Dignity in everyday life

TLGD in life


I was asked to write a short something on how the dignities of Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon dignity are apparent and incorporated into our daily lives. This is an extensive topic in the Shambhala teachings.  All of the Sakyong’s books touch on different aspects of how one can integrate them in our lives. I encourage you to read Ruling your world or Running with the mind of meditation for more depth.  If you would like to study more there are a series of classes called ‘Way of Shambhala‘ that work with different aspects of the dignities.

The Shambhala teachings are always bringing up the dignities of Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon as examples of how to live ones life. How crazy is that? Crazy because who knows how a tiger, lion, garuda or dragon actually live? So yes – we have to go deeper into the analogy to find guidance. The easiest to start with is Tiger.

Tigers are know for being smart and grounded.  They move silently and with care.  The dignity of tiger is the first one and so tiger is the start.  The start of what?  The start of ones day? It will be different for everyone but it could be how we wake up? Or the first things we do? The brushing of teeth, the first thought, the making of coffee, the meditating in the morning, the dressing of children and showering and dressing ourselves? It could also be the structure or bones of the day, the schedule, the framework of our day, week, month. How is that Tiger? Well tiger is the grounding principle of the 4 dignities. It walks along the ground, the earth, the practicalities the pragmatics, the basics – food, water and shelter. So Tiger could be knocking something off the to do list that has to do with taking care of your home. Cleaning the dishes, watering the garden, fixing the leak in the basement. Tiger could be feeding you when you are hungry. Tiger could be keeping you on time…

Another way to look at Tiger is as the phase of your life or the phase of a project. Children are tigers, they learn from direct experience and they are always in the moment. Children are at the start of their lives, they are stretching up from the ground. How about the tiger phase of a relationship? Or the start of a new business?

The Sakyong likens the Tiger phase to learning the mechanics, the basics of any skill. If you were to learn how to cook the first thing you would learn to do is how to prepare the ingredients, to acquire the skills to chop, mince and dice, to marinate and season. Then you would learn the different types and styles of cooking.

Cooking breakfast in the morning in the kitchen of your home is a super example of Tiger, tiger, tiger, tiger activities. It is a start, it is grounding, it is full of feeling and context and nutrients and it is in the hearth or ground of your home. Another example could just as easily be making a daily to-do list at your job or teaching a child numbers or having a tea break at a regular time in your day. Further Tiger planning in you life might be taking time to actually plan basic space into your life to accomplish the basic things that need to be done. Planning in this way allows you to have space to actually do the maintenance that is needed in ones life without rush or unexpectedness.

Paying for things with money you have saved for a purpose is very Tiger like. Having a basis of wealth from which to operate is tiger-like. The fullness of the earth supporting your activities is how the tiger operates. Yes, some of that comes from the visionary planning of Dragon and Garuda, but connecting with the reality of how we spend and save money is tiger.

Tiger as the basicness of life allows and reminds us to be present with the simplicity of the day-to-day activities. When we are together with our actions then there is contentment.



Where am I the most grounded in my day? Why?  What areas of my life could use a little more tiger energy or attention?



Lion goes a bit beyond the basics and yet is still very connected to them. If you make the cup of tea then when you drink it you enjoy it. That enjoyment or appreciation is infusing the situation with the dignity of the lion. You can smell the Oolong, you can taste the whole cream and the blackness, you can feel the bone china on your lips, you appreciate the energy in your muscles and digestion and the warmth. A good cup of tea is only good if one can take the moment to listen to it, to appreciate it. That brings natural joy into ones life. Lion equally appreciates the smell of the diaper that needs to be changed and the tang of a pan that got over burnt.

When one meditates one first becomes familiar with the mechanics, the posture, the body breathing and the breath. As soon as one makes friends with this then Lion kicks in and appreciates each and every breath. A sense of relaxation and play occur when there are no ‘second thoughts’ or doubts about what you are doing. Equally this happens in your work, life or craft. The carpenter joyfully swings a hammer without looking, a chef chops an onion, a lawyer follows a logic or whatever and we are all of these. The tiger energy that we have allowed into whatever area of our life will always have an accompanying playful lion. The scales of tiger are the pleasing lion chords of our life.

Lion phase is expansion too. We know how to count, now we multiply and divide. We know how to talk, now we expand into conversation. The child is growing up. Tiger and Lion are with us all our lives but adolescence does follow childhood, courtship follows meeting, family follows partnership, etc.

In your day lion could be thought of as your main activity, what you do, the filling in the doughnut. Carried and surrounded by the schedule of the tiger. Lion can also be the main activity in your life, your calling, your way of being, your ‘style’. Lion is the flesh and the flush on the bones of your life.

Lion is play, the dinner party with friends, the outing with family, the gathering to study. Lion is enjoyment, long winding conversations, a brilliant movie. Lion is mastery of a skill and the joy of it. Full-throttle racing without thinking about shifting or corners, 20 perfectly plates entrees, being able to be generous to others from your fruits.

Lion is environment. In your home, the place of lion is the living room, where relaxation and entertainment happens. Lion is interaction and communication and community. Tiger might get the groceries for the dinner party but it is Lion that allows for bubble and sparkle and lights the candles with pizazz.  No self consciousness, simply enjoying every aspect.

When we have no worries about what we are doing we can truly enjoy them as they are happening and that enjoyment is infectious and others can feel and appreciate it too.



Think of an area of your life where you have mastery. How did you come to that?

How do you feel when you are doing that activity? Think of an area of your life that doesn’t feel joyful. Can you extend lion into that?

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Kristine McCutcheon lives between a mountain and the ocean in Margaree, Cape Breton. She is married and on the Shambhala path as a Householder.  



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