Water & Earth Dakini Retreats

The Sky Dancer Sangha will be hosting 2 more retreats this year, our Water Dakini Retreat on Nov. 29, and our Earth Dakini Retreat on Dec. 20, 2015.

During our Water Dakini Retreat we will visit the ocean and perform meditations to White Tara, and also perform ritual purifications.

During our Earth Dakini Retreat we will be making dough offerings for our altars and honoring Green Tara.

Each of these retreats will take place at a private home in Alameda, CA, and we will also be live streaming online. Donations of $50-100 gratefully accepted for each retreat, no one turned away for lack of funds. To register and receive more information, please email yesherabbit(at)gmail(dot)com

May all beings be happy!

Upcoming Water Dakini Retreat 2015

Our Fire Dakini Retreat on June 21 was a sparking day of transformation. We used the tinder of our past pains, regrets, and burdens to kindle a fire into which we fed offerings to bring blessings of well-being on the whole Earth. We incinerated the karmas that have held us back and courageously embraced new ways of thinking as we worked with Vajrasattva and Vajrayogini. It was a smokin' hot day in more ways than one!

Our Water Dakini Retreat is tentatively scheduled for Sept or Oct. We will be doing a Beach Clean-Up in the morning, and compassion workings in the afternoon. Hands-on dharma!

Fire Dakini Retreat 6/21/15

All are welcome, near and far, to join our Sangha for our

Fire Retreat
6/21/15
10 am-4 pm PST
private home address given or video conference link will be sent to you upon registration
Donations gratefully accepted

As we journey through the Elements in our retreats this year, Space gives us room to practice, Air gives us time to write and be creative. Next up, Fire gives us a chance to transform.

We will begin the day with a Riwo Sangchöd, the Tibetan morning fire offering ceremony that clears obstacles and invites the blessings of the deities upon the mandala of our day. Following that, we will have a teaching on Vajrasattva, the deity of purification who removes negative karma, and perform Vajrasattva's 100-syllable mantra. Those in person are invited to bring papers upon which you have written any karmic challenges you face or obscurations you might be having a hard time clearing, and those at a distance are invited to email them to me and I will print them out to burn for you. My email is yesherabbit (at) gmail (dot) com.

Following that, we will have lunch, and over lunch we will discuss the ways in which passion is a gift of fire in our lives and practices.

After lunch, we will learn about Vajrayogini, the fire goddess associated with our Sangha's mandala, and about the Tantric goddess Kali as a fiery force of transformation. Kali is sometimes associated with Vajrayogini. Following our discussion we will have a another fire ceremony. More details on that are coming soon!

To register for the Fire Dakini Retreat, you may drop me an email at yesherabbit (at)gmail (dot) com and let me know if you will be attending locally or from a distance.

Writing from Spirit Retreat 4/4/15

Up next in our 2015 Retreat Schedule, we explore the element of Air. We will gather at 11 am PST in person in Alameda and online across the country to invoke the dakinis of the Air element into our bodies and minds with a combination of chanting, meditation, and guided writing exercises. Here is the schedule of our day:

10:45 am PST: Gather locally and online
11: first chanting session
11.30: first writing exercise
 12 noon PST: lunch (bring your own and we will eat together while discussing Writing as a Spiritual Process)
1: second chanting session
1.30: second writing session
2: Guided Meditation
2.30: third chanting session
3: third writing session
3.30: final chanting session and wrap-up

We will be doing several different pieces of sacred writing on this day, and calling upon the meditational deities Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal to inspire us with clarity, skill, and power of the word in service to the highest benefit of all beings.

Suggested dana: $50-100, no one turned away for lack of funds.

Please contact Yeshe if you would like to attend: yesherabbit@gmail.com
 

Chanting to Change the World?

When we chant to create change, we are both chanting in a ritual way to manifest an effect in the world and chanting in a meditative way to cause changes in ourselves and our views.

