News and Inspiration from Ligmincha Institute
Volume 6, Number 8
August 12, 2006
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IN THIS ISSUE:
“Leaving Things in the Moment” – an edited excerpt from oral teachings
given by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Several upcoming fall retreats at Serenity Ridge
An interview with Alejandro Chaoul-Reich about the $2.4 million grant
awarded to study the effects of Tibetan yoga with cancer patients
“Waiting to Exhale” by Michele Shulz
“Dishwater Sutra” by Alex Wright
New items at Ligmincha’s Tibet Shop
“LEAVING THINGS IN THE MOMENT” – an edited excerpt from oral teachings
given by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.
How do you normally respond to difficult situations in your life? For
example, when someone challenges one of your ideas, are you able to
accept the other person's viewpoint even if you disagree with it? If
your ego is not so strongly identified with your idea then you will be
fine with a difference of opinion - naturally there will always be
those who disagree. If none of your ego is involved that's even
better; you can respond, “You can do it your way,” with no need to
discuss things further.
How much of your ego is involved will determine how peacefully you can
handle a difficult situation. Definitely, the more peaceful you are,
the better. The more you tend to struggle, the worse things are. If
you feel a need to fight about it, that is the worst of all. This
sense of struggle and conflict creates a significant amount of stress
in people’s daily lives.
Some people may claim, “I live a very stressful life because of all the
things I do.” But your level of stress really has nothing to do with
how much you do or don’t do. There are a lot of people who have very
little to do and yet they have more stress in their lives than anybody.
You see, it’s really more about your relationship with the things you
do, your attitude toward them, and the way you carry things within
The best advice from a dzogchen perspective would be something like,
“Leave the problem here in this moment.” When a difficult issue
arises, do you need to be aware of the problem and its potential
consequences? Yes. But do you need to worry about it so much? No. We
all know clearly that worry contributes very little to resolving
problems. Even though you don’t have to worry about it, you do worry a
little bit anyway, don’t you? The next question is: How long does it
make sense to worry about something? Is it okay to worry about it for
two hours? How about for one day? Can you carry on worrying about it
for one week, or how about a whole month? That’s what some people do.
They worry continuously, all the while knowing that worry does not
help. The worry can occupy them so much, there's no time left to
reflect clearly on the problem and find a solution.
It is through applying skill and awareness that one can resolve an
issue. There is one type of worry associated with a bit more
heightened awareness. For instance, after you've been in a bad
situation, and it now seems as if a similar situation is arising, then
you might worry about that. This kind of worry is generally not heavy
and negative. It’s helpful to be a little bit cautious and alert about
things - we all have to be careful out in the world, don’t we?
The kind of worry we most often engage in, though, has nothing to do
with wisdom, nothing to do with method, and nothing to do with being
cautious. It has its source in a seed that exists deep within us, a
karmic seed that gives rise to a certain pattern of thought and
behavior. We all have many karmic seeds within us, and we cannot blame
anyone for them for their being there, not our parents nor any of our
other relatives. These seeds are just there, and sometimes because of
a lack of knowledge or skill in working with them, they become
activated more than is necessary. Even if our pattern of worry is not
activated by the particular issue at hand, we will invariably find
another situation to activate that seed. It is important to reflect on
how often this form of needless worry arises within us.
Perhaps you've heard of the famous "self-liberation" of the dzogchen
tradition. One way to look at self-liberation is, the very moment an
issue arises in day-to-day experience you are able to attend to it, and
the next moment you forget about it. You just leave it - you simply cut
it free right then and there, and just live. Be playful!
So rather than carrying a worry with you into your next moment, what
about carrying goodness into it, and wisdom, and skillful means, and
awareness? These are what should be carried into the next moment, not
your problems and worries. Besides, why carry a problem into the next
moment when a brand new problem is probably waiting for you there? If
you do that you will have two problems to deal with. Most people are
skilled at activating three problems simultaneously - the one that is
present right now, the one from the previous moment, and the next one
that we are worried about for the future. People live very stressful
lives in exactly this way!
So, it’s good to reflect on the opportunity we have to leave things in
the moment. When the next moment is entirely the next moment, we can
live more fully.
