May 19, 2012

Taking Refuge. ~ Bindu Wiles

Photo: Johnny Worthington

It’s spring and one of the things that means for American Buddhists is that it’s Vow season.

Buddhist Vows are typically taken in the spring, although you can take them at any time during the year if the occasion arises. I personally love that they are given in the spring, a natural time of renewal and growth.

The first vow that one takes in becoming a Buddhist, is The Refuge Vow.

Webster says this about Refuge: a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. Something providing such shelter.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says this about refuge:

“The purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. By taking the refuge vow we are acknowledging that the only real working basis is oneself and that there is no way around that.”

One of the main ideas behind taking refuge is to have something that you commit to, not only on a daily basis, but especially when things get difficult and hairy in life.

I am someone who has had an extremely difficult time with my emotions during my 47 years on the planet. Some people have chronic back pain or other physical aliments that they deal with. I have had that sort of experience with my emotions. I have lost many days and relationships because of my emotional pain.

What I have learned over the many years of persistently chipping away at the tangled knot of emotions and working with my mental and emotional health, is that one must have an arsenal of ways to take refuge.

For example, getting on my bike is one of my main ways to take refuge. Writing is another. Sometimes I call someone.

Generally, taking refuge for me when it comes to emotional pain is most of the time an action. And the action is usually opposite from what my mind is telling me to do.

That’s one of the hallmarks of taking refuge. In the vow, we actually leave all the comforts of home that we know and we become refugees. We go in the opposite direction of fear.

It’s the same thing when working with our emotional (and even physical) pain.

We take an opposite action—we stop resisting the pain and terror and we touch in and let it in—we do this with incredible gentleness. By touching in to the pain, we can paradoxically alleviate it, and see what’s underneath it.

In this way we have a shot at transforming the pain into love and wisdom and understanding, which all bring tremendous relief.

Repressing, ignoring, denying, controlling, or an I can’t deal with this right now over and over mentality, are not healthy ways to take refuge.

In fact, they are not taking refuge at all. They will not bring any sort of relief that you think or hope they will. This is called habituation or cocooning in Shambhala Buddhism.

Taking refuge is to acknowledge our situation as it is today and then taking some sort of action that will be a balm to what ails so that we can continue to wake up.

To the extent with which we can acknowledge our pain and the terror that surrounds it, and then with gentleness and fearlessness, find ways to take refuge, is the extent that we will be able to live honest, fully expressed lives that radiate with our own genuineness.

What are 5 action-driven things you can list that are your go-to’s for when you need to take refuge?

My comments are open again on my posts, so feel free to share anything you want, like how you take refuge or your thoughts on this post.

I’m working on a book right now that’s loosely titled: 100 Ways To Take Refuge When Life Hurts Like A Mother*$#*!*:  An Action Guide To Self-Care and The Genuine Heart of Sadness.

I’m currently taking new coaching clients, so email me today and let’s get started, [email protected]


Editor: Hayley Samuelson.


Bindu Wiles is a life-changing Life Coach who is in a mid-life crisis that she is walking, writing and photographing her way through. She has and undergraduate degree in fine art (photography) and 3 graduate degrees because the one she really wanted all along was an MFA in writing, which she finally received at 47 years of age from Sarah Lawrence College. The tattoo on her left forearm sums up her life motto: Art Saves Lives. She has completed a 300 page memoir, her essays have been published in various literary journals, she is bringing more of the under 12 years of age crowd into her life, and is always up for a good laugh. In fact, she is trying to stay in a state of silly as an approach to aging. 



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