Creating change in ourselves is not different from creating change in the world. Creating change in the world is not different from creating change in ourselves.

How is change even possible, when the truth of all existence is suffering? Throughout space and time suffering is something all beings experience. Often, suffering is the direct result of our attachments to particular desired outcomes. So, in wanting change, are we not just moving from one form of suffering to another form of suffering?

It is true that we cannot permanently end suffering. The desire for change, however, is not built on the notion that we will permanently eradicate suffering. The desire for change, when motivated by bodhicitta, is the natural upwelling of compassion, spontaneous and unbidden, and the wish to alleviate pain, even temporarily, as quickly as possible.  

Change is possible in non-forceful ways, just as clouds change shape in the sky with a gentle breeze. Change is also possible as the result of force, just as our breath on the head of a dandelion changes the shape of the air as the seeds go dancing. Change is actually neither force nor lack of force. It is simply movement.

The breath and voice, raised in chant, create movement. With our chant, we can create change.

Our Sangha is chanting for those afflicted by police violence, brutality, and militarization for the entire month of December. May these beings, and all beings, have freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering. 

From Tibet to Ferguson to New York, and beyond, there are better, safer, more compassionate solutions for law enforcement officers to use than violence. It is also the responsibility of law enforcement officers to actually be twice as sensitive to those who have already been marginalized and oppressed, and to protect all people equally and fairly: suspected criminals, concerned citizens, refugees, and those who left their own countries to come here in search of a better life. They should even protect us from their own expressions of anger, frustration, and other negative emotions, since they are aware that their jobs place them under significant stress. 

Finally, law enforcement officers would be more successful if they were actually also peace and justice officers, carrying out acts that build and strengthen the communities they serve rather than demeaning and damaging them.

Our goal is to collectively and individually accomplish 100,000 repetitions of OM MANI PADME HUM toward positive change and healing regarding law enforcement. We will keep a tally of the recitations here throughout the month, so check back for updates. We will be chanting both in our Tuesday online sessions, and on our own at home. You may fill in this form to receive an email with the link to the chanting sessions or to send in your recitations. 

As of Dec. 7, we have accumulated 13,075 recitations.

As of Dec 9, we have accumulated 22,155 recitations.

As of Dec 14, we have accumulated 30,904 recitations.

As of Dec 15, we have accumulated 40, 584 recitations.

As of Dec. 28, we have accumulated 66,243 recitations.

As of Jan 6, 2015, we have accumulated 89,074 recitations.

As of Jan 11, we have accumulated 102,291 recitations.

 


Upcoming New Year's ONLINE Retreat

ONLINE Retreat
Jan 4, 2015
11am-4pm PST


If you have been following along with White Conch & Skull Cup all year, or if you have joined recently and would like to "level up" with a solid day of explanation and practice, please attend the ONLINE White Conch & Skull Cup Retreat on Jan 4 from 11 am-4pm. 

During this retreat, I will be sharing the secret meanings of the White Conch & Skull Cup Practice. We have thus far studied the Outer Meanings in the performance of the ritual, and the Inner Meanings are likely beginning to reveal themselves in your lives. On Jan 4, we will explore the secret structures that underpin this sadhana, and prepare to begin the Level 2 work.

Individuals who have completed Level 1 and/or attended this retreat will be eligible to continue to Level 2, which will be private teachings.

Please email yesherabbit@gmail.com to sign up.

Donations gratefully accepted.
 

Tsogyal Latso 2014

Enjoy this video made up from footage that Albert took, photos from me and our fellow pilgrims, about Tsogyal Latso, Yeshe Tsogyal's Life-Force Lake, and the nuns who live there. This video was lovingly assembled by Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo, the trip coordinator. Being there was the highlight of the trip for me- the energy of the place, the people, and the practice were exquisite. May their good work continue to benefit all beings.

