GAR 86 | Tibetan Teachings

 

Claire Villareal is a Buddhist dharma teacher with a focus on bringing Tibetan wisdom into modern life. She began meditating in 1997 and has spent much time in both personal and group retreat since 1999, making trips to Thailand, India, and Nepal to study and meditate in traditional settings in those countries, with pilgrimages to Tibet. She earned her doctorate in Religious Studies from Rice University in Houston with a dissertation that explored contemplative ways of knowing and how they speak to the contemporary academic study of mysticism. Claire is a former Programs Director for Dawn Mountain Center for Tibetan Buddhism in Houston, TX and she is also a former board member for Compassionate Houston. She is currently a member of the Gen X dharma teachers’ community and a faculty fellow at the Jung Center in Houston, TX.

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Claire Villareal: What Can Tibetan Teachings On Reincarnation Teach Us About Living Well, And How Are Life Transitions Like Rebirths?

 

 

 

 

 

I am delighted to welcome Claire Villarreal, who is a Buddhist Dharma teacher with a focus on bringing Tibetan wisdom into modern life. Claire will be speaking to us from Quebec. Claire began meditating in 1997 and has spent much time in both personal and group retreats since 1999. She has made trips to Thailand, India, and Nepal to study and meditate in traditional settings in those countries with pilgrimages to Tibet.

She earned her Doctorate in Religious Studies from Rice University in Houston with a dissertation that explored contemplative ways of knowing and how they speak to the contemporary academic study of mysticism. Claire is a former Programs Director for Dawn Mountain Center for Tibetan Buddhism in Houston, Texas, and she is also a former board member for Compassionate Houston. She is a member of the Gen X Dharma Teachers’ Community and a faculty fellow at the Jung Center in Houston, Texas.

I’m looking forward to talking with Claire about the paranormal experiences she experienced following her mom’s passing, how practicing what is known as the Dharma has supported her during both difficult and peak moments in her life, what the Tibetan teachings on reincarnation can teach us about living well, the book she’s writing on Buddhist basics for everyday life, and more. This will surely be an unusually enlightening and very interesting interview that can help each of us cultivate greater peace and joy in our lives. Claire, a heartfelt welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I hope this does help everyone cultivate peace and joy both.

Your countenance is filled with peace and joy. It’s a pleasure to talk with you. You feel that beautiful vibe.

Thank you so much. That’s so beautiful.

Let’s start with this question. Please tell us about your mom’s passing in 2007 and the paranormal experiences you had that led you to the study of reincarnation, and illustrate the ideas of life transitions as rebirths. Were you originally a very religious person, Claire?

I was raised in the Church of Christ, which is a fundamentalist Protestant sect. When I was young, the whole idea of God and the divine spoke to me. As I got older, I started to realize like, “This bit doesn’t make sense and that bit doesn’t make sense.” By the time I got to college as an eighteen-year-old, I was done with the old and ready for something new.

What happened with your mom? Your mom passed in 2007. Where were you in your life? What happened that led you to the study of reincarnation?

By that point, I had already been Buddhist for ten years, if my math is right. The study and the practice of the Dharma were important to me, but I wouldn’t say I believed in reincarnation or anything beyond the physical realm. I would have said I was agnostic about it, but I didn’t really believe in it. What I experienced with my mom’s passing rocked my world. My world was already rocked to lose my mom. While she was passing away, I was focused on her, trying to support her and I felt all this sadness.

How old were you at that time?

I think I was 29 or 30. I walked outside from the room where she passed away later that afternoon. What happened was it felt like somebody opened a door, and I felt her joy that she was fine. She was on the other side, which is not the other. Maybe we can talk about that later.

Let’s talk about that because it’s right here.

It was the first time I got a lot of these teachings about the afterlife are not about after. They’re about who we are now, and we can get into that later.

It’s so much fun and it so applies to real life.

