From Field to Fork

By Felice Shekar

At Shambhala Mountain Center, people often talk about being “on the land.” The SMC site, the land itself, plays a central role in the experience of those who live here and those who simply visit. This is an educational center where you can immerse yourself in the realities of nature.

It is possible, however, to not only live on the land at SMC but also to let the land live in you. As the community’s garden grows and thrives, vegetables and salad greens make the short hop from fields to the dining hall. It is possible to find homegrown arugula and radishes in your lunch salad and garnishes. The taste of food this fresh is delightful and unmistakable.

According to Sophia DeMaio, Land Steward, “SMC is serious about sustainability. A generous family foundation has helped to support our garden’s development, and the support of the entire community keeps it going.”

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More than fine eating, perhaps, the garden greens in the salad bins at meal time speak to a greater shared good that is emblematic of SMC. The short journey of healthy food to the dishes of community members parallels the way various SMC departments, such as guest services and development, create an interwoven experience for guests and staff that serves the needs of many in ways that are not always visible.

As DeMaio and the community look ahead, “it would be great to host gardening and permaculture programs and bring folks together to learn about these systems. We’d also like to build a small environmental library where community members and guests can learn about the land and working with the land.” With the help of donations, the SMC garden team will expand its crops, develop sustainability further with an effective composting system, and cultivate other projects that reflect the community’s commitment to living well and thoughtfully with the land.

Kevin Korb, Master Gardener, is excited about the future. “This fall we will be constructing a 42-foot diameter geodesic dome greenhouse that will allow us to grow food throughout the winter.” Korb also envisions chickens for eggs and a raspberry path for guests to enjoy. The best part of Kevin’s job is the connection of the food he helps grow to those that he savors meals with. “Here at SMC, I know every cook that uses our produce and I sit and eat every meal with this great community of staff and guests.”

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To many, the presence of garden fresh foods in the next meal is simply an occasion to enjoy tasty, healthy food. But this is also an opportunity to savor the systemic dedication of SMC to serve many needs at any one time.

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Felice Shekar is the Development Director at Shambhala Mountain Center.

To Make Your Mind Comfortable, You Just Need to Discover These Two Things

By Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Finding Happiness Within: Reconnecting with Your Natural State of Mind through Meditation with Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche September 4–6, 2015 — click here to learn more

Knowing how to work with your mind and how to make your mind comfortable are the most important things you can do for yourself and others. To make your mind comfortable, you just need to discover two things—that your mind is innately pristine and healthy, and that thoughts and emotions are not who you are, but just mental events. That’s all you really need to know.

Once you understand that your mind is innately pristine, and that thoughts and emotions are merely mental events, it completely changes the picture of how you relate to your mind and how you experience life. This is the real solution. This is the source of happiness and enlightenment. With this knowledge you can solve any challenges you face.

Once you recognize that your mind is innately pristine, then with meditation you can maintain that awareness more and more. As you do so, your thoughts, emotions, and other mental events gradually become less powerful and your mind becomes more comfortable. I refer to this natural state of mind as Pristine Mind. As this experience of Pristine Mind grows and expands in your awareness, then regardless of your external circumstances, your experience is equally pleasant. Over time this evenness grows to greater and greater degrees.

IMG_6881Photo by Jamie Woodworth

When you truly experience your mind as pristine and flawless, when you know your pure awareness, your true consciousness, when you recognize and remain within that, then deep down, you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilled. You are intimately connected with who you really are and with the world.

Meditating in Pristine Mind, you experience no gaps or discomfort. As your meditation progresses, your own thoughts, emotions, and mental chatter slowly dissolve giving you contentment and satisfaction. All relationships you have with others are enhanced, and when those relationships disappear, you remain fulfilled because you are not entirely dependent on circumstances. You are not merely numbing yourself temporarily to feel content; that contentment is springing forth naturally.