6 Weeks of Practice Links! Aug-Sept 2014

Hi everyone,

For the next 6 weeks, I will be traveling. Although I will not be here to lead Tea & Chanting online or in person at The Sacred Well, I'm happy to announce that sangha members will be continuing to lead the online practice, and that I will be posting videos for our in-person and online sanghas to watch to keep up with the practice. I have also updated the Practice document.

The link to all of the dates, times, and links for online practice is here.

The link to watch Practice videos is here.

The link to our Practice texts is here.

See you in September!

Announcing: DharmaPagan.org

Tea & Chanting sangha host Yeshe Rabbit and sangha member Erick Dupree have collaborated on a venture to explore the intersection of Paganism and Buddhism called Dharma Pagan. This site will feature blogs, articles, resources for practitioners, and more. While this new site has a lot of overlap with our Tea & Chanting sangha, it is also a space open to members of other sanghas as well. Enjoy!

New in July: Dharma Discussions

Beginning July 13, our sangha will have once-per-month Dharma Discussions on Second Sundays from 11-12 or so. These will be opportunities for our sangha members, who have been practicing together since January (and in some cases longer as members of the local sangha), to discuss and share their experiences, thoughts, queries, and wisdom. 

The first Dharma Discussion will be on the subject of Diligence and Practice.

If you are curious about how these types of conversations might go, check out some of the Dharma Discussions on my Vimeo channel I have been enjoying recently with Erick Dupree, Sam Webster, and others. This one features William Higareda, a practitioner I met online.

 

Guest Post by Dylan Thomas

The following is graciously shared by sangha member Dylan Thomas. Enjoy these helpful tips for your month of purification! Our sangha also has Dylan to thank for the transcription of Yeshe Rabbit's discourses from the teaching videos.

Here we are, in the midst of 30 Days of Vajrasattva. Having worked with this purification practice, before, and encountering a lot of the same themes during this practice commitment, I thought I’d offer up some humble insights on the practice. Your mileage may vary!

Work with what needs purifying. This is different for all of us and, for any one of us, might change drastically day to day. Before I begin my evening mantra recitations, I explore the day for any instances, emotions, or actions that need to be met with purification. I then visualize an internal lotus, in the area between my solar plexus and sacral chakra, and mentally place the person, situation, or emotion at its center. As I recite the mantra, I visualize the mantra as a white nectar that showers over the whole scene. I find that this loosens up my perception of the experience and, if specifically focusing on a difficult interaction with a person, allows me to release the strong grasp of “I was right” or “If only they had…”

Release sin concepts. Or don’t, that is up to you. Sin, however, typically implies a predetermined set of “don’t dos” and can short circuit the deeper practice of rooting out behaviors and mental habits that aren’t beneficial in our own lives and in the way we interact with others. For instance, I can view my tendency to mentally judge others as something akin to sin. Then, my focus becomes one of frantically trying not to have judgmental thoughts and browbeating myself when I do. All of that rests on the surface. If I let go of “judgment = innately bad”, then I can begin to delve deeper into the exploration of how judgmental thoughts affect my own mind’s continuum and, too, how they affect my relationship to the external world. Too, when we let go of a contracted sense of “I shouldn’t do that”, we can be more at ease with where we really are in our practice. “I’m here and I’ve got some hangups and that is okay, because I am doing the work and meeting the hangups with my practice.” is a much healthier approach than “I shouldn’t have done that.” The former has a lot of room for movement, whereas the latter is stagnant.

You’re probably not getting “worse.” If you’re doing the practice and trying to root out non-beneficial behaviors, you might actually convince yourself that you’re engaging in more of them. In actuality, you’re probably just becoming more mindful and catching yourself in the act. Most of us have lots of habits and thoughts that repeat like a broken record. If you have ever spent quiet time in a room with a ticking clock, you might know that, after a while, the ticking goes unnoticed. If you remind yourself that the clock is ticking, however, your ears tune in and you can hear it clearly. The practice can be like this, and the things you are noticing have likely been around for some time.

