Sacred China: Pilgrimage to Guanyin

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Announcing a rare opportunity to journey to China next September to visit sites sacred to the Goddess of Compassion, Guanyin.  We will travel together as a small group of pilgrims and practice mindfulness to enhance our receptivity, wisdom and compassion.

The image above is from the Dazu grottos where we will see many beautiful statues and reliefs carved into caves and cliff sites.  These sacred images  from the 7th – 13 centuries are well preserved and still have their original paint.  We will also visit Anyue, Qingcheng and the island of Putuoshan, dedicated to Guanyin since the 9th century.

For more information on this pilgrimage, lead by Deborah Bowman and sponsored by True Nature Journeys, click this link: Sacred China.

For those of you looking for an armchair experience and lots of photos of these rare site, stay tuned to this blog in the coming months!

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.”

~ Tao te Ching

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Making a Buddha: Women in Mandalay

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Therefore, the practice of generosity is about creating space.  We see our limits and we extend them continuously and consciously, joyfully, which creates an expansiveness and spaciousness of mind that’s deeply composed.

Sharon Salzberg

On one side of this narrow road in Mandalay men used power tools and chisels to carve the forms of many Buddhas and on the other side of the road women refined the figures by shaping the details and polishing the stone.  I was drawn to the gentle touch and concentration of these women.  They appeared generous in spirit and deeply composed like the Buddhas they were creating.

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TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

Free: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

The Floating Market: Mindful Beauty

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Mindfulness enables us to cultivate a different quality of attention, one where we relate to what we see before us not just as an echo of the past or a foreshadowing of the future, but more as it is right now.  Here too we find the power of kindness because we can connect to things as they are.                                    ~ Sharon Salzberg

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Sharon’s quote brings us to the here and now.  We can see the beauty in simple things, the fruits of our labor and the tranquility of rest.  I was struck by these images in at the floating market, a place where chaos can seem to reign until you notice the details.

Each individual paddling her or his boat was attentive in the crowded canal to every other person and their needs.  The boats full of fruit or vegetables were objects of art, the empty boats like fallow fields. I felt blessed to be brought to moments of contemplation in the bustle of the market place.

IMG_4653Thank you for your continued support and subscriptions to Follow the Female Buddha.

Best wishes in the New Year,

Deborah

www.thefemalebuddha.com 

The Heart of Liberation And Love

I am experiencing and cultivating an opening of my heart that allows for tenderness, for forgiveness, for a deep listening to others and myself. Kwan Yin has been part of this opening.
-Sandy Boucher

This is an excerpt from the introduction to

The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love – to be published in 2012

Twenty years ago I dreamt I was walking in a large English garden in which there were three towering figures of female Buddhas carved out of black stone. Each was over 100 feet tall sitting peacefully in meditation.  In awe, I walked between them on quiet, carefully tended pathways. The wonder and serenity I felt in the presence of these majestic figures are indelible in my memory.

Coming at a time of great upheaval in my life, this dream was a spiritual landmark.  Outwardly, I was counseling a large group of psychology students, trying to help them find a school in which they could complete their studies since their college was collapsing – it was about to close.  Inwardly, I wrestled with the responsibility of leadership.   Although I was no longer one of their teachers, I had willingly accepted the presidency of the college, a dying institution, in order to find a new home for their degree program.   At the end of long days, overwhelmed by the loss of a community of learners, I often dissolved in tears of sadness.

Within weeks of this dream, I began conversations with a Buddhist-inspired college, Naropa Institute.  Interest on both sides quickly blossomed into planning sessions and within four months our displaced students were enrolling in a newly developed program that merged our transpersonal emphasis with comprehensive meditation and mindfulness practice. While I had previously studied and practiced Buddhism, over the course of my time at what is now Naropa University, I was led to make a personal commitment to the Buddhist path.  Not only had the dream presaged my inner journey, it provided confirmation of the outer collaboration with Naropa as well.

On a deeper, archetypal level, I believe the female Buddhas reflect a progressive ripening of the consciousness of humankind. Dreams often show us what we are ignoring within ourselves, whether it is our potential, our wounds or our folly. As a psychologist, I have been witness to the profound impact of dreams of the Black Madonna on my clients and the tremendous love she represents to those who dream of her.  From the Western Christian tradition, I believe she is an embodied image much like the female Buddhas in my dream.

The three figures in the garden came to me as feminine symbols representing the heart of Buddhist teachings.  At the time of my distress I was not yet tapping into this gentle yet strong, resource of wisdom.  It took their towering manifestation in my dream to rouse me to greater consciousness.  Seventeen years later, in traveling through Asia, I discovered the female Buddha’s ubiquitous presence in the form of Guanyin[i], a feminine icon of the enlightened heart and mind.


[i] The spelling of Guanyin in this text is in the Pinyin style. Pinyin is now considered the standard for Chinese Mandarin in Mainland China and Taiwan.  Kwan Yin and Quan Yin are considered Cantonese spellings derived from Hong Kong and Southern parts of China and are also in common usage in the West.

Your Best Medicine: Self-care and a Hot Bath

Any recommended methods or medicines that enable us to strengthen body and mind can be seen as inseparable from the teachings and instructions of the Buddha.

— Khandro Rinpoche

What isn’t labeled “spiritual” in your life yet contributes to a deeper understanding of yourself and the world?  Share your quirky and/or best medicine for healing and wholeness. 

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I’ve been writing every day this week on emotional topics and it’s time to get in some very hot water…and relax.  This is one of my favorite medicines for the Perls adage to “lose your mind and come to your senses.”

A really hot bath stops the mental chatter.  Thoughts don’t have a chance for the first several minutes of immersion.  I’m feeling heat on every square inch and delighting in the silence.  When the occasional thought starts to simmer up its movement is slow and dissipates like the steam.

My favorite time is after dark with the lights out and the window open to the cool night air. Citrus or lavender bath salts add pungency to the vapors and help anchor me in the sense realm.

If I enter jagged from a day of too much caffeine a good half hour in the water leaches out most of the poison.  The same goes for any generalized anxiety or frustration circulating in my veins.  If sadness bubbles up it’s easier to breathe through it.

I’m generally an idea person whose mind travels to the future.  Hot water puts a damper on the endless parade of possibilities.  If I stay long enough for the water to begin to cool I notice pandering to a little planning. It’s time to reach for the tap for another heat-inducing reverie.

A bath gives the blood flow in my hands and feet a boost on cold winter nights when my extremities will just not warm up.  Those nights I sleep a little better with the tension in my muscles and joints melted like cheese on a patty.

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.

The simple pleasures of getting two hands in the dirt, feeling the swish of water or the tingling of snow are our birthright.  It’s the way I connect to the natural world both inside and out.

What is your best medicine?