Working with Courage

By Janet Solyntjes

Janet will be leading Mindful Living: Teachings and Practices from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), July 23-27

Janet Solyntjes

Janet Solyntjes

In my early years of meditation training I was unable to sit still for long, maybe five minutes, before I would shift my body with hopes of improving my practice. My body hurt, my mind was impossible, and I was crawling out of my skin much of the time. My practice revealed glimpses of “calm abiding” and “dignity,” but it was tough going!

My teachers reminded me that practice was a breeding ground for courage. Courage, I was told, becomes the seedbed for nurturing our deepest aspiration for a meaningful life and for a sane society. It takes courage to be present to the unknown, to touch what is frightening, to let go of what is familiar, and, once again, open. Now I remember to bring my heart to the cushion ~ how else will I cultivate bravery?

Three Minute Practice: The Courage of this Moment

Ask yourself this:

  • What would it take for me to fully inhabit the experience of being human right now?
  • Can I feel the sensations of my body?
  • Am I being tugged about by my internal narrator and not realizing it?
  • What am I really feeling in this moment?

After reading through the list of questions then do nothing. Simply be. After a while, go through the list of questions again. Now once again, simply be. After three minutes drop the exercise and proceed through your day.

Whatever you did during the three minutes required some level of courage (a willing and open heart) for it took you out of the habit of dis-attention into active self-reflection.

Janet will be leading Mindful Living: Teachings and Practices from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), July 23-27.  To learn more, please click here.

Rediscovering the Place of Nature

By Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle recently lead  the weekend program”Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth” and is one of the main organizers of the Four Seasons Program.

Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle

The weekend retreat, “Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth,” was a delightful experience for me.  It not only provided the opportunity to share ideas of profound interest to me, but also to learn from the perspectives of a marvelous group of participants and from the land and history of Shambhala Mountain Center:  A long-time Shambalian and genetics professor offered insights into the synergy of science and spirituality.  Artists and poets shared moving reflections on the beauty and mystery of the land.  And, the symbolism of the Great Stupa blended seamlessly with our inquiry into how our human lives can be in synchronicity or discord with the rhythms of nature.  I believe these insights – and the retreat’s purpose of re-discovering the pace of Nature in scientific, spiritual and mindful ways – set a marvelous foundation for SMC’s Four Seasons Program.

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Photo by Greg Smith

The name,”Four Seasons Program,” itself, provides powerful links between exploring and celebrating the land of SMC and the ongoing inquiry into the nature of the human mind.  The circle and four directions motif, found in the Buddhist Mandala (and Stupa), is a universal symbol that reflects our human relationship to Earth and the Universe.  The labrynths of the British Isles, the Hopi Earth Mother symbol and Zia Sun Symbol are other examples.  There is a real need for the traditional lessons of basic goodness and mindfulness that SMC has provided for decades.  Couched in the context of our human relationship to our living planet, these lessons take on even greater significance. ​

To learn more about the Four Seasons Program and view some upcoming retreats in this series, please click here.

Embodied Listening with David Rome and Hope Martin

 

David and Hope will be leading Embodied Listening, May 23-26

David Rome

David Rome

Embodied Listening is an intensive but gentle body, mind, and heart training for releasing habitual patterns that constrict our lives and relationships. When we learn to listen deeply to ourselves, we also

Hope Martin

Hope Martin

become more open and sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. During this retreat, we will draw on several powerful modalities including: mindfulness meditation to relax mental holding patterns; Alexander Technique to release physical holding patterns; and Mindful Focusing to access deeper feelings held in the body. This workshop is highly experiential and includes periods of meditation, exploration of the felt sense, and gentle hands-on bodywork.

Instructors David Rome and Hope Martin have been teaching together for over ten years throughout North America. Both are qualified Focusing Trainers as well as Buddhist meditation teachers.

Recently the two teachers took some time to have some discussion and offer guided practices that you can do at home.

David and Hope will be leading Embodied Listening, May 23-26 .  To learn more, please click here

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.