Find balance. Rooting out non-beneficial behaviors can be balanced with rejoicing in beneficial ones. Even better, recall your meritorious actions and then dedicate that merit to those in need or to the greater enlightenment of all beings. Too, if you find yourself doing a lot of purifying regarding your interactions with others, you can take time to recall times that these other people acted kindly towards you (or others) and desire that their kindness is returned to them. This is also very beneficial if you’re doing the practice with a focus on someone who feels like an enemy, as it helps you to see that person’s ability to act benevolently. 

Use the mantra. We do our practices and recite our mantras and that is wonderful! But, the mantra is a great way to root out non-beneficial behaviors as they manifest. For instance, tonight I was having dinner with my partner and a friend. They were engaged in conversation and, suddenly, I realized I was running a judgmental dialogue about a perfect stranger. So, I dropped the dialogue and picked up the mantra. Take advantage of the remedial nature of the mantra, in this way, and disengage the non-beneficial behavior in favor of a beneficial one. If done with some consistency, this can become a new habit.

May your practice be of ultimate benefit to all beings!

April/May 2014 Tea Recipe

AudaciTea

Go get, 'em, Tiger!

1 part fennel, 1/2 part star anise, 1 part lemon peel, 1/2 part orange peel, 1/4 part clove

Steep one teaspoon tea per cup water. Sweeten with honey, or not. Enjoy hot, or steep and cool in summer. Cover, remove from heat, and steep for as long as you can. A warming, gently cleansing blend, to bestir the blood and open the gates of life force. Be well!

 

Weekly practice sessions online begin today

In order to offer greater opportunities for practice, our Tea & Chanting Online Sangha will now have a weekly practice broadcast at 7 PM PST on Tuesdays. This weekly session will help us stay connected to one another and our sadhana, and will occasionally be used for special purposes, such as chanting to Green Tara for relief regarding current events, or to offer a specific healing to a sangha member.

We use a video conferencing service called Zoom which allows you to connect with us from your desktop, laptop, mobile device using a free App, or landline via voice call.

To receive the link, please drop us a line via the Contact Form on this site.

Green Tara for Assistance

The Pagan community is attempting to delve into the serious issue of sexual predation, particularly upon women and children, in our community. This issue is so painful, so triggering, so taboo, and so loaded that people often just look away from it or ignore it. Thus, suffering multiplies and continues to worsen, and the wound just gets deeper.

Green Tara is a Buddhist deity who is depicted with her right foot outstretched, ready to leap into action to aid in the cessation of suffering. She is a protector of those who are hurting, and comes to their aid.

One of the Dharma Pagans in this sangha, Erick DuPree, and I were taking about what might be helpful for us to do as an offering, ritually, to assist our community in its discernment process about what will and will not be tolerated, and how we will refine ways of handling situations that arise, as well as creating systems for better prevention of predatory behavior. Green Tara came to mind as a deity who might be able to offer the kind of help that is needed when so many are hurting.

And so this month, as part of our practice, we are chanting to Green Tara for aid and assistance for the Pagan community in this matter. 108 recitations of her mantra per day is the ideal, but any number is beneficial. Please be welcome to join us.

The mantra for Green Tara is:

Ayu Khandro

This month in Tea & Chanting Sangha, we brought Yeshe Tsogyal into our practice. Yeshe Tsogyal was a human woman who is deified as consort to Padmasambhava, and for being a great teacher in her own right who developed, practiced, and memorized many different teachings and rituals. She left behind, hidden for others to find (or for herself in other lifetimes), several of Padmasambhava's treasures of teaching and practice.