You’ve probably heard the idea of a phantom limb where somebody’s hand gets cut off but they still feel sensations as if they had a hand. I felt like that happened to me but spiritually. All of a sudden, I had gained this sensory apparatus on the so-called other side. I felt aware of what she was going through as she left that life. Over the next weeks and months, I felt it. Every now and then, I would get a flash of connection with her. I would get a little glimpse into what her process was as she left behind that lifetime.

What a blessing. Had you always been so sensitive to those things?

Not that I know of. Maybe as a kid, but this was the first time that I had that form of sensitivity. It blew my mind. It freaked me out if I’m being honest. At the same time, what I felt was so real. I was able to distinguish it from my own imagination because it took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to walk out and get hit with a wave of someone else’s experience. That was what cracked the door open for me to begin to start questioning in the first place.

That led you to the study of reincarnation, and the idea of life transitions is rebirth, which we need to talk about also. For people who don’t know, what do you mean when you’re getting into the Dharma?

I was getting into the study and the practice of Buddhism.

Is that called the Dharma? What does Dharma mean? What is that word that means something?

It is. It’s a very important word. It’s a Sanskrit word. For those who are familiar with Buddhism, you also hear the word Dharma in Pali. Basically, the word Dharma is shared between Buddhism, Hinduism, and some other Indian-based religions. What it means in a Buddhist context is the truth. It can also mean the path to the truth, the teachings of the truth. It’s about the orientation toward what is ultimately true and meaningful.

GAR 86 | Tibetan Teachings

Tibetan Teachings: Dharma means, in a Buddhist context, the truth. It can also mean the path to the truth or the teachings of the truth. So it’s really about orientation toward what is ultimately true and meaningful.

That makes a lot of sense. That’s the basis of Buddhism, which is 500 years old.

The Buddhist would say, “There’s Buddhist Dharma. There’s Christian Dharma. There’s Jewish Dharma. There’s Muslim Dharma.” Any path to truth is a Dharma path according to the way Buddhists see it.

That’s interesting. Tell us about Buddhism. How did it begin? How did it take more hold in the world and got The Four Noble Truths that are supposedly very relevant to life now?

Yes, they are.

It was very prescient. However, it’s still applied 2,500 years later.

As much as things have changed, there’s a lot that hasn’t. As you said, about 2,500 years ago, the person who became the Buddha was born in what’s now Nepal. According to the stories, he lived a life of luxury early on. His father was a king who had received a prophecy that his son would either become a great world-conquering monarch, which is what the king wanted for his son, or a great sage who would spread a new Dharma through the world, which the King did not want.

He was trying to keep him happy, not thinking about spiritual topics. The story goes that in his 29th year, Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, realized that there was suffering in the world. There was old age, sickness, and death, and that was inevitable. His spiritual quest was a quest to find the path beyond suffering. The story goes that he eventually wakes up to the nature of reality and begins teaching that. That’s what’s now known as the Buddhist Dharma. There’s a tremendous amount in those teachings. The Four Noble Truths that you mentioned are, first of all, this truth often gets translated as life is suffering, but it’s more accurate to say we’re never going to get life exactly the way we want it.

Until we wake up, we’re always going to find something wrong with our lives and be trying to fix it. The second noble truth is there’s a cause for that. There’s a cause for suffering and unsatisfactoriness. That is, at the root of it, the fact that we make mistaken assumptions about the world. It’s like if we had a map that didn’t match the territory. Every now and then, we’re going to drive into a tree or drive off the road or something.

I want to ask you what those mistaken assumptions are.

That’s the entire path, basically.

That’s the enlightened way.

It’s the fourth. The third noble truth is that there is an end to all suffering. If there’s a cause, if we stop creating the cause, the result eventually dies out. There’s an end to suffering. The fourth noble truth is the path. This is the path from where we are now to uprooting our mistaken assumptions about the world and coming to see what’s happening in front of us.

Can you give us an example of a mistaken assumption about the world that people learn that they are conceiving things incorrectly according to the Buddhist way?

