Karuna: [00:00:08] Hi, I’m Karuna, I’m the founder and executive director of Mind Oasis and my guest today on Meditation Happy Hour: Tea, Talk, and Truth with Karuna is the beautiful and lovely Kimberley Teresa Lafferty. Kimberley, how are you?
Kimberley: [00:00:26] Feeling great, excited to talk to you.
Karuna: [00:00:28] Excellent. So you’ve been a guest with me before and you’ve also taught on Mind Oasis before. But for those of us who you’re new to, can you remind us where you are in the world?
Kimberley: [00:00:42] Sure. Well, lots of places just rolling out the red carpet between you and I and everybody who might be listening wherever they are in the world to my location right now is in the North Cascades of Washington state at our beautiful retreat space. I can only call it that out here. These these, this place of ceremony and connection. We’re getting ready to host a fire puja this weekend.
Karuna: [00:01:13] Wonderful.
Kimberley: [00:01:14] So there’s lots of Dharma, community and Sangha around right now and I’m feeling really grateful for my place in the world.
Karuna: [00:01:25] Wonderful. So I’d like to explain to our listeners that you are offering a really precious teaching starting in March of this year of 2022, and the teaching is around the practice of Mahamudra. And I’m wondering if we could start by explaining what Mahamudra is and then we’ll get into your background a little bit and sort of, lineage and all that good stuff.
Kimberley: [00:01:52] Sure. Yeah. Well, Mahamudra means it’s chag-gya chen-po in Tibetan, and it’s a body of teachings that you find, different teachers teaching, right? It means the great seal, literally is how it’s most often translated. And what it is, is a practice to realize what the Tibetan Buddhist called emptiness. And in Buddhism, we say, as you know, there are two wings of a bird. There’s really kind of boil it down to these two main elements of what makes the lineage of Indo-Tibetan contemplative psychology Buddhism so precious. And one wing of the bird is bodhicitta, you know, is opening our heart caring for other people. You know, there’s a depth in it, you know, it’s a deep, deep practice that I, you know, could speak about for a long time, right? It’s absolutely stunning. Opening the heart and the other wing is what we call wisdom or emptiness, and these Mahamudra teachings were going, they’re the most extensive and deep and I’m not exaggerating for me, lineage of emptiness, teachings that exist. It’s extraordinarily precious, and it’s important that this is not only realized you know what this wisdom side points to in our world. It’s essential now that we all wake up to what these teachings are pointing out to us, and that we also save this jewel.
Kimberley: [00:03:32] I believe these teachings and you know, aspects of Indo-Tibetan contemplative psychology or Buddhism are like jewels of our humanity, you know, they’re precious. That’s how I feel about these teachings. Karuna. They need to also be learned and saved. So people need to pass them on. There’s definitely a motivation behind that for me, teaching this feeling called to share this precious gem right now because I had some, you know, people who had gone through cohorts with me. When I have students, they graduate, you know, also and they want to teach this. So they took it 10 years ago. It changed their life and they want to teach it. So there is an impulse and motivation for me, also for a certain group of people that know they want to teach it or, you know, you know, want to almost go through it together and community to support them in passing it on. And I hope that that’s the case as well. Yeah, I could say a lot more, but maybe it was there-
Karuna: [00:04:45] These teachings are precious gems and they are kept alive through… not just a few years, right? They’ve been kept alive for many centuries, so,
Kimberley: [00:05:00] Yeah, let me let me let me pause you there because I wanted to say, and that’s reminding me, you know, the text, we’re using. One of our multiple texts, but they’re all from the 15th century. You know, so we’re we’re looking at text and utilizing texts from Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen, who lived 1565 to 1662. Of course, the great Je Tsongkapa’s writings, you know, thirteen fifty seven to 1419. We’ll look Madhyamika, The Art of Interpreting the Buddha, which Robert Thurman did his thesis on and compares the mind only school in the Middle Way School. The other thing about these teachings is we go through the different versions, really, or perspectives on what wisdom is according to eight different perspectives. So emptiness isn’t just one thing, you know, it’s empty also. So, you know, it’s it’s what different schools of India and different schools of Buddhism and and different also realizations what emptiness, how emptiness and softness and wisdom really is talked about. Like you’ll hear a different version in a Thai temple than you will in parts of Tibet, perhaps. So there’s also, you know, different schools of India taught it differently, and that’s all included. So it really is, you know, it’s like a survey of the wisdom, perspectives and traditions, what emptiness is and how to see it.
