Mani Drubchen Chronicles – Part 3

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What might 7 days of chanting do to someone’s voice? Lemons, tea, chai and lozenges were gulped in

the mandala with surrounding ritual items
the mandala with surrounding ritual items

abundance. However, there were times when each of us wondered if we could possibly chant the next session. Several people went temporarily hoarse, including one of the lamas – the one who speaks fluent English. Someone had homeopathic remedies for a sore throat which also seemed to help the vocal cords. The monk from Drikung Til (Khenpo Choephel – who was actually the Umze from Drikung – we are very blessed indeed) told us that they typically alternate chanting – one half of the room would do a couple series and then rest as the other half took over. We did this several times, but it did not seem to catch on. When we did alternate, it was a definite boost of energy – getting to rest a spell was like heaven.

sand mandala inside the gold curtain
sand mandala inside the gold curtain

As you can imagine, sitting in the same place, chanting the same words over and over for hours at a time can become a little repetitive, even for a seasoned yogi, which I am far from! Of course there was a visualization we were supposed to be doing as well, but it was hard to put all the pieces into place and hold them there while chanting and not falling asleep. Therefore, I became very fascinated with little things – like the manner in which the carpets seemed to slowly drift, like tectonic plates, across the room – of course it would take several days to move much, but I became sensitive to millimeters of floating and of course I had to put them back into place. Then when that became boring, the yogi sitting next to me, and I played with a little piece of glittery paper and a green sprinkle from a cupcake. We had loads of fun with these. The carpets had little flowers on them and we would put the glitter paper in the middle of a flower – like a jewel in a lotus (OM Mani Padme Hung). Are you getting the subtle humor yet? There were several occasions where he pretended to be averse to my putting little pieces of lint and dirt on his “side” of the carpet – swiftly putting it back on my side. At one point I made a face with my mala (prayer beads) and ear plugs – which my friend promptly decided should be nose plugs – to much chuckling. Yes, there was a lot of laughter. For further description of my laughing spells, see the next entry (part 4).

Mani Drupchen Chronicles – Part Two

Buddha Shakyamuni with vase-strings (explained later)
Buddha Shakyamuni with vase-strings (explained later)

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By the following day, nearly fifty people were present to receive the empowerment. In my limited understanding, an empowerment is an initiation or sacred permission to do a specific practice, which a Tibetan lama, usually the retreat (vajra) master, bestows on a group of people. In this case, we received the Royal Lineage of Chenrezig empowerment, dating back to the first major Buddhist King of Tibet – Tsongsen Gampo, from the 8th century (I think this is accurate but please don’t quote me). Chenrezig is the Buddha of Compassion and Skillful Means and his mantra is OM MANI PADME HUNG HRI. Somehow this empowerment lasted nearly four hours. It ended and we had lunch – Indian food brought up the mountain from town. We had a couple of meetings to discuss the rules or conduct for the retreat and to answer our burning questions.  We also signed up for various jobs which we would be responsible for once the retreat got under way – like cooking, cleaning, tea water refreshing, bathroom duty, etc.  Then we “established our seats.”  This is a custom in Tibet, when they do this retreat, they do a little primer or short practice of what is to come.  That evening, we had the last free time we would enjoy for the next seven days.

On Sunday morning, at seven am we began the practice. There was a long prayer

Final day - TMC shrine room - Mandala dissolution
Final day – TMC shrine room – Mandala dissolution

we would recite several times a day, plus we would do dedication and opening prayers when appropriate, but for the most part, we chanted the mantra (see above) around the clock. Upon reflection, I realized that at this retreat, someone who was dedicated and desired to sit on their cushion as much as possible could have easily done so for 18 hours a day. Even those retreatants who were sick or wanted to take more frequent breaks still probably got 12 to 15 hours. This retreat was definitely intense, to say the least. There was a melody we chanted for the day time and then several variations at night. We were very blessed to have a Khenpo present from the main monastery in Tibet, Drikung Thil, as he led us through the chants and the prayers.  Khenpo Chophel that is. Actually, he was the Umze or Chant Master of Drikung Thil, so we were even more blessed to have those specific sacred melodies which have been handed down from Chant Master teacher to student for 800 years.

