Deepen Your Practice at Casa Werma
We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Going to programs at Casa Werma, for me, is like renewing the refuge vows. For the last 3 years I have been attending the Mahamudra programs with Acharya Richard John. Each year the experience is different. This last year I stayed on for the Ngondro and Werma group practices with Acharyas Ferguson and Hayashi.
The first year, I really came in contact with the Buddha as embodied by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I knew he had written the Werma Sadana at the table on the patio but I was not expecting to feel his presence. For me he filled the whole house and even the city of Patzcuaro. I could imagine him finding the yun in all the handicrafts sold in the stores. I could feel him delighting in the garden around the house and even enjoying the elementary school band practicing.
The second year, the Mahamudra program was shortly after the Sakyong had visited Casa Werma. His father was still present but I could now feel the Sakyong’s energy permeating the environment. The Sakyong wrote the addendum to the Shambhala Sadana while he was at Casa Werma. This time as I walked around Patzcuaro, I was observing the people, the society, noting its goodness. I spent a lot of time in the market watching the vendors setting up their food stands. For me the whole process was like a spontaneous dance with people helping each other.
This year Casa Werma felt as if I were visiting with old friends not only the Dorje Dradul and the Sakyong but also the city itself. As part of the group practice we went to Tzintzuntzan to visit the pyramids. We did a Lhasang in the area where both the Dorje Dradul and the Sakyong had performed Lhasangs. I had been to the pyramids on another trip but suddenly the site became imbued with sacred energy. We did a Shambhala meditatio. When I came to touching, I felt the presence of the Purepecha who had made the pyramids.
Coming to Casa Werma gives you an opportunity to connect with our lineage holders. This was particularly important since I had only read Chogyam Trungpa’s books. Now I felt as if I had met him in person. I was lucky enough to have a 2 minute interview with the Sakyong at the 2003 Kalapa Assembly so it was nice to reconnect with him at Casa Werma.
Now we come to Dharma. Part of the teachings are non-verbal and non-conceptual. This is where being in a small group all day with an Acharya is so wonderful. It’s not as if the Acharya is talking to you all the time or even paying any attention to you but his/her presence brings something extra. At the big programs we have a group of Acharyas present but some how I find their energy diluted.
Lastly, but not the least important is the Sangha. Since we are usually fewer than 20 participants in the program, I get to know more people in our community. Although we are silent a lot of the time since we are all practicing, a closeness develops among us. We can float through meal prep and clean up with very little talking, a little taste of enlightened society. The discussions are also a source of learning. Other practictioners sharing their insights is such a help to me.
In summary, with each program I gain in devotion to the lineage, understanding of the dharma and appreciation of the sangha.
I have always spent a few extra days in the area. Michoacan is a craft center. Casa Werma or your hotel can help you find guides to take you to some of the craft towns. The best potters in Tzintzuntzan do not sell in the open market so having a guide who knows the artists personally is worthwhile. Small remote towns like Ocumicho where they make the devil masks and figurines has no public market. The guides will know where the artists live. If you come in late February or early March you can go to see the Monarch butterflies. It will take 4 hours to get to the preserve but mountains, the oyamels, the fir trees, where the butterflies live for the winter are magnificent. Morelia the largest city is an interesting contrast with Patzcauro because it was a city the Spaniards built to get away from the Indians in Patzcauro. If you want to exorcise demons you go to Cheran to work with a shaman. If you come just before Holy Week, consider staying. All the craftsmen for the region come to either Patzcauro or Uruapan.
If you cannot arrange to come to a program, you can make a pilgrimage to Casa Werma. The co-directors, Ryn Armstrong and Kai Fulker will give you a warm and gracious welcome to the bed and breakfast side of Casa Werma. You can make your pilgrimage into a retreat, although it is not solitary. If you have a group of friends who want to do a self directed group practice, that too is possible.
Ending on a practical note, Patzcuaro is safe. I have even gone to Cheran which is where there vigilante movement started. All was calm. Morelia and Uruapan are also safe. The weather is cool because Patzcauro is at around 7,000 feet. Mornings and evenings a warm jacket feels good.