Floral Notes and Bardo: Blissful Who-Knows-What (HUM HUM HUM)

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Greeting my smile at the bottom of the ocean, therefore unconcerned with flotation or undertow.  Wakeful waves — only the chatter of the depths.

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Friday evening — Feast celebration for Trungpa Rinpoche‘s Parinirvana.  Sadhana of Mahamudra.  In the middle of the triple HUM recitation — the space of rainbow magic manifest — the Sakyong and the choir of Acharyas, appeared.  We created an isle, parted the sea.  Rinpoche came in and prostrated three times to the large Buddha, which contains his father‘s skull relic, and a picture of the Vidyadhara on the shrine along with many offerings.

He gazed at the picture, whispered blessings, and tossed a khata into the seated Buddha’s opened palm (perfect shot).

He offered amrita from a skull cup to each one of us.  Then, out front, he said some words about the preciousness of us all being gathered at the Great Stupa for this occasion.  Then, we sang the Anthem and circumambulated.

I circumambulated behind Pema.

Then, back into the Stupa and resumed the feast:

HUM HUM HUM

After the feast, chants, and a video of Trungpa Rinpoche giving a talk at Naropa in 1976. Then, old-timers shared stories.

~~~

Saturday, a day of catching up with Heather. Since the move it’s been so scattered. Lots of time together. Felt great, healthy.  Anyway…

~~~
Sunday morning, a talk from the Sakyong to the staff.  Beautiful.

In the evening, dinner in the shrine room, because we’re re-painting our dining hall.  Joshua and Greg (old dogs) telling us about consorts and yabyum deities (because we asked like curious children).  Mystical things in a fun tone.

~~~

Being around the Sakyong and Acharyas… Feels warm, big.  Glad to be a part of it.  Yesterday, before Rinpoche left the land, I was speaking with Acharya Lobel.  He expressed to me what a powerful retreat it was for all of them.  That they were grateful for the staff holding the space so well, and that, inside, they were blown away by the teachings.

It’s great to hear that.  I’m glad to be contributing.  And, hearing reports of what’s going on “inside” keeps me brimming with curiosity and longing.

It’s fun.  It’s an adventure.  How to get to the next point?  Clues and questions.  Magical encounters.  Synchronicity…

So much synchronicity while they were all here.  Like, whatever was going on in that shrine room was affecting everything else.  The waves extending and stirring things into blissful who-knows-what.  Music.

– April 7, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: This Time…

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

I walked along a dirt trail, beside Rinpoche, holding a white umbrella over his head to shield him from the sun.

A feeling of cosmic friendship, preciousness, gratitude.

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Earlier in the morning I held a tray for him while he made tea offerings, after returning from his morning run, still catching his breath and sweating.

The core teachers of the Shambhala Buddhist mandala are here: The Sakyong, Ani Pema, the Acharyas, the Kalapa Council.  It’s powerful, enchanting.

The teachings that are occurring here these days are new.  There is a sense of quiet explosiveness.  It’s tangible.  There is a glow.

After one teaching session yesterday, the Sakyong ran joyfully from the shrine hall back to his quarters, his escorts had to keep up.

It’s awesome to be here for this.

A couple of years ago, my first week at Shambhala Mountain Center, the annual Acharya retreat was happening.  I was mystified.  So beautiful.  The first time I saw Rinpoche, he was being escorted down the stairs by someone holding a white umbrella.

Now, the wheel has turned a couple of times, and I’m holding the umbrella.  Where will I end up, and up, as the wheel turns and turns?  How long will I be on the planet before I die?

I like the direction things are going.  I hope to live a long life to allow for more and more blossoming.

And of course… this is it.  Maybe I will live long enough to become a close student of Rinpoche, perhaps I will be an Acharya.  Or, maybe I will die sooner than that.  Today, I am in a very fortunate position.  My dedication to the dharma has brought me here.  I wish to honor that and not let my dedication wane.  I wish to offer more and more, to become more and more sane and helpful to others, and to generally delve deeper and wholeheartedly into the dharma.

May I relate to all the flickering conditions of my life as dharmas, and know the entirety of my life to be the path of awakenment.  May I not take my good fortune for granted.  May I not seek refuge from fear and discomfort in conditional situations, but rather, take genuine refuge in the three jewels, again and again.