SEVERAL UPCOMING FALL RETREATS AT SERENITY RIDGE
**To register for any of the following retreats please call (434) 977-
Sept. 13-17, 2006
INTRODUCTION TO THE NATURE OF MIND – The Experiential Transmission of
Zhang Zhung: Part 2
with Ponlop Trinley Nyima
The Experiential Transmission of Zhang Zhung is the centerpiece of
Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s dzogchen teachings and is presented
solely at Serenity Ridge. The practice manual of the Experiential
Transmission, the “Chag Tri,” provides pith instructions for those who
aspire to practice dzogchen, the path of self-liberation. We are
pleased to announce that Ponlop Trinley Nyima Rinpoche of Menri
Monastery will again teach Part Two of the Experiential Transmission at
Serenity Ridge this year.
Part Two presents the third chapter of the Chag Tri, now available in
English translation for those who attend the retreat. It includes the
practice of zhine as the skillful means to establish a calm abiding
mind; the methods for stabilizing the resulting mindfulness through
practices of dark retreat and sun and sky gazing; and guidance for
recognizing experiences of rigpa – innate awareness. These meditation
practices, including physical postures and eye gazes, introduce the
practitioner to the nature of mind.
Practitioners who have already received Part Two also are invited to
attend this retreat led by one of the foremost teachers of Bon.
Students attending this retreat are eligible to attend Part Three of
the Experiential Transmission with Tenzin Rinpoche during the winter
retreat this year.
RETREAT COST (includes meals):
$400 if received by Aug. 9; $450 if received by Aug. 30; $500 if
received after Aug. 30
Sept. 20-24, 2006
ADVANCED TRUL KHOR
with Trinley Nyima Rinpoche and Alejandro Chaoul-Reich
This retreat is offered to those trul khor students who have attended
all four training retreats and received a diploma of completion.
Students who have completed the first three training retreats may
attend this retreat with permission from Alejandro. (Please write to
During this retreat, students will practice and study under the
supervision of both Ponlop Rinpoche and Alejandro all that has been
learned in the training retreats. With Ponlop Rinpoche's additional
guidance, it will be an opportunity to refine one’s understanding of
the body’s energetic dimension – the subtle channels, the vital breath
that circulates through them, and the subtlest aspects of mind. In
addition, there will be the great benefit of strengthening this
community of Tibetan yoga practitioners.
For more information about trul khor retreats sponsored by Ligmincha
Institute and its affiliated centers, visit these two Web pages:
RETREAT COST (includes meals):
$400 if received by Aug. 16; $450 if received by Sept. 6; $500 if
received after Sept. 6
Oct. 18-22, 2006
Ligmincha’s Annual Fall Retreat:
SACRED ECOLOGY – Outer, Inner and Secret Teachings on the Five Elements
with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Space, air, fire, water and earth are the sacred underlying forces of
existence. Because the five elements are sacred all that arises from
them – and that is everything – is also sacred. For many years, Geshe
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche has emphasized the importance of developing an
intimate understanding of how the elements influence our lives on an
external, inner and secret level. In his book “Healing With Form,
Energy and Light,” he explains that “the space in which the universe
arises, the space our living room couch occupies, and the space in
which our thoughts arise is the same space and is sacred.”
The Bon Buddhist teachings on the five elements are vast. At this
year’s annual fall retreat, Tenzin Rinpoche will present teachings on
the “Personality of Elements,” a system of influences similar to the
Tibetan science of astrology. His commentary will focus on our human
relationship to the sacred nature of the environment and how elemental
qualities can manifest as destructive physical and emotional forces or
as vitality and personal power.
During the course of the retreat, Rinpoche will introduce and guide
breathing and movement practices that incorporate the beauty and life
forces of nature, the practice of Sang Chod to raise one’s vital
energy, and the healing practices of the five elemental goddesses.
Tenzin Rinpoche welcomes everyone who cares about sacred ecologies of
body, emotions, mind and environment to attend this retreat.
RETREAT COST (includes meals):
$400 if received by Sept. 13; $450 if received by Oct. 4; $500 if
received after Oct. 4
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEJANDRO CHAOUL-REICH ABOUT THE $2.4 MILLION GRANT
AWARDED TO STUDY EFFECTS OF TIBETAN YOGA ON CANCER PATIENTS
Editor’s Note: At Ligmincha’s 2006 summer retreat, Tenzin Rinpoche
announced the great news that a grant of $2.4 million has been awarded
to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for a clinical study on the effects of
tsa lung/trul khor on women with breast cancer. Alejandro Chaoul-
Reich, Ph.D., a senior student of Rinpoche, will be designing and
conducting the study with Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, director of the cancer
center's Integrative Medicine Program. We sat down with Ale one
afternoon during the summer retreat to learn more about the study and
what he hopes to see from it. His responses are below, preceded by
highlights from a recently published article.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE JUNE 2006 ISSUE OF “CANCERWISE” - an online
publication of the MD Anderson Cancer Center:
The National Cancer Institute recently awarded a $2.4 million grant for
a large MD Anderson clinical study in which women with breast cancer
who are scheduled to undergo chemotherapy will be randomly assigned to
a Tibetan yoga group, a control group that does simple stretching
exercises or to a group that receives standard care. The participants
will practice their assigned techniques for a period of seven weeks
while they are receiving chemotherapy and then will have five booster
sessions in the following six months.
