At the direction of my amazing teacher, Padma Drimed Norbu (known as Lama Drimed, or LD in these pages), of the #Tibetan #Buddhist #Nyingma Longchen Nyingtik #Vajrayana school/lineage, to whom I am eternally grateful, I began a partial retreat at home yesterday, on the day of the lunar eclipse/full moon, 10/18/13. I plan to continue for parts of almost every day through Losar (Tibetan New Year, 3/2/14) by spending at least 4 and usually 6 or more hours per day meditating and studying.
What will I be doing? Special daily practices, including “The Heart Sutra,” Prajnaparamita; the preliminary practices, Rushan, for Thödgal, which is part of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) in the Nyingma school; reading about the Rushan practices from teachings of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (both of our root teacher, who passed from that body in 2002) about how and why to do these practices; contemplating CTR’s and LD’s teachings; doing the exercises related to those teachings; and offering full moon tsogs (ritual meditation practice with food/alcohol feast offerings).
So, yesterday was the first full moon of this retreat period, the entry day I chose, for the first tsog. For various reasons, mostly personal preference, it has been several years since I offered a tsog, but it all came back to me (except the melodies, but that’s all right; I mostly chanted/read in English rather than Tibetan, to feel the meanings of each part, anyway). It was very comforting, soothing, moving: like coming home to familiar friends and sacred locations, words and experiences. My emotions, thoughts and mental states were uplifted by doing these practices and offering tsog.
For those unfamiliar, a Tibetan Vajrayana ritual tsog has several parts in the Nyingma tradition, and each has many layers of meaning and intention. First and foremost, the tsog is a generosity practice. Included in it are recognition of one’s true nature, repeatedly, so that all the rest of the ritual occurs with more success and depth: we make auspicious wishes for the benefit of all beings, evoke gratitude to and devotion to our teachers (the lineage masters), going all the way back to the Buddha; chant/read many reminders of our highest motivations and how best to practice and conduct ourselves in our lives; we are constantly pointed to the illusory nature of all phenomena and ways (“skillful means”) to pierce the illusions to see absolute truth (“wisdom”). Throughout the ritual are repetitions and images in great detail that lead one’s mind to focus its attention on the “four immeasurables”: compassion, rejoicing in others’ fortune (sympathetic joy), love and equanimity.
Quite often we are led to rest our minds in the spaciousness of awareness (rigpa), which includes all four of these, all in nonduality. The candle light (“butterlamps”), bowls filled with water, flowers, incense, ringing of the bell, snapping of the drum, mudras (ritual hand gestures), posture, arrangements of items and order of the sadhana (written text for the ritual) are all offered for these purposes with nothing withheld, and even more are offered in and via our imagination, to benefit all beings. We acknowledge and feel remorse for (“confess”) our mistakes in practice and in life, pledging to do better in the future with the support of these truths and methods.
We ask for the help of all enlightened beings who exist in every form by inviting them to partake of this tsog and all of our offerings. Over and over, musically and mentally, chanting and visualizing, we give and give, everything we are and have.
By the end of the four-hour tsog ritual, I felt cleaned out, refreshed, re-opened, delighted, anchored and ready for the commitment I’m making to this sequence of mini-retreat days and their activities. My mind sparkled.
The eclipse wasn’t visible (too much sunlight in this part of CA at its peak at around 6 PM), but I felt the energy of my tsog and the rightness of the timing in every cell of my being. I slept better than I’ve slept in I don’t know how long and awoke energized and happy.
These next several months bring many challenges: I’m still job-hunting; still marketing Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, which goes up as an ebook via Smashwords next month (as soon as cover art is completed); still writing and hope to be finishing first draft and several revisions of Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever; starting Volumes III and IV and pieces of the others up to X of The Spanners Series; still swimming almost daily at least 45 minutes; still trying to improve my health and maintain improvements gained.
Even so, this is the best time: I just received the teachings and instructions from Lama Drimed earlier this week for the first time; I am alive and relatively healthy; I can make my own schedule (at least, until I get a job); and, I have the leisure and luxury to put myself into this retreat.
So, I’m doing it.
For those of you who have read this far, thanks. This retreat and my writing schedule are the reasons I will not be answering the phone or email, not be online or available, for many hours over the next several months. I dedicate the merit of my practice to the benefit of you: my friends, my family, my readers/viewers, and to all beings.
I plan to write about my retreat (to the degree I am allowed; most of the details and experiences are not for the public) here on my blog.
Stay tuned! Be well and best to you all!