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Interview with Valerie Lobsang-Gattini by Meditation France - Tibetan Yogas, Tibetan Energetics

Interview with Valerie Lobsang-Gattini - July August 2017

Long a secret, the teaching of Tibetan yogas is finally being offered to Westerners.

This ancient discipline of Asian movement, Lu Jong, Tibetan therapeutic yoga, releases physical, emotional and energetic tensions, and restores balance by acting on the subtle body. We were able to interview Valerie Lobsang-Gattini who teaches Tibetan Yogas and Meditation.

What is Tibetan Energetics or Tibetan Yoga?

It is the yogas practiced in the Tibetan system. These practices are not only practices on the body, dissociated from the whole formed by the Tibetan system. We are in a context of holistic therapy taking into account the individual as a whole, body, mind. In the practice of Tibetan yogas, we use the gross (physical) body to act on the subtle (energetic) body, without cutting ourselves off from the mental and spiritual aspects of Buddhism. These practices are listed in the Vinaya, which groups together all the practices of the monastic community and also uses the foundations of Bön practices with regard to the 5 elements.

Can you tell us about Tulku Lobsang who I believe was one of your teachers/masters?

I am rhymed, which means that I follow several masters from different Tibetan schools. Personally, I follow the Bön teachings of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, the Bön being the source of all Tibetan traditions. I teach Kum Nye meditation and yoga, under the lineage of Tarthang Tulku in the Nyingmapa tradition, who is an extraordinary scholar leading us to understand and perceive the relationships between ourselves, happiness, time and space. And I teach Lu Jong and Tog Chöd under the lineage of Tulku Lobsang. Tulku Lobsang is a young master, the 8th reincarnation of Tulku Nyentse. Tulku Nyentse's first reincarnation was as abbot of Gaden Monastery near Lassa. In his fifth reincarnation, he was a very great yogi known for his magical abilities. Today, Tulku Lobsang is a Buddhist master who received the Bön teachings as a child and then studied the Gelugpa teachings and the secret Jonang traditions of Kalachakra and Mahamudra. It was predicted during his childhood that he would travel a lot and today Tulku Lobsang's particularity is to have brought Tibetan yogic practices to the West. In 2000 he began giving teachings and lectures on Tibetan medicine, Buddhism and astrology. In 2002, he established the Nangten Menlang Buddhist Medical Centre and began teaching and training Western teachers and educators.

In contact with Westerners, Tulku Lobsang decided to adapt the therapeutic movements of Lu Jong, which are practiced in the various Tibetan schools and include more than a hundred movements. He has thus developed an energy wave composed of 23 key movements that allow to work on both the body and the mind. A practice that takes about 45 minutes to do every morning to feel the benefits in our lives.

But bringing this to life was a challenge because according to tradition, all Tibetan yogic practices have always been taught in secret and never to lay people. In December 2013, in a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tulku Lobsang presented all the teachings he had developed to Westerners: Lu Jong, Tog Chod, Tummo, Tsa Lung, Gang Gyok, Mindfulness, Dream and Sleep Yoga, .... During this audience, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked Tulku Lobsang to bring the practice of Lu Jong to the Tibetan people, thus giving his historic approval for a public teaching. This validation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama was a significant step forward.

In 2015, Tulku Lobsang gave 23 teachings throughout India, from Delhi to Dharamsala, from Mundgod to Bylakuppe. He taught in 11 Tibetan schools in the Tibetan Children Village. He brought the teaching of Lu Jong to the Shugseb, Jamyang Choeling and Dolma Ling Nunneries. He continued to spread this teaching in the monasteries of Gaden Shartse in South India, Drepung Loseling, and also at the Norbulinka Institute, Gyuto Tantric Monastery and Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama's temple in Dharamsala. He also taught the benefits of Lu Jong and Tsalung to medical students at the Men Tse Khang College. Tens of thousands of children, students, lay adults, nuns and monks have been able to discover and benefit from the teaching of Lu Jong.

This explains why Tulku Lobsang plays a major role in the propagation of these yogic practices in the West and now also among the Tibetan people. Indeed, formerly reserved for yogic practitioners, these simplified approaches allow everyone to enter into an inner balance, combining modern life and ancestral therapeutic practice, to develop a stable equilibrium allowing us to evacuate stress and live the tensions of life with flexibility.

You organise courses and trips on Tibetan yoga, you have contributed a lot to the diffusion of Tibetan culture, what has touched you about the Tibetans?