The newly funded study will assess the physical and psychological
effects of the yoga program, and will specifically examine such
lifestyle factors as fatigue and sleep, mental health and distress.
Additionally, the study will examine cognitive and emotional
processing, social networking and interactions, coping and other
Cohen adds that although the study is designed primarily to look at
improvements in the quality of life, it could also find that Tibetan
yoga offers health benefits as well. He said, “Theoretically if the
Tibetan yoga intervention is found to decrease patients’ stress levels,
it could have an effect on their immune system.”
[Says Tenzin Rinpoche, one of the principal advisors on Tibetan yoga:]
“These practices have long been considered beneficial for health, wellbeing
and spiritual development, and we have always been interested in
bringing this ancient knowledge into the area of modern scientific
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEJANDRO CHAOUL-REICH - Alejandro spoke with us
about his exciting work and how it has evolved.
VOCL: Would you describe for us the principle benefits of trul khor
and tsa lung practice?
ALEJANDRO: These practices are a way of bringing your mind, your energy
and your body into harmony. The teachings refer to these three aspects
of body, energy and mind as the three doors to enlightenment, because
it is through them that you can come back home to your natural,
meditative state of mind. The advantage of these practices is that
they engage us in more tangible ways than just sitting in meditation,
and they can bring us immediate results. When Rinpoche taught the tsa
lung practices years ago, he said that they are like reading a bestselling
novel, because you are almost guaranteed to immediately connect
with the desired experience. Trul khor particularly engages the body.
Even though it is physical, it helps you to release obstacles to
meditation and enter a calm state of mind. One of its main advantages
is that it helps to balance your energy.
When I first learned trul khor I was at Triten Norbutse Monastery in
Nepal. After the initial prayers, we would all be doing seated
meditation practice, and after a while the umdze would get up and lead
us in a set of trul khor exercises. This would help alleviate any of
our drowsiness or agitation, and then we would go back to our
meditation. It is only natural that at some point you will be
distracted during meditation practice. Trul khor is a way of
revitalizing and re-energizing you, and giving you this chance to
return to that state and continue.
When I told Tenzin Rinpoche about my own experiences with trul khor in
Nepal, he set aside some time in his schedule to meet with me in the
early mornings, and for three weeks he would go over the texts in more
depth with me.
I cannot say enough about how very useful trul khor was for me. It got
me back to that natural state of mind. It got me back to being more
clear in my meditative state, back to having more “ding” - more
confidence in where I was and in my ability. My experience with the
practices has developed steadily since that time, through my sharing
them with others at nearly every summer retreat. And now it is
expanding into the medical field!
Lorenzo and I have been studying the beneficial effects of these
practices in cancer patients, and we have won a substantial $2.4
million grant for further research. I will be working to design the
study and train people to conduct it at the hospital. We will be
focusing mainly on the tsa lung, because some have said that trul khor
might be too difficult physically for patients.
VOCL: How did you first become involved with this research?
ALEJANDRO: For a long time we have been looking with Rinpoche at the
benefits of trul khor described in the ancient texts - benefits such as
overcoming anger, releasing emotions, connecting with the elements, and
the healing of specific organs of the body. Rinpoche has had a
longtime interest in exploring the science underlying these benefits.
When I moved to Houston, I saw the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and often
thought it would be a wonderful place to offer meditation instruction
to help relieve patients’ suffering. And then one day Alma Rodriguez,
a doctor there and a member of our Houston sangha, suggested that I
might be interested in working with a brand new clinic at MD Anderson
called the Place of Wellness. So I interviewed there, and they were
very happy to add a new program. It was an all-volunteer program
called “Tibetan Meditation – Connecting With the Heart,” and it ran for
over a year. As I was finishing my Ph.D, I suggested new ideas for
research and they pointed me to a psychologist there, Dr. Lorenzo
Cohen. The timing could not have been better because Yoga Journal had
just published the positive article on Tibetan yoga, featuring the Bon
trul khor as well as Namkhai Norbu’s yantra yoga.
