Art, Dharma, Photography, Spirituality, Yoga

Clear mind, pure heart

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What buddhism and the dharma means to me

These past couple of days, my mind has been spinning in the direction of motivation and inspiration towards writing and painting. I feel creative again, after many, many months of having a huge creative blockage in my system. I’m painting and writing letters to people I care about. I’m not feeling as critical towards my own ability to create, and therefore I am able to play around more without being too hung up on the result. I even found the courage to go ask an art studio and a gallery in town if they wanted to display my paintings, and they did! What an adrenaline kick.

Anyway. I felt like writing about my buddhist path. Two nights ago, I was at a small get-together, a moving-in-party at a buddhist friend´s place, and the conversation steered towards spirituality and religion. Me and this friend were the only practicing buddhists in the room, and it became evident to me that there are a lot of assuptions about buddhism that I just don’t find true at all, in my personal experience. For example that the (historical) Buddha Shakyamuni is looked upon as a God, above other people/followers, that enlightenment/buddhahood is something mystical only available to certain people and that spirituality is in the culture, not necessarily in people’s heart and mind.

To me, it only makes sense that since we all have a mind, that means we all have the same ability to transform it, to step out of the wheel of suffering and confusion. And since we all have a heart, we all have the potential to open it towards all living beings, and develop a compassionate heart without disrimination. The Buddha Shakyamuni showed us it’s possible, and so did many other dharma practitioners and teachers, like Yeshe Tsogyal, Padmasambhava and Jetsun Milarepa – to mention a few. I believe it is true though, that some people have a stronger connection to dharma (the teachings and the practice) than others, but still the possibility is there.

I think it’s important to remember that when we are practicing dharma, it is not to become a part of Tibetan or Indian culture, or to belong to any other culture with a strong tie to buddhism. It is “simply” to be a kind of scientist who looks closely at our own minds, and to be able to use the samsaric (cyclic) mind as a tool to tranform it into an enlightened one. Training our minds through meditation. In this sense, I feel buddhism has much more of a spiritual approach to it, than a religious one. There is a lot of religious and cultural baggage attached to buddhism that I personally don’t agree with, for example putting young children in monasteries, away from their families, blindly believing something just because a robed person said it without using common sense to check it for yourself, and the still-existing patriarchy that’s going on in some areas of buddhism.

Despite this, I still call myself a buddhist because I feel a strong devotion in my own heart to practice the dharma and a motivation to transform my mind using the buddhist teachings. I feel lucky to not live in a poor country and to have time to practice and to be able to go on retreats 3-4 times a year with a wonderful sangha and a very capable teacher. I also feel like the basic buddhist principles of ethics, honesty and being of help and benefit to others is such a beautiful and transformative thing.

Having been a practicing buddhist for about two years now, I definitely feel like I have a more clear mind and a more pure heart. Still long ways to go, but feeling progress is golden. If you’d like to check out the tradition I am practicing in, go to openheart.fi 🙂

KalosFilter_2017-05-03-10-03-47 – Kopi

Everyday life, Relationship, Spirituality

Some honest thoughts on polyamory

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Artwork by Phil Couture

I wanted to write a little bit about something that occupies of my mindspace a lot; love and relationships. I’ve briefly mentioned before, here and elsewhere, that I consider myself polyamorous. I was not aware of this term until some years ago when I found myself really loving and wanting to spend time with more than one person, and I’ve found this hard to explain to people around me, and also to the people I love. Because of course, as humans we are used to certain ways of thinking and responding to things, and all sorts of feelings arise when it comes to what could be called untraditional relationship structures, or non-monogamy. And then there is the whole communication part, and even the logistics of it; love is infinite but time and energy is not (relatively speaking), so how to distribute your time?

