When were you first exposed to dharma?

I grew up in an Episcopalian family, didn’t attend church after leaving for college, and returned to it in my early 30’s. I was very involved for almost 20 years, but then, after a divorce, I began to explore other paths. I had always had doubts and skepticism about Christianity, and began to slowly find new avenues that answered at least some of my questions. Nothing seemed to fit, however, until I began to be introduced to Buddhism. At first it was Insight Meditation, and then I moved to a town where the only Buddhist community was a Tibetan Buddhist Center. They practiced Vajrayana Buddhism. It was all entirely new to me, but, at the same time, what I was hearing was familiar and was bringing together much of what I already believed but without a context in which to hold it.
It was like coming home, and I knew this was the end of my searching.


How has the path manifest in your daily experience?

I am retired, so my path is manifesting in my relationships, and in how I am living my daily life regarding what I choose to do with my time, skills, etc. The primary relationship is with my partner, and practicing the dharma teachings in this context has changed our dynamic significantly. I am more patient, less argumentative, more loving, less critical, and more conscious, aware and present. Of course, this is not all because of Buddhism, but the teachings do support these things.

And Buddhism has absolutely broken these patterns
in me profoundly, and they’re not good patterns
and they need to be shifted.

If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you? Secondly, who are your primarily teachers and what role/influence do they have on your practice?

I’ve only explored Buddhism through the Insight Meditation experience, some Zen experience and through reading. My early teachers were the books I read, ie. Pema Chodran, Jack Kornfield…. And the teachings on meditation at Spirit Rock. I found that Vajrayana spoke to something different and it was exciting to me. While meditation is taught, it is in the context of practices that include a variety of visualization practices.
My teacher now is the local teacher at our Center, as well as various online teachers, and reading books.

What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)

My main practice is Ngondro, and I expect I’ll be doing that for the rest of my days.
I am almost 80 years old now, so am preparing for the end of life. I have been given
the transmission of the Phowa Practice by a Lama who visits us, and am slowly practicing that. I am interested in Dream Yoga, and practice that, as well as the practices we do at The Center. I have a Yidam practice, and Ngondro has many different practices as a part of it.


It was like coming home, and
I knew this was the end of my searching.

Which sangha do you normally attend ?

The Sangha, Natural Mind,  I attend is in Bend, OR. The community is warm and welcoming with a core of dedicated practitioners. It has been a major support to me as a place where I can not only learn, but struggle with the dilemmas that arise in my life and offer support and compassion to others. Our Western teacher is skilled at bringing the ancient teachings into a modern context, and into language that our minds can understand.

What is your primarily profession?

I am retired, so it’s mainly in how I offer myself to help others, to be of service to the Sangha, (I’m the President of our Board of Directors,) and in how I make decisions as to what I do with my life. I am more aware of the activities in life that are of little value except as a distraction, and I avoid them.

Do you think your personality or background influence the lineage/practices that resonate with you?

I’m sure that they do, but that’s difficult to describe. Perhaps my love of nature has something to do with the focus on the elements that is in the practices, the lineage that comes from the ancient times, the relationship to the natural world, the mystery that is the essence, unchanging, luminous clarity, …the primordial ground….all speaks to me of the way I’ve always thought of God….
My personality seems to gravitate towards the “accomplishment” aspect of accumulation of mantras, etc. and this can be helpful, or, if I’m not careful, become too important! Also, I’ve studied the Enneagram for years, and it fits well into Buddhist teachings. Our teacher has also studied it, which is very helpful.


Dottie was raised in a traditional Episcopal family, where attending church was an automatic part of life. However, during high school and college, she drifted away from her religious roots. It wasn’t until a challenging period in her marriage that she returned to the Episcopal Church for support. In her community, she found value in discussions about ethical teachings, which she believed were essential for being a good person.

Later on, she delved into a transformative experience at a retreat center that blended biblical themes with yoga and psychology. This exposed her to the metaphorical and symbolic aspects of the Bible, leading her to explore various spiritual paths. A traumatic experience prompted her to seek solace, eventually leading her to a Dharma Center in Bend.

