Sunny skies and cool temperatures welcomed us to Day 1 Pre-Monlam.
After generating our Motivation and dancing refuge and bodhicitta through Shantideva, Myri Dakini taught us the practice of Dukkar, Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed White Umbrella Tara. In this lineage, Mother Tara appears as a Protectress to bestow upon us the confidence to move through life fearlessly. As the Power of Compassionate Action, Dukkar holds an implement in each of her hands to dispel, subjugate and transform all negativity. This beautiful dance guides us through Dukkar’s blessings of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, and we embody her skillful activities. The dancers in the circle end fingertips to fingertips, forming a majestic protective umbrella to shelter all beings.
Prema’s instructions to us about the retreat extended once again beyond its confines: she reminded us about bringing awareness into our response to circumstances: the circumstances are not the problem, our attitude is. When we align ourselves with what is, we perceive the perfection of the present moment. It may not correspond to what we expected, so it is up to us to greet it with an open mind and heart. The question is: are we going to turn towards the heart of love or turn our back on it and suffer? It is our choice.
The afternoon was dedicated to learning how to relate to and dance with the sacred masks Mekare had created in Bali. I will be experiencing them for the first time this afternoon and will write about it in the next post! We also practiced the Eight Precious Offerings dance, our sangha brother Frank painted prayer flags with the names of all our dear donors, a number of us learned how to adorn ourselves in saris, and the men practiced the Dance of the Qualities to prepare for dancing as Protectors in the Mandala.
The afternoon ended with a magical gathering: as the winds rose, we spiraled into the circular temple at the top of the hill, bowing before a shrine to Tara. There we danced Motivation, Shantideva, Refuge and Bodhicitta, and the Dance of the Qualities in a seamless alternation of English and Portuguese. Our united voices filled the room and radiated out through the open door into the surrounding countryside. Devotion and joy filled our hearts as we connected to ourselves, to each other and to Mother Tara. Om Tare!
In the evening, we were led through a joyful and energetic series of sambas by Dani, one of our dear Brazilian Taras. We then learned a beautiful short Vajrasattva, and the inspired Calling Tara from the Heart. Afterwards, we danced Om Ah Hum, an empowering offering dance based on a song by Tina Turner, and concluded with a Four Immeasurables dedication based on a traditional Tibetan melody offered by Claire, a dear New Zealand Tara.
What is your intention for the Monlam? What is your prayer for yourself and for the world? Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the intention you have set. Om Tare!
May all beings be happy!
May all beings be free!
Photos by Amber Roniger, Text by Anjali