advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

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Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii, modified 7 Years ago.

advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 118 Join Date: 7/21/13 Recent Posts
I see a lot of people talking about Dzogchen and would like to ask, could anyone please explain these practices to me in language I can understand? I will speak a bit about where I am coming from and what I am looking for so maybe it will be easier for you guys to respond.

Over the past year, thanks very much to this forum/group and those who contribute here, I have been having various insights into the emptiness of various things, which have changed things a lot for me. My baseline state is that this body is 95% of the time happily bumbling around by itself having a lovely time, sometimes excited, sometimes sad, but very content, in a world which could easily just all be a dream. Not much push or pull on reality that I yet notice. Quite a lot of thoughts, 95% of which seem not at all a problem, just like the neighbour having the radio on. Sometimes there is suffering, which is experienced as mental stuckness/tension around sensations relating to strong desires.

how I am trying to understand self-liberating/letting go
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I am really drawn to the very simple practice of letting patterns of tension around emotion/thought systems self-liberate. I am a bit confused about the difference or similarity between spontaeneous self-release, and having to seeming work on patterns of suffering. I will explain this as I understand it, any help is very welcome.

So, suffering arises as physical and/or mention tension around a fear and a thought. Normally within a second or so, the actual root fear is recognised/felt/accepted as just a sensation, it is self-liberated, but sometimes things are sticker.

In my experience this might happen in the following way.

E.g. I see a someone I am  sort-of romantically involved with being physically intimate with someone else at a party. Fear arises, but the attention seems to contracts around the fear sensation, and the sensation is treated like a problem. Various mental strategies for avoiding it play out over a few seconds like "they shouldn't do that, I must fix this somehow". Then this is quickly seen through, and the thought becomes "I shouldn't be reacting like this, I need to work more on accepting etc,", so then I might go into just trying to feel the sensation... but actually even in this "just feeling", there is a subtle tension because there is someone treating this feeling is a problem and is trying to feel it in order to change it. The attention is still "tensed" around the sensation. Then when this final "trying" to feel it is dropped, the attention seems to open out, the tight fear sensation seems to spread as a warmth through the chest and arms, and there is a relief, and a ease and a good humour about things, rather than any mental tension of trying to fix. As soon as the subtle holding is noticed, there is an instantaneous forgetting, spontaneous release. A problem which never existed.

Sticker things that don't spontaeneously release


Now, when the problem is something where I can feel the actual emotional fear, sometimes this takes a few seconds, sometimes minutes. But sometimes - more rarely - there are situations where I feel tense and awkward but can detect no emotion. The body is obviously reacting with tension, e.g. holding itself away from a certain person, but I cannot detect why or what emotional system is doing it. In these cases I have to really investigate the situation before an emotion becomes apparent, then it can release in this way.

An example. I saw my mother, we talked for a while and it was evident that my body was holding itself far from her. I did not know why though, I couldn't feel any sadness, anger, nothing really around the heart or gut. My mind was clear and lucid, but a bit tense. So we played a game where we looked into each other's eyes and just said whatever words came to mind, in turns, a bit like noting I guess. Soon enough after a few minutes there were words like "misunderstood", "distant", "disappointed" and I started to notice feelings of sadness and anger. Instantly I knew what seemingly innocent tiny details of our interaction had triggered this block, and the pattern then self-liberated over the next minute as truth became apparent.

I think that with deep set patterns like family or lust-related stuff, there will be a lot of this kind of exploration, or deeper-diving meditation which will be needed to make the root of the pattern clear to self-liberate.

What I would like to achieve:

It just seems natural to unfold all this stuckness, which seems to be all be rooted in hidden fear. Also I notice that the more of these sticky fear-based patterns I liberate, the less selfish I am and the more helpful I am to other people, in ways which continually surprise me.

So my questions are:

1. I have heard trek chod talked about as spontaneous release. Am I broadly on the right track with what I wrote about?

2. I can see the value in having very fine sense clarity of all the very subtle sensations (eergy pathways if you prefer) in the body - heart and gut especially - as a lot of deep patterns which can cause stuckness seem to have their keys there. Do the Dzogchen practices have specific exercises for this?

