The Story Behind the 2013 Summer Dathun Portraits

 

u901201819-o17149403-54Last week on this blog, we shared photographs of twelve Dathun participants taken before and after their month long meditation retreat. This week we’d like to share a bit about the gifted photographer who took these portraits and a bit about the unique process she used to do it.

Karen O’Hern is a Colorado-based photographer who travels the globe with her large camera and enormous heart, capturing images that reveal the deep beauty of the world and humanity. She is a true “Humanitarian Photographer.”

We encourage you to visit Karen’s webpage in order to learn more about this artist, her amazing journey, and to view a gallery of images that will break your heart wide open–we promise.

We’re so grateful that Karen turned her love and lens towards these Dathun participants this past summer, and we’re glad to share with you here some words from her regarding the process.

 From Karen:

O'Hern blog1 The instructions I gave the participants: Prior to taking their portrait, I explained that this would not be what they were used to when having their picture taken. This was about capturing them in an authentic and genuine state of being, and recording their state at this point and time. So before raising the camera to my face, I asked them to close their eyes and settle in to who they were right now – to feel the experience of their authentic self no matter what that meant. When they felt they were looking how they genuinely felt, only then should they open their eyes. They should take as much time as necessary. I explained that when they opened their eyes, they would see the camera’s lens and they should maintain their state, and simply think about seeing their reflection of their authentic self – exactly how they were right then – in the end of the lens. They should remain in that state until I gave them a verbal indication that we were done.

They were all able to do that, not seeming to change when their eyes opened.

Thank you, Karen!

O'Hern blog 3

 

For information about our upcoming Winter Dathun, please click here.

 

 

 

Summer Dathun Participants Share Their Experience After 30 Days of Meditating

Senior teacher Samten Kobelt will be leading 2013-2014 Winter Dathun from December 13-January 10.

Noble Aspiration, Noble Effort, Beautiful Fruition

Dathun is not a magic pill or a makeover. Still, the before and after photos can be quite striking. And though the photos themselves speak volumes, the featured practitioners have words worth sharing as well. Below, 2013 Summer Dathun participants share their aspirations when entering Dathun, as well as their experience 30 days later.  Please stay tuned throughout the coming weeks as we offer further glimpses into the heart of Dathun. Next week, photographer Karen O’Hern describes the process used to capture these images.

Dathun blog 1

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As was mentioned above,  in a blog post next week, Karen O’Hern will reveal the process in which these portraits come to be. For now, we’d like to leave you with a little snippet:

 “Prior to taking their portrait, I explained that this would not be what they were used to when having their picture taken. This was about capturing them in an authentic and genuine state of being, and recording their state at this point and time.”

More than Meditation: The Totality of Dathün

by Will Brown

“We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.” – Pema Chödrön, teaching on day two of a dathün

tent and rainbowWhen someone mentions “meditation retreat”, you might get an image of “on the cushion at 4am until lights out at 9pm”. The Shambhala Buddhist practice of Dathün is not just thirty days on “the cushion” but a complete system, or spiritual technology, for developing familiarity and friendliness with one’s mind, body, emotions (and patterns) and one’s own inherent power of healing and wakefulness. At my first Dathün, I discovered that sitting meditation was just a fraction of the practice.

The system of Dathün includes quite a few hours per day of sitting meditation but also walking meditation, dharma talks, contemplation, and chants. And just as integral to Dathün are the mindful “Oryoki” meals, the hours (or days) of silence, one’s interactions with other people, and the furniture, buildings, and land which support the practitioner.

At Dathün, in the kitchen, the hallway, on the cushion, all of it is meditation and all of it asked me to just try opening where I might find the dignity of compassion. For, as I “held my seat” (or bowl, or tongue), I was providing peaceful space for those on the cushion next to me who, in turn, were holding ground for me and all beings.

This “space” developed into care and appreciation for the objects, structures, and environment around me. Being mindful of the Shrine room, the Center, the animals and land, became as integral as returning to my breath rather than following thoughts. In the first few days of Dathün, I had taken personally the loud orange color of the Shrine room. By the end of four weeks I could accept that perhaps the Shrine room wasn’t about me but maybe just a mirror of my ever-shifting mind.

eatingoriyokiI know that this process of resisting and then accepting reality (suffering, impermanence) will continue for at least this lifetime if not for many more. But over the course of a month of Dathün (four weeks!), I was able to meet some patterns well, and perhaps, wear them out just a little bit. I have since seen friends who stayed only a week, or two, and they surely had significant experiences. But for me to fully unplug, be present and be able to discover, I needed that solid month – that entire page from the calendar – to allow the whole system of Dathün to enable me to make friends with myself, be merciful to others, and begin to experience meditation in everyday life.

Click here to learn more about Dathun or to register for the 2013 Summer Dathun

 

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.

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.