December 5, 2023

Lama Tsomo – Spiritual Practices for the Real World

Thomas is joined by Tibetan Buddhist teacher, author, and co-founder of the Namchak Foundation, Lama Tsomo. They discuss Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practices that illuminate our fundamental interconnectedness and enable us to approach our relationships and our reality with greater compassion and empathy. Lama Tsomo explains how Compassion Meditation can help loosen the grip of the ego, and make us less reactive in conflict.

They also explore the different levels of depth in meditation practice, the deep, healing value of group practices, and how we can experience spiritual one-ness and unification without bypassing the hardships of our physical reality. As Lama Tsomo puts it, “The antidote to violence is empathy.”

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“You can’t fall into any simple answers or you’re not going to have that ability to dance with the entire breadth of reality.”

- Lama Tsomo

Guest Information

Lama Tsomo

Lama Tsomo is an American lama, author, and co-founder of the Namchak Retreat Ranch, an organization dedicated to sharing Tibetan Buddhist wisdom and meditation practices. Born into a Midwestern Jewish household, she followed a path of spiritual inquiry and study that ultimately led to her ordination as a lama in Tibetan Buddhism. After a decade of practice, she became fluent in Tibetan and now teaches students in the U.S. and abroad. She is particularly passionate about reaching young people and supporting those working for positive social change. She holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology, and is the author of the Ancient Wisdom for Our Times Tibetan Buddhist Practice Series, and co-author of The Lotus & the Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity.

Learn more about Lama Tsomo and her work at namchak.org

Notes & Resources

Key points from this episode include:

  • The Four Brahmaviharas or the four abodes in Buddhism – compassion, sympathy, joy, loving-kindness, and equanimity
  • How Buddhism can help eradicate the common “us versus them” mentality by helping us see that there is no “them”
  • That meditation, from the first time you practice it, creates positive changes in the brain
  • The Saving Each Other Together (SEOT) project– a website with accessible Buddhist practices and objects with the goal of working collectively to prevent global catastrophes
  • The value of Sangha or community and how ritual practices help us tune in to each other

Episode Transcript

Thomas Hübl: Hello and welcome, my name is Thomas Hübl. This is the Point of Relation, my podcast and I am so happy to be sitting here again with Lama Tsomo. Warm welcome.

Lama Tsomo: So happy to be here, Thomas and speak with you again.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, we had a lovely conversation for the last Collective Trauma Summit, which I really enjoyed and thought would be great to continue the conversation. I think we have many fields in common and are deeply interested in healing, deeply interested in spiritual awakening, and social impact.

So I think there’s a lot of overlap but we also come from different backgrounds. So let’s fill into maybe how different languages, and different traditions look at various similar things in their own specificity, and so I think that’s a great chance.

Lama Tsomo: I think it’s a great chance too because if you see only with one eye, then you can’t see 3-D, in three dimensions. But if you’re wise that overlaps their vision, then you get 3-D.

Thomas Hübl: Mm hmm. That’s a nice metaphor, lovely. Lovely. One whole field of exploration that fits kind of to the eyes is the wisdom traditions that talk about relative truth and absolute truth. Whereas some traditions talk about the very specific and the very universal and how they are interrelated and the different ways to express the same thing. And so maybe you can share a little bit, and then I will chime in on how this appears in my work.

But then maybe you speak a little bit for our listeners: What’s the difference between relative truth and absolute truth? And how does it relate to when you look today at our world and how we see dynamics in our world, where is the truth here? Speak about that.

Lama Tsomo: Yeah. Going with the metaphor of the ocean and waves, which is very popular in Buddhist circles, it’s a good way to talk about the two truths because we can look at it from the point of view of the waves that are on the surface of the ocean, or we can look at it from the point of view of the depths of the ocean and, you know, the vast one ocean versus the many, many waves.

Each wave is unique. And the ocean, just by its nature, plays and creates making waves. The Tibetans even talk about it using the term “rupa,” which means play. So in its creative play, it makes all of these individual unique waves and every one of us waves is made of ocean. Somehow, we as human beings, I think we need to find a way to hold both truths at the same time. But we’re fascinated with the truth that has to do with just the very tops of the waves. And from that point of view, we look like we’re all just different. There’s me and there’s you and there’s other people and so on – that’s all we can see. We can’t see that we’re all made of ocean and that there’s actually one mind that’s suffusing all of us, all of this.