Karuna: [00:06:34] So, Kimberley, there’s this really beautiful picture of you on the landing page and and I believe it’s from a three year retreat. Can you talk a little bit about that time in your life?
Kimberley: [00:06:48] Yeah, yeah. Thanks for asking. I. You know, of course, as it is like how how I feel called out to teach as part of it… As I’m following signs. And some close friends of mine now had mentioned how they wanted to teach Mahamudra. Yeah, that kept happening. And then out of the blue, this beautiful, powerful, that’s what our name means. A nun named Jigme from back in the day just sent me a photo of me at the Mahamudra teachings as I was thinking about what to offer, you know, and it just confirmed for me, you know, you can see the look on my face, how happy I am. It’s just – these teachings. They blew my mind, and I am not alone like this is the common refrain we hear when people hear these teachings. So that was from 2001, I believe, at the base of the Dragoon Mountains in Arizona, where my definitely scripture root, my root lama, you know, Geshe Michael Roach was in his first three year retreat and there were other people in the three year retreat. And and he, for me, is the exemplar teacher of emptiness. I mean, and from my perspective, nobody teaches emptiness like Geshe Michael Roach, you know, for me, because to have the well educated Princeton scholar, kind of ticks all the western boxes in his language and, you know, social constructions, be able to explain for me these ancient texts and teach me how to – the language and, you know, really pass it on for Westerners. He’s just a very skilled curriculum developer and teacher, you know, and also as the first American Geshe to take these profound teachings that he did the work to get, you know, like went to India, sat, you know, did all those years of become a Geshe, make it translated and make it available to Westerners, you know, and women. You know,
Karuna: [00:09:07] I love that you shared that. My teacher, Hector Marcel from Three Jewel’s New York. His teacher is Geshe Michael Roach as well. And. I’ve had the distinct. Opportunity. To study emptiness in a profound way through Hector, through Michael Roach, and every day I find it working in my life in minimally being able to just loosen my grip on anything that that anything is exactly as it appears. Though I’m a baby student, it’s OK because I can feel the teachings working on me.
Kimberley: [00:09:55] Thank you for sharing that. And I also it reminds me to. You know, these were the Wild West days also. I mean, that photo. This was this big experiment going on in the desert of Americans practicing tantra, you know? And. For me, like I got the gold. You know, like I feel like I made it through the experiment and everything is as it should be. You know, and my life is ridiculously, wonderful, you know, utilizing these teachings in my life. Which makes me be more helpful in the world. You know, it’s just about being a help. You know, bodhicitta and emptiness. Bodhicitta is like easy to understand, like if we think about it, we can get serving others is going to make us happy and caring for more than ourselves and actually doing that. We get happy, they get happy. The world is happy, you know, by serving others. Everybody’s happy. You know, we get the karmic result of that. So that we can when we think about it and get our mind off ourselves, it’s easy to understand. It can be hard to practice because we’re not taught it. And in our culture, we get triggered. We’re human animals.
Kimberley: [00:11:23] We have a nervous system. So super complex world we’re living in right now. It is not like it was thousands of years ago. Well, it’s also now. And I also the person who really taught me Mahamudra also took Geshe’s teachings and was a student of Geshe as well, like a senior teacher for me. And that’s Dr. Winston McCullough. So I also hold a lineage of Mahamudra teachings with a modern psychological perspective, which he brought as a modern psychologist. So we also always include what we know as well, and this teaching in particular is definitely a lineage teaching. It’s the written text, and it’s also an oral tradition that feels to be, you know, outside of the Vajrayogini lineage feels to me to be extremely powerful. We also are going to talk about…. Tantra generally, which doesn’t happen very often in the last two classes, because of their worldview. Seven and eight out of these eight world views we’re going to cover. Seven and eight are the two stages of tantra, so I feel comfortable to talk about that generally under these conditions, you know, I won’t go into specifics, but so that’s also special about this course.
Karuna: [00:12:55] That’s really special. Kimberley, why? Why the great seal when we think about emptiness or suchness?
Kimberley: [00:13:02] Yeah, it’s a good question. You know, there’s an open sutra understanding of what that is, which is the great seal of all things that like a seal, that you put on a letter, you know, to seal that it’s yours. All things are sealed with emptiness, you know, so that is the great seal. It’s unified with emptiness. And there’s also a secret meaning of the great seal, which we’ll talk about in class eight.
Karuna: [00:13:39] Yeah. Well, do you want folks to know if they’re considering joining your Mahamudra training. One thing that comes to mind is, I’ve been, you know, I’ve gone through ACI, Asian Classics Institute one through 18, and now I’m in the quieter teachings of, I don’t know, I guess I’m in. I’m looking at number six and I’m just, you know, which I guess makes me a Buddha-Head. And there are some people who would not a Buddha-Head but would be interested in this teaching. Are they qualified to attend?
Kimberley: [00:14:15] Yes, it’s an open teaching. It’s a sort of teaching where…. It’s sweet for everybody to come, because if you’ve never heard anything like this, it’s sure to blow your mind.
Karuna: [00:14:27] I was thinking, woosh,
Kimberley: [00:14:30] Ready, if that’s what you want, you know? But it’s really the study of consciousness. And so we will make those connections in class because we have a modern language. Also, you know, like the study of consciousness or the study of wisdom, there’s also an academic element to…. I’m a scholar. We are going to be doing Tibetan. I’m going to be giving you dates, I’m going to be giving you texts. So. There is a, it’s very cognitively, very interesting, you know, for people who just want to really understand the emptiness side of things. Because emptiness is hard to get while Bodhicitta, it is easy to get, you know, but hard to practice. Emptiness is hard to get. And once you get it, you, you have to regret it later at a different level, it evolves. It’s not one thing that static or it wouldn’t be empty, you know, so the understanding of emptiness tends to go through these different stages. And that’s what Mahamudra gives us. Like the way we the order we study them tends to be the order that one realizes them, you know, they kind of fall into these explanations. This course can awaken the emptiness side, because once you get it. It’s easier, it’s easy to practice, you know, it’s with you, it’s your great seal. You were never without it, like the king, without a seal. You’re never without it, you know? And that’s what marks your life, and that’s what Vajrayana means, you know, the diamond, it means, always having it with you, never without it, you know? But that takes practice. You know, so if you want to get emptiness, this is, of course for you.
Karuna: [00:16:26] You mentioned that you’re a scholar. Remind us of your background. You’re there’s more than just your wonderful Buddha teachings that you can share with us. Your dharma teachings. What else have you been up to in the world?
Kimberley: [00:16:40] Well, you know, I’ve always considered myself a scholar. You know, my lineage was very scholarly, hardcore, you know, academic types like, Geshe Michael, like Dr. Winston McCullough, you know, so I that’s always infused. That’s what I like about the Gelugpa lineage. You know, it’s very heady and scholarly and lots of lists and texts. And then there’s also a deeply mystical side, which is also what drew me to Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism as well. I have degrees in human development, which is developmental psychology, really, adult psychology. A lot of my research right now is looking at how different worldviews, if you will, experience anomalous events. Another way to say that is. You know, looking at the kind of consciousness of people who report, you know, validly report for them, they’re not crazy, you know, extraordinary experiences. And particularly in Vajrayana and Tantra, it’s full of extraordinary mystical, you know, experiences in multiple dimensions and with non-human intelligences. And you know, these are anomalous things. The founders of these teachings often were handed them by light beings, you know, I mean, or, you know, suddenly sorry, suddenly channeled them, you know, so there is, I don’t I want to be, you know, unabashedly happy about that. You know, there is a mystical element that balances out the heady like.