The earliest schools of Buddhism talk about three core teachings. The first one is impermanence. Basically, it means each of us is constantly changing all the time. Every time I breathe in, I’m taking new molecules into my body. Every time I breathe out, there are molecules leaving. I’m constantly changing. The false assumption we have is that we’re more or less the same from one day to the next. That’s why when something happens and we change drastically or like COVID happens and our whole world changes, it’s so shocking because we expect everything to be the same. That’s the first of these important characteristics.

That makes a lot of sense, and people get angry because they don’t like change. It’s the one thing that’s constant. Everything changes.

In the Buddhist teachings, even Buddhism someday is going to fall apart and cease to exist because it’s a conditioned system. The second big thing, and this follows from the first one, is that we think who we are doesn’t change. We think there’s a continuity to us. Again, because of impermanence, we’re constantly changing. Every time we meet somebody, they change us a little bit. Not only that, but if I think of it as my body, I can’t control whether or not there’s cancer in my body now, or if I lose a limb, am I suddenly not me?

GAR 86 | Tibetan Teachings

Tibetan Teachings: We think who we are doesn’t really change, but because of impermanence, we’re constantly changing.

We have these mistaken assumptions about ourselves and everyone else around us that we’re going to stay more or less the same. That leads to the third characteristic of phenomena, which is we come back to the first noble truth that it’s never quite satisfactory because we’re assuming we’re a different type of being than what we are. We never are quite happy with ourselves. There are always 5 more pounds to lose or the roots of our hair are growing out. We need to dye it again or our vision’s getting worse. We’re always trying to tinker with the way things are. We always think we’re about to arrive in happiness, and we never quite arrive.

That’s interesting. There’s something else in Buddhism called the Bardo states. Their teachings on the Bardo state, do you want to enlighten us about that?

This is something that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition spends a lot of time on. You won’t necessarily hear the word Bardo in these other traditions of Buddhism, but what it means is it’s a Tibetan word that means in between. At the most fundamental teaching or level, the teaching of the Bardo states is that every single moment of our lives is in between the past and future. This very moment is the one time that’s real.

GAR 86 | Tibetan Teachings

Tibetan Teachings: The teaching of the Bardo states that every single moment of our lives is in between the past and the future.

It’s the one time that we have and in a larger perspective. That’s moment-by-moment teaching on the Bardo states. In the larger perspective, you could say, “One day is the time between when the sun rises, and when it sets.” There are all these times in between one thing and another. In the context of death and rebirth, which Tibetan Buddhism takes literally, I describe them as four Bardo states.

Different traditions talk about different numbers, but you can break them down into four. There’s the Bardo of Life, which begins when we’re born and ends when we start dying. There’s the Bardo of Death, so as our body starts to shut down during the death process, the teachings on this Bardo state describe what happens as we die. There’s the Bardo of Clear Light, which is the moment when all of our conventional sense of self or identity is completely gone, and only what Buddhists call our Buddha nature is left.

Is that our soul? When our soul leaves our body, would that be considered that?

It depends on what you mean by soul. Buddhism doesn’t talk about the soul so much as the mind. At the most subtle level, our mind is clarity and luminosity. There’s no word for it, but it’s that aspect of us that is sacred and connected to what’s sacred. We experience that fully. After that Bardo state comes the in-between period. We’ve completed the death process, but we haven’t been born yet. There’s this interesting state in between where we’re letting go of one life and we’re getting ready to go to the next, but it’s possible for anything to happen in that state. It’s called the Bardo of Becoming.

Are there records of people who have channeled what happened to them in those Bardo states? That would be interesting.

It is. Also, each of those states is related to different meditative practices and things like that. You’re basically practicing the whole process of death and rebirth, and people have experiences doing those meditations as well.

Tell me about this Buddhist concept of Dharma, which is clear seeing. How has that supported you? You’ve had difficult times and peak periods in your life. I can’t even get over that. How has that helped you with your life?

