Facing Death, Finding Joy: A Conversation with Elysabeth Williamson

By Travis Newbill

Elysabeth Williamson will be leading Savasana: Exploring our Death to Liberate our Lives, along with Margery McSweeney, March 13-15, 2015

Elysabeth Williamson says: “To live in moment to moment, day to day relationship with our death is maybe the most powerful practice we can do. Most people don’t want to think or talk about death and dying. And yet, just the willingness to do so, to openly face into it…the result is joy. Isn’t that kind of wild?”

Hear more of what Elysabesth has to say by checking out our recent conversation with her below. Watch the video or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

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


ElysabethWilliamsonElysabeth Williamson, ERYT-500, is the foremost authority on Principle-Based Partner Yoga, a style she founded and has developed since 1991. She is known for articulating and transmitting esoteric teachings in ways that are accessible and practical for everyone. She is the author of ‘The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga’ and ‘Partner Yoga Touch’ digital video application.


Freak Out! Or Not: An Interview with MBSR Teacher Janet Solyntjes


Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, March 6-8, 2015

What does it feel like to FREAK OUT?! Becoming familiar with the early signs is the first step toward avoiding catastrophic fits of stress. Sound good? Learn more by checking out our recent interview with MBSR teacher Janet Solyntjes.

Watch the video or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

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

Also, please see these posts from Janet on our blog:

Janet will also be leading Living the Full Catastrophe: A Day of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Denver, April 4


JanetSolyntjesJanet Solyntjes, MA, is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and Adjunct Professor at Naropa University. A practitioner of mind-body disciplines since 1977, she completed a professional training in MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli and an MBSR Teacher Development Intensive at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Janet leads mindfulness retreats in the U.S. and internationally and is co-founder of the Boulder-based Center for Courageous Living.

Floral Notes and Bardo: Space Pervades

By Travis Newbill

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

Milky-white bliss–staring at a wall with my head in my hands.  And then, outside, wandering, mostly pausing, gazing, goal-less, bothered only when goals came to mind.


Last night was the final session of our community Maitri Space Awareness exploration.  We concluded with the center of the mandala — the buddha family.  My favorite.

Space allows all else to flourish.  And, as Greg said last night in his talk, there is nothing we can say about space.

All colors arise in space, music, love, and all else.

Ironically, I am feeling like I spend lots of time busy-hustling in order to create space.  Get this done, get that done, so that I can have some space to do other things.

Last week we had community events three nights in a row.  This is great, but man… it makes for a long day.  I also need time in my room — reading, hanging out with the guitar.  I wonder when that will come.  I wonder if I am missing something.  Maybe there is a way of life that is appropriate right now that I am trying to bypass based on my thoughts of what constitutes a fulfilling life.

I want to make music!  But, I can’t sing in my room, and I don’t have any time before or after work, class, whatever.

Where is the space?  Greg said: “Space pervades everything.”

Life is full.  Life is full of space.  Maybe I’m ignoring space most of the time.  Maybe I have a biased mind, in which some things count as art and others don’t.

A bigger question: How self-centered is all of this?  What am I grasping for and why?  How does this relate to the aspiration for all people to be free?

There’s some truth, I think, to the necessity of taking care of oneself so that one can be strong for others.  It does seem good for me to organize my life so that I can be fluid, inspired, productive, helpful.

But, it is instantly liberating to consider others, and wish that they may be joyful and at ease. Instant space.  All cluttered concern falls flat on the ground.  Fresh air.

The teachings say that you don’t need to have stuff first in order to give.  Give now.

Turn my mind around — face outwards.  It gets so stuffy in here.

— December 10, 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

Do we have too much on our plates? How to taste every bite…


Good morning,

To those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving last week, I hope that it was warm and nourishing. And to everyone, regardless of what you did last week, I hope that your plates are full today — but not too full — and that you’re enjoying every bite.

Does that seem like a tall order?

In an age when we often have too much on our plates, and yet are hungry for real nourishment, the aspiration expressed above may be much easier to say than to accomplish. It is for me.

In the video I’d like to share today, I ask Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher Janet Solyntjes about this conundrum, as well as about a particular, personal style of becoming stressed out. I find her responses to be very helpful, and I think that you may also.

Watch the three minute below: MBSR: Too Much on Your Plate?

If you’d like to watch the full interview, or stream/download the audio, click here:
Freak Out! Or Not: An Interview with MBSR Teacher Janet Solyntjes

And, if you feel inspired to deepen into the profound practices of MBSR, please join us for the upcoming retreat that Janet will be leading: Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, March 6-8, 2015.

I hope that these teachings add a flavor of awakenment to your day, and that you’ll forgive me if I’ve piled on the food metaphors too high in this email.

Best wishes from the mountain,
Travis Newbill

P.S. Here’s a nice photo of a family of deer spotted on the land recently, taken by community member Lauretta Prevost.





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

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.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-14

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


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:


-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.



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.

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.


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.


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.”

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.


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.

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.

Shambhala Yoga O'Hern - For Web60

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.


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.