Then any relationships you have, any trips you take, any parties you attend, any sensory experiences you enjoy are enhanced by this underlying contentment. You are more grounded no matter what you do. Those forms of entertainment are no longer distractions; they merge with your experience of true happiness. If your mind is pristine, then external conditions actually arise as forms of happiness, not distraction.

Click here to learn more about Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche’s upcoming retreat at SMC.

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Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche_1214Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition. He studied for ten years at Larung Gar in Serta, eastern Tibet, with his teacher, Jigmed Phuntsok Rinpoche, who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Dzogchen meditation masters of the twentieth century. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the founder and spiritual director of Pristine Mind Foundation (www.pristinemind.org). He travels throughout the United States and around the world teaching a broad range of audiences, including those at universities, tech companies and yoga studios, how they can improve their lives through meditation. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is the author of Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness — forthcoming from Shambhala Publications Spring 2016.

Reclaiming Prajna

By Jamie Woodworth

It’s a widely agreed upon sentiment, among both newcomers and veteran Shambhalians, that this mountain valley has a quality of spaciousness beyond its physical boundaries. It opens up and unfolds more and more as you walk upon it. The feeling is palpable in the wind, and the life—always at play—gregariously engaging. The place has “juice.”

You can feel that presence when you first enter. It’s the drala. It converses with you in the moments you experience in-between yourself and the world. It’s awakened by the people who live here, over many cycles of leadership and life. And, if you follow your intuition, your felt sense of this place, you may be guided towards the place we call Prajna.

Early photograph of Prajna before remodels done by the Vajra Regent and Sakyong Mipham — provided by Greg Smith.

Prajna translates roughly as “transcendental wisdom.” The spirit of that word abides in the history of this site. Prajna was the home of the founder of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche until 1986, then home of the Vajra Regent, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche thereafter, until a fire razed it in 2009. The causes of the fire remain somewhat nebulous. It has been described as a reminder of “the potent truth of impermanence.”

burned1_900Photo of Prajna after the fire — provided by Denise Weunsch

Prajna, in its youth, in wreckage, and in emptiness, has enduringly served as a container for authentic encounters. Community members have reflected on the love and guardianship that Trungpa Rinpoche instilled in the heart of Prajna, from its initial settlement up until today. It was a stage to many stories—our teacher’s presence magnetized a vast array of situations. The deck was where he wrote books and chants, held council with his cabinet, and sat down for drinks with his friends and visitors. Prajna’s deck was the window through which he viewed the world, and where the world came to greet him. During his stay, that house received and held the hearts of people who came to share moments of delicate vulnerability. That energy still irrigates relationships unfolding here at SMC. Acharya Noel McLellan reflects,

“Many things happened there that were of personal significance to individuals. Tiny as it was, it was a place where many people met the Sakyong. It always seemed to me to be a part of the tent culture—the walls weren’t solid barriers in a sense. The energy inside the house permeated the whole area.”

Michael Gayner, Executive Director of Shambhala Mountain Center recollects his experience in Prajna at the Seminary he attended in 1994, “that was really where I understood the role of service to the community, and from that, service to all sentient beings, and infinite commitment to being of benefit to the world” (M. Gayner, 2015).

Prajna had a way of defining a path for those who came to both visit and live on the land. The leadership here at SMC has a conviction to keep paths running to and from it, even though its former substance has moved on. We had been discussing a way to reinvent the empty space into something accessible, and ensuring it too can still benefit the world.

Thus began our pavilion project, an endeavor made possible by the generosity of the Shambhala Trust.

