TedX Boulder: Falling into Grace

 

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Deborah Bowman presents lessons learned from a climbing accident.

Some nights, stay up until dawn, like the moon does for the sun.Be a full bucket, pulled up the dark way of a well, then lifted into the light.                     Rumi

After my fall, I was lifted up by the grace of presence itself. Yet I recognize this lifting up as something we must do daily to stay awake to the gifts we are given.

There is no way to come up the well but the dark way.  We blow it, in big ways and small, and we suffer real consequences. We need examine our failings and our fears and then let them go.  May all of us, you and I, be a bucket full of lessons, overflowing with wisdom and love.

Click here to listen to Deborah’s 2014 TedX talk!

Click here to read more of Deborah’s articles about psychotherapy and healing.

Click here to learn about the Journey of the Feminine retreat in Costa Rica.

My Heart is the Color of Blossoms

Japanese dolls

Japanese dolls

I’ll be changing into

My summer robes today

But my heart is

Still stained with

The color of spring blossoms.

Rengetsu

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Free video of Boulder Bookstore talk, April 2013

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http://www.thefemalebuddha.com

The Female Buddha book

The Female Buddha book

Poetry of Women Chinese Chan Masters: Ziyong

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I still recall, how with my bag on a pole,

I forgot my yesterdays,

Wandering the hills, played in the waters,

went to the land of the clouds.

The lift of an eyebrow, the blink of an eye–

all of it is samadhi;

In this great world there is nowhere that is

not a wisdom hall.

Ziyong

I took this photo at the monastic center of the Luminary Order of nuns in Taipei on the first day I arrived in the country.  This order has been described by American scholars as a “quiet” feminist center of activity.  During the five days I spent in Taiwan they guided me to sites where miracles occurred at or near Guanyin statues.      You can read more about the rise of Guanyin East and West in my new article in elephant journal on Celebrating the Divine Feminine.

The poet Ziyong was a Chinese Buddhist nun in the 18th century and an exceptional poet.  This poem was written on her year off from intense practice, teaching and administrative duties as the abbess of numerous monastic sites.  During her time off she wandered the countryside and mountains as her poem suggests.

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Last weekend a gathering of 12 women joined me in contemplating other poems and verses of the wise women of the Buddhist tradition.  We meditated, made art and shared tender stories of our own struggles, insights and awakenings.  The time together at this Female Buddha workshop was declared “Transformational!”  Please stay in touch for the next workshop announcement at http://www.thefemalebuddha.com.

Books available at www.thefemalebuddha.com or www.amazon.com

Book imageAvailable at www.thefemalebuddha.com or www.amazon.com

Chiyo-ni, Haiku Master and the Watermoon

Watermoon Guanyin, Sanyi, Taiwan

I also saw the moon

and so I say goodbye

to this world

Chiyo-ni

In Japanese poetry the moon is often a reference to enlightenment.  In this death poem by Buddhist nun Chiyo-ni, she expresses her final words to the world and her experience of awakening.  Is it a glimpse?  A continuous state of mind?

As one of the great haiku poets of her time, Chiyo-ni expresses a sense of wakefulness in all her poems with sublime beauty and metaphor.  She wrote her first poem at age six and spent her life devoted to the arts of 18th century Japan.

In my garden

starflowers bloom

come and see.

Chiyo-ni, age 6

While her choice to become a Buddhist nun came later in her life after the death of her husband, the temple near her home was purported to be a strong influence in her life.  Her devotion to the wonder of the world and freshness of vision is apparent in all her works.

Chiyo-ni studied in the tradition of Basho and is considered to be one of the great haiku masters of all time.  She studied with many masters in his lineage and is one of the few women recognized for her work in her lifetime.

Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi translated her voice in 1998 with precision and care in Chiyo-no: Woman Haiku Master. While the book is already out of print and only available used or as a rare copy it is still sought after by those who love her work.

I’ve paired my photograph of the Watermoon Guanyin with her poem as the reference to the ephemeral reflection of the moon in the water is a commonly used metaphor in Buddhism to represent impermanence.  It seems the arts best captures the exquisitely luminous quality of our fleeting experience.

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           THE FEMALE BUDDHA

          WORKSHOP

             Boulder, CO     Feb. 9-10, 2013      $185

             Sat. 9:30 – 12:30, 2 – 5, &  Sun. 9:30 – 1

Deborah will share stories & slides of Guanyin and we will connect the dots to her inspiration and our lives through personal reflection & sharing. Contemplations on the images & quotes in The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love bring us closer to the wisdom and compassion of Guanyin.

