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

 

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

Dominie Cappadonna

Dominie Cappadonna

Approaching death with curiosity, courage, and spiritual skills allows for fearlessness in facing the unknown. The small deaths of broken-heartedness, sickness, aging, loss of work and more, offer us practice moments for the big death at the end of life. By relating in a profound way with our small deaths, we build resilience and positive qualities to strengthen our encounter with dying moments as they arise.

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

Queer Dharma: A Conversation with Acharya Eric Spiegel

 

Acharya Eric Spiegel will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal, March 28-30

Acharya Eric Spiegel

Acharya Eric Spiegel

All beings possess natural goodness, kindness and intelligence, noble qualities inherent in each of us, regardless of style or sexuality. The Shambhala dharma is about gaining confidence in these inherent qualities by means of meditation and infusing this confidence into our everyday lives. While this is true for everyone, the LBGTQ community faces particular challenges within society; this can be both an inspiration and an obstacle for each of us.

Acharya Eric Spiegel has been teaching the Shambhala Dharma since the mid 1970s. Beginning with the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, Eric has worked extensively with illness and death, helping people realize their natural wisdom in the face of impermanence. He has also had a decades-long career in finance.

Watch our interview with Acharya Spiegel below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio. Also, check out our interview about Queer Dharma with Acharya Eve Rosenthal: HERE.

Also, Eric will be hosting a live interactive online discussion along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal on Sunday March 16 at 4pm EST / 6pm MST. Follow this link to participate, and to watch a previously recorded session: http://shambhalainternational.adobeconnect.com/queer/

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

Acharya Eric Spiegel will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eve Rosenthal, March 28-30

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.

Ikebana: The Contemplative Art of Flowers

By Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and Travis Newbill

Shenpen, Sensei will be guiding Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art and Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014

Alexandra Shenpen

Alexandra Shenpen

Ikebana is more than just flower arranging. Rather, it is a practice through which we explore nature & life,  the relationship between heaven, earth, humanity and personal artistic process — whether we feel we are artistic or not!  We begin by learning traditional, harmonic forms. Engaging with Ikebana as a contemplative practice awakens the unconditional beauty of  our world,  inspiring a way of living.

Below are some words from our wonderful teacher, Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and some images of arrangements created by introductory students.

On structure and improvisation:
“Forms tame us, helping us to wear-out our artistic ego, so that what comes through is fresh and awake, an expression of  what’s already there — both in ourselves and in nature.  This is a wonderful ground for later improvisation.   In other words, structure provides a language of flowers — and from that language, not only can the poetry of botanical materials communicate more vividly, but one can begin to play.  Ultimately, the plants speak for themselves, if we understand their presence in space.”

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“Ikebana, as a non-verbal art form, allows us to let go of  thoughts and judgments that can cloud the way we see the world.  By  really looking at a branch, a twig, a flower, we can discover how to look , that we  might truly see, and fully appreciate what’s there.  The flowers and branches find their own place harmoniously.  When we begin to taste that  experience, isness–things as they are–renews our real heart.  Ultimately, when we are experiencing the vivid inseparability of form and emptiness, we feel very alive,  in touch with ourselves and phenomena.  It quite goes beyond words.  Art  embodying that is very helpful to have in the world.”

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Flower as guest:
“Human beings have a universal soft spot for plant life, for the beauty of nature. Just holding or looking at a flower touches that soft spot. Once flower or branch has been cut, it is no longer being sustained by its own way of growing. It is in our care. Being considerate of the flower’s needs comes naturally when our soft spot is open.”

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“Every Choice is an Artistic Choice” — Ernie Porps/Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
“Ikebana can be a positively dangerous contemplative art ——     it can change your life! It becomes harder to not notice. Our natural instinct is to be awake and care for our world  –  noticing,  appreciating, and engaging aesthetically. How we get dressed, or how the dishes go in the dish rack — becomes more of an ongoing creative  process, rather than just something to put up with.”

