Walking the Edge: An Interview with Filmmaker Doug Karr

By Travis Newbill

IMG_2966 (1)Second generation member of the Shambhala community Doug Karr has brought a marvelous film into the world recently, and we at Shambhala Mountain Center are excited to share the news that our own Executive Director Michael Gayner has helped the film along, serving as Executive Producer (he’s an executive kind of guy). And, in related delightful news, Doug has generously offered up one of his producer points from the film so that a portion of the film’s profits will go towards the Shambhala Mountain Center. (Thanks, Doug!)

The film, titled Art Machine, tells the story of a child prodigy painter who must make the difficult transition into adulthood–as an artist and human being. Throughout the film, notions of sanity, inspiration, madness, dharma, fame, and love are explored in a fun and edgy way.

Recently, Doug took some time to speak with us about the film, which you can purchase in iTunes by following this link: Click Here

SMC: It seems that, in Western culture, art is not always seen to be an expression of sanity. There seems to be some sort of glorification of the disturbed, crazy, tortured artist. I wonder if that seems true to you.

Doug Karr: Yeah. I think that once the mercantile nature of the art industry took over, that sort of shifted things as far as who wanted to get involved in the practice of becoming an artist. Also, I think that people who gravitate toward making art tend to be more out there, more free thinking–lots of interesting insights into what they want to say about the world. That could go either way.

What do you mean?

I don’t necessarily look at mental health and think that it’s a negative thing when someone has a free-flowing mind, but I think there is a line. If someone is having a psychotic break, in our culture that is something that people have a hard time dealing with. There’s been ancient cultures where those people have been looked upon as seers. That’s interesting to me –the artistic possibilities of someone who has that sort of wide open mind. There can be a bit of groundlessness and also an opportunity for them to find freedom of expression.

Is there a fine line between creative genius and clinical mania?

Yeah, I think in my life, when I was growing up, there were quite a few people who were having psychological breakouts when I was a teenager. And I found that it was almost a very attractive thing when people would start to lose it, because they would manifest all this really amazing energy and communicate what felt like direct, super inspired insights. That was both frightening and attractive. When they were on the edge, before things got really crazy and the police got involved, there was this sort of amazing place at the root of the mania.

Right…

I think that there is this aspect of genius in that and people who are either highly intelligent, or highly artistically minded, or super inspired, have the potential to walk that edge. I think it’s really dangerous and evocative place. The reason I wanted to explore this film was to explore that.

And you did so through this character, Declan Truss, who is a child prodigy now coming of age. Why?

I got really excited about studying child prodigy painters and researching those kids. I started to see the potential to take a kid like that and see what may happen to him to in his teen years when there is the potential for bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia to manifest. And, especially when you combine that with psychedelic drugs, there’s a crazy mix of possibility there. I think that’s where that edge became important to this story and something that I wanted to talk about.

There is a buddhist tone throughout the film, which mostly comes through Cassandra, the romantic interest of Declan. How would you describe the role that the dharma plays in Declan’s progression?

Cassandra’s focus on impermanence and the true nature of reality was at first very interesting to Declen, and shifted him in a new direction. Then, those ideas become fuel for the mania. I’ve seen that happen before. People get a little hit of dharma, but they don’t have the foundation of years of practice. It can be very liberating–to the point where they don’t have much ground under their feet. It was exciting to explore the possibility of Declan going down the rabbit hole, and then having the ground forced back under his feet through his own actions. I wanted to show that progression, and see that arc.

 

Dwelling in the Sacred: Awakening Through Seeing and Making

By Anthony Lawlor

Sacred Space Altar To dwell in the sacred is to live with shimmering presence in the physical world. It is to experience your home and community as living, breathing extensions of your mind, body and nature. It is to engage visible forms and colors, objects and places as allies revealing the unseen forces energizing and guiding you. In the middle of the crushing craziness of daily life, it is finding spaciousness and peace wherever you are. Dwelling in the sacred is your natural way of inhabiting the earth. But it gets lost in the fears and limited patterns of thinking promoted by our materialistic culture.

To reclaim sacred ways of dwelling involves expanding beyond the conventional mindset that views the world as isolated, lifeless objects. It is to see with fresh eyes and shape your surroundings in ways the promote renewal and awakening. Sacred Seeing opens you to experiencing walls and windows, chairs and cabinets as the alchemy between human imagination and the earth. Through such awakened eyes, inhabiting your home and city becomes an active meditation for touching profound vitality and connection through physical places. Sacred Making offers you ways to make your home and workplace environments that nourish wholeness in your mind, body and family. It is a means of entering a dialogue with nature and finding healthy, sustainable ways of making your place in the world.

The foundation of Sacred Seeing and Making is creative play that discovers how the earth truly longs for you to inhabit it. In turn, it is finding out how you can live on earth the way you have always wanted to. Through the creative play of Sacred seeing and making our sense of home can expand beyond the walls of your house or apartment and include the entire world.

Anthony Lawlor Altar You can learn how to Dwell in the Sacred at a workshop I am leading May 30-June 1 at the Shambhala Mountain Center. This retreat invites us to experience our home,workplace, and community as sacred places that can serve as allies on our life journey. Exercises held in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya will allow us to feel the archetypal elements of holy sites and to learn ways of finding peace, healing, and inspiration within the buildings we inhabit each day. Through a variety of practices we will sense the connections between the buildings sheltering us and our patterns of thought, speech, and action. We will learn ways of arranging furnishings, selecting colors, and choosing materials to increase inner and outer harmony, health, and happiness, and to engage our living spaces as vessels for spiritual awakening. Click here to find out more: Dwelling In the Sacred: Spaces as Vessels of Awakening

I hope you will join use for a fun, inspiring and transforming weekend.

After taking a similar course I taught in New York, a real estate agent there sent me this email: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of you and the new awareness you brought me as I walk through my city. It really added to my fascination with the architecture of NYC in that now I really look at all of the little details and feel the energy behind their creation—the joy and beauty. It brings me into the present moment and I feel a connection with timeless existence and my place in it. Quite a gift! Many thanks.”

Anthony Lawlor will be leading a weekend program called Dwelling in the Sacred: Everyday Places as Vessels for Awakening at SMC from May 30-June 1. For more information, click here.

FLOW: I Move Because I am Curious

By Katharine Kaufman

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27

I start in stillness. Then I recognize I am breathing. The breath appears to be more clear—prominent. I recognize a sense of body—what is touching the ground, what is a little snug, what feels tired. Hello body. I relax my jaw and shoulders and along with this, discursive movement relaxes too. Breathe out. I am landed. Where does movement start? Mind? A reflex? Breath? I move not because I am uncomfortable and want to change my posture. I move because I am curious. I am looking for what my mentor, Barbara Dilley, calls, “kinesthetic delight.”

I open my peripheral view to the others in the room. Pretty soon we are moving through space, slowly, and somewhat together. I don’t have to hold this body up—by myself. I think of my yoga teacher, Richard Freeman who always said we can “ride the breath.” And there’s a sense of support from the group. When we slow our movement we can take care of ourselves as we enter and leave the poses. When we slow even more we don’t need to push at anything. The breath seems to carry us. Gravity seems friendly.

DSC_2289Photo by Barbara Colombo

The creative yoga sequences are funny— and there is some laughter, and a few groan as someone is challenged with how to unwind from a pose. When we enter a twisted posture it seems that the breath is all that moves. Our entire body works as a unit in strong poses. When we balance there is a tremor. Someone who usually toughs it out chooses to rest for a while and then joins a little later. So it goes—starting simply, we move into more complex poses and then return to the simplicity of sitting or standing, or lying. We have been around the block -–looked into our alleys and windows… With each sun-salutation, plank pose, and savasana we feel both the limits of our movement and the expansiveness—We know ourselves as moving beings. After all this moving it feels natural to sit, so we do.

This is what we do with our short time together. This is practice. The land supports us in our practice. The staff understands. They are friendly and gentle. Other programs support us in our practice and the practice itself supports our practice. Zen Master, Kobun Chino said, “practice is a fancy word.” It’s not special. It’s ordinary and visceral. We have the opportunity to go to the depths as well as shallows, and to let our recognition of each current exploding moment expand us.

Then there are meals –beautiful vegetarian meals —waiting for us. We walk in the springtime mountains. Are there flowers yet? I forgot. It has been a long time. Maybe there is a puffy spring snow that melts as it touches the ground.

After lunch I walk up to the stupa and around the perimeter a few times. I only hear the sound of my steps on the gravel so I try to walk more softly to match the silence. This allows me to really feel each step and swing of arms, legs. The wind shoots through the land. I realize I don’t know much about wind, this land, myself…I find this hysterical and burst out in a big laugh. When I enter the stupa I am surprised by a rush of energy and clarity as I sit, facing the mystery of who I am, what phase I am in. I feel the vulnerability of this human life. Here, I don’t need much to be satisfied.

Being removed from my habitual routes and places gives me the opportunity to look at my thoughts, body, relationships, and days from a bigger perspective. Questions arise as we move through our practice—in relationship with our own mind and body. They are questions that can be translated to our lives. I may ask, Where is space in this back bend? What flows? What is necessary? With what kind of energy and awareness am I stepping on the ground? How gracefully do I perform these stops and starts? Can I let go here—and here? Is my movement too swift for how my body really feels? The questions are enough. They don’t require answers.

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27. To learn more, please CLICK HERE

Summer Set-Up Volunteer Program: Pitch Some Tents, Open Your Heart

By Travis Newbill

Summer set-up is our annual, six week volunteer program which provides folks of all sorts an opportunity to spend time together on the magical land of Shambhala Mountain–practicing meditation, working, and participating in a variety of community activities.

It’s a time when friendships are formed and insights arise as to who we are and what we’re doing. It’s a time for growth, reflection, and contributing to something larger than any individual.

We hope that the video below may offer a glimpse into what a powerful experience Summer Set-up may be for people, and we warmly invite you to consider participating.

To learn more about the program, and to apply (deadline is May 1), CLICK HERE

 

Queer Dharma: A Conversation with Acharya Eve Rosenthal

 

Acharya Eve Rosenthal will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eric Spiegel, March 28-30

Acharya Eve Rosenthal

Acharya Eve Rosenthal

All beings possess natural goodness, kindness and intelligence, noble qualities inherent in each of us, regardless of style or sexuality. The Shambhala dharma is about gaining confidence in these inherent qualities by means of meditation and infusing this confidence into our everyday lives. While this is true for everyone, the LBGTQ community faces particular challenges within society; this can be both an inspiration and an obstacle for each of us.

Acharya Eve Rosenthal has been a meditator in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition since 1973. Founder of Shambhala Online, she has worked in technology on Wall Street and as a university professor. She travels widely to teach on meditation and Shambhala principles and is a long time practitioner and instructor of Tai Chi Chuan.

Watch our interview with Acharya Rosenthal below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio. And, check out our interview about Queer Dharma with Acharya Eric Spiegel: HERE.

Also, Eve will be hosting a live interactive online discussion along with Acharya Eric Spiegel on Sunday March 16 at 4pm EST / 6pm MST. Follow this link to participate, and to watch a previously recorded session: http://shambhalainternational.adobeconnect.com/queer/

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

 

 

Befriending Small Deaths-Big Deaths: A Conversation with Dominie Cappadonna

 

Dominie Cappadonna will be leading Befriending Small Deaths-Big Deaths along with Joshua Mulder, May 9-11

Dominie Cappadonna

Dominie Cappadonna

Approaching death with curiosity, courage, and spiritual skills allows for fearlessness in facing the unknown. The small deaths of broken-heartedness, sickness, aging, loss of work and more, offer us practice moments for the big death at the end of life. By relating in a profound way with our small deaths, we build resilience and positive qualities to strengthen our encounter with dying moments as they arise.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Confidence, Identity, and Queer Dharma: A Conversation with Acharya Eric Spiegel

 

Acharya Eric Spiegel will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal, March 28-30

Acharya Eric Spiegel

Acharya Eric Spiegel

All beings possess natural goodness, kindness and intelligence, noble qualities inherent in each of us, regardless of style or sexuality. The Shambhala dharma is about gaining confidence in these inherent qualities by means of meditation and infusing this confidence into our everyday lives. While this is true for everyone, the LBGTQ community faces particular challenges within society; this can be both an inspiration and an obstacle for each of us.

Acharya Eric Spiegel has been teaching the Shambhala Dharma since the mid 1970s. Beginning with the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, Eric has worked extensively with illness and death, helping people realize their natural wisdom in the face of impermanence. He has also had a decades-long career in finance.

Watch our interview with Acharya Spiegel below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio. Also, check out our interview about Queer Dharma with Acharya Eve Rosenthal: HERE.

Also, Eric will be hosting a live interactive online discussion along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal on Sunday March 16 at 4pm EST / 6pm MST. Follow this link to participate, and to watch a previously recorded session: http://shambhalainternational.adobeconnect.com/queer/

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Acharya Eric Spiegel will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal, March 28-30

SMC and ‘Art Machine': A Conversation with Writer/Director Doug Karr

By Travis Newbill

Second generation member of the Shambhala community Doug Karr has brought a marvelous film into the world recently, and we at Shambhala Mountain Center are excited to share the news that our own Executive Director Michael Gayner has helped the film along, serving as Executive Producer (he’s an executive kind of guy). And, in related delightful news, Doug has generously offered up one of his producer points from the film so that a portion of the film’s profits will go towards the Shambhala Mountain Center.

The film, titled Art Machine, tells the story of a child prodigy painter who must make the difficult transition into adulthood–as an artist and human being. Throughout the film, notions of sanity, inspiration, madness, dharma, fame, and love are explored in a fun and edgy way.

Recently, Doug took some time to speak with us about the film. You can watch our interview below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

And, you can view and support this film in iTunes by following this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/art-machine/id794840957?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Relationship as a Path of Awakening: A Conversation with Bruce Tift, MA, LMFT

 

Bruce Tift will be leading Relationship as a Path of Awakening, May 16-18, 2014. He’ll also be giving a talk on the subject in Boulder on April 25.

BruceTiftHow can we use the inherent disturbance and richness of our intimate relationships as an opportunity for wakefulness? Psychotherapy helps us understand the deep historic conditioning we bring to our relationships. Buddhist practice cultivates the confidence that, in each fresh moment, we are free in how we relate to this conditioning. Let’s explore how we can learn to keep our hearts open within the profound provocation of intimacy.

Bruce Tift, MA, LMFT, has been in private practice since 1979, taught at Naropa University for 25 years, and given presentations in the U.S., Mexico and Japan. His new CD, Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation, explores the human issues of neurosis, anxiety, body awareness and relationship dynamics.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Ikebana: The Contemplative Art of Flowers

By Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and Travis Newbill

Shenpen, Sensei will be guiding Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art and Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014

Alexandra Shenpen

Alexandra Shenpen

Ikebana is more than just flower arranging. Rather, it is a practice through which we explore nature & life,  the relationship between heaven, earth, humanity and personal artistic process — whether we feel we are artistic or not!  We begin by learning traditional, harmonic forms. Engaging with Ikebana as a contemplative practice awakens the unconditional beauty of  our world,  inspiring a way of living.

Below are some words from our wonderful teacher, Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and some images of arrangements created by introductory students.

On structure and improvisation:
“Forms tame us, helping us to wear-out our artistic ego, so that what comes through is fresh and awake, an expression of  what’s already there — both in ourselves and in nature.  This is a wonderful ground for later improvisation.   In other words, structure provides a language of flowers — and from that language, not only can the poetry of botanical materials communicate more vividly, but one can begin to play.  Ultimately, the plants speak for themselves, if we understand their presence in space.”

DSCN0137

“Ikebana, as a non-verbal art form, allows us to let go of  thoughts and judgments that can cloud the way we see the world.  By  really looking at a branch, a twig, a flower, we can discover how to look , that we  might truly see, and fully appreciate what’s there.  The flowers and branches find their own place harmoniously.  When we begin to taste that  experience, isness–things as they are–renews our real heart.  Ultimately, when we are experiencing the vivid inseparability of form and emptiness, we feel very alive,  in touch with ourselves and phenomena.  It quite goes beyond words.  Art  embodying that is very helpful to have in the world.”

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Flower as guest:
“Human beings have a universal soft spot for plant life, for the beauty of nature. Just holding or looking at a flower touches that soft spot. Once flower or branch has been cut, it is no longer being sustained by its own way of growing. It is in our care. Being considerate of the flower’s needs comes naturally when our soft spot is open.”

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“Every Choice is an Artistic Choice” — Ernie Porps/Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
“Ikebana can be a positively dangerous contemplative art ——     it can change your life! It becomes harder to not notice. Our natural instinct is to be awake and care for our world  —  noticing,  appreciating, and engaging aesthetically. How we get dressed, or how the dishes go in the dish rack — becomes more of an ongoing creative  process, rather than just something to put up with.”

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“Ikebana/Kado honours the sense of above, below, and in between- – –  below is not lesser than above and above is not greater than below, and in between is not “not as good as” or “better than” something else. Those are human neuroses which are rampant in the world and in ourselves. Some liberation from that takes place when we create a living piece.   We come to recognize that each element has its own place, creating a harmonious whole.    This really interrupts our conventional way of thinking about things.”

~~~

Finally, a testimonial from David, a student of Shenpen, Sensei:

“Whether to choose this blossom, or that branch has been an absolutely safe place to be daring. The most dreadful consequence has been total collapse (of my flower arrangement) – something I have found I can live with! After a year I am beginning to bring this development of felt-sense into my larger world. I find it easier to move with confidence and trust myself. Who would have ever thought that arranging flowers could have such potential for informing my life? The fresh perky blooms are rubbing off!”

Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei will be leading Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art & Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014. To learn more, CLICK HERE