Connecting Tai Chi and Buddhism with Larry Welsh

By Travis Newbill

Larry Welsh will be leading Flowing Like Water, Strong as a Mountain: Tai Chi Retreat, April 25-27

Larry-20Welsh-IMGP0429cc-(1)The ancient practice of Tai Chi Chuan has often been called the “supreme ultimate exercise.” When joined with mindfulness sitting meditation, these two forms bring forth a potent way to awaken health and restore well-being in body, mind, and spirit.

Larry Welsh, MAc, MA, has trained in the Yang-style short form, listening hands and sword form of Tai Chi Ch’uan since 1977. Larry is Senior Adjunct Professor and Mindfulness-Meditation teacher in the Traditional Eastern Arts program at Naropa University. He practices Japanese Classical Acupuncture, herbal medicine and whole-food nutrition in Boulder, Colorado.

Watch our interview with Larry Welsh 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.

Larry Welsh will be leading Flowing Like Water, Strong as a Mountain: Tai Chi Retreat, April 25-27. To learn more, please click here.

Comedy Improv: Humor for Health and Self-Discovery with Jacqueline Kabat

By Travis Newbill

Kabat_JacquelineCan comedy improv help you live a more awake, more joyful, and less fearful life?  Can comedy improv save the world?  YES AND… Check out our recent interview with popular Manhattan-based comedian/holistic health humorist Jacqueline Kabat to learn how.

Jacqueline will be leading a weekend retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center from May 9-11 titled: Comedy Improv: Humor for Health and Self-Discovery. To learn more about the retreat, please click here.

Jacqueline Kabat is a Manhattan-based comedian who performs stand-up at popular comedy clubs, including Gotham and Caroline’s on Broadway. She has studied with Amy Poehler, warmed up audiences at ABC Studios with Mario Cantone, and is currently in production for her documentary, Comedy Improv Can Save the World. She teaches improv in theaters, corporations, medical centers, and institutes such as Omega and Esalen.

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.

Dwelling in the Sacred: Awakening Through Seeing and Making

By Anthony Lawlor

Sacred Space Altar To dwell in the sacred is to live with shimmering presence in the physical world. It is to experience your home and community as living, breathing extensions of your mind, body and nature. It is to engage visible forms and colors, objects and places as allies revealing the unseen forces energizing and guiding you. In the middle of the crushing craziness of daily life, it is finding spaciousness and peace wherever you are. Dwelling in the sacred is your natural way of inhabiting the earth. But it gets lost in the fears and limited patterns of thinking promoted by our materialistic culture.

To reclaim sacred ways of dwelling involves expanding beyond the conventional mindset that views the world as isolated, lifeless objects. It is to see with fresh eyes and shape your surroundings in ways the promote renewal and awakening. Sacred Seeing opens you to experiencing walls and windows, chairs and cabinets as the alchemy between human imagination and the earth. Through such awakened eyes, inhabiting your home and city becomes an active meditation for touching profound vitality and connection through physical places. Sacred Making offers you ways to make your home and workplace environments that nourish wholeness in your mind, body and family. It is a means of entering a dialogue with nature and finding healthy, sustainable ways of making your place in the world.

The foundation of Sacred Seeing and Making is creative play that discovers how the earth truly longs for you to inhabit it. In turn, it is finding out how you can live on earth the way you have always wanted to. Through the creative play of Sacred seeing and making our sense of home can expand beyond the walls of your house or apartment and include the entire world.

Anthony Lawlor Altar You can learn how to Dwell in the Sacred at a workshop I am leading May 30-June 1 at the Shambhala Mountain Center. This retreat invites us to experience our home,workplace, and community as sacred places that can serve as allies on our life journey. Exercises held in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya will allow us to feel the archetypal elements of holy sites and to learn ways of finding peace, healing, and inspiration within the buildings we inhabit each day. Through a variety of practices we will sense the connections between the buildings sheltering us and our patterns of thought, speech, and action. We will learn ways of arranging furnishings, selecting colors, and choosing materials to increase inner and outer harmony, health, and happiness, and to engage our living spaces as vessels for spiritual awakening. Click here to find out more: Dwelling In the Sacred: Spaces as Vessels of Awakening

I hope you will join use for a fun, inspiring and transforming weekend.