First of all, that’s a tragedy because of our feeling like we’ve wandered away from home for a very, very long time. There’s a part of us that just yearns to go home. That certainly has propelled me on my spiritual path. I think for many other people, though, they may not express it in that way, but the other tragedy is what we’re seeing right now in the world, right?

So you’re sitting in a war zone. I’m not in a war zone, but I’m Jewish. My granddaughter’s about to go off to college. And on college campuses, there’s a lot of harassment of Jewish people and so on. Meanwhile, many of us Jewish people are furious at Netanyahu for some of his decisions, so there’s all of this strife on the level of the choppy waves, and that’s real, too. We can’t let go of that reality and just dive into the depths of the ocean.

A friend of mine was on a Zen retreat with a great Zen teacher, and she was very much in the ocean part, and she comes through and she says it’s just the ultimate truth.

That’s all there is. And he said, “Really?” And he grabbed her nose and pinched it really hard. And he said, “How about that?” Oh yes, relative truth.

So I just am still in the afterglow of this wonderful experience I’ve had with Sangha. So we just graduated from a three-year course going from people walking in off the street, not knowing really how to meditate necessarily, some of them did a little bit and some of them didn’t at all. And they went through a whole progression of practices. We also studied practices for Sangha, for the community, and that’s part of our program. That thread ran all the way through the program. So when things came up and by the way, they came up in the graduating retreat, the ending retreat as well. I found myself having to apologize because that’s a big practice. So it’s not just saying I’m sorry, but saying “I feel where I stepped on your toes and I regret that. I’m really curious to know how I can do better and bring my curiosity and my compassion to them.” Of course, we ended up with tears and hugging and feeling much closer.

So that kind of thing went on through the three years as well as other practices for our beloved community, as Martin Luther King called it. By the end, there was such a profound connection among us. They are going to continue as a Sangha. They have to, I mean, they have bonds that are too precious and so many things in common and so on. They’ve felt the power of practice despite COVID happening all this time. So then we got to sit together after all this time and really meditate together, everybody was like: “Oh, my goodness. This is palpable that we can come into a different space when we make it tied together that we could all ride in group practice and we get to a place we can’t get to on our own cushion at home.”

Thomas Hübl: That’s beautiful. I’ll come to the group card in a second. I want to zoom in a bit because I think that’s where all of us are important, the relative experience and the oceanness. Let’s first talk about if somebody’s starting point is my perspective on life, so where or how does somebody get a taste of the oceanness of their being? What are maybe those two stages like from having at first taste to being more and more grounded in that sense that maybe most of my day starts to have been as both. And how did you see this in your own Sangha and how do people get the taste? What is the breakthrough, and how are practices helpful there?

Lama Tsomo: Yeah, so most of it is gradual, and then you have these moments of breakthrough and then, you know, regressing back into a more habitual way of seeing things. But the general trend moves along the path to being able to perceive not just the tops of the waves, but really the whole picture.

So there are, I think, two categories of practices in Tibetan Buddhism, and they can get more and more strong and deep and stronger medicine, that kind of thing. But they have to do with seeing how we’re not separate and feeling how we’re not separate. And sometimes the practices will really join those two. So the students were doing practices that did kind of both of these things. You start with yourself certainly in the feeling of how we’re not separate parts. We start with one of the four immeasurables or they’re referred to as the Four Brahmaviharas or the four abodes. These are compassion, sympathy, joy, loving-kindness, equanimity – those four.

So these are four avenues by which we start with ourselves: compassion, loving-kindness, and so on for ourselves, which is already hard for Westerners to do. You know, this is going to take some getting used to. Actually, the word “gong” for meditation in Tibetan means “getting used to.” Habituated. So they’re aware of this and that’s okay, we’ll do it again tomorrow, you know.