 


Love

From my buddhist point of view, love and compassion is something we all have a capacity to feel, and is in short, the heart of spirituality. Love makes us open up and it can be shown in so many different ways, and different people bring out certain positive qualities in us that we should cultivate for the benefit of others around us. But this is easy to forget, especially when it comes to close/intimate relationships; we trigger each other, we feel jealous, we want them to feel like they owe us something, we blame and forget to treat them –who has chosen to spend their precious time with us- with the respect they deserve. Basically, it brings all the things we don’t want to deal with to the surface, but it can also be seen as a good opportunity to deal with it, to grow. (Of course, here I am not talking about staying in an abusive relationship, for example, but about facing our insecurities).

I believe there is a love that connects all of us, one that can be felt by simply tuning into the feeling of your own heart (i.e. in meditation). But I also believe there is many different love dynamics, be it romantic, platonic or sexual – or a mix, and it largely depends on the two people involved, how they make each other feel and how their personalities go together. Also, if they are both polyamorous, or one is monogomous. All relationships are unique, and it seems a bit foolish to think that there is only one way to have an intimate relationship, and that there should only be one at a time. It may take extra work having multipple relationships going on parallel, but to me, it feels even worse having to hide my emotions, and to choose one person over another. I don’t think one should run after each and every desire/attraction that comes along; that would only be destructive for everyone involved – I am talking about being able to spend time with those you are in love with and those you feel committed to. This life is brief, and like a dream it can stop at any moment. It’s imporant to find time to show love and affection while we can. But like I said in the beginning, time can be an issue, and sometimes one just has to prioritize some things more than others. I admit, this is not my strong side. But I am working on it 🙂

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Experience attraction freely – worry about labels later

Communication

is key. I’ve always been introverted, and find it hard sometimes to talk about stuff that is on my mind. I tend to just keep it in and have long conversations to myself instead, haha. Or to my cats…. This is not so favorable when it comes to polyamory, but I feel I have found a way that works for me to still get my points and feelings across: I write. It may not be super romantic, but I write it in an e-mail, on facebook message or simply as a letter and give it to the person I wish to say something to. I feel like expressing myself through writing is much easier; you get time to think and reflect, and get the words down “right”. I wish I was better at communicating verbally, I would love nothing more than hold the hands of a person I love and tell them all about what’s going on inside. But as long as the message gets across, I guess that’s the most important.

I am still fairly new to poly, but it seems there is no doubt that communication is important. I mean, it’s certainly important in all relationships, but more so maybe in poly ones because there is more people and thus more feelings involved. At the same time, I think it’s imporant to respect what the other person wishes and don’t wishes to know about for example your other partners, or trivial details that have no real relevance to your dynamic. I for one, don’t want to know about my partner’s casual hook-ups or FWB’s. All I ask for is that they are careful not to get sick and to practice safe sex. I only wish to know if they have fallen in love with someone new and/or have started dating someone romantically or otherwise longterm/feel committed to someone else, as this may have some impact on my time with them. And of course, if they are thinking about children in the near future (gosh, am I that age already?).

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Committment

A friend of mine asked me how my “love life was going”, and I said I was having some open loving relationships at that moment. His response was: “Oh, so no committment?”  This triggered something in me, I felt like that was a weird, but also not surprising response. I feel very committed to the people I love. Committment to me is not having sex with one person for the rest of my life. Committment to me is committing my time and energy to someone I like, to show them trust and respect, sharing special moments together and letting them know how I feel about them. To travel places and to eat meals together. To cook, shower and read together. Doing everyday stuff, together. Making plans. I have been in two longterm monogomous relationships in my life before, and the level of committment I feel is still the same, even if it’s non-monogomous. Crazy, huh?! 😉

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Rewatching The Notebook after finding out I am poly, almost made me angry, haha.

Jealousy

I get jealous. Of course I do. I am still human 🙂 I compare and compete, I make myself feel small and sometimes think that I am not good enough as I am, be it physically or otherwise. But as a yogin, I feel it is my “job” to tackle strong negative emotions like jealousy through practicing meditation and taking resposibility for my own mind, my own emotions. I do find it hard though, to know how to deal with other people’s jealousy, and I tend to shut a bit down instead of reassuring or making that person feel better. Also something I am working on.

