“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind—all the unwanted parts of himself—he didn’t know how to get rid of them. So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.” At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.” Then that demon left too.”
― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
These days you hear a great deal about meditation. This kind of meditation, that kind of meditation; all sorts of books describing what it is and what it can do for you. Often meditation is associated with a particular religion or spiritual practice. Let’s clear something up right at the start.
Meditation is not a religion. Meditative/contemplative practices have been part of numerous spiritual practices throughout history. No one owns it.
Meditation is not Prozac. It does not cure or solve anything.
Meditation does not make you a better parent, a better doctor, a better student, help you be less depressed or anxious.
In fact meditation does no-thing at all!
Like everything else that gets exploited, meditation is now neatly packaged for your consumptive desires.
Everybody is touting and selling meditation. Step right up and get yours.
Okay let’s restore some sanity here.
A meditation practice doesn’t help you overcome anything. It just helps you face your life with greater patience, openness and compassion.
If you do meditation for some outcome you’re not doing mindfulness. I’m not sure what you’re doing and it may be beneficial but it is not meditation.
You see, the real practice of meditation has no outcome. You don’t do meditation to get anywhere or achieve anything. If you do, you run the risk of becoming attached to that particular outcome and that interferes with your meditation practice.
So why practice mindfulness?
All the great teachers (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Toltec, Muslim, Native Peoples) have taught one thing:
The only reason to practice mindfulness is this:
to wake up!!!!
To wake up!
A regular meditation practice simply peels back the layers of self-deception to see things clearly as they truly are. The more you wake up, the more you are able to live your life from an open compassionate heart, and a balanced calm mind; from a deep place of innate wisdom. The benefits of awakening move in all directions throughout all your experiences.
Meditation is the awakening of our entire experience, not just our minds; the awakening of our entire body-mind and its sensory experience. This awakening reduces our fear-based reactions and cultivates our natural ability respond to others and ourselves with great patience, openness and compassion. Our senses become alive with wonder and curiosity for past conditionings and limiting attachments.
So let’s stop all this nonsense of trying to practice meditation for any particular outcome.
It comes down to this: Practice this enduring skill for its own sake, and everything else will take care of itself.
The simple yet profound practice of mindful meditation, whether on a cushion or in a chair, or in a grocery line, or talking with another, just keeps you in an open, balanced, and compassionate place that just makes this a better world.
The Path of Simply Being retreat will be a wonderful experience in developing a meaningful and beneficial meditation practice.
You need not have any prior meditation experience. Or you may wish to attend to deepen or re-kindle your practice.
At the passing of Onyumishi Kanjuro Shibata XX, I want to take this opportunity to express my deep sadness and heartfelt appreciation.
Shibata Sensei was an exemplar of warriorship. In the last year of his life, he visited Shambhala Mountain Center on a number of occasions in response to a request from the staff to teach warriorship and revitalize the practice of Kyudo at the mountain center. Despite his obvious frailty and need for oxygen at the higher elevation, he came and shared his profound teachings with us. He also invited the staff to his dojo in Boulder, to take first shot with him. This was a warrior for whom there was never a moment of holding back.
This Friday, Sensei will be cremated at Shambhala Mountain Center. We are grateful for this opportunity to pay our respects and support Sensei and the family during this transition. We will be sending further details on Thursday.
Yours in the dharma,
Shambhala Mountain Center
Details of Cremation Ceremony at SMC on Friday, October 25th
The cremation ceremony will start at noon, please arrive half an hour early prepared to walk a half mile on rocky mountain paths and be outside for several hours in the mountains (warm hat, gloves, coat). Parking close to the site will be restricted to family. Limited shuttle service will be made available for those that cannot walk.
Light refreshments and sustenance will be available, but full meals will not be available due to the number of guest and nature of the event. We recommend that you bring snacks if you are concerned.
We will be asking for donations to cover the cost of the ceremony and refreshments. We recommend each person donate $25 for themselves, and if they are able to contribute more to cover the cost of those who are less fortunate, it is appreciated. This will cover the family’s costs for the cremation. Any donations beyond the costs of the ceremony will be offered to Shibata Sensei’s dojo.
