News From the Dancing Taras

Teaching the Mandala Dance of Tara has been an exhilarating, inspiring, and deeply rewarding experience. For the last 26 years I have traveled about this beautiful ball of earth sharing the profound practice of Tara’s Dance. Every day I receive letters from students and friends describing their experiences with the dance. It is a journey of consciousness. On these pages I will share with you some of the stories and pictures from our Tara Dhatu family. I will also share some insights about the practice as it reveals itself to me. Feel free to comment, to question, to contribute Prema Dasara

Tara Dances in Chile

The Flowering

Of Divine Mother Tara

In the Andean Lands

Myri Dakini has been cultivating a group of young women in Chile for several years. This November she offered a five day retreat in Chile.  Myri writes …

Through the loving spirit of One Being, we become aware of our responsibility to follow with joy and surrender the path of awakening.

We retreat, practicing Tara, meeting to strengthen and share our luminous nature.

It was with this dedication and vision that I accepted the invitation for Tara’s third retreat in the Andean lands. To cross the mountains of the Andes is to feel the female presence of Pachamama, her mystery, her magic and welcome. This brings back the memory of the ancestry of a people dedicated to cultivating and honoring the Divine Mother.

We shared four days full of magical moments, of harmony, beauty, color and joy … the expression of the gifts of femininity in splendor.

The group was mostly women. we had one male protector, who was welcomed with love by all.

We opened the circle with fire, gathering in the round, all ready to receive the transmissions of light and nutrition for the mind heart.

This year’s focus on this retreat was to learn in depth the Dance of Tara’s Qualities, the movements, mudras, and dharma teachings. We started at 7:15 am and finished at 9:30 p.m. only stopping for meals. Everything and everyone was in their place and enjoyed every moment.

The evening session was very interesting. It was a time of personal sharing.

My first question to each dancer was what motivated them to participate in the retreat. Wow! It was incredible, very touching. Everyone shared with an open heart.

The last day of the retreat was a celebration of intense gratitude. We did our practice on the beach, facing the mighty pacific ocean. Looking at the infinite space of the brilliant blue sea we connected in spirit with our beloved Prema on her island in the midst of the great pacific ocean. We felt that there was no distance when we are all interconnected in the heart.

Back at the retreat center we circled around the fire to thank the invisible and protective beings of the place. We were so grateful forthis precious opportunity to be together in the way of the Dharma.

I specially want to thank the precious teachers of our Tara Dhatu Educational Program; Valentina, Maria Concepción, Atma and Karian, who organized and prepared the retreat. It was was built with wisdom, compassion, power and love …

From my heart great gratitude, Myri Dakini

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Maria Concepción

To begin to put into words all the beauty that happened in our last Tara Retreat would seem to be unfair, given the language limitations, to the reality and manifestation of this precious event.

It required a long preparation. A retreat carried out with so much love. Every retreat’s detail and moment was thought and felt with great love.

At the beginning the four organizers faced decisions that meant a big challenge to us as an organization, we knew to read the signals that Mother Tara was sending every moment, regarding a leap of faith and to trust that everything would be given in order to manifest this retreat. Praying deeply, receiving profound inspiration, surrendering at Her service , the retreat was manifested and raised with great splendor.

Personally I felt this retreat was a great success, intensely enjoyed by each of the participants, who surrendered themselves to live the experience of our 3rd Tara Retreat in Chile.

I was especially pleased to note the harmony existing throughout the retreat. It was a friendly ambience between all the participants. We enjoyed the harmony in the center with its natural beauty that was in tune with the work we were doing. The two women owners of Las Coincidencias (http://www.lascoincidencias.cl/) were so helpful, accommodating, caring and receptive to us and our work. It was a convergence of auspicious factors that made this retreat an unforgettable experience, a memory treasured with love in our lives.

With deep gratitude to Great Mother Tara for manifesting herself inspiring us, her organizers, with so much beauty, love, compassion, generosity, wisdom and perfection.

Profound gratitude to our Teacher Myri Dakini, who shared with so much Joy, and trust in us. Every time she has come to us in Chile she shares her knowledge, with so much generosity, seeding the wisdom and awakening seeds in every participant. Inmense gratitude and admiration to our Teacher Prema Dasara for her amazing work all of these years creating the beautifull Dances of Tara for our awakening path.

Feeling ultimately, a heartfeelt call and vocation to keep walking this precious path of spiritual growth, I dedícate myself for the benefit of all beings.              SOHA.

 Atma

Being part of the Organization group taught me many things on a personal level as well as the collective level. Together we learned from many challenges.

In the personal level I could see my relationship with abundance; how my mind passes from very positive to negative, how I create expectations, and so on.

As the Organization group we lived the experience in a closer and more democratic way of working, trusting each other and everybody taking her place, everyone trusting in the other’s work.

The energy of this retreat was different as I can see the community in Chile becoming more cohesive.

I lived the retreat intimately. I had no tension of organizing since we could foresee situations and harmonically organized with others, The work was shared so no stress. I was able to connect with the retreat experience and enjoy the dances, dive into the meditational practices.

I am still digesting the experience I am in a life cycle of many changes, self-reflexions of what my path has been, and what I want it to be.

In that way the retreat was a space to integrate my soul´s restlessness.

I am so thankful for the experience, both individual and collective and grateful for Myri’s trust and dedication.

 Karina

I decided to join the organizational team when I felt my fellow’s enthusiasm, I wanted to give them support and cheer them on in this adventure of organizing the retreat, encouraging them, and being by their side on what I could, I don’t know much about technologies and computers, but they could count on me if they needed an opinion to make decisions concerning the venue’s choice or visiting different places, feeling the place’s energy and cheer them up on all that would be possible.

The economic part was complex, but we encouraged each other, generating a conviction and trusting one another. In every meeting ‘ideas and inspiration rain’ were flowing. It was an opportunity for lots of learning and personal and collective work.

With confidence, the most auspicious situations took place. I was alert to the signals that life and the environment were sending me. When we visited the venue ‘Las Coincidencias’, to me it was key to see a hummingbird over a bush full of flowers… I felt that was the signal to choose that place, and then, when we saw that beautiful spiral room, I knew it was perfect for dancing.

And then we had to spread the word, inspiring others, transmitting enthusiasm for them to come to the retreat. Everything flowed harmoniously. Little by little people were signing up and we saw with great surprise new people who had never danced before were excited about participating. This was a great present and joy.

My friends have done a great and enormous work. I try to be always positive and optimist in all situations of life, so I felt that the people coming to the retreat would be the right ones, regardless the number of participants. I was thinking: my wonderful Tara is in their hearts, and the right ones would be inspired to participate.

Near to the retreat’s date, on October 8th, a family crisis arose. My granddaughter Rafita, only 2 months old was diagnosed by the doctors who gave no chance for her to survive. This has been an ‘earthquake’ in the life of my family. At the time I devoted myself completely to my son, to be present, to support him, be by his side and encourage him on everything. I took refuge in the mantras and danced with all my heart, connecting from the purest place of my soul, asking for strength and guidance for this sad and painful time.

I decided to fully live day by day, in the present, enjoying and feeling gratitude for every second that we were able to have our precious Rafaela with us. I cheered my family, demonstrating that was the way to be with her, encouraging her, with joy, support, strength and much love, filling her with sweetness with all our soul.

I became more aware of the impermanence of life, living every minute the best way possible. It was complex to decide whether I would go or not to the retreat. But things got stabilized with the seriousness and I felt the compromise to be in support of all this great organization work. I went with the intention to come back (to my city) in any moment if something happened to my Rafita. I am so thankful that everything got even more stabilized. I realized I would a be bigger support to my family by being in the retreat. I danced connected to my family. It was very beautiful all the support and love I received from everyone. It was a joy and strengthened me to see how everything flowed wonderfully in the retreat and to see how every participant was enjoying and connected to each dance. It was something really formidable, moving, and inspiring.

I thank with all my heart every smile, each word of encouragement, and the support on my beautiful Myri, her company, and advice. I am very grateful. I came back strengthened to re-join my day-to-day of life and keep living this experience with so much love for my family.

This 2018 retreat has left us many teachings and an even deeper connection to our beloved Tara.

 

 

Tara Retreat at Shambhala, Golden Bay, Aotearoa

Catherine Walker has been a devoted Tara Dance teacher for many years. She has kept the dance alive in the Nelson area of the South Island of New Zealand and in the exquisite area of Golden Bay. For four years she has offered a retreat in the area at the Shambhala retreat center, an exquisite sanctuary overlooking the sea. She writes…

The sound of the Karanga, a Maori ritual calling new Taras to join us, opened what became a rich and moving weekend for all, including me, the teacher! The Karanga, has the ability to move one out of the body and into the outer realms. Once we were inside our beautiful haven for the weekend, I felt myself return. It was a deeply spiritual start to our magnificent weekend.