IMG_6138Construction site, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The Shambhala Trust fundraises and grants money to causes that further the vision of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Their largesse helps to disseminate the ideal of an ‘enlightened society,’ by uplifting many projects inside and outside the Shambhala Buddhist community. Some projects include: The Prison Mindfulness Institute, and the Reciprocity Foundation. John Sennhauser, an original member of the Trust, evoked a special kind of enthusiasm for the Prajna reclamation project in particular, “the current Shambhala Trust was founded in 1995, you know—and, it happened at a meeting in Prajna. I was thinking about this to myself the other day. Things really came full circle—it’s great.” More than that, it’s a homecoming for many trust members, who themselves lived in tents at the Prajna site. There’s a certain air of poignancy coming back 20 years later to the memory of their old lives, and old times with the Sakyong. Funding this project, beyond spreading the Shambhala vision, is a way of dusting off that piece of their hearts, two decades later. Moreover, it’s a service to all the current volunteers, staff, and visitors fresh on the land, who can now enjoy Prajna in a whole new way.

There was a lot of intentionality behind the choice of the pavilion. When Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche visited the crumbling remains of his old house with John in 2009, he voiced how great it would be to let this land return to nature, and reclaim it as a place where people could sit, contemplate, and rest. He laid the groundwork for the grant proposal to the Trust, and the vision our leadership outlined in it. Michael Gayner described the pavilion as a potential “pilgrimage site” where people could reconnect with the Drala that flowed through Trungpa Rinpoche’s court. Placing a pavilion in this spot is a way of re-energizing Prajna, and making the Dralas available once again. Attracting people to this spot will accomplish the broader goal of reawakening the naturally present magic that Trungpa Rinpoche illuminated so many years ago. The Prajna project will be ultimately completed with the construction of a Stupa some years in the future, once the overall energetics of the land “are proper.”

With this in mind, a lot of consideration went into construction and design. Eva Wong, our Feng Shui consultant, provided guidelines on how to orient the pavilion, and how to stylize it. Danny Boyce, our project coordinator, described how she encouraged the use of certain design elements to make sure it seamlessly conducted the flow of energy. The materials were also all locally sourced from the land, and from an additional parcel of private property about 25 miles away from the SMC property line. The pavilion contains a total of 35 timbers, which were meticulously chosen by our leadership team, Peter Haney, Jared Leveille, Sophie DeMaio, and Josh Halper. Four rocks from the land were also collected to be “scribed” onto the bottom of the posts, to provide an organic transition from the wooden posts down into the earth.

The thoughtfulness of the construction is a manifestation of SMC’s commitment to not only accomplish a job, but do profoundly good work, Michael commented. Danny outlined how the whole structure was masterfully engineered—the pavilion is equipped to hold at least “three feet of snow and twenty people on it.” It will even have a handicap ramp. It’s definitely an edifice that will withstand the test of time, and be enjoyed by many people.

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SMC staff constructing the pavilion, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The moment when the frames of the pavilion were raised was itself a demonstration of the love and energy that’s still present at Prajna. Lifting the sides together required the participation of many members of the community, and more people actually showed up than needed. For two hours, a sizable group of staff rallied and pieced together a collective vision. Everybody was pretty proud to have their hands in it.

Michael, reflecting upon that teamwork, said with a smile, “our workers brought in a tremendous amount of heart and skill to Prajna.”

Really, the whole endeavor speaks to not only the continuing spirit of the land there, but also the strength of the community that sustains the beauty of Shambhala Mountain Center, in both material and non-material ways.

Our teachers nurtured a powerful heritage for Prajna. That cadence of life present during their residence is a thread we’re weaving through this present moment, this community, and into the fabric of what Shambhala has yet to become. One Summer evening, about 16 years ago, the Sakyong was standing on the deck of his old house, writing this poem, reflecting on the perfection of being in this place:

A drink from mountain stream—
Lost water comes to haunt me.
Surrounding loneliness,
Mind peers into vast blue sky.
A distant yogin’s love song plays upon my ears.
The silence of this valley
Sings the cry of liberation

Mind paces like a caged tiger.
Heart drowns in inexpressible chasm.
Let us bring it all to the path of bodhi.
Let us climb this mountain of uncertainty.
Look!
Look again!
The sun is rising.
Its golden-orange hue commands us to exhale.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
26 July, 1999

As our lives collide and mesh, we’re looking forward to the poetry of our future—and some new memories housed in this sanctuary, built by the hands of our friends.

