Creative Letting Go: Experiencing Dakini Bliss
September 7, 2008 by Karen Lawrence
You just gotta let it go is a common admonition among creative types when commiserating about learning to deal with the many rejections that happen when doing what we love. Developing a thick skin takes practice and constant reminders that sometimes what we do won’t be recognized or appreciated, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the effort. In fact, thinking differently about rejections may take us places we never expected.
I’ve adopted the term Dakini Bliss to describe those moments when I am yet again puzzled by the fact that some editor has rejected my idea and sent me on my way. The feeling is usually a mixture of disappointment, anger and frustration that whatever it is I’m doing isn’t appreciated or is somehow not good enough. I borrowed the phrase from beloved Western Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, who describes her first encounter with Dakini Bliss while on a meditation retreat. She was describing an intense wordless anxiety she was experiencing to her teacher, asking for advice or a technique for melting it away. Her teacher exclaimed “Oh, I know that feeling. That’s the Dakini Bliss!” Pema excitedly responded “Dakini Bliss? Oh, wow! Right! The feeling does have the intensity of bliss!” and became eager to experience it again. But of course, when she tried to recreate it, it was gone. She realized that because she was unconsciously calling what she had been experiencing “bad”, she had been struggling against it. Once she became curious about it, however, even reframing it as something worth experiencing again, the feeling vanished. Her enthusiastic acceptance of whatever she encountered as an opportunity for growth or transformation removed the angst.
When I first heard the phrase Dakini Bliss, I was tempted to dismiss it as a quirky spiritual oxymoron. Dakinis are the fierce and beautiful female symbols in Buddhist, and sometimes Hindu folklore (usually called yoginis in modern India) that represent energy in space. They are generally depicted, particularly in Tibetan images, as dancing goddesses, replete with bone necklaces, flaying knives, skull cups full of blood and a wrathful expression. Their purpose is often described as being a perturbing muse or a symbol for the transformation of negative emotion to enlightened awareness.
When I think of bliss, I am always reminded of Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before” which has long been a favorite mantra of mine. So if bliss is a state of being that is characterized by extreme happiness and joy, I found the juxtaposition of the image of an aggressively powerful and sharply dichotomous female figure with bliss confusing and disarming. Hence, I branded it unfathomable and useless mumbo-jumbo.
But the more I thought about it, the more fascinated I became with the way the phrase Dakini Bliss shook up my tendency to over-think and allowed me to let go of preconceived notions of “good” and “bad”. Does one slamming door merely open another portal? Dakini Bliss takes me from dejection to curiosity, and into the openness of what might develop that I hadn’t even considered. And by calling the wordless anxiety that comes with the inevitable rejections I receive as a writer my Dakini Bliss, I have found the rebuffs begin to lose their bite and my determination to keep living my passion regardless of how it is received in the world is renewed. Will rejections ever stop hurting? Probably not. But seeing them as Dakini Bliss transforms them from failure to limitless opportunity.