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10 Takeaways from The Birth of the Warrior

It is hardly necessary, or even necessarily recommended, to follow up Shambhala Level One with Shambhala Level Two: The Birth of the Warrior as quickly as I did. Level Two was offered in April and would not be available again for a year, by which time I hope to have cleared out of Chicago, so I took the plunge.

Level Two is a far different experience. It's darker. It's tougher. It's more draining. Its gifts may seem like burdens at the time – their power emerges through talks with teachers and personal reflection afterward.

1. Level Two focuses on a technique called “Tight,” a slight variation on the standard Shambhala sitting practice. Instead of turning the gaze somewhat outward, it rests on the knees. Instead of labeling thoughts and whisking them away, they are examined for evidence of personal patterns. This almost inevitably leads to tackling and embracing ones darkest darkness – it did for me, at least.

2. Sweet Sakyong, that was a whole lot of sitting. Hours at a time, with brief breaks for walking meditation. Over that weekend, my mind and body went through the wringer. But it wasn't all pain all the time.

3. At times, I burned alive with rage.

4. I am generally analytical, forgiving, and apt to blame most of my outward hostility on psychological projection.

5. Nonetheless, I am deeply afraid that I am surrounded by nasty, infantile monsters. Although I am beginning to grok basic goodness, part of me still wonders if it's a sucker bet.

6. Thus, I have build a cocoon out of sticky, staticky, surprisingly strong and Black Iron Prison-ish personal patterns. To protect myself.

7. Familiar old songs serve this. As I sat, they got lodged in my head. Music is all about patterns and measuring time, and the golden oldies give me a persuasive but ultimately false sense that I am grounded in a past and an identity.

8. Quiet desperation and resentment do this, too.

9. I am a recovering addict and alcoholic. I deeply, deeply resent loudmouth drunks and their selfish antics. These people include some of those closest to me. At times, deep down, I violently despise them. I am nowhere near out of the woods.

10. There is more than this. Fear and fearlessness are not opposites. Seeing beyond this cocoon takes a whole lot of both.

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