Between FREEDOM & DISCIPLINE, TAME THE HORSE – Tiffani Gyatso, interviewed by Yumma Mudra
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Between FREEDOM & DISCIPLINE, TAME THE HORSE – Tiffani Gyatso, interviewed by Yumma Mudra

August 30, 2019

Tiffani, it’s very nice that we have the
opportunity to have this conversation together. And our friend, Aurélie, asked us to make the interview. We are going to speak English because… We’re not used to speak
English, but we’re going to try to get into English so that whoever listens to
us…, maybe more people can understand English. And so, just to introduce the
conversation, it’s just to say that I’m Yumma Mudra, I’m the founder of Danza Duende International Network. And now I’m also directing with Raji, Michel Raji,
the University of Choreosophy. And you are Tiffani Gyatso. You can present yourself
also, as soon as I introduce a little bit why we’re talking together. A few years
ago, Michaël Ash for “Dakini as Art”, required that we could have a conversation online
that was in two thousand and… fiftheen, maybe… Yes, in 2015. And I was very happy to meet you, because I knew by
internet your paintings about dakinis. But also your free way of painting and I
was attracted to it. So I was very happy Michaël asked us to have this
conversation. And at that point, I remember telling you : next time
I must interview you. Because this time you interview me. And we never did that. So now, we’re in 2018. And then we met after the interview, it was by Skype, at
that time we didn’t know each other. Then we really met in Portugal, during the
festival I organized even three years. Then you invited me to Brazil and now
here we are in Spain. So, the idea is that we can have this conversation, in the
sense that you really talk about you, about your art, about your path, about
your story … And so, I invite you maybe to just first talk about how you present
yourself to people, on the camera. And then we talk. Ok.
Well, I’m Tiffani Gyatso and I’m born in Brazil. Yeah and then, my path…Well, I always had the drive to paint, but I didn’t know what. But it was there.
And the only thing that I was very passionate was horses. So, I lived in a
farm and I had the horses and it were many kids. So, I started drawing, because I looked at horses and I wanted to draw. But still it was a drive inside, and I didn’t know why I was drawing the horses.
Why ? But still… just painting the way I knew. And in 2018… No ! When I was 18 years
old, my parents who are also in the spiritual quest .. And I’m very thankful for them. Because of them, I was riding into the spiritual path in a natural way. It wasn’t like : “Now I discover : what’s God”. God was maybe always a word that was at home. So, in 2000, we made a travel by motor-home from Germany. Because my mom is german, my father is brazilian. And she had a vision that
she had to find. She had to go on a pilgrimage to China. And she had just dreams and she would follow it. So she bought a
motor home in Germany and was going to drive. And she told me and my boyfriend at
the time : “Well if you want to come, you take care of yourself …” So, another friend
of us came and we also bought a motor home very old for $1,000. And so, we leaved by at two cars and we drove all to Russia until we got
to Mongolia. And in Russia, I saw for the first time the byzantine art, orthodox… And for me
was … It wasn’t that I thought it’s aesthetically beautiful. It wasn’t that
kind of attraction. It was like that makes sense. They are doing … They
are creating form to tell me something. And what they are telling it’s about God.