So we start with ourselves and then we go out to those close to us who we can easily feel is us, and we easily feel compassion for them. Then we go out another step and another step until finally everybody is us. This is extremely important because our brains are constructed so that we view some people as ‘us’ and some people as ‘them,’ and so we’re processing those two categories in two different locations in the brain. This is how we can do things that seem absolutely inhuman to other fellow human beings and why I’ve always thought that the antidote to violence is empathy. So I didn’t know about brain construction at that time. So this practice very cleverly redefines everyone as us because you start with me and you slowly go out, out, out until everybody is us. So there’s an example.

Thomas Hübl: That’s beautiful. How did you see in your practice, the meditation practice, informing our embodied experience with one another? Is that a sense that I have in my meditation and then I go back to live my life? Or do you feel that also the ways people behave with each other, how they relate to each other, how they relate to the world, to recommended parts of society that it creates a kind of a more and more sustainable embodiment of walking? How long does that process usually take? I know it’s different maybe from a practitioner to practitioner, but is there some commonality that you see on the way? Is it completely individual? How do you see the development?

Lama Tsomo: Well, there is a trend among many people who practice this. It starts with feeling a difference the very first time you do the practice. And I’ve had people tune in to how they felt, then I took them to the practice for the first time ever, and I said, “Now, how do you feel? Do you feel any different?” Well, they absolutely did. They felt this warmth and this expansiveness and warmheartedness and so on that the Dalai Lama talks about.

But in rigorous MRI studies, they actually saw changes in the brain while the person was practicing for the first time. Within just a couple of weeks of practicing, maybe half an hour a day, there are carryovers off the cushion. So the brain changes carry over. You’re actually rewiring yourself to meet life with compassion and begin to see whoever you meet as one of us. Then that just builds and builds, of course.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, that’s beautiful. So now when we have that practice and let’s say we all carry a certain amount of trauma, we’re triggered by other people, by groups, and society situations. And then we feel either these outbursts or we feel the distancing. So how does compassion meditation, for example, influence me when I am in a relatively good state and I become compassionate? And how does it affect those triggered places? What’s your experience there?

Lama Tsomo: Yeah. I have to say we do combine it with other practices that help us to see how we’re not separate, also all of these practices help us to loosen our tight grip on ego and identify as “I.” So as we loosen that, then we don’t have to defend so much.

You know, there’s this gap. So in Samatha practice, for example, when you’ve done that for a while, you begin to see, and again, this is in rigorous scientific studies, they’ve found there’s this gap that happens between the incoming and the knee-jerk reaction out to defend.

Rather there’s also a bridge that goes to the executive parts of the brain and the more resourced parts of our brains, including compassion. And we’re able then to bring all of these resources to bear because we don’t feel that fight or flight, that’s like a defending-to-the-death kind of thing.

We’ve got all of these resources that we’re moving through life with over time, more and more to the point when somebody comes at us with something intense, which I have happen, of course – I found that I don’t just have to have the knee jerk reaction, letting go of thoughts again and again on the cushion, I can also say I don’t have to be angry about this right now. That is just the same. Exactly the same. And I’ve practiced it how many thousands of times? Probably millions.

I have lots of thoughts on the question, so I have lots of opportunities to let go. So I can let go of that, too. And I can still remain centered and able to reach the more resourced and compassionate parts of my brain. So then I have a very different response. I also say that we then go through life touching everyone around us and kindling them and their compassion because they have that too. You know, they’re made of ocean too. Compassion suffuses the ocean as a very essential quality of it – ultimate compassion. Because the great ocean of awareness feels every bit of pain in every single wave. Immediately.

Thomas Hübl: Beautiful. Another question, in some of the mystical traditions, and I’m sure Tibetan Buddhism has an equivalent of that, we can say there are these states I feel at a certain level of my practice unified more with the physical universe than with an intuitive universe, then maybe with the formlessness so that there are different levels how we feel unified with ocean. Levels of oceanness, I would say and maybe to me feel where it’s really non-dual. Can you speak a little bit about different levels of depth in the meditation practice, how that plays a role or doesn’t play a role in your practice?

Lama Tsomo: My goodness. Well, this begins to get into a real Dharma discussion. I am not a scholar, so I dare not go in that direction. My personal experience is that I do go into deeper and deeper layers of that experience to the point where I begin to perceive my own body very differently.