Lorenzo Cohen suggested designing a clinical study to look at the
effects of tsa lung practice on lymphoma cancer patients. Rinpoche and
Lopon were both very supportive of this idea.
We presented the results of this first study at the International
Conference on Tibetan Medicine, held in Washington, D.C., in the fall
of 2003. The results were also published in The Cancer Journal in
2004. It was great to be published in a medical journal. One of the
most rewarding things for me was of course that Rinpoche served as a
main collaborator, and then that the study's bibliography included our
own Tibetan Bon texts from the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyud.
It has been wonderful to be able to merge my spiritual interest with my
academic interests and now with my medical interests. My Ph.D. is on
trul khor and its applications for cancer patients, and my thesis is
entitled, “Magical Movement and Yogic Practices in the Bon Religion and
Contemporary Medical Perspectives.” I have been so fortunate to be
able to study the trul khor with all of our Bon teachers, Nyima
Wangyal, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, His Holiness
Lungtok Tenpai Nyima and Ponlop Trinley Nyima. Being able to bring
this wisdom and the practices to people who are not dharma students has
also been very rewarding.
VOCL: What findings came to light in your first study?
ALEJANDRO: Many people use it in very practical ways. For example,
people getting ready for a CAT scan have said how much it has improved
their experience – with a greater sense of well-being, less worry.
They have been able to transform their experiences to a nicer, purer
A lot of people speak about the effects on their pain. They have said,
“Wow, while I was in this practice, the knee pain I have had for years
We also found improved sleep quality and sleep quantity, less need of
sleep medicine, and fewer intrusive thoughts. And people have spoken
of generally feeling better. Some don’t know how to articulate the
benefits. Usually people are very happy just to have a connection like
this in their lives.
VOCL: When will you be teaching tsa lung/trul khor again?
ALEJANDRO: We are likely to be offering it next spring in Crestone,
Colorado. In September 2006 Ponlop Trinley Nyima Rinpoche from Menri
Monastery will be teaching a retreat with me on advanced trul khor. We
will, of course, continue teaching it here at Serenity Ridge as we’ve
done during every summer retreat, and we’ll continue teaching it in
Mexico and Poland, as well.
VOCL: What additional studies on these practices do you see for the
ALEJANDRO: Designing an intervention that is replicable is key for our
moving forward within the medical field, so that these practices can be
applied to patients worldwide. Originally, one of our concerns for
creating an effective intervention was that there were so few people
trained in the practices of trul khor, and even fewer qualified to
teach those practices. Now, we are working to develop a model of
practice that could be used for almost any population with only minor
adjustments, so that not only dharma practitioners would be able to do
these practices. The basic form of each practice would stay the same,
always respecting the tradition. To be able to apply interventions to
various populations while bringing other sangha members into the
process would be a dream come true for me. It would be very powerful
if we can all work together to share these practices that our teachers
have brought for the benefit of sentient beings.
Waiting to Exhale
A yoga teacher relates her first experience with Trul Khor
by Michele Schulz
An instructor and seasoned practitioner of yoga, I journeyed from New
Mexico to the Tsa Lung Trul Khor retreat in Crestone, Colo., filled
with both curiosity and excitement: curiosity of discovering a new form
of yogic breathing and postures, and excitement that these teachings
were coming to the Southwest - a first!
It was my intention to attend the teachings without expectation in
order to avoid any disappointment. However, along with my excitement
came hopes that the Tsa Lung Trul Khor teachings would be an
opportunity to cultivate a more cohesive daily practice regimen — one
that would pair ritual and meditation practice with breathing and yoga
postures, all within the same tradition and lineage. E ma ho – how
Nearly 30 of us gathered for the three-and-a-half-day retreat where
Alejandro Chaoul-Reich would guide and instruct us through the Tsa Lung
practices as well as the first two of the four Trul Khor cycles. The
teaching sessions with Alejandro—four each day—were filled with his
insights, personal experiences, and humor, including many "ha-ha’s" (or
rather "ha-phet’s") as he demonstrated each practice and then invited
us to join in.
Alejandro certainly made the practices look like a piece of cake! Then
the challenge came - retaining the breath while we ourselves moved
through the forms. Initially, my body felt like a pressure cooker -
ready to burst before exhaling at the end of some particularly
challenging movements. Without forcing, I gave them my best. It quickly
became apparent that the ease with which Alejandro shared the forms
came from his enthusiasm, dedication, and love for Tsa Lung Trul Khor.