Please see the comment below for further information on the ceremony in Boulder at the Zenko Iba on Friday morning.
I love fall when the leaves turn their bright colors, the air is crisp and the farmers market is alive with the abundance of the harvest. I always feel a pull to turn inward, make soup and laze around more, though the outer world doesn’t always support that. There is a great paradox being reflected in nature this time of year. As the trees turn their brilliant colors, they remind us of our hearts’ inner brilliance and as the leaves fall, we know on some level we are being asked to let go. In this way, nature gives us permission to let old patterns fall apart and go back to the void so we can clear the way for something new to emerge.
One of my favorite Hindu goddesses is Kali who is also known as the Goddess of Destruction. When you first see an image of her, she looks scary but she is actually quite beautiful in her rawness. Kali shows up commonly in yogic art. She is the one with the wild hair, the bare breasts and the severed heads around her neck. She usually carries a sword and one of the ways you know it’s her is that she is sticking out her tongue.
Kali represents the energy of death, darkness and uncertainty in each of us. She cuts through the illusions of the ego. She is also the void. Most of us are terrified of this energy within us, so we turn our back on it and it goes into the shadow—coming out as resentment, repressed anger and a disconnection with the mother archetype. This dark and scary place is often where we carry our most tender wounds. When we have the courage to go into the darkness and meet our deepest fears and wounds, we’re able to feel more and allow our raw emotions to move and express themselves. When integrated into the heart, these wounds become our true beauty. In her many teachings, Kali gives us the opportunity to pause, to stop the busyness and ask ourselves, “What do I really value?” This mother goddess tells us that death is not a problem but an opportunity to turn toward life.
I’ve been admiring all the different leaves as they fall from the trees, each one carrying their own unique hue of reds, yellows, bright oranges and browns. Some small, some large with various shapes and textures, all beautiful in their own way as they dance in the autumn winds, falling and composting back to the same place our bodies will go someday—returning back to our beautiful Mother Earth. Kali’s teachings are so precious because they’re about learning to love every part of ourselves as whole, even the parts we call “imperfect” and “ugly.” When all the uncertainties of life arise, my hope and prayer is that we can remember to turn to the elements and these deities like Kali that remind us how much beauty there is in life and all its imperfections.
Alison Litchfield will be leading Embody Shakti: A Women’s Yoga Retreat with Kirsten Warner from November 15-17. This unique retreat will blend ancient yogic wisdom with practices addressing the challenges faced by modern women, giving empowering tools to live a happier and more authentic life. To read more, click here.
We are so delighted to be spending Thanksgiving at beautiful Shambhala Mountain Center next month and we hope that many of you can join us. We’ll make ourselves into a community for these fews days, sharing a variety of human delights: meditation, yoga, the Stupa, the wonderful SMC fall weather, food, drink, music and family.
Our plan for the three days is simple: to create a warm and vibrant space where we can share good cheer, good food and good conversation with one another. Mornings will include children’s activities so parents can join in yoga and/or meditation practice sessions. Afternoons can be spent together (we’re planning a short guided hike up to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya for a tour of its many wonders), or on your own, reading, wandering and resting. In the evenings we invite you to bring your favorite musical instrument–or simply your music appreciation–and relax with us by the lodge fireplace in song (and, if you’re so inspired, in the added glow of Chanukah lights).
Oh, and for Thanksgiving we’ll dine together in the late afternoon in Sacred Studies Hall, enjoying tasty servings of fowl, grains, greens, wine and sweets, provided by SMC’s gracious staff, and with some pitching in by the rest of us.
If this sounds good, join us…make it a plan!
Dan and Melanie
To register for just Thanksgiving Day, please click here.
To read more information about the extended weekend retreat and to register, click here.
Acharya Daniel Hessey has been a student of Shambhala Buddhism since 1971 and has taught extensively throughout the U.S. and South America. Since 2004, he has studied the I Ching with Eva Wong, a Taoist Qigong lineage holder and translator of classical Chinese texts. Dan is a former director of Shambhala Mountain Center and now serves on its board of directors.