So, it’s really not so different from the way I’ve heard some physicists talk about the subatomic level. How it is, you know, there is no longer a clear boundary between inside your skin and outside your skin because when you get even to the level of atoms, the distance between the nucleus and the electrons, for example, is proportionally the same as between the sun and the planets of the solar system. So that’s a lot of space, right? Very little in between.

So there’s the occasional little what we call particles, but then they’ve kind of ruined our understanding of particles because now, they’ve found that when someone observes, for example, the famous double slit experiment, and they believe that it’s actually light and not particles, then it behaves like light. When somebody believes their particles, they behave like particles. Okay, so now you’re getting to a point where the mind is having an influence on how things show up and appear and you can’t pin down a particle for me as being exactly here. It’s sort of in a fuzzy area that it could appear.

David Bohm, the famed physicist, believed that there was this explicate order and implicate order, and the universe was going back and forth between the two constantly. So this fits with what the Buddha said, that every nanosecond we are waves that are going down back into the ocean, and now it’s just ocean and there’s no form, pure potentiality. And then we emerge in form again. Like frames of a camera, one after the other, where there’s nothing in between and it comes up again and down and up and down, and our minds, because we’re fascinated with the surface reality, make a continuum.

But I have found in meditation moments where that slows down enough, where I actually catch it between the frames. I’m experiencing where there’s really no difference. There’s all that space and all these what they called “wavicles” because they were behaving like waves or particles. It’s your decision, which you know, that’s really what everything is, and me too. And so being able to get to that point, that’s part of my own experience in pursuing this path for a long enough time, getting to some very deep and powerful practices.

Thomas Hübl: Right. Or when observed as a wave pattern or as a particle. What you describe is very beautiful. Because I also in myself, obviously, but also many people that study with us that similar description that you said about this deeper expansion and that it actually slows down enough the very fundamental processes or aspects of life become tangible that usually happens in this fraction of a second that becomes more. So this high resolution, I think is beautiful how you describe it.

What you started with a little bit with the north and in some teaching, or for some teachers, the oceanness is the only thing. And that the wave pattern or let’s say the specificity of expression because the beauty is those two that we both know about the oceanness and we can feel it in the space where we can feel it as a space that is not divided.

At the same time, you do the work you do, I do the work I do. We can find lots of exciting resonances and maybe you also see some differences, but that’s amazing. And if that drops away, if you don’t recognize the specificity, then spirituality can also become like a bypass that is actually not fully touching real life, the real marketplace conflicts, stuff that’s happening in our world. And maybe you can speak a little bit about how you look at that. I think that’s very interesting.

Lama Tsomo: Yeah, it’s so important not to let go of either. So there’s a famous saying in Buddhism: “Not is, not isn’t. Not both, not neither.”

So we can’t land on any simple way to hold all of this, right? All we can do is practice, practice, practice till we get used to it – enough that we can begin to hold all of it at once. I think of it as also being able then to finally find the channel changer and be able to change channels when we intend to and with grace. I think that’s what the Buddha did, I think that’s what His Holiness the Dalai Lama is able to do, and that’s what we would all like to do, I’m sure.

So these practices help with that graceful dance when it’s time to be in a very difficult discussion with somebody who’s feeling very reactive and that sort of thing, versus when we’re sitting on the cushion with a bunch of other practitioners in complete silence and going to the depths and really kind of tuning in more on that level. You can’t fall into any simple answers or you’re not going to have that ability to dance with the entire breadth of reality.

Thomas Hübl: That’s beautiful. Because what you’re also saying is with all the great traditions in a beautiful description, how important it is to let go of the images that we carry of how it is, and then we say, Oh, it isn’t like this. And it’s both. It’s neither. And the fixation of reality onto some form that we need to hold to it to turn reality into an object of consciousness. That’s beautiful what you just said, I think that’s very, very important.

Lama Tsomo: Yes. So when I’ve come to the end of that and I realize I can’t stand on that ground, it’s going to get way underneath me because it does, it will regularly. And then we just keep doing it again because we don’t know what else to do.

