[Trul-Khor is the original form of hatha-yoga aimed at working with  
prana, bindu and nadi. -V.]


In this interview, conducted after Ligmincha Institute's 2005 summer
retreat, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche shares his thoughts about the
upcoming teaching and practice retreats that he has chosen to offer
at Serenity Ridge this fall and winter. He also talks about some of
the visiting teachers that he is inviting to teach at Serenity Ridge
each year.

VOCL: How does the physical practice of Trul Khor support one's
meditation practice?

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: Trul Khor, or Tibetan yoga, is the "magical
exercise" of the body. The body affects the prana (vital energy) and
the prana affects the mind. So, we practice Trul Khor in order to
balance our physical, energetic and mental dimensions -- the body,
the channels, the prana and the mind. When the channels are
positioned properly in our body the prana flows better through the
body, and as a result it is much easier to meditate and rest in the
nature of mind, without effort, without struggle.

The purpose of all the physical yoga practices in the Bon tradition
is to introduce various aspects of the natural state of mind. That is
why there are so many different positions and different movements.
Each movement helps to introduce different qualities, different
states of awareness, and different experiences of the natural state
of mind, such as experiences of bliss, of emptiness and of union.
This is the ultimate goal of Trul Khor practice.

When you do the Trul Khor movements, obviously you will feel good in
your body and your mind. But feeling good is not the only purpose.
The practice also leads to a higher state of consciousness. I think
it is very important that when people initially enter into the Trul
Khor yoga practice, they have a very clear understanding and
intention of the higher goal beyond the physical. If you have a clear
spiritual goal from the beginning, then you will make much better use
of the practice and you will have much better success at a deeper
spiritual level, even while you enjoy all the physical benefits.

VOCL: What is the purpose of the sleep yoga practice?

TWR: Not just during the day, but every single night we have the
opportunity to engage in meditation practice, either with the dream
or the sleep yoga practice, or both. The purpose of the sleep yoga
practice is to learn how to maintain awareness - to abide in the
nature of mind - as we fall asleep and remain asleep. The process of
falling asleep is similar to the dying process, and so it is taught
that if we can achieve a state of mind that is close or equivalent to
the natural state of mind as we fall asleep, we are more likely to be
able to do so at the time of our death.

Think of it this way: Every single night we have the opportunity to
engage in meditation practice for six to eight hours. That means that
one can practice for the equivalent of 15 or 20 years just by
engaging deeply with the dream and sleep yogas!

The sleep yoga practice is one of the six paths to enlightenment from
the Ma Gyud (Mother Tantra). The Ma Gyud is one of the most important
and revered cycles of teachings in the Bon Buddhist tradition. I
learned these practices at a very young age from my teachers, and
they continue to be an important part of my practice today. Through
connecting deeply with each of the six paths of the Ma Gyud - the
elements, dream, sleep, chod, phowa, and bardo practices - we can
learn to transform every moment in our life into a path to
enlightenment. That is why I have been teaching these six practices
to our sangha internationally for many years now.

Everyone lives in an environment that is made up of the five natural
elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. Everyone dreams,
sleeps, suffers from fear, dies, and ultimately travels to the next
life through the bardo. So the purpose of practicing these six paths
is to integrate dharma practice into every aspect of our lives. The
elements teachings show us how to practice during normal waking life
in our interactions with the elements, the environment, and people.
The dream yoga teachings show us how to practice while we are
dreaming. The sleep yoga teachings show us how to practice while we
are sleeping. The chod teachings show us how to practice while we are
afraid. The phowa teachings show us how to practice while we are
dying. And finally, since we will all eventually travel through the
bardo, the bardo teachings show us how to practice while in the

VOCL: How does the sleep yoga practice affect our everyday lives?

TWR: We start each day by awakening from sleep. But how do we feel
when we wake up? Are we feeling restful, joyful, peaceful, with a lot
of fresh, creative energy? Or do we wake up tired, exhausted,
depressed, lacking inspiration, energy and direction? Every night we
have so many different ways we can enter the realm of sleep. If we
are able to maintain a positive experience of awareness each night as
we fall asleep, there is a much greater chance to integrate that
experience into our everyday lives.

Whatever we are thinking and feeling as we fall asleep is held in the
mind and in our energy for the rest of the night. If we are able to
abide in a peaceful, open space as we fall asleep, it will affect us
very positively both during the night and during the day that
follows. Similarly, falling asleep with disturbing, destructive
thoughts will negatively affect our dreams, our sleep, and all our
waking moments.

Perhaps during this sleep yoga retreat some of us will learn for the
first time in our lives how to properly and restfully go to sleep;
how to release and dissolve those last emotions, thoughts, feelings
and disturbances; and how to develop better supports so that these
disturbances will not return to influence us again and again. During
the retreat we will engage with practices that can help us to
recognize the natural state of mind during the sleep state. There
will be supports to help us develop the proper position of the mind
before sleep, such as subtle breathing exercises and sacred images
and symbols to focus the mind. As a result of these practices, we may
also find that the experiences of our daily waking state will also be

VOCL: Why will students be asked to refrain from sleeping for a 24-
hour period during the retreat?

TWR: Generally speaking, both dream and sleep yoga are practices of
awakened mind. They are based on how the awakened mind copes with a
given situation - on the mind's emotional responses, thoughts and
feelings. It is these responses of the mind that directly affect our
dream and sleep states. For example, if our day has been very
peaceful and oriented to spiritual practice, we can imagine how our
dreams and sleep will be affected. Conversely, if the day has been
very confusing, stressful and painful, our dreams or sleep will be
affected very differently. So during the retreat we will have the
opportunity to focus intensely on the practice for a continuous 24-
hour period. During that time we will use techniques such as gentle
physical movement, pranic exercises, recitation of mantra, and
silent, focused seated meditation to develop the strong intention to
bring positive, awakened qualities into dream and sleep. Then, when
we finally go to sleep at the end of the 24 hours, we will be able to
see what kinds of experience arise, how much open awareness has been
awakened, and how our reaction to the dream and sleep states has
changed. It is my hope that this kind of intensive practice will give
some clear knowledge and understanding of how to successfully
integrate this wonderful practice into our everyday lives.

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