IMG_6417 copyThe Shambhala Trust at Prajna, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

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headshotJamie Woodworth earned her Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Currently, she is a Masters student in Human Ecology at Lund University in Sweden. Her ethnographic research in Iceland couples ecological thinking with feminist theory. Understanding sustainability from a solutionary point of view is the pivoting point for her studies. In the past, Jamie has worked as an outreach coordinator for CU’s Environmental Center, a manager for Colorado Public Interest Research Group, and interned for the Chasing Ice film crew.

An Unplanned Symphony: the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, Part 2

By Martin Ogle

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth with Martin Ogle, September 11-13, 2015 — click here to learn more

This is the second of two installments which contemplate the “Rhythms of our Living Planet” and follow from an excerpt from the story “The Shear Pin.”  (CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1) In the brief, second installment of that excerpt (below), I lament the withdrawal from a spell of timelessness that had descended upon me at first, unwillingly and then like a magical meditation. But, in doing so, I realize our human minds naturally drift from being in the moment to leaving the moment through our abstract journey into the future or past.

* The following is excerpted from In the Eye of the Hawk by Martin Ogle, 2012 

I looked away, not wanting to break the spell. “It couldn’t be . . .,” I thought. But the thought itself broke the spell, and my gaze returned to the floor of the boat. It was, in fact, a shear-pin shimmering there in the sunlight. Just as it would allow the propeller to spin once more when placed in its groove, the pin entered my consciousness and set my thoughts spinning. The peace that I had settled into while adrift on the river was shattered by a simple awareness. I was now aware that there was a shear-pin in the boat and I could not wish it away. I could not just jump back into the river of timelessness and feel at my core the Life of the world around me. At least not at that moment. I considered tossing the pin into the murky Bush River, but knew that that would accomplish nothing. The awareness of that act itself would prevent my being able to re-enter the spell.

10463641_10152132452542026_3756876367164228233_oPhoto by Richard Swaback

Tension and release. For the Human Being, this law of Nature includes time and timelessness, and the drifting in and out of self-awareness. Our minds spin furiously to do good, to accomplish, to reach a destination. Overwhelmed by the ticking of the clock, we race off on a tangent, away from the Circle of Life. And just when we reach our greatest speed, we will encounter the large immovable objects, the limits, of our existence. Will we crash and break up, or instead take our pause and rejoin the circle? Do we have a shear-pin to release the tension, to tell us what is enough and when to stop and return? Pastel pinks and oranges gently brush the river as the Sun, still unseen, promises to rise once again.

Because of our intense awareness of the future and our ability to abstractly place ourselves there, we humans are blessed with unique abilities and uniquely cursed with worry, the inability to enjoy the present and a host of other related mental burdens. Our ability to go off on “time tangents” is our birthright as humans and accompanies many other unique, abstract abilities such as language, religion, and betting on horse races. In modern, Western society, however, we increasingly find ourselves worried and hurried. It is not only more difficult to enjoy the present moment and the beauty of life around and within us, our physical and mental health is suffering as well. Can we release that tension? Can we find ways to re-link with the pre-human pace of life while staying true to human nature? Can we find ways to consciously invoke ecstasy in its etymological sense of “putting our minds in another place?”

Come explore these and other questions at the September 11-13 Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center: “Gaia; Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth.” — click here to learn more

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Martin-OgleMartin Ogle holds degrees in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State and Virginia Tech. He was Chief Naturalist for the No. Virginia Regional Park Authority 1985 – 2012. He received the 2010 Krupsaw Award for Non-Traditional Teaching – The annual award of the Washington Academy of Sciences for outstanding teaching in informal and non-academic settings. Mr. Ogle promotes a widespread understanding of the Gaia Paradigm through his workshops, programs and writings. He and his family moved to Louisville, CO in 2012 where he started Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC. Mr. Ogle was born and raised much of his younger life in South Korea.

