|My Summer Vacation at Berkeley's Nyingma Institute: Opening Body, Mind and Heart
By Laurie Hopman
Nyingma Institute, longtime OPEN EXCHANGE lister, nestled in the Berkeley Hills, seems like an eternity from the cares of the world.
About 8 years ago, I wanted to learn to meditate. I was sick. I had pushed the body as far as I could by force of will, and it was failing. Years earlier, I had trained intensively for about six years in Japanese martial arts. All my teachers had urged me to do meditation, but I had never succeeded. I didn't think they were lying [about the benefits of meditating], but it honestly wasn't working for me.
In a giant leap of hope, I came to the Nyingma Institute for a week of retreat. The instructions were clear: show up in this room at this time, sit like so. The first big surprise came with my first Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga exercise. Doing as I was told, I held my body still, and moved my head gently forward and back, paying close attention to the sensations. A series of tiny explosions began to occur that felt better than any massage I had ever experienced! At one point the back of my neck felt as big as a softball (only a little softer). The next prize came when I realized this was giving me a place to park my mind, and there were fewer of those busy pesky thoughts. A relaxed neck and quieter mind! I was beginning to succeed where I had failed so many times before.
As I began to reconnect the body to the mind, a profound healing began to take place. The body that had been a reluctant and frankly inadequate partner in my life became a precious vehicle for my growth. I was surrounded by beauty in the Tibetan art on the walls, the summer rose garden, and the sounds of the mantra chanted.
Over the years, what began as a 'cease-fire' in the war between my body and mind has transformed me. I still have an illness, but I'm not so sick. The gentle approach at Nyingma allows an incredibly expansive opening of the body and mind and heart. The rich wisdom and knowledge of the tradition has been translated in a way that is accessible for me as a Westerner. As I have followed the instructions over the years it has been like finding an oasis in the desert, with a well that I could never drink dry.
I started here on that first day because I was desperate. I keep coming back because it is sustenance. I re-treat myself as often as I can. Each new experience is precious, and indeed all my teachers over all these years.
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