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S in the City

Thank you to Sogyal Rinpoche (WMRI retreat, last day)


Dear Rinpoche,

When I first got here to Lerab Ling, I thought this retreat would be a cakewalk. I mean, so easy. I’d walk around in the sunshine, enjoy the beauty of the hills, get some meditation tips, slide into that peaceful zone, it’d be great.

I’d done a retreat that was really hard, a 10 day vipassana course in Pune, India. 10 days of silence, 10 hours per day of meditation, no airconditioning … that was hard. Compared to that, I thought this one would be Club Med.

But then I got here… and it wasn’t Club Med at all. I was having a really hard time! I was distracted, I was itchy, I didn’t feel happy, there was no peaceful zone … and I couldn’t understand what was going on.

At first I thought ok. It’s probably the platform tents. Mine was on the top of the hill and when the wind gusted all night you felt like you were inside of a tornado. Or I thought, it could be that there was no hooks on the bathroom doors. So when you went in, and the floors were muddy and wet, you had to hold your backpack, jacket, and scarf in your hands while hovering over the toilet. Then you had to figure out how you were going to reach the toilet paper. Not a comfortable scenario.

But no, that couldn’t be it. The vipassana course had all that discomfort and flying cockroaches in my room as well. And I still didn’t feel like this.

So I went to an instructor. He said that sure, it could be all those things. But it could also be the fact that you’re in the presence of a Vajrayana master and they’re really good at poking and prodding you, and dislodging you from your comfort zone. They’re here to shake things up.

That was a good way to describe it. I felt shook up. That day, it was my turn to go to Khandro’s khudung. I decided I’d go and ask her to help me out. I’d been really inspired by the stories and videos of her life but also by the fact that she was a woman who had become such a realized being where most masters I have heard of are all men.

I went into the shrine room and of course there was such a solid presence there. It was impossible not to feel completely still. I was able to sit in total non distraction as I made my aspiration to Khandro. I asked her to guide me, to help me make the right choices even if Vajrayana wasn’t the path for me. I asked her to guide me to achieving my highest potential just like she had done.

They gave us a good amount of time in the room, so I was able to make aspirations for all the people I knew and cared about as well. Then I went back into the temple for the meditation session.

This part will sound really hokey, but as I was sitting in meditation, I felt a presence next to me. I didn’t see or visualize it. I just felt it. Then when my mind started to wander, a gentle voice chided me in my head. But it wasn’t my voice because that is anything but gentle. It was all a bit strange.

After the session was done, I walked out of the temple to the stupa – and there was a rainbow in the sky. I mean, other people saw and were looking at it too, not just me. It was weird.

I’m the person who always laughs at her friends when they say, oh we did this puja and saw a double rainbow or that person died and there was a circular rainbow and I’m like please. There’s no rainbows, they don’t just appear whenever you want them too, when it’s convenient.

But then I saw one. And I didn’t know what to do with it. I was like, why is there a rainbow?? I didn’t ask for this! What do I do with this?I didn’t know where to put it. There was no box in my head where I could file away what happened in the temple and outside. All of a sudden, I was not so sure of myself anymore.

The next morning, and in the days that followed, I suddenly found that I was able to hear your teachings much better. The way I received the things you said, and the way I received your presence, had shifted.

For the first time, from your teachings I was able to really feel my own true nature. Not intellectually, but viscerally. I realized without the shadow of a doubt that I do have this highest good inside me. It felt spacious and benevolent, it felt like time stood still and there was nothing but pure presence.

When you spoke about devotion during a session, and how your devotion to your masters enabled their blessing to come down into you and through you, I had heard you say this before on video. But I’d never thought it applied to me. I didn’t have a master so I had no need for devotion. But this time the words had a different impact.

I realized that I could have devotion to that inner goodness or potential that I had felt. I DID have devotion to it. And that meant that every action and interaction on the path towards fully realizing or uncovering this pure nature, also became an act of devotion.

So if I lived my life from that space and with that belief, surely that would transform my mind – and maybe that was the true meaning of devotion. And I felt so grateful to you for allowing me to see that in my own way.

It’s hard to quantify all the things I feel grateful to you for. On one level, it’s so clear that when you teach you really care about all of us and are really invested in giving us the best teachings and the greatest clarity, so that we may progress. I feel your love for us and your desire for us to grow.

But for me personally, I know I am not the same person that walked into this retreat. I’m not so sure of myself. Nothing at this retreat can be explained easily or tied up neatly. My logical or skeptical mind is at a loss for words and something more stable has emerged, something I can feel and can go back to.

I know where that quiet and still place is now, you helped me locate it. All I can say in gratitude is that I will try and live my life as an act of devotion and from that place of ease and spaciousness in the way that you taught us to.