Happiness Depends On Your Mind | Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche (VIDEO)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Finding Happiness Within: Reconnecting with Your Natural State of Mind through Meditation with Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche September 4–6, 2015 — click here to learn more

In this excerpt from a recent teaching at Frog Lotus Yoga in North Adams, Massachusetts, Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche explains how happiness depends on our minds, not external circumstances. By working with our minds through meditation we discover happiness that we can take with us everywhere we go. Rinpoche also explains how this type of inner happiness is an attractive quality and the key to building connections and community.

Click here to learn more about Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche’s upcoming retreat at SMC.

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Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche_1214Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition. He studied for ten years at Larung Gar in Serta, eastern Tibet, with his teacher, Jigmed Phuntsok Rinpoche, who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Dzogchen meditation masters of the twentieth century. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the founder and spiritual director of Pristine Mind Foundation (www.pristinemind.org). He travels throughout the United States and around the world teaching a broad range of audiences, including those at universities, tech companies and yoga studios, how they can improve their lives through meditation. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is the author of Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness forthcoming from Shambhala Publications Spring 2016.

Writing as a Path to Awakening

By Albert Flynn DeSilver

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Writing as a Path to Awakening with Albert Flynn DeSilver August 13-17, 2015 — click here to learn more

Writing as a Path to Awakening is a dynamic and fun process using mindfulness as a way to deepen your writing practice and expand your creative potential. Spiritual practice has always brought insight to my writing—increasing the flow of ideas, the big open inclusive ideas of beauty and of being and of surrendering to a state of love and compassion.

Too often we get pigeon-holed into false conceptions of ourselves. There are a million distractions, negative self talk, old voices of doubt and self recrimination often holding us back. We experience it in the form of writer’s block, in the creation of flat characters, in novels left half-written collecting dust on the table.

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I know if my heart of hearts when people have a safe place to express their true poetic self they can realize who they really are, and this process of awakening can change the world. If you take a look at the great spiritual teachers from around the world— Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh — they have something in common beyond their spiritual practice and messages: they are writers. They have to be in order to spread their messages of compassion and love. Think about it. Is there anything more powerful than the written word? “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god.”

How powerful would it be to follow in the footsteps of these leaders, to integrate an expansion of consciousness into your writing and vice versa? Writing as a path to Awakening is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. It can allow you to express the truest form of yourself to the world through your writing.

I want people to remember that creativity isn’t something that some people have and others don’t. Creativity is not something you go and get at a workshop, or even a thing that you learn. Creativity is you, it’s who you are at your very core. One just needs to stop, turn off the computer, phone, i-pod, etcetera and listen in silence, spend time in nature, and there you will merge with the creativity that is you!

No matter what your vocation is in this life, you can integrate mindfulness and certainly writing if you are so inclined. In order to live the awakened life, you need to get in touch with who you really are. Writing as a Path to Awakening can be part of that journey. When you open up your mind to your inner self you begin on a journey into creativity—exploring your sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story—over time you gain insight, understanding, further clarification of the self, and ultimately the ability to transcend a lot of perceived limitations.

Through mindful being and reflective writing you will find that your very existence is miraculous. This simple and profound insight is not only worth writing about, but a courageous and beautiful step toward changing the world.

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writing-retreat-with-albert-desilverAlbert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. He served as Marin County’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide. http://www.albertflynndesilver.com/

You can follow Albert on Facebook and Twitter

Thank you divine order…

By Sue Frederick

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

My husband Gene just drove us up to Four Mile Canyon to the little Chapel of the Pines where my first husband Paul and I were married in 1979. So many memories flooded me of that happy sunny September day filled with love and hope.

