The Cocoon.

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Hold the anchovies.

Negativity isn’t negative. It’s a part of life.

How we handle it can be negative—if we push it away and close up, that is negative.

Stop protecting yourself from negative energy. Start loving yourself so that you can open to the world.

As they say, a ship is safe in port, but that’s not what it’s built for.

Or Anais’ famous quote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

We can afford to be brave. We can afford to be tender, and open in our vulnerability, instead of cowardly bullying misplaced macho aggression.

If you’re empathetic, don’t turn your empathy into selfish hiding from the hard parts of this world. Already we hide our elderly, our sick, our homeless—we call those who bother us “toxic,” and invest our confused hearts in “gated community spirituality,” as I call it—you know, wanting to cling to good, and push away bad.

We’re better than that. We’re kinder than that. We’re braver than that. We’re more fun than that.


Our convenient food, entertainment, AC/heating, cars shuttling us from bubble to bubble…indoor, plugged-in exercise…is set up to create constant Cocoon.

There’s just one problem…we love fresh air.

The Cocoon is talked about in the Shambhala teachings. Shambhala, while related to Buddhism, is non-sectarian, secular, open to those of any religion or agnostics.

The Cocoon is a powerful concept that continues to shed light on my daily life and habits to this day. It is, according to Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior,

“an enclosed familiar world in which we can hide or go to sleep…The way of cowardice is to embed ourselves in a cocoon…perpetuate habitual patterns. When we are constantly recreating our basic patterns of behavior and thought, we never have to leap into fresh air or onto fresh ground.”

“In the cocoon there is no idea of light at all, until we experience some longing for openness. When we begin to examine that comfortable darkness—look at it, smell it, feel it—we find it is claustrophobic. So the first impulse that draws us away from the darkness towards the light of the Great Eastern Sun [a vision of enlightened society, helping others] is a longing for ventilation. As soon as we begin to sense the possibility of fresh air, we realize that our arms and legs are being restricted. We want to stretch out and walk, dance even jump.

We realize that there is an alternative to cocoon: we discover that we could be free from that trap. With that longing for fresh air, for a breeze of delight, we open our eyes, and we begin to look for an alternative environment…And to our surprise, we begin to see light, even though it may be hazy at first. The tearing of the cocoon begins at that point. When we look back to the cocoon and see the suffering that takes place in the world of the coward, that inspires us to go forward in our journey of warriorship.”


The below is via Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a pioneering Buddhist teacher, author of over 20 books, founder of Naropa University and Vajradhatu, now called Shambhala.

The Cocoon

The point of the Shambhala training is to get out of the cocoon, which is the shyness and aggression in which we have wrapped ourselves. When we have more aggression, we feel more fortified. We feel good, because we have more to talk about. We feel that we are the greatest author of the complaint. We write poetry about it. We express ourselves through it. Instead of constantly complaining, can’t we do something positive to help this world? The more we complain, the more concrete slabs will be put on the earth. The less we complain, the more possibilities there will be of tilling the land and sowing seeds. We should feel that we can do something positive for the world instead of covering it with our aggression and complaints.

The approach of the Shambhala training is to do something very concrete, very basic, very definite, and to begin at the beginning. In the Shambhala tradition, we talk about being a warrior. I would like to make it clear that a warrior, in this case, is not someone who wages war. A Shambhala warrior is someone who is brave enough not to give in to the aggression and contradictions that exist in society. A warrior, or pawo in Tibetan, is a brave person, a genuine person who is able to step out of the cocoon—that very comfortable cocoon that he or she is trying to sleep in.

If you are in your cocoon, occasionally you shout your complaints, such as: “Leave me alone!” “Bug off.” “I want to be who I am.” Your cocoon is fabricated out of tremendous aggression, which comes from fighting against your environment, your parental upbringing, your educational upbringing, your upbringing of all kinds. You don’t really have to fight with your cocoon. You can raise your head and just take a little peek out of the cocoon. Sometimes, when you first peek your head out, you find the air a bit too fresh and cold. But still, it is good. It is the best fresh air of spring or autumn or, for that matter, the best fresh air of winter or summer. So when you stick your neck out of the cocoon for the first time, you like it in spite of the discomfort of the environment. You find that it’s delightful. Then, having peeked out, you become brave enough to climb out of the cocoon. You sit on your cocoon and look around at your world. You stretch your arms, and you begin to develop your head and shoulders. The environment is friendly. It is called “planet earth.” Or it is called “Boston” or “New York City.” It is your world.

