Heal Your Mind, Heal the Earth with the Five Wisdoms


March 17, 2023

by Abbey Pleviak

Join Lama Dorje on Zoom with Drala Center on May 13 - 14 for his course Heal the Mind, Heal the Earth: Create Global Change Through the Five Elements.

In this world full of suffering, many of us long to help. To make a positive impact, we need look no further than our own minds.

In the Summer of 2021, I attended a daylong "Heal the Mind, Heal the Earth: Create Global Change Through the Five Elements” retreat with Drupon Lama Dorje. It was a transformative experience, yet I doubted if I should go. The pandemic was winding down, and it felt like an eternity since I had sat with other meditators. I felt scared to be with people and share not just germs, but conversation. Was I ready to step back into sangha? Would what was once so natural and nourishing be so again? If there was ever a time my mind and the earth needed healing, wasn’t it now?

I needed to go. As a graduate of Naropa University and a longtime student of Shambhala, I had encountered the 5 Wisdom teachings again and again – first in a theater class with Lee Worley and again in Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s lectures on dharma art and film. I became obsessed with these teachings and sought them out in books, in courses with Irini Rockwell and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in the Shambhala Art programming, and in theater events and workshops I created. I couldn’t pass up seeing the Tibetan lama visiting from Costa Rica with teachings on the 5 Wisdoms as a pathway for personal, social, and ecological healing.

Despite my background with the 5 wisdoms, this retreat, given in Spanish with co-teaching and translation by Carolina Putnam, co-founder of an organization dedicated to the preservation of indigenous teachings and watersheds offered a fresh perspective. I had contemplated how the 5 Wisdom energies – which manifest as Space, Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth – comprise our bodies, emotions, and ways of being in the world, but I hadn’t thought about how their untamed aspects contribute to ecological destruction, interpersonal strife, and warfare. That summer, the world was in chaos, turmoil, and disharmony, and these teachings felt urgent as a potent antidote for our troubled times.

Lama Dorje grounded the 5 Wisdoms in our own observations and experiences of the elements, and I gained understanding of the purpose in even thier confused and destructive aspects. The boiling heat of anger and passion creates a necessary boundary to protect ourselves, but it can bubble over into wars over territory, resources, and ideology, which lead to ecological and social devastation. Seeing and understanding the root of conflict is the first step to calming it and transforming that energy into something constructive rather than destructive.

Lama Dorje’s teachings reminded me that even if I sometimes feel helpless about the plight of the world and my inability to create positive change in it, there is always something I can do to help. That action begins in my own mind and in working with the energies that can push me from a state of clarity and compassion into confusion and defensiveness.

Those who meditate come to know the strength and power that grows from gaining the capacity to calm the intense emotions that push us off our seats into actions we may come to regret. When we can rest with that intensity, we become capable of seeing through it and discovering ways of being and acting that are more harmonious and capable of benefiting the world rather than adding to the tragedy.

I’ll never regret taking the leap to see Lama Dorje teach that day. Experiencing live dharma teachings was both nourishing and energizing as was being in the warmth of sangha and community. I gained greater insight into how the mind contributes to suffering in the world and received tools for working with my mind to clarify the confusions inherent in each of the 5 elements so that I can continue to cultivate their wisdom for the benefit of the world.

Lama Dorje will be teaching his course Heal the Mind, Heal the Earth: Create Global Change Through the Five Elements on Zoom on May 13 - 14.

Abbey Pleviak has been practicing the dharma in the Shambhala tradition since 2004 and has been a student of Drupon Lama Dorje since 2021. She writes for Rangefinder Magazine, and her documentary film company Without Territory is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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