As we drove back down the canyon we saw the little cabin down the road beside the creek where Paul and I first lived and had our sweet wedding reception. Both places have survived flood and fire and are impossibly still standing.

Think Paul must have watched over them…

It brought back so many powerful sensory memories to be there. I sat on the chapel steps and cried for 20 minutes. I remembered how happy my dad was that day and how much he loved Paul, our wedding, and our cabin. Dad and Paul are both watching out for me now from the other side.

Sitting on those steps I felt my dad, Paul, Crissie and Marv all with me. In the hard years following that amazing wedding day in 1979, I lost all of them to cancer – except for Marv who died of a stroke at the age of 44. Yet I’m grateful for the heartbreak I experienced then which sent me on my spiritual journey.

Today I have my incredible husband Gene Malowany and our miraculous children Sarah and Kai – and my amazing career as a grief intuitive and author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side – none of which I would have without going through my journey.

Gene sat beside me today listening to my memories and soaking up the experience. He understands everything about my life and where it’s brought me. It was his idea to drive up there. I hadn’t been up that canyon since 1980. I was grumpy on the drive up finding a million reasons not to go – some part of me realizing what I’d remember as soon as I saw that sacred place.

Yet once I released the flood of emotion that rose up in me… I saw with great clarity the gift of my life story and the gift of loving so many amazing souls along the way.

Thank you divine order…

Click here to learn more about Sue’s upcoming program at SMC

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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.  Visit her websites to learn more: SueFrederick.com | Bridgestoheaven.com

An Unplanned Symphony: the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, Part 1

By Martin Ogle

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth with Martin Ogle, September 11-13, 2015 — click here to learn more

To me, time is one of the most basic and profound ways we humans fit in with—and estrange ourselves from—the rest of Nature. Because of our intense awareness of the future and our ability to abstractly place ourselves there, we are blessed with unique abilities and also uniquely cursed with worry, the inability to enjoy the present, and a host of other related mental burdens. In a story called “The Shear Pin” (from my book In the Eye of the Hawk), I muse about our ability and need to inhabit two worlds of time: the “here and now” of the pre-human (and non-human) world as well as our abstracted, human worlds of past and future.

The following excerpt from “The Shear Pin” finds me stranded in the wide waters of the Bush River and Chesapeake Bay during my duties as an eagle researcher. I am on a small boat whose propeller has struck a hard object and come to a stop. The shear pin—a small, metal piece designed to break when the propeller hits an object that would otherwise damage the engine—has, indeed, broken and I’ve found that there are no spares in the boat. After several minutes of great frustration at being delayed from my work and feeling that my time was being wasted, I begin to settle in to a different time scale. The story concludes in the next blog post (coming soon) with additional thoughts on the rhythms of our living earth.

* The following is excerpted from In the Eye of the Hawk by Martin Ogle, 2012 

The to-and-fro of a boat on the waves and the feeling of wind on the face have the ability to speak if one listens. The slow, constant arc of the sun and the unpredictable billowing of clouds are part of this language. The cries of birds and popping sounds of fish at the surface, and the deep, underlying silence . . . The language speaks in terms of everything and in terms of nothing. It demands to be heard by all of Life, and yet it is all of Life, and has not a care. It is an unplanned symphony. The pastel pinks and oranges, ghost-like forms far off in the mist, tension and release – they all have the ability to speak if one listens. But rarely do we listen. Rarely do we afford ourselves the opportunity to listen. We are in a hurry, caught up in a wave of time.

The wind gusts came and went, producing a rhythm of waves lapping against the hull of the boat. Faster, then slower, faster, then slower. My breathing followed suit and a little later, my mind sensed a connection. The Chesapeake was breathing! Its breath flowed in and out of the river, capturing and controlling my breath, until I thought about it. The treetops, ablaze with sunlight, distracted me, and my breathing returned to the rhythm of the wind. My mind recalled bright, fiery scenes of a mountain forest ablaze with fire, not sunlight. Water lapping against the boat doused the memory. Faster, then slower, faster, then slower—the Chesapeake was breathing! It was alive! Subconsciously, I rejoiced and reveled in the possibility. Time disappeared.

