Mahamudra, Mexico, and Our Lineage
This spring, five members of the DC Shambhala Center made their way to Casa Werma in Patzcuaro, Mexico to participate in a 10 day Mahamudra retreat with Acharya Richard John. It was an absolutely real and inspirational experience for us and a way of building community with both the DC sangha present and the extended Shambhala sangha.
The Mahamudra teachings are profoundly simple and direct. In essence, as with all meditation practice, it comes down to spending some real quality time with one’s mind. Some might describe it as an intensification of basic sitting practice. The retreat itself was strict and almost entirely in functional silence, outside of talks and discussion to clarify practice instructions. There was a definite sense that the strength of this discipline was necessary to support the directness and precision of the mahamudra practice instructions. A strong sense of support and warmth developed between one another as we experienced the vivid rawness of our own minds. It was a chance to hold our experience in a larger space of mind, which is an act of maitri. There was a consensus among the participants that the Mahamudra teachings and retreats are critical along the path.
Casa Werma is nestled in the center of Patzcuaro, a small mountain town in the state of Michoacan known even among Mexicans as being very traditionally Mexican. The trip in for the DC sangha involved early morning flights through Houston, bringing us to Casa Werma in the afternoon after a taxi ride from the Morelia airport. A long taxi ride through Morelia gave many of us a chance to practice Spanish with the cab drivers. Many of the participants stayed outside of Casa Werma at a variety of hotels. Basic, clean accommodations relatively near the house ran about $20 USD per night. The Casa Werma property is about 5 acres within Patzcuaro. There is an absolutely charming main house with a casita nearby. There is also a garden that is extremely well tended and includes many flowers and trees. One highlight was an avocado tree on the property, since many of us had not seen one before.
Casa Werma itself can only really be described as a womb of magic. Casa Werma’s beauty is completely inseparable from the pervasive sense of richness and a feeling of strength and vibration of the entire town. Patzcuaro boasts a strong celebration for Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and there’s no doubt why that might be the case after visiting. Patzcuaro, if anywhere, makes the perfect place for relatives who have passed to come back to visit. There’s a celebration of life, death, and magic happening all the time, whether you think you’re at the party or not. Some have described it as a playful trickster quality, as though reality is tapping you on the shoulder in a playful game of hide and seek with these senses.
Casa Werma also provides a unique opportunity to connect with the history of the Shambhala Lineage. Indeed, it is the place where Trungpa Rinpoche composed the Werma Sadhana, a heart practice for the Shambhala Vajrayana path. There are, no doubt, many unfathomably precious and completely ordinary reasons why the Werma Sadhana was written at Casa Werma. A visit to Casa Werma offers opportunities to contemplate this on a deeper felt level. One might come to various conclusions after such a contemplation. Among these conclusions is the importance of the restorative and inspirational quality of the energy there. To create enlightened society, the focus of the Shambhala path, we must tap into the kind of energy and magic that is bursting from every crevice of Casa Werma. We will need to nurture and draw on such sources in our daily life to propagate genuine, supportive connections with others and our world given the pervasive cynicism of today.
Hopefully, everyone will get an opportunity to work with the Mahamudra practices and visit Casa Werma at some point. Whether one can go to Mexico or not, there is perhaps another message to hear from its very existence. It is, in some sense, a reminder that our lineage is evolving and that it is a result of the auspicious meeting of the vast mind of our lineage holders and this very world.
By James Tripp