They are a people who have an extraordinary knowledge that allows everyone to be happy. When I say happy, I am not talking about a happiness derived from a permanent search for external activities to fill our inner dissatisfactions. Our societies, totally influenced and manipulated by a consumerist system, make us believe that the multiplicity of leisure activities and consumer goods creates happiness. The result, after several decades of this approach, is that stress and burnout are the diseases of the 21st century. Our excessive material spending has pushed humanity into a material dependency leading us to realise that we will soon have exhausted all our resources if we do not change our lifestyles.

Pollution in all its forms is spreading to every corner of our planet, and we will soon face new challenges to restore the balance. We can only observe that the dehumanisation of cities has created more and more violence and that people are increasingly closed in on themselves when they are not in the context of family, friends or professional circles.

Tibetans went through extreme emotional hardship as a result of the Chinese invasion in 1959 and 60 years later, expulsions and destruction of monasteries like Larung Gur still take place, families are separated often for life as many still send their young people into exile to offer them the opportunity to approach the spiritual teachings of their origins, immolations take place regularly.

And yet, one only has to go and meet the Tibetans to understand that they are happy. They are happy because the Tibetan spiritual teaching is about transforming ourselves internally to reconnect with our inner being, our "Nagkpa", the luminous being, our inner nature. When we no longer function on doing but on being, when we integrate feeling, when we learn to detach ourselves from the illusory nature of our mental patterns, when we move away from functioning solely in the energies of the head, thoughts and emotions, we discover that we can function through the energies of the heart. Compassion and equanimity emerge, wholeness sets in. We no longer need to run around in search of external and ephemeral satisfactions, for joy is the nature of our inner being. We are then relaxed, happy, and joyful, and we can go through all of life's events and especially the negative ones with a stable and joyful wisdom.

Your Tibetan Yogas practice centre is located near Chamonix, close to the Mont Blanc massif, is it a "plus" to be in altitude?

The plus is to be as close as possible to nature. The foundation of the Tibetan system is based on the 5 elements: space, wind, fire, water and earth. The 5 elements are present in the entire physical universe. They constitute everything and are classified under 3 types. The external elements which are found in the form of soil with the earth, water with rivers, lakes and oceans, air with winds, fire with volcanic activities. Everything is made up of the 5 elements, whether it is flowers, trees, rocks, or living beings. The inner elements are those which constitute our body and we find them in the bones, the skin, the flesh, the organs,... But the 5 elements are not only related to physical aspects. The secret elements relate to our emotions, to our mental states and aspects of our spirit.

Each element is related to a specific energy, and the 5 elements are also related to the 6th element which is time, which connects us to change and causality. The qualities of the external elements are different at different times of the year, depending on the position of the stars, depending on the time of day, and therefore will influence the quality of our practice in terms of the subtle winds.

These practices therefore integrate physical movements acting on the internal and secret elements, combined with meditative practices related to the elements to enable us to balance the elements with each other and thus establish balance in our bodies and minds.

In the same way, we learn to understand and feel the qualities of the elements in the time and space in which we live, allowing us to balance our internal rhythms with the rhythms of nature and to see the synchronicity of this balance.

It is therefore important to be as close as possible to nature, to establish this link with it and with the whole universe in order to establish balance within ourselves. The mountains have the particularity of offering a direct contact with the elements, with the particularity of being very much in touch with the changes of the seasons which are more pronounced, of being able to connect with the stability offered by the energies of the Earth, very powerful energies that the mountains offer us, and of being in touch with the element of Space.

I also saw that you meditated at 3842 m.... facing Mont Blanc during a retreat in late 2016...that must be something! What was your experience?

Yes, we meditated at 3842 m but in my opinion it was not the best place in terms of quality because the terraces of the Aiguille du Midi are still quite crowded, and although we are at the highest point, we are in an "unnatural" environment.

Personally I prefer the many other places where we go to practice Tibetan yogas and meditate such as the Eagle's Nest, located at 2500 m of altitude. We go there with the Mont Blanc cogwheel tramway, and almost every time we have the opportunity to practice or meditate with the ibex!

Or the Lac Vert, situated at 1300 m of altitude, offering us extraordinary practice rooms, or the Emosson dam that we reach by taking the steepest funicular in Europe.

As you will have understood, my particularity is to bring people to practice every day close to nature. This helps them to go deeper into themselves and to better establish the link with the elements, especially the Earth element, which is essential if we want to move towards the Space element.