It’s through practice that we can begin to experience these different levels and different realities – truly experience them for ourselves. We begin to be able to stick a toe on new ground and begin to put a little weight on it now. Oh, okay, yeah, that works, you know, but so now we don’t have to be standing just on the one ground that’s not going to really hold us.

This is the power of retreat that you’re in it most of your waking hours. So you begin to get out of old habits and into new ones. You know this from language, right? When you were learning new languages, and I don’t know how many, being European, probably more than I do anyway.

You know, I found that learning Tibetan when I was immersed was the way I could really begin to think in Tibetan and had the rhythm of speech, and it became fluent. And I could dream in Tibetan and so on. And it’s the same with getting out of our old habits of mind, with the surface of the waves and being able to get into different habits of mind. You need to do it all day long. You know, so you’re constantly stretching that envelope and experiencing something different and beginning to say, Oh, yeah, this is just as real.

So the other thing that helps and now we’re getting back to it is group practice because of course, when a group holds a reality together, then it’s a very quick and powerful way for everyone to help each other along to these other states of being and ways of seeing.

Thomas Hübl: Let’s talk a bit about this. So how is that held in Tibetan practice? How much is the Tibetan practice, which is very old, based on group practice, and is for sure lots of deep knowledge and wisdom around the power of group practice Sangha? Maybe you can speak a bit about how it’s anchored in a very old lineage.

Lama Tsomo: Well, it’s a fascinating thing. First of all, I’m an introvert, so I’m not big on groups. I grudgingly had to admit, Oh my gosh, this is powerful and I don’t want to miss out on this. And we do several group practices within the international Namchak sangha that last a week.

The one way that they are able to bring everybody’s awareness into coherence is what I would call through ritual because it’s everybody’s chanting the same thing at the same time. And incidentally, just chanting instead of speaking already puts your brain into a different state. It opens up more of your brain and brings it to bear and it coordinates the different centers.

So now everybody’s chanting together, and what they’re chanting is visualizations that we all know and they look the same for all of us. Right? We imagine ourselves as this enlightened deity. And we’re all imagining ourselves to be the same one. First, we invite the deity in, and then we offer them this, that, and the other, and so on and so forth. And so we take our human minds that think in terms of inviting us and special personage in and giving them wonderful food, drink, flowers and all these things. But that’s the Tibetan way of taking you, meeting you where you are, and then bringing you along to something much more profound. And we’re all doing it together at the same time.
It’s the difference between ambient light and laser light. Ambient light – the waves are going up and down haphazardly and with laser light, they’re going down, up and down together. So that’s why it’s called coherent light and it’s obviously very powerful. That’s how I can understand group practice in its actual practice setting.

I was describing a drupchen or drupcho, there are two different varieties and those were practiced in the old days until everybody reached enlightenment and actually reached rainbow bodies. So their physical body was transformed into colored light and that was witnessed by people. It’s been written about and so on and recorded over time. And actually, it’s happened in modern times as well.

Thomas Hübl: Maybe you can give a little bit more about that rainbow body for people who don’t know.

Lama Tsomo: Well, I think it’s basically enacting E = mc². You know, Einstein was aware that energy, light, and matter, there’s a way in which they belong in an equation together. I can’t speak on E = mc² much beyond that. But the point is that again – we aren’t made of something solid, meditators have walked through brick walls. One of them did that and so he thought he could, you know, he was in retreat and had that experience that I was describing as not being solid anymore, and neither was the wall. So there was plenty of space so he could just pass through. So he did. This has actually happened many times, but in this one case, he got so excited, he kind of went back to his old way of seeing things and he couldn’t get back through the wall. He had to go get help and they had to undo the wall. He walked back in and then they did it up again.

So that’s in modern times, what happened with the Tibetans who were imprisoned by the Chinese and things they did that made it clear that what we think are the four elements and solid things are not that at all. They were able to get beyond that. So that gives you a little bit of an idea, perhaps.

His first real teacher in prison, Richard, got a fantastic education in prison, by the way, because he was himself a reborn lama. And so he got put together with all the worst threats to society, which were the other lamas. You know, according to the Chinese, they were the worst threats. And so he got to study in secret. They would put oil on a shovel and then sprinkle sand on it and then draw the mantra or the visualization or whatever it was, and then mess it up. And now, you know, Rinpoche had it in his head, things like that. And so he was able to practice with this lama. I had the chance to go to Tibet and meet this lama and it was shortly before he died. When he died, they left his body in what is known as a totem, where it doesn’t slump and it doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t smell, nothing. And it went on for many, many days.

