February 7, 2015

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


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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