One of these is called Yangti Nakpo, or Dark Retreat. This practice is also called The Black Quintessence, or The Single Golden Letter of the Black Quintessence, and it is a method for dropping attention on external sight and the phenomenal display, connecting with the Inner Teacher, and developing the Perfection of Wisdom. It is a practice that requires using very few, if any, lights or lamps. It's interesting to note that just yesterday I was speaking with someone of significant meditative accomplishment about visual clutter being one of my greatest obstacles in my own practice. I often wish to "silence my eyes" by closing them when I meditate, more than any other sense, though I am also aware that an active, moving, living meditation of right action may require more engagement of my visual sense than that. But in sitting meditation, I nearly always shut my eyes, turn off the lights, or seek other ways my eyes can be quiet. My Tai Chi teacher mention that, "where the eyes go, the mind goes," and I do know that to be true.

If you come to my home you will notice an minimum of electric lights, a heavy reliance on natural light during the day, and a very dark atmosphere at night. I have almost always lived in dark places, and I like to keep them dark. I have a few candles, two low-watt lamps, and nothing else in our main room, for instance. This means that when the sun goes down, it really goes down in our house.

I also have a significant lack of barking, talking screens in my home. I don't personally like TV. I watch a few movies on the computer, and I enjoy the internet, but mostly, I prefer not to have too much electronic glow around me. Fluorescent lights bother me. Movies on the big screen are a bit overwhelming sometimes. Darkness is truly my place of deepest retreat, just the way I also have friends who feel this way about bright, warm sun, or being near water, or being under the full moon.

It caught my eye that this Dark Retreat practice was a gift from Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal, and that I learned of it the month we started Yeshe Tsogyal, the Treasure Revealer. It is interesting that it showed up in my consciousness this week, as today is the anniversary of Ayu Khandro, one of the teachers of one of my teachers, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Ayu Khandro was one of the practitioners of this Dark Retreat, and in her lifetime she spent over 50 years in Dark Retreat. A dakini after my own eyes, er, heart!

Ayu Khandro attracted my attention even before I studied with Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. I read about her in Lama Tsultrim's Women of Wisdom, and she immediately sparked my interest. This was one eccentric, willful, and adventuresome woman!  She managed to transform an arranged marriage into a support structure that allowed her to travel, journey, and take retreats and teachings for most of her life.  She was encouraged by her aunt who lived in a meditation cave to pursue her ardent devotion to dharma teachings, and she ended up braving harsh conditions and travail to practice Chod all over Tibet: by herself, with Buddhist nuns, and various other traveling companions. She also made time for students, and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche spent two months learning several cycles of practice from her before she passed in 1953 at the age of 115. Her body remained in meditation for two weeks after her death, and displayed many signs of miraculous phenomena according to her tradition of Dzogchen.

Today, March 26, is Ayu Khandro's day in the Tsyelgar community. I am taking this day to reflect on her commitment to practice (one of the themes of our Yeshe Tsogyal meditation work this month), her spirit of adventure (as I hope/plan/move toward my own trip to Tibet/India/Nepal that I wish to do later this year or next year), and to hold for her swift rebirth and the continuance of her wisdom.

Today, I will make a little special time for my own meditative darkness, where all illusory phenomena collapse into a single point.

Interested in the concept of darkness as ground of being, return to the original state, and magical compost? You might enjoy the book The Fruitful Darkness by Joan Halifax Roshi.

March 2014 Tea Recipe

Clari-Tea 
Seeing is believing

1 part bilberry
1 part eyebright
1 part chickweed
1/2 part elderflower
1/2 part plantain

Add one bag or one teaspoon of loose tea per cup of boiling water. Cover, remove from heat, and steep for as long as you can. This tea tastes better and better the longer it steeps. A rich, deep, earthy, buttery flavor rises from this blend, which is made to tonify mucus membranes, reduce phlegm, support capillary walls, and support ocular health.

February 2014 Tea Recipe

DiviniTea
Ommm yum yum

1 part lemon grass, 1 part cinnamon, 1 part schizandra, 1 part fenugreek, 1 part hawthorne berry

Steep one teaspoon tea per cup water. Sweeten with honey, or not. Enjoy hot, or steep and cool in summer. Be well!