Your neck and your hips are not all that stiff, so you can turn and look around. The environment is not as bad as you thought. Still sitting on the cocoon, you raise yourself up a little further. Then you kneel, and finally you stand up on your cocoon. As you look around, you begin to realize that the cocoon is no longer useful. You don’t have to buy the advertisers’ logic that, if you don’t have insulation in your house, you’re going to die. You don’t really need the insulation of your cocoon. It’s just a little cast that’s been put on you by your own collective imaginary paranoia and confusion, which didn’t want to relate with the world outside.

Then, you extend one leg, rather tentatively, to touch the ground around the cocoon. Traditionally, the right leg goes first. You wonder where your foot is going to land. You’ve never touched the soles of your feet before on the soil of this planet earth. When you first touch the earth, you find it’s very rough. It’s made out of earth, dirt. But soon you discover the intelligence that will allow you to walk on the earth, and you begin to think the process might be workable. You realize that you inherited this family heirloom, called “planet earth,” a long time ago.

You sigh with relief, maybe a medium sigh, extend your left foot, and touch the ground on the other side of the cocoon. The second time you touch the ground, to your surprise you find that the earth is kind and gentle and much less rough. You begin to feel gentleness and affection and softness. You feel that you might even fall in love on your planet earth. You can fall in love. You feel real passion, which is very positive.

At that point, you decide to leave your old beloved cocoon behind and to stand up without touching the cocoon at all. So you stand on your two feet, and you take a walk outside of the cocoon. Each step is rough and soft, rough and soft: rough because the exploration is still a challenge and soft because you don’t find anything trying to kill you or eat you up at all. You don’t have to defend yourself or fight any unexpected attackers or wild beasts. The world around you is so fine and beautiful that you know that you can raise yourself up as a warrior, a powerful person. You begin to feel that the world is absolutely workable, not even merely workable, but wonderful. To your surprise, you find that lots of others around you are also leaving their cocoons. You find hosts of ex-cocooners all over the place.

As ex-cocooners, we feel that we can be dignified and wonderful people. We do not have to reject anything at all. As we step out of our cocoons, we find goodness and gratefulness taking place in us all the time. As we stand on the earth, we find that the world is not particularly depressed. On the other hand, there is need for tremendous hard work. As we stand up and walk around, having finally got out of our own cocoons, we see that there are hundreds of thousands of others who are still half breathing in their cocoons. So we feel very touched and sad, extremely sad.

From the dictionary’s point of view, sadness has negative connotations. If you feel sad, you feel unfortunate or bad. Or you are sad because you don’t have enough money or you don’t have any security. But from the Shambhala point of view, sadness is also inspiring. You feel sad and empty-hearted, but you also feel something positive, because this sadness involves appreciation of others. You would like to tell those who are still stuck in their cocoons that, if they got out of the cocoon, they would also feel that genuine sadness. That empty-heartedness is the principle of the brokenhearted warrior. As an ex-cocooner, you feel it is wonderful that people of the past have gotten out of their cocoons. You wish that you could tell the cocooners the story of the warriors of the Great Eastern Sun and the story of the Kingdom of Shambhala. All the warriors of the past had to leave their cocoons. You wish you could let the cocooners know that. You would like to tell them that they are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of others who have made this journey.

Once you develop this quality of sadness, you also develop a quality of dignity or positive arrogance within yourself, which is quite different from the usual negative arrogance. You can manifest yourself with dignity to show the degraded world that trying to avoid death by sleeping in a cocoon is not the way. The degraded world, in which people are sleeping in their cocoons trying to avoid the pain of death, is called the setting-sun world. In that world, people are looking for the sunset as a sign that there will be a peaceful night ahead. But that night is never peaceful: It is always pitch-dark. Those who arise from the cocoon are called the people of the Great Eastern Sun. They are not blinded by opening their eyes, and they are not embarrassed about developing head and shoulders and stepping out of their cocoons. Such people begin to breathe the fresh morning air. They experience brilliance, which is constant and beautiful.

In the sitting practice of meditation, which is part of the Shambhala training, we stress the importance of good posture. Posture is important, not just in sitting practice, but in whatever you do. Whether you are talking to a client or talking to your mate, whether you’re talking to your pets or talking to yourself—which does sometimes happen—having a good posture of head and shoulders is an expression that you’ve stepped out of your cocoon. One of the reasons that people sing in the shower is that the water showering down on you forces you to stand up and have good head and shoulders. You begin to feel cleaned out, so you begin to sing or hum. This is not a myth; it’s true. When you have water falling on your shoulders, your head, and your face, there’s a sense that you’re relating with heaven.

