Working Together for Rinpoche’s Legacy

An interview with Ilaria Faccioli

November 9, 2022, Tenerife, Spain


The Mirror: Ilaria, you are the executive director of Tibetan Medical program in Tenerife and very active in the Atiyoga Foundation. You have also been instrumental in creating a public program that Dzamling Gar has been doing with the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) of Adeje. Can you tell us how the program started?

Ilaria: The program started almost at the end of Covid-19 pandemic. It was a common decision taken by the Gakyil and many people who felt that it was a good time to recontact the staff of the City Hall and the Mayor, who always showed a good attitude towards Dzamling Gar and also had a good relationship with Rinpoche. Giovanni Boni and I went to this meeting and the Mayor told us he realized how strong the consequences of pandemic were. Later on he and Maria Rosario Clavijo Maza the councilwoman of the department of culture came to visit Dzamling Gar. and after this meeting we started working together to implement a program. 

The first proposal we negotiated was much bigger because we tried to include many areas. We sat down and decided how to structure the proposal and how to make the economic plan. I was the bridge negotiating with the council. Our proposal was officially presented by Atiyoga Foundation and the Association of Dzamling Gar. We decided that the official and financial partner was Atiyoga Foundation because it has the status of a non-profit organization which makes it easier for the Ayuntamiento to accept the proposal.

The proposal was directed to four areas: two courses for the adults – Yantra Yoga and Khaita – and two proposals for children, both Kumar Kumari – one for ages 6 to 9, the other from ages 9 to 12-13. We chose four instructors, one of them, sad to say, was Stoffelina Verdonk (who recently passed away) and who was in charge of the Khaita course. For Yantra Yoga for adults, it was Alessandra Policreti. I did Kumar Kumari for teenagers and Lena Kalistova did Kumar Kumari for the younger children.

In the proposal that the Ayuntamiento accepted the instructors are paid and in a reasonable way, and that’s important to mention. It’s true that we have done some nice things, but always as karma yoga. After many years it’s also nice to recognize people’s dedication and commitment. This was the first time that we did something for the Ayuntamiento and received payment.

For me the most important aspect of this proposal was also that it was free for the population. Our institution was paid but the offer was made free for the local population of Adeje.

M: Was there a number limit on how many people could participate?

I: We have to remember that it was still Covid time so there was a limit of 12 people. And especially at the very beginning we had to follow the rules that the Ayuntamiento gave to us. At the beginning there were a lot of people who decided to register for Yantra Yoga for adults and Khaita for adults although during the sessions this number gradually decreased. 

In the end we had Lena Kalistova teaching Khaita and Alessandra Policreti teaching Yantra Yoga.  At the very end of one of the big Yoga events that we held in Dzamling Gar this past summer, in the closing session there was a Yantra Yoga session with Alessandra and her students from Adeje who received a certificate of participation.

Then it turned out that the ‘Mentalizate’ project sponsored by the Mayor, which was the program we were funded through, came to the end of its year long funding. For the following year we discovered that we could not put yoga and dance in a new program because they are considered sports and would no longer fit the criteria of ‘Mentalizate’. We had to figure out another way to continue.

 So we went back both with Maria del Rosario Clavijo Maza and Maciel Delgado and we started thinking how we could go on and then the decision was made to work mainly with children and families. First of all, the courses for children were more successful in terms that they were really consistent participants. 

Mothers of the children in both groups played a very active part personally demanding trough the ayuntamento’s public pages that both kumar kumari courses could continue. And this is a good sign, since these courses were meant to be a service for the population and the population interacted  with the service and gave a feedback. So mothers start posting on the social media of the Ayuntamiento their feedback and their request and that made an impact.

M: Do you think that they saw some kind of benefit in the courses for their children?

I: Yes, I do. As my ‘real’ profession is a family therapy counselor, I offered to hold a couple of open talks for the parents. Also Lena and Nataly did a couple of things including doing family Kumar Kumari and they invited parents. The parents were pretty much involved in the whole thing and the feedback was amazing. They got really involved when we held these events for both children and parents. 

We ended up repeating the course and I had all the children I had last year and five or six more. Lena has an even bigger group so I think the kids were happy, because you can force your kid for a month, maybe for a year, but you cannot force your kid for the second year.

At the end of the last year we both did a demonstration because we wanted parents to come and see the whole thun of Kumar Kumari. At the end of the demonstration I asked the parents to join the circle and listen to what the kids were saying about the class. The majority of them said, ‘I feel much more relaxed.’ The parents joked about the children’s physical reaction because a lot of them were yawning and I told them that is is because that diaphragm is loosening up and relaxing. The children said, ‘Every time I come to this class, mommy, I just want to yawn and go to sleep.’ They spoke about this in their own way but everyone saw the effect very clearly. 

I think the combination of things made the parents start interacting with the social media of the Ayuntamiento. I received a call from the Ayuntamiento and they said that they didn’t want to stop the program, but were trying to find a way to manage to continue. We had to find a formula because the Ayuntamiento  clearly said that they could not promote it simply as yoga, because yoga is considered a sport. They said they could put the program in the frame of citizen participation in activities for families because they have this very nice place that is called Escuela de Convivencia y participación ciudadana. 

Eventually we talked with Ester and came up with this idea to keep on doing Kumar Kumari, but with a framework where family is more involved. The final result of this was a project that is still for kids, 6 to 9 and 10 to 14, but the model is that every month we do three meetings with the kids and once a month there is something done with the families. Lena does three Kumar Kumari and one Khaita with kids and family and I do three Kumar Kumari plus mindfulness and the fourth is a talk just for parents of pre-adolescents which has really become a kind of group support session. 

M: Can you give some words of advice to other people in the Dzogchen Community who want to establish more public programming?

I: I think it’s very important to thank Rinpoche, especially at Dzamling Gar, because the first real connection with the mayor was his connection. Whenever we start a meeting, the mayor always asks about Rinpoche. So I think we gathered the fruit thanks to Rinpoche. 

Merigar is also doing very nice things with the schools through ASIA’s projects so maybe it’s true that it is easier in the places where the Community has been established and somehow where there was this relationship with Rinpoche.

Consistency is important and you have to be sure that you are in a place and you can dedicate a certain amount of time because there is a year in which you plant the seed, the second year when you water the seed, and then finally the third year when you gather the fruit of the seed. 

Then go local because if you’re really rooted in a place, it’s much easier to go through the school you know, through the village or the place you know. I think there is a human aspect of that which is important. Of course, if you know someone that knows it is even better. Sometimes you can use some connection. We used Rinpoche’s connection. 

However, in terms of accessing funds or grants, this is where the Community has to grow. And this is where ASIA can teach us how to do that because it’s the only association in the Community that has been able to do that and it is where we lack experience.

Then there is the part in which you write the project, and there are some specific rules how to do it. It has to be simple and very concrete: what you want to do, what kind of benefits you think it will have, what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and then a basic budget.

But also what I would like to say is that it never happens the first time. How long did it take at Dzamling Gar? It took 10 years so you shouldn’t get deluded or discouraged the first time it doesn’t succeed. 

The good thing is that if you have to start from scratch, it’s always good to use the principle of generosity. That’s what Rinpoche did. He offered such a lot to the local community here: the Cultural Tibetan weeks, many performances of Khaita and so on. If you go with this open heart, somehow it will be given back. But patience is the greatest virtue of all, and consistency. Fabio Andrico has said many times that when you start giving yoga classes, you are there, you give classes of yoga. You cannot pretend to give classes of yoga for one month and that’s it, because it will never bring fruits.

M: So consistency and dedication and being there.

I: Yes. If you want to commit to that, please check yourself first. Sometimes it’s just a matter of condition. If you have the conditions, that’s good. It’s a very important quality. The secret is cooperation and that was the other big gift that Rinpoche left to all of us, especially at Dzamling Gar. These things can happen more easily if there is a group and we all learn to work together. The experience in this case was that we worked together for a benefit that was not ours, and that kept the group together. It was cooperation in the small group, which is honestly easier, but was also cooperation between two big institutions of the Community.

That for me is the secret for the future. If we want to go out and really commit ourselves to the legacy that Rinpoche left – something that can benefit all beings no matter if they’re interested or not in the teaching – cooperation is the key. I have no doubt about that.

M: Thank you very much Ilaria.

See the video of the interview.

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