~~~

“This time, practice the main points”

“‘This time’ refers to this lifetime. You have wasted many lives in the past, and in the future you may not have the opportunity to practice. But now, as a human being who has heard the dharma, you do. So without wasting any more time, you should practice the main points.” — Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 – April 3, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Great Eastern Sunshine Daydream

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down…

The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion) runs through Shambhala Mountain Center…

The Dead and the dharma.  Thus it is.

~~~

(I created an image for this post–a mash-up of the Great Eastern Sun and the Grateful Dead Steal Your Face logo.  I really liked it a lot, because it fit so well here, and also because I know so many Shambhalian-Deadheads who I think would have liked it a lot also.  However, it seemed inappropriate for public display/internet, since it may be too easily misunderstood.  So, instead, here’s Dorian enjoying a moment of psychedelic arising at Elkhorn, on a night the weekend prior to the events described here.)

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Still not quite settled into my house, but I spent a great deal of the weekend setting up the Sakyong’s residence.  At first I felt resentful. Why am I working on this house when mine is in disarray?  I wanted to feel selfless devotion and inspiration.  Eventually I did.

I skipped out of my window cleaning duties for thirty minutes one morning to go online and score Phish tickets right when they went on-sale…  Yea!

Then, back to cleaning and setting up Rinpoche’s household.  Friday evening, a gathering at Elkhorn.  I screened the Grateful Dead Movie.  Fun!  Warm up for Saturday night field-trip:

A group of us went down to Boulder to Dark Star Orchestra concert (Grateful Dead tribute).  We were well hosted by a friend named Lee, who lives in a legendary house on the East-side of the valley (Boulder-town below).

The concert was explosive-color-fun.  Singing and dancing.  Wonderful to be with my SMC peeps in that space, that energy-field.

Back up the mountain Sunday, just in time for lunch, then a talk on diversity from two Acharyas: Eric Spiegel from New York and Marianne Bots from the Netherlands.

I asked about the tension between individual intelligence, individuality, and devotion, or faith, or going along with this Shambhala thing.

Acharya Spiegel’s answer was powerful, and I don’t quite think I can do it justice.  Something about getting a strong enough whiff of familiar truth and lineage that you trust the whole thing enough to go further.  Further.  It’s personal, and quite mysterious.  First you understand the words, and then the meaning.  So…a journey.

I felt a strong connection with Acharya Spiegel.  I think I’ll travel to NYC in May to do Rigden Weekend (the next retreat for me along the progression of the Shambhala Path), which he is leading.  I was going to do it in Boulder with Acharya Hessey, but the dates conflict with a program that we’re hosting here at SMC called “Relationship as a Path of Awakening,” which I’m really excited for after speaking with the teacher — Bruce Tift, a long-time Buddhist in the Shambhala sangha and a psychotherapist.  Since a relationship is happening in my life these days, I feel I ought to do the program to nourish and encourage its “path” potential.

–March 31, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Wild and Dignified

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

I-Ching toss last night–”stillness.” The image of a mountain–first hexagram. Second: progress. The image of the sun rising.

Greg said: Taming the mind, meditative stillness, and waiting until the right moment to act. And, when I do, it will be effective. Something about the hexagram saying: Don’t allow your hips to become frozen. You’ve got to boogie. No cave-dwelling yogi life for you right now, Ngejung Tachok.

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And, be with the peeps. Being a leader, you’ve got to be with the peeps, not separate from them. You are a peep.

Greg was giving me an I-Ching reading upstairs in the library, meanwhile downstairs in the shrine room, the Beastie Boys, dance party. Pounding electronic music. I’d been dancing then saw Greg in the hallway and asked for a reading.

He’d given the ceremonial reading for SMC earlier in the day.

Shambhala Day (or, Losar)… The New Year. Big day of celebration.

It began at 6am toast to the new year, then we marched up to the Stupa–Kasung-style:

“Left, left, left, right, left…Eyes on the horizon!” and the sun was coming up–orange, radiant. The weather was lovely, clear, crisp.

At the Stupa–lahsang ceremony. Clouds of smoke and offerings, group chanting, juniper, waving flags. Then inside the Stupa for Elixr of Life sadhana, bathing ourselves in saffron water, reminding ourselves of death, preciousness of life, making aspirations to not sleep through it. To use our lives to wake up and help the world.

Lovely breakfast, socializing and then we gathered in the shrine room for the webcast of the Sakyong‘s Shambhala Day address–beautiful. Funky mountain-internet connection made it comedy.

Later in the evening, a formal dinner and the Shambhala Ball (Bhal?).

I dressed in tights, tie, and tu-tu. At dinner I toasted the Sakyong, from the bottom of my heart. Greg asked me to make the toast. When he told Director Gayner that I’d be doing it, Mr. Gayner said:

“In his tu-tu?”

and Greg said:

“He’s wearing a tu-tu?”

It went well.

These sorts of things can happen at SMC. That’s why I know I’m in the right spot. This may be the wildest spot in the mandala. Yeah…

The Bahl began with a choreographed waltz. Several of us had been rehearsing, lead by Greg (who is so darn graceful), in the week leading up to the event. So magical… So fairy tale.

Shambhala really has this whimsical, fairy tale quality to it. Dragons and kings, and ball gowns, horses, magic… And it’s all grounded in authentic buddhadharma. Ahh…

After a few waltzes, DJ Stephen Extro, who lives here and is a hot-as-shit awesome DJ, played music for us. Really high energy awesome electronic music. A bunch of us on the dance-floor together–Joshua, Director Gayner, Kaleigh-boss, Heather, friends–my peeps. Everyone together enjoying this high energy dance vibe.

A moment with Mr. Gayner, as he was doing weird powerful martial arts moves, directing energy with his hands. I joined him. Such a mystical scene. All of us holding and playing with, all of us within this, potent energy field. So much good energy from the day erupting in this dance experience.

May SMC always be wild and dignified.

Towards the end of the night, while the music was still pumping, a few of us set up the meditation cushions for this morning’s session. Just the slightest tinge of a hangover this morning and I rang the gong only 5 minutes late.

–March 3, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Stew in Space, and…How to Rule?

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Clapping muscles. Fangs into popsicle–shock like a bell, breastbone. Dirt in mid air–my dirt, your dirt, our dirt. Tears, mud. How else would we know this stuff but to care enough to tumble together?