Greetings and introductions were made, we warmed up our bodies moving to Taras Mantra, and continued creating the Sacred Space with our invocations to the Enlightened Ones. Following that we went outside and honored Hine Moana, Goddess of the Ocean, with a simple dance to the music   “There is so much Magnificence in the Ocean”.   Each one of us, stepping forward and offering our bows of Gratitude for being in her magnificent presence, as we let go of our busy lives in the external world and eased into our own Inner Tara Magnificence.

We then entered our dancing shrine area and danced Tara the White. The November Full Moon Meditation brought us much inspiration.

Saturday was a rich and fulfilling day for all as I introduced and taught two new dances, Dukkar, the 1000 Armed Protector Tara, and Premas Long Life Prayer that was written by one of her students in the US. We then developed a creative interpretation of Om Tare Tu Tare/Om Mani Padme Hum.

Saturday was also a day of Silence, a time to be quiet and reflective. To support this, there were creative spaces set up for those wishing “to do something”. A green glass bead Tam was made in one corner, stones were painted, writings and drawings noted.

Sunday morning, the keen Taras met at 5.30am on the beach to farewell the night and greet the new day…. the Karanga was offered again , and Tara’s Mantra floated out towards the changing sky.   A water cleansing ceremony unfolded and we held the space for each Tara who wanted to release unwanted negativities, hurts, pains, and distortions of their true beautiful nature.

We stopped off at The Tea House Gazebo, overlooking the sea, as the perfect place to go for a hot cup of tea before breakfast.

All our delicious meals were prepared, shared and served by a rotating group of Taras. Each meal was a feast for the eyes as we offered our Sacred Food Blessing.

It was with much Love, and Gratitude to Prema for bringing this life enriching Tara Practice into the world that we closed our Circle on Sunday afternoon.

We all left with a deeper appreciation of ourselves and each other, our environment and our Lives.

Some thoughts from several of the dancers…

Big heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to making the Tara Dance weekend such a totally wonderful experience. This was only my second experience of Tara Dance and I fell in love with it!

 I had been really stressed recently at work and when I went back on the Monday my colleagues were all saying ‘where have you been ? you are glowing, wow!’

 Every aspect of the weekend gave so much in terms of beneficial energy and experience that could then go back out into the world. 

It supported, strengthened and inspired my own practice.

I felt cherished, held, delighted, expanded, challenged (in a positive way), uplifted, and profoundly nourished on all levels.

 Aroha nui to our dear teacher Catherine and her student Fiona.

Birthday good wishes for Prema Dasara, and gratitude for her teaching, wisdom and love.

Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha

Ali Symmons

“” to move , meditate , and dance in silence was an especially meaningful day, it gave depth and focus and a stillness to the experience that was so valuable, its one Id like to repeat. For all this in our 2 days together  I remain so grateful for Prema’s continued wisdom, aroha  and new blessings in the form of dance, and Catherine’s  dedication to pass this on …… they are enormous gifts so deeply appreciated .

In gratitude

Helen Bracefield

Sacred Space unfolds

Taras gather together

Souls meet, dance begins.

Laughter rings out through the hall

Joy, acceptance, belonging, celebration

Silence begins and Stillness allows

A coming together in a different way

Bodies swaying, eyes meeting

Connection, compassion, inner peace 

Mother Tara

Blessed be your gift.

 

 

Giving Tues 2018

Your support makes it possible for us to spin the wheels of of light and inspiration all over this beautiful blue green ball of earth and share the tools in Tara’s chest of treasures.

Thank you for your generous support.

Visit our donations page to give now.

Om Ah Hung

 

Tara’s Masks Dance the Mandala in Caxias

  For many years I have had the impulse to create masks of Tara for the dancers, and this aspiration has gone through several incarnations. One Retreat on Kauai the dancers created masks in paper mache  …. it was an experience that was very inspiring for the dancers. Those masks adorn the Golden Lotus Studio on Kauai and are used during special occasions.

My vision finally came to fruition when Mekare Fiske went to Bali and through many magical connections had a set of masks and crowns made for Tara Dhatu. It was an important part of my vision for the Monlam that we offered in Brasilia this year.

Noelle Faulkner created complimentary wigs and costumes and the masks had their debut at the festival. It was a very moving experience for everyone.

Mekare led the dancers into the mystery of the masks, sharing her vast and deep experience as a masked dancer. She organized each masked dancer to have a protector dressing her, dancing behind her, and leading her into and off of the performance area. This was an extremely powerful experience for the dancers.

As things developed it became obvious that there was not enough time for the masked dancers to train in dancing in the mandala formation. Mekare and I developed a choreography that was workable for the situation and everyone was inspired. 

Myri felt very strongly that we should continue to try and manifest my vision of dancing in the Mandala formation in the masks. She approached Michele Trentin, one of our senior teachers who has a dance studio in Caxias, the far South of Brazil. This October, together with seven other senior teachers of Tara Dhatu South America, they accomplished this vision.

Myri writes …

Faith, Surrender and Trust

Mother Tara when I felt the wind caressing my face I heard your voice whispering in my ear “Do not fear. I am your Refuge!”

 

It is with great joy and gratitude that I can share this adventure of determination, faith, confidence, focus and love!

Having the opportunity to guide a group to dance the complete Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara with the masks we had made in Bali was a dream come true. When I offered to do this job I was open-hearted and sincere. I knew it would be incredibly challenging. I also knew it would be an ecstatic experience. It required my total surrender!

I worked hard with the text of the Mandala, so that it was tattooed on my body. I needed to be prepared to work with the ways I might need to adjust the movements to be able to guide the dancers to dance confidently. With our Tara masks there is limited peripheral vision, restricted air flow for breathing. All of this had to come into consideration.

We were fortunate to have a group of women who had already had experience in the complex movement of the mandala.. We had seven of our precious senior teachers; Michele, Angelis, Lia, Ruth, Edithe, Natália, Mariana and Jeniffer.

Michele offered her beautiful temple, her students, and her heartfelt experience in organizing workshops and events. I thought that I would not dance in the Mandala, wanting to direct from the outside. I invited Michele to be the Central Tara, giving her my full support.

I ended up having to dance a praise to take the place of a beautiful woman who had to step out. We were together, this group of incredible women turning the mandala of Divine Mother Tara’s blessings. I have great gratitude to every dancer. We held hands and together created the circle !! Thank you for trusting me!

To open the group’s connection with the masks I led a simple exercise from my long time association with studying the Kabala and moving with that orientation in masks.

I guided them to come to class without makeup and to look into a mirror at their own face with the clarity and certainty that they were walking on the most profound path. Then I asked them to open themselves to feel the mask as the face of Tara, to merge their face with the mask and feel they are Tara Herself, the two faces, inseparable! After putting on the mask I directed them to move. manifesting the quality they represented, getting familiar with the restrictions of the mask, dancing the body of the Goddess! The focus of this preparation was Faith and Surrender!

Prema has often said that Tara has her own agenda. I shared this message with the precious dancers, also quoting Prema … “ we are in our spot!”

I offer my sincere gratitude to Tara who has helped us assemble favorable conditions to turn her amazing Mandala of Prayers!

I offer my gratitude to the precious teacher Prema for trust, guidance and support.

I offer my gratitude to dear Mekare for her excellent and inspiring work with the masks.

And I offer my thanks to the women who created the magic circle of this initiatory mandala with me.

I sincerely wish that as the wheel of life keeps spinning I can continue to share this beautiful Tara Mandala with or without the masks. May I find circles of women willing to manifest the enlightened feminine, to awaken to their true nature for the benefit of all Beings!

I open my heart to the many dancers who will follow us, turning the Mandala of Tara, your face merging with the mask, Tara’s face, your face, we are all united in the magic and wonder that is Tara!

I send my love and pray that we may always be connected in the Light that is Tara.                    Myri Dakini

 It is with great joy that Michele tells us about the experience of Myri’s guidance leading a group of women dancing Tara’s Mandala in the masks in her beautiful Temple Studio, Rakaça Templo de Dança. Michele writes…

During the four days of training everything was very smooth, serene, despite impermanence playing it’s tune. Tara was guiding us finding the perfect position for everyone.

Myri`s leadership was exceptional, precise and perfect! With her skills and experience the mandala developed smoothly. We were ready to dance the Mandala of the 21 Praises of Tara with the Masks!

Myri asked me if I would be willing to take the position of Central Tara. She needed to be able to be outside of the mandala, directing everyone. I never imagined that I would be in the place of Central Tara. It was a gift but also an immense responsibility! My mind and heart were fully concentrated to make the mandala spin well.

I am so grateful to Myri for  trusting me. It was a great empowerment. I was able to focus, learned so much about leading the mandala. I feel much more secure to work with the Mandala Dance of Tara in the future.

Thank you Myri that you chose us to have this precious mandala with the masks to turn here, in our dance temple. You have brought so many blessings to our dancers, to all who were with us as audience and our community. I am always open to  help and to do everything that Tara Dhatu wants to accomplish.

We are all grateful to Prema for transmitting this practice in such a profound and precious way, a practice that uplifts hearts and souls!

