I remember one morning listening to a dharma teaching in Tibet. It was an out of the way temple hidden in the mountains. Hundreds of people had finished a ngondro retreat together. There were yogis everywhere, not just men like in a monastery, but entire families, all practicing together as ngakpas, yogis who balance spiritual training with family life. At the end of the session a Tibetan woman sang a song, her voice was loud and clear, loud like opera but ringing out in a clear way like a bell. This wasn’t the teaching, the program was officially over. But it was a stunning moment none-the-less, one where we were all quiet together, listening to this emotional song of longing and redemption.
I was squeezed in between people. On my right, a person sat on part of my leg. On my left, my leg was stacked over someone’s foot. The person behind me was sitting on my skirt and I was afraid that if I stood up that it would get pulled down. It was not that comfortable and really the whole week had been so rustic that my body was starting to feel worn out. I appreciated that the setting was so simple, there was not even a restroom, just the temple and all these people squeezed together, but that it made it physically more gruelling. There was also no air conditioning and it was very hot, hotter than I ever thought possible. I found myself wondering if it was safe to be in a room that hot!
But all these details faded away as we listened to this wonderful song being performed at the end. It wasn’t even like that for everyone, I noticed at least one person wanting it to hurry up and end. But for me, time stopped and I was just still listening. It was reaching me and I was arriving to a present state.
That was when I remembered the Dzogchen practice, where when listening, we notice that which is listening. And there, more than seven thousand miles away from home, I felt at home as I settled into my own awareness. A simple and highly present state.
As they say, in Vajrayana literature, there are very elaborate, elaborate, non-elaborate and very non-elaborate teachings. This was of the very-non-elaborate kind. Just sitting with my senses, my mind, my awareness, using the basic stuff of what I am. I am grateful to know how to rest. This is the point of Dzogchen, to learn to use experience, to work with circumstance and to find the rest and ease within us.
Sometimes I remember that meditation in the temple because it was so spontaneous and so stripped of complexity. On bad days, I like to recycle past present experiences by contemplating them so I savor it again and enjoy it repeatedly. And now I share it with you (experiences can be re-enjoyed endlessly!)
This month as we prepare to enter our annual study of Finding Rest & Ease by Longchenpa, I have a renewed sense of the purpose of these instructions, that help us make peace with our own minds, wherever are. We can’t all necessarily go to Asia, or even get away from our work or family responsibilities for a full day. So we need to know how to rest right here, and I don’t mean just falling asleep, because that can be disturbing. The point is not even about free time, because even that can be draining, and we don’t have much of that. This advice from Longchenpa is about how to find a sense of refuge in our own body and mind just exactly as we are right now. This is a topic of intense scrutiny and rigorous examination, and the subject of some of the most beautiful poetry you will ever hear. I am overjoyed to share this with you and hope that year after year we will be able to work through this entire text together.
Last year we studied the first Vajra point about place, a profound teaching on integration with the environment. And this year we will study the great Longchenpa’s life of a yogi – how to live our lives as Dzogchen practitioners. I love that this addresses how to handle encounters with evil and avoid deception, because this is an important part of establishing the state of rest inside.
I hope you will join us and regardless, may we all find some moments of ease today.
My very best to you always,
Finding Rest & Ease in the Nature of Mind:
Longchenpa’s Guide to Dzogchen with Pema Khandro
September 8-10th, 2023 Online
11:00pm -3:30pm EST
“Liberation will be attained by seeing the nature of the mind itself,
the true nature of phenomena. Then there is no other peace to attain.”
Excerpt From, Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding, Longchenpa
So much about the spiritual path is uncomfortable and not easy, which is why it is important to train to tap into these states as a source of refuge, rest, and recovery.
Experience three days of profound study and meditation in this three-day online retreat with Dr. Pema Khandro.