A number of Sukhasiddhi’s senior students just completed training with Lama Palden and Lew Richmond to become Community Dharma Leaders, sharing the Dharma as it comes uniquely through them. Gitte Dobrer shares her experience of the training.
Tell us about your experience of the CDL training. What drew you to participate?
It started in 2013, when Lama Palden invited a number of us to participate in this program that she and Lew Richmond were starting. I felt excited about the Dharma and the possibility of spreading it to others in the community.
The first year was quite structured. We had monthly meetings with the two teachers, and each meeting had a theme. Lew told lots of stories about his teacher, and so did Lama Palden. We also talked about teaching styles, the parameters of what we would be teaching, pitfalls, and the kinds of things teachers run into, such as projections and problems with students.
After about the first six months, we were asked to create Dharma talks and each of us to present to the group. That was challenging — and amazing to see what people came up with. There would be three or four of us at each meeting to present and receive feedback from the group. We were all quite nervous when we had to do it, but the atomsphere was extremely supportive and the feedback constructive.
It was wonderful to see my sangha members express themselves in this way and to get a sense of how different we each were — different styles, different interests. For some it was easy. But for me, it was more challenging than I had expected.
Knowing how to express myself in words is not my strong side. I felt drawn to teaching because I had taught before — I taught movement, and I am more comfortable with body expression and acting than with words because the Dharma is so vast and so inexpressible. But the challenge to put it into words is a good challenge. i wanted to learn how that’s done and try to do it.
What did you discover that you most wanted to share in terms of spreading the Dharma?
I started a weekly class with Trinity teaching lujong, a form of Tibetan yoga. That was really perfect, because it is a movement practice, getting in the body, feeling, sensing and being present, and from there, moving into sitting meditation. We’ve taught the class for over four years. It’s been very rich and we both developed as teachers in doing that.
I began teaching the class after having used the practice for eight years daily, so i was pretty settled into my own practice and felt very confident in passing it on. I can walk into the class feeling completely downtrodden or in whatever mental or emotional state, but at the end of the pracitce, it all has cleared and there is great opening and expansion and presence that comes from the way this series of movements were put together by Khenpo Tsultrim. Lujong addresses the flow of energy in the subtle body. We are continually bringing people into contact with their felt sense.
It is easier to bring awareness into the body when you’re moving than when sitting still. It is exciting to follow the sensation, following moment-to-moment where the body is. You are training your awareness to be present in the moment, which is very helpful once you sit down on the cushion. It helps to recognize when you slip out and get into thoughts. You can bring yourself back.
What do you see for yourself going forward?
As far as the next step, some of the members of the CDL training have created Wisdom River Sundays, a series for the public at the center that are not necessarily coming out of traditional Vajrayana, but more geared in their vocabulary to integrating Dharma with everyday life. I have not done one yet, but am hoping to do one around trauma and how to work with meditation when there is that kind of injury, interference and fear in the body.
One thing i love the most about the CDL training is that Lama Palden again and again encouraged us to speak from our own experience when sitting in the Dharma seat. It’s about opening to the truth of Dharma and getting out of the way so the Dharma can come through you in your own way and through your own experience rather than explaining things in an intellectual way.
Whenever I try to write and describe something from the Dharma, it opens up to so many other things that are behind it that it feels overwhelming to me. The words are just pointing. But in the movement, it is all there. The knowing is all there. When I try to cram it into words, it becomes very challenging. There is such a great ground for misunderstanding in speaking. One has to relax around that and just let the words come. That’s what i want to learn.
The essence of it is love. That is why I’m wanting to teach and to spread the feeling of inner goodness, of Buddha nature. To help people be in touch with that is the most important thing — to find all the ways that we can come close to that experience of Buddha Nature.
Join Gitte and Trinity at their Tuesday Morning Lujong and Meditation class!