After taking a similar course I taught in New York, a real estate agent there sent me this email: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of you and the new awareness you brought me as I walk through my city. It really added to my fascination with the architecture of NYC in that now I really look at all of the little details and feel the energy behind their creation—the joy and beauty. It brings me into the present moment and I feel a connection with timeless existence and my place in it. Quite a gift! Many thanks.”

Anthony Lawlor will be leading a weekend program called Dwelling in the Sacred: Everyday Places as Vessels for Awakening at SMC from May 30-June 1. For more information, click here.

FLOW: I Move Because I am Curious

By Katharine Kaufman

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27

I start in stillness. Then I recognize I am breathing. The breath appears to be more clear—prominent. I recognize a sense of body—what is touching the ground, what is a little snug, what feels tired. Hello body. I relax my jaw and shoulders and along with this, discursive movement relaxes too. Breathe out. I am landed. Where does movement start? Mind? A reflex? Breath? I move not because I am uncomfortable and want to change my posture. I move because I am curious. I am looking for what my mentor, Barbara Dilley, calls, “kinesthetic delight.”

I open my peripheral view to the others in the room. Pretty soon we are moving through space, slowly, and somewhat together. I don’t have to hold this body up—by myself. I think of my yoga teacher, Richard Freeman who always said we can “ride the breath.” And there’s a sense of support from the group. When we slow our movement we can take care of ourselves as we enter and leave the poses. When we slow even more we don’t need to push at anything. The breath seems to carry us. Gravity seems friendly.

DSC_2289Photo by Barbara Colombo

The creative yoga sequences are funny— and there is some laughter, and a few groan as someone is challenged with how to unwind from a pose. When we enter a twisted posture it seems that the breath is all that moves. Our entire body works as a unit in strong poses. When we balance there is a tremor. Someone who usually toughs it out chooses to rest for a while and then joins a little later. So it goes—starting simply, we move into more complex poses and then return to the simplicity of sitting or standing, or lying. We have been around the block -–looked into our alleys and windows… With each sun-salutation, plank pose, and savasana we feel both the limits of our movement and the expansiveness—We know ourselves as moving beings. After all this moving it feels natural to sit, so we do.

This is what we do with our short time together. This is practice. The land supports us in our practice. The staff understands. They are friendly and gentle. Other programs support us in our practice and the practice itself supports our practice. Zen Master, Kobun Chino said, “practice is a fancy word.” It’s not special. It’s ordinary and visceral. We have the opportunity to go to the depths as well as shallows, and to let our recognition of each current exploding moment expand us.

Then there are meals –beautiful vegetarian meals —waiting for us. We walk in the springtime mountains. Are there flowers yet? I forgot. It has been a long time. Maybe there is a puffy spring snow that melts as it touches the ground.

After lunch I walk up to the stupa and around the perimeter a few times. I only hear the sound of my steps on the gravel so I try to walk more softly to match the silence. This allows me to really feel each step and swing of arms, legs. The wind shoots through the land. I realize I don’t know much about wind, this land, myself…I find this hysterical and burst out in a big laugh. When I enter the stupa I am surprised by a rush of energy and clarity as I sit, facing the mystery of who I am, what phase I am in. I feel the vulnerability of this human life. Here, I don’t need much to be satisfied.

Being removed from my habitual routes and places gives me the opportunity to look at my thoughts, body, relationships, and days from a bigger perspective. Questions arise as we move through our practice—in relationship with our own mind and body. They are questions that can be translated to our lives. I may ask, Where is space in this back bend? What flows? What is necessary? With what kind of energy and awareness am I stepping on the ground? How gracefully do I perform these stops and starts? Can I let go here—and here? Is my movement too swift for how my body really feels? The questions are enough. They don’t require answers.

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27. To learn more, please CLICK HERE