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Introduction to Back to Beginnings & Tara Rokpa Therapy

Updated: Mar 21



The Tara Rokpa Method


The Tara Rokpa method seeks to build a bridge between eastern and western traditions across time and space. A deep exploration of limitless compassion as the key agent of healing remains as the basis throughout.

It is based on the principle that the human mind carries its own dignity and healing capacity which can never be permanently damaged or destroyed.

It is an experiential process in which participants are encouraged to become their own therapist.


What is Back to Beginnings?


It is part of a unique system for healing the mind developed by Akong Rinpoche over many years of working with those who came to seek his help & advice first at Samye Ling Tibetan Centre & later all over the world.


Akong Rinpoche always emphasised that compassion for ourselves & others was the foundation of his work. During Back to Beginnings we come to know ourselves better. It helps us appreciate the extraordinary range of experiences which makes each of us who we are. With this knowledge we are able to work more skilfully with ourselves whatever our lives may bring.


One of our therapists was interviewed about Back to Beginnings some years ago & what he said is still relevant today:


Back to Beginnings is one of the first stages of Tara Rokpa. You complete a particular way of reviewing your life story in a certain, systematic way. This is to make sure you don’t leave out parts on which you may have already been focused. Tara Rokpa encourages you to get the balance of your life. In this remembering we go three times through our lives starting with the present. In a way you sweep through the whole of your life & you try to look at everything. You don’t say this is important or not important or focus on traumatic events only. You include everyday events, for example what shoes you wore at aged six or what clothes you wore or food you ate or didn’t. What you get is a feeling for the totality of your life. This remembering is aided by the relaxations which make up a fair amount of the whole process. Much of the remembering is also done through free painting & other art materials. Some people write it, some paint through their lives. Somehow, we come to a different way of relating to ourselves, not so problem related. Akong Rinpoche said the therapy is how to simplify our lives.

Testimonials:


Last year I attended a series of Tara Rokpa sessions in Cardiff. I found them very beneficial and helpful in dealing with my difficulties.  They also taught me a new way of expressing emotion and feeling ie through artwork though not art in a traditional sense. Following on from this I am hoping to attend the Back to Beginnings course that they are planning this year. I think the work of Tara Rokpa is benefiting many people and long may they continue. - Karen

I feel happy to hear that Sarah Wass will be offering the Tara Rokpa 'Back to Beginnings' course at the Cardiff Centre. I was very fortunate to participate in this course when I lived in Zimbabwe. I had 'grown' some solidified ideas which had become beliefs about myself, certain family members and complex aspects of life. The course invited me to reflect on contexts and conditions present - for myself and for others. These reflections led to feelings of compassion - for myself, those family members and the complex aspects of life. It was life changing.During the course I started training as a psychotherapist and what I learnt from the course continues to influence both my work and my life. - Lorna Edwards


Q&A


Back to beginnings, what is it?

Why would somebody choose to go back to their beginnings?


Back to beginning what is it and why

First of all, to reference Akong Rinpoche. Akong Rinpoche, being a Tibetan Lama, a meditation master who spent most of his adult life working in the West and saw a need to bring Buddhist understanding and methods to Western psychotherapy. So it's Tara Rokpa Therapy is a merger between Western and Buddhist view of the mind.


And the first part of Tara Rokpa Therapy is Back to Beginnings. This is a method, the core of which is remembering our past life in this life, right back to the time of birth and even into the womb. And remembering this in a degree of depth. We use a particular method of remembering that allows us to access early life memories. This process itself can be seen as a type of scan of our lives, where we're looking to review the life fully and to clarify who we are up to this point in our lives.


Often this method of looking back over the lifetime, if done properly in the method as it's described and introduced in our method, in the back to beginnings method, allows people to access both semi-conscious, conscious, and unconscious memories and emotions patterns from their early life that have been unresolved and that are not yet clarified.


Often, these aspects have an unconscious influence on our present life. Freud talked about the compulsion to repeat this tendency to repeat patterns from our early life without us being aware that we're repeating these patterns. And it seems that it's a great waste of our lives not to review it in some depth, as I think it was perhaps Socrates who said: The unexamined life is not worth living. So it's a chance to examine our lives in some degree of depth and to bring ourselves in a way from the past into the present moment more fully.


