How I Met Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

by Alexandru Anton

alexandru-antonIn 2009 I had a life crisis which led to stopping my training as a clinical psychologist and pretty much everything else. I remember I was looking for freedom, maybe without really knowing what it was, but this eventually manifested through practicing shamanism, becoming good friends with drumming and Siberian throat-singing. That was the first time I heard about Rinpoche, when reading about the masters of Vladislav Matrenitsky who was teaching throat-singing. I really enjoyed these experiences which were happening beyond the reach of my rational need to understand everything. Then in 2012 one friend asked me to organize a soundhealing workshop and I was amazed when more than 10 people appeared. That was a turning point and I started focusing on soundwork and continued to offer these workshops where people can really manifest their voice, listen to it, feel it and have experiences through it.

During all these years of exploration I was experimenting with Yoga, Zen, some basic meditation techniques, Reiki and I remember browsing through some Dzogchen books – particularly Golden Letters – The Three Statements of Garab Dorje. There was something that greatly attracted me to these texts. I especially liked the simplicity of the view and the beautiful poems on the nature of mind, like for example the metaphor of the nature of mind as the big blue sky beyond all the clouds. But I was still in much doubt, torn between looking for something very concrete and technical and enjoying the too-good-to-be-true Dzogchen metaphors.

Nothing happened and it remained somewhere in the back of my mind.

Then in 2013 I was co-leading a workshop with a friend and at some point he played some relaxation songs while we were lying on our backs. One of the songs was Rest in Natural Great Peace, with words spoken by Sogyal Rinpoche, inspired by a poem by Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje, with beautiful chanting in the background. The words, which I remember to this day, are:

Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helplessly by karma and neurotic thoughts
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.

This had such a strong effect on me, that when I went home I visited the Merigar East website, saw there was a retreat with Rinpoche and started thinking about it. It still felt a bit too good to be true, but then I watched “My Reincarnation” and one more thing clicked inside, seeing Rinpoche both as a Tibetan master and as a human being, an experience I had no access to before in this life.

So I thought “I am very curious about Dzogchen, and it is also very strongly connected with sound. Rinpoche looks like a really nice guy, coming for a retreat here in Romania and he is quite old! I should go!”

And I went. 2013. And I had another amazing experience, attending the everyday teaching sessions with Rinpoche and feeling a great connection with him and with many of the participants. What struck me the most was the incredible atmosphere I felt during the teachings, so intense and so beyond time and space, the amazing energy that I felt through Rinpoche’s presence and voice.

I was also for the first time in such an international setting, with community members coming from many countries to join the retreat at Merigar East. I remember applying for a work-exchange and landing in the Registration Team, where I was able to meet all those people! Everything was moving around me and there was this invisible “thing” going on that I could only recognize after the end of the retreat, but I remember Paula from Poland and Mira from Russia suddenly approaching me and asking, “Hey, Alex, you have good communication skills and enjoy working with people. Don’t you want to be an assistant for the Blue Gakyil?” I was cornered by the Dakinis and had no chance of escape, so I said yes and then in 2014 I went on to become one of the Blues for Merigar East.

Merigar East panorama of sunflowers

Merigar East the sunflower Gar

This was a very strong experience for me because as a new practitioner in a small community there was not much contact with the international community. Starting to contribute to the gakyil work opened my eyes a little bit more, that a lot is happening in the Dzogchen community and I had no idea about it.

It might be strange, but it is true, that I discovered the community spirit outside my native country.

At this first retreat at Merigar East in 2013, touched by the magical qualities of the Black Sea, I also started a relationship with a Czech lady. We would spend time together in Romania and in Prague and so I had the chance to closely meet the Czech community and have a first-hand experience of what happens when the community is strong and people are dedicated and collaborate. It was very useful for me, an ignorant Blue assistant who otherwise didn’t have much clue what the Dzogchen Community meant, and also because I could go back to Romania full of confidence and inspiration about what is possible here with our relatively very small and scattered Sangha.

Czech connection

Czech connection

This led me to visit Phendeling, the beautiful Czech Ling in the green hills, attending a retreat there with Jakob Winkler and spending more quality time with friends who also happened to be practitioners. So very quickly I started becoming more and more thirsty to meet practitioners and go to retreats and travel and I got so much out of this desire.

I met the Slovak community, went for a work-exchange program at Wangdenling in the wonderful natural reservation in the Slovak mountains and spent a lot of quality time there, finding out about the history of the Ling and about the local community and about the challenges, solutions, aspirations. This was all very fascinating for me, because in Romania there was not really a well-shaped group of practitioners that would carry on an ongoing project except for when Rinpoche came here and many people dedicated themselves to the organizing of the event.

Quality time at Wangdenling, Czech Republic

Quality time at Wangdenling, Czech Republic

With this came another idea, that I would like to travel to all Lings, at least in Europe, and meet the people there, get the feeling of the place and get a first-hand experience of it – and this is still “work” in progress. I feel this is very important because no matter how good practitioners we are, we are still limited by the space-time concreteness of our lives, having no clue about the lives, challenges and solutions discovered by other practitioners in another country – and all these served for me as great examples of how the Teaching can be integrated with the most unimaginable circumstances.

So that is, in a nutshell, how I met Rinpoche and joined the community and a little bit about how it went afterwards. I am entering my third year as a ME Blue Gakyil and I can say it can be very challenging and mind-opening, but I am grateful for all the opportunities that manifested for me in connection to this. Years are passing, retreats are coming and going and life continues to unfold. I am continuing my sound journey and becoming more and more nomadic. Next stop is Dzamling Gar, and I am very curious and excited.

Heart-felt thanks to Rinpoche and the International Dzogchen Community