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Future thoughts

I know in my heart I will always be polyamorous, just as I know in my heart that I am bisexual. Polyamory also feels like the only way for me to feel both committed to loving relationships and still date both sexes. This is not something I am doing at the moment, but definitely a wish I have for myself in the future, at the same time as I feel very satisfied with what I have now. I also find myself in a strange feeling of wanting a family. I mean, like kids. (Can’t believe I wrote that!) Either I am just feeling super clucky (and have done for some time now), or I am actually getting to a stage in my life where it feels right to do within the next years. All I really wish for my future is to make my relationships work well, but also attend to my personal dreams. If they go hand-in-hand, that’s amazing.

 

 

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Monica Olivia, last day of August 2018 ❤

Adventure, Culture, Landscape, Photography, Spirituality

Riddu Riddu 2018

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Noen blinkskudd fra årets Riddu Riddu-festival i Manndalen! Herrefred, kor æ kosa mæ 😀 Topp fem mest minneverdige øyeblikk fra festivalen:

1. Tyva Kyzy – et tuvansk strupesanggruppe. Fikk sett de hele 3 ganga; en intimkonsert i en yurta, en gang på hovedscenen og enda en gang under frivilligfesten.
2. DJ Shub + Classic Roots, de spilte på fredagen (sjanger: pow wow dub). Du kan sjekke ut en av de beste sangene her.
3. Møte med andre urkulturer.
4. Koselige stunder rundt bål.
5. Alle de vakre koftene som var å se.

Dharma, Spirituality, Yoga

Emptiness

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“A thorough, experiential understanding of emptiness is the only antidote to the belief in an “I,” in a truly existing self. Once you recognize emptiness, all your attachment to such a self will vanish without a trace. Realization will blaze forth like a brilliant sun rising in the sky, transforming darkness into light. At first, until you actually recognize emptiness, you have to gain an understanding of it through deep and careful reflection on the teacher’s pith instructions. Then, when you first recognize it, your experience of emptiness will not be stable. To improve it, blend meditation and postmeditation periods. Try not to fall back into ordinary delusion, but to maintain the view of emptiness in all your daily activities. Meditation and the path of action will mutually enhance each other. Finally, you may reach a point where there is no difference between meditation and postmeditation, a point at which you no longer ever depart from emptiness. This is called the realization of great sameness. Within that great sameness, compassion for all beings will arise spontaneously—for the more you realize emptiness, the less there will be any impediment to the arising of compassion.” – Dilgo K. Rinpoche, excerpt from Heart of Compassion

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Everyday life, Pets, Spirituality

Shared with all

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“Sometimes a broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic, sometimes anger, resentment and blame. But under the hardness of that armour, there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we are arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifferences. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when we accept fully can be shared with all.”

Books, Culture, Dharma, Spirituality

Books

Some books I 1) have read and loved, 2) plan to read and 3) am currently reading 🙂

1)

* Stones to Shatter the Stainless mirror: The fearless teachings of Tilopa to Naropa:

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Excerpt from the book: “…I suppose that is the secret and the point of this Vision. In every situation, there is the relative view; where there are others and a world to serve with loving-kindness, compassion and generosity. And there is also the Ultimate view; where there are no others and no world. Only the mind of clear light, manifesting in the various illusions.”

This book really hit home for me; it’s easy to read,  is filled with wisdom but also some funny parts that I could recognize from my own path. It’s written in a way that shows Naropa’s own point of view and the hardships he went through to humble himself enough to receive the teachings of Tilopa. Also, there are some direct “pointers to the moon” by Tilopa at the very end of the book.

* The Life of Milarepa

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“It presents a quest for purification and buddhahood in a single lifetime, tracing the path of a great sinner who became a great saint. It is also a powerfully evocative narrative, full of magic, miracles, suspense, and humor, while reflecting the religious and social life of medieval Tibet.