If I think about the period when my mom was sick and we knew she was going to die but it stayed on the horizon for a couple of years, for me, the teachings from the Buddhist tradition, specifically about impermanence, were helpful because our culture often says, “If only you had eaten better, exercised better, or meditated more, you could have prevented these things.” Buddhism says, “No, you can’t. We’re all going to get old. We’re all going to get sick and going to die.” I found it very comforting to have that super grounded perspective on reality that we can do our best and we should do our best, but some things are inevitable.

It takes you out of the dream or the fantasy. I had a conversation with someone. I wanted to say how important it was to be conscious until the day that you die. This woman jumped up and said, “Don’t talk to me about dying.” I was like, “Why? That’s not going to happen to you?”

Even me, I’ve spent all this time meditating on impermanence. I’ve lost my mom. Other important people in my life have died. I still sometimes find myself saying, “If I die, I’m going to die.”

It’s more on the legacy you’re going to leave while you’re here. What about your peak moments? How has it helped you with great times in your life? How has that colored your experience?

First of all, some of the peak moments of my life have happened on meditation retreats or because of practice, having access to these real states of peace, stillness, or love. What practice does is it clears away the obstacles to those peak moments.

You can feel them and enjoy them without anything blocking the way to them.

It makes it more likely that any moment might become a peak moment, that you notice the sunset and you take that half second to appreciate it. It’s all these little things in our life that are so easy to skip by them but they can bring us so much joy if we let them.

That’s wonderful. There’s a process, I understand, that helps our intention regarding who we want to be in our next phase of life. “Do we get to choose that? Do you mean I chose this whole thing?” What do the Tibetan teachings on reincarnation teach us about living well? What do they define as living well?

I want to underscore here that the Tibetan teachings on dying are teachings for living too. None of this is just about the death process. To me, what’s mind-blowing about these teachings is that if you take, for instance, the Bardo state in which we fully realize our true nature is beings of light. If that’s true, when we die, it’s true now. If we’re practicing to die, what we’re doing is living well because we’re reflecting on what’s important. We’re reflecting on, “What am I doing with my time today? Who do I care about?” I got off track from answering your question.

That’s all right, but I’m thinking about it because everyone who follows this show knows that I got that message about being loving and kind to everyone when they pulled me out of the car and all that. It made me very conscious. In some way, I’m living the Buddhist way. In everything I do now, I’m very conscious of my interactions with people. I’m authentic, but I choose how I want to process things. I am very aware of the consequences, repercussions, or the impact that it has on people. I would imagine that that is part of what Buddhism teaches.

Answer this. We’re on the other side and we say, “I was a funky person in this life. What do I want to be in the next phase of life?” Is that how it works? I know there’s karma. There are different things that come into. How do we manifest? How do we choose who we’re going to be in the next life? I’ve been told that I’ve been a young man for one lifetime. I’ve been told that I’ve been to different religions and all different things. How do we choose or figure that out before we manifest?

It’s a practical question to answer. The Buddhist answer is that we’re choosing now. There’s no sense during this Bardo state that we get to step back and decide with our rational mind what we’re going to do next. My favorite interpretation of karma is thinking about it like momentum. Whatever we’re putting our energy behind, we’re giving out the momentum of the attention of our focus in our life. Whatever we’re giving that to now, we’re going to keep on doing it.

Karma is like momentum. Whatever we're putting our energy behind, we're giving out the momentum of our attention and our focus. And we're just going to keep on doing it. Share on X

It’s not from a Buddhist perspective. It’s not that after we die, we get to choose, “Do I want this body or that body?” Whatever is comfortable and familiar to us from what we’re doing now is what we’re going to be drawn toward. You can see this even in one lifetime. What you’re interested in and what you’re comfortable with, you’re naturally going to gravitate toward that type of art or that type of music, those types of people, or whatever it is.

