In the Company of Women: Precious Knowing

By Katherine Kaufman

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Precious Knowing: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat for Women, February 11-15, 2015

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I have the good fortune to be at the Shambhala Mountain Center at this moment so I can tell you what it is like in the winter here — at least right now. Still & quiet. Today I walked up to the ridge — maybe to get nearer to the sun. There was some trudging through snow and also big patches with no snow. I rested on an outcropping of rocks. A group of deer were close to the Stupa. They looked up at me and leapt away as if gravity were no problem. Inside the Stupa I was struck by what feels like the thickness of many years of people practicing. The good humored gentleness and authentic way of the staff feels so warming. I am called back to this place. This is one of my homes.

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My idea for the women’s retreats began from my sense that it would be great to gather, and do practices on the coldest day of the winter and the hottest day of the summer and that the retreats would reflect the seasons they are in somehow. Women particularly need gaps in routine to pause, leave their responsibilities, and have a time to reconsider where they are in their lives, and be with other women. That this is a retreat for women with emphasis on formal practices, is a big part of the title, “precious knowing.”

The Experience

Even though I have had many years to refine these retreats it still amazes me that something happens — it feels magical. We are very simply practicing together: gentle yoga, meditation, and a little improvisational movement in the afternoons. We take our naps, bundle up and walk in the forest and up to the Stupa alone and together. The group is small enough so that we can sit around a table for meals. We discuss things that are important to us, and begin to know each other in a way that is different perhaps, from our usual knowing another. In certain ways I feel like this must be how women in small villages live. It feels so natural, for women to join and support each other this way.

This particular retreat is one where I facilitate rather than impart knowledge and I also don’t see it as a training program. Although there is instruction and we are practicing ancient forms this retreat is really about participating in practices all together, as well as sharing our combined wisdom. On some level we each know what we need already. The practices of sitting, yoga, movement, and sharing help facilitate our inner knowing. Sometimes our practice requires silence, sometimes questions, sharing, laughter or an evening by the fire. Most evenings we listen as each woman has her time to share. We acknowledge our differences and find a sense of acceptance and kindness. So we do this for a few days — simple and basic. Time slows — or we — by our practice — slow time.

And from this work, and play combined with being on the land we begin to feel more of our inner experiences — something shifts in us — a crack in the view. Something that has been propped up melts, and underneath a sense of relaxation occurs. Our desire for some rest, connection, realization is simply exchanged for actual practice. We experience something tender. When we return to our homes, our ways and days, the practice and the precious knowing continues.

~~~

Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.

Qigong for the Seasons: Spring Relates to the Wood Phase

By Ron Davis

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The following has been adapted from “Qigong Through The Seasons – How to Stay Healthy all Year Long with Qigong, Meditation, Diet and Herbs” by Dr. Ronald Davis, published by Singing Dragon, 2015.

Spring is the Wood Phase

This is a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal, and movement. The momentum created by spring Qi gives structure and impetus to the world: young trees thrusting skyward, icy rivers flooding valleys, babies everywhere screeching with the joy of life. In humans, Qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the Liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising Qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. The practice of Spring Qigong centers on using qigong exercises, foods, herbs, and meditation to nourish the Liver. In this class, you will learn how the Liver Network influences anger, kindness, communication, muscle function, detoxification, blood circulation, and much more.

During spring, the Rising Yang Qi emerges from the Lower Dan Tian (lower abdomen) and begins a season-long ascent to the upper and outer regions of the body. As it passes into the Middle Dan Tian (chest), it encounters the Liver. If this blood-rich organ retains stagnant blood and metabolic waste, which typically happens after winter’s inactivity, it will obstruct the Qi flow and result in Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver controls the smooth and harmonious flow of Qi and blood. Any obstruction to this flow will cause a serious functional disruption in Qi and blood circulation. Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood, an all too common disorder, has physical symptoms of muscle pain, menstrual cramps, trembling movements, poor balance, headaches, neck pain, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems, digestive ailments, and more. The mental and emotional symptoms can run the spectrum from frustration and irritability to anger and rage.

Anger, stagnation, and kindness

When the normal emotion of anger becomes prolonged, repressed, or inappropriate, it often results in Stagnant Liver Qi. This disorder affects women and men, but because each gender exists as fundamentally either yin or yang, Qi stagnation usually results in different problems for each sex.

Men have innate yang energy; women have innate yin. Yang energy tends to expand outward; it’s active and dispersive. Yin energy embraces receptivity, containment, and concentration. The gender predisposition to problems of Stagnant Liver Qi hinges on men being more yang/fire, and women more yin/ blood. Stagnant Liver Qi, if not corrected, becomes virulent and flares up as Liver Fire in men and as Stagnant Liver Blood in women:

  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Men > “Liver Fire Rising” = muscle spasm, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease.
  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Women > “Stagnant Liver Blood” = menstrual disorders, varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety.

While disturbing and potentially dangerous, Stagnant Liver Qi can be effectively treated. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can release obstructions to the flow of Qi and prevent stagnation. Qigong can remedy the condition by gathering fresh Qi and properly circulating it through the body’s energy pathways and storage centers. Meditation will definitely enhance Qi flow, clear the mind of distractions, and nurture the virtue of kindness. Having a self-care practice of qigong and meditation is one of the best ways for you to nurture the great Yang Qi of Spring and benefit from this infusion of vital energy.

Most styles of qigong have three aspects to every exercise: body movement, mental intention, and rhythmic breathing. These three factors have shifting proportions depending on the season. Spring Qigong highlights expansive and robust external body movements. While doing these exercises, be attentive to how your muscles work, take notice of any soreness or restrictions and how that changes with practice, and combine breathing and moving to expel turbid energy from the muscles and boost blood circulation. Put some effort (gong) into Spring Qigong and reap the rewards of smoothly flowing Qi and blood.