~~~

President Reoch leading a fireside chat.

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Everything that happens here, happens in a big way. Little things happen in big ways. It can be like throwing a dart at a barn, or being bit by a pterodactyl (rather than a mosquito).

Last weekend, President Reoch lead The Six Ways of Ruling. Amazing teacher, amazing teachings on leadership from the Shambhala tradition. To begin with–leading one’s life. My life is like a stew and I don’t feel like I’m holding the bowl or spoon. I may be the steam rising off the top, or a slice of potato. It’s a rich stew–dharma practice, romance, work, and a legitimate position of leadership within our little society.

I am trying to organize all of this stew-stuff so that it can all reside in the bowl nicely. I want folks to be able to dunk a spoon in and delight in it. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about a super rich and full life and feeling a bit off balance and not in control. It’s all good stuff. But it’s a LOT of good stuff. And I’m afraid that my neighbor’s knee is going to bump the table and hot stew is going to scold my crotch.

Be grateful to everyone.

Dharma–saving grace.

If my neighbor does so, I will (try to) blame myself and be thankful for the way the lava-like-stuff of my life becomes impossible to ignore, thus rousing me from my comfortable slumber.

My uncle, The Captain, says “If you ever get your shit together, you’ll then have a big pile
of shit.”

Steamy.

Trungpa Rinpoche says:

“Groundlessness is your protection.”

It’s difficult to keep track of all that is splashing around. Maybe trying to do so is the root of insanity. Stew is chaotic. Stew is good. Stew is nutritious.

I’m feeling bewildered and I trust what is happening. Versions of myself are being gobbled up by gentle breezes which I am referring to as gale force winds.

–February 4, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Thank You, Catfish

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

They’ll gallop beyond their bodies…
Bones in a meadow, scattered,
vultures have eaten well.