Like you’re saying, the more we can be aware of the choices that we’re making and the more we can be aware of our impact on ourselves and others, the more we’re consciously shaping. Maybe I want to stay committed to spiritual practice or maybe I want to stay committed to love and care. The values that we have are the things that we’re most likely to stay connected with even if we don’t control anything else. We don’t control anything, but it’s almost like investing in this bank account versus that one. We’re going to get drawn toward what we have the biggest investment in.

That leads me to a question. I’m one of them. I had a tough childhood and all that. Theoretically, on the other side or while I was in this in-between state, what I have chosen is I’m drawn to healing, so I’m going to go through this so that I can help guide people to healing. I have karma with these people. How does that work? How do you choose the people you come back to be with, or you don’t?

From a Buddhist perspective, we have these connections with each other that are powerful. From my understanding of the Buddhist teachings, it’s not the case that you decided at some point, “I want to choose a childhood with these kinds of difficulties.” Those people are familiar, you’ve loved them before, and you’re drawn to them. Everything that comes with them comes with that. The upside of it is going through difficulties can help you. The karma has come up, it’s ripened in your life, and now you’re done with it. Hopefully, next time you don’t have to do that same thing.

That sounds like a spectacular idea.

This is also where karma is so important because if we have that childhood and we never do anything to heal those wounds, and they stay with us and we’re creating that experience for someone else, it’s going to keep going. The work that you’re doing is so important. Not for physical healing but for healing those things that would otherwise keep coming back around again.

You spoke about the mission of the Show. This is why I’m doing this because I want people to know they have healing choices and they don’t have to stay so stuck, and come back for it again.

If it was just this life, that would be one thing. If we’re going to have to do this again and again until we get it right, it is time to invest some energy.

Is the timeline for reincarnating into a new life different for every soul? Do I decide I want a vacation over there for about 400 lifetimes and come back, or is someone who’s not been a nice person have to stay in a tree for a few centuries before they come back? How does that work?

There are different ways to answer this question. The first thing is, as a general rule, the Tibetan tradition says it takes about 49 days from the time someone dies until the time they’re reborn. It could be less or more. The other thing is, in the Buddhist tradition, there’s no rebirth as a human. Say that you had a difficult time of it this time but you cleared out a lot of that karma. You’ve done a lot of purification and you’re drawn to rest for a while.

There are heavenly realms, so if you have the karma for that, maybe that’s where you would take birth. There are 49 days of human time. That doesn’t mean it’s 49 days of experiential time for some other realm. Maybe that time for you feels like forever and it gives you an opportunity to resolve some things, let go of things, and get ready to move on.

There are also stories about people who don’t realize they’re dead and don’t move on. You might say that that person took rebirth, as what we might call in the West, as a ghost or something. They were stuck. It varies, but for the 49 days after someone dies, people will do practices for them to try and help them through that Bardo state. They’ll do as much as possible to support them energetically.

When a medium contacts a person on the other side, they could have reincarnated, but they’re contacting the essence of who they are that’s still on the other side. Is that correct? Have I got that right?

That would be my interpretation. There’s not a strong tradition of mediumship that I’m aware of like in Buddhist cultures. There’s a lot of divination and things like that, but often people are contacting other types of beings. What I find plausible personally is modeled on Chinese and African beliefs that there’s a part of us that when we die, our body is just dead. There’s another part of us that can go on to become an ancestor or somehow stay with the people we love. There might be another part still that reincarnates into a new body. It depends on how you understand time.

There’s no real timeline on the other side.

It’s hard for us to even understand with our ordinary minds, but my sense of things is we experience time in a linear way because of our brains and the type of organisms we are. I don’t think that’s the only way time goes. Tibetan Buddhism talks about this where there’s this word which means primordial, like from the beginning, a realm without time. It makes sense.

We experience time in a linear way because of our brains and the type of organism we are, but that's not necessarily the only way time goes. Share on X

For instance, when my mom died, she had all this love for her children and her family. There’s some echo of that that gets left behind. Maybe she did go on to reincarnate, or maybe she’s done. Maybe she woke up to the nature of reality and doesn’t have to come back anymore in a powerless way. I don’t have one answer, but it’s an interesting question.