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“Ikebana/Kado honours the sense of above, below, and in between- – -  below is not lesser than above and above is not greater than below, and in between is not “not as good as” or “better than” something else. Those are human neuroses which are rampant in the world and in ourselves. Some liberation from that takes place when we create a living piece.   We come to recognize that each element has its own place, creating a harmonious whole.    This really interrupts our conventional way of thinking about things.”

~~~

Finally, a testimonial from David, a student of Shenpen, Sensei:

“Whether to choose this blossom, or that branch has been an absolutely safe place to be daring. The most dreadful consequence has been total collapse (of my flower arrangement) – something I have found I can live with! After a year I am beginning to bring this development of felt-sense into my larger world. I find it easier to move with confidence and trust myself. Who would have ever thought that arranging flowers could have such potential for informing my life? The fresh perky blooms are rubbing off!”

Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei will be leading Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art & Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014. To learn more, CLICK HERE

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.

 

 

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

 

Janet Solyntjes

Janet Solyntjes

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, February 14-16

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.

Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth Part 2

By Martin Ogle

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

In the previous blog post, I briefly introduced the scientific view of Earth as a living system. In the quest to Engage the Rhythms of our Living Planet, let us expand our exploration . . .

When James Lovelock returned to England from working with NASA, a friend and neighbor was none other than William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies. Upon hearing Lovelock’s ruminations of a living planet, Golding urged his friend to name the idea “Gaia,” after the Greek Goddess of Earth. He felt this would honor the fact that Western science was rediscovering what ancient Western Culture held sensed mythically: that Earth is alive and that we are a part of her life. The mythical connection reminded us, that the human mind has, indeed, co-evolved seamlessly with a living Earth.

When, in the distant past, ancestral humans crossed a threshold of mental development to acquire self-awareness and awareness of time similar to that of modern humans, they must have been terrified! The awareness that they were going to die and the plaguing wonderment of why they were alive were surely the origin of what we now call “religion.” Our present-day religions, mythologies and stories surely echo and mirror our ancestors’ original explanations of these matters!

Since that ancestral time, the sudden breadth of our awareness has produced a tendency to mentally speed up and “get ahead of ourselves” unlike anywhere else in nature. Although our minds are natural emanations of Earth, the level and kind of our awareness of self and time are fundamentally unique. The discrepancy between the pace of nature and the pace and of the human mind is the source of much of our unhappiness and discontent. And, whereas non-human nature is purposeless, the human mind is often the hostage of purpose and meaning.

This is not to say that purpose and meaning are bad things (nor, could they be, for they are just part of our human nature). As a biological adaptation, a sense of purpose is a marvelous thing – it allows us to foresee and prepare for circumstances in the future that would otherwise harm us or even do us in. Thus, the question is not whether our awareness is inherently good or bad, but whether it goes too far. Knowing the human mind as emerging from a living, evolving planet allows us to consciously re-link with its rhythms allowing a harmony between our intellect and senses.

In his book From Eros to Gaia (1988) Princeton physicist, Freeman Dyson, intoned that “One hopeful sign of sanity in modern society is the popularity of the idea of Gaia, invented by James Lovelock to personify our living planet.” He believed that “As humanity moves into the future and takes control of its evolution, our first priority must be to preserve our emotional bond to Gaia.” In a 1994 speech The New Measure of Man, Former Czech President, Vaclav Havel cited the Gaia Hypothesis as one of the biggest reasons for this hope because it both confirmed and was anticipated by the myths, stories and religions of peoples around the world that saw human life as “anchored in the Earth and the universe.”

These words, and those of many other recognized figures from around the world, help create a reasoned premise that linking our intellect and our senses in a single “Gaian context”planet is a healthy and enjoyable way to be present in this world. I look forward to joining with you and others in March to explore this new territory through story, science, contemplation, art, and walks through the beauty of Shambhala Mountain Center.

~~~

Be sure to listen our recent interview with Martin Ogle, available to stream and download HERE

Martin Ogle will be leading Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, March 21-23. To learn more, CLICK HERE

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.

Queer Dharma: The Truth of Being Queer

 

Acharya Eve Rosenthal

Acharya Eve Rosenthal

By Eve Rosenthal

Acharya Eve Rosenthal will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eric Spiegel, March 28-30

What is queer dharma? There are people who are queer and there is dharma, but what is queer dharma? First of all, a person who is queer identifies as someone with a sexual orientation outside culturally established norms. In our culture, it is someone who is not heterosexual — a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It is someone who does not want to put a label to their sexuality, or someone who is questioning their sexual identity. Dharma in its broadest context means truth or what is, and can also mean the Buddhist teachings—which is saying the same thing. The Buddha experienced the truth of reality and then talked about it. These are the Buddhist teachings that have been written and passed down orally. The path of meditation is the way to gently make the journey from self-deception to truth.

So, queer dharma is the truth of being queer. Everyone who is queer realizes at some point in their life’s journey that they have feelings for others, or about themselves, that are outside what is easily accepted in our society. At best, it results in some serious soul searching to come to terms with who one really is, and at worst, imprisonment or death. There are probably not many queer folk planning to vacation in Uganda, Nigeria, or Russia any time soon. Even in relatively tame countries like Canada that have accepted same-sex marriage, there are still unthinkable hate crimes against sexual minorities. Even if we live in a relatively accepting world, there are privileges of heterosexuality that are taken for granted and not available to all. Here is a great web page about heterosexual privilege, homophobia and its impact, and things non-transgender people take for granted: http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/chhs/safe-zone/privilege/.