Click here for more information.

www.thefemalebuddha.com

 

Be the Lotus: Emerging From the Mire

Lotus Buds

Don’t you know that afflictions are nothing more

than wisdom?

And that the purest of blossoms emerges from

the mire?

  Benming

Lotus Buds, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus represents the interdependent nature of samsara and nirvana, or suffering and enlightenment. Blooming out of the muck and mire of worldly existence into a pure, beautiful flower, the lotus blossom represents the enlightened mind.  The lotus bud symbolizes inner purity and our potential to awaken at any moment.

Lotus Bud Bouquets, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus buds have begun to open and will be bought by individuals and families to offer at temple sites through out Bangkok.
Mother and Daughter offering Lotus Flowers

Mother and Daughter Offerings, Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok

These two women offer individual lotus blossoms, incense and candles at an altar to Guanyin within the Royal Palace complex in Bangkok.  The presence of Guanyin figures at sites in Thailand is seen in large cities where Chinese practitioners also come to visit. Guanyin is becoming an important figure for a growing number of Thai women.

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Dear friends,

The Female Buddha book is available this Christmas!

You can receive a signed gift copy by donating through the Indigogo Campaign beginning Nov 1. through Dec 7.  Other valuable gifts include notecards, photographic prints and a weekend workshop in February.

Go to www.thefemalebuddha.com to see the offerings. Be the first to receive a book  and support a great cause.

Yours most appreciatively, Deborah

P.S. don’t miss the Discovering the Female Buddha slide presentation and lecture in Boulder on Fri, Nov 2, 7 – 9 pm.  READ MORE

Deborah Bowman with Guanyin statue

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see more images at www.thefemalebuddha.com  or  www.luminousbuddha.com

A Mother Meets the Buddha: Patacara

Patacara statueThis photo of Patacara is taken in Thailand at Songdhammakalyani Monastery where 12 statues are placed of the foremost Theri (elder nuns) from the time of the Buddha.  

The next photo is from the same monastery of clay sculptures of the Theri by Venerable Dhammananda.  

The last photo shows Rev. Dhammananda and the sisters of the monastary meditating under a Medicine Buddha.

   

Last night I delivered a speech about Patacara to the 2012 graduating class of Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University.  I learned several members of the class would sing Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Paul Simon right before my talk.  Those students inspired the beginning of my speech:

Our job as transpersonal psychotherapists is to be that bridge over troubled waters and to help others to learn to ease their minds.  Our job is also to inspire the depths that are possible below those troubled waters, where the peace of our greatest nature resides.

In an ancient Chinese text, the TaoTe Ching, an old sage expressed it this way:

Some say my teachings are nonsense.

Others call them lofty yet impractical

But for those who have looked inside themselves,

This nonsense makes perfect sense.

And to those who have put it into practice,

this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:

simplicity, patience and compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and thoughts,

you return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,

You accord with the way things are.

Compassionate towards yourself,

you reconcile all beings in the world.***


Therigatha statues

Simple in our thinking as we start to drop some of our mind chatter and insecurities.  Instead of our ranting or babbling with others, simply saying, “I’m sad or angry and I need support” or “I hear how much pain you are in.”

Patient towards all parts of ourselves, towards the differences of others and what we don’t understand.

Compassionate. Trusting compassion is our basic nature.  When we look within and put compassion into practice our world is righted and we see a human being where we once saw a wrong.

I’d like to share a story on this day before Mother’s day about a mother who lost everything, went mad and then found a bridge over troubled waters.

Her name is Patacara and she lived some 2500 years ago in ancient India.   She was making the traditional trip home to her parents to birth her second child.

The baby came midway on the journey and while her husband struggled to make a shelter in a storm he was bit by a poisonous snake and died.

Continuing her journey both her sons died as she attempted to cross a river.

When she came to the town of her family she discovered her parents and brother died when their house collapsed in a fire. The ashes were still smoldering.

Mad with grief she wandered about walking in circles and tearing at her cloths. As a ragged and now homeless person people threw trash at her.

Sitting with the Medicine Buddha

One day she entered a grove where the Buddha was teaching and the audience attempted to keep her away.  Nevertheless the Buddha approached her and said “Sister, recover your presence of mind.”

Her mind became clear at that moment and after hearing his words of wisdom she asked to be ordained.  On the spot he left the audience and  took her to a community of nuns where she was accepted.

Here is a poem by Patacara of her later enlightenment in a moving translation by Anne Waldmen, one of the founders of our Writing and Poetics program:

Young Brahmins plough fields,

sow seeds,

nourish their wives and children,

get wealthy

Why can’t I find peace?