I have heard this book three times on audio, and it actually only gets better each time. The words are collected and written down by Tsangnyön Heruka (“The madman Heruka from Tsang”), and tells the story of Milarepa‘s physical and spiritual journey towards enlightenment. It’s written in quite a humorous way, I think, and has been very inspirational for me. Actually planning on hearing/reading it again very soon!

2)

* White Lotus: An explanation of the Seven Line prayer to Guru Padmasambhava

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“Mipham Rinpoche’s famous explanation of the Seven Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche. In this remarkable text the author explains the Seven Line Prayer in the context and application of the main practices of the Nyingma school, including Trekchö and Tögal in an exceptionally clear and accessible manner. ”

Actually found this book as a free pdf file HERE!

* Lady of the Lotus-born: The life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal

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“This classical text is not only a biography but also an inspiring example of how the Buddha’s teaching can be put into practice. Lady of the Lotus-Born interweaves profound Buddhist teachings with a colorful narrative that includes episodes of adventure, court intrigue, and personal searching.”

I ordered this book from Amazon about a week ago; patiently waiting for it to drop into my mail box! I have been fascinated by, and feel very close to, Yeshe Tsogyal for the last 6 months or so, so am very excited to start reading this book. I normally order books to my Kindle app, but there is something very nice about having the book physically in your hands too 🙂 Especially if you are in a coffee shop reading, which I often do.

* Sky Dancer: The secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal

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Another book on Yeshe Tsogyal. Not much on this book when I google it, but still seems worth reading and easy to order for my Kindle app. The cover shows a picture of Vajrayogini/Naljorma – one of Yeshe Tsogyal’s aspects.

* The Life of Longchenpa: The Omniscient Dharma King of the Vast Expanse

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“Compiled from numerous Tibetan and Bhutanese sources, including Longchenpa’s autobiography and stories of his previous lives and subsequent rebirths, The Life of Longchenpa weaves an inspiring and captivating tale of wonder and magic, of extraordinary visions and spiritual insight, set in the kingdoms of fourteenth-century Tibet and Bhutan. It also reveals for the first time fascinating details of his ten years of self-exile in Bhutan, stories that were unknown to his Tibetan biographers.”

Since I loved The Life of Milarepa so much, I have been looking for more biographies on spiritual teachers to read, and stumbled upon this one on Longchenpa, a teacher from the Nyingma lineage. These kinds of biographies seems to be very inspiring and motivational for my own path, and I just generally enjoy reading about other people’s path, and the way they deal with hardships and challenges. Still have not ordered this one, but it’s on my list!

3)

* The Heart of Compassion: The thirty seven verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva

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“What would be the practical implications of caring more about others than about yourself? This is the radical theme of this extraordinary set of instructions, a training manual composed in the fourteenth century by the Buddhist hermit Ngulchu Thogme, here explained in detail by one of the great Tibetan Buddhist masters of the twentieth century, Dilgo Khyentse.

Only just started on this one, think I am on page 4. I have been meaning to read Dilgo Khyentse’s autobiography Brilliant Moon for some time, but then I stumbled upon this book instead and will finish this before I start on the other. Dilgo Khyentse is by far one of the most inspirational buddhist teachers I know of, so looking forward to see if I like this text.

* Wild Ivy: The spiritual autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin

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“Hakuin Zenji (1689-1769) is a towering figure in Japanese Zen. A fiery and dynamic teacher and renowned artist, he reformed the Zen Rinzai tradition, which had fallen into stagnation and decline in his time, revitalizing it and ensuring its survival even to our own day. Hakuin emphasized the importance of zazen, or sitting meditation, and is also known for his skillful use of koans as a means to insight.”

I am, unfortunately, a very slow reader and have spent a few months on this book, but I really do like it and plan on finishing it. It’s filled with personal accounts of Hakuin and also some lovely calligraphy paintings.

* More than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory

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As the title implies, this is a book about polyamory. As a person who is relatively new to this kind of relationship structure, I thought I could use some pointers. Only read the introduction so far, but it seems promising.