We are holding a “Shambhala Queer Dharma” retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center from March 28-30 which will add the “Shambhala” aspect to the picture. There are two key themes that define Shambhala — that the nature of all humans is basically good, and when people relate to others and the environment from their inherent goodness, a good human society manifests. There are countless examples of good human relationships between people and communities that value kindness above individual self-interest. Sadly, we often doubt our basic goodness and self-worth. This results in a constant attempt to find happiness outside of ourselves as demonstrated by the tyranny of materialism ruling our lives.

Putting it all together — what is the inspiration for having a Shambhala Queer Dharma retreat?

Community
Queer people have to come to grips with who they are because of the obstacles they face in society. Whether one has achieved peace with that or not, it is good to be with others who respect and recognize your journey. There is comfort and deep relaxation in just knowing that. However, there is something more to these retreats than just the comfort of being with sympathetic people.

Meditation
By virtue of being queer and outside the societal norm with regard to sexuality, we are required to explore the dharma of ourselves to cut through confusion about who we are and not be afraid of that—probably more than those who have heterosexual privilege. The path of meditation is a natural way to accomplish this exploration of “who we really are” and come to certainty regarding our self-worth.

Social Innovation
My experience of doing queer dharma retreats is that people are generally well along the journey of this exploration, whether they are experienced with or new to official “dharma” and meditation. That affords the Shambhala queer dharma community a unique opportunity — to go the next step beyond the individual journey and explore what it means to be a good human community based on kindness. The courage that inspired our non-negotiable self-reflection can extend into reflecting on our relationships with others, and to be genuine about what prejudices and habitual patterns are barriers to kindness.

The aspiration is that the queer community can be an example to the greater society as humans who treat other humans well. The Shambhala Queer Dharma retreat at SMC can help us deepen both as individuals and also as a community. Chögyam Trungpa said “you bring your whole self to meditation” and that in Shambhala, your whole queer self is welcome and celebrated. In fact, this retreat is an opportunity to explore how we might share the gift of our queerness with others. The gift being that we can come to know, through meditative reflection, that we are basically good and have much to contribute to the creation of an enlightened society. At the very least, we can enjoy practicing and discussing the dharma of life, each other, and the spectacular environment of SMC.

~~~

Be sure to check out two upcoming live interactive sessions with video and audio from Eve and Eric. If you have a webcam and mic you will be able to come online with video and audio as well. If you don’t have a/v equipment, you will be able to interact using text.

The sessions will be taking place on the following dates:

Sunday, January 26, 2 pm Mountain; 4 pm Eastern.
Sunday, March 16, 2 pm Mountain; 4 pm Eastern.

Here is the link for the sessions – get on early if you want to test your equipment:
http://shambhalainternational.adobeconnect.com/queer/

Acharya Eve Rosenthal will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eric Spiegel, March 28-30. To learn more, please CLICK HERE

Paying Attention to One Detail: Listening

By Janet Solyntjes

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, February 14-16

JanetSolyntjesListening in Meditation
How many times have you wondered what to do with the discursive mind in meditation? Before we “do” anything, it is important to listen. With what kind of ears do we listen to this internal voice – the monkey mind? Our listening is with the ears of non-identification. Listening without identifying with the words is not the same as blocking out thoughts or ignoring what is already present in the mind. To listen in this way takes tremendous gentleness and courage. Sometimes the thoughts are self-critical, sometimes they are gibberish, and sometimes they are emotionally charged. Just listen. Let them be. Can you do this for the next 10 minutes?

Step 1: Settling into your body, into being present with yourself.
Step 2: With curiosity, noticing the internal dialogue. Are the thoughts passing through your awareness few, many, quiet, or loud?
Step 3: Listening without identifying. Opening to present thoughts with an attitude of gentle observation.
Step 4: Letting go of the “exercise” and proceeding.

Listening to Others
Research has shown that where we typically place the onus of meaning in interpersonal communication – on the person speaking – is a misunderstanding of what actually occurs. It is the listening that creates meaning. How we listen to one another, rather than how well we deliver our message is the foundation from which meaning arises in conversation. Today, when you have an opportunity to speak with others, can you practice “suspension of certainty” and listen with a truly inquiring mind? Are you listening to both the words and the feeling behind the words?

Training in Paying Attention
While paying attention is something we do naturally, we all would benefit from training this capacity further. There is a rich collection of mindfulness tools one can engage and utilize in daily life. The Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction retreat offers instruction and guidance in mindfulness and supports a “coming to our senses” which awakens and enlivens each moment.

I hope you will join me!

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, February 14-16. To learn more, CLICK HERE