The typical schedule was as such: 6 to 6:30 am – everyone chanting then taking turns eating breakfast. 7:30 to 9:30 am Chanting then tea break. 10 am to noon chanting. For lunch one half of the room would go first and then switch. 1 to 3 pm and 3:30 to 5:30 pm opening prayers, chanting and closing prayers. At seven pm the “night practice” would start, with the lamas chanting separate prayers while we chanted the mantra. We rotated in three shifts – the first group chanted from 7 to 11:30 pm then slept, the second group chanted from 11 pm to 2:30 am and hopefully slept before and after their shift and the third group chanted from 2 to 6 am with the option to take a short nap after breakfast if needed.

Drupon Thinley Ningpo holds the sand from mandala
Drupon Thinley Ningpo holds the sand from mandala

We did this routine for six days straight. Can you imagine? There are many words to describe the zombie-like, euphoric, flowing rhythms which wove their way through the group. We were all sleep deprived, not the least of which the lamas – as they did so much. It turns out that they had to be present for specific prayers from 7 to 8:30 pm, from 11 to 11:30 pm and from 2 to 2:30 AM. Plus they were nearly always present during the daylight hours. So much for a full night’s rest! We are so blessed to be able to attend these precious teachers!

On a side note, the night shift reminded me a bit of my time in the military (I was in the Army Reserves for four years), in that we would take turns on fire duty or night watch.  Someone was always (supposed to be) vigilant.  In this context of a Buddhist retreat, I think the underlying motivation is drastically different.  But see my later posts for more on the military / Buddhism connection.

The Mani Drupchen Chronicles – Part One

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Had someone either informed me that I was about to spend seven days in a row, eating, sleeping and chanting in close proximity with fifty people, half of whom were complete strangers, and several of whom came down with serious colds, I might not have had this adventure (plus keep in mind what constant sniffling and sneezing might sound like when we have little sleep amongst a full shrine room – wow!). Or had I known that we would not be allowed, due to limited facilities, to take more than one shower every four days, and that the port-a-johns and the hand washing station next to them would freeze solid early on in the retreat, I would have said I was crazy to do it! As it was however, I attended the first Drikung Kagyu “Our Vast Noble Heart Mani Drubchen” retreat in North America. Actually, I did know what I was getting myself into ahead of time, but I felt a calling, a pull or more of a “you have to do this or else face bland monotony for the next six months!” to immerse myself in the vast waves of purification.

What was I about to embark on?

I left my beautiful, soon-to-bloom Christmas cactus with a friend, hopped on the road and picked up a Romanian, Tibetan Buddhist nun (ani) from Dulles airport. She was from California.  We had a pleasant conversation about her center, her experiences as an ordained person and a little about what I do. Like most ordained practitioners, she felt it would be advantageous for me to become ordained, but we did not have to agree on everything. Then we arrived at the TMC. The lamas had completed the sand mandala the day before, so it was in its golden curtain, in shimmering splendor. Seeing one for the first time, up close, was breathtaking. Somehow the colors were extraordinarily vivid and brilliant, the individual shapes and angles simple yet sharp and detailed. In what I assumed to be the typical Tibetan fashion, there were little ritual cakes called “tormas” around the mandala with water bowls and pictures of Buddhist deities on the sides and behind it. There were little pillars with faces or heads on their tops, facing outward in the four primary and four secondary directions. I figured they were guardians. What was most unusual was that the mandala itself had a gold curtain all the way around it, and later, once the retreat got rolling, the curtains were primarily closed for seven days, until the dissolution at the end.

