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How to Work with Obstacles: Don Season

This morning I woke up and read an email from someone I have never met. It began, “Dear Lordo – you are a hipster f#ggot bitch.” The gentleman went on to say that I should “take off the f#cking rimmed glasses, put on an orange robe and stop fucking girls.” This raised many questions, such as, “How would I see?” “Can my robe be a bath robe?” “Is J Crew acceptable?” “Will my fiancé 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 don, or obstacle, season.

From a Tibetan Buddhist point of view, we are entering the New Year on February 22nd. 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 began on the 11th (RIP Whitney Houston) and continues until the 20th. 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 don 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 bitch, it might be helpful to consider that the ending of an annual cycle may very well by 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 a season to re-gather and regroup. Some methods of doing that include reciting traditional protector chants (sometimes held at Buddhist centers this time of year). These chants help rouse us to address our life in a straight-forward and fearless manner.

It’s 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 don 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 don 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 AM and it’s too late to meditate because it’s time for bed.

The best antidote for a speedy lifestyle is easier said than done: slow down. Take the time to notice when you’re speeding up during this don season. Recognize it, 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 straight-forward and kind. Seems like good advice for any season! He goes on to say in this piece 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.


Lodro Rinzler is a Shambhala Buddhist teacher and the author of The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation.


photo courtesy of zazzle.com

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This don season is a time

This don 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.

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Update on Don Season

Hello all,

This was originally posted in 2012. To clarify, Don Season starts this year on January 31st and runs through February 9th. I wish you well during this period.

- Lodro

Aahhh, at last!

I have been looking for readings about don season for a few days and yours randomly popped up today. Thank you for summing up what I have been searching for so simply and poignantly.
- Meghs (from Boston!)


I wouldn't necessary reject feedback just because is happening during don season. Good cleaning today !

interesting read, but why

interesting read, but why bring up houston's death?


I wondered the same - unnecessary and irrelevant to the point.

Always oportunity for more understanding

Wow! That guy is really offended because of something!

He make me remember all the ocations I felt like him, -this person should relax, this person should use his-her brain a little more, this person has no idea of how cause and effect works, this person should bla, bla, bla, bla...-

Prejudice is the result of fustration, very hard to see in our own minds.

Hugs from Mexico my dear hipster.

ps. sorry for my broken english.

Further reading

I have found two more pieces about dons/obstacles that may be of interest:

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on obstacles - http://www.sakyong.com/teachings.php?id=33
Karme Choling's blog on don season - http://karmecholing.blogspot.com/2012/02/working-with-obstacles-don-seas...

very helpful

thank you, Lodro. after reading this, i aspire to become a hipster f#ggot bitch. i especially appreciated the advice in this piece--to slow down, pay attention to details, and relax. thanks again.

Good article!

Thanks for the reminder to open up and slow down!

don season

great article. Really down to earth. I had to share it with myh yoga and meditation friends on facebook.


I am so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing it with others.

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