3. What is Thogal? How is it different?

4. What are the stages or visions of trekchod? What do they represent?

5. Do the practices emphasise any special skilful means, like visualising, or like trying to work on specific aspects, like all the deep rooted patterns related to sexual stuff, or does trying to fix things in this way just lead to more tail-chasing?

6. I saw omega point's great article about this,
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5424997
and basically I was left perplexed by the difficult (for me) language in it, and wondering whether it is pointing to a totally different mode of practice or just using technical words for things which most post MCTB 4th-pathers (not fetters model 4th path) are naturally doing?

7. are all these things secret, and have I committed some sort of dharmic faux pas in asking? sorry if so.

Sincere thanks for any help afforded, and gratitude to everyone who contributes here on this forum. I think there are probably a lot of people interested in these practices and maybe this thread will be of benefit to them.
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
hi Sadalsuud,
traditionally Dzogchen as a path is considered in terms of view, meditation, lifestyle/conduct and result. The view is Rigpa or the nature of mind. This is tough to talk about. But it's not just recognizing and releasing patterns of tension in the body mind, although that in my experience can happen in proximity to 'resting in the natural state'. The latter though is more complete-- it's complete release. In that glimpse everything is completely transparent, open, and complete. The 'relaxation' is complete, it is existential. There is nothing left out in that moment-- it's completely panoramic wholeness and openness and freedom and clarity. This can become clear when a particular pattern self-liberates but sometimes a pattern liberates and there is just a psycho-physical relaxation and openning which is different.

Treckcho is about 'sustaining' this 'state'. So obviously you need to identify the state first and clear up doubts about it. 'Sustaining' is in scare quotes because it is more like you have struck the bell (recognized the View, relaxed into the natural state) and the bell just keeps ringing if you don't try to grasp it. This in my understanding is really where non-doing comes in and I find it very challenging on deep deep levels to 'remain' in that natural state. It will bring up a lot of 'purification' i.e. all your stuff emoticon

In my experience practice oscillates between phases where 'working' on patterns is more prominant and other phases where just letting go and letting be is more prominant. This happens in a fractal way within days, weeks, months.... Erring too much to the 'working' side can create a sort of spiritual ego, a 'practitioner' self. Erring too far to the non-doing side can be a kind of self-deceptive thing because I'm honestly not there yet. Like you I still find (and maybe always will find) a lot of value in exploring my patterns and digging them up to see them clearly and for me this requires reflection and effort at times.

So again I would emphasise the difference between a psycho-physical release of tensions as a result of investigation applied in tandem with calm abiding and on the other hand this complete existential release in which everything spontaneously appears as free, clear, translucent, open, perfectly complete. There is more to it in that the predominant klesha that is arising (pride, jealousy, anger, desire, ignorance) in the moment of spontaneous liberation can transform into a wisdom energy of corresponding flavor (rather than just dissapearing completely). In the dzogchen system this is very related to tantric practices although in dzogchen it is said to come about in a different way than in tantric practices which utilize energy-body work, visualizations and the like whereas in dzogchen treckcho this transformation is said to be spontaneous. I don't have much experience with tantric practices per se, just the adapted forms of it that are transmitted in dzogchen lineages and these are lighter-weight, simpler and shorter than standard traditional tantric practices.

I would recommend checking out the Aro books 'Roaring Silence' which is an introduction to the natural state, a sort of introduction to dzogchen, and 'Spectrun of Ecstasy' which details the correspondences of the five emotional kleshas and the five wisdoms as putting the two together is pretty close to many traditional strains of dzogchen which in practice utilize both 'working' methods of working with the energy, body, behavior, mind trainnig etc and the complete relaxation letting go and letting be. Also any books by Namkhai Norbu or his students are really good for delving into this practice subculture. Omega Point's presentation seems like a more technically precise version of what a lot of Norbu's students put out there in their books (in other words they tend to use a more yogi-friendly language). Check on John Reynolds' translation of the Golden Letters for instance or "self liberation through naked awareness', another great book that i think Reynolds translated. There is also a guy on facebook named Jackson Peterson who teaches dxogchen very openly. Check him out.
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
One of my all time favorites is 'The Flight of the Garuda' translated by Keith Dowman. Really fantastic. The introduction has some great biographical material of him meeting Lamas and receiving teachings and I like his commentaries and translations a lot. Tons of very concrete stuff about Treckcho, self liberation, and the emotions/wisdoms dynamics and what those experiences are like. Also gives you a great feel for the assumptions and flavor of this subculture.