And many thanks to the brave, patient and courageous dancers who formed our mandala! Each one was amazing.

Filled with gratitude,         Michele

In this video you can see some of the preliminary work, some close ups of the dancers in mask and costume and a bit of action with the audience dancing Om Ah Hum and Tashi Deleg with the performers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5LLUCtrvVo

 

 

 

 

 

 

This video focuses on the birth of each Tara and a bit of Her dancing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HH7PMQtWWY&feature=youtu.be

this imbedded video is the Mantra Dance

This is the dedication dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara is Dancing in Guarapari

A few days after Myri Dakini arrived at her home in Brasilia, after traveling more than 24 hours  from Portland, Oregon, she headed out to the North East of Brazil. She was invited to lead a workshop and performance of the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara in Guarapari,  Spiritu Santo. For two   years Daisen Marchito has been leading a group of dancers at her clinic “Integrating Psychoanalysis and Integrated Therapy Training”. Here is a rough translation of Daison’s report …

We were happy to once again receive Myri Dakini, to experience her excellent training in the Mandala of Tara, the meditative dance of the Enlightened Feminine. Myri is a wonderful presence among us, teaching with such confidence and excellence.

In our bi-weekly meetings, most of the time there are seven participants so it was lovely to have a group large enough to make a bigger mandala.

I am delighted to see the evolution of those who have come consistently in our group. The dance brings discipline, concentration, joy, generosity, self knowledge, balance, harmony, creativity, respect, just to name a few of its benefits.

I am including testimonials from some participants . We are really inspired to keep meeting. We are forever thankful to Prema Dasara for giving us such valuable teachings and for Myri’s tireless dedication. We hope to have Myri and her lovely charisma with us again next year.

“For me, the dance means freedom.  It is such a different experience, to realize TARA is inside me.”                      

Rosimery Claret – Therapist

“The dance for me was a divider. There was a Fran before the Dance and another one afterwards. It takes care of me every day, makes me a better being. I have so much Gratitude.”            

Fran – Yoga teacher=

“This meditative dance gives me a connection with the divine. God’s feminine presence is in me. Every gesture, every movement is a form of the elevation of the mind through the body. We are integral beings and the dance provides this perception in ourselves.” 🙏🏿😊 Luciana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations – Two Tara Babies Born

 

At the monlam this year we were treated to two of our lovely dancers pregnant, and only a few days apart in their anticipation of birth. Dani and Jocelyn delighted us all with their enthusiastic participation and very obvious swelling bellies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dani Acosta is one of our main dancers in Brasilia. She is beautiful, sincere and talented, often playing the drum to accompany Ricardo, and one of Myri’s picks for the new Dance of the Five Wisdom Dakinis. She portrayed Padma Dakini, the Red Goddess who is Irresistible, magnetic, carrying the power of discriminating awareness wisdom.

She gave birth

To baby Eloah

15 October, 2018.

 

 

 

Jocelyn Rainbow Wolfe resides on Maui and had made a commitment to sing at our Monlam festival before she knew she was pregnant. Lucky for us she did not let that stop her and diligently gathered the funds necessary to join us.

Before she left for Brazil she had an ultra sound determining that her child to be would be a boy. Her participation in the monlam was precious, her voice supremely powerful and beautiful. And big surprise, when she arrived back on Maui the next ultra sound, done during the 21st week of pregnancy, showed baby to be a girl!!!

‘Āinalei was born Oct 24, 2018

Congratulations to these two beautiful young mothers and lovely sweet babies. May they all always rest in Tara’s arms.

 

Dancing Tara at the Sakya Monastery in Seattle

Seattle was one of the first cities outside of Hawaii that the Tara Dance was offered. In the audience was Dagmola Kushog, the first Tibetan woman who ever witnessed the Tara dance. She was the wife of a very high Sakya Rinpoche, and was famous throughout Tibet for her ability to “dream”. She was known as an emanation of White Tara and it was truly amazing that we were able to dance for her.

She gave a wonderful speech after the dance. She congratulated us in may ways, especially touched that the dancers would be wearing saris. “Buddha Is from India,” she reminded us. “ Wearing a sari shows respect for that culture.

The next day she asked to see me and she reported several dreams that she had indicating that she was to support the Tara Dance, first of all by offering empowerment to the dancers. Then by inviting us to dance in the Sakya Temple. Prema and several of her senior students have made an effort to offer the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara every year at the monastery. 

For the past several years Parvati has organized and offered the mandala in fulfillment of Dagmola’s request. This year a group of Tara Dancers from all over the US and Canada joined Parvati for the offering. Carey Avery, a Level 2 Teacher, residing in Phoenix, Arizona wrote …….

What an opportunity – dancing in a Tara mandala in the Sakya Monastery in Seattle.  I have held this aspiration for many years, it was fulfilled over the weekend of October 4-7, 2018.

We began Thursday evening with a Green Tara initiation from H.E. Dagmola Sakya for the Tara dancers and Sakya Monastery community.  The initiation and many of the weekend’s activities were held in the Shrine Room, which is a visual feast for the eyes and nourishment for the heart/mind.

It is an exquisitely beautiful and inspiring space:  clouds adorning the ceiling, the monastery’s lineage tree painted on one wall, the Buddha’s first students on another, and beautiful statues including White Tara and Green Tara.

It was such a comforting and supportive environment in which to embody Tara.  Several times during the weekend I would glance at a painted figure or statue and feel they were looking directly at me, encouraging and guiding.

Parvati, did a superb job of organizing and leading the Mandala.  Friday evening was an Introduction to Tara and we danced through the Qualities.  Saturday and Sunday morning we prepared and practiced; culminating in a luscious offering Sunday evening.

It was a wonderful blending of new and experienced dancers.  Women traveled from California, New York, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Oregon to be there.  With so many coming from out of town, Kim Abbey found a rental in the Ravenna neighborhood and 7 of us were able to stay there.  That added an extra element of joy to the weekend – ironing saris and enjoying delicious home-cooked meals together.

We join our heartfelt prayers to Dagmola’s that the Mandala of the 21 Praises of Tara continue to be danced in the Sakya Monastery.

Many thanks to Gail Fredrickson, our liaison with Sakya Monastery.

For many years she has organized the needs of the dancers in order to fulfill Dagmola’s request that the dance be offered at Sakya at least once a year. As a special blessing for Gail, this year her son brought his whole family and it was the first time the baby was in the presence of the Mandala Dance of Tara. Om Tare!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Tara Dances at KTD Woodstock, New York

Hope Jinishian works in the bookstore at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, the seat of his Holiness the Karmapa in the USA. This dharma center, nestled in the forest above Woodstock, New York, is a powerful Kagyu monastery and has hosted the Tara Dance numerous times.

 

 

Hope is dedicated to the dances of Tara Dhatu and has organized workshops for Prema, Parvati and other senior teachers.

As a Level 2 Tara Dhatu teacher, she has offered the dance at various retreats, and has helped organize for any Tara Dance teachers that visit KTD to share their method of teaching the dance.

Recently, Elizabeth Breck, a professional dancer and Level 3 Tara Dhatu Teacher volunteered to teach at a two day teens and family weekend retreat. She taught White Tara of the 6 Shields. She wove the dharma into her class in a delightful way that was enthusiastically received by the teenagers and the nuns and lamas who joined.

Tara Dances in Portland

Myri Dakini is Prema’s personal assistant, Assistant Director of Tara Dhatu’s Educational Programs and the Director, President and main mentor of Tara Dhatu South America. This October she headed to Portland mid October to study with Charya teachers Helen and Prajwal.

Prajwal is the Vajracharya (head Priest) of the beautiful Dance Mandal, a temple built in the Nepali Newar tradition right in the heart of Portland. Prajwal’s father, Ratnakagi Vajracharya, was one of Prema’s teachers.

While there Myri offered to do a couple of evenings of dance instruction and she was happily joined by a group of Taras who had just accomplished the weekend mandala in Seattle.

Monday night she led the group in the Protector Dance of Dukkar. After the class everyone was invited to celebrate Prajwal’s birthday!!

Tuesday night Myri and the group shared the profound dance practice,  Calling Tara From the Heart.

It was an exquisite sharing.

 

Tara Dances in Virginia

 

Jacquelyn Sendak Zavaleta has been sharing the Tara Dances in Virginia for several years,accompanied by her

Tara Protector husband, Rigdzin Zavaleta.

She writes…

 

Rigdzin and I had two welcome dinners organized by our friends and hosts Tara White and her husband Mike.

Due to two knee injuries, it was a total stretch for me to lead the dance practices in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth.  However, attendees were so open, receptive, and caring that we managed just fine.

I began by sharing my temporary limitation, and some experiences about how these Tara practices have changed my life.  As soon as I did this, everyone became very attentive and focused. Rigdzin led a Green Tara meditation. And then we danced. One gentleman who said he did not dance eventually joined us during the dances of the praises.