We talk to so many people, and I hear a lot about the part of the soul that is on the other side that we can reincarnate. Even if someone you love has reincarnated, you can still connect with them and all that things. Tell us about the Buddhist path to enlightened awakening.

Through suffering or through their lives, some people accidentally have awakenings, but the Buddhists, exactly. Often, if it comes through loss or grief, you didn’t choose that. The Buddhist path presents a way of gradually letting go. If you’re familiar with Buddhism, you might have heard about what’s called the Noble Eightfold Path. It’s a set of eight teachings to help us progress from here to awakened existence. They fall into three categories. There’s wisdom or awakening. There’s ethics or morality. There’s concentration or meditation, how we focus our mind to be aware to allow us to develop wisdom and develop our ethical behavior.

The idea is the Buddha’s teachings are there to help us begin to question our assumptions about the world, but we have to walk the path. We have to do the meditations, do the study, and begin to understand the world differently. That’s the goal of Buddhist practice, whether it’s Zen, Tibetan, or Theravada, whatever it is. There are all these different techniques for helping us wake up.

Are you writing a book on Buddhist basics for everyday life?

I am. I’m working at the moment on a book about the Four Noble Truths. It’s going to be called The Buddhist Path to Joy.

GAR 86 | Tibetan Teachings

The Buddhist Path to Joy: A Practical Introduction to the Four Noble Truths by E. Claire Villarreal

I’ would love to have you back on to talk about that.

I do have another book in the works about the three characteristics I talked to you about on how we can understand the world. Hopefully, before too long it will be out.

I’m sure we are super busy. For people who are struggling with it or don’t know why it’s important or what it is, could you talk to us about meditation? How it can become a powerful method for cultivating peace and happiness? In addition, tell us about some of the common meditation styles and if there is one that you favor. I have even one more question about that. Can anyone meditate, even those with busy minds and who can’t sit still? Give us the whole picture about meditation because there are so many different styles and different philosophies about it.

In answer to your first and third questions, the heart of meditation isn’t a certain posture or looking super peaceful from the outside. The heart of meditation is you’re connecting with your own mind because we spend a lot of time trying not to feel certain things, falling into certain storylines. You don’t even have to stand still to be meditating. There’s walking meditation. There’s even lying down meditation. The heart of meditation is bringing together two qualities. There’s resting the mind or settling the mind and beginning to see into our patterns of mental behavior.

You’re watching your thoughts, basically. You flip back and forth in your head.

To even be able to watch your thoughts and not fall into them and get distracted, you have to have some basis in being able to focus your mind. That’s how the two parts of that come together. In Zen, they cultivate the ability to sit, drop thoughts, and things like that come into the mind.

What do you do if your mind is so busy though? How do you drop all those thoughts?

My mind is super busy. What I usually start with in a meditation session is focusing on the breath. Maybe even focusing on specific moments in the breath. Maybe I’m feeling for the first moment of the breath. I’m trying to get clear on one moment and I shift my focus to some other part of that cycle of breathing. You have to start by giving your mind something to do. The thing you’re giving it, whether it’s focusing on the breath, on a mantra, or whatever, that thing is not exciting and your mind begins to settle.

At that point, once it’s settled, then you can begin to do other things with it like cultivating compassion and cultivating insight. First, a lot of people assume that meditation equals your mind is quiet. Meditation equals noticing your mind. You can do meditation, whether your mind is busy, quiet, blissful, full of anger, or whatever it is.

A lot of people assume that meditation equals your mind being quiet. Meditation means noticing your mind. Share on X

It is as long as you’re more observing what’s going on and not acting on it. That gives you a chance to become conscious about how you’re going to react to what’s going on.

That’s what gives you an actual choice as you go through your life instead of doing the same things you’ve always done that have gotten you to do things without choice and control.