Karuna: [00:18:33] Kimberley, you had mentioned that we are living in. I’m sorry, I don’t remember the phrase you you used, but I’ll use my phrase. We’re living in complex times, and I’m wondering when you think about the timing. There was a while where you were only teaching pretty privately, I think, and this is, you know, this is you putting yourself out there in a public forum on Mind Oasis, I mean, people can join from all over the world and, you know, other galaxies if they’d like to. So my question to you is why Mahamudra? Why now? In the world that we’re living in?
Kimberley: [00:19:15] Well, It was, again, it has to be for me, people asked. You know. People asked, in big ways and small ways, you know. I do tend to be very private, you know, and have led a quieter life as a householder doing, you know, not as a retreat or in the desert anymore. You know, my my practice, my tantric practice became, you know, raising a child and being in the world more. And yeah, people asked number one. Number two, I. Have personally felt a call. And it’s very visceral Karuna. It’s like I’m coughing up the gems, you know, like I. There is a danger of living in a God-room for me if I’m going to be completely vulnerable and honest with you, I. I can’t I can’t hoard the jewels. And this is perhaps, you know, there’s two for me, and this is one of them, this and the Vajrayogini teachings of our lineage, you know, if I don’t share them it, it’s like a wrong deed, you know, and I think I might get sick, actually. You know, like I feel very physiologically, you know, at a deep, deep level called to pass this on.
Karuna: [00:21:00] The Mahamudra eight week series. I can’t even call it that, extraordinary training, the eight week extraordinary training of Mahamudra teachings with Kimberley Lafferty takes place starting the 14th of March to the 2nd of May. It’s on Monday nights at Six O’Clock Central. I’ll just give a little plug for Mind Oasis here. We really prefer and I’m, I would think for this training. You’re asking students to attend live as much as possible. There will be recordings available for the homeworks and for review of material because obviously with. Deep, profound teachings that definitely requires more than one round of interaction. And so we really feel that our magic sauce is asking people to show up in community, and that’s something that you actually mentioned. You mentioned that as students were asking for these teachings, that there was some calling to be in community. And I’m wondering if usually I ask people, what’s their truth? But I’ve asked you your truth before, so I want to ask you a slightly different question and I’d like to ask for you, what does it mean to be in community? It’s one of the three jewels, right? The Sangha? Can you talk a little bit about community and what community means for you, maybe in relationship to these teachings or just teachings in general?
Kimberley: [00:22:31] It’s a good question. I’ve had it on my mind. Well, you know, when you ask me that question immediately, three things come to mind in a framework because a community can be different things. One is it’s like the actual concrete people in your world. You know, like there, there are a couple neighbors out here in the country like, I’m closer to my neighbors and I was living in the city, you know, and there’s a a deep sense of place that actually live here. They’re actually people. They’re not people on the internet, which is still awesome, you know, but they’re actual people in your life. You’re eating together. You’re, you know, living together, you’re spending time together, you’re in each other’s physical presence. And that’s I’ve had such recent appreciation of that because I felt so recently fed in that since moving here full time and experiencing that. So some of these people were asking for the teachings. And so it’s people coming together like actually coming together in a concrete way, like and that counts on Zoom. Like when we’re on Zoom or together in a concrete way with other people, you know, it’s just we’re showing up with our physical body. And that means a lot. So there’s an opportunity to be with Sangha in that way. Community also is people who. Just you might not be with them, but they they get you, they see you. They think like you. It’s that it’s like you share principles. You share similar principles, you know, like a similar wavelength.
Kimberley: [00:24:02] You just. You trust them, feel safe with them, you know, like there’s I’m putting language on it, people have their own language, but that, you know what I’m saying? Karuna, you know, like that community where you don’t necessarily have to be together in the eating with them, but you you share a subtle principles. There are times in our life when we are more focused on ourselves and the community less, and I want to recognize that I’ve been in those times and that also shows up in our developmental research as normal. Hmm. And then there are times when we actually need to be with other people more where we forefront the we. It’s not so much the I. It’s the we. And if you’re feeling that listener, you know that yearning to be seen and be in space together, that’s what we do during these classes, you know, as well, community.
Karuna: [00:25:07] Love it.
