The Interview

I am back in San Diego and so it seems my days at the Garchen Buddhist Institute went by really fast. While at the center, though, the days seemed to stretch much longer than usual and I will attribute that to my attempt (and maybe sometimes success) in being present. I decided to make an effort to clear my mind from thoughts and concentrate instead on the present moment (not easy, but as I learned, you can only be present by actually trying). I continued to meet with Rinpoche, other lamas and monks, Ani Angela, staff and new friends on a daily basis, either for offerings or for talking about life in general.

Among a few souls seeking refuge at the Institute was Laura from Estonia who is studying to be a Tibetan doctor. I was really impressed not only by that but also by her overall energy which seemed peaceful and at ease. I am sure she will be a great doctor. It was great talking to her since given that I arrived at the Institute just a day after leaving my job, I was in need of some tips on how to deal with my racing heart and my stressed self. She gave me some wonderful tips that I will literally take to my heart (including drinking a glass of whole warm milk with nutmeg before going to bed). In any case, if you are interested in learning more about Tibetan medicine, I highly recommend a movie entitled “The Knowledge of Healing” which features the Dalai Lama and his personal doctor Tenzin Choedrak.

I also met Paul who arrived at the Institute a few weeks back. Like me, he also discovered this place from watching “The Yogis of Tibet”. I thought Paul was fascinating since he was raised Mormon but knew from an early age that the Mormon religion was a bit too narrow (I am being nice and compassionate with the Mormon church here). We didn’t talk much but my impression is that he is on the verge of a personal spiritual breakthrough. According to Amma, the “Hugging Saint”, there are three types of people. For some, the glass is full, that is, these people have no space to learn new things or the ability to change their old beliefs. Then, there are the people for which the glass is empty. They are in no capacity of taking anything that they cannot comprehend. Lastly, there are people for which the glass is half-full (or half-empty). These are people that can absorb new ideas and re-evaluate old beliefs based on new information. I believe Paul is in this category.

In any case, my visit was coming to an end and, although I was able to be in Rinpoche’s presence, I had not really conversed with him as I had done with Abraham a few days earlier. I am quite sure that deep inside I harbored that desire since a few hours before leaving, I was approached by one of the staff members who asked me if I would like a personal interview with Rinpoche. Obviously, I said YES.

And so, in a few minutes, we were on our way to the Lama house where I would meet with Rinpoche. We came in and waited for a few seconds and soon Rinpoche’s personal assistant and translator came to get me. We went upstairs and walked through a corridor leading to the room where Rinpoche was sitting by himself. When I came in, he opened a huge smile and asked me to sit in front of him. You can probably imagine that I had a smile on my face much larger than my mouth. My heart was smiling too since I felt happy and at home in his presence. I told Rinpoche about my upcoming book “Inhale, Exhale, Repeat”. That although it related a personal journey, it delved into spirituality and religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism. He went on to tell me that I should definitely write about the essence of religion – love and compassion – since many people write books that end up putting one religion against another, which is not really of service. I thought that was a perfect comment. I then asked if I should find another job or if I should dedicate my time instead to promote the book and start on a new book project I have in mind. He said that I should find a new job so that I can pay the bills until I can be a full-time writer. That is obviously a very reasonable answer. I decided to tell Rinpoche then that I “work” with Angels and wanted to know if Tibetan Buddhism has space for Angels somehow. He told me that deities like the White Tara or Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, can be perceived as Angels. It took a while for me to explain what I meant by “work” and for the translator to capture the sense of what Christian-based religions define as Angels. At some point, he used his arms to convey the idea of wings, by flapping them up and down. I thought that was extremely sweet. In any case, we went on to talk about anxiety and ways to relieve it. According to Rinpoche, the main source of anxiety is self-grasping, which I believe is similar to the ego and its view as a separate entity producing feelings of anger and attachment to the material world.

I could probably talk to Rinpoche for hours, but I knew it was time to go. His last words were about cause and effect, which is behind karma.

At the end of our interview, he gave me a mala (rosary) and touched his forehead with mine. I felt loved and honored. Thank Universe!

It was time to pack and get going, though. Once at the dorm, I had an opportunity to talk again with Ani Angela who is a sweetie. Upon learning about my book, she offered me a prayer for its success that touched my heart. I am sure the Universe heard her words.

As I was driving home, I could not stop myself from thinking about the days at the Institute and mostly about Rinpoche’s last words on cause and effect. I believe the concept is somewhat simple but its implications are profound. Basically, if we plant an apple tree, we will get apples, not peaches. Got it? Easy, right? Well, easier said than done. If we want a happy life, we need to plant the right seeds that will lead us there. As I was thinking about all that, I looked around and decided to start planting the right seeds by stop thinking and start appreciating all the wild flowers along the road – an amazing display of yellow against a monochromatic desert landscape (the pics don’t make it justice).


Garchen Rinpoche

After seeing and conversing with Abraham, now what?

I drove to the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Chino Valley, AZ! I had booked a four-day stay there a few weeks back and thought it would be a great way to continue my spiritual adventure. It would also be a great way to look inside. I had been skipping my daily meditation and so it was a time to catch up on that and regroup.

Upon arrival, I went straight to the office to check-in. It turned out that very few people are here this week since, in a few days, a big teaching will take place and so the crowds will be coming in later. It was a surprise when the resident Ani told me Garchen Rinpoche himself was here. She also told me I could join him and the Lamas for the Smoke Ceremony the next day. I was elated. I had no idea I was going to see Garchen Rinpoche this time around. In the book “Inhale, Exhale, Repeat”, I recount my experience taking Refuge with Rinpoche here at the Institute in 2014.

I was apparently very tired. I had started my day very early and drove for hours first from Palm Desert to Phoenix and then here. I literally crashed in bed early that evening. I woke up around 7:30 am just in time to get myself ready for the Smoke Ceremony. I was excited. I walked over to the Lama House and walked in. Only 5 people were there. After introducing myself, I sat down. In a few minutes, Garchen Rinpoche came in. I stood up and eventually after saying hi to everyone else (and touching their heads), he came towards me and graciously touched my head with his head.

We all then proceeded to sit down around the dining table and the ceremony started. It was beautiful. I love hearing the Tibetan language and so the prayers reverberated inside me. It lasted about a half-hour. At the end, Garchen Rinpoche gave a few of us a braided bracelet and we left. I was exhilarated and blessed to be able to talk to Abraham on one day and then be in the presence of Garchen Rinpoche the next day.

The blessings continued though since, at 2 pm, Rinpoche was leading the White Tara Ceremony at the temple. It went on for two hours but towards the end, my mind felt even clearer. I walked outside and was blasted by strong winds and the shining sun. I was taking my time around the temple looking at the view but eventually decided to head towards my dorm. It was then that I bumped into Garchen Rinpoche again and was able to walk with him for a few minutes before turning into my dorm. I guess I will see him again tomorrow morning for yet another Smoke Ceremony. I am looking forward to participating in it once more.

May all being be happy and they may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

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  1. To learn more about Garchen Rinpoche himself, please visit his wikipedia page
  2. Click: The Garchen Buddhist Institute, to learn more about the institute itself, schedule of events, how to get here, and how to reserve your staying.
  3. There are lots of amazing videos of Rinpoche on YouTube.

Or, you can check out the amazing documentary “The Yogis of Tibet” (the reason I first found out about Rinpoche and the Institute here in Arizona).