The Unfaithful Yes

by Janet Solyntjes

 

“Saying “yes” to more things than we can actually manage to be present for with

integrity and ease of being is in effect saying “no” to all those things and people and

places we have already said “yes” to, including, perhaps, our own well-being.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn from Coming to Our Senses

 

Having a manageable life is a key concern for most adult members of society. Unfortunately, it is becoming a big concern of our children as well. As Jon has often pointed out, we live in society afflicted by Attention-Deficit Over-activity Disorder. We simply have too much on our plate. We want to slow down, do less, have more time for our self, but it’s not happening.

Moving through life at high speed can be addictive. Overcommitting is fashionable. Saying “yes” when we want to say no is often a cloaked desire for approval. In our longing to know that we are lovable human beings, we look outside our self for selfworth. If we take on too much, saying yes to the many requests of friends, co-workers, supervisors, and family, we will inevitably be unfaithful. We must relearn our loveliness and practice saying “no.”

meditator on cushionWhy do I think that relearning our loveliness comes first? When we fully love our self and know that our nature is open, wise, and caring, the need to establish our identity in the outer world diminishes. We know how to be content in our own being, comfortable in our own skin. Embracing our deeper nature, we know the path of personal integrity. If saying yes to busyness means losing the capacity to truly listen to our loved ones when they have something meaningful to say, why would we do so? If that extra trip to the store to satisfy an urge to acquire something means losing a few precious moments of alone time at home for meditation, reflection, or just simply non-doing, then why would we say yes to the impulse?

When leading MBSR retreats I sense participants’ struggle with surrendering to an entire weekend of accomplishing nothing. Slowing down is like coming off a drug. There’s a withdrawal period that is uncomfortable. Practicing mindfulness asks us to move into a place of faithful yes to our innermost nature. We faithfully say yes to each moment, not compromising it for a future fantasy or the play of reminiscences.

Janet Solyntjes

If we want to heal the societies ADOD, feeling, as we do, that its absence would only enrich our experience of living with others, then we should take a look at the times when we offer an unfaithful yes to the world. Only we know when that is.

That’s why it comes down to knowing within our self the feeling of contentment. Living with integrity is much more interesting and satisfying than managing hyperactive over-activity. Don’t you agree?

Janet Solyntjes will be teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at Shambhala Mountain Center on June 27 – 30.

Sit Still & Let Nature Play: An Interview With Acharya Allyn Lyon

By Brianna Socha

I first met Acharya Allyn Lyon last fall in Los Angeles when she was the senior teacher at a weekthun. A weekthun is an intensive week of group meditation with almost 12 hours spent in silent practice each day. Her morning and evening talks were welcome guidance, grounding us with wisdom and compassion. Whenever the hot boredom set in and I would start to question why I chose to spend my coveted vacation time sitting quietly on a cushion, her example would remind me of the beauty of someone who has followed the path of meditation.

Acharya Allyn LyonAcharya Lyon has a long history with Shambhala Mountain Center, starting in the 70s as a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and then serving as staff in the 80s for dathuns (month-long meditation retreats). In 1995, she became the center’s director, a position she held for five years before being appointed an acharya, a senior most teacher in the Shambhala tradition, by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. It seemed only fitting to sit down and talk with her again in the beautiful terrain of SMC, where she is now spending a good portion of the year as an acharya-in-residence. Her presence is profound and witty, dignified and outrageous, open and humble.

Why do you think it’s important to take moments to slow down?

I think the world has speeded up so fast and there’s so much electronic communication, so there’s no time between things. And you react. Push the “send” button and get a response right back. You can start a war in five minutes with unskillful emails. So it’s out of balance in a lot of ways with speed and materialism. There’s not much respect for the soft sciences—culture, the arts, compassion, empathy. Judgmental mind is very active. Generally speaking, most people are not very in touch with nature. So it leads to a lot of unhappiness, a lot of suffering and bizarre things.

How does nature factor into the retreat experience?

Being in nature has always been a huge part of the SMC experience. The seasons are not theoretical. You feel them. You’re part of it. When the wind blows, you can hear it quite a distance away through the trees. You can see the weather in advance, feel it approach and then it lands on you. It’s very dramatic much of the year because the temperatures can be extreme but always changing, just as clouds are always changing. Then we have animals and they’re changing too. When you come here for a program, a retreat or just a little R and R, you’re always in touch with what’s happening outside. I remember we were having this very intense program in the Sacred Studies Hall last summer and out the back windows you could see a mother and two new fawns wandering around the garden. It was really delightful because it was just part of the whole thing.2 deer

As the senior teacher for numerous weekthuns and dathuns, how would you describe the challenge and benefit of attending these programs?

Sometimes the discipline is challenging—silence and sitting in your posture and doing your meditation for hours and hours. It’s hard but you are doing it with other people who are going through the same thing. There’s a sense of humor that comes really quickly because some of it’s absurd. And you can do it. You discover you can do it. Furthermore, you begin to learn about yourself and what you do that is helpful for being happy and what makes you miserable. And you learn that don’t have to do that. You have to do it a little bit to discover that it makes you miserable but then you stop.

