With Fabio Andrico, November 15-21, 2022
by Paula Hopp
In the opening session, Fabio explained that in this retreat he wanted to teach us to deeply understand the fundamental principles of the practice so that we could competently advance our own practice, in a sense become our own teachers. This was music to my ears because I had been practicing from the book and videos for some time but was not confident I was doing it right. And it turned out that, indeed, I had not been doing it right.
One of the things we heard most often from Fabio was something like “It’s fine to do that if you want, but it’s not Yantra!” The meaning was that you will be practicing some kind of yoga which will be good for you, but you are not actually practicing Yantra Yoga. Fabio meticulously taught us in many different ways how the position of the body shapes the breath so we could understand how and why each position and movement creates the conditions to experience the breathing and the holdings, which are the actual purpose of the movements. We were constantly reminded to practice with energy and intent and to cultivate a sense of relaxed calm in the midst of vigorous tension.
Fabio has an encyclopedic knowledge of all the traditions of yoga and often explained the distinction and uniqueness of yantra and his commitment to the teaching he received from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, He often read to us from the original text and from the Master’s commentary. He also regaled us with humorous stories from his own experience and inspiring memories of his time with Rinpoche.
There was a lot a sweat and strain in the Gönpa but also a lot of laughter. Seeing him teach two teachers in training, Sean Read (Australia) and Nataly Nitsche (Dzamling Gar), was instructive in another way: witnessing the corrections and advice he gave to practitioners far more advanced than myself. These seven days of teaching was a rare gift and it seems to me the only way to honor it will be to diligently practice what I’ve learned.
All this happened amidst the stillness and natural beauty of the Montaña San Miguel that is Tsegyalgar West. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect space for practice than this magical landscape. The accommodations there are surprisingly elegant and the cuisine was amazing. I was welcomed and supported by a warm and wonderful community of practitioners there, each with their own natural gifts and experiences. I feel grateful to each of them. Special thanks are due to Lazuli and Jan for their care of the Gar and management of the retreat. Overall this was an unforgettable experience that has given a strong, fresh impetus to my spiritual practice.
Yantra Yoga and the Tsalungs and Sogtigs of Mandarava with Fabio Andrico
November 14-December 15, 2022, Tsegyalgar West, Baja, Mexico
by Jigme Dawa
Baja California, Mexico: A group of members of the International Dzogchen Community gathered to receive teaching from Fabio Andrico in the multicolored Gönpa of Tsegyalgar West – practitioners from Australia, Germany, China, Costa Rica, Italy, Mexico and Russia. There occurred there a month-long retreat, with a combination of Yantra Yoga practices, tsa lungs and sogtigs of Mandarava practice with the presence of four instructors, Fabio Andrico, Nataly Nitsche, Sean Read and Marco Baseggio, practicing from 7:30am to dinner time at 7pm. The month passed with a thousand and one adventures, including the rescue of a tarantula and a bull trapped in the Gar, as well as many delicious dishes prepared by the chef Ulyses.
On December 8th we had a day off and the day was dedicated to various activities, games of liberation and bagchen, and lots of laughter. We felt that the legacy of the master is among us, and on this day I had the opportunity to ask our dear Fabio some questions:
Jigme Dawa: Hello Fabio. Welcome to Mexico and Tsegyalgar West.
Fabio Andrico: Well, thank you.
JD: Can you tell us about the relationship between Yantra Yoga and the tsa lungs of Mandarava practice?
FA: Yantra Yoga is a Thrulkhor. It is generally used as a support to prepare and maintain precisely the practice of the tsa lungs.This would be its goal. For example, with the tsa lungs we need to do kumbhaka and you can learn this by doing Yantra Yoga, developing with rhythmic breathing and all this. For tsa lung practices in the practice of Vairochana, it is important to do kumbhaka well.
JD: You are a founder and one of the main instructors of the Dzogchen Community. What is the importance of Mandarava practice in the Dzogchen Community?
FA: First of all, it is one of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s mind termas and he himself said that the Mandarava practice saved his life, so that he had much more time to continue teaching, and in fact every year he did his personal retreat and then it became a tradition to do a Losar retreat, so he also practiced with us.
JD: Can you give us some tips for doing a personal Mandarava retreat?
FA: Generally we do four thuns a day, and the practice of the sogtig is recommended in the early morning. Kumbhaka practices should not be done around midnight or at noon or just after noon, in general we shouldn’t eat too much and we should let the digestion work, and then we shouldn’t have many doubts. In my experience this is the most important thing, when we do a retreat or a course.
JD: Thank you very much for all this wonderful knowledge Fabio and for the good humor and anecdotes.
Finally Fabio’s wonderful retreat comes to an end and we hope to meet again somewhere in the world.