgiveness; looking to the future with an action mindset; transforming challenges into the fuel to keep you going; tapping into the intelligence of your body; sisu, leadership, and being kind versus being nice; and why developing sisu is so important for humanity at this time.

The Practice of Presence

PRACTICE ONE PRESENCE

START HERE . . .
I’m starting with love. I’m starting with breath.
I’m starting with stretching my body that carries me despite the aches.
I’m starting with a hand over my heart. I’m starting with forgiveness.
I’m starting with a clean slate.
I’m starting with a cup of tea and a crisp new page. I’m starting with a tearful release.
I’m starting with wind on my face and gratitude on my lips. I’m starting with my eyes up, not down.
Today, life is calling me to take my own path— Go at my own pace,
Stop when needed,
Notice the signs, people, and sights meant for me. Today, life is calling me to show up—
And I take this brave step by declaring . . .
Love is where I’m starting.
May it also be where I am going. Love IS the way.

Ever since I recovered Google Island, the book I wrote as a child, I’ve been making an intentional effort to connect with that younger version of me, the one I now call “my Dreamer Girl.”

This was the “me” who knew at a very early age that lovingly respond- ing to myself and those around me brought me joy. Over the past few years, I’ve spent time remembering what my Dreamer Girl was like.

She couldn’t walk by a stray cat without talking to it.

She marveled at the sounds she made with her violin and bow.

She loved the rush of the wind when she swung as high as she could go.

She freely ran through the sprinkler in her bathing suit, unhindered by her squarish body that held an abundance of freckles.

And most of all, my Dreamer Girl’s joy was found in filling spiral notebooks with observations, stories, and dreams.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided these inclinations were not acceptable and therefore needed to be abandoned. I’m pretty sure it was during adolescence when I began assuming the roles that gained the world’s approval—roles like the Planner, the Go-Getter, the Accommodator, the Helper, and the Overachiever—and when accolades took precedence over pleasure.

And those roles were just the beginning. In the twenty or so years that followed, I took on so many roles and expectations that it should have come as no surprise when it all became too heavy to bear.

But it did. I can still see myself at my breaking point—the teacher, the partner, the mother, the daughter, the sister, the volunteer, the completist, the juggler, the people-pleaser, the fixer, all simultane- ously coming undone during a morning jog, my well-crafted roles unraveling so quickly I didn’t even try to hold myself together.

Fueling my breakdown was a question I got a lot: “How do you do it all?” I’d always taken it as a compliment, but not on this particular day. At thirty-eight years old, I’d reached the very frayed end of myself, and that question loomed before me, forcing me to stop and face the answer I’d been running from.

I could “do it all” because I missed out on life—I missed out on the laughing, the playing, the creating, the connecting, the memory mak- ing . . . the living . . . the loving . . . and what I missed I cannot get back.

That truth was so gut-wrenching, I was forced to stop. I collapsed to my knees and I wept for all that I’d lost and the desolate place I was in. It was then and there that I decided to tell the truth. Looking back now, I realize the significance of that response. For once, I did not push the pain and discomfort away. I allowed myself to feel it, to let truth enlight- en me, which is why tears of despair turned into tears of relief.

I’d lost my connection with my Dreamer Girl, the tree climber, the notebook filler, the music maker, the seed planter—but she was not gone. Oh no, she was still with me, in here, hand over heart.

I just needed some time . . . space . . . and permission to reconnect with her.

Dear Soul Shift Companion, does that thought resonate with you? Because here’s the reality: as we grow further and further away from childhood, the demands and stress of life increase. We forget we have the power to say yes to what delights our heart and soul, makes us feel alive, and brings us peace. But in order to live an au- thentic, joyful, and purposeful life, we must remember how to say yes to those very things!

We can do it through the Practice of Presencean intentional choice to temporarily push away distractions and be fully present in the mo- ments of our life.

Within hours of my emotional morning run, I made this choice for myself.

I was in the middle of making lunches. My younger daughter, Avery, who was almost four years old at the time, was on the sofa watching The Lion King. My computer was open, the phone was buzzing, and I was thinking about all the things I needed to do that day. In that moment, I looked up and noticed—really noticed—my child. A clear voice inside me said, “Go be with her. There is nothing more import- ant right now.”

Without closing the bag of bread or looking at the clock, I placed the knife across the jar of peanut butter and went to hold my child.

What happened next was something no one had ever done in my whole life: my daughter brought my hand to her lips and gently kissed the inside of my palm, as if offering a silent but powerful acknowledg- ment of my presence.

This is remarkable, I thought. Tears filled my eyes.

I was so grateful I did not miss that moment and knew I didn’t want to miss any more.

This strong desire to not miss my life is what sparked my Practice of Presence.

Of course, at the time, I did not know it would become my Practice of Presence . . . I called it “going hands free,” a term that was inspired by that kiss-on-the-hand moment.