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If you have any books to recommend, please do not hesitate to comment or link it to me 😀

Health, Spirituality, Yoga

Tantric yoga and chronic illness

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I got a question in my comment section if I could write a little bit about what effect tantric yoga has had on my health, and this made my head spin with ideas about what I should write because I think I have something to share and I am always happy to talk about my yogic and dharmic practice, it being a big part of my life. I wrote a post earlier this year about my health/illness, but I will just mention again what kind of health struggles I have to make a context.

So, in 2010 I came down with a serious viral infection (mononucleosis caused by Epstein-Barr virus) which left me very ill. I have had some health issues almost all my life (IBS, migraine, eczema), but this was a big blow to my immune system and gave me lots of symptoms: brain fog, muscles pain, headaches, worsening of IBS (more stomach problems), sleep problems, weight loss, hair loss, extreme fatigue, vision problems, terrible memory, numbness in certain areas of my body, dizziness, mood swings, adrenal exhaustion, thyroid imbalance, dry itchy skin, cold extremities….the list goes on, but lets just leave it at that 🙂 Losing my energy and health also made me lose most of my social life/relationships and this of course made me very isolated. So no doubt it affected my mental health/mood as well.

Hatha-Yoga

In 2011 I started doing physical yoga, more specifically hatha yoga. I signed up for a course in town and I remember feeling really good afterwards! It was like I found back to an old activity I had done many times before. I loved the asanas (poses/movements) and the pranayama (breathing exercises), and I came in touch with my body for the first time in….well, forever. What is also so great about physical yoga is that you work with the body and not pushing it too much like you would pumping iron in the gym. I adopted the exercises to my daily routine, even if I was bedbound I could do something simple like yoga nidra (systematically going through and relaxing the body in your mind) or just moving hands or feet to make the blood flow.

I did hatha yoga on and off for many years, until I stumbled upon awakening and tantric yoga in January  2016. It was quite different from the yoga I had been doing so far; mostly focusing on the body and not so much the mind. As I understand tantric yoga in my own experience, you work with mantras and vizualisations to transform the dualistic mind. You ‘invite’ energy  into your body, mind and aura through specific practices so that karmic imprints, patterns and subconscious mindstates can be processed and thus cleared. This sounds strange at first, at least I thought so. But still, there was no doubt that it worked, and still does, as I do the practice every day.

 

After I started doing tantric yoga, the illness has been easier to handle; it’s like I see it from a very different perspective because doing these kinds of energetic practices transforms a lot of my feelings around the illness, but also deeper stuff. And as the lid of fear and feelings about being ill slowly has been lifted, the illness itself is easier to address. It is also my belief that chronic illness is not necessarily forever. “Chronic” means “long term”, and I don’t think or hope I will have these health issues for the rest of my life. I also think that the practices has a direct impact on transforming how the illness acts in the body, as I have felt lighter and not as fatigued after starting tantric practice.

When it comes to long term illness and dharmic/yogic practice, I’m going to very cliché and say that balance is key. If you feel too sick some days to practice for 2 hours then maybe 15 minutes is enough. But I feel it is very important to do at least a little bit every day, not lose practice completely (which I have in some periods) and to always keep in mind why you are doing it. I often think about my own motives for doing anything, perhaps sometimes also overthinking it, but I feel when it comes to this, it is becoming easier to find the discipline to practice as the years pass because I see the benefits and my motivation is simple and clear: I wish to get well so that I may benefit others. And I don’t wish to be ill anymore.

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Mon 🙂

Art, Spirituality

Rainbow

 

This was a very fun project to do. I got an order to make a rainbow body/sambhogãkaya representation in the form of swirling rainbow light in primary colors (the five elements), with a simple black circle. It was a challenge to get the different colors in the same size and had to do most of it freehand, but it turned out super nice and whole image seems to have movement which was the goal. It took about 7-8 hours in total, and each color has 4 layers to not make it look streaky. The person who ordered it seemed very pleased with the result and seeing someone else appreciate my work is priceless. Thank you.

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50 x 50, acrylic on stetched canvas. Simple yet powerful.