First Thought : Best Thought.
Wherever I am, wherever I go, there are many roads to choose from. And sometimes, one of them is the best.
We are experiencing an amazing moment in history, a time to sit and meditate. In a country under national containment because of a world pandemic, many of us are staying home without any prospects about what is about to happen next. Probably, we have often missed the right moment to sit and to meditate with the thought that we don’t have time; but nowadays, the situation is one of full-time retreat for millions of individuals on earth.
Mother Nature needs a break from the non-ending frenzy of activities of human beings, always stirring the 4 elements. Even though people have much more time at home, it seems difficult to welcome this unusual descent into our deepest selves which is now offered to millions of us. Here is a dramatic but also great opportunity to work on our spiritual health as individuals and as a community. Day by day, humanity, scattered in many places, is sharing similar states of uncertainty and fear since Covit19 leads the show.
Recently, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche declared in a video on YouTube:
“And people’s thoughts are swirling around, creating an imbalance on the outer level in the 5 primary elements and stirring them up. When the inner mind and the outer world are churned up in this way, many new diseases appear. This is what has now happened.”
From a Buddhist point of view, we are always confronted with a paradox: the non-dual vision of relative and absolute truth in union is difficult to maintain through our daily activities, but it is not much easier to remember that when everything falls apart. I agree that my precious human body is impermanent, that karma manifests as the six realms of Samsara, yet I meditated and I read many books. How often did I take refuge in the illusion of comfort, affection and security? Now it is a perfect time for me to meditate and to let go of everything that is not needed, maybe even a few things that I thought I needed, and specially to abandon states of mind that distract me from the whisperings of my secrete heart.
Now, time is a treasure many of us have, and we can give some courage and strength to each other through our networks. The way we have lived in our occidental culture as a general kind of civilization has not prepared people to be confronted with emptiness. But we are invited to embrace the open space of not knowing. Humanity is receiving a message of humility and bavery from nature: why not adopt a low profile from now on, and maybe realize how much our usual sense of superiority as a species is pure illusion.
Here we are, like an elephant afraid of the tiny mouse.
View, Meditation, Action, Fruit.
Many years ago, I fell in love with the View: the Buddhist View is my passion. But I still catch myself losing it, letting myself get caught into the duality of this and of that, of masculine and of feminine, believing in what seems to be out there or in whatever I feel in here. The duality about me and others hypnotizes my mind, again and again. Each time I notice that, I tell myself “just come back to practice”. So, back to the teachings, until the playful yoyo is triggered once more by habitual tendencies. They are like the Covit19: who knows where they come from, where they remain and where are they going? They just appear and disappear. It is incredible after many years of passion for the View, to find myself missing the simple nature of my own mind because of love or a friend or money or past or future or politics … and it is always out of the subtle fear that underlines “busy-ness”.
Dance is my path, the here and now that brings me back to truth, to both truths.
If one studies one’s own mind into the experience of the very gesture while dancing, it is easy to discover inside of ourselves everything that the Dharma teaches; easy but absolutely not comfortable.
Dance always takes place now, in the infinite space (absolute truth) of our mind and, simultaneously, the body is completely conditioned (relative truth) by the physical rules of matter (time, rhythm, space, shapes). Everything we do all day long is a process of dancing but we rarely notice that. Dance resumes the very essence of impermanence because a dancer, when aware of her authentic self knows that each breath happens for the first time as well as the last. Dance escapes to become an object, it is always a process second after second of agent, action and object altogether.
Another strange aspect of dance is that one feels good by acting out the truth of impermanence which can sometimes be frightening. Dance disappears the very moment it is born because it is not one gesture, it is not several gestures, it is not a thing, it just appears and disappears. You cannot keep it, neither will you ever do it again. From one dance to next, you notice how much your body and your condition changes. Strangely enough, philosophy refers often to Dance as the ultimate play of the energies. Nevertheless, rarely do people use the simple and concrete act of dancing as a genuine spiritual path. One of the greatest references for me about the 5 wisdoms is the book – by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche – entitled: Magic Dance.