It might sound contradictory to the process, but being a planner, I needed a plan. Realistically, I knew I could not overhaul my life, give up technology, or abandon all my duties and responsibilities, but that initial response I made to heed the inner voice demonstrated it was possible and practical for me to dedicate small increments of time to just being present.

As an experienced teacher of students with behavioral issues and low self-esteem, I knew the impact of small, achievable steps in creating new, positive pathways. Change begins with a behavioral action, and when you change your behavior, your perspective starts to shift, too.

So, I started with ten-minute periods of time during which I set aside my phone, computer, and agenda to be fully present and open to connection.

It was impossible not to notice how one choice produced a ripple of positive outcomes. For example, after opening my pop-up chair at my older daughter’s swim meet, I chose not to get out my work in an attempt to maximize the free time. Seeing my open lap and available attention, Avery asked if she could sit there. Holding her made me feel at peace and connected to her. When the meet was delayed, I did not fly off the handle because my plan was derailed. Instead, my daughters and I went and asked the coach how we could help, which he seemed to appreciate.

We got home later than expected that night, but I hadn’t yelled or felt that internal pressure . . . which resulted in my falling asleep without the pain of regret. With one choice to be fully present, a series of mean- ingful experiences were created, lasting far beyond a solitary moment.

As I continued to practice choosing connective presence over pro- ductivity, efficiency, distraction, and control, I realized that a feeling of peace consistently came along with that choice; it was as if I was receiving an internal message of encouragement from my soul that said, This feels in line with how I want to live.

Now, does this mean that from this point on life was rainbows and butterflies? Absolutely not. The damaging habits and beliefs I’d car- ried for decades were deeply ingrained, and life continued to deliver unexpected challenges. So, naturally, there were times when I didn’t choose a loving, compassionate, or healthy response to conflicts or big feelings. But . . . I was practicing.

And here was the difference: when I encountered a painful exter- nal clue—a wounded expression, a troubling comment, an upsetting memory, an uneasy feeling—I did not push it away. The difference was . . . I acknowledged it. I allowed myself to feel my response to the discomfort without judgment, so it could be used as information to lead and enlighten me.

Because of this willingness to be present for it all—the remarkable moments and the mundane moments, the peaceful moments and the uncomfortable moments—I was able to move from the painful truth of I am missing my life to a new, healing truth:

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, Only Love Today, and Live Love Now. Rachel is a certified special education teacher whose personal strategies are universal invitations to embrace life with urgency and cultivate connection despite the distractions of our culture. Her blog and social media platform are sources of inspiration to millions. For more, visit handsfreemama.com.

Transform your relationship with your kitchen—and yo...

Hello gorgeous community of amazing human beings,

For the last 15 years, I have been cooking up this question: 

What does it look like to nourish YOU? 

 

Let’s drop everything we might think this is 
and everything you didn’t get done today 

and bring our collective shoulders down from the sky. 

Let’s take a minute here. We are just getting started, yet I feel we need to slow down. Will you take a deep breath with me? Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for breathing. There is nothing to do here. 

You can bring your awareness to your breath with an inhale through your nose. Open your mouth slightly and exhale with a HAAAAAAAAA sound. It feels so good to drop everything and breathe. Me too. To let go, even a little, is a real lovefest for the heart and mind = heart mind. 

It feels so good, can we do one more? 
You can close your eyes this time if you want to—

I will be right here. 

We are just getting here, together.

Now let me ask you again: 
What does it look like to nourish YOU?

What if I told you that your kitchen is a place of stories, mothers, grandmothers, imprints, and emotional weather patterns that shaped how you live now? It is also a place to deeply nourish yourself and cook up the life you have been longing to live. 

Your kitchen (yes your kitchen!) is a fierce, unconditionally loving mother holding what is ripe and ready to become inside of YOU. Who would have thought that you can heal your life in your kitchen? I did! And now you can.  

I am excited to share my new book: The Kitchen Healer: The Journey to Becoming You.

It invites you to bring your entire body into the kitchen, put your shame into the fire, offer your grief to the soup—allowing all you have been hungry for to begin to feed YOU. As you turn on the fire, you will come home to yourself. You will make the room you need, to hear and see and feel the stories you have been carrying.  

 

You will begin, again and again, to become YOU. 
Welcome home. 

In loving service to your courage, your kitchen healer,
x x x x jules

Jules Blaine Davis, the Kitchen Healer, is a TED speaker and one of Goop’s leading experts on women’s healing. She has led transformational gatherings, retreats, and a private practice for over fifteen years. She has facilitated deeply nourishing experiences at OWN and on retreat with Oprah Winfrey, among many other miracles. Jules is a pioneer in her field, inviting women to awaken and rewrite the stories they have been carrying for far too long in their day-to-day lives. She is cooking up a movement to inspire and support women to discover who they are becoming.

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