Chudlen: The tibetan art of silence – rejuvenation fasting retreat

by Elise Mandine

How to silence your mind ? Depending on your typology, age, and state of mind, it could be very well as simple as silencing your intestines and stomach!

After experiencing a 7 day retreat of tibetan fasting “Chudlen“, including vegetable juices, broths, breathing technics, meditation sessions, Nejang Yoga sessions and external therapies such as Ku Nye massage, Hor me, me bum and so on … this is the feeling that lingers on : silence and peace.

Here is a simple feedback after our very first 7 days Chudlen retreat according to Dr Nida Chenagtsang‘s instructions and inspired by Dr Anastasja Holecko‘s program….

Dr Nida often says that we talk too much, we eat too much, especially in the West, and we think too much … So we are in excess in many ways. Therefore the antidote should be to: do less, eat less, think less … and sleep & relax more!

Following this line, we organised the Chudlen Retreat. It was in South of France, begining of July.

Cutting the attachement to food was a gradual process: first you start by reducing solid food and take only liquid food – juices and broth. Then to clean up the colon from the residuals, and reduce rlung reactions, we used a very gentle and agreable oilation of the colon with warm sesame oil. Although most people were reluctant to do this (maybe it’s a french thing!), they all agreed that it was very nice and easy to do, and they could feel the calming effect immediatly.

Photo, courtesy of Jangbu 2014©
Photo, courtesy of Jangbu 2014©

Once the intestinal tubes are clean, let’s take a look at the energy channels, the 3 precious tubes : Ratna, Jache and Buguchen. With a strong tsa nye , work on channels with hands, shells, yuk chö (sticks), me bum (shells) … and visualisation, the rivers of energy can flow freely in the body.

Then, you can let your mind enter the dimension of the vastness of the ocean, the strength of the mountain and the brightness of the sunlight … that is to say: your meditation with breathing, posture, visualisation and mantra.

When the silence is there, the chance of hearing the essential is bigger. It’s like emptying your house: you feel more at ease, and free.

For this retreat, the participants and me had the same food i.e. local organic beautiful vegetable juices (from a juicer, that means without the fibers) and tibetan soups in the evening.

Our days were peaceful, with a regular rythm :

  • wake up around 8 am
  • prepare the morning tisanes
  • around 8.30 am : the 9 purification breathings, Medecine Buddha meditation, and Nejang Yoga
  • around 11.30 am : prepare the vegetable juices, keeping the combinations quite simple, and always yummy !
  • around noon : taste and enjoy the vegetable juices at last! Then a warm tisane (this was always available any time of the day)
  • around 1.00 pm : the afternoon break with a good long nap for participants (sometimes up to 2 hours) and i was having a shorter one, depending on the shopping left to do.
  • around 4 pm : there was the afternoon snack (avocado cream with spices) and the preparation of the evening soup that needed to stew some hours. The soup was this typical rlung broth with bones from local cows or chicken wings, vegetables, and spices.
  • around 5 pm: one participant could receive a 1h treatment. Others would go for a walk in the fields.

Every participant had one treatment every second day. So sometimes I could do 2 treatments in one day, which was perfectly fine.

As we were a very little group, we could be flexible and inventive on the daily activities: for example, on the second day we did a hor me workshop and everyone could feel the power of hor me!! Most of them were knocked out, and had their best night ever!

Photo, courtesy of Jangbu 2014©
Photo, courtesy of Jangbu 2014©

Another day we did an introduction to the basic principles of Sowa Rigpa. The participants were handed the chudlen “manual” and they had time to read it carefully and ask questions.

I always explained the spices we used and the medical use of each ingredient from a TTM point of view. We were very careful about the rlung energy. The treatments, the food, and the behaviour were all aiming at calming down the rlung and rebalancing me drod, the digestive fire energy.

We experienced only 24h of “no-speaking“, but the rest of the time was quiet anway. Mobile phones were difficult to use because we were on the “wrong side” side of the valley without satellite cover 🙂 And internet use was also reduced!

As the days passed, we were sleeping longer time, with a better quality and deeper sleep, sometimes with interesting dreams. The energy was good during the day. It was a real resting time, a pause to restore and rebalance our energies.

After a week like this, the mind had entered such a peaceful and clean state! It felt like we were filled up with silence, light and peace. And this feeling stayed for a long time afterwards, like a refuge for the mind.

The long term-effects were good: the participants were healthier, and they continued to loose weight keeping a specific diet adapted to their own typology and life-style.

Some recepies :

  • Evening broth : 1/2 onion, 1/2 pumkin, 1 courget, 5 carots, 2 bones of cow with bone marrow.
    Further: Salt, garlic, ginger, clove, pepper, chili, nutmeg, parsley and seaweed at the end.
  • Juices in general were based on carrots, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, watermelon (with the green skin to keep all minerals), ginger and curcuma roots, lemon with the skin, basilic, parsley, etc. … we tried all combinations:
    • Juice 1: tomatoes (a lot), pepperoni, carots, celery, basilic (a lot), lemon, ginger, mint leaves, turmeric (small amount), parsley (small amount),
    • Juice 2: cucumber, watermelon with the skin, carots, zuccini (courgets), celery, parsley, basilic, lime, a little ginger.
  • Afternoon snack: our beloved avocado cream! Which consists in an avocado purée, chili, seaweed, coconut cream, & lemon.
  • Any-time tisane: home-made cashew-nut milk and spices.  Boil the water, add up 1 tea spoon of cashew nut cream (or use the home-made cashew-nut milk) , add raw sugar, stop the fire and add: green cardamome, black cardamome, clove, ginger, lime skin and let it infuse for 10 minutes.
  • Morning warrior tisane: fresh ginger, fresh curcuma, lemon, honey/raw sugar in boiling spring water.
  • Morning tisane: ginger, cardamome, clove and nutmeg in a light cashewnut milk with honey or raw sugar

All these receipies were adapted to our situation: according to the person’s reactions, tastes, according to the season, climate (it was changing: we had extremely hot weather for 2 days, then quite cold for another 2 days … etc), according to the local food available … So when you do your own, it will be different.

So good luck and enjoy the silence !