Late Field

The language of the earth is like fresh water to a person lost on the salty sea. A long draw on the canteen is a pleasurable release from the powerful thirst that beckons. But, in time, the water, laden with other elements of our bodies, flows back out and is used by the rest of Life. Likewise, the fast-flowing rivers meet the tide and circulate, eventually becoming one with the ocean. Does the Bay experience pleasure? Does it have a thirst? Earth speaks with timelessness; there is movement and there is change, but in ever-recurring moments. Rivers flow and the clouds form in a never-ending cycle of ever-recurring moments. The self-awareness that produces knowledge of time is a tangent to the circular language of the earth. Timelessness creates an unplanned symphony; self-awareness writes one for orchestra and soloist.

Time had disappeared as had my self-awareness. My body was adrift on a river of water and my mind on a river of unconsciousness flowing directly from the earth itself. It was like being in a dream where you realize the dream, but haven’t identified yourself as the dreamer. I enjoyed Life as I unconsciously joined with it. The sunshine came and went, highlighting the waves, the veins on my hands, and the texture of the floor of the boat. And then from the floor of the boat came a tiny, shiny reflection that burned itself into my mind, and everything changed.

To be continued…

Join Martin Ogle for a weekend retreat — Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, September 11-13, 2015 at SMC — click here to learn more

~~~

Martin-OgleMartin Ogle holds degrees in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State and Virginia Tech. He was Chief Naturalist for the No. Virginia Regional Park Authority 1985 – 2012. He received the 2010 Krupsaw Award for Non-Traditional Teaching – The annual award of the Washington Academy of Sciences for outstanding teaching in informal and non-academic settings. Mr. Ogle promotes a widespread understanding of the Gaia Paradigm through his workshops, programs and writings. He and his family moved to Louisville, CO in 2012 where he started Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC. Mr. Ogle was born and raised much of his younger life in South Korea.

Mindfulness in Lila Yoga (VIDEO)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat, June 4-7, 2015 — click here to learn more and to register.

We’re thrilled to have the wonderfully skilled Yogacharya Erica Kaufman returning to SMC this June to lead Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat.  And, also very glad to be able to offer you a glimpse into her brilliance as a teacher and the profundity of the practices that she’ll be leading here on the land next month.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy this lovely video which explores the mindfulness aspects within the Lila Yoga practice. Erica describes and defines how mindfulness is an intricate part of our learning process and how it is woven into this style of yoga.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat, June 4-7, 2015 — click here to learn more and to register.

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EricaKaufmanYogacharya Erica Kaufman is the founder of Lila Yoga® and the owner of Lila Yoga Studios. She began daily devoted yoga practices at age 9. Influenced by Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy and Krishnamacharya’s teachings, she spends three months a year in India.

Since 1984, Erica has taught ancient wisdom as a daily practice and holds the highest level of Registry with Yoga Alliance. Her teaching expertise and sophisticated gutsy openness awarded her Yoga Journal’s Karma Credit and features in publications such as The Times of India. Erica is on faculty at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, at Penn State University, and at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh India. As a mentor to yoga teachers, aspirants, and community members alike, Erica tours the USA, Europe, Israel and India teaching seminars on Lila Yoga® and Contact Improvisation.

What Happens When We Die

By Sue Frederick

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

Last night I spent two hours having a “what happens when we die” conversation with a friend I’ve known since the 80s.

She’s dying from stage 4 cancer. It was diagnosed in December. She said her friends don’t talk to her about spirituality and crossing over. She’s been an atheist much of her life – although she’s done amazing work for the world in her career.

She had my book Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side – on her nightstand. She asked me to sit with her to talk about it. She said she’d spent her life not wanting to believe in that kind of “woo-woo” stuff. But now she was having experiences that she believed were some kind of inexplicable divine order and wanted to explore ideas she’d not been comfortable with before.

She cried for most of the two hours during our talk – releasing so much fear and grief she’s been holding on to. She’s devastatingly frail and in constant pain. She lives alone. Hospice visits twice a day. It was so hard to see her suffering and so afraid of death.

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I taught her to meditate – as well as some other sacred techniques for releasing fear – like my Break Your Heart Wide Open meditation. I gave her a rosewood Mala – which she loved. She was so grateful I’d visited and will try to meditate now when’s she’s alone and afraid. She wants me to come back. And I will…

But it was so hard to be there. I’m so inadequate in those situations. The visit brought back so many memories of my husband Paul, best girlfriend Crissie, and my dad who all died too young – from cancer.

Afterwards, my husband Gene and I talked about my visit. It helped so much to talk to him and feel his love and support. Our views on life and death are fully aligned and I’m so grateful for him.

But today I can’t get the images and smells of the visit out of my head. All I want to do is go shopping and buy some expensive Eileen Fisher clothes that I can’t afford. I know that’s just my grief acting up. It’s my old relentless question of why do good people often take the path of suffering before they die? That one painful question launched my spiritual exploration journey in the 80s. And it still fuels the work I do today.

And I realize that I’m so much better at helping grieving people – rather than the sick and dying. I can truly help with spiritual and emotional pain. But I can’t relieve physical pain and I can’t bear to see that kind of intense physical suffering – especially in young people who only months ago were vibrant and full of life.

I guess I’m still traumatized from taking care of my young husband Paul in my 20s as he died from colon cancer. It’s clear that I have some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome: it makes me want to run from the sight of physical suffering.

Last night I kept feeling like I might throw up when I first walked into her room and saw tubes everywhere, the oxygen tank, and the pain on her face as she struggled to sit up a little in her bed to greet me.

I had to work so hard to focus on her spirit, her beautiful radiant undamaged soul, and not on her body. A big part of me just wanted to run out crying into the night, to stand under the stars, to look at beauty instead of pain.

But instead I took a deep breath, opened my heart and sat down beside her – with love as my intention. Our heart to heart conversation helped calm her – and I hope our future conversations will help her release fear and find an inner peace about crossing over.

I shared many stories with her of the departed coming back to show me that life continues and that death is not the end of anything. I’m so deeply grateful to those spirits – Paul, Crissie, my dad and so many many others who’ve made it so abundantly clear that we are all souls who come here for a brief physical experience to evolve consciousness – and that crossing over – taking the final breath – is simply an act of love – of returning to the divine realms from which we came. I’m so grateful for every moment of this lifetime that has pushed me to recognize this truth and for all the sacred teachers I’ve had along the way.

And last night, my dying friend loved listening to those stories of departed spiritsshowing up, and she wanted to hear them again and again. She cried and cried as she listened – as her heart broke wide open.

To all the nurses, hospice workers, healers and physicians who care for the dying – I honor you so much for what you do in the world. It’s the hardest and best job there is. Nothing else compares.

I’m so inadequate in the face of other’s physical suffering. I have to fight the impulse to run and instead focus on their spirit – which is after all what my work is here.

I hope you’ll forgive me for writing this story about my friend. It is a very private thing, I know. And perhaps I shouldn’t share it. Yet the experience of seeing loved ones suffer is a shared experience amongst all of us.

Writing this has helped me process – not the visit itself – but my visceral reaction to seeing my dying friend. Writing has always helped me heal pain and step into wisdom – to see things more clearly. It’s why I write. And maybe now I can resist the pull of Eileen Fisher, of seeking superficial comfort in the face of pain, of longing for beauty instead of what is…

Thanks for listening.

~~~

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.  Visit her websites to learn more: SueFrederick.com | Bridgestoheaven.com