Im just back from a week-long Dzogchen retreat with Tsoknyi Rimpoche. I led the afternoon movement sessions and the rest of the time I was free to sit. This was my second retreat with him. Tara and I sat with him in Crestone, Colorado a few summers ago.
Ah . a whole week at Club Med. (itation.)
If you havent had the opportunity to take a retreat of silence dedicated to practice and study, I highly recommend it. Its not just the days of silent practice, the opportunity to be touched by timeless teachings, its also what youre NOT doing. No email, vmail, magazines, tv, newspapers, etc, etc. Just the latter alone is transformative.
Dzogchen (The Great Perfection) is all about coming into cognizance of the non-dual - or primordial state of consciousness. I took about sixty pages of notes and and I look back over what he taught in our twice-daily sessions, I appreciate how systematic and thorough he was. Dzogchen is at the same time the most utterly simple practice there is with a very complex and sophisticated context to understand it fully.
While Tsoknyi is a brilliant scholar, he is also incredibly funny, and with great frequency had the room exploding in laughter.
The first element of practice is learning how to steady the mind so we can experience, as Tsoknyi says, now-ness. To do this we use concentration, training our attention to rest more and more in the here and now. The breath is the most traditional anchor. This is known as practice with support.
As we become more steady in our experience of now-ness, we can drop the specific anchor and rest in now-ness without support.
Both with and without support, there is the constant drama of the mind wandering, obsessive thinking, rogue emotions coming and going. Over time there are also more frequent bouts of pleasantness, relaxation and steadiness. In all of this, though, there is still an observer, a witness of what is arising and passing through. This is where the practice gets really interesting.
At some point, you dissolve the observer. You drop all technique.
How do we drop it? I was reminded of what they teach in the Forum (formerly EST) trainings. Try to hit my hand, the instructor would say. You cant try. You do it or you dont.
So you drop it. Or you try, and you dont drop it. Sometimes I would feel a momentary sense of expansion, sometimes various forms of mental gymnastics that became increasingly frustrating, sometimes a sense of peace before the mind would rush back in with a comment.
The invitation, again and again, is to drop any effort, any manipulation, any attempt to make your experience anything other than exactly what it is.
So simple. So amazingly difficult.
A phrase Ive found helpful:
Awareness Open to the Senses Non-Fixated Awareness
So much more I can say, but Ill stop here.
You can read more on Tsoknyi here: http://www.pundarika.org/
and more on Dzogchen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzogchen
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