How do you understand this state of no-self and emptiness that the Tibetan masters talk about?

We are all made up of a body, a mind, and we all live in connection with our thoughts and emotions. Everything we do, everything we feel, everything we say, everything we think, is in fact filtered by illusory veils. Veils coloured by our thoughts and emotions. The aim of the teachings is therefore to bring us to understand that when we free ourselves from our thoughts and emotions, another reality emerges. This other reality is our deep and real nature. It is wisdom because it is part of the whole. The whole of life, the universe, knowledge, time.

Our ignorance is due to our belief in an independent self; we are in a permanent search to satisfy our expectations, turned towards the future, and thus plunged into attachment; in the same way, we are in a permanent search to flee our fears, anchored in the past, and thus plunged into anger. In simple terms, everything good that happens to us generates attachment, everything we lose generates anger. Our minds are therefore constantly racing between past and future.

By learning to live in the present moment, we are able to lessen our seizures. Calmness sets in. Calm is the path to wisdom. In calmness, we can then, by refining our perceptions through specific techniques, gently get in touch with our luminous being, our Nakpa. Our bodies are not just matter, but energy. Hence the famous "feel it" repeated tirelessly by the masters. Feel it! Feel it! This is how we can move towards a new perception of ourselves. Slowly we move from the perception of the Lu, our physical body, to the Kum, our energy body. We will then be able to feel Bliss and Emptiness, which are not concepts to be intellectualised but feelings. We say "realizing emptiness" and not "understanding emptiness" because there is nothing to understand, there is only to be in this path. Similarly, bliss is a process of feeling and not of intellectualisation. The union of emptiness and bliss, or the union of wisdom and method, is the realisation of the clear light, which is the experience of awakening.

This process is achieved through years of practice in which the yogi works on the channels, subtle drops and winds. The realisations of emptiness and ease are the manifestations of the dissolutions of the drops and winds in the central channel. When these realisations are accessed, our concept of the independent self is no longer, our concept of the I, the self, then becomes dependent on the subtle body, and dependent on the state of emptiness, bliss, clear light, a state that is space, clarity, luminosity, vibration, love, that is us without being us, that is everything without being everything, thus connecting us to the fact that we are in reality one energy.

In the Tibetan yogic practices taught in the West, we work with the channels, the winds, to begin the very beginning of this awareness of the energy body. We are laying the foundation for us to move on to higher tantras.

I am not a Buddha, I am not a Tibetan master, these explanations are only the reflection of my understanding at this day, at this moment... it evolves permanently, corrects itself, adjusts itself, progresses...

You are a woman and the mother of three children, is there anything that you think is different in meditation practice or in the way you approach life in general and Tibetan Energetics in particular?

I don't think there is any difference between a man and a woman in meditation practice. Of course, women are more connected to the elements Water and Wind and the heart energy centre, whereas men are more connected to the elements Earth and Fire and the navel energy centre. This will therefore pose mental and emotional predispositions due to the qualities of the elements. But ultimately the work of the yogi or yogini will be the same. We all seek to dissolve the winds in the central channel, the goal is the same, there will be slight differences in the method, but we are going to the same place. Everyone will have to balance the 5 elements, even if we start from different bases. There have been exceptional Tibetan yoginis such as Yeshe Tsogyal who realised the rainbow body when she left this world as a sign of ultimate realisation, Machik Labdrön who was the founder of Chöd practice, and nowadays many yoginis are giving magnificent teachings, such as Jetsuma Tenzin Palmo who meditated for 12 years in retreat, including 3 years of restrictive retreat in a Himalayan cave, Pema Khandro, and many others. ..

Do I need to have a certain amount of experience to come to the various courses and retreats or is it also open to beginners?

There is no need for experience in anything. Often people contact me saying "I've done 10 years of yoga, I do Pilate, I do this, I do that...". We work on the mind through the body. So we just need a body, whatever it is. It doesn't matter if it's rigid, if it's too heavy or too strong, if it's old or whatever. The practices are done with the emphasis on attention. The breath. The feelings. These are the first steps. We never talk about flexibility, strength, alignment. These words are not part of the practice. We talk about feelings, sensations, energy, channels, subtle or very subtle mind or body, and of course breath and retentions. A baby feels, a person in bed and at the end of life feels, a person in a wheelchair feels. It doesn't matter where we lower our head when we lean forward. Most of the movements can be done on a chair and focus on movements of the spine, sometimes very subtle, because this is where future illnesses will show up...

