Jason Siff Discusses Recollective Awareness Meditation

Jason Siff leads Thoughts are not the Enemy: An Introduction to Recollective Awareness Meditation, August 29–September 1. To learn more, please click here

Jason-Siff-with-waterfall-headshotJason Siff was a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka in the 1980s when he started developing Recollective Awareness Meditation. In 1996, he co-founded the Skillful Meditation Project and has been a full-time meditation teacher since then. He also trains teachers in Recollective Awareness Meditation in retreats throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. His first book on meditation, Unlearning Meditation: What to do when the instructions get in the way, was published by Shambhala Publications in 2010.

Recently, he took some time to discuss Recollective Awareness Meditation and his upcoming retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center.

 

Dakini Map: A Conversation with Cynthia Moku

By Travis Newbill

Cynthia Moku

Cynthia Moku

Master artist Cynthia Moku has contributed to, and drawn much inspiration from various Buddhist Stupas. In her recent exhibit Pilgrimage: A Dakini Map (on display until April 25 at Naropa University’s Nalanda Gallery, 6287 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, Colorado) she presents close to two decades worth of artwork reflecting her mystical experience and insights.

Recently, she took some time to share a bit about this project and her journey.  Please enjoy our interview below.

Also:  in May, Cynthia will be co-leading two programs at Shambhala Mountain Center along with Acharya Dale Asrael:

Taming the Wild Horse: Riding the Energy of the Emotions, May 22-26

Touching the Moment: Indelible Presence, May 14-18

Riding the Energy of Emotions: A Conversation with Acharya Dale Asrael

By Travis Newbill

Acharya Dale Asrael

Acharya Dale Asrael

Habitually, when intense emotion arises — in our body, mind — we squirm, fidget, and ignore as best we can.  Another approach — which Acharya Dale Asrael is quite keen on and skillful in presenting — is to actually… feel it.  If we can open and fully experience our emotions, the wakeful, creative potential of the energy is unleashed.

Of course, this is a huge topic, and a great path.  Recently, Acharya Asrael took some time to have some initial discussion.  And, in May, she’ll be offering a deeper exploration as she co-leads Taming the Wild Horse: Riding the Energy of the Emotions, which is one of two consecutive “long-weekend” programs that she’ll be leading along with master artist Cynthia Moku — the other being Touching the Moment: Indelible Presence.

Please click below to hear Acharya’s profound wisdom and clarity on this ever-relevant topic.  And, if you’d like to download the audio, click here and find the “Download” button.

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

.By Travis Newbill

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

Dominie Cappadonna

Dominie Cappadonna

There may be no more sure-fire way of waking up to the preciousness of life than facing the reality of death. But, how can we do that? Sometimes it happens in an unavoidable way–we have a near death experience, or we see someone die. Every once in a while, a big death moment happens.

Also though, as we know, impermanence marks every passing moment. It is the ever-present truth, which we seem to be quite in the habit of ignoring. Every breath is a death. Every meal, relationship, day and night, have their ends. Perhaps if we could wake up to impermanence in a more consistent and profound way, we could live and appreciate our lives more fully and go through our end-of-life “big” deaths more gracefully.

Dominie Cappadonna is a wonderful teacher who focuses on helping us do just that. In May, she’ll be leading a weekend program here at Shambhala Mountain Center called: Befriending Small Deaths, Big Deaths. And we’ve recently had the good fortune of having some discussion with her around these ever-mystifying topics.

You may listen to and/or download an audio recording of the interview by following this link (click here), or scroll down to read the transcription.

SMC: Besides having a near-death experience, which I don’t feel inclined to manufacture, how can I wake up to the reality that I am actually going to die?

Dominie Cappadonna: What a beautiful and profound question. It brings us right up to the edge of our knowledge–of our know-ledge, where we’re prompted to leap off the cliff into the unknown. Now, it seems that the question you’re asking can be asked more boldly than before–particularly within our human family, in our technological societies. Before, death was not spoken of as freely. I might just set a little ground here, in terms of the field, and begin to weave in response to your question. Is that okay?

Yes, please.

I really find that the question you’ve asked is being asked more these days because there’s a generalized resurgence in focus on death and dying . We’re living longer and yet feeling our mortality earlier. I feel that’s due to the cascade of crisis world-wide being so nakedly exposed–climate change, extinction of species, the dying off of our natural environment, wars, diseases, suicides, on and on.

So, here, now in the US, there is a movement called the Silver Tsunami, which refers to young elders and Boomers waking up to daily dying in small and big ways, of time passing and of preparation for a conscious passing at the end of life.

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Photo by Greg Smith

Our small deaths are actually practice moments for the big death at the end of life. Practice moments include taking in the breath in our meditation practice–the inhale, the abiding, and then the ceasing of our breath. Letting go into the reality that that breath may be our last one is one way to wake up to the reality of our death.

Small deaths also include so-called larger transitions–divorce, loss of work, loss of physical vigor, illnesses, menopause, a loss of ego identity through our spiritual practices and more.

Your question about how to wake up is often answered in the startle of these practice moments of larger thresholds and transformations in our life.

Can you think of one you’ve had where you’ve had this sense of waking up to the reality that you are going to die?

A really intense break-up comes to mind. There was a simultaneous experience of not wanting it to happen and also knowing that it had to happen.

Exactly, yeah. And that total resistance to it brings us right to the edge, doesn’t it? Because in a sense there is nowhere to go. That resistance absolutely stops us on that edge where we either sprout wings and learn how to fly or we don’t. We don’t face the reality of our dying until we actually are in our active death phase. Yet, if we can be sprouting wings before the end of life, so that we’re practicing lifting off, practicing coming to that edge, facing the reality through our small deaths, then we’re less fearful and less resistant.

It seems to me that every once in a while there is a situation that is impossible to ignore. But, all the time, there are smaller deaths that are quite easy for me to ignore–like having a cup of tea. The cup of tea ends. Most of the time I’m not really feeling impermanence in those moments.

Yes. And yet, with mindfulness, as Trungpa Rinpoche said, we cut speed. With presence we cut speed. With attention, we cut speed. In such a way, we can take the smallest moments as a practice moment for facing our death. So, it could be as innocuous as your favorite pen running our of ink, the market being out of our favorite chocolate, fasting from sex or sweets or something we love, being turned down for a date, giving up gossiping, uncluttering a house. And, I say, “so-called” small deaths because big and small are very subjective, as you would know. Your breakup, at the time, may have hit you as a big death.

So, for example,  uncluttering a workspace, dying to what was on their desk, may be a small death for someone else and a big death for another. It’s highly subjective in terms of our practice moments. Yet, moment to moment, with every breath, we have this opportunity to be so present to impermanence. So, it’s a practice.

Is there any short instruction you could offer that we could apply throughout this very day to help us appreciate life and impermanence?

What about your life and your being have you not fully accepted and bowed into, surrendered into, died into the reality of? As the reality itself. As being what is so. Often we appear to feel that we’re farther along on our path, or in our work, in our relationship, than we actually are and we haven’t accepted exactly what is so. We haven’t yet died into that in a profoundly lively, vivid way–landing into the direct reality of exactly what is so. So that might be one question to consider. And a subset of that might be: What needs to be accepted in our lives to live fully, love deeply, and die consciously?

Another question to consider is: In what ways might awareness of daily small deaths really help us to live our life with more presence and fearlessness, and promote living our lives more authentically.

I love inquiry questions because I feel it enhances our curiosity to be with ourselves and be present with what–in an embodied, deep way–is really coming up from our belly. To be present with that from which we cannot turn.

Like you question: How can I wake up to the reality that I am going to die? How can we turn from that question once we’ve asked it? It tends to permeate us in a profound way that helps us to learn and to be more aware.

Parts of the retreat you’ll be leading at Shambhala Mountain Center will be taking place in the Great Stupa. Would you like to say anything about your connection with the Stupa.

It’s a rare privilege to meet within the Great Stupa. It’s a world peace center, and it creates a resonant field of such profound wisdom, fearlessness, joy, and compassion. That’s our vessel for learning and being. We’re so held within the walls. And the actual walls of the Stupa are packed with millions of prayers. We’re held in a prayer field. That automatically transforms the work that we do. It automatically lifts us in to a higher degree of awareness and so to be with death and dying, and to practice within the Stupa, is actually sublime.

What else would you like to say about the retreat?

We’ll be exploring the actual stages of dying, including the subtle inner states that accompany our process. So, we’ll actually go through our dying as a way to have a dress rehearsal. We’ll go out on the land to see what nature teaches us about impermanence, and also have experience in the charnel grounds. We’ll die and come back to life and have discussion about how we want to approach the life that we have left. And then finally, we’ll go down from the Stupa into the village so that we can feel ourselves moving from the past into the conscious future, asking ourselves “How now shall we live?” And, we walk into our possible future, and begin to live forth in a way that feel more relaxed and more courageous.

Dominie Cappadonna will be leading  Befriending Small Deaths – Big Deaths, along with Joshua Mulder, May 9-11. To learn more and to register, please click here.

To listen to/download the full interview, please click here.

Enormous Resonances: Discussing Interspiritual Dialogue with Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny

By Travis Newbill

Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny will be co-leading Wisdom of the Seasons: An Interspiritual Retreat, May 23-25

Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny have been working together in the field of interfaith dailogue since the late seventies, beginning with conferences hosted by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche at Naropa University. This coming May they will be leading a weekend retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center titled “Wisdom of the Seasons: An Interspiritual Retreat.”

Recently, we had the good fortune of speaking with the pair of teachers on the topic of interspiritual dialogue as well as the fertile energies of springtime, passion, and the upcoming retreat.

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

To learn more about the upcoming retreat, please CLICK HERE

More about these teachers:

Tessa Bielecki co-founded the Spiritual Life Institute and live there as monk and Mother Abbess for almost 40 years. In 2005, she co-founded The Desert Foundation with Fr. Dave Denny, an informal circle of friends who explore the wisdom of the world’s deserts, focusing on peace and understanding between the three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Tessa was one of the first teachers at Naropa University’s Buddhist-Christian dialogue in the 1980s, an experience that she calls pivotal in her life. Tessa is the the author of several books and CDs on St. Teresa of Avila, and recently recorded Wild at Heart for Sounds True. She teaches at Colorado College, gives lectures and retreats, participates in East-West dialogues, and writes.

Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny have worked together for over forty years, first as Carmelite monks in the Spiritual Life Institute where they co-edited Desert Call. At Colorado College, they taught Fire and Light, a history of Christian Mysticism. After leaving monastic life in 2005, they created the Desert Foundation (see www.desertfound.org), published Season of Glad Songs: A Christmas Anthology, and now live in neighboring hermitages in Crestone, Colorado. Tessa is also the author of three books on St. Teresa of Avila and recorded Wild at Heart for Sounds True.

Walking the Edge: An Interview with Filmmaker Doug Karr

By Travis Newbill

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

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

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

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

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

What do you mean?

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

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

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

Right…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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 7-9

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.

 

 

Mind, Body, Earth: We Are Part of A Living System (AUDIO)

 

Martin Ogle will be leading Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, March 21-23

In this interview, Naturalist Martin Ogle discusses Gaia Theory, which is the idea that Earth and everything on the surface of Earth–water, air, rock, and organisms–together form a living system. The minds and bodies of human beings, he says, are a powerful component.

For more from Martin Olge, check out his two part series on our blog: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth–part 1 and part 2

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

Q&A: Susan Piver Discusses the Writer’s Groove and “Fearlessly Creative”

By Travis Newbill

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23

susan-piver

Susan Piver

A couple of common obstacles that most writers–or would be writers–encounter: 1) No time to write! 2) The fear of putting the pen to the page (err, typing words into the computer).

Meditation teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Piver has a remedy. It involves structuring daily life in a way that is conducive to creative work, and…practicing meditation. Does that sound simple? Impossible? Worth exploring?

This weekend, Susan will be leading a retreat at SMC which is intended to provide a space for writers to find their groove and produce work, and also to model a routine which will allow them to live more fully as writers in their daily lives.

Recently, Susan took some time to discuss the retreat.

So, what is the intended purpose of this retreat?

Susan Piver: If you have something that you want to work on—a book, a memoir, anything—this program is meant to provide a container for you to do so. It’s not learning how to write, it’s not getting prompts and learning writing techniques, it’s for writing.

Who would you say this program is for? Anyone who wants to write?

It’s a program for artists of any kind—although I never say that because people get intimidated, thinking that they aren’t artists, or that they aren’t writers. But, you know, it’s for people who want to reflect, and create art with words.

Will there be lots of discussion, and that sort of thing?

It’s not about talking. I made it that way because, that’s the program that I want to go to. Maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know.

Does this sort of environment somehow help writers overcome the fear to see a work through or to start a work?

Yes, and it’s rather hard to explain how that happens. It’s not that you get a trick that helps you overcome your fear. Meditation practice is the trick. I never say that. But, there’s something about the combination of meditation, companionship of fellow writers, and specific periods of time for work that calls the words forward.

You say this is not how to write, but it kinda seems like it is?

It doesn’t teach you how to write, but it teaches you how to be a writer. Because every writer has to be afraid, and stay. And then allow. And it’s hard for everyone to do that. But this program shows you that you can do it. And you don’t have to be at Shambhala Mountain Center to do it–although that is better.

What’s the takeaway?

You will learn a technique for writing that you can take home. So, it provides an actual container in which to work, and is also informative for the introverts coming together here to take back into their regular rhythms.

So, folks may learn ways in which they can structure their daily lives to allow for writing.

Yes, it will model a routine–that they can replicate at home–for being a writer. No matter what else they do in their life.

Sounds great. Thanks, Susan.

Thank you.

~~~

Here’s a video with some folks who participated in one of Susan’s past writing retreats.

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23