The most important setup in order to dive safely into oneself and into the mysteries of dance is to obtain some kind of methodology to dance with awareness, not only as a therapy, but as a path that allows one to invert oneself and transform the habits that are stuck in the body. We may feel deep engagement to the path, but still it is quite difficult to find appropriate help from the point of view of the Vajrayana practice of dance in a contemporary lifestyle. It should not be the idea of adding dance lessons to have fun and then get to the serious things of Dharma. No, I mean that Dance in its own right becomes a main practice. Always remember that stillness can also be dance. When Dance becomes the Path, it is not about moving, nor about creating winds by stirring the primary elements, and not about expressing emotions. It becomes the never-ending practice of joining absolute and relative truth into your own awareness of the gesture (Mudra) on a daily level.
There is a need to start by transforming pain, emotions, of learning how to compose precise forms and how to deconstruct them without reproducing an exotic culture. There is a need to avoid getting stuck in the grasping for impressive techniques. The 8 worldly dharmas are the reference point to check where you are right now. What is your true motivation?
Now, after the process of sorting out pain, emotions and grasping, our attitude becomes more flexible, you may enter the Mandala of the 5 elements. That is when Dance become a support for Guru Yoga. It is a path of tremendous freedom that requires discipline by opening one’s heart to its own wounds.
I noticed that people are often fascinated by the sound of the word “dance”. Usually, their eyes shine like stars, they have this brilliant smile for a moment, then comes the second thought with a sudden distance:
“Oh, I don’t know how to dance” or
“I love dance, but I am very bad at it” or
“What kind of dance to you perform?”
Love, hope and fear get mixed up.
Modern society invented the concept that men don’t dance, and that it is a thing for women, which is weird since it was often the opposite in history. Men stole from women their dances and disguised as ladies to jump on stages: Egyptian Raks Sharki, Japanese Kabuki, Kalbelia in Rajasthan, Opera in China … In many countries, men would dance but women would be forbidden to dance because they would become “whores” in the eyes of the society. Dance is often referred to as distraction, a way to share joy, to become seductive, to keep healthy, or to find a partner. Dance can be all of these, but there is much more to it!
Let’s try to resume, because this topic deserves so many pages.
Sometimes I hear voices in my dreams.
They take form of a statement similar to a koan.
Once, I was travelling through Brazil, when I woke up in the morning, the inner voice spoke out this sentence:
“The methodology of the Dakinis will never be destroyed”
Ever since that day, I have been wondering: “What in heaven, or what in hell, does this mean?”
The Wisdom Dakini cannot be described; she remains free from logical thinking, she points out whatever the practitioner asks for, when that prayer is a true cry for wisdom. Rough or soft, she never lies. Of course, her Dance, is the radiance of the true nature of mind, the Dance of None Duality. She is the Sky Dancer. I believe that Her Dance refers to a metaphor about the deepest layer of our own mind, in this very moment of my life it happens but I don’t notice. The Wisdom Dakini is never “out there”, and she is not a magical flying woman of Tibet, or some kind of invisible entity, and even less the phantasm of women who nourish a fantasy of being noticed as “goddesses”. All this is can be fun, but not the Wisdom Dakini.
Her breathe is warm.
Her breathe is not described as cold. She is not a concept of the brain, she lives in touch with all beings, never disconnecting absolute from the relative. Dramatic events can create the gap where space opens for wisdom.
So, what kind of a methodology will never be destroyed?
This leads me to explain about my practice of Dharma in the process of dancing. I will share part of my own experience as a dancer, as a teacher and as a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism since 1980.
I entered step by step the study of Dharma with the basics: the 4 Noble Truths, the 4 Reminders, the Twelve Interdependent Links, the Six Paramitas and so on. The truth of “unsatisfaction” – recently suggested by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche as a translation instead of the word “suffering”- was very obvious to me as a teenager. I had seen how people were never ever satisfied, neither was I. So, the foundation of the Path was perfect to me.
Then came, first of the 4 reminders, the meditation on the Precious Human Body. My experience dancing since very young was about controlling my body, not very much about the mind. As I entered into the Ngön Dro starting 100 000 prostrations it was amazing to discover my complete lack of control over my mind. I was only 19 and I remember thinking to myself:
How could I live all these years and never notice how wild my mind is?