Eventually, my knees hurt too much to lead movements anymore. After the program, one lady kindly went home to pick up a surprise a gift of Chinese medicine to rub in my knees that Martial artist use for injuries.  She showed a vivid interest in the dances and after doing the Tara qualities she said she felt a resonance to embody them all.  We were invited next year to expand our Tara program to include her Dharma Center.

It is always wonderful to come to a Dharma Center and share the Dharma and Tara dances with Buddhist Practitioners.  It is especially inspiring when a person is just discovering the Goddess Tara.  The richness and depth of the movements, combined with Mantras, meditation, and dharma teachings creates an excitement and interest.  Long term Buddhist Practitioners share how Tara and Dharma dances inspire them.  Although we have been coming to Virginia Beach and Portsmouth area for many years, this time we encountered both new and experienced folks to our programs.

One of my Tara sisters donated some Tara materials that she encouraged me to give away as gifts which I did.   This opened the door for me to introduce the Tara food blessing, basic teachings, and a Bardo prayer.

The Savvic Center in Portsmouth, Va serves the local Buddhist community and attendees welcomed us expressing “this is a great way to spend a Sunday.”

Our initial Tara Dance teaching in Virginia Beach was at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (Edgar Cayce). We were then invited to dance at the Fellowship of the Inner Light Church, the joyful Church with the big heart.

This year, we were very fortunate the fellowship’s founder’s wife, Sharon, was in attendance!  She finally was able to experience what we have been doing here for the past few years.  Attendees were reluctant to leave so we were given permission to take as much time as we wanted to continue the program.  She really enjoyed our presentation so much that her parting comment was “so we will see you again next year?” I heartily agreed. Our Tara Groups will continue to meet and dance in Virginia.

 

 

Gutsy Women – Prema & Myri on FM Radio

Our dear friend and Tara dancer, Amorah St. John, has a radio program called “Gutsy Women” on Maui public radio, KAKU. She has been interviewing the fun and fabulous women of Maui who are making a difference in the community. She invited Prema and Myri in for an interview .

“Gutsy” in the dictionary means courageous, determined and filled with spirit. Amorah’s guests live up to that definition, empowering listeners to make a difference and follow their hearts. The show airs live every Friday from 11:00 am to Noon Hawaii time.  If you would like to listen to the interview with Myri and Prema go to

https://kakufm.org/gutsywomen

Scroll down the list on the right to July 27th.

It was really lovely the way Amorah brought Myri into the conversation.

 

Tara Dances in Phoenix – A Profound Weekend Retreat

The Phoenix Tara Circle has been turning for many years under the guidance of Senior Mentor and Teacher, Parvati. Each year they host a weekend Tara Dance retreat. This year’s retreat, September 14-16 was unique as the leading of the dances was shared by several senior teachers.

Friday evening opened with an Introduction to Tara. Parvati danced Tara’s origin story. This was followed with an enlightening introduction to Tara’s 21 qualities by color, providing insight into their power and meaning.

They were very fortunate to have Shivadam provide his most excellent live accompaniment with voice and guitar.

On Saturday the day was divided into 2 hour sessions. The Eight Precious Offerings were led by Carey, Calling Tara from the Heart was led by Johanna, and White Tara of the Six Shields was led by Parvati and Johanna.

Sunday morning was devoted to Vajrasattva, led by Noelle and Carey with helpful translation as we learned the practice. Dancers were delighted. In the afternoon Parvati led a spirited full Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises offering with 8 dancers, 4 enthusiastic protectors (3 newbies), and Shivadam providing the beautiful music.

The retreat ended with Prema’s Long Life Prayer led by Anjali in Texas via video call and Hope leading Om Ah Hum as a dedication dance.

A mix of new and experienced dancers were present with Tara’s traveling from New York, Manitoba Canada, New Mexico and western Arizona. The abundance of student teachers allowed the leading responsibilities to be shared among the group and they did a fantastic job! Sessions included the meditations for the various dances. The enthusiastic reception by participating Tara’s has encouraged our Phoenix Tara Circle to aspire to hold similar retreats in the future.

Come join us!

Om Tare!

Dancing Tara in New Zealand: A Magical Mystery Mandala Tour

Adrianne and Clare

Adrianne LaBry Smith is a Level 3 Tara Dhatu teacher. She met Clare Woodham at the Monlam in Brazil and these two lovely Taras cooked up a teaching tour for Adrianne this September.

Adrianne writes …

At the request of Tara Dhatu Level 2 Teacher, Clare Woodham, I made my first journey (in this lifetime) to the mystical, magical land of New Zealand, the islands of Aotearoa “land of the long white cloud”. I was greeted with a warm welcome of “Kia Ora” in the language of the Maori, “be well, be healthy”. The New Zealand accent holds traces of British flair and   I can’t help but think of that English rock band, the Beatles, and their lyrics:

Roll up roll up for the Mystery Tour… That’s an invitation … Roll up for the Mystery Tour…

With Clare as guide, we set out across the North Island on a Magical Mystery Mandala Tour of Tara Dance; 3 weekends and 2 Wednesdays dancing Tara on 3 coasts—Napier, Kapiti, and Auckland. We lived like nomads, packing up clothes, food, tea, images of our sources of refuge—photos of our precious teachers, statues and thangkas of beloved Tara—water bowls and offerings, brocades, sacred texts and music, and 3 peacock feathers to remind us of our ability to transform poison into wisdom radiance.

The Magical Mystery Tour … Is waiting to take you away…

Transported to the pure realm of Tara’s Mandala. Birds singing, flowers blooming, waterfalls dancing down the hills. Reminders of Her were everywhere, sacred mounds of radiant green, bush forests of refuge. Even the names of the places we traversed were boldly proclaiming her name, Taradale, Tararua.

 

Imparting a sense of pilgrimage, a special trip was made to Te Henga (Bethells Beach), location of the filming of Prema Setting the Motivation as seen in the video Dance the Goddess Rainbow Essence of Tara. With reverence I recited the Daily Prayer-The Tara I Am and we danced the Prayer of Motivation.

At each location, I introduced myself in the traditional Maori fashion offering my Pepeha. Standing at sacred sites one greets the ancestors of the land by reciting, in this order, the names of the following: a key land formation and a river near your place of origin, your People, your Paternal Grandfather, your Father, your Maternal Grandmother, your Mother, your Oldest Brother, your Oldest Sister, your name, and a greeting offered to all.

And in each place of gathering I felt the welcome of the ancestors and of the living, breathing Taras who call New Zealand home. Our weekends and Wednesdays together felt like retreats. The sincerity and openness of those present providing sanctuary from worldly affairs, allowing for deepening in the practice of taming the mind, refining away the obscurations that veil our true nature.

We set clear intention and made offerings to engage in the virtue of body, speech, and mind, dancing our Prayer of Motivation, Refuge & Bodhicitta, Shantideva’s Prayer, and The 8 Precious Offerings.

We invoked our sources of refuge, visualizing protection for ourselves and all beings as we danced Dukkar and White Tara of the 6 Shields. We engaged in dances to reveal our Tara radiance, manifesting wisdom and compassion for the well-being of all—Tara’s Qualities, Calling Tara from the Heart, The Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara.

The number in our Mandala changed from day-to-day…4, 6, 12. Regardless of the number, with invincible courage the dancers spiraled—joyfully revealing the 21 manifestations of the enlightened feminine. Mandalas of beautifully powerful Taras reflecting a varied array of cultures: The Maori, descendants of the first arrivals; progeny of British, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, Croatian, Indian, French, Greek; more recent immigrants from Germany and South Africa; and visitors from Australia.

They’ve got everything you need … Roll up for the Mystery Tour
Roll up … Satisfaction guaranteed.

The beauty and welcome of the people, the magic and mystery of the land, the heartfelt intention of the dancers, the power of the practice…was all beyond imagination. Filled and satisfied. May all beings benefit. May all have such joy.

Dancing Tara at the Women in Buddhism Conference in Seattle

Kim Abbey is a relatively new Tara Dance facilitator but a long time Tara Dancer. It is wonderful to see her spread her wings and share the dances. She has a circle of Tara Dancing in her Olympia, Washington community and we are always delighted to have her join us in the dance. She writes….

My experience at the 6th Annual Women in Buddhism Conference in Seattle at the Seattle Betsuin (Pure Land) Temple was so joyful.  I was invited by the planner, Irene Goto, to facilitate a Tara Circle at this one day conference.

We had half an hour to share, immediately after the bento box lunch that was provided for all 65 in attendance.

I quickly organized a table shrine with fruit and flowers and the precious thangka that was one of the 21 that were hung all around us at the festival in Brazil!

Then we danced in a big circle in the gym at the Temple. Several women spoke to me about their joyful feelings, raising their arms and swaying to the prayers was a very new experience for these mostly elderly Japanese women.

Om Tare!

Phyllis Reports on Monlam in Northwest Dharma Web News

Phyllis Moses is one of our precious Level 3 Tara Dhatu teachers, living in Vancouver, Washington. She has been our representative in the Northwest Dharma Association for several years

It was our great good fortune that she was able to attend our Festival of Prayer in Brazil this May and has written this article that was printed in the NDA’s web news.

Click Here to read Phyllis’s article

She asked me to share that, “I was asked to focus on the North West, so personally, I felt like I left out many credits to the Brazil (and beyond) sangha, yet this is what the focus needed to be, so forgive me if I left out some things.”

It is a delicious taste of the wonder that was our Festival

 

Post Monlam Visit to Chapada Imperial

May 29, 2018 Post Monlam Tour Day 2

Shared By Sherry Harris…

Our last official day together in Brazil Prema and Myri put together a very special grand finale.  An hour bus drive out of Brasilia, down windy dirt roads through the bush, we came to Chapada Imperial, an ecological sanctuary, a nature preserve of the cerrado biome, the high plains plateau of central Brazil. The owner of the land greeted us enthusiastically and gave us a tour.  The center was closed to the public on this day. We were the only guests.

We were also greeted by a roaming peacock and a large blue gold parrot.  One of the jobs of the sanctuary is to rescue, rehabilitate and return to the wild animals that have been captured. He was passionate as he showed us the cages where animals had been taken to market and he pleaded, ”Please, do not take home animals”.

We then assembled around hike choices, small, medium (3 hours), or long (5 hours) I chose “the middle path”.  We start off down a well maintained trail. Our guide shared his extensive knowledge of the healing properties of the plants, and introduces us to birds, insects, and animals on our way.  We delight in the colorful flowers and the colorful stories.  The sun is out and we are feeling light, happy, playful. The Taras are singing and laughing, holding hands, taking photos, talking openly and lovingly in community.  We pass waterfalls and view dense forest and rolling hills.  The dance of the trees and butterflies, the smells of the woodlands seep into us, the elements in nature bathing our senses.

In the 1st waterfall, most of the Taras slide gently across smooth, massive granite rock into the fresh pools of reflected water sending ripples across the surface and ripples of delight upon our skin.  We take turns underneath the pounding water of the falls, a natural massage.  We lay across the sun-drenched rocks, arms around one another, heads resting in laps, smiling, laughing, talking, beckoning, attracting all to join us.

Beautiful clear, clean water. We call to each other.  No one is left out.  We feel healed and forgiven as we let go of any resistances., Bathing in the waterfall pools, the flowers around us shimmer, we breathe in the sweet smell of forest plants and the bursting freshness of the falling water. We celebrate a rising awareness of the power of prayer, the light glimmering in our eyes a reflection of the light within.

Back at home base we are served an incredible abundance of fresh food grown on the farm. Tara’s songs upon our lips, filled with joy and laughter, we are living the 8 precious offerings.

As we finished with lunch we had options and several choose to play in a special area built around towering trees. Climbing into one of the tree giants, a zip line sent our Taras squealing .  Aerial ropes and wooden planks, painted tires, and balance line woven through the tree tops gave another group some intense challenges. Some of us decided to just rest in the hammocks and watch the action.

On our return, happy and tired, we ended the day with a magnificent sunset and rising full moon to seal the mystery.  May all beings be happy.  May all beings be free.

Post-Monlam Brasilia Tour & Prayers

Sherry Harris from Kauai, Hawaii traveled to Brasilia, Brazil to participate in the Festival of Peace, Festival of Prayer, Tara Dance Monlam. She shared a bit about Monday’s Post-Monlam Tour….

May 28th, 2018

After nine full days of attention and effort to the structure of the Monlam, dancing in ever-changing forms, we entered our first day of post-Monlam activities.  Myri and Prema had arranged a luxury bus to introduce us to a bit of Brasilia. Fifty dancers, mostly from out of the country joined the fun, exploring this Capital City. Brasilia was built in 1960 on a utopian, all-inclusive vision, all the buildings uniquely designed.

Our 1st stop was the Museu dos Povos Indigenas – The Museum of the Indigenous People of Brazil. The Museum was usually closed on Mondays, but Myri arranged for our Tara Dhatu circle to be specially welcomed. The plan was for some of the tribals to open our visit with singing and dancing but the trucker strike and consequent gas issues meant that they could not make it. Fortunately one of the managers was able to hostess our group.

Beautiful Maya translated our day. The building spiraled downwards to end in an earthen circle, open to the sky.  Along the way were implements of Indios lives … clay pottery, woven basketry, carved wooden benches in shapes of birds used for daily meditation upon returning to one’s home. A long woven tube caught my eye. The women of the tribe use it to squeeze out the juice of the manioc root,  many hands, twist and turning.

There were large photographs of the Indios in demonstrations with the government and the police,  in rallies of opposition to their treatment.  They need to be seen, to be heard, to be recognized … to have a place among  the people of Brazil … standing up and standing strong and proud. They want their culture to be respected.

A few of our Taras were invited to don headpieces with reverence, unity, intention, respect. We had been asked by the director to offer prayers for the well being of the tribal people. We gathered in a large circle in the open courtyard, including a big tree stump representing the inclusion of the tribes before us.  Lekshe, and Prajwal joined us as Prema led us in song and dance –  Tara’s Refuge, Motivation,  Shantideva and the dance of Tara’s Mantra Meditations.

Shivadam held the melody with his guitar and Isa kept the beat of the drum. My bare feet in the sand in

which so many have danced and chanted in ceremony, I felt completely connected, in solidarity with all people for equality, empowerment and freedom.  Many felt a deep sadness here. Mixed emotions were apparent, acknowledgement pervasive. It was a powerful time of prayer.

We then piled onto our luxury bus and Maya pointed out the city plan, laid out in the shape of an airplane looking to take to the sky. Her stories were clear and she also shared the story of the “unspoken division” of a class system that “didn’t yet go away”.

Our next stop was the Cathedral, with 16 arched columns. It was a long staircase down into the sanctuary with wavering stained glass walls and huge hovering angels hanging from the ceiling in the center.  Breathtaking.

Our group found a cozy circular underground room used for christenings, and were happy to dance a modified version of our new dedication piece, May All Beings. The room had amazing acoustics. Such a blessing.

Lunch at Restaurant Mangai, was lavish. We were surrounded by herb gardens and reflecting pools with a stunning view of a bridge of arches over the lake.  Maya tells us she swims across the lake, shared with many fish, small not-biting crocodiles, and capivaras, a little hippopotamus-like animal!

With a vast array of Brazilian foods before us, we learn about Kilo eating. You weigh your plate full of food after selecting from the buffet.  It would take a dozen visits to taste it all!  The restaurant was full of fun accents of Brazilian country life. A sculpted server had little cups of that wonderfully smooth Brazilian coffee as a good bye treat, free for us to enjoy.

Our last visit was to Templo da Boa Vontade, the Temple of Good Will.  This vision of wonder represents raising the temple of the Living Divinity inside our human heart.  The pyramid-shaped structure of seven points has the purest, large crystal at its apex. We are thus magnetized to enter and walk, in silence, the spiral floor of the first temple room.

We entered on the dark spiral, walking counterclockwise, contemplating the difficulties in our journey.  Standing in the center under the crystal, we find the Light and begin our new journey.    Walking in meditation, praying, we return on the spiral of light, illuminated by spirit.

This meditation was brilliant for our group, as we have danced Tara’s Praises together, transforming poisons, destroying our attachments, removing our sorrows, and truly feeling worthy of honor.  We have been deeply touched and changed in a joyous and profound way.

Sharing our bliss and joy is unstoppable!  We are walking Tara’s teachings in real time.  We drank from the fountain of blessed waters. We bowed at the altar of the four elements. And then on to the art gallery we went, passing paintings of the Tarot using aspects of Brasilia to illustrate the Major Arcana.

We had been invited to offer prayers in the gallery and so two circles formed quickly. We danced Motivation, Shantideva and Tara the White, in English and Portuguese.  It is so alive, this heartfelt unity as we looked at each other with Tara’s eyes, seeing her face in each one of us.

Photos by Amber Roniger

We laughed.  We cried. All of us united in this collective release of built-up energy from the hard work, the chaos and the joy, living Tara’s truths revealed.  We dance for each other, knowing we contain the power of prayer and transformation, the energy to make a difference where there is suffering.  This Monlam, this gathering of Tara’s and Prema’s dream has empowered us and set us free!  Love really is the answer.

Read More: Conclusion of Monlam, May 27, 2018

So happy to be connecting with all of you one last time and to have the opportunity to share the exciting conclusion of the Monlam!

Dressed in white for our preliminary morning practices, we danced and chanted Beloved Tara, and Refuge and Bodhicitta. We then invoked Mother Tara and recited the Seven Purifications. Next, we cast a protective circle with a visualized vajra in our right hand and phurba in our left, as our umdze chanted the mantras of protection. We continued with Dukkar and Calling Tara from the Heart. Dancing Calling Tara from the Heart together is a blissful experience–the words inspired by a Dudjom Rinpoche sadhana are so evocative and powerful that they, along with the choreography, take us to the very core of our being.

We were then led into chanting The Daily Prayer about the fundamental nature of our mind: we are, in fact, limitless – it is only misperception that limits our understanding of who we are and what we can become. Prema reminded us that this prayer is the essence of our practice, which strives to dissolve the veils of the mind and align us with the truth. For us, this series of practices in the morning has become a powerful way of recreating the foundation daily for the offering rituals that followed.

Determining the mandalas for later in the day was a Herculean task. Prema strives to give everyone a chance to dance the Praise they feel called to do as well as increase the training of new dance leaders. I am learning to unwind the mandala, so I requested Tara #1, Swift Protection.

We were happy to head for lunch. Our two big buses took us to a delicious meal in town–a multi-colored buffet with selections to satisfy everyone.

After lunch, we began the offerings, which included  the Eight Precious Offerings, the Dance of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, and offering the  copper mandala composed of precious stones representing infinite universes. We offered the Twenty One Praises of Tara with the masked dancers and the turning of three concurrent Mandalas!  It was incredibly powerful and as full a schedule as it sounds–the accumulation of offerings, real and visualized, filled the space with a sense of generosity, richness, and profound accomplishment.

 

 

We chanted sections of the text, which gave us an opportunity to connect deeply with the meaning behind the offerings. Guided by her powerful experience in Lourdes and a life-long commitment to exploring the many faces of the Divine, Prema included not only the traditional Buddhist sources of refuge, but all realized beings of all spiritual traditions, so we offered to an infinite array of Enlightened Ones from all times and all cultures.

In the same way, the long life prayer we offered to Prema–a traditional Tibetan way of directing of the energy raised through practice to the long life and good health of the teacher and the lineage–can be used to celebrate and pray for all authentic wisdom teachings, teachers and lineages. Who are your sources of refuge? They can all be included!

My particular wish for this prayer is that we use it to strengthen our communities and safeguard our lineage, of which we are all holders, by practicing it after dedicating our daily practice to the happiness and freedom of all beings. It was purposely shortened from a longer version to only 2 minutes in order to encourage us to practice it. You can download the music from the Tara Dhatu website here and dance it with your circles: I will make a video available soon to demonstrate the simple choreography.

 

Throughout our time at Paradise on Earth and in Brasilia, our talented and tireless musicians filled our hearts with joy, and their presence gave vitality and inspiration to every moment of our practice.

To seal the energy we raised over the course of the retreat and Monlam, we dedicated the merit we generated to the healing, empowering and awakening of all beings and to peace for Mother Earth.

Willing hands cut the mantra cord and put the mandala stones in little pouches. Prema and team gave every person who approached, including audience members, these tokens of remembrance, a physical witness to the wonder that we created together.

As we reflected on the Monlam, we realized the magnitude of the undertaking and the sincere effort that had been made to fulfill Prema’s vision for this Festival of Prayer, Festival of Peace.

So many people contributed to make this event happen, and we all felt deep gratitude, particularly to Myri for all her hard work and determination. Om Tare!

As I look through the photos many of us have taken, I see once again the truth of the teachings: Taras are many–21 does not begin to cover the variety:

 

Prema’s final prayer for us was to promote harmony in our sanghas, in our communities through forgiveness, compassion and patience. We all make mistakes. The question is, are we going to respond with judgement and blame or with love? Ferocious Compassion tells us that sometimes we need to be firm and clear when someone is harming themselves or others. We can say no and set boundaries, true–in fact we have to, for our own benefit and the benefit of others. But we can strive, as our guiding principle, to bring people together, to resolve conflict, to forgive. Together, we can do so much! And we have to. The world needs us!

Directing the power of the mantra OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA and the merit of this Monlam with us, is an opportunity for deep healing. We are interconnected. We need each other not only to survive but to thrive. Let’s keep dancing together, hand in hand, to embody the kindness and peace we aspire to see reflected back to us by our neighbors, our sangha, our families, and our planet.

May all be auspicious! Sarva Mangalam!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Svaha, Soha!

Photos by Amber Roniger, Abha, and community, and text by Anjali

Read More: Monlam Day 4, May 26, 2018

Greetings from Brasilia–so glad you have connected with us today!

Our morning was left open so we could enjoy a local fair, and I hear that the artisanal offerings there were plentiful despite the trucker’s strike which was still in place. Prajwal Ratna taught again and one Tara reported learning from him how to create sacred gesture or mudra from the heart instead of as a habitual movement. Prajwal is a priest from the Newar tribe and for him, as he explained in a lively dialogue with Gen Lekshe and our community a few nights ago, the dance is the spiritual path, a way of engaging fully with the enlightened energies embodied by the deities. What a privilege it has been to have him with us!

The mantra recitation continued, as our practitioners transitioned with patience and grace from the hotel, to the our new Monlam location: these efforts have enabled the mantra to keep flowing day and night, in two hour shifts. Another magnificent blessing for us and for the world. Om Tare!

Each day we were guided to fulfill the sadhana Prema had assembled for us. Based on a Mind Treasure of the great yogi, Chokjur Lingpa, we danced and chanted through all the elements of the practice. From the preliminaries to the dedication of merit to cap our day, Prema guided us with love and endless patience. Through various configurations of the mandalas, dealing skillfully with the arising circumstances and challenges, she embodied for us the Wisdom of Accomplishment–everything done in the right time, in the right way, with the right amount of effort.

Every day we are filled with gratitude for the team of Brazilian Taras, led by Myri, who have worked tirelessly to make this Monlam possible. They have encountered many challenges and we see them smiling, doing their very best to make this experience a positive one for us in all ways. We bow to their devotion and efforts and are deeply appreciative of what they have done for us.

In the evening we were blessed with a dance of Vajrapani by Prajwal–blue and ferocious, shaking the earth with his wisdom wrath. We also enjoyed a traditional song and a Tibetan opera aria and dance by our young Nepalese Tara, Sonam. Her grace and sincerity touched us all and evoked the colors and sounds of her homeland.

If you are facing challenges today, what do you need to address them? Tara is the Swift Protectress, coming in an instant to the aid of all who call Her. What protection do you long for? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice so that all beings may receive the pure medicine of the dharma and face their challenges with exactly what they need in this moment!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Photos by Amber Roniger, Abha and community, and text by Anjali

Read More: Monlam Day 3, May 25, 2018

Our last day at the retreat center before leaving for our next location in the city of Brasilia…

At our inspiring morning practice, Prema gave us a teaching on working with challenging circumstances. The current situation in Brazil is delicate. The truckers’ are striking, cars are lined up for miles to get gas.  Flights being grounded as a result of fuel shortage. As in other parts of the world, people are resisting and voicing their dissatisfaction. For us, the question is: how do we step into this climate of unrest in a way that maintains our ability to be of greatest benefit, our hearts open and compassionate? 

 

Prema talked about her experience of being robbed in the past and how her teacher, Lama Tenzin, instructed her to pray for the thieves so that they might enjoy the very possessions they had taken from her! What a concept! To illustrate the reason behind that approach, she told the traditional story of the farmer and his horse. His response to his neighbors’ assessments of his changes in fortune was always the word “maybe.” We never truly know whether what arises is positive or negative until the entire story plays out, so rather than be attached to specific results, maintaining an open mind and a compassionate heart are the best antidotes to the suffering  that we experience when our expectations are not realized.

She reminded us that we listened to our hearts in coming to this monlam. We have had ecstatic moments as well as challenges so far, and in going forward there is no guarantee of how everything will evolve. This applies to our daily lives as well. In each moment, we bring what we have, and no one can ask any more of us than that.

Prema once asked Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist teachers of our time, what vow we should take and he said, “do your best”. We don’t know how the situation will evolve with the flights and departures from here, but we aspire to meet what does arise with love, and exclaim, “Om Tare!”

 

In answer to a question about the mantra recitation that we are maintaining day and night during the Monlam, Prema said that we can use mantra to eliminate restrictions in the mind and open to blessings that are available to us. One of her main teachers, Lama Tenzin, said that daily practice maintains your meditation abilities while in retreat it is possible to generate intense insight.

The meditators here are holding a vajra in one hand and a green cord attached to the image of  Tara at the center of our altar. Holding the vajra represents the  compassionate action of the practice. The cord starts with the statue of Tara because she is our Vajra Mystress, the head of our lineage, and saying the mantra builds connection with Her. At the end of the Monlam, we will cut the cord and give a piece to each of us as well as stones from Mandala. All of these sacred objects are props to help us remember: our job is to take into the world the blessings that we have received here.

After our morning practice we received the good news that our buses had enough gas to bring us to town. We finished our packing for the drive to Brasilia. Om Tare!

We checked into the Manhattan hotel, a very comfortable and lovely residence. We had a few hours to unpack and have an early dinner as the local team organized the meeting space for our practice. Our comfortable luxury bus dropped us at a light-filled circular building, with wood floors and glorious, exposed beams. We delighted in knowing that this was our new home for the rest of the Monlam.

