Dön Season: How to Survive the Next 10 days of Chaos.

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Warning: adult language ahead. 

Update: Dön Season is February 5th – 14th, 2018 with a “neutral” day on February 15th and Shambhala Day (the New Year) on February 16th, 2018. Year of the Earth Dog!

Bonus video: Waylon Lewis on how to mindfully survive Don Season.

How to Work with Obstacles: Dön Season

One morning I woke up and read an email from someone I had never met. It began, “Dear Lordo—you are a hipster f*ggot b*tch.”

The gentleman went on to say that I should “take off the f*cking rimmed glasses, put on an orange robe and stop f*cking girls.” This raised many questions, such as, “How would I see?” “Can my robe be a bath robe?” “Is J Crew acceptable?” “Will my girlfriend be okay with a sexless life together?” This email, while largely bizarre and misinformed, caught my eye. More importantly, it reminded me that we are now officially in dön, or obstacle, season.

From a Tibetan Buddhist point of view, we are entering the New Year on February 27th. For a period prior to the New Year there is a time that is traditionally known for being a rough patch—a time of obstacles. It begins on February 16th and continues until February 25th. Lodro Dorje, an acharya in the Shambhala tradition, has written a lovely piece about it. In it he says,

“Just as the motion of the earth and the cycle of the seasons take place, there may be also a cycle of the karmic forces on a psychic level. Traditionally the end of the old year is seen as a time of the ripening of karmic tendencies.”

This dön season is a time where the accumulated karma from the past year rises up and, at times, feels like it’s slapping you in the face. This is said to take a variety of forms: arguments, accidents, heated conflict. On a more inner level, we are more prone to fixed emotions and opinions, sickness and feeling unbalanced.

Perhaps you’re having a delightful week so far and think that this is Tibetan hooey. That’s fine. There are lots of lovely posts on this site, so go check them out. But if you’ve been feeling suddenly blue, fatigued or have been called a hipster f*ggot b*tch, it might be helpful to consider that the ending of an annual cycle may very well be having an effect on your well-being.

My root teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, has said that this is not a time to freak out, but instead a time to regroup. Some methods of doing that include reciting traditional protector chants (often held at Buddhist centers this time of year). These chants help rouse us to address our life in a straightforward and fearless manner.

It is also a good time to face the coming wave of aggression and conflict with an open heart. You can engage in shamatha (calm-abiding) meditation or loving-kindness practices. Given that this is dön season, you may find that one obstacle you face is getting to the meditation cushion. So you have to exert yourself beyond whatever laziness may arise.

Interestingly enough, in his book Turning the Mind into an Ally, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche writes about another form of laziness that seems to be applicable to this dön season: speedy-busyness. This is the form of laziness that is based in coming up with all sorts of activity to avoid doing something. For example, you want to meditate but first you have to vacuum, then there are a few emails that need your attention, then you realize you need to return someone’s phone call, then shower, then it’s already 1:00 a.m. and it’s too late to meditate because it’s time for bed.

The best antidote for a speedy lifestyle is simple but not easy: slow down.

Take the time to notice when you’re speeding up during this dön season. Recognize it, and then consciously take some time to slow your pace, or the speed with which you eat, or allow for more space in your conversations. When we take the time to be more present then we can see situations clearly. From that vantage point we can then find a way through whatever obstacles arise.

To return to Lodro Dorje, he recommends we keep our conduct and awareness straightforward and kind. Seems like good advice for any season! He went on to say that we can remain open, ride on our own personal energies, and pay attention to the details of our lives. This may mean cleaning your house, double-checking your projects at work or making sure you’re eating three meals a day. This advice, particularly the paying attention to the details of your life, seems very potent indeed.

So if you are encountering a lot of obstacles during this period I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that from a traditional Tibetan point of view, you may continue to experience a rough patch for another week or so. The good news is that you can face these obstacles fearlessly, with openness and through slowing down and appreciating the details of your life. Bonus good news: everything is impermanent, even the bad stuff, and especially mean e-mails. 


Adapted from an article Lodro wrote on this topic for the Interdependence Project in 2012.


For more:
Mercury Retrograde might be BS, but Dön Season is coming to get you:


For m


Author: Lodro Rinzler

Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Google Images for Reuse

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Lodro Rinzler

Lodro Rinzler is a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and the author of the books “The Buddha Walks into a Bar” and “Walk Like a Buddha”. Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers and college campuses throughout North America. Lodro’s column, “What Would Sid Do”, appears regularly on the Huffington Post and he is frequently featured in Marie Claire, Reality Sandwich, the Interdependence Project, Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma and Good Men Project. He is the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an authentic leadership training and job placement organization, and lives in Brooklyn with his dog Tillie and his cat Justin Bieber.