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The above picture was drawn by Catfish, who was visiting for the weekend. He also gave me a 200 year old Japanese tea pot. It spent about 100 years in the mud by a river, I’m told. Wow…

~~~

A refreshingly warm morning, walk to the Stupa, pausing, gazing at a big sky, all was so quiet.

“Open your territory completely, let go of everything.” –CTR

Contemplating the suffering in the world and giving away all delight–the glow deepened. Everything so rich, cool, fresh. A long, beautiful practice session in the Stupa.

Afternoon spent in conversation. Too much talking. Another hour on the cushion before dinner, then Joni Mitchell in the headphones for a while, and then some time with Heather. She was at a restaurant earlier and brought me a picture that she colored. She asked me to add some words.

We were talking a bit about Shambhala, and about being a lil’ pair of adventurous art-flowers, spreading seeds. I say: May wild-art blossom all over the place.

I’ve borrowed this phrase from one of my key teachers:

“Occupy Shambhala”

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Q&A: The President of Shambhala on ‘Who is A Leader’ and ‘How to Lead’ (Note: You Are A Leader)

By Travis Newbill

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.

Richard Reoch

Richard Reoch

Who are the “leaders,” anyway? Are the leaders “us” or “them”? Are we all leaders? The notion of leadership may arise in various contexts: we all strive to lead decent lives; when two people are dancing a tango, one person is leading (or else there will be extreme sloppiness, if not injury); some of us are in positions in which we lead groups of people in one way or another on a daily basis.

For leaders of any sort, there is profound guidance to be found within a set of teachings whose roots extend 2,600 years into human history. The Six Ways of Ruling stem from teachings on enlightened society given by the Buddha and were articulated in this age by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche–founder of the modern day Shambhala tradition–as a means to train his successor as Sakyong (“Earth Protector” or “King”). Only in the last decade have the teachings been made available to the public.

This coming January, Richard Reoch, the President of Shambhala, will present The Six Ways of Ruling in a weekend program at SMC. Recently, President Reoch generously made time in his schedule to have some discussion about what these teachings are all about, and who may benefit from engaging with them.

Can you describe the history of these teachings and who they may be applicable to?

President Reoch: When Trungpa Rinpoche first presented these teachings, he presented them as the training of the new Sakyong: When the prince first sees how much chaos and drama there is in the world, of all sorts, and how much needs to be accomplished during his reign, he might lose heart. So, Trungpa Rinpoche says, in order to accomplish his purpose while he’s the Sakyong, he needs to be thoroughly accomplished in the Six Ways of Ruling.

I see.

And from that perspective, these teachings are a recipe, or an orientation, for that kind of leadership. At the same time, of course, the notion of Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo [the female counterpart] is meant to be an indicator and an inspiration for how we lead our own lives.

So, we are all leaders–kings and queens–in a sense?

There is a quality in which you need to attend to your own life. You have relationships with others–whether you like them or not. Most people have to work–whether they like it or not. Most people end up in teams of some sort, and then there’s the larger notion of community and society.

And these teachings are helpful in working with that stuff?

These teachings are completely and utterly applicable whether you’re just figuring out how to lead your own life or whether you’re pondering becoming the next Secretary General of the United Nations. So, no limitations there in terms of leadership.

So, how can we be good leaders?

I think the first thing is to use your own insights about yourself in order to understand the other people that you’re working with. Fundamentally, I believe that most of the leadership work that we do, at most levels in Shambhala, is entirely about working with others, and working with others’ states of mind.

So, the first thing is not to reference a to-do list?

If we approach leadership from the point of view of task first, generally speaking, we find we’re not capable of accomplishing the task.

Interesting.

Because the states of minds, attitudes, aspirations, and insights of others are the raw material that we work with all the time, the first thing really is taking the time and having the insight and the kindness to have a real sense of who the other members of the team are.

Doesn’t that take time away from the “actual work”?

Well, this doesn’t mean we never get any work done, but there’s got to be a sense of “How are we today?” and “Where are we at?” and “Where are we going?” It’s extremely important to lay that sort of ground in order to work for the best interests and the benefit of the whole group.

It seems that, conventionally, people equate speed and agenda-obsession with accomplishment.

That sort of approach produces a certain kind of accomplishment, but usually that kind of accomplishment runs into the sand pretty fast. The alternative is to be a person who kind of understands what the mood of the group is, and where we’re at today, that kind of thing.

Sounds like how to not be a dreaded “boss.”

It’s really a question of being open minded and attentive to people and realizing that there’s wisdom and intelligence in the group. A quality of open heartedness, open mindedness, and intelligence of that sort creates a common spree decor.

And that sort of situation produces tangible results?

I would say that it is capable of accomplishing much more, having much greater stamina, and creating more mutual support than any amount of–no matter how well informed it is, or how well intentioned–directive leadership. That, by the way, is what it says in the Six Ways of Ruling.

How does the notion of renunciation relate to leadership?

In his book Ruling Your World, the Sakyong says–and I am paraphrasing–if you have the feeling that you can do something without working with others, that is a clear sign that you have not conquered self-absorption.

I think this is the key point here: You could say that in some forms of what are regarded as conventional leadership, people are seen as having large egos or being in it for themselves. And then you have extreme forms which we see in the world around us as abuse of power, corruption in high places, self-promotion, and all that sort of thing.