The evening offerings opened with a dance and a chant by several women from indigenous tribes of the area.   Prema explained that wherever she offers the dances publicly she invites representatives of indigenous people to open the event in order to honor not only the local spirits but also the local and original population.

An electrifying dance by Prajwal followed—the protector Mahakala, which Prema explained is the essence of Ferocious Compassion. The stage shook as Prajwal wove a magnetic web around us.

The Praises were then danced by the masked Taras, and I stood behind as a protector, ensuring the integrity of the crescent moon configuration after each praise. The dancers who have been working with the masks continue to report how profound the practice is. The masks will stay with Myri in Brazil this year and she will offer two trainings, one in Brasilia and one in the far south city of Caxias.  Mekare has several invitations to do mask work next year. Stay in touch with Tara Dhatu for dates.

Another set of offerings found our beautiful, pregnant Brazilian Tara, Dani, in the center of the circle, embodying the Goddess.

After the masks, the three mandala configuration of the Praises turned and we concluded the evening with a powerful dedication of merit. It was an exhausting and exhilarating day, and we felt that once again magic had occurred. Om Tare!

What is your aspiration for your community, your country and the world? What prayer to Tara is in your heart today? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice to the peace, healing and joy of all sentient beings!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

Read More: Monlam Day 2, May 24, 2018

Glad you are with us today!

Prajwal continued teaching his morning class, which was deeply appreciated.

Dressed in white, we opened the morning with our preliminary practices—Beloved Tara, Refuge and Bodhicitta, and Shantideva. We then invoked Mother Tara, took refuge in her and danced Dukkar, to create a protective umbrella around our temple. Calling Tara from the Heart, we remembered that everything arises in the mind, and we deepened our sense of interconnectedness.

After a break, we changed into our gold skirts and cholis and draped beautiful scarves in preparation for  dancing the Eight Precious Offerings. We engaged in the extensive seven purifications and offered the traditional ringed mandala, every stone representing a universe.

The Dakinis once again poured their wisdom nectar into the top of our heads. Prema gave us a teaching about the power of offerings and their role in our development.  Why do we offer? To generate the refined energy called merit.

There are three main gifts inherent in this merit: our mind becomes more stable and clear, so we see the interconnectedness of all beings. As a result, we become more naturally generous. Secondly, it allows us to appreciate what we already have—the richness of our lives. When we feel into that space, once again, generosity can more easily arise. Thirdly, the practice of generosity and the merit it creates energizes us for our work in the world— we are empowered to carry out our enlightened activities.

Is there anywhere you feel stuck? Anything you would like to accomplish but don’t have the energy to realize? Experiment with the practice of generosity as described in yesterday’s post to generate the circumstances most auspicious for your activity.

After lunch we worked on the mandalas of the 21 Praises, walking through the positions, then dancing them to stabilize our orientation. We danced in a beautiful configuration of three mandalas. The sensation of dancing in a Mandala that was turning, next to two other turning mandalas, was extremely powerful! I danced gold Auspicious Beauty and felt connected to the earth and the gifts bestowed by the inexhaustible and fertile abundance of Enlightened mind.

At 4:00 PM, the offering goddesses danced, then the masked dancers followed by the three mandalas offering the 21 Praises to Tara. Prema has set practice goals for the Monlam, so every day we strive to accomplish them. I was talking to another Tara and we were marveling how wonderful it is to be able to accomplish practice in this delightful and nourishing way. We were sharing how the beauty of the sacred dances and chants were helping us to become more naturally disciplined.

It reminded me of the attraction aspect of our visualization: Tara is adorned with silks to attract others to her. In the same way, Prema has created practices that delight the senses, so that practice becomes a form of divine enjoyment. Of course there are days or periods of resistance for most of us, but I feel much of that is counteracted by the sacred sensory enjoyment of the music and movement.

In the evening, we were graced with Myri and Vesta dancing a new, Eight Auspicious Symbols Dance.  As with the Five Wisdom Dakinis, there was a feeling of being in a pure land and receiving teachings from the Enlightened Ones. I can’t wait to learn it! Prema told us about the meaning of the symbols, which you can read about here, and explained the Jungian idea that they have manifested from the collective unconscious over time in different cultures as carriers of universal significance.

The three mandalas then danced again, and it was my first experience watching, instead of dancing in, a Mandala Offering. One after another, radiant Taras were born and displayed their qualities. It was deeply moving to see the sangha sisters I am getting to know transform completely into their divine manifestations. Abha, Carolina and so many others who I have observed as soft spoken and gentle emerged blazing and majestic as Noble Tara in her various forms. So powerful–Om Tare!

To conclude the evening,  Gen Lekshe Tsomo gave us a teaching about merit, building on what Prema had offered in the morning. She emphasized the importance of dedicating the merit we have generated during the day so it is not dispersed, and generating refuge and bodhicitta before we go to sleep. Her advice was to try to sleep mindfully, and to investigate dream yoga if we feel we would like to deepen this.

In the morning, the recommendation was to dedicate the merit we generated while sleeping and start the day with refuge and bodhicitta once again. In this way we engage with presence in all aspects of our experience. We also discussed the meditative power of our dance lineage. Concluding the evening with chanting Om Mani Peme Hum on a melody that came to Gen Lekshe at the waterfall on the retreat center grounds, we welcomed a night of rest after such a full, rich day together.

I subsequently learned from  Gen Lekshe Tsomo that the term “Ani,” which I have heard used over the years in referring to nuns, is in fact a condescending form of address which can be translated as “auntie.” I thought I would share this as many of us belong to Tibetan Buddhist sanghas. The better way of addressing a teacher such as Gen Lekshe is with the word “Gen” (which means teacher) or Venerable. She has devoted her life to improving the condition of Buddhist nuns, particularly in Asia, who were traditionally treated as inferior to their male counterparts. Let’s support her work of empowerment by not perpetuating through our words the unjust hierarchy which is now obsolete. Om Tare!

How are you today, tonight? What prayer to Tara is in your heart? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice to the peace, healing and joy of all sentient beings!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Text by Anjali, Photos by Amber Roniger

Read More: Day 1 Monlam May 23, 2018

Greetings from Paradise on Earth. After years of aspirations, devoted work and planning, today the Monlam begins! Om Tare!

Guided by Lama Sonam from the dharma center in Brasilia, we opened the Monlam with prayers for auspiciousness, blessing and dispelling obstacles. We made many offerings, including Riwo Sangchö, and we danced the Eight Precious Offerings. Myri Dakini and four of her Brazilian students had prepared The Dance of the Five Wisdom Dakinis. Exquisite in their individual choreographies, each one dancing with a small copper pitcher, they empowered us with the nectar of the five purified emotions: white Space Dakini blessed us with mirror-like wisdom, blue Water Dakini empowered us with the wisdom of the dharmadatu, gold Earth Dakini brought us the wisdom of equality, red Fire Dakini poured her nectar of discriminating awareness wisdom and green Air Dakini blessed us with the wisdom of accomplishment. The meditations narrated by Prema on the soundtrack took us deep into the transformation of our five main habitual tendencies into their corresponding powers. The combination of the music, narration and dance transported us into a pure land where we received teachings from the Dakinis themselves, and we share those blessings with you!

Prema also gave us a teaching on the power of generosity that underlies our Festival. What is a Monlam? It is a time of intensive practice that generates a tremendous amount of the refined energy we call merit. If we do not make direct offerings, we can invoke the offering goddesses to make them for us. The idea is to transcend our limited notion of what is possible and give from our heart in physical and visualized offerings.

Prema also gave instructions to the masked dancers to remain grounded within the experience of an elevated state. This is in keeping with the Tibetan tradition of anchoring in presence at all times, regardless of the quality of the experience arising. We can apply these instructions to our daily lives, remaining connected to whatever grounds us and reminds us of our true nature, like a mantra.

Prema introduced the masked version of the Mandala Dance Of the 21 Praises of Tara offering, the first of its kind, as a”herstoric” as opposed to “historic” event. In Asia in particular, women have been banned from sacred dance, so the offering brought with it a precious historical dimension. We have already alluded to the power of the masked dances, and we will offer video asap as well.

His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of Prema’s main teachers, told her that given how conservative Tibetans are, the fact she created a masked version of the 21 Praises was a demonstration of her maturity in the dharma–she was taking the teachings in an entirely new direction. It was so exciting to be part of this and see Prema and Mekare’s vision, so lovingly and devotedly created, blossom before our very eyes!

In the evening, we were blessed with a dance by Prajwal Ratna: he embodied Avalokiteshvara, the Lord of Compassion, out of whose tears, according to legend, Tara was born. Prajwal gave us another experience of a deity coming to life, overflowing with the heart of compassion and the calm majesty of an enlightened being entirely dedicated to others. Fittingly, the next dance was a green Tara dance by Vesta, one of Myri Dakini’s students. She inspired us with her grace and sincere expression of the dharma.

