Recently a colleague asked me… “remember the ‘Haven’ days, do you miss it?” in which I replied, “yes I do actually”. Then I began thinking more about it and why I missed it. I came to realise it was not so much that I miss it but it was more that I appreciated it. I think a bunch of us were very fortunate to have had that great honour to work that closely with H.E. Tsem Rinpoche. I appreciated it for all the amazing lessons, teachings and training it has brought upon us, given by Rinpoche.
Rinpoche basically sacrificed His own private space, his home for us; transforming his entire living room for our workstation. This is all before KFR (Kechara Forest Retreat) came up. We had to make do with the little haven we got, but it was a cosy yet productive environment filled with creative work that benefited others. Yes we were literally working in Rinpoche’s living room! Some may think that’s intense, yes I do agree it was intense… it was intense Dharma, intense learning, intense purification and intense blessings! How one perceives this great fortune, is based on one’s merit and karma.
Rinpoche used to tell us that everyday when we travel to our Lama’s Ladrang (residence) we should visualise it to be the mandala of the supreme Vajrayogini, and that we’re going and entering her mandala to do work. Just from this thought one generates a great amount of merits right from travelling to the place, let alone entering and doing work in such a powerful place.
Whenever Rinpoche has an idea or the urge to share something with us, we would just run upstairs together to meet Rinpoche. We had that privilege. Rinpoche gave us many hours of personal and group teachings, even watching a Madonna in concert could be a Dharma teaching. An idea could spring up from there like the psychedelic teaching videos we did with Rinpoche that was impromptu called Cosmic Tantra and Psychedelic Change.
I appreciated the fun debate sessions we had with Rinpoche that was heart racing, adrenaline pumping, exciting, challenging yet fun all rolled into one. Our knowledge was put to the test as well as our memory. Rinpoche was training us to “THINK” and to think “FAST”. It was a way to sharpen our minds, to be alert, and to be skilful with the questions we asked and the rebuttals we gave. The point as Rinpoche always remind us is not about winning, it is about learning. Sometimes Rinpoche would join the debate and we were all asked to go against Rinpoche, one person. It was like debating with Manjushri! Of course none of us could defeat Rinpoche. He could turn black to white and white to black and have you agree to it lol. It was all a great exercise in making us think out of the box.
Some days Rinpoche would make us do stretching exercises to get us off the computer, to get our hearts pumping, blood circulating and relax. At times Rinpoche would make us go out for walks around the area, and we had to walk a few rounds. Rinpoche was not just a Guru; he was like a father to us all, a spiritual father, who cares not only for our education but also for our well-being. Rinpoche cared for everyone’s mental, emotional, even physical health, and if I may say so, the kind of care is even more than our parents because it is not based on attachments.
I also appreciated the many spontaneous activities that Rinpoche would make us do. I appreciate the obstacles one had to face while doing them, the challenges, the tribulations as well as the sweet triumphs when we’ve overcome them. An example was one assignment Rinpoche gave a group of us (Pastor Shin, Pastor David, Andrew and I) to find a space doll that reminded Rinpoche of his childhood days watching the program called Mission Stardust. There was no such doll on this planet available in the market, so we ended up having to find a way to create the doll ourselves!
One thing’s for sure, whether it was something to do with work or if it was for us to just unwind; like catching a movie, going for a massage or gift shopping for others, every moment spent with Rinpoche is an active moment of focusing out. How one may ask. Well, even when we are going out for a movie, a few people would be assigned to get the tickets; some would go ahead of everyone to prepare the popcorn and drinks, some would drive. Basically to show care, to look out for one another, making sure everyone arrived safely and gets home safely.
So yes I am grateful for the “haven” days, it’s impossible not to as it was a place of refuge. So much was learnt and experienced in that space during that time that was much larger than the self. They are precious memories never to be forgotten or taken for granted for it was a cornerstone to where we are today. Everything Rinpoche does is completely 100% out of care and to help us improve to be better, at least better than who we are yesterday.
Every minute spent with Rinpoche is a precious teaching, a special lesson that is uniquely, and precisely just for you to realise. It could be in that instant moment you realise it or perhaps later on in the future, but the lesson would have been imprinted, all it needs is the right conditions to ripen. That would be up to us based on the actions we choose to take to trigger it. This is how compassionately skilful our Guru is. So what more is there to ponder but just to let go, trust and be loyal. It makes it easier for the blessings to come through.
Here are two must watch videos which were an impromptu recording we did with Rinpoche in Haven. The concept or idea Rinpoche got was inspired by Madonna’s videos.
- Cosmic Tantra
- Psychedelic Change
- Mission Stardust
- Debate with Tsem Rinpoche
- For Elizabeth regarding Vajra Yogini Mandalas