And this occurs on the smaller levels as well…

On the smaller level the person who is leading from the point of view of ‘what’s best for them personally’. Or, they need to accomplish their agenda. Or, they have a kind of narrow minded approach to things, you could say. That is what needs to be renounced. So, in place of what is being renounced, what is being adopted is a more open-minded attitude, a more open-hearted attitude, a concern for the welfare of others, and trying to lead for the benefit of the overall vision or the overall benefit of the group or the people that you’re leading.

It seems that there’s a quality or service.

I’m sure you might be familiar with the phrase “servant leadership.” There’s a sense that you’re serving. So the interesting thing there is that often people hear the word “serving” and they tend to think of it as “low in the hierarchy” or somehow associated with “servile” or has some kind of quality of denigrating oneself: “I’m only here for others,” that kind of thing. And I think the flip in the Shambhala approach is that actually the highest position–or the king’s view, or the greatest manifestation of leadership–is leadership which is totally devoted to the welfare of the entire society, and is ultimately the practice of egolessness.

There’s a line in a Grateful Dead song: “You who choose to lead must follow.” Is that what you’re talking about?

So, there’s a fine line there. Leading for the benefit of all might not be the same as following. Not to take issue with the Grateful Dead, but that’s part of the skill and discernment involved here. Asking “what does ‘serving others’ mean?” “Serving” is definitely not used in the Shambhala teachings as being popular. And at the same time, you have to have enough people like you so that you can be in your position. So there’s a real dance of discernment–of working with others, open-heartedness, dignity and integrity and that sort of thing, and one might be leading in a direction that is counter to what people habitually might want to do. Interesting, huh?

Yes, indeed. Thank you for your time.

It’s been a delight.

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.

Shambhala Soldier: Interview with Paul Kendel

 

Paul Kendel (SSG Ret), MA, is the author of Walking the Tiger’s Path: A Soldier’s Spiritual Journey in Iraq, which chronicles his military deployment in Iraq, experiences of doubt and disillusionment, and eventual introduction to and connection with the Shambhala Buddhist teachings. Paul will be co-hosting a retreat for veterans and their families at Shambhala Mountain Center August 1-4

Paul Kendel

Why are mindfulness techniques effective for ameliorating the symptoms of PTSD?

Mindfulness helped me confront some of the hidden demons related to PTSD. Most veterans want to escape and forget about painful memories related to war, but that is the exact opposite of what one should do. Only by confronting the past can one go forward and live a productive life. Mindfulness meditation practice calms the mind and allows for the proper space for healing to begin.

What was your experience of being in the military prior to discovering the Shambhala teachings?

Before I discovered the Shambhala teachings I had always looked at war and aggression differently than others. I recognized the need for military action under particular circumstances but I did not support the war in Iraq. I deployed because I was already in in the National Guard and it was my responsibility to serve regardless of my personal views. In Iraq I was confronted with levels of ego and aggression that disturbed me greatly. I didn’t see our mission the same as many of my fellow soldiers. I wanted to understand and help the Iraqis, not see them all as “terrorists.” The Shambhala teachings made me realize that it was okay to think the way that I did, that my views were not abnormal.

How have you generated compassion for those who meant you harm, and those allies from whom you were alienated?

The Shambhala teachings helped me understand the motivations of the Iraqis who tried to kill me as well as the views of my fellow soldiers toward them. It wasn’t as black and white as the media would like to portray. It wasn’t a simple fight against “terrorism.” The war was far more complex. The Shambhala teachings helped me see the human element. The men we hunted for or killed were human beings who had families; before our invasion they would probably never have envisioned themselves waiting in the darkness to kill another human being. Likewise, some of my fellow soldiers engaged in acts that they would never have believed themselves capable before being deployed to Iraq.

What problem in transitioning back into a civilian life would surprise someone who has had no exposure to the military?

After returning from Iraq and expressing my views from a Shambhala Buddhist perspective many people were confused. Words like “compassion,” ”basic goodness,” and “Loving-Kindness” are not usually attributed to a soldier’s experiences during war time. My views were based on an effort to understand the Iraqis, but this conflicted with a general understanding of our enemies as terrorists. “You kill terrorists, you don’t waste time talking to them,” has sadly been an all too common approach to the war on terror.

Discerning wisdom is an essential quality of enlightened action, and it seems to have opened you up to much more. Can you recall some interaction with a family member, in the difficult times, that has discerning wisdom behind it?

My experiences in Iraq gave me unusual insight and wisdom into humanity. Sometimes, dark, sometimes illuminating. It certainly shattered any romantic notions of war and patriotism. When I came home on leave from Iraq I told a story to my father and his wife about an incident where I had been nearly killed. Dotted with bad language that I had acquired as a result of my active duty service, my father and his wife got up and walked away in the middle of my story. Confused at the time I forgot about it. But later I realized they had walked away because they had been not only offended by the story but by my language. This did not fit their preconceived notions based on a sanitized understanding of “war.” The reality was that war and its effect on soldiers is not a glorified experience. It’s not all flag waving and patriotism. It’s often ugly, something my father and his wife did not want to see.

 

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.