We also offered another group of Mandalas as well, practicing the configuration of three turning at the same time. The room sparkled with a sea of gold, and we concluded the evening with profound gratitude for the bountiful gifts of the day and a dedication of all the merit we had generated.

What can you offer today for the benefit of your community, of the world? You can also invoke the Offering Goddesses and visualize vast, golden clouds of offerings, dedicating the merit you create to the realization of peace, healing and joy for the world. Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, making offerings, and dedicating these gifts to the realization of peace, healing, ultimate liberation. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 3 May 22, 2018

 

The excitement is building—the Monlam starts tomorrow! Today is a day of practice and preparation centered around the Mandala of masked dancers.

As we described yesterday, the practice of mask dancing is a spiritual path in itself. The relationship between a dancer and her mask has many levels, and Mekare has been teaching us layer after layer of the practice. And this is just the beginning…

Our morning included the preliminaries and Dukkar, to set our intentions for the day and invoke the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed White Umbrella Protectress.

In the afternoon, we set up three mandalas, two of which will dance with masks. Prema painstakingly and lovingly tried to honor the many the requests made by the dancers in terms of the Praises they wanted to dance and whether they were ready to engage fully with the masks. Despite the shape of the temple, which required further orientation the next day, we managed to complete three mandalas turning simultaneously. My own experience of leading the third mandala, supported by Prema and Noelle, revealed what has been accomplished already in my practice and what I need to focus on next in my training.

After lunch, dressed in gold, the first two groups and a few alternates experienced the process of mask dancing from the meticulous costuming with headdress and wig, robes, to the reverent relationship with the mask. Each masked dancer was paired with an attendant from group two. Over the next few days, they will exchange positions.

Noelle worked tirelessly with Mekare to adjust the costumes, headdresses and masks. So much love, care, and devotion, and patience, too, as the configuration and performance glitches were worked through. As an audience member for the first run-through, I can say that watching the 22 masked manifestations felt like we had called Tara from the heart, and she appeared: the power and presence and magnetic quality of the masked dancers truly made the outside world to fall away… Magical!

Dancers reported merging with the masks, having very different sense of space, and Mekare had said that the experience creates an altered state. As a result, the protectors or attendants helped the first group stay grounded and shift positions after the birth of each new Tara. Tomorrow we will try the birth from the center of the crescent moon mandala.

Prema reminded us that in witnessing the Mandala Dance we have the opportunity to experience letting go of self obsession, and realize our true nature. Every aspect of the experience—watching, dancing, or meditating, creates a powerful field of energy. And you can join us in offering prayers for peace and healing for yourselves and the world!

In the afternoon, Prema led us again to the white circular temple on the hill—our last day there: I was writing yesterday’s blog but was told it was beautiful!

In the evening, Prema guided us through a  Vajrasattva meditation in preparation for the Monlam. Then we had the blessing of watching Prajwal Ratna dance Vajrasattva. The son of Prema’s teacher, he is the lineage holder of the Nepalese Charya Nritya,  a Vajrayana Buddhist dance tradition. We were also blessed by a teaching on the Buddhist philosophical foundation of Vajrasattva practice by Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, an inspiring American born nun, scholar and social activist in the Tibetan tradition who has devoted her life to improving the condition of Buddhist nuns, particularly in Asia. She created Sakyadhita, which you can read about here.

We concluded the evening dancing three mandalas simultaneously, and I was able to dance Transformer of Poison, who consumes negativity and turns it into the energy of wisdom, compassion and power.

What is your prayer today 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 realization of peace, healing, ultimate liberation. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Photos by Amber Roniger, text by Anjali

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 3 (Tuesday) May 22, 2018

Premliminaries

Dukkar–Portuguese an English

Setting up the mandalas: 3 groups two that would have masks–amazing job as usual of honoring everyone’s request–got through three mandalas turning simultaneously. My own experience leading the mandala and personal process–a deep teaching

after lunch, dressed in gold, first two groups and few alternates experienced the mask dancing from the meticulous costuming and reverent relationship with the mask to, to the order: hair tied low in back, mask on, headdress and wig, the protector for each Tara was from group 2

Costume adjustments with Noelle

Masks–creascent moon arrangement with Tara’s birthed from right: learning expereince

Felt like we had called Tara and she was now here: power and presence, magnetic quality, and the outside world falls away… Truly magical!

Dancers reported merging with the masks, having another sense of space, and Mekare had said that the experience creates an altered state. As a result, the protectors (group 2) helped the first group stay grounded and shift positions after the birth of each new Tara. Tomorrow will try the birth from the center and dancing with the masks in the spiral configuration.

Teaching: witnessing the Mandala you have the opportunity to experience letting go of self obsession. Incredible opportunity in audience. Whatever you are doing–watching, dancing, meditating creates a powerful field of energy. Join us in offering prayer for peace, healing

Then we left for the temple–insert description–

Then VS meditation guided, Prawal, Nun’s teaching (Sakyadita creator), VS, and 3 mandalas

 

 

 

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 2 May 21, 2018

 

Welcome to Pre-Monlam Day 2! We hope you feel connected to us here at the Paradise on Earth Retreat Center in Brazil–we are so happy to be able to share the experience with you and to know that you are thinking of us, too!

Yesterday was full and rich. We began morning practice with establishing Motivation, Refuge and Bodhicitta, aligning ourselves with our reasons for being here–in our lives and on retreat–as well as with our sources of refuge. We affirmed our vast motivation to lead every single sentient being to Enlightenment.

We then continued with the White Umbrella Protectress form of Tara, Dukkar. At a certain point in the dance, we walk radiating the power of the implements Dukkar holds, her right hand in the refuge mudra turning the wheel of the dharma and bestowing teachings and the left hand holding the umbrella of protection. The experience is one of constant flow of enlightened activity—wonderful opportunity to let go of the controlling mind and allowing the body’s inherent wisdom to align itself with the movements.

We also worked on our costuming throughout the day, which will have a variety of options: the base is a gold wheel skirt and choli (cropped short sleeve top traditionally used in the Indian sari). Noelle and Dani (Shrivasvati) were the seamstress dakinis, patiently adjusting their creations to allow us to feel completely comfortable. Over the base will be layered either a sari or a large scarf. In the evening, we learned how tie to the scarves in a variety of different ways to suggest the draping and regal majesty of the sari without actually wearing one.

Our morning concluded with all the dancers, divided into three groups, singing the Tara mantra with “Faith, Surrender, Send out Light” in preparation for the actual mandala. Before our lunch break, we also set up the mantra rotation list as during the Monlam, there will be a 24 hour Green Tara mantra recitation. Join us by doing a mantra recitation session and let us know on the Tara Dhatu Facebook Page how many mantras you have accumulated. The generation of merit in this way is a powerful method of calling forth the energy that will best support our practice and and our lives.

In the afternoon, we alternated between costuming sessions with the saris, practice sessions for Calling Tara from the Heart and The Eight Precious Offerings, and mask work with Mekare, while the musicians rehearsed and our newest Taras became familiar with the foundation practices.

I had the opportunity to experience the mask for the first time. We reverently approached the table and Mekare gave us the background of the creation of the masks (read more about the masks here). Mask making and mask dancing are spiritual paths and each part of the mask—from the carving of the wood, to the painting of the face and eyes is imbued with sacred power through the motivation of the mask makers and the recitation of mantra. The end result: 22 extraordinary masks including the central Tara and the 21 Manifestations were available for us to connect with and begin to inhabit. I was drawn to the copper Radiant Health and in Mekare’s profound explanation found myself deeply touched by the essence of her Praise. For me, the eye-heart connection was a empowerment, and Tara 20 answered the question I asked her. Om Tare!

After dinner–and did I mention the vegetarian and vegan food is delightful?–Barbara Gach led us in an energetic and joyful improvised dance. After dancing Calling Tara from the Heart and Om Ah Hum, I had the opportunity to teach the short version of the Long Life Prayer for Prema (it is available as an mp3 download here, along with all the other music we have been dancing to). I reminded the dancers that the goal of the prayer is not worship of an individual, but the teacher as a vehicle of the teachings. Singing and dancing this prayer, we can invoke all our teachers, lineages and communities. Based on the traditional Tibetan custom of offering a prayer to safeguard the long life and good health of the teacher, the lineage and the community, this prayer was written, composed and choreographed with the intention of providing our sangha with a short daily prayer to seal our practice after the dedication. We were able to dance the prayer through in English and Spanish, and look forward to the Portuguese version which will be forthcoming!

We were then blessed with two mask dances by Mekare. In the dimness of late evening, by the light of flickering candles, we recited the mantra in preparation for Mekare’s arrival while she entered into the sacred space of the mask and costuming backstage. When she emerged, first as Destroyer of Attachment, then as Ferocious Compassion, we were riveted by her magnetic presence and potent gestures. If you have the opportunity to attend one of her upcoming workshops, don’t miss it!

And do connect in–you are with us every step of the way! 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
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