May 6, Saturday morning. We are in beautiful Venice, Italy, in this bizarre spring with changing skies of many shades, with temperatures that recall moments in the first days of November, but that, when the sun opens up in a gap in the clouds, suddenly bring us back to the beginning of summer.
We are all waiting a bit to see what the sky holds today, knowing that the rain makes it all the more complicated especially in our lagoon. A lagoon that in these days has offered the best of itself for colors, lights, stormy or rose-colored clouds, reflections from dreams … and yes, in fact we are preparing precisely for this: to dream.
“Lucid Dreaming, Dream and Vision in Buddhist Thinking and the Tibetan Tradition”. Organized by Gyamtsholing, the Venetian Ling, in collaboration with the Venice Academy of Art, this weekend workshop begins.
Michael Katz, Santi Maha Sangha instructor and student of our Teacher, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, had arrived two days earlier from New York. He has been authorised by Rinpoche to teach dream practice according to his teaching, and in these two days he will hold an open course for the more than sixty people enrolled, both practitioners and outsiders.
The gym, where we usually dance on Saturday afternoon, has been prepared to welcome all the participants who, sitting on the ground on yoga mats, listen to Michael intently.
For the first day of the workshop Michael alternates explanations with moments of meditation. He focuses on presenting the Dzogchen teaching of our Master to the non-practitioners with simple words, which immediately clarify the importance of dream practice and its purpose. The interpreter, Edith, carefully translates them. He helps the participants to feel comfortable with each other by getting them to present themselves and enter the “dream ambiance”. He then proposes twenty minutes of walking freely outside the gym to grasp the many “differences” that appear to the human eye along the alleys and bridges if you pay attention to them. They will be a useful source of inspiration for the half-hour rest period that will follow lunch during which everyone will have their own experience of dreams, of non dreams, or unawareness of dreams or non dreams. Following that there will be a discussion of situations aimed at highlighting the possibilities of the dream world and the technique to develop lucid dreaming in relation to the teaching.
The second day of the workshop will be just as intense. Michael further illustrates the content of our Teacher’s text ‘The Cycle of Day and Night’. He explains to the newcomers the meaning of the bardo and gives many examples of lucid dreaming together with some suggestions on how to exercise presence while dreaming.
Students enrolled in the seminar come from very different backgrounds and this makes question time definitely interesting. There are practitioners from the Dzogchen Community as well as people interested in discovering the teaching, and several young students from Ca ‘Foscari or the Accademia, who bring the freshness of youth.
The following day, Michael holds a conference for them at the Academy of Art, in front of an audience of about 100. He was introduced by Gabriella Dalesio, professor and student of Rinpoche, who made possible the collaboration between Gyamtsholing and the Accademia for these three beautiful dreamlike days with Michael.