I’m virtuous

comply with the teacher

not lazy or puffed up

One day washing my feet

I watched the water as it

trickled down the slope

I fixed my mind

the way you’d

train a thoroughbred horse

Later, taking my lamp

I enter my cell

sit on my bed and

watch the flame

I extinguish the wick

with a needle

The release of my mind

is like the quenching of the lamp

O the nirvana of the little lamp!

Patacara expresses frustration in this verse yet describes how she returns to a simple practice with patience.  No longer tearing her cloths to shreds or the facets of her mind she finds the compassion that has no boundaries.

The moment the lamp is extinguished so is her final suffering.  Her peace is the bliss of nirvana.

Patacara went on to become a great teacher and many expressed their appreciation her for being their own bridge over troubled waters.

We have a lot to celebrate today.  You’ve followed your own emotional, mental and spiritual path of development these past 3 or 4 years.

You’ve shared what you’ve learned of simplicity, patience and compassion with your clients in internship.  You bring your presence of mind to your work and invite others onto the same path.  This is the transpersonal path.

Now you are about to make your own journey as healers into the world.  I speak for all the staff and faculty of Naropa University in wishing you many, many blessings on your journey.

***translation by Stephen Mitchell

All photos by Deborah Bowman

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

For the 2008 Naropa University graduation speech go to www.luminousbuddha.com

More Poems from Rengetsu: Touching in and Letting Go

To forget the chill of

The frozen hearth

I spend the night

Dreaming of gathering

Violets in a lush field.

 

The Japanese nun Rengetsu gathers violets in every poem she writes.  In the poem Winter Dreams she captures moments by plucking the petals of her memories one magic moment at a time.

 

To recall the verdant colors of spring in the depth of winter is an expression of faith in the seed of Buddha-nature and the lush field of our heart and mind.

 

When the Dalai Lama describes emptiness as fullness he helps us grasp the fertility of space.  The violets arise against an empty palette, fill the canvas as we gather them in a beautiful bouquet and disperse in the next sweet, sad lapse of time.

 

The evanescence of

This floating world

I feel over and over:

It is the hardest

To be the one left behind.

 

In Thirty Years After my Husband’s Death we enter into a loving sanctum as she reflects on her loss and feast in the vastness of her broken open heart. Her words dance on the razors edge of bliss and emptiness, one image a flash of ecstasy, the next of letting go.

 

 

Clad in back robes

I should have no attractions to

The shapes and scents of this world

But how can I keep my vows

Gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?

 

Set against the autumnal blaze of the maple leaves Rengetsu’s non-attachment to the effervescent floating word is reflected in her black robe. We see through her contemplative eyes the brilliant juxtaposition of the longing of the human heart and clear awareness.

 

Who else but a poet could evoke the bounty of the void so well?  As a sky dancer her word play evokes a tango.  The seduction is so acute and the beauty so sublime. In this last poem, As a Nun Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn she touches in and lets go.  Touches in and lets go.    

 

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

Japanese Nun Rengetsu: A Poetic Movement of Mind


Western Kyoto temple grounds

Taking up the brush

Just for the joy of it,

Writing on and on,

Leaving behind

Long lines of dancing letters.

To escape into the world of writing is no escape.  I’m sitting in a plane about to launch for Japan reading Rengetsu’s word play.  She is one of the reasons why I endure long flights to see through the imagined eyes of another time and place.

Her five-line waka poem, The Pleasure of Calligraphy celebrates a rhythmic moment of flow, a movement of mind expressed in beauty.  She writes blissfully as ink captures the grace of nature at work in her discipline.

I write as if awkwardly learning a new language, two phrases forward and the next, scratched out.  I’m slowly learning to trust the flow of my mind: noting what thoughts pop forward, which get edited out.

The calligraphy of Rengetsu is masterful.  Her brushstrokes confident and rounded as if they were grass bending sensuously in the breeze.  Her hand is steady into her eighties.

I write in fits and starts. Pleased in the end that I’ve gotten anything coherent on paper.  Her genius is her total alignment with nature pure and direct.

She shatters my stereotype of the nun divorced from delight.  Her joy breaks all bounds as she fearlessly leaps off the page and into my heart.

The roar of the waterfall,

The howl of a

Mountain storm—

Will they shout out to me

Until morning?

In Mountain Retreat her words plunge over the abyss of my insomnia.  She implores us to pay attention to the deafening roar of our inherently wild nature.