How to tell if someone is in Harmony with their own Life

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anonymous Jan 1, 2013 9:45am

[…] That is not unique. What is unique is how people handle that feeling of being threatened, and how it manifests. Each person has his or her own cocoon. […]

anonymous Dec 5, 2012 2:52pm

[…] a sense of inquisitveness and humor and that we actually have to all contribute if we want to see GES [Great Eastern Sun—the vision of society and human nature as always waking up, fundamentally […]

anonymous Nov 23, 2012 4:21pm

[…] I grew up in Vajradhatu, now known as Shambhala, the biggest and strongest and loudest Buddhist community in the United States. Thirty yea… […]

anonymous Aug 6, 2012 11:34pm

[…] nature or “seed of awake.” The noble, peaceful warrior, Trungpa Rinpoche reminds us, is always broken hearted. Always. […]

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 4:38pm

[…] Cleaning up our act. It’s often simple, and powerful: […]

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 5:07am

[…] We get so busy in our own little bubbles. We walk around texting. We worry so much about our own insecurities that we don’t reach out to others. We insulate ourselves against strangers—people even tell their kids: […]

anonymous Jan 10, 2012 12:45am

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 7, 2012 10:42pm

[…] next page might mean letting go of things that make you feel safe in order to follow your heart. Choose again and you might end up with a few scrapes and bruises, […]

anonymous Jan 3, 2012 9:29pm

[…] often avoid it as much as possible. We want to stay in our little cocoons where everything is nice and cozy, and no one makes us feel bad about our […]

anonymous May 12, 2011 11:52pm

[…] I’ve been traveling, a bit, for the first time in years. Getting out of my hometown cocoon, as uplifted and sunny and healthy as it is, is healthy. It stretches my envelope and surrounds me […]

anonymous Apr 13, 2011 9:38am

[…] the other hand, is therapy in danger of being mistaken by the client as some sort of cocoon, as entertainment? Do we enjoy our problems? If our problems subsided, would we be bored, […]

anonymous Feb 25, 2011 3:49pm

[…] get outside to run about and pee on everything also helps force me out, when I’m feeling like cocooning myself in my home/office—which, when it was under foreclosure, wasn’t exactly a warm […]

anonymous Feb 22, 2011 3:33pm

[…] Difficulty breathing, living, being happy. I’m sad all the time. […]

anonymous Nov 27, 2010 6:32pm

[…] like what Trungpa Rinpoche talks about, with the cocoon. Clearing out old life and karma is hard. Bringing in new is a lot of work, but fun and new and […]

anonymous Jul 23, 2010 9:14pm

I love, love, double love this piece from Chogyam Trungpa on so many levels and for so many reasons. I hope I can call myself an 'ex-cocooner' one day.

anonymous Jul 23, 2010 6:55am

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." –Anais Nin

anonymous Jul 22, 2010 11:33pm

[…] a little bio for here.  This is it–courtesy of a post today from our boss Waylon Lewis at [The cocoon] is the shyness and aggression in which we have wrapped […]

anonymous Jul 23, 2010 1:23am

This post captured some real subtlety about the conflicting feelings of "waking up" to a deep truth.

How do I know that the cocoon I step out of is actually not just a cocoon I created in my mind so that I could "feel" the experience of shedding a cocoon?

I like the image, but shedding a physical cocoon is so linear. It's easy to tell whether or not the insect has or has not shed its cocoon. In our human lives, their are so many cocoons, and many of them are designed to look like freedoms. What's more, in my experience sometimes the difference between something being a cocoon or a freedom is just my frame of mind.

I'm sure I'm cocooned up pretty tightly in some ways, but free in others.

Peggy Tileston Aug 7, 2018 2:14pm

Perspective is everything. Here are two: 1. It Felt Love, by Hafiz How Did the rose Ever open its heart And give to this world All its Beauty? It felt the encouragement of light Against its Being, Otherwise, We all remain Too Frightened. 2. HIDING, By David Whyte: HIDING is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother's womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care. Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named. We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence. Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future. Excerpted from 'HIDING' in "CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words" - 2015 © David Whyte To everything, there is a reason...even cocoons!

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.