Whatever it is, God. So I thought : okay, I want to learn that. But, it seems too masculine
society. I couldn’t really… I didn’t know where to start from. So we just continue our journey. And entering Mongolia, five of us, just crossing the border of Mongolia, in the middle of nowhere, nowhere…. In Altaï, it is a very strong place. Really. And we just cry… Crying was like you know we have the sensation
that the soul is inside our body. But I had the feeling that my soul was there and
my body arrived. And so, when I saw thangka painting inside the temples, dusty temples. So, I
had that feeling of : I have been here, and my steps at the end… Yeah, like recognition, something familiar to you,
even though it was not. Yes, very much ! And again, it wasn’t that kind of attracting : “Oh, this is beautiful !” No. It was actually to colorful. And the wrathful deities, … I didn’t like them. Whaa…
But it was like I knew who they were. And it wasn’t a decision like :
I gonna do this. It was like : it’s obvious. I just… So, I entered the school of thangka painting
in gandan monastery, in Ulaanbaatar. They accepted me. But no, they were not so
pleased to have a young brazilian girl there, with no money. So that means… Especially women. And they were all men only. And the first week, the director he said to me : “Look, maybe it’s better, that… you know, you go to India. Because, it’s better for women. It’s not so cold.” And it wasn’t winter yet. So, I
didn’t know what was coming, you know. So he convinced me. But I couldn’t just go from Mongolia to India. Just we no had the money to go and leave here. So, we left the car and got the trans-siberian. Another adventure, going back. And so
I worked and studied in Germany for three years. And that prepare me a lot then to go to India. Yes like you took some time to get ready. No ? Yes, and it was so important. Because, in Germany I learned about discipline. Yes, because you came from Brazil, we should remember that ! Ahaha… Yeah ! And I said : Wow, I have to work… And I was in Munich, it’s an expansive place. And so, I had to save money. That meant I would
go by bicycle everywhere so I wouldn’t get the tram, the train… to save money.
I wouldn’t go to parties anymore because alcohol was an expansive thing. So… And I didn’t have much friends
because… It’s hard. I was only studying and working. So I also disconnected from my friends in Brazil.
And that taught me a lot. Because once then I was accepted in Norbulinka
in India and I was the first foreigner, the first westerner accepted there. They also weren’t so
comfortable about that, because they only spoke tibetan and their interest was
about preserving the Tibetan culture for the tibetans. Of course. And the way they tought is of course very different from the western style. So finally when I got into the school, we sat on the floor, we drawn on the floor and to come to talk with the teacher you have to bow… And the teacher was very kind, always smiling at me. But he didn’t call
me by my name. For the first whole year, I was ” Intchi Bhumo”, which means like gringo.
You know, like western girl. So he thought I was just a tourist. You, white face ! Yeah, maybe not serious. And I saw him teaching everybody but not me. But because I got the german training. I’m
like… I never doubted it. And more than learning about the proportions
the thangka painting has… So exact and… You know all that. I think what he taught me
by then, that today I understand, is about really polishing my ego. It’s kind of
like : you really have to want to do thangkas. And it’s not about completing a deity. It’s not about having a thangka. it’s about you polishing and leaving your identity. It’s about your mind.Your mind, yeah. Because if I
understand well, in my own experience is that… Sacred art is also not signed
usually, there’s no name on it. And whoever is using the sacred art, this may be sculptur or painting, as a support for practice is like having the support
also of how this artist is able to relate to sacredness, the deepest sacredness. Now, how much in this art in this painting or in this culture
there is something deep. So it does make a lot of sens. Yes. Cause today that I’m teaching thangka for more than 10 years, a lot of people come, but what drives them is curiosity. That’s not enought. That’s maybe the seed, but it’s not enough. And I still teach a lot of people, but maybe on hundred people that really made workshops with me, I really count like two people who took the long path. Because, I feel tibetans are like this : You have a short path and you have a long path. Or you have a difficult and an easy path. They choose the difficult path. Just because… It makes me want to talk about a lot of
things, so I have to choose some how… It gives me a lot of desire to talk about a
lot of different aspects. But now, really concentrating on you, it’s interesting
because you talked about horses. And we have horses here. Actually I noticed that
a lot of places where I have been doing things the horses came. And also, I have
not a relationship physically with horses, but there is a inner relationship
with the horse. Very strong in my life, very important. So it’s
very interesting to hear you talk about horses. Because I didn’t know that your
first insight was horses. But actually when I did see your paintings on Dakini as Art, because this is how we met and also Michael ash, I started to talk
with him because of the fact that what he was publishing on internet was so
often things I liked, so at one point we talked. Because I thought I liked a lot
of things he was publishing, you know…So let’s have a conversation, no ? And then, I noticed that I also liked your paintings that were not thangkas. So
I was interesting in this relationship, and you had a lot of horses going on
there, no ? Dakinis that were a little bit like becoming free from the
thangkas. And then horses, and then it was like something living between
the very strict discipline, in order of thangkas which i think is important.