Initially unfamiliar with the symbols and practices, Dottie felt a profound connection to Buddhism. She recognized something in the teachings that resonated with her, providing a sense of clarity and understanding. Over the years, she navigated the challenges of integrating her Episcopal background with her newfound Buddhist practices, realizing that beneath the surface, both traditions aimed to explain the human experience.

For Dottie, the Buddhist perspective brought peace, describing a sense of openness, spaciousness, and emptiness that resonated with her understanding of a divine presence. In Buddhism, she found a spiritual home that transcended her previous search, offering a deep sense of peace and fulfillment.


As Dottie reflected on Michael’s emphasis on Vajrayana ‘s perceived flaws, she found a shift in her perspective. Instead of pursuing external goals, she focused on removing obstacles to attain contentment. Dottie appreciated how Buddhism highlighted the importance of practice, a concept she felt was lacking in her previous experiences with church.

Recalling her years in the church, Dottie realized she had never been encouraged to engage in a practice to the extent emphasized in Buddhism. The dedication, patience, and consistency required for Buddhist practices were a revelation for her. She contrasted this with her past experiences, where she might have been advised to say prayers but never truly guided in a dedicated practice.

Initially puzzled by the Tonga paintings and the concept of deities, Dottie’s understanding evolved when her teacher described them as archetypes. She grasped that these figures represented aspects within herself, allowing her to explore and cultivate desired qualities. She began to see the deities not as external beings to worship but as symbolic representations to connect with specific qualities or intentions.

Dottie found a profound meaning in utilizing these figures, such as Medicine Buddha, to channel positive energy towards healing or comfort for others. She emphasized that, despite not being a teacher, her understanding was grounded in the idea that these practices were about connecting with inner qualities and offering positive intentions rather than worshiping external deities.


Dottie shared her realization about the abundance of Buddhist literature available and how she has learned to be content with not acquiring every book that piques her interest. Acknowledging the numerous volumes on her shelves, she adopted a practice of “grazing,” randomly opening a book and reading a paragraph, often finding profound insights without the need to read cover to cover.

She mentioned that her teacher, Michael, also follows a similar approach, emphasizing the value of extracting meaningful snippets without feeling obligated to read entire books. Dottie termed this practice as “grazing,” a method to avoid being overwhelmed by the extensive literature available. She cautioned against the temptation to sign up for every online teaching or event promoted through emails, emphasizing the importance of balance in consuming information. Dottie advised herself and others to be mindful of not going overboard and to find a balance between external sources and personal contemplation.


Dottie was drawn to the practice of Ngondro right away, recognizing the need for a concrete focus in her spiritual journey. Initially unaware of the depth of this practice, she found it to be a substantial and straightforward foundation, offering a structured framework that provided the consistency she craved. Dottie emphasized the significance of being steadfast in her practice, acknowledging its role in establishing a necessary structure in her life. She highlighted the belief that the Ngondro, with its various steps, serves as a fundamental structure underlying most of the practices she has encountered. Despite the varied appearances of these practices, she noted a common intention threading through them all.


As Dottie approaches her 80th birthday in two years, she reflects on the topic of death, a subject often discussed in Buddhism. Despite potential discomfort, she appreciates the openness of Buddhism in addressing the impermanence of life. Dottie shares her initial interest in the concept of “power” within Buddhism, attending a teaching on power training. While it was a distinct experience, she realized it wasn’t the path she wanted to pursue, finding solace in the practices she’s engaged in, which she believes are preparing her for the inevitable event of her own death.

Dottie speaks about her calm acceptance of death and the significance of slowing down and being present. The teachings on impermanence resonate with her, emphasizing the importance of letting go of attachments. She grapples with the challenge of attachment, acknowledging that even with a small amount of possessions, the mental clutter poses its own dilemma. Dottie is slowly working through this process, recognizing the difficulty in letting go of labeled, yet insubstantial items laden with memories.

She touches on the concept of rebirth, a new idea for her, contrasting it with the eternal afterlife she was taught in her earlier religious upbringing. Dottie has taken the bodhichitta vow, expressing a desire to be reborn to benefit sentient beings rather than seeking eternal life in a specific realm. Despite uncertainties about the nature of rebirth, she feels compelled to prepare for an auspicious rebirth and reflects on the stories and concepts surrounding this aspect of Buddhist philosophy.

Other Practices

Dottie finds value in understanding the five Buddha families, recognizing the qualities attributed to each as reflections of human behavior. She likens it to the Enneagram, a tool for self-awareness. Recently, she participated in an online course led by Lama Tsultrim Allione, delving into the feminine wisdom of the five wisdom Dakinis. Dottie sees the importance of embracing feminine wisdom in today’s world, noting its power, strength, and occasional wrathfulness.

While Dottie doesn’t consistently use Tonglen, she acknowledges its efficacy, particularly in moments of helplessness. The mantras, especially those associated with Noon Tog, have become ingrained in her, offering a quick source of comfort and focus. Green Tara, in particular, has been a helpful mantra during moments of anxiety, such as before playing the cello solo.

Dottie doesn’t emphasize lengthy meditation sessions but incorporates meditation into her Noon Tog practice. She prefers shorter sessions, typically ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, occasionally extending her practice with mantras. The transformative aspect of meditation stands out to her, allowing her to find a quiet place within herself even in the midst of a busy environment, a change she attributes to her evolving sense of self-awareness and inner calm.


Dottie reflects on the transformative impact of her introduction to Noon Tog and the concept of refuge in her spiritual journey. In her local community, lacking a resident lama, they were dependent on the periodic visits of a lama to conduct ceremonies, including the refuge ceremony. Dottie recalls that, initially, the refuge ceremony was conducted during the lama’s visits, and it was only later that Michael began leading refuge ceremonies regularly.

When she first participated in the refuge ceremony, Dottie found it to be a significant and meaningful commitment. The vows and the ceremony brought tears to her eyes, leaving her with a deep sense of purpose. Despite not fully understanding the significance at the time, she took the vows seriously and felt a strong connection to the ceremony.

Over the past seven years, Dottie has experienced peculiar feelings related to past lives, a concept she hadn’t given much thought to previously. A past life regression many years ago left her with unexplained emotions, which resurfaced upon joining the Dharma Center. Although she can’t explain the connection, Dottie believes her journey to the Dharma Center may be linked to a past life, making the refuge ceremony even more significant.

She emphasizes the resonance and sense in the teachings about refuge, equating it to putting down the baggage one carries. The concept of refuge, as explained by her teacher, aligns with her understanding of finding a place where one can release burdens and experience a profound sense of peace and understanding.


In Dottie’s relationship with her partner, Tom, she recognizes him as a significant teacher in her life, echoing the idea that one’s closest relationships can serve as profound sources of learning. She acknowledges a pattern within herself – a tendency to be overly critical, particularly towards those closest to her. This self-awareness, rooted in Buddhist teachings, allows her to hear the critical voice before expressing it, a practice she finds significant.

Dottie shares that she’s developed an increased awareness of her critical thoughts and has learned to refrain from verbalizing them, a seemingly small action that holds profound significance for her personal growth. She emphasizes the challenge of breaking ingrained patterns and the impact Buddhism has had in disrupting and reshaping these habits.

In her interactions with Tom, she discloses that she used to interrupt him when she found his way of speaking convoluted. However, she has consciously refrained from this behavior, allowing him to express himself fully without interruption. This change, though seemingly simple, represents a significant shift in a deeply ingrained habit.

Dottie reflects on how Buddhism has profoundly influenced her, breaking negative patterns and replacing them with more positive ones. She describes this transformative process as a profound shift facilitated by Buddhist teachings, underscoring the power of consciously altering habitual patterns in relationships.


Dottie reflects on the teaching style of her instructor, Michael, acknowledging that everyone has their unique approach. Michael, a trained teacher encouraged by his mentors, adopts a direct and confrontational style, challenging individuals to confront their own dramas and not allowing them to evade personal accountability. This approach contrasts with the warmth and comfort one might experience when seeking guidance from a minister or priest.

Dottie shares her initial discomfort with Michael’s style, attributing it to her personality, driven by a desire for success and a tendency to want to do things right. The idea of rethinking her approach was new and challenging for her. She notes that Michael’s introverted nature and limited socialization contribute to a more focused interaction during board meetings and other formal settings. Despite being the board president and spending more time with him, Dottie recognizes that he remains her teacher, and she has learned to accept and understand his teaching style. Over time, she has become more open to his confrontational approach and has undergone personal changes, allowing her to listen without resistance.

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