TMC Shrine Room

I explored the shrine room, which housed the mandala and many cushions and chairs for retreatants to sit, with the giddy anticipation of a naïve child, not knowing what to expect yet excited to be apart of whatever I had gotten myself into. If anything, I had loftier expectations than were appropriate. I may have thought that a week of sitting, spending 17 hours a day chanting the same magical mantra over and over would produce miraculous results. Huh? I had heard one story about a 45 day Drubchen where the precious medicine pills which are blessed throughout the retreat miraculously spilled over the sides of the large bowl containing them, as they multiplied out of thin air. What a bummer it was when this did not seem to occur. None-the-less, I entered the tiny house where 30 of us would sleep each night. I said hello to the resident lama, the Khenpo, or abbot of the Tibetan Meditation Center. There were several other familiar faces by that point and I chatted briefly with them. However, I had been resting down and taking it easy for the past several days, purposefully preparing for what was to come. Therefore I had a little soup and stayed fairly quiet.

[As an aside, the picture of me above is from my Grandfather’s b-day party.  I was horsing around and, in his customary fashion, my little brother snapped a photo.  He likes to take pictures of people’s eyes – zoomed in real close.  Very zapchen-like of him.]

Thank you for visiting!

The Mani Drubchen 2008 Chronicles – Part 0

Chenrezig Mandala, TMC Winter Drubchen, Frederick, Md

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  Visit Kirby’s website at to purchase Spiritual Astrology interpretations and support Kirby’s blogging efforts.  Thank you!

The first “Our Vast Noble Heart Mani Drubchen” to be held in North America (in the same style as held at Drikung Til monastery in Tibet) was conducted over Winter Break at the Frederick Maryland Center.  I had the priviledge of being present for the entirety of this retreat. Above is the Sand Mandala from the retreat.  It was in a golden curtained section of the shrine room, hidden from view for the week long duration of the Drubchen.  Hope you enjoy and stay tuned!

In my opinion, the best Drubchen news will be included in Parts 3 and 4, so keep peeking back from time to time to catch it.

Part 1 – arriving, sand mandala / Part 2 – daily routine / Part 3 – losing our voice and the little things / Part 4 – lots of laughter! / Part 5 – other reactions, mysterious mandala / Part 6 – special on prayer wheels and lamas / Part 7 – further reflections

December 2008 update

pastels for my family (Xmas)
pastels for my family (Xmas)

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  Visit Kirby’s website to support his blogging efforts. Thank you!

Merry Christmas. Happy Chanuka. Have a great new year! The Tibetan new year is in late Feb – so you can celebrate New Year twice.

Well. Tis been some time since I last wrote. Lots of great news to post. The reason for my delay was that I was in the midst of final examinations. And, like most professional, I mean, college students, I put an exorbitant amount of energy into doing well. And guess what?…

I did! I got a 3.2 for this semester, which keeps my over gpa around a 3.2. Huh. That is good news. The next piece of good news is that I just played a part in a community play – it was great fun. I was the Dragon in St. George and the Dragon – kind of off the cuff and improv-ed.  It was juicy and delicious.  I may have put too much into my Dragon-ness, in spite of most people having fun and interacting with the audience.  I had on a huge Dragon-head and therefore no one knew who I was – as a result I was able to act and sound as menacing as possible, which, after maintaining a meditation practice of positively engaging my shadows, was pretty over the top.  Twas fun!

I am also excited about the upcoming Mani Drupchen. I leave on Friday and I will bid you all a Happy New Year, unless I manage to blog again before that. The retreat is full – there will be about 40 plus of us – all sleeping, practicing and eating together for nine days straight. Sounds fun eh?

Things are looking up for me (now that my head is out of the books) and I leave you with pictures of my artwork (and family members) from several years ago.

a little mandala
a little mandala

Can you spot the hidden Reiki symbols?  Hehe – just kidding.

For books that I recommend on Buddhist retreats and Reiki and more, visit or click the link to the right.  Thanks for reading!

Process Buddhism possibilities

Lotus in a monastery, Ladakh India
Lotus in a monastery, Ladakh India

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  Visit to purchase Spiritual Astrology interpretations and see how else you can support Kirby’s blogging efforts.  Thank you!

I am writing this to inform readers about further possibilities.  This piece includes an aspect of Process Buddhism.  Yet again, I need to mention that I have no expertise to discuss Process Buddhism.  It is an incredibly rich and complex subject which takes years to comprehend.  I am just attempting to share what tiny bit of knowledge I might possess on it.