I like to expose myself to multiple different presentations (and the Aro, Norbu, and Dowman presentations are different) because it helps me get a feel for the commonalities. We approach this stuff in our own individual ways and articulate the experiences and insights in our own unique ways so I find it interesting and helpful to expose myself to different perspectives. Some folks function better by taking one single approach and buying into it completely. YMMV.
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Also James Low is well worth a google. His videos and essays and translations/commentaries seem spot on and profound to me. The thing about dzogchen is depending on how it's presented it can seem like something really simple and obvious or something totally unapproachable and abstruse, but once you get a taste for what is pointed at you can find support in all those different forms.

Okay I'll stop now!
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Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 118 Join Date: 7/21/13 Recent Posts
Hey Jake thanks for the input.

I will check out the Aro book Roaring Silence, as I read Spectrum and found it really good.

What you say about total existential release, completeness and panoramicness definitely resonates with experience. Does recognition of rigpa always feel very objectless / uncontracted? 

I am a bit wary about mixing up recognition of Rigpa with being in certain "states" and hence looking for certain very panoramic states (not saying you are doing this, just that it might be a trap for me)...

After MCTB 4th path, (when the coarse self is seen through, and sense fields are known to be free of objects), if one is not currently in a position (which could be a very subtle one) of someone wanting/trying something, is recognition of rigpa the effortless baseline?

I will read and practice more.
Thanks again
T DC, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii:
Hey Jake thanks for the input.

I will check out the Aro book Roaring Silence, as I read Spectrum and found it really good.

What you say about total existential release, completeness and panoramicness definitely resonates with experience. Does recognition of rigpa always feel very objectless / uncontracted? 

I am a bit wary about mixing up recognition of Rigpa with being in certain "states" and hence looking for certain very panoramic states (not saying you are doing this, just that it might be a trap for me)...

After MCTB 4th path, (when the coarse self is seen through, and sense fields are known to be free of objects), if one is not currently in a position (which could be a very subtle one) of someone wanting/trying something, is recognition of rigpa the effortless baseline?

I will read and practice more.
Thanks again

Just to add my opinion..  As jake said treckchod deals with maintaining a glimpse of the ultimate state.  Obviously in order to do this one needs to first glimpse the ultimate state.  As you said in your post this is may be easier said than done, given the difficulty of having such a glimpse.  The glimpse you're going for here is literally that of the awakened state, or at least quite close to it.  To just have such a glimspe is exceedingly difficult, I need not really explain I think.. How many times have we as practitioners tried to have this glimpse?  How many times have we succeeded?

After 4th path, I was in a very similar position, actually I went out and bought a book on dzogchen.  However I quickly got nowhere, reason being the teaching were above my head.  While 4th path affords a glimpse of emptiness, this is merely a glimpse.  Consider on the other hand that treckchod and thodgal are practices geared toward final enlightenment.  In other words 4th path is at one end of the attainment spectrum, and the basis of these dzogchen practices is at the other.

I know these practices may seem enticing, but in my experience, above all else is the recognition that while the practices you do help to set you up for success, the key factor that determines your attainment will always be the state of mind you start from.  In other words, when you're at level 1, don't shoot for level 4 because the best you can do right now is level 2.  Once you've gone through 2 and 3, then shoot for 4.  IMO, practicing advanced dzogchen practices after 4th path is like trying to go from level 1 to level 15 in one go.  Not likely to happen.

