We interviewed Michaela Lucas, a 28 year old student of Rinpoche, who is following the Three Year Retreat and working in Lerab Ling. She recently released a CD of the songs of Milerepa which she has put to music. Proceeds from the CD go towards completing and maintaining the decoration of the Lerab Ling temple and to support dedicated practitioners in Lerab Ling. (Please see below if you would like to order the CD from Zam).
Rita: How do you bring the Dharma into what you do? Because it sounds like singing is something that you like to do.
Michaela: Before I came on the three year retreat in 2007, I decided I didn't want to ever sing or perform again. At that time I'd received teachings from Rinpoche and been with Rigpa for about 4 years, and I no longer saw any purpose in singing. I thought it was empty, selfish, and egotistical, and I slowly started to lose the drive to succeed. Then, when I came to Lerab Ling I was very happy to just let it all go, so I did, I stopped. Then slowly being here I started getting asked to sing and it started coming around again that I was a singer. But it seemed to start happening it a very different way than it did when I was in the outside world and it had more of a purpose. For example if I got asked to sing for Rinpoche, that's more of a purpose because it’s an offering. I started to see that it doesn't have to be so samsaric or negative, which is how I saw it before. Then Jane Bye suggested that I put the songs of Milarepa to music. It was then that I realized that I could use what I'd been trained to do to benefit beings. That's when I could bring the dharma into my craft and my craft into the dharma. It could be a two way thing. It's only since finishing this CD that I really have felt that I have a purpose and that if I don't sing I'm not offering my whole self in order to benefit beings. I also saw that it would be quite selfish if I don't sing.
Rita: Would you offer any advice to other dharma practitioners, your peers, for how to know when to do dharma or how to incorporate hobbies into dharma?
Michaela: I don't know what other people should do, but maybe I can just say what I did. For me it's not such a definite line between the dharma and my 'hobby'. For me, when I sing, it has to be used as integration and part of my practice otherwise I'd always be too attached to formal practice on my cushion. Whereas if Rinpoche says, 'can you sing', rather than me thinking 'I have to go home and practice though, I have to finish my ngöndro this evening'. Rather than me being tight about that, it’s actually to see that task as part of my practice and to dedicate. I think for me dedication is important, for example when we were recording we always motivated in the morning and dedicated in the evening. It's like a container you can hold your hobby in. If you dedicate, then actually everything has a purpose.
I don't think there's any right and wrong. Maybe it's also important not to block creativity when it comes and to actually see it as something pure. If you try to hold it back, it's not letting whatever comes, come. So, I think it's important not block and to just let it come when it comes. Also I think dedicating is the way. The three noble principles.
From what Phakchok Rinpoche said, if I remember correctly, as young people we should experience and know our emotions and thoughts and in this respect I feel we should also know our craft - what we can do. This way, as we get older, then we will know what we have to do in this world and what we have to offer in order to benefit beings. Because it might not necessarily be just sitting on a cushion, it could be so much more. For example, if I would have stopped singing at the age of 17, because I found the dharma [not that I found that dharma at 17] I would have never arrived at where I am now. I would have never studied singing and drama and I would have never received experiences in different places, so then I wouldn't have arrived to the point of being able to offer this project to Rinpoche and Rigpa. It's important to not ignore your passions and talents, because otherwise you may not be able to offer your whole self when it comes time.
Above, Michaela, Tobias, Nadia, Dawn, Frederick and Mary sing one of the songs from the CD as part of the Long Life ceremony held for Rinpoche at the end of this summer's all mandala retreat.
You can order the CD from Zam at: