Door at “Tail of the Tiger,” Vermont, a door by which the dharma began streaming into the West


“Many think that women are better are reading nonverbal cues than men. They also seem to remember appearance and cues better than men. Women are also better at reading facial cues than men (which means men may be equal to women, or better, at reading some cues). On a side note, we live in an age of telephones and computers and the internet. It’s possible that nonverbal communication is becoming less important, or less relevant. It is changing; that you can’t argue. If you communicate by email, nonverbal communication will be different than if you talk “face-to-face.”” Nonverbal Notes

(detail of Vajrayogini thangka by Jack Niland)

The big thing, really the only thing, I got from studying nonverbal communication, is that it’s about perception and communication on the level of what you could call intuition. I guess you could say it’s about reading and moving energy. When I said in one class that the rise of emails and phone messaging meant nonverbal communication (ie facial expressions, body language) would become less important in the future, less necessary, no one really seemed to get it. No one took the bait.

Said bait was that, even with emails, you get nonverbal impressions. I think it’s one of those nice real life examples lots of people get- which is frustrating in a way, and perfect in another. People will probably admit that you can tell the feeling from many emails based on …? It’s not the font size, or the color of the font. You can just feel it, so much of the time.

So nonverbal communication is that movement of feeling, energy, impression that is always happening, and the rise of electronics will have to change how this manifests, but it won’t destroy it; on the contrary, it seems like it might make it more obvious (which is good for people like me, so often I miss the obvious, the obviously nonverbal).

This is time. In TSK vision, time refers not only to the passing of experiences, but their flavors and styles, their energies.

Look at our beautiful future!


So now my communication class is in the past, and I’m left with some fuzzy and intense memories, and my students the same (and some grades).

But the beginning of the post touched on men/women differences in thinking and communicating. That’s a complex topic, and not one I understand well. Here’s one connection, though. Rereading Trungpa Rinpoche’s writing/talks on the feminine principle, in some schools, the feminine is considered space, and the masculine earth, forms, things. My initial understanding of the feminine principle in deities, in religion, was of the feminine as earth, nature, living things. Many Tibetan yogis and scholars considered the feminine to be space, emptiness, the formless (and more solid things to be masculine, thus the earth). It’s common these days to talk about the growth of dharma, particularly Hindu and Buddhist, in the West, as a sort of rebalancing, of the feminine wisdom returning after masculine creativity and impulses had ruined or at least unbalanced things, a sort of back to Mother Earth kind of thing.

While I think that has some insight to it, this idea shifts if you look at feminine energy/wisdom as being about space, and masculine energy/wisdom as being about form. In this view, the feminine is emphasized much more, but it’s also not oversimplified or sentimentalized into some kind of hippie earth-mother thing. This may be complicated by the existence of a male bias in Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t think so personally, especially the direction things are taking in American Buddhism these days, but that’s just my opinion on the matter.

The balancing of masculine and feminine, and integration of those, is one very rough roadmap of spiritual learning. I think that’s a decent lens to look at these ideas through:

men and women both work with that integration,

which involves “nonverbal communication”

and time (masculine) and space (feminine).

It’s interesting, too, that VCTR gave innumerable teachings on space. At the same time, he transmitted the Shambhala teachings, and set up a whole framework for passing on the Shambhala teachings. Yes, in Shambhala we hear about space. At the same time, it’s more masculine in many regards. That’s my opinion. Why is it masculine?

warrior tradition

works in the natural world

works often in terms of things, perceptions

works in terms of “container” and creating culture


Some jumbled thoughts. Enough for now.




About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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