To refresh and deepen our understanding of Ngöndro, to advance in our accumulations, to strengthen our connection to Dharma and Our Teachers; these were the aims of these few days of happiness with Dungsey Lhuntrul Dechen Gyurmey Rinpoche and Lama Kunam.

How many of us have said, “Huh Ngöndro again? But I have already received a transmission, followed a retreat … I have been all around the subject … After all I’ve almost finished the prostrations, the hardest part. What more could I learn?” To the point that some students decided not to come.

Too Bad! This retreat was a new gateway to the profound nature of the Taksham Ngöndro, a breath of clarification, accompanied by individual accumulations and group practice. It was an opportunity of intensive work for those who wished and also an opportune occasion for Dungsey Lhuntrul Rinpoche to remind us each morning about the importance of listening to teachings with the right motivation, to turn our mind towards Dharma for the benefit of others and to never forget the power of devotion and trust in Our Masters and the Dharma. Those who already know Lhuntrul Rinpoche re-encountered with joy the strength of his presence, his simplicity and his spontaneity. In the afternoon there was time for questions with Lama Kunam, Dorje Lopon Kunzang Namgyal, who dazzled us all and Marcus, who translated the transmissions and the question and answer sessions from Tibetan to English. Without him, we wouldn‘t have had access to the subtleties of the Taksham Ngöndro transmitted by Lhuntrul Rinpoche, nor to the brilliant answers, erudite and yet so clear from Lama Kunam. On December 31st, we ended the year with a light offering for world peace. Lhuntrul Rinpoche lit the first candle from which all others lit theirs.

The snow fell heavily just before our arrival, transfiguring everything. Prayer flags were found frozen in acrobatic positions by the accumulation of snowflakes and the cold. The thickness of our beautiful bodhi leaf was multiplied tenfold and our little Buddha statue turned into a Russian Tsar with a large collar and a fur hat of snow! Tables and benches on which we take our meals or a coffee just lazing under the sun in the summer were also transformed. Now no-one had any desire to even approach them. But the beauty and magic of the surroundings of our retreat also had their downside as it was necessary to remove the snow daily so that we could have a path on which we could put our feet. The most courageous trudged through once or twice a day with the thick white layer being renewed again and again, slowing our movements. And a big job it was. Only the horses and sheep continued to spend their days outside, unperturbed. The horses used their ‘shoes’ to scrape away the snow to reveal the grass underneath and the sheep who are naturally well-equipped against the cold, seemed totally unaware of the change in temperature.

Our retreat ended in meditation with a Guru Rinpoche Tsok which included the traditional festive party. There was singing from West Side Story, Michael Jackson, a Reggae rather revisited, Bella Ciao and Viva Liberta in Italian plus a song in Tibetan with singers from Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Russia. The atmosphere really warmed up as all the students began to sway on their cushions in time to the rhythms, taking each other by the shoulders and joining in the singing. Lhuntrul Rinpoche was delighted, even taking photos of the singers. That’s it; it’s all over and the first departures quickly began. Newcomers attending the retreat for the first time were a bit under shock. One of them with his eyes filled with tears kept repeating, “I’m happy, I’m happy.”