You also offer online courses through a video-conference system, what is it about?

Yes, that's right. The Kum Nye meditation and yoga I mentioned earlier is a very meditative practice in which many of today's techniques have their source (sophrology, mindfulness, etc.). The mother posture, which is the meditation posture, is the basis of the practice to which we add tools such as postures and movements. Very few in a session, the movements are carried out in a very slow way, and the entire practice takes place in the mind, in full awareness with the feelings and the breath. In this very subtle practice, which takes place over several years, we never correct the physical body. The classes are delivered in a guided and progressive verbal form, a form of guided meditation including movements and theory of about 10 to 15 minutes takes place at the beginning of each session as we work in a general process of transformation which requires knowledge.

Each week, several sessions are proposed, and each week brings a new element that will be added to the previous one. We build a kind of upside down pyramid. Mindfulness is an accumulation of mindfulness, this osmosis of multiple mindfulnesses forming the balance. It is therefore important to be regular and I always invite everyone to participate in 3 sessions each week.

The courses are held online through a video-conference room where participants connect. They practice from the comfort of their living room or bedroom, without having to make a one-hour round trip to a practice room. Classes are offered at different times of the day. The first group of participants started in autumn 2016 and will continue to evolve in 2017 through the different levels of Kum Nyé. A new curriculum will be offered for new participants. At the moment, 2 slots are offered from 6am to 7am and as these are the most frequented slots, I plan to offer 3 to 4 slots from 6am to 7am from the beginning of the school year.

Vision-conferencing is still very new in France, but frankly, once you've had a taste of it, you don't want to miss it...

What are the main upcoming trips?

I offer a lot of courses in France, especially in the Mont Blanc region where Energétique Tibétaine, the centre for Tibetan yogic practices, is based, but also retreats in other regions, such as a retreat in Aulus-les-Bains in the Ariège region next autumn.

Having travelled a lot, I also bring people directly to the practice. Through a festival, an event, a place, a meeting, I bring people to connect the practice with the beings who created it. The goal is to create meaning, to bring a global understanding of who we are and where we are going, while allowing everyone to integrate respect for the lineage of yogis who have kept these traditions intact to this day.

In December, we will follow in the footsteps of Tibetan yogis who came to meditate in Bhutan, and we will meet the amazing floating statue of one of the founders of Lu Jong. In January, we will immerse ourselves in the Indian Himalayas in the practice of Tog Chöd, a meditation in action that leads to the mind of emptiness, and Lu Jong, which leads to the body of Bliss. During the spring of 2018, we will first travel to the north of India in the footsteps of Tibetan yogis and to a dozen monasteries, each one as amazing as the next. A month later, we will go to Tibet where we will visit Lhasa from top to bottom before going west to Kailash for Saka Dawa. We will attend the raising of the prayer mat and then perform the kora around Mount Kailash with the many pilgrims who have come for the occasion. With the summer coming, we will go to Laddakh and more particularly to the Tibetan plateau of Chanthang to immerse ourselves in the life of the nomads and celebrate with them the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Travelling is an excellent opportunity to learn the full range of Lu Jong movements so that when you return home you can continue the practice and continue the journey in a more spiritual way...


--> Teacher training is given from 1 person upward. Kathy is in Lu Jong 1 teacher training ending in July. Aurore and Mickael are in training until January. It is possible to join or start a new training course from 1 person, Info here.
--> Johnathan returns to do the last course of Tog Chöd training in Chamonix at the end of June 2024. Venerable Oser is starting the Tog Chöd teacher training with the first face-to-face course in June in Chamonix and is already getting the hang of it with the theory through access to the online extranet. You can still join this training. The next training of Top Chod will perhaps start in June 2027 (or perhaps 2025 or 2026), to be continued...

--> A Tog ChOd discovery weekend is offered to everyone at the end of June! Info here

-->  We will be in Thailand in May and June and can offer discovery sessions or modules B of Lu Jong and Tog Chöd teacher training in French and English: in Chamonix from the end of June to the end of September, in Tenerife in October, in Nepal at the beginning of November 2024, in Thailand in November and December, and on Reunion Island in January 2025. And last minute... the Kora Kailash trip will take place in mid 2026 (the previous one was in 2018.. .), but will be reserved for former students or former participants of at least one trip with us! so if you would like to organize a retreat or training at these locations, contact us!

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