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    Thread: Review: Dream Yoga Retreat with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

    1. #1
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      Review: Dream Yoga Retreat with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche



      It’s been almost six months since I came home from Serenity Ridge, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s retreat center in Shipman, VA. I think it’s taken me that long to unpack the whole thing mentally, and be in a place where I can feel comfortable talking about it. It was an amazing, deeply inspiring experience, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

      I don’t remember the exact specifics, but a dream conference/retreat I had planned on attending was either cancelled (or never existed?), and Sallybrarian began researching other places I could go. I was really surprised when she showed me that TWR was teaching dream yoga to a bunch of lay people, with no pre-requisites, because it’s just not the usual protocol for Tibetan teachers.

      To give a counterexample, in most schools of Tibetan Buddhism (which Bon both does and does not fit into), dream yoga is considered an advanced practice that most people aren’t ready for. In some ways, after practicing lucid dreaming for a couple of years now (and having some knowledge of what dream yoga consists of), dream yoga does seem like a deeper, more demanding practice requiring a higher grade of awareness than what it takes to merely become lucid. As my lama has said to me in the past, “Lucid dreaming is just the beginning.”

      Understandably, I packed my bags and drove up to Shipman. I had signed up for work retreat, which involved coming a week early, and cleaning the retreat center. Serenity Ridge is seriously in the middle of nowhere, and when I arrived, I couldn’t find anyone. I wandered around what appeared to be a deserted retreat center, wondering where the heck people were. I located them in a building called the “gompa” (Tibetan for “place of meditation”). Inside, a small group of people were watching a webcast of TWR on the topic of soul retrieval (please don’t ask me about soul retrieval because I have only a very vague conception of what it is). But already, TWR was saying something that moved me:

      “How many times in your life have you told yourself it wasn’t possible? ‘It’s not possible to have that job, or it’s not possible to love that person, or it’s not possible to be a different way?’ Maybe, if you accepted that it might be possible, and repeat that a lot, maybe one day you will make a mistake and say, “It’s possible.” And if you keep repeating that, you will be on your way to doing things you never thought were possible.”

      So simple, and yet I had never considered this, and I was sort of stunned to realize that I tell myself things aren’t possible all of the time (albeit in a consensual, unconscious sort of way)! I was intrigued, and my anticipation to meet this person grew.

      TWR would not arrive for another week, but there was a Bon monastic (whom everyone referred to affectionately as “Geshe-la”) who led tsa lung (a Tibetan form of energy yoga) and meditation practice every morning. Since I was one of two people who were not regular returners to Serenity Ridge, Geshe-la taught me the tsa lung in private, and talked to me a little bit about spiritual practice. I was amazed at how open the community was, how available people were for discussion (because I had lots of questions about Bon), and friendly everyone was.

      The work retreatants worked a total of 7 hours a day, but the work ended up running out midway through the week, since more people showed up than they intended. At the end of the week, we were basically hanging out, reading in the library, talking about interesting subjects, and swimming in the river. I met a lot of wonderful people and felt very much “at home” by the time the retreat started. During this time, I practiced the dream yoga instructions in Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, and probably had around 7-14 lucid dreams (it was six months ago so don’t remember, but mostly two a night, and just about one every night, at least).

      At the beginning of week two, TWR arrived. He’s very short, lol, and reminded me of Jet Li a little bit. I can also say from just hearing his teachings, he’s a very wise and kind person. He shared his dreams with us during teachings, and also encouraged us to share our experiences during the retreat. Many people had amazing, transformative experiences. My own wellspring of lucidity dried up, lol, maybe from working too hard. One of the interesting things about the retreat was his approach, and how he encouraged us to make use of our dreams:



      This particular instruction surprised me, because while I have dived into the raging river (literally) in a dream, I never attempted to become the river, and never attempted to become medicine, and then benefit beings in the dream. Basically blew my mind how dream control could be used in such an inventive and creative way.

      The basic day with TWR involved a tsa lung and sitting practice in the morning, followed by breakfast and teachings. There was then another session of tsa lung and meditation, followed by lunch and a break. After the break, teachings, and sometimes napping dream practice led by Tenzin in the gompa, in which people had all sorts of neat experiences. After teachings, more meditation, then dinner, and then the end of the day.

      The amenities at SR are very simple, but comfortable. Certain showers did not have hot water (doh!) but since I take showers before bed, I didn’t have any issues finding a hot tap upstairs. The dining hall serves entirely vegetarian meals, and during all three weeks the different cooks made vegan food for me. If you like a room alone, sign up early, so you can make that happen. Otherwise, you will be in the dorms (like me!) I was so furious with my roommates one evening that I ended up having a rage WILD, coming on the heels of a horrifying nightmare where some shadowy figures burst into the dorm and began beating us. Felt incredibly real. In WILD, I was attacked by a dog.

      Something about TWR that I found deeply moving was his ability to address questions. He didn’t shunt them aside if they were “too deep” or just not very good questions, and he welcomed us to talk to him. At one point during the retreat, he was discussing family pain (the lectures were sometimes loosely related to what we might think of as “dream” practice, as TWR considers life itself to be a dream), when suddenly my relationship with my father, which has been awful most of my life, was there in a very tangible and hurting way. I felt I needed to ask him how I could improve that relationship, and when I did, my words came out in a tangle of sobs. He couldn’t understand what I said and needed his student to translate. His response to me changed my life:

      “When we say, “I am trying to love this person,” already a lot is being said. The effort says so much. It means the qualities are not fully present. We are not feeling love, but trying to feel love, because of an obligation, or because it is “the right thing to do,” and we cause a lot of suffering--all in the name of goodness. I don’t think this is right, though. If we make space, we can breathe better. Maybe you will fall in love with that person again. Or maybe you will fall in love with yourself. Someone says, “I don’t love you anymore,” and you can say, “That’s fine, thank you. I have found love in myself.”

      I suppose for the first time in my life someone told me it was OK to feel what I was feeling, and that it didn’t need to become something else. In an instant I felt like decades of pain never existed at all. I felt freer and happier. Earlier, during week one, one of the people there told me, “I found out a long time ago that when you come here, you get what you need.” I was skeptical of this statement when I heard it, but it ended up (at least for me) being true.

      Tenzin’s teaching style towards dreams is that they are used for self-liberation. Many people are not sure what self-liberation is, or why they would want to do it. As I mentioned before, Tenzin Rinpoche really struck me with his openness and ability to know what people needed to hear (or maybe what they were ready to hear), and how to say it. This is the final clip I'm pulling from the retreat (more of them online!), and I think it exemplifies his understanding that not everyone is in the same place, or needs to hear the same thing:



      After three weeks at Serenity Ridge, it was finally time to come home. However, Tenzin let us know that next summer (2016) he would be teaching sleep yoga, and that he expected us all to practice hard and be ready for next time (in case you didn't hear that, let me repeat--HE'S TEACHING SLEEP YOGA. Like, no one else does that--except Andrew Holocek ) He also told us he is currently working on volume two of Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. Blessings to everyone, force be with you. ::looks for lightsaber smiley::

    2. #2
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      This is so beautiful and so humble. Really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.
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      Thank you, Danny. Bless you and peace.

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      I would love to go there and to attend both dream and sleep yoga classes. Alas, I'll probably only be able to via youtube and books. Great to know he's working on a second book! Thanks so much for the review, it sounds like an amazing experience.

      p.s. lol @ roommate rage. Been there!
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