Floral Notes and Bardo: Estranged into Love

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

In the wee hours, I stepped outside the yurt to wee.  It was frosty and blue.  The moon nearly full in the western sky, so the east-facing ridge was kissed, aglow.  Everything so still, frosty.  The Stupa illuminated, and the bare aspens, unconcerned.

My mantra: no rush.

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I’m realizing — again and again — how bent I am on doing so many, many, things.  Today at breakfast, I skipped the grapefruit, rather than inhaling it so that I could make it to meditation on time.

Less and more fully.

No rush.

I spent some time last night in the shrine room, by myself, studying the dharma.  So cold outside, and cozy in Pushpa with my tea and the heater, and lots of space to read, reflect.  I felt connected to my journey.  When the session felt complete, I walked up to the yurt, lit candles and played music without even glancing at the clock.

Nearly full moon rising, and playing whatever music I felt like playing.  My voice out of shape, but not.  What is “out”?

Music as a yoga.  Through playing: knowing genuineness, tenderness, timidity, fear, playfulness and all the rest.  It’s so poignant for me.

Two and a half years ago, when I first envisioned living here, making music was part of the vision.  Living in this amazing environment and letting it sing through me.  A year ago, after moving here, that was still the vision.  Somewhere along the line, it fell off.  I’ve touched the desperation of being estranged from it, and now I’m falling in love.  Music, music, music…

Last night, playing, such a deep joy out of the beautiful mystery of the music arising.  The music saying more about life than words on the page.  Period.  Ellipses.

– November 4, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

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.

Awake and Grateful: Reflecting on our First Online Event

By Travis Newbill

As some of you know, we recently invited some of the most brilliant people we could think of to share their wisdom with people from around the globe. And, we invited people from around the globe to show up to receive this wisdom, and to offer their own wisdom in response. We’re glad to report, that it all worked out very nicely, and we’re all a bit wiser for it!

For our first free online event, Awake in the World, more than 18,000 people participated over the span of 6 days — for live broadcasts, dialogues between teachers, guided meditations, contemplations, and a variety of additional presentations. Every morning, thousands of participants began their day by enjoying an artistic piece that we offered, and every evening, they asked questions of the presenters, who responded in real time. Throughout the event, participants shared personal insights and inspirations in an ever-growing comments section on the website.

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A genuine community of learning and awakenment was formed. Thus, Awake in the World has been no different in essence from what Shambhala Mountain Center has been doing for over 40 years. Of course, it has been different on other levels. For instance, this program involved many more people than any program we have run previously. Can you imagine a basketball arena on the SMC land? That’s what it would have taken to accommodate this audience.  So, we did this event in virtual space, rather than up in the Rocky Mountains.

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People from Chile, Switzerland, Iran, Israel, and so on, were able to join together to express their aspiration to realize a more awake, sane world. And, they were able to do so without having to travel from their homes. We do hope that all of these folks will come visit the land at some point, but it sure is nice that we’ve been able to connect from afar.

The appreciation that we’re received in response to the event has been overwhelmingly beautiful. Hundreds of messages have come in expressing appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to receive teachings with such ease. Here are a few:

“Inspired and excited listening to these teachers…from Yael Brisker in
Israel…where danger lurks so close, it is heartwarming to connect with this
energy. Thank you!” -Yael from Israel

“I am so thrilled to be able to follow from down here in Santiago, Chile. It is like
a dream coming true for me. Thank you all for this opportunity I am given. I am a
humble apprentice and had stopped for a while due to health conditions, but now
I am alive again and can hardly wait for being immersed in this beautiful AWAKE
IN THE WORLD.” -Virginia from Santiago, Chile

“Thank you all for the incredible package that you’ve made available to
everyone. I can’t imagine how much work was involved in putting this program
together but you did it in a magnificent way that has truly touched me and many
thousands of others. My heart is swelling with appreciation and gratitude.”
-Stella

Frankly, this is hitting us hard. We’re honored to be in a position to do this work, to offer these teachings to so many people. And we’re inspired to do more, and to refine our skills in doing so.

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To everyone who has been a part of this — in any way — we’d like to offer our deepest thanks.

To those who missed this one or who would like to spend more time with the material, we are glad to say that all of the recordings of the event, as well as a slew of additional teachings and bonuses, are available in our Resource Package. Purchasing the Resource Package, by the way, is a great way to support Shambhala Mountain Center, as we endeavor to provide opportunities for personal and collective awakenment long into the future.

Thank you for your ongoing support — financial and otherwise energetic.  It is felt, appreciated, and is the reason that we exist.

Looking back on what has occurred over the course of a year of planning and finally presenting the event, we’re feeling so inspired.  We have a sense that together, we can actually do big inspiring things.  We can brighten the world.  We can wake up.  Here’s to co-creating a world based on sanity, peace, and generosity.  Thank you for being a part of this.

Yoga for Every Body — Interview with De West (Audio)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts This Moment, Beautiful Moment: Yoga for Every Body with De West, November 7–9, 2014

In De Wests yoga, participants may cultivate deep awareness of body and learn to uncoil obstructions to find greater freedom. In her rejuvenating retreats, we discover where we have developed patterns over the years. Even in the womb we favored one side or the other of our mother’s belly. Through slow, directed movements, we learn where we can focus our mind to create more energy and openness and less physical discomfort and stress — targeting our entire bodies gently rather than stressing some parts while ignoring others.

Recently, De took some time to have some discussion around these points. Please click below to her our conversation. And, if you’d like to download the audio, click here and find the “Download” button.

~~~

De West

De West is a leader in the Boulder yoga community and is a co-director of Studio Be Yoga. Her teaching combines principles from Iyengar alignment and therapeutic yoga. As a teacher, De is insightful, intuitive, and attentive. Her years of work with osteopathic doctors allow her to apply yoga to many different people and conditions. Students leave De’s classes rejuvenated and grounded with a sense of personal and physical empowerment. Find more information about De at DeWestYoga.com.

Winter is the Ultimate Yin Season

By Ron Davis

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Qigong for the Seasons: Winter Qigong with Ron Davis November 14–16, 2014

Nature’s winter energy moves toward the center. Green leaves have withered away leaving the life force nestled in the roots; autumn’s warm hazy air has been cleansed and brightened by cooler winds; flowing water slows and begins to freeze; brown meadow grass has fallen back to earth. For people, winter causes our Qi vital energy to retract from the outer aspects of the body and settle in the bones, kidneys, and the lower dan tian (LDT) of the abdominal region. This seasonal migration of energy toward the body’s core is essential to our health.

Winter is a time for deep resting and nourishing the most vital structures of the body: bone marrow, kidneys, spinal cord and brain. We can do this with qigong exercises, specific meditations and certain foods and herbs. As part of the Winter Qigong practice, the following exercise is a wonderful way to help you stay healthy all the way through winter.

Filling the Lower Dan Tian to Nourish the Kidneys.

The lower dan tian (LDT) functions as an alchemical stove. It has a diffuse boundary going from the lower abdomen, down to the perineum, up the lower back, and forward beneath the diaphragm. The essence of food and air becomes transformed inside the LDT into the Qi that circulates through the meridian system. The kidneys are located close to the LDT and act as the energetic foundation of each organ’s yin and yang. That’s a big responsibility. Without the Water and Fire of the kidneys all other organs would dwindle away.

This exercise brings the healing Qi from earth and sky into the top of the “taiji axis” (the deepest energy channel that runs through the very center of the body), then down to the heart where it mixes with the Qi of the chest, and then down to the LDT for purification and storage. Filling The Lower Dan Tian To Nourish The Kidneys will stimulate the body with vital healing energies from terrestrial, celestial, and human sources.
BEGIN by standing with feet shoulder-width apart, hands down with palms near outside of thighs.

Inhale slowly as you lift arms laterally in a big arc, with palms up, to overhead position where the palms touch.
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Think of gathering in fresh Qi from the earth and from the sky. Then compress this Qi between the hands. Think that you are consolidating and transforming raw elements into a priceless jewel.
Exhale very slowly through your nose as hands, in prayer position, come down the front of the body’s midline to the chest.

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Think of bringing the Qi jewel down the taiji axis and into your heart. Although the hands move in front of the body, the energy is brought down the internal channel. Still exhaling, turn hands over into a diamond shape with fingers pointing down, thumbs up, and palms against the body.
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Continue to exhale, move hands downward, as the Qi descends the taiji axis and flows into lower dan tian. Finish exhalation with thumbs at navel and palms lightly touching abdomen. Relax.
Inhale and turn hands so that palms are facing each other, fingers still pointing down, then move hands apart just out to hip-width. This is a short inhalation.
Exhale and bring palms toward each other until almost touching. Think of packing the valuable energy into the LDT for storage.
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At the end of this short exhalation, drop your hands to sides and relax your shoulders.

Do 8 repetitions.

At the end, stand still with right hand resting lightly on the LDT, left hand over right. Take 3 slow natural breaths, feel the Qi circulating.

This is the premier exercise for Winter Qigong practice. Movement is kept to a minimum, while mental intention is foremost. Use your mind to lower the Qi. The movements bring the limitless energy of the outside world into the nucleus of personal existence. And then the treasured Qi is stored in the bedrock reservoir of vitality, there to be slowly refined and nourished for self-preservation and good health through the long season of Ultimate Yin.

~~~

Ron-DavisRonald Davis, DC. LAc. Dipl Acu (NCCAOM) has been in clinical practice since 1984 and has taught qigong, taiji and spinal health care classes for more than twenty years. He is a certified qigong instructor as well as a medical qigong teacher for professional continuing education credit from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Davis is committed to helping people learn how to improve their health by using qigong, meditation, and dietary guidelines. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, Qigong for the Seasons.

 

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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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.