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anonymous Feb 4, 2016 9:44am

This just Dönned on me ha! Sorry I couldn’t resist! Thank you love for bringing awareness to me on the subject. Everything happens for a reason and negative in experience or not it’s my path. Sooooo…I was fabulously fired from my job yesterday and I’m five months pregnant. Needless to say the entire next month won’t be easy. I’m feelin this:/!

anonymous Feb 3, 2016 3:21am

Dear Lodro,

I love your wit and your wisdom and your example of loving-kindness! It’s a shame that gentleman spoke/wrote out of fear and aggression. Here’s sending loving-kindness to that gentleman so that he may see his true nature – his basic goodness. May he stop watering the seeds of fear, anger and negativity and experience the joy, harmony and peace of his own buddha nature. You have already handled it beautifully. Here’s also sending harmony and peace to you and to all beings, that we realize we are not separate from one another, and that we may all help each other and support one another along! Thank you for this post!

anonymous Feb 2, 2016 6:37am

And then, as the perfect thump to the head, reminding me how utterly ridiculous it was for me to get upset about the card being stolen, of course I just found it in my purse.

anonymous Jan 31, 2016 5:33pm

I have long been one who thought dön season was a bunch of hooey. But I was anxious to see what you had to say on the subject, Lodro. I certainly appreciate the humor and clarity you bring to it. And I have to admit, I had an incident yesterday that has me questioning my doubts about dön season.

I’d given my grandmother a $200 Visa gift card for Christmas, and she died a couple of weeks later. At her memorial service, my aunt gave the card back to me, still in the sparkly little gift bag I’d presented it in. So I decided to treat the family to a nice dinner with it. When I took the card out to pay, the actual card was not there – only the sleeve it came in and the gift receipt. I acted like it was no big deal and paid withy debit card, but I found myself fretting about who took that card.

After more of that than I care to admit, I remembered some good advice I was given when my car was stolen on retreat. I started imagining me giving the card to whoever had taken it because if I’d given it, it wasn’t stolen, and no negative karma would result. I’m still working with this, and I am feeling the negativity ebbing.

So I’m not 100% ready to say I “believe in” dön season, but I appreciate the opportunity to work with habitual patterns! Thanks for a great, thought-provoking read.

anonymous Jan 31, 2016 3:20pm

Lodro, thank you for this post. May the dons be on our side for a change. Please excuse this shameless promotion, but….
To hear more of Lodro Rinzler, please see him at Shambhala Mountain Center, yes in flesh, with free tuition charges. Thats right, come one come all and work with Lodro Rinzler this March with FREE Tuition. Only pay room and board and food, no lie. Check it out at shambhalamountain.org. See you in a few months Lodro. And may the dons be with you.

anonymous Jan 30, 2016 7:48am

Dear H.F.B,

I’m new here, so please don’t be all like R.T.F.M.

Top of the blog says:

“Update: Dön Season is January 29th to February 7th, 2016 with a “neutral” day on February 8th and Shambhala Day (the New Year) on February 9th, 2016. Year of the Fire Monkey!”

But third paragraph says:

“February 8th and continues until February 17th.”

Please clarify for this newbie!

    anonymous Jan 30, 2016 10:37am

    The first paragraph is correct for 2016 and the third paragraph was correct for the previous year.

anonymous Feb 18, 2015 1:49pm

Any obstacle can be transformed – the term obstacle blessing is used by many Lamas to describe these as precious opportunities to cultivate virtuous states of minds. Without obstacles, we'd sit around and daydream all the time – so i hope we can all transform our obstacles!

anonymous Feb 15, 2015 8:16am

Ahhn that explains a lot. Many thanks. And especially for the prompt about getting out of my own way en route self care. Will enjoy reading more of your articles, I have enjoyed your gentle humour and thoughtful words.

anonymous Feb 14, 2015 1:21pm

In my case, I started feeling so moe than 10 days ago. And I'm still feeling this way. With no real reasons. I was wondering why all this was happenning, what was the meaning (since those feelings are pretty odd for me). Now I know. Thank you a lot. I'll go decluttering my apartment now…big hugs to everyone.

anonymous Feb 13, 2015 11:44am

This totally explains what happened to me yesterday..out of the blue…this woman tried to bash into the back of my car…then started screaming at me with her foul mouth. Really bizarre!

anonymous Feb 13, 2015 10:36am

Im feelinhg this very very much. Does that meen that Karma thinks that Ive been bad this year? Thanks for a great article!

anonymous Feb 10, 2015 8:11am

I think those glasses look fine on you.
and this is a good article.
and if you ever did decide to go gay, you would do well.

Thank You.
The end.

that was three compliments to a stranger – how good is MY karma now?!!

anonymous Feb 9, 2015 3:50am

I feel as described (more precisely, fatigued, disappointed and aggressive at the same time, like some misused energy bubble up, prone to ruminating over the past from the worst possible angle) and it started yesterday! coincidence? and things seem to get worse and worse…

anonymous Feb 8, 2015 8:42pm

Thanks for the reminder. Everything is on it's way to somewhere else.

anonymous Feb 8, 2015 7:47pm

LOL. Thank you for making me laugh. I wasn't called a hipster f*ggot b*tch, but I did get a pretty intense comment on my blog today… Thanks for the insights!