Finally, his son could see through the crack, that totem was finished. There was no longer this almost youthful glow about the body. It looks almost younger. But what he did see, especially when he walked in, was that his father had let go of a lot of the matter and was now about this high, perfectly proportioned that this high. I saw a picture of it. So, you know, this can still happen in these times. More difficult because we’re in, how can I say, ‘ego-clinging thick times’ where there’s a thick fog and there are sort of biorhythms of consciousness that ebb and flows of it. And right now, we’re in a low tide, if you will. That’s why there is so much strife and so much refusal to even take care of our environment, we’re like sitting on the end of a branch, cutting off the hand of the branch ourselves, not recognizing it.

Actually, this was predicted by the master who turned to that to a Buddhist country. He was invited there by the king. So it wasn’t a colonial sort of thing. And he predicted these times and the signs of these times, which we’ve seen, including pandemics, all the elements rising up against us, global warming, all of the things that we’re experiencing he predicted very precisely. And he also gave prescriptions for what to do.

So we started a website called Saving Each Other Together (SEOT) project, is a website anybody can go to to find out the practices to do, little figurines you can place in different places. All of these are part of the prescriptions to help turn things back enough so that we don’t end up with nuclear war and complete annihilation of life on Earth. Opportunity for about one year, by the way, according to that prediction.

Thomas Hübl: One year from now?

Lama Tsomo: Yeah, roughly.

Thomas Hübl: Roughly. That’s the period. And after that?

Lama Tsomo: It’s just going to all play out. Because it can change the inner levels now. They’re still flexible enough to change. So that’ll just be horrible instead of a complete catastrophe, cataclysmic. So that website, we started that about a year and a half ago. And so people can visit that. But I think we got a little sidetracked from group practice, maybe. Where are we going there?

Thomas Hübl: Yes. But on the other hand, it’s very interesting. I like this organic unfolding. You said many, many very interesting things just right now. Let’s go back for a moment to the group practice. And I know that you also have a practice for us to do together for everybody who’s listening.

I loved it in a way, and I will just say something and then you can see if that resonates with your experience or not. So what I heard in the chanting and inviting the deities and actually joining information that is the form inside of every practitioner, that becomes more and more coherent.

What I’m saying is that when I look at you, I have Lama Tsomo in my central nervous system as a form. But in me, you’re a wave, you’re energy. But where you sit, you’re a particle, you’re a body, you’re a wave over here.

So, everybody who knows this, everybody who holds a form of us inside is in-formed, that information is actually a wave pattern. Energy in movement.

Lama Tsomo: Yeah.

Thomas Hübl: So when you speak to a group of a thousand people, then there are a thousand Lama Tsomos, all the wave fields. So there’s a particle self, but there’s a wave self. And the more congruent or the more present we are, these become very close and they lose their separation. And so in a highly unified state, it’s actually, as you said, “not this, not that, not both” and I’m wondering because when we work inside a sangha or group, we actually all arise in each other. But I believe through the trauma, the separation, the wounds, and taking care of shadows, we feel separate. And then the information or the intimacy is not that perceived.

But what you do with the chanting is actually invoke a mutual wave field that everybody can join in and it has very powerful information, you are uplifted into that field. And I think that’s a very lovely way to induce this experience of more unification. But it’s actually something that deep, relational presence is also happening to a certain extent. When we really attune and feel each other, we have two forms that become very coherent. And I’m wondering if what I say now in my own language, if that resonates with your experience, if you would resonate with that.

Lama Tsomo: I do, absolutely. I’m thinking of the famous Buddhist image of the moon. It shines on every body of water including a little cup of water. There they are reflecting the moon. So the moon is in all those cups of water.