I must listen to the terror lurking in my sleepless heart.  Rengetsu powerfully frames awakening with awe struck wonder. Here she portrays life in relentless yet captivating terms.

Her question points to our all too human fear.  Do I have the capacity?  Can I reside in the storm moment-to-moment?  Or will I contract into a dreaded future?

The choice to shout-out the beauty and the terror is ours.  In her poetic howl we can guess Rengetsu embraces the night with valor. I cannot resist her invitation to celebrate it all.

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

Realized Woman and Mother of the Buddha

I have been

mother,

son,

father,

brother,

grandmother;

knowing nothing of the truth

I journeyed on.

But I have seen the Blessed One;

this is my last body,

and I will not go

from birth to birth again.

            Mahapajipati

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Maya Giving Birth to Guatama from her side

                              photo by D. Bowman, Bangkok National Museum

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            When Pajapati was born she was recognized an exceptional child and it was predicted she would become a great leader or the wife of an emperor.  Many years later she and her sister Maya would become wives of the Sakya clan leader, Suddhodana.  Maya would give birth to a son Gautama, and like his aunt, it was predicted that he would be a great material or spiritual leader.  Maya died seven days after giving birth and Pajipati raised Gautama as her own.

We know the story of Guatama leaving his riches and royal standing for the life of a spiritual seeker.  After seven years and his final enlightenment under the Bodhi tree he returned home as an awakened one, the Buddha. His teachings electrified his family and eventually his father and son, Rahula, along with many of the men of the clan followed him.

Pajipati also wanted to follow her adopted son and sought his blessing to establish a nun’s group.  Turning her down, he went on to Vesali to continue his teachings.  Pajipati was not to be dismissed and along with a great gathering of 500 women, they donned the saffron robes and walked barefoot 150 miles to make another plea.

Three times the Buddha turned her down until Ananda interceded.  As a realized one and also a friend of the family he asked the Buddha, “Are women capable of leading the holy life and attaining liberation?”  The Buddha replied, “Yes, yes of course they are.”  Ananda then asked, “so why are you creating an obstacle for them?”  And the Buddha said, “Okay, so be it.”

In sharing this conversation between Ananda and the Buddha, Tenzin Palmo, a recognized teacher in the Tibetan tradition, states how this is the only recorded occasion when the Buddha changed his mind.

Pajipati, became known as Mahapajipati, or the great Pajipati.  She is recognized as the first woman leader of Buddhism and an awakened one, a Buddha herself.  Her words are recorded in the Therigatha, the songs of the elder women.  Speaking of her many lifetimes and her awakening the final words of this verse commemorate her sister Maya:

Maya gave birth to Gautama

for the sake of us all.

She has driven back the pain

of the sick and the dying.

                                          We can draw inspiration from Mahapajipati’s generosity, insight and determination. She is a mother of the Buddha and a realized teacher. Other realized women of the Therigatha sing her praises.   We are lucky to have their voices, the first recorded spiritual teachings of women in the history of the world.

~*~

WOMEN AND BUDDHISM: Talk and Slide Presentation with Deborah Bowman

October 28, 7-9, 100 Arapahoe Ave., Suite 6, Boulder, CO

Blossom — 7 Quotes and Articles

A deep week of #14Buddha posts has wrapped up and your comments and sharings in the blog comments, across Twitter and FB have been inspiring and greatly appreciated.

#14Buddha posts will take place every other day this week.

Please do continue to share your reflections and writings that are inspired by the women writers featured here at The Female Buddha.

Did you miss a post?  Highlights and links below….

“All of the sudden I woke from my hazy reverie. This was the photographic moment!
The statue was lovely yet these few minutes brought it to life. I had almost missed it.”

— September 19th

“Here is one of my worst habits and a true confession.  I don’t exercise my photography muscle and find myself at square one every year when I go overseas to shoot in Asia, the land of amazing photo opportunities.”

September 20th

“For years after the accident I dreamt of climbing down anything and everything vertical.  My spiritual work was to come down to earth and to be in my body.”

September 21st

“She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. ”

September 22nd

“Laying down and closing my eyes the sun melted my last resistance. Then hearing a birdcall, I sat up and looked across the lake where a massive cottonwood was speaking to me.”

September 23rd

“Taking the extra time for self-care can seem like an indulgence but it rights my world. A bath or a walk in the woods provides alone time in a supportive, sensual environment. Digging weeds in the garden is a great alternative.”

September 24th

“The mental computer loops through tasks while I practice coming back to my breath again and again. I always imagined I was 180 degrees different from the engineering lineage of my grandfather, father, uncles and brother…”

September 25th

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This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.