Just to share my experince with these practices, I did practice thodgal.  I did so after I had reached the stage at which this was appropriate.  This stage is VERY near full enlightenment.  As may be noted, thodgal is divided into 4 visions, the first of which is 'direct realization of reality istelf'.  At this first stage the sense of self is fully seen through, the resulting visions eliminate residual dualistic perception.

So to be blunt I think you may be wasting your time pursueing this.  I am happy to recomend avenues to pursue however.
If this thread turns into a mature discussion of the proper use of dzogchen... damn, that will be quite a contribution for everyone.
James Yen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Post: 1 Join Date: 6/28/14 Recent Posts
Hey it's James, banned again.

I actually agree with T DC, in my experience I first started buckling down on Buddhist practice in 2012 and it started with practicing Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, sounds fancy and intimidating, but at the time I couldn't squeeze any oil out of those olives (if that makes sense).

It's not that the practice are not efficacious, it's merely that they are not relevant at earlier stages in development, it's only now that I have penetrated Mahamudra and One Taste and have any valid fruition Mahamudra experiences, and that's only because I'm reading Chogyam Trungpa right now.

Without reading his descriptions or having his instructions, I would say that it would have been nearly impossible for me to enter the Vajrayana.

I like the nine yana journey because it is accurate in my experience, Chogyam Trungpa describes it very well, first beginning with the Hinayana you get off your ass, learn some discipline and manners, then you begin to feel samatha and vipassana, you penetrate the three characteristics of phenomena.

But you don't penetrate emptiness yet, or no-self, but once you do you enter the Mahayana, at this point you interchange yourself with others, because... there is no self! Self, other? Who are you saving? So this compassion develops. There is a lack of self and other, or duality.

I have a fairly good grounding in Hinayana, but Mahayana is obviously a good next step for people who think the Hinayana is too claustrophobic, and Vajrayana is a whole 'nother story.

I highly recommend Chogyam Trungpa's posthumous compilation of lectures: The Profound Treasury of Dharma, all three are great!
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Yes Sadalsuud you are right, one has to be careful not to confuse Rigpa with various states that are similar. In some ways it's best not to define the state at all (noting there is a difference between description and definition!). For me there is either clarity or not in any given moment. The descriptions don't really matter. The thing itself is completely free from suffering, and self-evidently self-clear.

Probably best to work directly with a dzogchen teacher or one or more senior students, and I'm not aware of either of those participating on these fora. 

On the other hand, it is called the 'natural' state for a good reason. It's the 'way it is' for us experientially in a very basic way. So while it is something precise, that something is like a context in which all our experiencing happens. It's the nature of that experiencing. So you can't get too far from it and I don't like descriptions that emphasize how 'far out' it is.

Anyhow lots of folks have glimpses of the natural state way before ever practicing, this is pretty common as I understand it. What the teacher and teaching do is point out the significance of the state so that it can be the basis for a path. The benefit of using halfway approaches like Pure Land or tantric-inspired practices is that they can bring us 'closer' to the state. I think of it like fractal resonance. The state is the fractal pattern for all experiences in a fundamental way (the basis). But ordinarily our attention is absorbed in a partial representation of that fractal. All we need to do is 'drop' those representations and just let experience be as it is and suddenly all is clear. Whether representations (thoughts in the broadest possible sense) are present or not isn't the issue, but whether we are confusing them with reality, whether our attention is contracted into a particular representation (i.e., one of the realms of desire, form or formlessness) is the issue. 

I can't say anything about practice after fourth path as I don't claim that, nor do I see consistency in the pragmatic dharma scene as to a definition of that, however, using Daniel's definition I am not (and his definition makes a lot more sense to me than for instance Kenneth's). I don't think all these different paths map up to one another really. 
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Another point related to the 'rigpa vs. states that are similar' concern is that we often mistake states and feelings that tend to co-arise with the natural state for 'it'. Traditionally it's said that relaxing in the natural state will tend to bring up experiences of no-thought, emptiness, clarity (including visions, esp etc as well as six-sensate clarity) and bliss. 