I’m also thinking of the holographic structure of ourselves and the universe. Everything is a hologram. And so, we are all in each other already, and it’s just a question of which channel we’re tuning into. So we have all of the deities inside of us. We are all of those deities. So then, of course, we can invite the deity and then we join with the deity, now we arise as the deity. We play with that, and then at the end of the session, you know, we just dissolve into the deep oneness underneath that’s formless, but then we can arise again as another deity. And it doesn’t matter if the deity is male or female, and we normally identify as one or the other, that makes absolutely no difference because we’re all of them.

So when you were describing what you were saying, you’re not talking about deities, but it’s still the same holographic principle tuning into. And we’re using the power of the coherent group mind to access that.

Thomas Hübl: It is beautiful because like, one way I speak sometimes about wisdom is how much of the world is included in the way we experience the world. The more is included, the wiser that we are. Because we are unified with more and more. But we carry all of that anyway inside. But it feels like we don’t have access to these parts. Through the practice and the compassion practice, for example, is a beautiful practice to activate that already existing universe in us. What else seems important for you in the group work? How do you experience, for example, interpersonal frictions that come up in the, we spoke a bit about it at the beginning, but maybe every Sangha brings up some stuff between people. And I think it’s interesting how we handle this stuff.

Lama Tsomo: I have to say, there was such resonance and such warmth and loving compassion in our group this last weekend that even though there was like one kerfuffle – that was easily resolved and not even in the group setting, but because we’d all been doing these practices, both actual sangha skills and the cushion practices, we very quickly were able, you know, first of all, as soon as somebody stepped on your toe and they say to you, “I’m sorry, I realized that hurt.”

I’m thinking about: How did I come to do that? How was that for you? And they’re bringing their curiosity and their compassion. I’m in a position now where I’m not so defensive. I don’t need to prove something to them because they’re already right there. So I just say, well, first of all, thank you. And second of all, here’s how it was for me, and here’s my request. And they are listening. And so you just move very quickly through those.

Thomas Hübl: Beautiful. Yeah. I think that re-owning is such an important part of the process of resolving these kinds of tensions. Beautiful what you just said.

Lama Tsomo: Response-ability.

Thomas Hübl: Right. Exactly.

Lama Tsomo: And very simple. But I loved what you said about this, you know, opening out that we have disowned parts of ourselves which daily practices are also very good for because some of the deities are very funky looking. You know, they’ve got big teeth, they’ve got hairs and flames and bulging eyes. They’re not your typical pleasant idea of a deity. And they are fierce. They’re called wrathful, but I think of them as fierce. And sometimes you need fierce. These are still enlightened beings who are motivated purely by compassion. So this is how we can begin to open up to some pretty funky parts of ourselves that haven’t gotten a chance to be developed to the point where they serve us. So it’s like we’re not playing with a full deck.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah.

Lama Tsomo: That’s kind of an idiom in English for describing somebody who’s kind of crazy. They’re not playing with a full deck.

Thomas Hübl: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Lama Tsomo: So now we can begin to elevate in all these parts of ourselves. Then they can be in service to our self, capital S, the larger self which includes us. But it’s all in everyone as we go along the path.

Thomas Hübl: That’s beautiful because that’s maybe Tibetan application or shadow work because it helps us actually to get to the suppressed stuffiness that otherwise plays out in a different way and helps us to excavate and even connect to higher enlightened quality. So that’s actually a beautiful way to do that shadow work that many people are doing in other ways too. But I think that’s a very powerful way to activate our energies consciously.

Lama Tsomo: Yeah. I think both hands as a former practicing psychotherapist with a Jungian emphasis. So, you know archetypes. Practicing these practices, I would say there’s a place for both. And the thing is that we’re trapped in a dark attic with the furniture piled up all over the place and we’re crashing into it all the time. You know, that’s our mental state when we start working on ourselves and then we get a headlamp and that’s psychotherapy, and we can begin to look here and there and begin to rearrange the furniture so we’re not tripping all over it.

But then, you know, these spiritual practices show us the doorway out so we’re not stuck in an attic all the time at all. We can go out if we want.

Thomas Hübl: It’s beautiful. I think that’s a great way to leave everybody in that space.

Lama Tsomo: Yes. Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you today.

Thomas Hübl: And you. Very much so. Thank you. And I hope more conversations to come.

Lama Tsomo: Me, too.

Thomas Hübl: Thank you.