~~~

Ron-DavisRonald Davis, DC. LAc. Dipl Acu (NCCAOM) has dedicated thirty years to helping people discover their optimal state of well being based on physical integrity, mental clarity and nutritional support. As a chiropractor, he understands the critical interrelationship of physical form, physiological function and visceral health. As an acupuncturist, he knows that optimal well being depends on the essential flow of vital energy and blood throughout the body/mind. The integration of this knowledge with his extensive practice in medical qigong, meditation, and Chinese medicine has led to the development of a series of classes called “Qigong Through The Seasons” which is a comprehensive program of qigong, meditation and dietary guidelines that allows one to be healthy all year long.  Dr. Davis is the creator of the popular CD, Guided Meditations For Summer, and is the author of the forthcoming book, Qigong Through the Seasons. thehealthmovement.com

Core Skills for Nondefensive Communication

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Emotional Enlightenment: Direct Path To Compassionate Communication with Paul Shippee, December 5-7, 2014

by Paul Shippee

“Anger and blame come from the

belief that other people cause our pain

and therefore deserve punishment.”

~Marshall Rosenberg

PART I

The practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also known as non-defensive communication and compassionate communication, requires a “change of consciousness.” As such it involves learning some new core skills. These interpersonal, emotional, and relational skills are new in the sense of being an alternative to familiar and habitual emotional reactivity that is often unconscious. Mindless reactivity gives rise to behavior patterns that isolate us and give rise to life-alienating experiences.

The most important core skill, besides emotional awareness, is to overcome blame.

What I mean by “change of consciousness” is really simple but not necessarily easy. It is, first, to see how our old habitual emotional reactions result in behaviors that disconnect us from others and ourselves. Then, when we re-connect with ourselves in a new way it might seem a bit strange and maybe difficult, as though we are taking on a new identity.

We can change our ingrained patterns of emotional reactivity when we become aware of what they are, and how or why they operate in us. This awareness allows us to create a change of consciousness when there is sufficient motivation and interest to do so. A change of consciousness, then, is an awakening in our being that opens us to greater vision of how to live one’s life according to one’s values. What’s the motivation for this? It is the sense of isolation, alienation and suffering.

As Anais Nin said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful that the risk it took to blossom.”

When we gradually learn to see that our habitual emotional reactivity is clearly defensive in nature, we can examine what it is we are trying to protect. We look into the question of whether the continual habit of both our gross and subtle defenses is worth it by considering its cost to openness, warmth, connection to self and other -natural human qualities that we might like to enjoy. The task here is to gradually transform toxic reactivity into responses that connect.

After seeing, in this way, our defensive reactions for what they are, the main skill in NVC practice is learning how to honestly identify and express feelings and needs. This often translates into vulnerability, a scary place for most people and often viewed as a weakness. So a core skill here that invites a change of consciousness is inquiry, to see and acknowledge when we are being defensive, why we are being defensive and how we are being defensive. This is a key first step because you can’t change what you can’t see.

In other words, obstacles and resistance to change will continuously arise along our path toward warmth and sanity. Long-term defenses that protect against feeling the pain of unhealed emotional wounds are entrenched. They have worn deep grooves in our present consciousness called habits. In the face of such obstacles we ask ourselves: what is blocking my capacity to see and express my feelings and needs as well as to practice empathy in seeing the feelings and needs of others?

We can identify four popular ways to escape and avoid feelings. What these four have in common is that they call upon external references and thus avoid connecting with what is going on within oneself. These four obstacles are:

-complaining,

-inventing a story,

-blaming & judging,

-shifting into analytical interpretation.

Most often we discover the primary defensive strategy in this NVC inquiry is blame. When we blame others or ourselves we’re not taking responsibility for our feelings or our emotional depths. Instead we are escaping, exiting the places inside that scare us. Sooner or later we might realize that to blame is to disconnect from others and oneself. When deploying blame (as a defense) it is like an attack; we are shifting and transferring emotional pain that belongs to us onto others. This defense mechanism is sometimes referred to projection in psychology.

Part of our inquiry is to ask: what is really going on when we react to a difficult message from others, one that triggers long-buried emotional pain and discomfort that we do not want to feel? The answer is that our reactivity is designed to block and defend against feeling those unwanted feelings because they hurt. I have learned that anger and blame are most often used to cover over and hide the hurt lying underneath. I have also learned that feeling these difficult unwanted emotions is healing. It opens the door to human connection, compassionate connection. This is the whole purpose of NVC practice.

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PART II

The urge to escape emotional pain is somewhat natural, a very strong habitual pattern engraved in our DNA and consciousness, in our being. But this learned behavior pattern, when no longer productive or needed, can be changed with education, motivation and practice. We can actually stop blaming others and making people wrong (so we can be right) and find that applying NVC skills can make life wonderful.

However, as long as we find more so-called safety and comfort in escaping and projecting the pain of our emotional wounds onto others than in taking responsibility by staying with the pain, then we probably won’t be motivated to change. We still prefer escape, whereas change involves the risk of communicating and sharing “what’s alive in us” …feelings and needs.

So blame, as a primary escape strategy, blocks the warmth and connection possibilities with self and others. Alternatively, the human connection of replacing reactivity with response feels satisfying and more fully human than our defensive strategies. However strange and uncomfortable it may seem at first, a slogan I created to capture the essence of how to change our consciousness, and take responsibility for our difficult emotions, goes like this: “cut the blame, stay with the pain.” Mastering this core skill is a healing activity that uncovers the natural inherent wisdom and compassion, spiritual awakenings that can open the door to authentic self-love and peace. On the other hand, bypassing this emotional awareness and healing opportunity can present obstacles to a genuine spiritual path.

Of course, there are many other subtle and not-so-subtle defensive behaviors besides blame that can block feeling and foster disconnection and distance, such as one-up-man-ship, interrupting, making others wrong, etc. Ideally, the wholesome process of NVC practice, preferably done in a group, will offer an opportunity to see through all defensive strategies and gradually move beyond them.

“The dynamic communication techniques of Nonviolent Communication transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues. You’ll learn simple tools to defuse arguments and create compassionate connections with your family, friends, and other acquaintances.”
John Gray, Ph.D., author, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

To learn more about NVC interpersonal relationship skills read, Nonviolent Communication –A Language of Life and visit http://cnvc.org

~~~

Paul Shippee Paul Shippee, MA Psychology, studied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) intensively with founder Marshall Rosenberg and other NVC trainers. He has facilitated NVC groups continuously for the past 8 years and teaches NVC workshops around the country.

Ten Tips for Non-Violent Communication

By Paul Shippee

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Emotional Enlightenment: Direct Path To Compassionate Communication with Paul Shippee, December 5-7, 2014

Non-defensive/Nonviolent Communication, also know as Compassionate Communication, is a way of relating to others so that everyone’s needs matter. NVC fosters connections between people rather than competition, one-upmanship or judgment. Shifting your attention to inner space rather than finding fault with what’s out there is the secret sauce for life-enhancing connections. Here are Ten Tips for NVC to get you started in the right direction:

1. Recognize and acknowledge that everyone’s basic nature is compassion and basic goodness, no matter what they are doing or saying on the surface.

2. Recognize and identify obstacles to compassion and empathy, such as unexamined beliefs, judgmental thoughts and old habitual patterns of reactive emotional behavior.

3. Cultivate emotional awareness in the present moment so that your reactivity is not projected outward onto others.

4. Become precisely aware of feelings, if you can, as they arise in the moment and move through you. You may have difficult reactive emotions that you are not conscious of.

5. When triggered into painful reactive emotions, realize that no one can “cause” you to feel anything. See your anger as a blessed signal – use it to connect with your primal, hidden feelings of hurt and fear that may lie hidden underneath.

6. Practice making neutral and factual observations instead of evaluations, projections and judgments.

7. Work continuously with your impulses that want to make others and/or yourself wrong, also known as blame.

8. Learn how to clearly identify and express your basic, universal needs without shame or expectations.

9. Practice what you would like from others without making a demand.

10. Look inside at your motivation for blaming, complaining or shaming others. What are you feeling now?

~~~

Paul Shippee Paul Shippee, MA Psychology, studied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) intensively with founder Marshall Rosenberg and other NVC trainers. He has facilitated NVC groups continuously for the past 8 years and teaches NVC workshops around the country.

Bringing Your Practice Home

By Katharine Kaufman

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bringing your Practice Home with Katharine Kaufman, November 21-23, 2014

Many poets, thinkers, and dreamers have talked about the inner voice, and a time of changing slightly what we are doing. The nudge leaves us trembling or is just a whisper, barely audible. At certain times in our lives there is a call to listen inwardly and be with ourselves. Maybe we are exhausted from busy days, or we feel stagnant in our yoga practice, or we can’t find time in our schedule to practice. Some of us travel and need a short daily boost. Maybe we want to devote an entire day each month to resting, sitting and yoga. Perhaps a close friend has died, or we find ourselves at a new intersection in our lives and our perspectives are changing. We might feel dull and would like to re-awaken our creative voice.

Regardless of our circumstances, the call is there—nagging perhaps, or a faint insistence that occurs in the guise of, “I need to do something differently.” It could be that our feedback comes from our circle of friends or co-workers! Small cracks in our thought habits occur, and the thought of other possibilities enter. If we are listening to this inner voice than our practice has already begun. How to continue? How can we possibly attend to practice as well as keep everything else in our lives afloat?

As we go into fall and winter we have the opportunity to be supported by the seasons toward this internal direction. This retreat is designed to inspire one’s own path.

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We will learn various ways to create yoga and meditation practices. We’ll start with this sense of what ritual is for us as individuals and then practice resting postures, and improvise from that place. We can create a practice conceptually, that has the elements we want, and repeats. We will practice the art of deep listening and let the space guide us. We may think we want one thing when we begin, and because we are listening and feeling closely, it turns into something else. We will brainstorm about where we find comfort, and delight, and think about places we can practice—conventional and not! We will sit, stand, and lie down. There will be led sequencing as well as spontaneous variations based on ancient wisdom lineages. We will consider incorporating contemplative artistic practices into our days as well such as dance, drawing, and writing.

My sense about this retreat is that the exploration and practices discovered are really ways to learn how to continue on the way of befriending, oneself. Can we take refuge; can we actually rest happily, in this rich sense of aloneness? What do we already know?

I practice by myself as well as with others. Both ways seem to me important aspects of learning of who I am and what it is to be with myself. This kind of closeness that develops creates the desire, ability, and confidence to want to be with others and our circumstances in a similar intimate way.

Here’s to listening to the small voice—our Way-seeking mind.

All Best,
~ Katharine

~~~

Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.

 

Emotional Enlightenment -Approaching The Inner Sanctuary of the Heart

By Paul Shippee

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Emotional Enlightenment: Direct Path To Compassionate Communication with Paul Shippee, December 5-7, 2014

Peeling away the protective layers of our habitual patterns of thinking and reacting we come to vulnerability, soft spot, the inner sanctuary of the heart. Things are no longer black and white, either-or, but we enter the tender areas of felt experience and glimpse previously unknown realms of our being. Compassion and empathy can now come alive as felt experience.

For emotional healing to take place we move from exclusively head-thinking to the open fields of heart-thinking. As Rumi said, “Somewhere out there beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a meadow; I’ll meet you there.” We discover unexpected aspects of ourselves that feel strange but good. We would like to claim these aspects because we sense the power of truth in them. As we let go of automatic and familiar judgment and blame reactions we discover hidden adversaries that are termed shadow and shame and blame. Those names point to all the conditioned ways we have covered over our heart, pushed the world away, sabotaged relationships and condemned ourselves with limiting beliefs by suppressing unwanted emotions like fear, sadness, hurt, grief and joy.

There is always some ambivalence in working with emotional healing. As we uncover, see and own shadow aspects of ourselves we also glimpse the authentic aspects and begin to feel the power of befriending both of these.

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Emotional healing is a lived and felt experience full of wonder, sadness, grief and joy. It is not an easy journey but is rewarded with delicious empowerment and a grounded satisfaction with who we really are. We find we can see through and abandon deception, confusion and hiding as we discover the raw directness of liberating honesty. Things become real and vivid and true as we learn ways to deal with uncertainty and change.

Working with emotional healing often feels like trying to catch the wind with our bare hands. The experience of transformation, transition and change feels elusive and slippery as we expose our old obstacles to authentic presence and true compassion. As the hidden fortresses of blame and shame and judgment begin to crumble and slide away from our grasp we may feel alternating mixtures of relief, surprise, fear, open-heartedness, tenderness, fresh air and homecoming.

Suddenly, the old fixtures of defense, aggression, impatience and fault-finding reveal their mask –their superficial lack of authenticity- and we begin to see the world in a new brilliance and also to feel the presence of nowness in our body. Even deeper and more subtle, we begin to touch the profound inner sanctuary of the heart. Strength and courage flow from somewhere in our being as fear and lack of confidence melt away. With this freedom comes a responsibility to stay connected with our feelings and needs and to enjoy an empathic presence with all beings.

~~~

Paul Shippee Paul Shippee, MA Psychology, studied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) intensively with founder Marshall Rosenberg and other NVC trainers. He has facilitated NVC groups continuously for the past 8 years and teaches NVC workshops around the country.

An Enlightened Society is a Sustainable Society

By Miriam Thomas

“Ecology and economy are not two different things.”

This is what Jim Tolstrup (Director of the High Plains Environmental Center and former SMC Land Steward) told us in a recent discussion with Shambhala Mountain Center Staff.  As I reflected on Jim’s words, I realized that ecology and economy indeed evoke the same truth:  everything exists in relation to everything else.  The dictionary defines ecology as “the relationship between living things and their environment” and economy as “a system of interaction and exchange”.  Both terms, however, simply describe the dynamic exchanges that constitute our interconnected existence.

blog imagePhoto by Molly Stetson

As Buddhists, we like to talk about mandalas.  Essentially an organizational chart, a mandala provides another way of framing our relationship to our environment.  The center of a mandala represents our chief motivating principle while the layers that radiate outwards illustrate how this principle is reflected in every facet of our lives and in our every relationship.  We can look to our mandala to see how our attitudes and our interactions are impacting our ecology and economy.

But the thing is:  we are always relating to the world, always part of a mandala.  And, if we aren’t mindful, we might find that the values ruling our mandala are not quite the values we intended to cultivate.   As our community pauses to reflect on the state of our mandala, we can see clearly that sometimes our actions and our values are incongruent.  Rather than criticize our community, we can regard this as a rich opportunity to examine our mandala with fresh eyes and an inquisitive mind.

So, let us refresh our perspective.  Let us reclaim as our guiding principle the wisdom of interbeing, the wellspring of compassion.  Through this lens, we see that our daily habits have become untenable and that our mandala requires some recalibration if we want our community to reflect our view and to be sustainable.  As we reorganize to operate from the basis of interbeing and compassion, we will naturally make specific adjustments that change the nature of our mandala—and thereby change the ecology and economy that we are perpetuating.  Such a shift takes time, but our community is already changing its behavior.

What are we doing to become more sustainable?

First of all, we are committed to reducing our energy consumption by 10 percent within the next year.  To this end, our Director of Expansion, Dickie Swaback, has created the Energy Project to document, track and reduce our energy expenditures.  Most importantly, he is inspiring the entire community to get on board.

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Step one is data collection—measuring how much electricity and propane we are using.  Throughout the summer, intern Stacy Smith has been meticulously compiling information on the energy efficiency of every single one of our buildings.  Step two is data analysis and strategic planning—devising an efficient, cost effective plan for reducing our energy consumption.

We do not, however, need to wait for a comprehensive plan to begin changing our culture.  Indeed, we are already actively cultivating an environmentally-conscious ethos here at SMC.  To encourage greater mindfulness in our daily habits, our staff is sharing energy-saving tips via email and word of mouth and has placed stickers beneath all light switches on the land, reminding ourselves and our guests to turn the lights off when we leave a room.  Furthermore, we are standardizing our light fixtures so that we can order energy efficient bulbs in bulk.  As the weather turns cold, we are also winterizing our homes and our facilities to ensure we are heating our spaces efficiently.

Meanwhile, a grassroots initiative to reevaluate our food system is emerging.  Community members have formed a committee to research, plan and build a greenhouse and develop a composting system.  Our kitchen is also consulting with a sangha member who is an expert in food waste reduction.  By streamlining our food system, reducing our waste and becoming more self-sufficient, we will become more financially and ecologically sustainable.  Moreover, we will feel greater gratitude and connection to our food and its origins—and to the universal mandala in which we take part.

An enlightened society is one that is grounded in the experience of interbeing.

Everything always boils down to relationships—our relationships with ourselves, with others and with our environment.  Call it ecology or call it economy but either way we still exist as part of a synergistic network.  We achieve sustainability when we nourish our relationships and are mindful of our interdependence and our impact on the network as a whole.

This cultural shift is also about empowerment.  We need to take responsibility for our environmental impact and our financial challenges, and recognize that the two are in fact intricately intertwined.  Acharya Fleet Maull has said, “Anytime you attribute the cause of your happiness or unhappiness, satisfaction or dissatisfaction to something outside yourself, you give away your power.”   Either we can point our fingers and blame others for the calamities we see in the world, or we can, as the Lojong slogan goes, drive all blames into one.  We can recognize that we ourselves are participating in the creation of culture and feel heartened that every moment and every interaction offers us the opportunity to change that culture.

So, let us celebrate our agency and lean into these challenges joyfully and with kindness, generosity and bravery.

~~~

IMG_0945Miriam Thomas–lover of mountains and ice, chocolate and avocados–lives and works at Shambhala Mountain Center. As the Development Associate, she has the great fortune to witness generosity in action every day. Her favorite color is yellow, her favorite flower is the sunflower and her current favorite book is Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector.

Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine to Harmonize Ourselves

By Nashalla Nyinda

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Introduction to the Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine with Nashalla Nyinda December 12–14, 2014

Tibetan medicine is an ancient and time tested comprehensive approach to holistic healthcare for the body, mind and emotional well-being. Focused almost exclusively on creating and maintaining equilibrium within one’s body and mind; the system aims to help one to know oneself, and thus how that relates to the external environment.

There are 4 treatment methods according to Tibetan Medicine

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I always encourage people that the first two treatment methods of diet and behavior are the first line of defense and the most important in recovering balance or management of a condition. This is because this is done by the patient on a daily basis and is not necessarily dependent on the physician. AND IT’S EASY to both learn and apply!

In the upcoming Introduction to the Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine weekend intensive at Shambhala Mountain Center, we will be focusing on these first two aspects of treatment and self-care.

What we will learn

During this weekend retreat, we will learn how to return harmony to our body and mind by refining our relationship to the elements and seasons. You will be given tools for identifying the three humors, for encouraging equilibrium, as well as learn how to apply general antidotes when the humors are imbalanced. The ultimate goal is to foster balance in the body and mind while encouraging a direct relationship to self.

Tibetan medicine understands that everyone is an individual, and therefore looked at as a unique makeup of the 5 elements and how that combines to form the “3 humors”. I believe as a physician of Tibetan Medicine that the modern world can benefit from the ancient healing arts of Tibet by making people aware of themselves. Who are they as an individual, how that relates to their symptoms and health issues and then make the connection to the natural cycles and seasons, qualities of food. This is an aspect I not only feel passionate about – but feel it will help give people very simple basic tools to enhance their well-being.

Nature is the blueprint 

Because the external and internal elements are interrelated and in fact based on the same material Tibetan Medicine takes the viewpoint that the sciences of anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology are all based on the 5 elements.

The combination of the elements make up our 3 humors, literally translating as “faults” in Tibetan because they are not stable, they change. This follows the law of impermanence. This development of the 3 humors is based on the principle of the 3 root poisons.
Passion – Aggression – Ignorance.

The Root Tantra tells us that the 3 humors reflect an individual balance for each person, wholly unique to them and their experience of health or imbalance in body, mind and spirit. There are 7 possible combinations or patterns of how these 3 humors can dominate within each person. Yet from the physician’s role, each person is treated as an individual with individual instructions. A doctor’s skill is in informing the patient what their dominant elemental pattern is, and how to balance this through diet and lifestyle.

The 3 Humors                                                                        Root Poison

rLung (pronounced Loong) WIND                          passion / attachment / desire
mKhris-pa (pronounced Tri-pa) BILE / FIRE          aggression / anger
dBedkan (pronounced Pay-can) PHLEGM             ignorance

7 possible constitutional possibilities for how the humors can display themselves 
Single wind
Single bile
Single phlegm
Duel wind + bile
Duel wind + phlegm
Duel bile + phlegm
All 3 humors combined- wind + bile + phlegm

WHY and HOW will this Tibetan approach increase one’s health, mental and emotional well-being?

The seasons, cycles, stages of life one is in all play a role in how the 3 humors operate. By bringing awareness and a solid simple, yet profound understanding of these aspects, many symptoms can be decreased or eliminated. We will have easily referenced tools and handouts which are the guides. I am passionate about empowering people to be an active participant in their healing process. You will walk away with confidence that you can use the aspects of diet, behavior and harmonizing with the seasons to empower your healthcare. Even if you’re just looking to optimize your natural healthy state; this course is a powerful lens to enhance all aspects the body, mind and spiritual practices.

What are the applications towards my spiritual practice?

Specifically if one is a serious Buddhist practitioner; there are aspects of recognizing and working with the 3 humor’s energies directly in mediation practice can enhance and deepen practice. We will touch on those. If you’re new to meditation; the aspects we will cover are still applicable to basic relaxation or yogic practices that are non-denominational. There will be time for individualizing and catering to what you’re hoping to get out of this course.

People used to ask me when I lived in Asia studying, ‘Why if you come from a culture so rich with modern medical advances do you study such a old system?’ My response was always that if a medical system which is the same today as it’s been for hundreds of years, is still in practice, and continues to produce good results with little or no side effects, it seems to me it has more value in studying it than modern medicine.

What is the importance or relevance of Tibetan medicine in today’s modern heath care system? The answer is simple. Despite advances in modern medicine people are still unhealthy, unhappy or both. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, auto-immune disorders, simple and complex digestive disturbances and a now massive wave of ‘food sensitivities’ and allergies or inflammatory conditions are on the rise. Emotional and psychological disorders are widespread and the number of people on antidepressant medicines is staggering. Patients take one drug to balance out the side effects of another.

This is not to say that there cannot be a marriage of the two worlds. One of the things that I strive to do as a western person explaining a system which is sometimes very different from what we know in a cultural context, is how to apply the principles of Tibetan medicine to daily life. These then can be further applied into whatever medical treatments one is currently undergoing. Many people seek conjunctive and alternative treatments to enhance their allopathic treatments, and this is also very helpful.

Come Join me and learn tools to enhance your well-being! Whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, healthcare practitioner or not, all will benefit and gain new tools for heath. Please join me as we explore the time-tested wisdom of Traditional Tibetan Medicine.

I look forwards to seeing you at Shambhala Mountain Center this December 2014!

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Also on the SMC Blog

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Nashalla-NyindaNashalla Gwyn Nyinda TMD, LMT has over 14 years of experience in Tibetan Medicine. She earned her Menpa degree (Doctor of Tibetan Medicine) from Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, Tibet and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine. She also has an Interdisciplinary Studies BA from Naropa University with a focus on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. She has taught these techniques worldwide to Tibetan doctors as well as Western health practitioners. Nashalla and husband, Dr. Tsundu S. Nyinda, are co-directors of the Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing Clinic in Boulder, Colorado.

Waking Up Together

By Miriam Thomas

The countdown begins…

We are exactly one month away from the debut of Awake in the World, our inaugural online event!  Thousands of you have already signed up and with each day more registrations are pouring in.

From its very inception we envisioned Awake in the World as a game-changer, an event to transform the way we collaborate and to catalyze synergistic action.  After all, it is the Year of the Horse, a time for energy, action and lha.  A year for dreaming big.

Still, six months ago, this event felt like a distant dream and now it is coming to fruition in ways we could never have imagined.  Looking at the hosts and presenters we have lined up, we feel honored and profoundly grateful to be partnering with some of today’s most visionary change-makers—individuals who are also our own personal heroes and teachers.

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Generosity in action

Awake in the World is radical because it represents a business model based entirely on generosity and collaboration.  Throughout this journey, we’ve been guided by our intention to create something of benefit to everyone involved:  participants, hosts, partners and SMC alike.

By far the most exciting aspect of this adventure has been the chance to witness generosity in action.  This free, online event emerged as somewhat of an experiment:  we wanted to explore what becomes possible when we operate from the basis of giving?

Given how tight cash can be at a non-profit like ours, some thought we were crazy for wanting to offer six days of dialogues, presentations and guided meditations for free.  However, today, we feel that this model is being validated in a big way.  Teachers, hosts and presenters are generously sharing their wisdom and time, putting enormous care into crafting a meaningful experience for all of us.  Meanwhile, our media partners are helping us spread the word about Awake in the World.

The beauty of this paradigm is that it recognizes that we are stronger together than we are apart.  We are heartened to see the evolution of a strong network of affinity groups supporting mutual growth and enrichment.  In this way, luminaries are able to unite their respective audiences, amplify their collective impact and foster enduring, purposeful connections based on shared values.

Millions of you and me’s

Awake in the World is ultimately about the dynamic exchange of ideas and energy and this begins with creating conversation.  As Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche points out, “the world is made up of millions and billions of ‘just you and me’ interactions” and these “seemingly minor exchanges have the power to gain momentum and begin to shift the social and environmental dynamics of our planet”.

At the heart of Awake in the World is a series of “just you and me” exchanges between social visionaries, thought leaders and wisdom holders.  They are in their homes and workplaces discussing their life’s work, their tools and techniques for living a meaningful life and offering guided meditations and contemplations to help us create a more mindful, compassionate world.

Through this online platform we can share these exchanges far beyond the scope of our little mountain valley here in Colorado.  People are registering from all over the globe, new networks are being formed and the potential for transformative ideas and practices to spread has never been so high.

If you have already registered for the event, thank you.  If you have not yet signed up, we hope you will join our conversation.  With your participation we really can make a difference, one interaction at a time.

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SMC_sidebar_AwakeAwake in the World Free Online Conference, featuring Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Charles Eisenstein, Susan Piver, Lodro Rinzler and many more. October 19-24, 2014. To learn more, please click here.

 

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IMG_0945Miriam Thomas–lover of mountains and ice, chocolate and avocados–lives and works at Shambhala Mountain Center. As the Development Associate, she has the great fortune to witness generosity in action every day. Her favorite color is yellow, her favorite flower is the sunflower and her current favorite book is Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector.

Radical Self Healing

By Charley Cropley

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Radical Self-Healing with Charley Cropley, N.D., October 3–5, 2014. 

You are innately Self-Healing. You passionately love yourself and you are endowed with the intelligence and power to Heal yourself. You simply have not ever been taught how to do this.

You do this by performing your most ordinary daily activities, eating, moving, thinking and relating with love and wisdom. i.e. with your spirit.

The challenge is that you are bound by a lifetime of habits. Stupid, selfish, harmful habits that are compulsive, even addictive. You have been unconsciously entrained in these sick behaviors by your family and culture. These habit “demons” govern every aspect of your behavior and are the cause of your illness and suffering.

To heal your body, you must Heal the ways you use your body. The ways you nourish, move and rest her.

To Heal your mind, you must Heal the ways you use your mind; the ways you judge and criticize yourself, the emotions you are addicted to and the ones you refuse to feel; and, above all, your deeply rooted beliefs about who you are; and your power to Heal your body and mind.

These habits do not die easily. There is only one way to Heal them. You must find your true identity that loves you more than your false self loves… well chocolate, coffee and wine; or slouching and self-criticism; or gossip and people pleasing.

You must be willing to approach your sick, addicted, stupid, selfish, altogether embarrassing self with great compassion and complete honesty. In short, you must cultivate a relationship, a living dialogue between your suffering self and your wise, compassionate self. You must come to intimately understand the sick parts of your psyche. Embrace them as a mother does her child and patiently re-educate them to behave as more responsible, adult members of your larger bodily, psychic community.

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In the weekend program I’ll be leading at Shambhala Mountain Center, you will come to appreciate that you are constantly receiving specific instructions from your body, your mind and from other people telling you exactly what to do and not do. You are being spoken to, constantly by Life, by the Divine. Your body is telling you unerringly how to feed her, move her and rest her. Your mind and heart (emotional body) do the same. The art is re-learning how to understand this sensory, mental, emotional language; As a gardener listens to the language of plants, you must return to this caring, innocent curiosity towards yourself. This is innate, natural to you.

“Radical Self-Healing” will teach you how to directly connect with your own innate goodness in a no nonsense, absolutely real way. You will then practice, both alone and in groups, expressing this source of Self-Healing in the ways you eat, move, think and relate.

The art of Self-Healing is a brutal war, an elegant dance, a living marriage between our “seemingly” opposing demons of habit and the angels of Health.

You will at least come away with a sense that your most ordinary activities are living sacraments, in which your lovers and enemies, your human and divine wrestle.

Through instruction, meditation, visualization, writing, conversation and real practice, both alone and in groups, you will taste the flavor of “Radical-Self-Healing”.

We have two days, 8 meals, two showers… to practice wielding your Self-Healing power through the ways you eat, move, think and relate. You may return to your life with a clearer understanding and greater confidence that you yourself are what Heals you.

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Be sure to check out:

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Charley-CropleyCharley Cropley, ND, is a Naturopathic physician who after 35 years of practice, uses no medicines. He teaches his clients that they are endowed with Self-Healing capacities exactly equal to their condition. They learn that illness itself is what heals them. It awakens their love of themselves and guides them in the heroic work of Healing their own self-harming ways.