Last week on this blog, we shared photographs of twelve Dathun participants taken before and after their month long meditation retreat. This week we’d like to share a bit about the gifted photographer who took these portraits and a bit about the unique process she used to do it.
Karen O’Hern is a Colorado-based photographer who travels the globe with her large camera and enormous heart, capturing images that reveal the deep beauty of the world and humanity. She is a true “Humanitarian Photographer.”
We encourage you to visit Karen’s webpage in order to learn more about this artist, her amazing journey, and to view a gallery of images that will break your heart wide open–we promise.
We’re so grateful that Karen turned her love and lens towards these Dathun participants this past summer, and we’re glad to share with you here some words from her regarding the process.
The instructions I gave the participants: Prior to taking their portrait, I explained that this would not be what they were used to when having their picture taken. This was about capturing them in an authentic and genuine state of being, and recording their state at this point and time. So before raising the camera to my face, I asked them to close their eyes and settle in to who they were right now – to feel the experience of their authentic self no matter what that meant. When they felt they were looking how they genuinely felt, only then should they open their eyes. They should take as much time as necessary. I explained that when they opened their eyes, they would see the camera’s lens and they should maintain their state, and simply think about seeing their reflection of their authentic self – exactly how they were right then – in the end of the lens. They should remain in that state until I gave them a verbal indication that we were done.
They were all able to do that, not seeming to change when their eyes opened.
Thank you, Karen!
For information about our upcoming Winter Dathun, please click here.
Dathun is not a magic pill or a makeover. Still, the before and after photos can be quite striking. And though the photos themselves speak volumes, the featured practitioners have words worth sharing as well. Below, 2013 Summer Dathun participants share their aspirations when entering Dathun, as well as their experience 30 days later. Please stay tuned throughout the coming weeks as we offer further glimpses into the heart of Dathun. Next week, photographer Karen O’Hern describes the process used to capture these images.
As was mentioned above, in a blog post next week, Karen O’Hern will reveal the process in which these portraits come to be. For now, we’d like to leave you with a little snippet:
“Prior to taking their portrait, I explained that this would not be what they were used to when having their picture taken. This was about capturing them in an authentic and genuine state of being, and recording their state at this point and time.”
If we’d like to see a shift towards greater friendliness and empathy–in our personal lives or on a global scale–we may start by cultivating our willingness and ability to converse with one another. For most of us, this is no small feat.
Dialog can be a tricky dance, even in familiar conditions. And, of course, the myriad difficulties of interpersonal communication are compounded tremendously in cases involving people from different cultures attempting to navigate intercultural ambiguity, diverse assumptions, and in some cases, deeply rooted animosity. In these scenarios, divisions can appear vast and the task of meeting in the middle daunting.
What is needed is a bridge.
Recently, Shambhala Mountain Center had the great honor of hosting the summer portion of Building Bridges’ 2013 MEUS (Middle East, U.S.) Program. This incredible, two week program–now in its twentieth year–provides brave, young women from Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. a safe space in which to explore their relationships to one another, to begin to work through obstacles hindering empathetic communication, and to develop broader perspectives and the leadership skills needed to effect beneficial changes in the world.
According to a recent blog post from Jen Sarché, the Deputy Executive Director of Building Bridges, the group’s experience at this summer’s program at SMC was both challenging and positive:
“We slowed down the conversation. We learned to listen before we spoke. We got frustrated by the shower schedule. We struggled with the issues of power and privilege that played out in everything we did…We explored what we each have to offer in a program like this. We wondered how the work we were doing matters, and how we’ll bring home what we learn. We built a safe space in which we were free to shift – ourselves, our thoughts, our ideas.”
For having had the opportunity to support and witness this important work, we at SMC are very grateful.
Best wishes to all those involved as they go onward, and may the shift continue.
We may have been told, or we may have the sense, that within ourselves and within the Earth, there is fathomless wisdom which is available to us at all times–all we need to do is tune in.