People often feel stretched thin with obligations. Stepping away and spending a week or even a month with yourself can sometimes feel awkward…

It’s the kindest thing you can do for the people around you—become a gentler person.

You’ve mentioned you like watching the news. How do you stay connected with all that’s going on these days without getting caught up in feelings of anger and darkness?

I feel the desire to punch somebody a lot. And I recognize it and yeah, that’s the environment. You don’t want to contribute more aggression to it. But it’s good to touch in so that you’re not Pollyana, thinking everything is love and light. “It’s all good.” No, it’s not! That’s not what basic goodness means.

I think if you really keep in touch with your feelings and see the cause and effect, it’s very easy not to get caught. If you are being mindful of your feelings, you can remember to let go. And maybe you actually want to turn it off because enough is enough.

What final advice do you have for getting back in balance?

Sit still and let nature play. Get out of your office and your car and go sit somewhere and watch the squirrels and clouds and slow down a little bit. We let people do that.  That’s not wasting time. That’s actually part of your job. Usually.

Acharya Allyn Lyon will be leading the dathun meditation retreat this summer at Shambhala Mountain Center.  You can do it! Attend for a week or the whole month.

Memories of Mexico, SMC, and Writing a First Novel

by Maria Espinosa

black and white photo of Maria EspinosaA group of us walked along a narrow path to a deserted beach near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, which in 1971 was still a village of only several thousand inhabitants. The moon was brilliant and the ocean glistened with reflected light. Inspired by the moonlight, the waves and the soft sand under my bare feet, I began to dance. As I moved, I was working through problems that felt tangled. These were thoughts for which I could find no words, but which my body moved through as I danced.

Many years after that night on the beach, I began to practice Tibetan Buddhist shamatha meditation and I experienced an enormous breakthrough. For years I had been struggling to complete my novel, Longing. I had written four drafts, but they were brittle. I could not get beneath the surface. After a few weeks—or perhaps months—of focused shamatha practice, I was able to get beneath that frozen surface. Heart and insight began to expand and soften. I threw out the first four drafts and the fifth became meaty, fluid, and real. It would take four more rewrites to get Longing into its final form, but the fact that meditation practice gave such power hooked me.

Last summer as I meditated inside the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center, I had a similar kind of illumination. I had been attending a weekthun, a week-long meditation intensive, sleeping at night in a cabin where I snuggled under layers of blankets, absorbing the beauty of the land, the wilderness, the mountains. All this had prepared me for the Stupa, which emanates a feeling of tremendous brilliance and purity.

As I meditated there, my mind—often cluttered, anxious, and diffuse in daily life—seemed to transform in an alchemical way. Ideas became objects I could shift and maneuver inside the luminous space of my mind. Thoughts were clear and visualizations were lucid. Words, visual art, music, life changing decisions, all could flow more easily in this state.

For me, there is a connection between that moonlit night on the beach, meditation practice, and the illuminating experience within the Stupa. While the dance and the Stupa experience were brief, they fostered creativity that came from a deeper source in which body, mind, and spirit are connected. Regular meditation practice is far more gradual in its effects, like burning a log after the fire has been lit. That dance on the beach in Mexico and meditating in the Stupa were the matches, while my regular meditation practice sustains my writing like the burning log sustains the fire.

Learn more about Maria Espinosa’s up-coming writing workshop: Finding Your Voice: A Mindful Writing Retreat.

Interview with a Meditator: Learn to Meditate

 

“People realize that they can make friends with themselves and that seems to be the main point”

Greg Smith started meditating in 1976 and began teaching meditation practice in 1982. In this interview he addresses some of the questions that he regularly encounters with beginning meditators, about the purpose of meditation and the Learn to Meditate program, and his own reasons for beginning this powerful practice.

Beginning meditators rarely begin this practice without misconceptions of what it is that they are doing. For so simple an activity, meditation is often made out to be something it is not. “They kinda want to make their minds go away, which is probably not such a helpful approach” says Greg, suggesting that it’s more about leaning to make friends with yourself.

 

Dathun: Before and After Photos

 

Inspired by a piece from a few years back in the Shambhala Times, our fabulous marketing associate, Kaleigh Isaacs, and our equally fabulous development associate, Chris Seelie, put together this series of Before and After shots from participants in the winter Dathun.

Really driving home the truth that “nothing is new” the photo collage below is our tribute to the truth of the theme of this past Dathun, that Feeling and Touching and Being (i.e. Shambhala Meditation) — taking time to sit with our hearts and minds for a month is better than a facial and a lot like falling in love.

Scientifically rigorous, this is not; but regard the eyes.

BEFORE AFTER
Deborah before dathun  Deboarah after Dathun
Lasette before Dathun retreat  Lassette after Dathun Retreat
David before Dathun retreat David before Dathun retreat
Tim before dathun retreat Tim before dathun retreat
Peter after Dathun retreat Peter after Dathun retreat
Guillermo before dathun retreat Guillermo after Dathun retreat
Marin After Marin after Dathun retreat
David before dathun retreat David after dathun retreat

And lastly we have Tom the Dathün Coordinator, who would certainly call his experience transformative!

We had a lot of fun putting these together and seeing people’s responses. Let us know what you think below in the comments!

To learn more about Dathun click here.