Somehow because as a dancer I can also relate to the importance of
understanding deeper than our own expression. And also, how your expression
with the painting can be quite… How do you say ? … daring. This daring
that actually is very strong in your history. It is strong in your personality
and it is also obvious on your painting. So this relationship between a daring
quality of freedom and a discipline that is more like in the harmony of order and
something that we, as you say, polish yourself. On another hand maybe this
freedom is also present in japanese art or in poetry or in different
cultures… This idea that maybe the spontaneous expression could also meet
the same egolessness ? But it’s more…Iit’s difficult, very
difficult. And then I would like to make you a question about this also related to
our relationship, because we did work on the flower of life. And you remember all
this painting… Relationship to color on one sid, the flower of life coming from
Islamic mandala, and how we could be free… Joining together the light of colors,
abstract, the flower of life, the lines and then something personal. And so, I
know it’s not an easy question, but my question to you is : where do you feel the
core of all of this ? In your life, in your path as artist, and also in the
technique for an artist whatever art we practice, between discipline and freedom.
Yes, you can be…You can just let yourself go. Yeah, like we talked before about chaos and order, and discipline and freedom. And how… And how this came to me. And how it meets now to you. Because you also follow that idea. So, I feel that I did only thangka painting, that for many, many years. And it gave me that technique, that
sharpness. If I want to do a thin line, I can do a thin line. And this takes
time, and it takes discipline. But at the same time, something was boiling in me. And at that time, you know much younger, I think I haven’t gone through all the wildness of my things.
A wildness also in the bad sense, like totally out of control, emotions coming…
And just right after I had my son, and becoming a mother, and having this
project of painting a temple and then separating, getting divorced, and falling
in love again… It gave me so many emotions…
I just had no control. I couldn’t do a thin line anymore. It’s like if you had two of
you. Yeah. The nice lady and …And I had to look at that suddenly. And it wasn’t
nice, it wasn’t a nice person. And I had to look at it. So I couldn’t do
an impersonal art like thangka. Because thangka takes your identity aside. And you just connect to the divin. Suddenly I had this opportunity to let’s
a gap very personal. And it was… Then, I started painting like in big canvases, at
the same time I was doing the temple. And what it felt, because I was doing big, the
gesture was like… Putting energy on them. And not only the energy, but all the colors really entering in my mind, and was soothing… And after I expressed everything, I felt the calmest, and then expressed again, and the calmest… I really found this breathem. Yes, like a breath. Explosion, and quietness. So, to really feel quietness, I had to let it go, let it explode, and let life just burn down to
zero ground. And then the horse is coming. They were so clear in my dreams and
everything, because I felt like… In my childhood, I was not only drawing the
horses. But I used to ride every day, every day, without the saddle. And I
really loved the animal to be… And I felt again. And there had been many years that I didn’t ride anymore. But I had the dreams that I was on a horse out of
control. And it was so fearful ! I had no control and then the branches coming in my face… there was the physical feelings I had. With all the emotions of passion, greed, jealousy, doubt… I had no control. They were just there. So the horse came again and then the
painting taught me. I didn’t know what the horse was. Until I painted and saw
that I painted a woman like getting the horse by the hair. And that wasn’t what
I was trying. And then the painting was telling me as…Ah, ok that’s there. And then the horses were taking other shapes. And too many years later, I drew, I did a painting that is called “No struggle”. Which is… the horse is still very wild painted, but the woman is very softly, with the hands… I think I have seen it ! Yes, it’s at home. I think I have seen it in your house. And what is nice, and I think we have talking yesterday about this… Just kind of “I got something”. That the emotions, when we try to control them with discipline, or with a method, or with that technique like : now
I’m going to meditate and breath… Use all this technique to control… The horse
doesn’t like that. The horse feel like : I don’t know you. Who are you ? So, with
emotions is just like with the animal : If the horse is wild, just sit by the side, do nothing. Let the horse know your smell, know you, and slowly trust you and coming near. And without grabbing and just offer your hand…And then naturally, the horse will be in peace with you. And that requires a lot of trust. And that was an other painting that I did. Wich is a woman, just folding her eyes, and opening an eye, here. Yes, that is the one actually I have noticed. Yeah, that one. A lot of people connected to that. Because I think we want to trust, we want to trust to do nothing and be alert, the horse is there, watching… But you let your hands opened, and sometime he’ll come near you. But you don’t know… It’s such a not knowing. It could be inconfortable, but you can also find it confortable. If you are lucky. It can be confortable. So, this is how I relate the painting with the emotions and how it teach me in my path. But soon, I was missing the body part. So, when I was painting I felt this necessity to … put this energy. And I couldn’t find any teacher, let’s say a art teacher that taught me…
that taught me art with this intention. Many years later, then, I found Alok.
He’s a chinese calligrapher who lives in the States. And he was doing Zen painting. But also with the dynamic meditation. And I said : Wow, this is a good combination ! And I like him. So, we met. And he is my dear teacher. He can look in my eyes and tell me that my stroke is out of habit. And it’s not coming from not knowing. So, he is always calling me to that point of not knowing which is sitting next to the horse. And… see what happens. See if he comes to your hand or not. You don’t know. So, having somebody tell you like : Yes, this is coming first thought First thought, best thought. Yes, yes. And it’s not grabbing the horse. You are not grabbing. And it’s so…, practice, know your ways, know how … I mean…and not knowing too. It’s paradoxal. And, when we met, everything came together. Because, you were doing painting… Mmh. And then you will bring in the dance and
the breathing and Buddhism. And I don’t consider myself like conservative
Buddhist. Because of course, it’s like… I feel that the path to God is so intimate. So what ? I don’t understand the word.
Intimate. Intimate ! Yes. Actually, I don’t think Buddha was Buddhist, you know… So
it’s not a problem. You know, whoever needs to say the word Buddhist is just
not practicing. Because the practice is not about labeling anyway. Yeah. But it’s easy sometimes to say :”Yes, I’m a Buddhist”. But, if I can express what is my path, it’s more about…It’s like a mariage. Each one has it’s own mariage. And it’s very different from, you know… from each other. So, I feel it’s about learning how to relate to God. Like… It’s like a consciousness that guides you, until it’s not guidance anymore. It’s just one thing. To be. Yeah. It’s the space, like… So, the question Aurélie asked… Aurélie told me can you please ask Tiffani a question. And she said, can you ask her the question: “What is art ?”. Do you think you’re
answering this question when you say this ? Well. Of course, art can be many things. And I will say, of course, my personnal view. And… For me, art…Yes, it’s my “religion”. But you said : marriage. Oh, marriage, yes ! You said marriage, yes. Maybe religion is marriage, I don’t know ? Yeah, a marriage to god and this is how you make love. Because religion comes from also link, no ? So, that’s what you mean, when you said marriage ? You mean like feeling a link. Like… I’m trying to make you talk. Yes… the mariage in the sens… What I’m saying is : I don’t have a religion or like I’m not a Buddhist. Dispite, I do follow buddhism and I do study buddhim. And I’m very grateful for all the teachers and his holiness. But the path itself is like a marriage. You have to sense what the other one is saying to you, and the other one is existence. You know ? So how, can I relate to this. This is a big, you know…marriage, in this sens. Does this relate for you to the
word Samaya or not ? I’m just trying to… For you, I said, yes ? Well, as I understand : Samaya, is your intention, your promise. Yes. I don’t think it is, because I do that without doing the Samaya. It’s just how it is. And my samaya is to be faithful to that
marriage. Yes. Because the marriage itself is naturally is there to be faithful, not corrupted. Yes. Okay, so that’s it. Yes, okay. And so, like for you art in this case is
to live this path and let it transform you ? Something like that ? Yes. If I can put
in a few words is … Art, it offers you a path of mirror also. Cause, every time you express and you have the physical. A return. It can be a painting, it can be dance… You look back to yourself. Yeah, it talks back to you. And when it talks back to you, you can hear it as a voice of wisdom which is not you anymore, or how you think you are. It’s not you anymore, it can be… you know, what ever it is…. So it’s also an opportunity to be always
open, to be… Okay, you do something and you… You hear what it tells it back. It is not you anymore. Until, you become that. And there is no duality anymore. Then it’s not… I mean, we are in a dual world. We cannot express in a not dual way. We still perceive the consciousness and it’s apart, our god apart… But that’s okay too, I think. And that’s how we do art, playing with that duality. Like… Of the many things I
think about, when I listen to you… I’m coming a little bit backwards. Because I
think it has to do with both of us, and with the conversation, and maybe why we make these movies also now, and the Dakini as Art. Of course Dakini is
not about women, but on another hand they are represented as female. Usually as I understood are related to the richness of space itself, as
not to be something. No ? As just as you said not knowing this space. No ? But on another hand when you talked about discipline and you talked about
the wildness inside, which I really believe is for all human beings like
that probably. Maybe not all human beings have this relationship of clarity to
oneself, but we all have these kind of different feelings : something inside of
us that wants to love and be loved, and it’s like aspiring for peace, and a piece of us
that doesn’t give a shit about nobody. Not even about
oneself, no ? And of course it’s possible in a certain environment, so
I think it’s a lot… This is really something that everybody nowaday is
confronted to, we do have a spiritual drive, a lot of people. We do have honesty
about the spiritual drive, many of us. But we’re living in very different context,
it changed very quickly. Whoever was living in Japan, whoever was living in
Tibet, whoever was living in Mongolia or in Russia or in the United States, it’s
different. And women and man have a different body. We probably don’t have a problem of gender in the deepness of ourselves. I
don’t believe that in the deepness there isn’t any gender problem. But on the
superficie, there is a gender quality of perception of things and of life. And so,
as you said : maybe for a man living in Japan to use his warrior quality to make
his horse become a friend and transform as Musashi or something like that. It did
exist or at least we do have relate about this, no ?
And probably it does give fruits like Aikido, Ueshiba… There is a lot of martial
ways of doing religion, or doing art, or doing martial itself, war… You know
everything. But it is like we would say masculine body way of dealing with
horses. I’m not making any judgment. I’m just
trying to clear, for myself and for everybody, these different things. And
as you said when I feel myself as a woman, and related since many years with
women, and with feminine dance, and wildness… And my concern about wisdom
without avoiding the nature and not avoiding what you called wildness, but
in the same time, maybe not being victim of my own destructive drive. I really
think that the feminine path needs models. I’m not saying we are
models. But I’m saying that we can provide slowly the possibility of women
creating models, that are not models because they are so beautiful, or they are such a
great goddess, or I don’t know… Maybe it’s more simple than that. It’s
that : How do we relate with the horse ? And how this horse, as you said, know how this horse in the same time is wild. So it’s very something
not in a book. You know, not something juicy, as I was talking before. Something
that really we feel that like : Ten years ago, I had this relationship with my
horse, and now, the relationship with the horse is becoming, maybe something that…
The horse is still free but I feel happy about not destroying “and myself, and
everybody”. So this is also, I would like to make you this question. It’s like our last
question, because we’re getting to the end of the time. We have like 5-10
minutes more and… How does this idea ?… And, I come a little bit back to our own relationship with Mandala. Chaos and order… How can we think that maybe in an intuitive path, all of us, relating to art as something that
gives us feedback, but sharing some understanding to help each other… How is
the sense of structure, order and discipline helping, in another hand, to be
completely intuitive and completely free and completely creative about it ? Getting to know my body is getting to know the horse too. And I think … I thougt I knew about my body, but I had no idea. And I still don’t. I really don’t. And the body, we think it’s only the physical. Only what I see. But the body, like you told, is pulsating. It has its own
intelligence, like it”s pumping blood, its functioning digestion… without me , “the me” knowing
you. So I think studying and living away only only of what I know intellectually or
psychologically, it’s not enough. It’s not complete. It’s totally not complete. And I think also in the
spiritual world, or you are a yogi, or you put yourself in a
discipline… There’s a tendency of splitting. Or like : Ooh, I’m a spiritual so I don’t need this and that, my body and… And I really want to feel that everything in my life is inclusive. I can live anything with no… In a sense of a more open morality. But not in an intellectual way. Excuse me, I just didn’t understand : open morality ? I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand
actually the English itself. Yeah, open morality. So, in the moral sense, I mean like… Like for example, in Brazil, we never go naked in the river. Oh, yes, yeah ! We just came back, everybody very happy, and there was innocence. I mean, here in Spain, you could be naked. Yes ! Everybody was like kids again. Let’s me tell you something. I was in another spot of the river. We were at the same place but we didn’t know. But actually I was there, a
little bit before the river, and two policemen came. They were two
policemen, Catalan policemen, with all the guns all of it. And they were just like
that and they didn’t know I was there. So they see me and they say : “Oh what are you doing ?” “I’m just waiting. My friends are at the river and I’m waiting, so we
go to eat.” And they said : “Ah okay, so we don’t go to border.” They, actually I think,
they think they were naked, actually. Because they said : “Okay, so we don’t go to
border.” And they didn’t even ask me anything about papers or something. And
then they said : “Okay, we go away. But don’t make fire.” I said : “We are not going to make fire.” So, you see… So these policemen were so open morality ! Yes, yes… And it’s so relative, right ? I want to break free from that. I think it’s so limited and stupid, you know… We have so much potency ! We can live and we can laugh at places where we shouldn’t… We can be naked where we shouldn’t and specially… Aah, you have the crazy wisdom things ! Okey. And I’m not talking about taking our clothes off in a shopping center. But, if I want it, I could. You see… If, I… It’ll make you famous. Ahaha…. Yeah ! It’s not like I’m not doing, because I have in me the sens of… I have in me the sens of … And I walk like this. I’m already walking naked, even if I have my clothes. So it’s like… And you told me that,… To bring this energy inside. So, I can be walking dressed and I’m dressed. Or I can be walking dressed but I’m walking naked. And it’s really about spending time into how this touches consciousness, here. And at the same time that we study form, we understand emptiness. And I mean it’s what Buddha said … Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. And that comes so much down to this. Because, by studying form, we talk so much about the space and breath and space…There is the same space outside this and inside. And the work we have been doing, during this retreat is, whatever the horse is bitting, jumping… come back to the feeld. Yes, because freedom is actually, includes a natural
sense of discipline. Is that’s what you mean ? Yeah. I feel… I don’t know, yes in
English… But like to be touched about a few things you were saying. It touched me
physically. Yes. I mean… How do you say ? A little bit emotional. No ? Yes…
Ok. Thank Tiffani, thank you. Thank you ladies… Thank you for
asking us to do this. We can go on and on and on… Thank you so much ! It’s so much fun. Aah, it’s very nice. The place is beautiful. So interesting… Oh, she’s excited ! I knew it, I could feel It… I could feel their excitation, you know. I
was like that, these ladies are… really it’ very nice for us, because… yeah Oh

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