Almost four years ago, I went to Virginia Beach to attend a few days of a retreat. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The retreat had elements of Buddhist meditation practice, playing with somatic exercises for well-being, learning a little Cranio Sacral therapy and being in good company. It was incredible to meditate on the beach, to the celestial sound of the sun rising over the crashing waves, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was among spiritual family.

Long story short, group members from this retreat decided to start a group in Charlottesville.  I was a member of this heart-filled gathering.  This was quite an eclectic / dynamic assortment of people, so I will attempt to describe parts of it, although a complete description is beyond words. It was a group that incorporated threads from each group member and it did not have a permanent leader designated (kind of egalitarian). It was an emotional support group which incorporated meditation, somatic exercises, movement, breath work, toning, art work, Indigenous American practices, Continuum pieces, Tibetan Buddhist practice, process-oriented bodywork yoga and more. It was very diverse and enriching.

Here is an example of our schedule: One evening we played with a Continuum piece – being and mimicking inner and outer elemental archetypes, moving and sounding and breathing fire / water / wind /earth plus we would have check-ins to see where each group member was at.  The next meeting we did several Zapchen exercises – definitely Process Buddhism in action.  Sometimes we had more traditional meetings where we discussed logistics or if something came up for someone we would work on that.

Revising this post, about a year after writing it, I am saddened to say this group has since dissolved its mandala.  However, I was blessed to be a part of it for three years.  And it was called the Gyu Ship Ship Tsogpa which roughly translates to “A Tantric Continuum Group.”  May all sentient beings (and myself) discover a support group where they can hold others and be held in good company.

Intro to Process Buddhism

Maitreya Buddha statue, Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh India
Maitreya Buddha statue, Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh India

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  Please visit to purchase astrology interpretations and support Kirby’s blogging efforts!

<revised on 2/2/10>  I have no expertise to be mentioning or introducing this potent topic.  However, because I wrote about it over a year ago, I feel it might be good to tell my readers what little I know about the subject.  So this post is about what little I know of Process Buddhism.

Well, I’ll attempt to tell you.  One of my main bodywork teachers, who teaches Cranio Sacral classes, along with offering mediation, meditation and peace building workshops asked her main Tibetan lama (teacher), Khenchen Rinpoche, Konchog Gyaltsen what she should call her body of work.  Because it is quite a mouthful to try to tell people all that she offered.  He responded, unequivocally and immediately with, “Process Buddhism.”

As far as my limited knowledge, and this is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the ingredients which go into the practice of Process Buddhism – having gone through a series of quality, grounded healing facilitation sessions over a long period of time – say anywhere from five to twenty years; maintaining a consistent, grounded spiritual practice (which leads to the opening of a heart filled with vast loving kindness – willing to touch and be touched which also can take many years); learning a grounded healing facilitation modality (plus daily sincere spiritual practice) – psychotherapy, bodywork, mediation, counseling, meditation, peace building, advanced therapeutic techniques (EMDR or DNMS, etc), sounding / movement / breath work techniques (yoga, Continuum Movement, Zapchen for instance); and being open to and hungry for positive change.

Through Process Buddhism, if you want to, if you are ready and if you do not mind some discomfort at times, amazing insights and awareness can be gained relatively quickly (there are techniques for accelerated work – which I have only touched the surface of).  [Disclaimer – discomfort is not a good thing – if you have a qualified teacher / therapist to lead you through the process, then some rare discomfort, as in growing pains, might be okay.  I only recommend discomfort if you have a qualified teacher.  Otherwise be gentle, go slow, practice kindness to self.  Move in the direction of ease.  Do what brings you joy.  PERIOD.  :-)]

Next, I will write about the many possibilities which come from blending modalities as it were.  And I just want to state again, that without a fully qualified teacher / professional counselor / grounded, spiritual path, I would not recommend doing any of the above on your own.  And I am not a qualified teacher, having only several years on the Tibetan Buddhist path, I am still struggling with many inner conflicts and afflictions.