Another book is 'Clarifying the Natural State' by Tashi Namgyal. It's a practice manual with lots of exercises. 
Jack Hatfield, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 99 Join Date: 7/5/10 Recent Posts
I recommend Ken McLeod's book, Wake Up to Your Life. Ken has solid Tibetan credentials. The book has a minimum of esoteric jargon and lots of meditation exercises.
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Jeff Grove, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Hi 
I have wrote about these practices on the forum if you do a search as they have been my main practice for a few years
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3124677?_19_threadView=flat

For books try


Http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3728181

Enjoy
Jeff
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Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 118 Join Date: 7/21/13 Recent Posts
Jeff that thread is excellent, thanks! Any other amazing vintage threads I should know about?

Jake thanks for your words too, resonates, especially stuff about the states and feelings that arise with recognition of rigpa being confused for something to do with it.

T DC what practice vector do you recommend instead given how I describe my experience in the OP?
T DC, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii:
Jeff that thread is excellent, thanks! Any other amazing vintage threads I should know about?

Jake thanks for your words too, resonates, especially stuff about the states and feelings that arise with recognition of rigpa being confused for something to do with it.

T DC what practice vector do you recommend instead given how I describe my experience in the OP?

As James Yen said a few post up, I would consider Trekchod and Thodgal to be essentially ussless unless you have an extremely refined understanding of emptiness.

Though we may advance on the path, the basic practice of meditation never changes.  We have the problem: delusion/ clinging to forms as solid and lasting, and we have the goal which is a state free from grasping.  Meditation is always (no matter where on the path) the practice of training the mind to turn away from grasping.

To be clear, my practice of meditation did not change as I progressed on the path.  Meditation for me was always recognizing awareness and sustaining it.  As this is done, breakthroughs occur, and one comes to recognise greater degrees of awareness.  This is probably obvious for you exeprientially.  Anyhow, the point here is that meditation remains the same throughout the path.  What changes is the context.

By context I mean attainment; where you're at on the path.  Consider this anology:  You are on a long hike: meditation is the process of walking, it remains roughly the same throughout the hike.  Context is the scenery through which you move.  To extend this analogy, practicing thodgal after 4th path is like hoping to get from the base of the mountain to the top in one go, one step.  Remember that the basic process of walking remains the same.  At anytime, the only place you can travel to immediately is that directily in front of you.

Focusing on such loft goals, the peak, leads one to distraction.  It takes effort to move anywhere on the path, and so your attention is best spent focusing on attainable goals.  Best case scenario, practicing thodgal doesn't distract you too much and you manage to attain the next step anyway; worse case scenario, you are too distracted, and unsure about the next step to move on.  Teaching about context help because they point you in the right way for you right now.  (If you focus on a map of a city 200 miles away while trying to navigate the one your currently in, you're likely to get lost.)

What I recomend is reading Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, focusing on the chapter on emptiness (form is empty, emptiness is form..), or also 'The way of the Boddhisatva' by the Dali Lama.  Basically after 4th path, form is seen as empty, now emptiness must be seen as form..  Chogyam Trungpa describes this progression well (CTSM).

Cheers!
James Yen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/3/14 Recent Posts
SBA,

You were probably looking for this:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0g3iwn7mlbqlql9/practice-dzogchen.pdf

This book contains complete instructions on Trekchod as well Thodgal (as well as instructions for a "dark retreat"), the emphasis is on thodgal more, however. I'm fairly certain that practicing these practices, with a blank slate, prima facie (is that the correct use of the phrase?) without an understanding of emptiness, is completely useless.

Regardless, the information is there.

Regards,

James

(just post here if you want anymore books, I have a ton)
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
A link to an interview with some powerful descriptions of the path of Thogal:
http://www.acircleisdrawn.org/index.php/heart-essence/
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Jeff Grove, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: advice about trekchod and thogal practice in laymans terms please

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
https://m.facebook.com/notes/dzogchen-khenpo-choga-rinpoche/auspicious-news-my-teacher-lama-karma-attains-rainbow-body/10151794778007773

Interesting read
Enjoy
Jeff

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