The process itself ends with a symbolic birth into the present moment, where we are finally able to say, I can let go of my past, and I have done that in the knowledge of who I am at a deeper level. It can be taken, undertaken as a therapy on its own, or it can be undertaken as a therapy to end therapy, where somebody has been in therapy for a number of years, either group or individual, and then wants to bring that to some degree of conclusion. This is an excellent method, which relies on a type of journaling, very specific type of journaling that allows you to access early memories.


It's linked in with Buddhist meditations, artwork, and massage, self massage and clothes-on exchange massage with other members of a small group who are undertaking the work together. And this provides for a very holistic approach to who we are and assists us in this process of remembering and clarifying. And I suppose the why of it is that without really reviewing things at this level, we are condemned to repeat all patterns.

Tara Rokpa Therapy - Can you say a bit about these words and their relevance today?


Tara Rokpa Therapy

I would start with Akong Rinpoche, who gave this method that he developed for Westerners who are interested in accessing a secular form of meditation that's based on compassion, but includes mindfulness and sitting meditation practice, as well as visualization, as well as a Western psychotherapy approach in the early stages of the work. Rinpoche enumerated the title in this way.


The first word Tara is a Sanskirt word which refers to the feminine deity of compassion, Tara. In particular, green Tara, which is the activity aspect of Tara. Tara also has resonances with the Keltic tradition, where, for example, the High Kings of Ireland were crowned at the Hill of Tara.


The second word Rokpa is a Tibetan word, which is connected with Akong Rinpoche's work with disenfranchised people, or marginalized people, or people in poverty around the world, and is connected to the aspect of help where help is needed.


The third word is Therapy, which he said the word therapy was an antidote for Western arrogance. And this Western arrogance, we see it particularly in our intellectual tradition, where we have got very self-assured about our capacity to fly to the moon or to run railroads wherever we want to, but at the same time, we're creating tremendous destruction destruction of nature and causing global warming, so that we see that this purely intellectual approach to living is quite limited.


I suppose I would like to expand on that title and say that it's also a process. It's a process of self-development that begins with a more focus on our early lives up to the present moment, with a somewhat therapeutic approach that then emerges and evolves into a more self-development model, working with meditation techniques, provided by Akong Rinpoche, who is a meditation master from Tibet.


The last aspect I'd like to emphasize is the idea of mind training. This is based both on mindfulness practice and a compassion-based approach, and learning to be really present in the moment in our lives in a compassionate way towards ourselves and others. So it's a very full path of self-development, leading on to centuries-old tradition of mind training, which has been practiced in Tibet for a thousand years. That, I suppose, might be the essence of the title of Tara Rokpa Therapy.

Provided by:


Brion Sweeney

MB Bch, BAO, MRCPsych, MMed.Sc,(psychotherapy) ICPA, UKCP, TRTA


Brion Sweeney is a retired consultant psychiatrist having previously worked in Ireland in the National Health Service in Dublin. In addition, he holds a master's degree in psychotherapy from University College Dublin. Brion undertook his own experiential training in Tara Rokpa Therapy under the guidance of Akong Rinpoche who had developed Tara Rokpa Therapy to help people to develop their potential. He became a Tara Rokpa therapist in 1992 and thereafter worked with other Tara Rokpa therapists helping to refine the method. More recently Brion spent three years in retreat under the guidance of Tai Situpa Rinpoche.


Sarah Wass

BA, PGCE, Dip Art Th, BAAT, HCPC, TRTA  


Sarah has a background working as an art therapist in public sector provision in the UK. 

She has been involved in Tara Rokpa since 2004: first as a group participant, then as a trainee therapist and now as a group Tara Rokpa therapist offering workshops at home and abroad. 


She was fortunate to receive guidance from Akong Rinpoche during his life.


 

Tara Rokpa has been offering workshops at Samye Dzong Cardiff since October 2022. In response to requests we are planning to start a Back to Beginnings group this May. 


We welcome further questions for our audio Q and A slot, please send these to Sarah on: sarahwass@tararokpa.org or bring your questions to the Introductory Evening on Friday the 3rd May.


Also for more information you can visit: Back to beginnings on Tara Rokpa Website


Introduction to Back to Beginnings is being offered as the first phase, Phase 2: Deepening the Remembering and Phase 3: Being Born follow on from this. Information about these following phases will be posted subsequently.


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