I’ve carried this inspiring example home with me and bring it to my mat
again and again as I practice embodying the movements and freeing up
I was thankful that the teachings were paced to enable a true
experience of each movement, while also giving ample space to receive
Alejandro’s wisdom about the history of the tradition. He read passages
from the original texts and commentaries that describe the practices,
and related stories about how this form of yoga has traveled from the
East to the West.
Trul Khor literally means "magical movement of the vital breath and
channels," and as we practiced together, a tangible sensation of magic
truly seemed to fill the space around us. I equate the experience to
the afterglow one feels after any practice in which prana is freed
within the body, then merges with the freed-up prana of the group.
When the practices became challenging and stirred up emotions, I
remembered what Alejandro had said about their purpose — to bring us
home and to help us reconnect with our true selves and ultimately with
others. This gave a more altruistic meaning to the practice and
encouragement to move through the obstacles.
Since the retreat, each time I come to my mat I’m reminded of the
potency of the practices and their potential for transformation. Based
on my understanding of the five elements, there is no transformation
without fire, and the Trul Khor movements indeed spark an internal
fire, an alchemy that burns away obstructions on the cognitive,
physical, and emotional levels.
As I observe cause (the practices) and result (the afterglow of
circulating prana), I can sense in myself a loosening of the stagnation
in my tissues, increased space for the breath to move inside the body
and into the central channel, and a more centered and stable mind. I’m
certain others who know and practice these forms will agree - they
cultivate a strong digestive fire, the ability to sleep like an infant,
and an overall sense of joy and well-being. A purification process
happens on many gross and subtle levels, and as a result, the potential
arises for more profound levels of meditation.
I extend my gratitude to the lineage through which these teachings have
been passed down, to Alejandro for his willingness to travel afar to
learn and teach, to the sangha for its support, and to the preciousness
of this human body as a vehicle for transformation.
Steel blades and skull cups,
Bathed in murky water,
Purified in scalding steam.
I am a beginner here.
I do not so much brandish the implements as fumble with them.
I scramble to keep up.
I do not know quite what I am doing.
The kitchen is a wrathful master.
Stacking plates in the hot afternoon sun,
Outer obstacles of sweat,
Inner obstacles of impatience,
Secret obstacles of clinging.
I am burning up from the outside.
Then Sherab Chamma appears.
But I do not recognize her,
Wearing an apron in the kitchen.
I try to walk by.
"Stop," she says. "Stand still."
She takes up a washcloth and runs it under cold water.
Then she lifts the cloth and drapes it over my face.
And my obscurations melt away in the cool flame of compassion.
- Alex Wright (written during the first week of the 2006 summer
NEW ITEMS AT LIGMINCHA’S TIBET SHOP
To read descriptions and see photographs of the newest items at
Ligmincha Institute’s Bookstore and Tibet Shop and for order
information, please go to www.ligminchastore.org and click on "search
by category or description" and then click on "New items." Or, go
“Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings: Dzogchen Teachings From the Retreats in
Austria, England, Holland and America.” According to Lopon Tenzin
Namdak; transcribed and edited, together with introduction and notes by
John Myrdhin Reynolds. This is a revised edition of the transcript by
the same name that we have carried in our store. It includes a new
introduction, an appendix, a biography of Lopon Tenzin Namdak, and a
sketch of the educational system at Lopon's monastery, Triten Norbutse,
in Kathmandu, Nepal. Chapters include: Introduction to Bon; The
Attaining of Buddhahood according to Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen; Four
Essential Points for Understanding Dzogchen; The View of Shunyata found
in Madhamaka, Chittamatra and Dzogchen; The Views of Tantra, Mahamudra
and Dzogchen; The View of Dzogchen; The Practice of Dzogchen; Rushans -
The Preliminary Practices of Dzogchen; Introduction to Thekchod and
Paperback, 283 pages. Price: $23.95
“The Little Luminous Boy.” By Samten Karmay. Images of the dzogchen
masters from Zhang Zhung, along with their biographies. Although this
book is now out of print, we were able to obtain a few additional
copies from the publisher in Bangkok, Thailand. Hardback, 120 pages.
Shang Shung Sacred Incense. New! Made in Lhasa according to
traditional Shang Shung formula. Shang Shung (Zhang Zhung) is the
ancient name of the province of Ngari in western Tibet. Shang Shung
incense is based on the ancient texts and contains many plants and
herbs, including musk, Kashmir saffron, and other precious medicinal
substances. This incense is especially good for health, long life,
luck and success. Approximately 30 sticks, 11" in length. Price: