Relationship as Spiritual Path: Couples Retreat Master Ben Cohen

 

Intimate relationships are both an opportunity and a challenge to our capacity for love and vulnerability.  Once we get past the romantic love stage, we often find ourselves surprised by these challenges.  Drawing from the work of Harville Hendrix, PhD, (Imago) Ben Cohen works with couples in exploring the essential principles and practices of conscious relationships — both in his private practice and as a leader of couples’ retreats.

Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend retreat: Relationship as a Spiritual Path: Getting the Love You Want (A Couples Workshop), April 24-26

Watch our interview below, 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.

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Ben-CohenBen Cohen, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder and Denver specializing in relationship counseling. He has also had an active meditation practice for over 25 years and integrates Eastern and Western traditions in his teaching and practice.

His departed mom told him to help me…

By Sue Frederick

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bridges to Heaven: A Grief Healing Workshop, led by Sue Frederick, June 5-7, 2015

Saturday night I went to do online check-in for my flight home after teaching a Bridges to Heaven: Talking to Loved Ones on the Other Side grief workshop and discovered that when United put me on a different flight to San Fran because of weather that it cancelled my entire ticket. I had no flight reservation home to Colorado.

I called United and spent 45 minutes on the phone with an extraordinarily sweet agent who fixed everything and got me back on the same flight with no extra fees.

He told me at the end of the call that he put extra energy into helping me because his departed mother whispered to him to help me out. He had no idea what I do for a living or that I’d just spent two days teaching a Talking to Loved Ones on the Other Side – grief workshop.

So we spent another ten minutes connecting with his mom and discussing his future great work. He was crying with happiness at the end of the call.

Amazing thing is that almost everyone in our workshop today was grieving their mom. (Each group usually has a distinct theme). We laughingly called our group the dead moms club. I kept telling my students that the room was filled with loving mother energy. You could feel it in the air.

I got to finish the day with this amazing conversation with another soul who was grieving his mom.

I’m so blessed to do what I do in the world.

And Divine Order blows me away. Always.

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SueFrederickSue Frederick is the author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side; I See Your Soul Mate and I See Your Dream Job. An intuitive since childhood, Sue has trained more than 200 intuitive coaches around the world. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN.com and Yoga Journal, among others.

In the Company of Women: Precious Knowing

By Katherine Kaufman

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Precious Knowing: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat for Women, February 11-15, 2015

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I have the good fortune to be at the Shambhala Mountain Center at this moment so I can tell you what it is like in the winter here — at least right now. Still & quiet. Today I walked up to the ridge — maybe to get nearer to the sun. There was some trudging through snow and also big patches with no snow. I rested on an outcropping of rocks. A group of deer were close to the Stupa. They looked up at me and leapt away as if gravity were no problem. Inside the Stupa I was struck by what feels like the thickness of many years of people practicing. The good humored gentleness and authentic way of the staff feels so warming. I am called back to this place. This is one of my homes.

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My idea for the women’s retreats began from my sense that it would be great to gather, and do practices on the coldest day of the winter and the hottest day of the summer and that the retreats would reflect the seasons they are in somehow. Women particularly need gaps in routine to pause, leave their responsibilities, and have a time to reconsider where they are in their lives, and be with other women. That this is a retreat for women with emphasis on formal practices, is a big part of the title, “precious knowing.”

The Experience

Even though I have had many years to refine these retreats it still amazes me that something happens — it feels magical. We are very simply practicing together: gentle yoga, meditation, and a little improvisational movement in the afternoons. We take our naps, bundle up and walk in the forest and up to the Stupa alone and together. The group is small enough so that we can sit around a table for meals. We discuss things that are important to us, and begin to know each other in a way that is different perhaps, from our usual knowing another. In certain ways I feel like this must be how women in small villages live. It feels so natural, for women to join and support each other this way.

This particular retreat is one where I facilitate rather than impart knowledge and I also don’t see it as a training program. Although there is instruction and we are practicing ancient forms this retreat is really about participating in practices all together, as well as sharing our combined wisdom. On some level we each know what we need already. The practices of sitting, yoga, movement, and sharing help facilitate our inner knowing. Sometimes our practice requires silence, sometimes questions, sharing, laughter or an evening by the fire. Most evenings we listen as each woman has her time to share. We acknowledge our differences and find a sense of acceptance and kindness. So we do this for a few days — simple and basic. Time slows — or we — by our practice — slow time.

And from this work, and play combined with being on the land we begin to feel more of our inner experiences — something shifts in us — a crack in the view. Something that has been propped up melts, and underneath a sense of relaxation occurs. Our desire for some rest, connection, realization is simply exchanged for actual practice. We experience something tender. When we return to our homes, our ways and days, the practice and the precious knowing continues.

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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.

Layth Matthews on the Four Noble Truths of Wealth (Video/Audio)

 

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: The Path to Genuine Prosperity with Layth Matthews February 20-22

The way we think about wealth affects our personal experience and our world dramatically. Yet we rarely contemplate the heart of prosperity, which may be why it feels like we are running in place personally, and accelerating toward crisis globally.

In this recent interview with Shambhala Mountain Center, Layth Matthews discusses the connection between contemplative practice and a wealthy outlook. Through this fresh perspective we can make more accurate financial decisions, magnetize genuine prosperity into our lives, and extend compassion to others in many ways, including through the economy.

Watch our interview with Layth below, 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.

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LaythMatthewsLayth Matthews is the author of The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: a Buddhist view of economic life. He is a Shambhala Buddhist teacher, economist, and a financial professional. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia with his wife and three children.

Qigong for the Seasons: Spring Relates to the Wood Phase

By Ron Davis

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Greg Smith

The following has been adapted from “Qigong Through The Seasons – How to Stay Healthy all Year Long with Qigong, Meditation, Diet and Herbs” by Dr. Ronald Davis, published by Singing Dragon, 2015.

Spring is the Wood Phase

This is a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal, and movement. The momentum created by spring Qi gives structure and impetus to the world: young trees thrusting skyward, icy rivers flooding valleys, babies everywhere screeching with the joy of life. In humans, Qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the Liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising Qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. The practice of Spring Qigong centers on using qigong exercises, foods, herbs, and meditation to nourish the Liver. In this class, you will learn how the Liver Network influences anger, kindness, communication, muscle function, detoxification, blood circulation, and much more.

During spring, the Rising Yang Qi emerges from the Lower Dan Tian (lower abdomen) and begins a season-long ascent to the upper and outer regions of the body. As it passes into the Middle Dan Tian (chest), it encounters the Liver. If this blood-rich organ retains stagnant blood and metabolic waste, which typically happens after winter’s inactivity, it will obstruct the Qi flow and result in Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver controls the smooth and harmonious flow of Qi and blood. Any obstruction to this flow will cause a serious functional disruption in Qi and blood circulation. Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood, an all too common disorder, has physical symptoms of muscle pain, menstrual cramps, trembling movements, poor balance, headaches, neck pain, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems, digestive ailments, and more. The mental and emotional symptoms can run the spectrum from frustration and irritability to anger and rage.

Anger, stagnation, and kindness

When the normal emotion of anger becomes prolonged, repressed, or inappropriate, it often results in Stagnant Liver Qi. This disorder affects women and men, but because each gender exists as fundamentally either yin or yang, Qi stagnation usually results in different problems for each sex.

Men have innate yang energy; women have innate yin. Yang energy tends to expand outward; it’s active and dispersive. Yin energy embraces receptivity, containment, and concentration. The gender predisposition to problems of Stagnant Liver Qi hinges on men being more yang/fire, and women more yin/ blood. Stagnant Liver Qi, if not corrected, becomes virulent and flares up as Liver Fire in men and as Stagnant Liver Blood in women:

  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Men > “Liver Fire Rising” = muscle spasm, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease.
  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Women > “Stagnant Liver Blood” = menstrual disorders, varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety.

While disturbing and potentially dangerous, Stagnant Liver Qi can be effectively treated. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can release obstructions to the flow of Qi and prevent stagnation. Qigong can remedy the condition by gathering fresh Qi and properly circulating it through the body’s energy pathways and storage centers. Meditation will definitely enhance Qi flow, clear the mind of distractions, and nurture the virtue of kindness. Having a self-care practice of qigong and meditation is one of the best ways for you to nurture the great Yang Qi of Spring and benefit from this infusion of vital energy.

Most styles of qigong have three aspects to every exercise: body movement, mental intention, and rhythmic breathing. These three factors have shifting proportions depending on the season. Spring Qigong highlights expansive and robust external body movements. While doing these exercises, be attentive to how your muscles work, take notice of any soreness or restrictions and how that changes with practice, and combine breathing and moving to expel turbid energy from the muscles and boost blood circulation. Put some effort (gong) into Spring Qigong and reap the rewards of smoothly flowing Qi and blood.

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Ron-DavisRonald Davis, DC. LAc. Dipl Acu (NCCAOM) has dedicated thirty years to helping people discover their optimal state of well being based on physical integrity, mental clarity and nutritional support. As a chiropractor, he understands the critical interrelationship of physical form, physiological function and visceral health. As an acupuncturist, he knows that optimal well being depends on the essential flow of vital energy and blood throughout the body/mind. The integration of this knowledge with his extensive practice in medical qigong, meditation, and Chinese medicine has led to the development of a series of classes called “Qigong Through The Seasons” which is a comprehensive program of qigong, meditation and dietary guidelines that allows one to be healthy all year long.  Dr. Davis is the creator of the popular CD, Guided Meditations For Summer, and is the author of the forthcoming book, Qigong Through the Seasons. thehealthmovement.com

Irini Rockwell Discusses the Five Wisdoms (Audio/Video)

 

Some situations bring out the best of who we are; in others we can’t get out of our own way.  In this interview, Irini Rockwell discusses the Five Wisdoms, an ancient Buddhist system of personalities which yields enormous insight into our patterns of behavior, emotions, and relationships.  She has been studying and teaching the Five Wisdoms for over three decades.

Watch our interview with Irini below, 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.

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Irini RockwellIrini Rockwell is the Director, Founder and Principal Trainer of the Five Wisdoms Institute and Wisdoms@Work. She is a professional development trainer for organizational leaders, health caregivers, educators, artists, and individuals and author of Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine and The Five Wisdom Energies: A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions and Relationships. Irini has served as a faculty member at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado for ten years where she earned her Master’s in Contemplative Psychotherapy and a Certificate in Authentic Leadership. She is also a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist community.

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.

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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

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.