After founding Sukhasiddhi and giving more than 22 years of dedicated service, Lama Palden has stepped back into the role of Senior Lama. Here, she gives us a sneak peak at her new, quieter life based in Portugal.
After all those years I spent launching Sukhasiddhi, working as a therapist, teaching classes and retreats and also training teachers, it’s time for me to step back and have a much more quiet life where I can do a lot more of my own practice.
Portugal is a very nourishing place to be. It’s beautiful here. The countryside is so unspoiled, and the pace is much slower than in California. It feels somehow more old-fashioned, both in its traditional architecture and in its simplicity and values. There’s a freshness and purity here that reminds me a lot of Bhutan.
I’m living in the countryside only ten minutes from a town, so it’s the best of both worlds — similar to West Marin, but a much older culture. It’s not a marketing culture at all. When I got here, I had to do a lot of shopping to set up my living space, and I was surprised to find that they don’t try to sell you anything. Not even the car dealers! Even at Christmas there was no traffic. No one went anywhere — they were all with family. People stay home, prepare special traditional foods, and it’s a quiet time of sharing.
It has been a lot of hard work to settle in. I’m over the hump with that, though there’s still a lot to do. But I felt at home from the beginning. I’ve met people from all different walks of life which has been super interesting. As well as the Portuguese, there are many Dutch, English, and French here. It is quite an international culture. On Tuesday, I’m having acupuncture from a local Chinese lady. I’m looking forward to my first acupuncture treatment here.
The way of life is slower in many ways. For example, an English fellow came over to see about doing some painting for me at the house. He brought his wife and they stayed and visited for almost two hours, sharing with me about their experience of living in Portugal. I realized after they left that I had been on Bay Area time mode, and had forgotten to offer them tea or coffee. I had just expected them to be here 10 minutes or so! It feels natural here that many different kinds of people are becoming friends. I love meeting people it is unlikely I would ever meet in California, and having great conversations with them.
It also feels to me like the human element fits in easily with nature here. The fields of olive trees, oranges or tangerines, are so natural looking, not unkempt, but not highly manicured either. It has a very harmonious and settled feeling. There is little traffic, which is great for me in that I often have to stop and figure out where I’m going! People work hard, but they work hard in a relaxed way. It’s nice to be around such a wide variety of people and to have a chance to unwind — to deeply let go into what is without so much busyness.
It’s also been very enjoyable to work with people one on one. It’s given me a chance to deepen my connection to students and to the work we’re all doing. There’s been a lot of luminosity and love in the individual meetings with students. At my new place, there’s a retreat cottage in a gorgeous garden that is open for Sukhasiddhi people who want to come and do retreats. If you’re interested, email me and we can discuss it.
I’m really thrilled to see how Sukhasiddhi is coming into its new form with lots of vitality. it is uplifting to see how well Lama Döndrup, Lama Tashi (Annik) and the other teachers are doing, and the student engagement with the new form. I’m continuing to work behind the scenes with the teachers, and a little with Leslie Shelton, our new ED. I’m really enjoying this form of engagement. I’m here for people one on one, as well as keeping all of you in my heart and prayers.
I’m also looking forward to being back for a visit in June to begin the new Shangpa Program. I will also do an evening for the Sangha and wider community, give Refuge Vows, lead a daylong for the Community Dharma Leaders and give a Shangpa empowerment. I anticipate being back at least once a year to teach at Sukhasiddhi.
It is awesome that Kalu Rinpoche will be coming in April. We have been staying in touch, and it’s wonderful to see Rinpoche’s wisdom and loving kindness flourish in his dharma activity. I’m deeply touched by what he is doing in his work.
The dharma connections that we’ve forged together at Sukhasiddhi are very precious. I want to acknowledge the incredible beauty and the pure, luminous, loving connections between our streams of being. They are enduring in this life and for many lifetimes to come.
All my love and support,
Lama Palden Drolma