On Saturday, June 18, Shantideva Meditation will host a practice day with Paula Chichester, who will lead us in a meditation written by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for his students called Merging the Mind of the Guru with Chenrezig. Our day together will be a wonderful way to celebrate His Holiness’ 81st birthday, and create the causes for his long life and peace on earth while simultaneously opening our hearts to compassion.
Paula Chichester began studying Buddhism when she was 14 and has spent the last 33 years practicing full time, 23 years preparing for and completing long retreats under the guidance of her inspiring, kind teachers: Lama Thubten Yeshe, Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche and Kyabje Ribur Rinpoche. As a dancer, Chinese Chi Gung practitioner, healer, singer, student of psychology and ecology, she brings all these elements into the understanding of the whole person and how tantra works in this greater context. Her goal in life has been steady since childhood: to realize Mahamudra and do all she can to bring peace to our world.
We asked Paula recently to share her thoughts about our upcoming practice day and the meaning behind Chenrezig Guru Yoga:
Q: The focus of the day is on the meditation practice that was written by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama called Merging the Mind of the Guru with Chenrezig. Can you say more about the meditation and what it involves?
The meditation is a kriya yoga tantra practice. It involves breath meditation, visualization, chanting the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, stabilizing meditation on merging your mind with the mind of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a glance meditation on the stages of the path to enlightenment. It takes about an hour to do the practice and we can take a break in the middle if people prefer.
Q: What are the benefits of this meditation?
We just did the Chenrezig practice for the weekend and I asked [a student] Dave what were the benefits … I thought to ask one of the retreaters. He said, “I felt very close to HIs Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was very, very present, more precious than life. One woman’s face changed over the weekend. She said she had let go of something…. Very nice to chant in English (many people said that). It was a lovely opportunity to build community. Other people felt relaxed, more compassion. Dekyi Lee said she had the best meditation she’d ever had.”
Q: Does the meditation have personal meaning for you?
Chenrezig was the first meditation instruction and retreat that I learned from my root master, Lama Thubten Yeshe. The experience changed my life completely. I experienced the profound nature of my mind and the great loving compassion of all the buddhas while doing this practice for two weeks 36 years ago. When Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche advised me to lead meditations around FPMT, this particular practice seemed like the best experience I could share with my fellow travelers on life’s interesting journey. For me, the long life of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is of foremost importance for the well-being and peace on our planet; so, to do this practice now, in a city like New York City will be greatly beneficial for all the social, economic, spiritual and environmental challenges facing the inhabitants on planet earth.
Q: You’ve spent a great deal of time in long retreat (e.g., completing two five-year solitary retreats in Vermont). How do those experiences inform your meditation practice today?
That is a very long answer. The short one is this: the words of the sadhanas have become experience. Dharma moves from intellect to feeling to living breathing experience.
For more information and to register for our practice day with Paula Chichester, please visit our website. Paula says, “We will feel ‘oneness’ with His Holiness and generate bodhichitta for all; so PLEASE come, we need to create the cause for His Holiness’s long life.” We hope to see you there!