If this is so, we’d be hard pressed to find a better duo to guide us in that process than don Oscar Miro-Quesada–a highly empowered and well renowned shaman–and Byron Metcalf, Ph.D.–a pioneer in conscious-altering music with a background in transpersonal psychology.
If you feel that there are dimensions to this life, and to your very being, which you have the ability to know, but are somehow just out of reach, a weekend on the mountain with this pair of guides may very well put you in touch.
As excitedly as we invite you to join us for what is sure to be a transformative retreat, we also encourage you to first check out some of the work that don Oscar and Byron have done recently.
Byron, a percussionist, teamed up with master didgeridoo artist Rob Thomas for 2013’s “Medicine Work.” Samples from the album can be streamed on Byron’s website.
Among the many stellar reviews from scholars, philosophers, mystics, and well respected people in various fields for this long-awaited book, is this weighty response from Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution:
“This is a great book that can attune the worlds of indigenous peoples with the rational scientific traditions of the modern world. It guides us toward incarnation of all levels of ourselves. Oscar embodies this wholeness and reveals the processes learned in his own epic journey through fields of reality from the Earth to the Star people, from contemporary academic knowledge to the depth and power of indigenous wisdom and ritual, most especially the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of cross-cultural shamanism. Lessons in Courage is an indispensable classic for our “generation one,” everyone on the planet, facing for the first time the evolution or devolution of Earth life by our own actions.”
Indeed, the consequences of what we may discover with the assistance of teachers such as these–or not–are profound.
Oscar Miro-Quesada and Byron Metcalf will be leading “The Shaman’s Heart: An Awakening of Compassion, Healing and Vision” at Shambhala Mountain Center on October 11-13, 2013. Click here to learn more.
It was Monday around noon when the rains began, and for the next several days there was barely a gap between chilly downpours long enough to close and reopen an umbrella. By the fourth day, it was no longer just rainy weather, or even an unusual streak. By the fourth day, and throughout the rest of the week, it was an adventure.
The deer were out of sight, as were the sun, moon, and stars. Beneath the heavy blanket of grey clouds, the people of SMC remained relatively cheerful in spite of the rather oppressive weight of the wetness.
While sludging through muddy terrain or huddled together in the shelter of the dining tent, folks exchanged comforting smiles and expressions of shared bewilderment. Meanwhile, as the rain was unrelenting, so has been the human exertion on the saturated ground–SMC staffers and volunteers have been working tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the community and the preservation of our land and facilities.
When asked about their experience of the rainy days and to describe the general atmosphere, peoples’ sentiments have ranged from “very down” to “fun,” with most falling into the median category of “overall okayness.”
“We are safe, and for the most part happy and somewhat dry. We have been taking care of each other on the land and making sure that everyone can find a dry place to sleep,” said one staffer.
Another appreciated the teaching quality inherent in the situation:
“I’m sure it was very different for different people. I myself had a lovely time, but I am very odd. I think it’s good to cope with a little adversity from time to time–you know, get your feet wet. I actually had a wonderful, dharmic experience.”
For yet another, the fragrance of the flooded bottom level of Rigden Lodge came to mind:
“A distinctive broccoli-esque aroma pervades the area, but we’ll have it cleared out soon.”
Despite the damage that SMC has sustained–both to our facilities and our finances, as we had to cancel last weekend’s programs–many people are primarily concerned for those in other nearby areas of Colorado, where the impact of the rain and resulting flooding has been calamitous to a tragic extent.
As one staffer put it:
“I actually feel somewhat disconnected from the real damage, which I’m hearing about from people in places like Boulder. My boots are wet, but we’ve been pretty much fine.”
As work to mend damaged roads, buildings, and belongings continues at SMC, our hearts remain with our friends nearby as they cope with severely challenging circumstances. And we remain grateful that we have made it through as intact as we have. Additionally, we are so very touched to have received the messages of concern from many of you regarding our well-being here.
If next summer brings a period of rain more lasting than this one has been, you are all invited to join us in the Stupa, two by two, to ride it out until rainbows grace the sky.