Kimberley: [00:25:09] One thing I do, too is. We break up into small groups and like really small, often just two people, maybe three people, which people always say is their favorite part. You know, there might be a little social anxiety going into it, but it always ends up being everyone’s favorite part. So there is a sense of real intimate connection and safe space that we get when there’s less of us. You know, that’s built into these classes as well. It’s not going to be like me lecturing the whole time.
Karuna: [00:25:42] Yeah, I’m happy that you mentioned that. It’s interesting. When I, you know, I started Mind Oasis just because I was in the Dragoon Mountains, not across the freeway from where you were. And in an airstream on a month long retreat. Probably not as prepared as I thought. And in hindsight, I was experiencing psychological loom at the time. I just thought I was losing my mind and I thought, Well, maybe that’s good, but it was painful. It was painful. It was really painful. And around week three of Mind Oasis just kind of came through me. I mean, I’m not the maker of mind Oasis, Mind Oasis came through me. And it’s interesting because I think I thought that I would create something more teachers and students come together and so that the students could learn and the teachers would have a platform. But what I’ve realized is that my voice is the root of Mind Oasis is community and I laugh sometimes because when you were talking about that, having a little bit of social anxiety going into the smaller breakout rooms, that’s me. I’m way more of like a if I can be sort of like amongst a big group of people, I can interact. But you say we’re going to break into groups of two people and I’m like, Oh,
Kimberley: [00:27:03] You’re not alone.
Karuna: [00:27:04] But and I say this to encourage our listeners. I have lifelong friendships with people. Through the teachings I’ve received on Mind Oasis. That I’ve never met in person. I love people. That I’ve had interactions with in teachings on Mind Oasis that I have never met physically for a cup of coffee, and I find that just fascinating.
Kimberley: [00:27:36] Right. And you shared something deeper that is community. That is community. Yeah, I feel you on that. I totally feel you on that. I know it’s an amazing thing these times that and that’s part of the complexity of these times, too. That’s the world that we’re in this time and place that we’re manifesting co-creating right now in this time and place, you know, which is very different than 1565, where you had to walk across the Himalayas to get the teachings.
Karuna: [00:28:15] It’s probably… It’s the thing that makes me want to throw myself on the ground and touch my forehead to Geshe Michael Roach’s feet. And because of that, Hector La’s feet is because you mentioned were women. We’ve received the teachings we now receive, the teachings in our jammy pants, in our offices, at home. And it is only because of. Brave. Men and women. In countries like Nepal and Tibet and India. Bringing these teachings to the West that we’re here, and if it weren’t for Geshe Michael Roach and his wonderful translations, all of the things that are important to me now, I wouldn’t have access to. It’s it’s so interesting to me…
Kimberley: [00:29:24] I know it’s a trip. The dude is. Not of this…. He’s very prolific. Let’s just put it this way. You know, and skillful and has gone through his own phases of the teachings, you know, in his own journey. And, you know, Tibetan Buddhism landing in the West, you know, it has been messy as these things are. You know, as everybody tries to practice, you know, the karmic path is, you know, it’s beautiful, but it’s not pretty. And. Which is why, you know, for so many years, you know, I’ve for myself really relied on also the the wisdom of modern psychology and what we know about the nervous system and include, you know, including that perspective as well, not for a more integral approach. You know, both of those things can be true. Yeah, and that’s been really helpful.
Karuna: [00:30:36] So Kimberley brings Mahamudra master training the eight mindsets of Emptiness Sutra to tantra, which is a real treat to Mind Oasis, Mind Oasis.org. We start on the 14th of March to the 2nd of May. These are Monday evening classes. There are two hours long. They are happening at six p.m. Central. And there will be a mixture of lecture and homework and interaction between other students. The class is filling up with wonderful human beings –
Kimberley: [00:31:16] Meditation and meditation.
Karuna: [00:31:20] Yeah. So we would love for you to join us, Kimberley, thank you so much for being my guest today. Great to talk to you.
Kimberley: [00:31:27] Thank you.
Karuna: [00:31:28] Thanks. So Mind Oasis.org, that’s where you’ll find all the goodies under the tab. Learn people. Let’s learn. Thank you.
Kimberley: [00:31:40] You’re welcome, my dear.
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