Happy Turkey Day

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Happy Holiday! Khenpo Tsultrim of the Tibetan Meditation Center recommends that we do as many ladakh-summer-2008-104OM MANI PADME HUNG mantras during this week.  Then dedicate the merit for all sentient beings, especially the turkeys.

If you have not seen my photos from Ladakh yet, they are in upcoming posts! Look ahead 🙂

This is a Green Tara picture taken from my summer trip to Ladakh India – our “center” in Charlottesville does not quite have the extra wall space for a painting of this elegance.  The Drikung Kagyu Ratnashri Sangha of Charlottesville does a discussion group on alternating Sunday evenings.  To learn more, leave a comment here on my blog and I will email you back.

For book recommendations on Tibetan Buddhism, visit my aStore at or click the link to the right.  Proceeds support blogging and Dharma activities.

As promised – about the Zendo and Autumn in C’ville

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

Dear Readers,

Maple Leaf at Zendo
Maple Leaf at Zendo

Here are pictures of fall around Charlottesville – the University of Virginia continues to be a beautiful vista – waves of burnt sienna, oranges and blazing maples.  In fact, the maple right outside my house had leaves that represented the entire spectrum of the autumnal rainbow – in each individual leaf!  So it is good to be walking around town and taking it all in, along with the crisp blue sky.

Also, as mentioned below.  Here are a couple of pictures of the Blue Ridge Zen Group Zendo – which I just happen to live above.  The Abbott – Bill Stephens is an ordained Zen priest (see picture) who is probably one of the best landlords period!  I have been very blessed.  They meet some evenings during the week and Sunday mornings.  You can visit their website – see the link to the right —>

Abbott of BR Zen Group
Abbott of BR Zen Group

Om Mani Padme Hung Hri!

Cushions in a row in Zendo
Cushions in a row in Zendo

Have a great day.


For book recommendations on Zen Buddhism and more, visit my aStore at or see the link on the right.  The proceeds support my blogging and Dharma activities.

Nassim Haramein: A Physicist Comedian? A genius…

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.  If you want to support Kirby’s blogging efforts, please visit  He offers Spiritual Astrology interpretations and Process Oriented Bodywork.

Last night, I attended the presentation by Nassim Haramein, a physicist currently causing quite a stir among a number of intellectual communities – science / physics, new age, pseudo-science and others.  I felt his “show” was well planned, entertaining, straight-forward in concepts and evidence and overall I believe he might be on to something.  However, I did have several reservations and I am not a physicist.  If one considers psychology to be a science, then I can say I am a budding scientist and analyze his presentation with that empirical eye.

Can consciousness take a mightly leap, rapidly?
Can consciousness take a mightly leap, rapidly?

you can check out his site at

In regards to his formulas and scientific evidence, I thought he presented a good case.  He was funny and he mentioned some big names in the scientific field.  He also promoted his desire to keep the science tangible and practical, as opposed to going into more abstract, quantum theories.  However, when he started discussing spontaneous shifts in consciousness and “leaps”, I got suspicious pretty quickly.  As a practicing Buddhist, I believe that suffering or dukkha (dissatisfaction) will always exist until we gain a clear realization of the mind’s true nature, and to say that the world will simply shift to a higher consciousness without discussing the personal growth work which that requires, is something I have yet to experience or see, although I might not rule it out completely.  Also, when he mentioned the possibility of infinite, easy energy and then went on further to say that shifting to a frequency which might allow light travel, I had strong reservations.  I have studied a little bit of Nikola Tesla’s work and when Tesla wanted to provide free, easy power to parts of the US, J.P. Morgan said “where do we put the meter?”  In other words, the aristocratic (dog eat dog) elements of consciousness and the world will have to be faced and overcome before this world will have a Pangaea-ic ideal as the status quo.

Overall, I look forward to following his work and I hope that we humans can open our hearts and minds to the possibilities he mentions.  I was happy to have attended his presentation.  However, until I encounter evidence on the contrary, I am going to continue my Buddhist practice – gradual, bit-by-bit, slow and continual growth toward lasting happiness.

For books that I recommend, including books on personal growth work and more, visit or click on the link to the right —–> to support my blogging and Dharma activities.  Thanks for reading!