Later, after the traditional practice of loving kindness named as Four Unmeasurables, I had to recite a tiny prayer about relative truth and absolute truth. A crucial point in discovering Buddhism: there is not a single truth. The relative and the absolute happen simultaneously. What a shift of perspective! Later, I read the Vajra Sutra which ended up deliciously puzzling my mind. I felt so happy! In a flash, Buddha’s speech opened for me a state of mind that felt like home. This Sutra exploded my usual mindset in a clear and blank spot where all opinions about this or that simply vanished. Not for long, but I remember the gap.
At this point, let me jump into our situation nowadays.
March 2020, in Europe most of us are forced to remain in retreat. Whoever received and meditated on deep teachings about impermanence, death and karma, before this challenge, is really lucky. Everybody is confronted with lots of free time, solitude or lack of solitude, and our illusions of security crumbling slowly in an intense daily show online.
Many dear friends are not familiar with the truth of impermanence, it is rather difficult for them to relax these days. Their minds are whirling day and night, from past and future back to this uncertain spot, listening and publishing infinite contradictory statements on internet in a cacophonous orchestra of hopes and fears
Most of us are stirring up the 5 primary elements, inwardly and outwardly.
I posted several times on Facebook the video of Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, but people don’t notice. They “like” political complaints, intellectual articles, emotional art, and the confuse mix of fake and real news. But this article does not attract people. Actually, Rinpoche’s YouTube channel has very few subscribers, at this very moment when I write, only 108! His short message to the world is the most accurate, probably not entertaining enough to make the buzz.
How come we resist to the truth of None Duality when it is most needed?
Where do habitual tendencies reside?
What are they made of?
Habitual tendencies blind us again, after centuries of practice.
I checked on Wikipedia:
“Vāsanā (Sanskrit; Devanagari: वासना) is a behavioural tendency or karmic imprint which influences the present behaviour of a person. »
My experience was to find habitual tendencies hiding in my gestures. Gesture is not merely movements, it is the way our body keeps together many kinds of crystallizations: the way I breathe, the way I project images, how projections come back as a screen: my identification is a concept about “myself” all solidified in body language. All kinds of memories are registered in my body. But I have chosen, unconsciously, to organize a small part of them in patterns of repetition. When you dance, you meet all of them. And it is very interesting to not fight against them but to enlarge their vocabulary with respect. Actually, the richest your body becomes in coordinating gestures and inverting them and cutting them, the less you identify with patterns. It becomes like space, never-ending and always ending.
If you habitually use your right hand, invite the left hand. If you always open your arms, close them. And to open and to close the gesture of your arms is actually two opposite aspects of a complete gesture. You are neither the one that opens, nor the one that closes. To open and to close is an expression of breath. Then you may cut this gesture into pieces. Each piece becomes a gesture. But a few habitual tendencies got melted in the process of opening your mind. Then inspire on the gesture once, expire on that same one afterwards. It is not complicated but it is extremely precise and so powerful; because when you invert habitual tendencies, it is irritating until a glimpse of the non-dual nature of phenomena shines through the gap. Inversion of gesture changes your emotional pattern; it enriches your habits to the point that you let go of hanging on to them. They become easier to change. You understand from within, not intellectually, how much a certain kind of mindset is associated with the gesture. You can get in and get out. The most overwhelming, so many memories inside the body speak for all beings, animals, plants, people.
My description seems kind of philosophical. Here comes the problem about dance: when you dance, you are not talking. You enter into the direct experience of not explaining, you manifest the experience by being. If one can overcome seductions, pleasures, pain and emotions and go dance into awareness, something intimate is possible to discern.
Instead of always ex-pressing, one starts im-pressing. Because intuition demands one to become very subtle, one senses her body as an instrument of pure perception, free from attachment or fear and longing, during that dance.
The experience of dance is a mix of absolute and relative truth. Confusion and wisdom sort out mix together. As it is said, co-emerging.
