Clare Woodham is a Level 2 Tara Dance teacher in Napier, New Zealand where she facilitates a lovely dharma center and a very loyal group of Tara Dancers. Recently she was invited to share some of our dances at the SIBA Retreat Center in Victoria, Australia this January. She writes…
I shared the dances during the Family and White Tara Retreats at SIBA. The Sakya International Buddhist Academy is set on the edge o f the Snowy River National Park in Victoria and was a yoga retreat centre for 25 years with organic orchards and vegetable gardens. A massive amount of native birds and some goannas, snakes and kangaroos also live there.
Eleven years ago it was offered to Lama Choedak Rinpoche, heart son of H.E Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. The Sakya Losal Choe Dzong based in Canberra bought the land and buildings, a beautiful new gompa was built and the old wooden community hall was spruced up for the visit of His Holiness Sakya Trizin in 2009 and renamed the ‘Golden House’.
Every year since then they have held a Family Retreat at the same time as the annual White Tara Retreat. The Golden House is the venue for the Children’s program and set up for all sorts of creative play; reading children’s Dharma books, doing Dharma plays. There is also a teepee outside and a small man-made lake encircled with rushes and always the right temperature for swimming.
It was a profound privilege to give the 25 or so children in the program a channel for their natural love and recognition of what is good and beautiful. The ages of the children were between 3 and 13 years old.
Day 1 Catherine, the director of the program welcomed everyone and lead the Refuge prayer from the Buddhist Family Prayer Book. We then stood in a circle and I taught the Dance of Motivation. We talked about what wisdom is, what ‘manifest’ means, what blessings are. We made invisible warm balls of light between our hands and made them grow then took that energy ball to our hearts and imagined our hearts glowing softly and kindly.
We talked about how we can bless our pets by stroking them gently and making soft sounds to them, and how good it feels when our mums and dads give us hugs and say kind words to us. We talked about blessing our friends with our smiles and sharing happy stories. We blessed the earth by walking softly and barefoot.
“I don’t dance said one 8 year old”.
“Well let’s see how you go with just walking with the rest of us” I encouraged. She stayed and danced all the dances and came back the next day. Her mum said she showed her that evening what she had danced, and was very happy.
The Dance of Motivation was followed by the Tara Mantra Dance. First we repeated the mantra and it was explained. Next we practiced blessing the earth, the waters, the air, and all the things that grow, with our kind eyes and our blessing hands and our soft footfall.
Then we walked the Tara Mantra Dance, seeing the Tara in the heart of the one in front of us. After this we did the Dance of Dedication as a way of sharing our good feelings with others
Day 2 I introduced the White Tara Dance of the 6 Shields. Parents reported their children humming the mantra in the afternoon.
Day 3 we worked on Refuge and Bodhicitta and the Six Shields.
Day 4 we completed the White Tara Dance of the 6 Shields.
Day 5 we offered the dances to Rinpoche, parents, residents and retreat participants. Rinpoche congratulated the children on their heartfelt dances. He encouraged them to keep building their ability to love everyone and be kind to everyone. In addressing the adults Rinpoche said how easy it is for children to relate to what is good and beautiful. He encouraged the parents to continue to give their children ways of expressing their aspirations and their dreams as in this sort of dancing meditation.
It was such fun to share the dances in this way and gratifying to see how much they were appreciated by the children, the adults and Rinpoche. They want me to offer the Tara Dances every year.
I couldn’t resist sharing this note from Catherine, the Children’s Program Coordinator…
Just wanted to say thanks for your participation in the children’s program at Siba making it richer, graceful and beautiful. I rejoice in what you shared with us and what you continue to share with your community in New Zealand. May the love continue to ripple out to the community and flow with White Tara’s generosity, grace and radiance….
I had some wonderful reflections from the adults that watched the dance – a couple were moved to tears and others said it shifted something within. One man reported, “seeing the children offer the Tara Dances ignited the light within my heart”
Love and light
Joy and peace
Here’s some footage from the 2014 children’s camp…lovely rendition of the 4 immeasurables