by Paul 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 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 and Nataly, 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.