After 15 years of training classical dance, with no control over one’s own mind, one dances well, but the gesture is a solidification of an ideal. That kind of dancer does not feel her body … the daily obsession for perfection is necessary to attain the level of a good classical dancer. The dancer strives to perform an image in the future. The sensations may be blissful or painful, but there is no relationship with awareness unless the dancer transcends her technique, which is very rare. The mirror gives a reflection of your projection. Your brain gets used to having a flat body out there which you don’t feel but you perceive as an image. This kind of split becomes a habitual pattern in daily life. After years since childhood, it is extremely difficult to erase the habit because it was imprinted by repetition of a state of mind into the gesture. We are creating this kind of habit all the time and our children follow that pattern.
This was an example to illustrate how habitual patterns get imprinted by the repetition of gestures associated with a quality of mindset. The way I think, the way I look at things, the way I notice space or not, the way I listen to sounds and words, the way I breathe and the way I feel my skin, the perfumes, the tastes, all of these imprints become the concept of “me”. Gestures are repeated and the habit gets strong.
Invert the gestures and add to your habit the opposite of your habit. If you inspire as you lift arms, try the opposite. Many times. Then try both, the habitual and the opposite of habit. Then let this experience of repetition lead you into a deeper presence of the lifting your arms. Play with rhythm. Intensified breathing changes the sensation of gravity, your weight on earth is workable. As you go on, your body becomes sensitive to its natural relationship with the universe. Keep on training, your sensation will call you back all day long to be present.
Action is always a gesture related to mindset, whatever we do. And you dance, with a skillful methodology, joining freedom with discipline, naturally you get attracted to virtue.
Because you dive into yourself by dance with awareness, you discover the Six Realms of Samsara. Your own power of creation makes the suffering exist. Students get stuck in the Six Worlds; they must learn how to get out! It is always a state of mind related to gestures.
Step by step, it becomes possible to better control the mind, without conceptual freezing of cognition because you respect the flow your own neurosis. They are the display of the 5 elements. There is a need to share the experiences intimately. Personal guidance is helpful. The process unfolds into a sincere feeling of connection with others because we know that we all share negative and positive emotions. The body never lies. And we discover that these are the door of a simple presence.
To end this article, I wish to point out that, in my experience, as a westerner, our body-mind experience of daily life is so far from that of a Tibetan living in his homeland before 1959. Our breathing in the west is often limited to the upper parts of our lungs, throat and head.
We studied Buddhism from precious Asian lineages but our own bodies are rarely filled with practice. We lack physical challenges which allows us to synchronize the body and the mind since childhood. Much too often, duality rules our gestures. We urge for “exercises” without ever reaching the point where gestures in daily life ARE the practice of Dharma itself. The mantra needs to flow inside, like blood. By training our gestures, with the breath and mindful awareness, our everyday gestures will get cleansed and filled with insight, naturally. “I have time to do my practice” “I don’t have time to do my practice”. This dichotomy between practice or not practice should be overcome. Actually, Buddha Dharma is about being, not only about doing. Let’s remember: relative and ultimate truth are never separated.
Practice helps us to get rid of habitual tendencies and obtain the precious human body. A body can be aware of impermanence, gestures in which relative and absolute truth operate together. Never a concept, never a process of trying to control the world, it becomes similar with the wisdom of an elder expressed by the innocence of a child.
If this kind of experience arises, it is no personal achievement. It is simply how we are naturally human.
Mudra, aka Myriam Szabo, started dancing at the age of three in the United States. An early career in Paris (she was14 years old) in the « Ballet Russe Irina Grjebina » as a solist dancer, followed by the studies in depth of body techniques: Qi Gong, Karate Shotukan (black belt), Hatha Yoga, Women’s Dances. Renouncing her modeling career after the famous “Myriam” Campaign, she devoted herself exclusively to Tibetan Buddhism from 1982 to 1992 in solitary retreats into the wild. Later she graduated in contemplative psychology, and created Intuitive Dharma Study under the tutelage of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. Producer of cultural festivals in Portugal for Roland Music, founder of the international Danza Duende Network and author of two books, she travels with Raji, on the path of a methodology of breath : Trance Lucid Dance. Raji & Mudra resumed the study of wisdom through dance by the term Choreosophy.