When it comes to the importance of healing our spirits, please explain why the spiritual path requires letting go of what we love and even who we think we are. That’s a tough thing to think about, to contemplate, and to grow into our full potential.

From a Buddhist perspective, in this tradition, we talk about conventional truth and ultimate truth. The conventional truth of who we are is my height, weight, skin tone, and whether my hair looks crazy today or not. There’s all this stuff that goes into my sense of who I am, but all of that is on the conventional side. These two are not separate. If you’re a beginner, it’s more helpful to think of them separately. The ultimate truth of who I am, again, is this luminosity, wisdom, and awakeness that no words can adequately describe but we call it Buddha Nature.

It’s like your body is your vehicle, but that’s not all you are.

We get hypnotized. We get sucked into the physical aspect of reality or even the emotional or mental aspect. We forget that beneath all of that is a spiritual foundation. If we never let go of who we think we are, we’re never going to arrive at who we are. Coming back to Buddhism as describing how we misunderstand the world, it feels like we’re giving up who we are, but we’re not giving up anything that’s not going to die at the end of this lifetime. How can that be our true nature?

That’s fascinating. It’s very freeing if you’re not as attached. You’re in your life, you’re doing your thing but you’re not as attached to all of that. You know there’s so much more, and it makes sense to me. You’re so delightful. Please tell us how our audience can connect with you. I know you have a free online course you’re creating to introduce beginners to Tibetan teachings. How do these teachings help all the people who take the course and learn to live fuller and richer lives? Is it that they learn how not to be so attached? What is that all about?

First of all, I do have another free online course now too. These are both by email. They’re very simple. I have one on The Four Noble Truths. That’s an introduction to this world, then there’s also one on the Bardo states. That’s an introduction to this whole way of thinking about life cyclically. Also, we’re not just thinking about reincarnation literally. There’s also within our lifetimes, we go through these big transitions and it is like a death and rebirth process within this life.

That course is intended to help people to put a narrative framework around the transitions that we experience because if you just lost somebody, it’s hard. When my mom died, there was a version of me that died too. Now I get to choose who I want to be next. That feels empowering to me. The point of this course is to help people understand the process of transitions. If they want to prepare for their own death, that’s a bonus but, at the very least, it’s there to help people understand and make the most of transitions in this lifetime too.

It might help them to accept themselves more and to give themselves permission to move forward.

What you’re saying is the moving forward part. In our culture, we love fresh starts, but we don’t like leaving behind the old. We don’t like having to say, “That is over.” There was a death, and I mourn it. The mourning and the grieving help you move on. That’s what’s helpful for me about understanding transitions in terms of these Bardo states, like, “Yes, there was a death.” It’s natural that I would feel grief, but if I don’t allow myself to feel that, I’ll never get to the moving on stage.

In the meantime, while you’re feeling it, you’re conscious of the fact that you will eventually be moving on and that it’s a process instead of sitting there in grief. It makes sense. Claire, what is your tip for finding joy in this life?

If I’m being honest, my tip for finding joy is to notice what blocks joy. Often, there are things we could do, but there’s something in us that as soon as we start to expand into that vast joyous state, it holds us back. For me, often that’s anxiety where it is something new and I get excited, then there’s something that says, “No, here’s all the reasons you shouldn’t do that.”

To find joy, notice what blocks it. So often, there are things we could do, but there's something in us that, as soon as we start to expand into that vast, joyous state, holds us back. Share on X

You go into fear a little bit.

The more you can recognize what’s blocking joy, the more you can release into it as well.

The bottom line is to heal your stuff, everybody, so you can get those thoughts out of the way. You can experience that joy. Claire, I love how Buddhism diagnoses the human condition and offers practical solutions for letting go of dissatisfaction and more to live well in our fast-paced world. Who wouldn’t want to know a path toward a richer, fuller, happier, and more compassionate life?

Thank you from my heart for this thought-provoking interview and for the work you do to enlighten people and inspire them to begin to awaken to peace and joy. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued. Many blessings and bye for now.

 

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