SMC in the News: Denver Post Travel

sitting to look at the stupa

We had a nice little write-up as a cool, fun place to getaway this summer. Thanks to the Denver Post for the profile in their Travel section.

“What’s more relaxing than a meditation vacation? Probably one taken at a 600-acre mountain retreat, a serene and unique destination created more than 40 years ago as a place for guests from all backgrounds to visit for contemplation and relaxation.”

The article features our Getaway program, where guests can customize a retreat to their own liking.

Take it easy: This is one place where doing absolutely nothing is just fine. Shambhala offers a way to create your own getaway, where you can book a stay and just enjoy the grounds, hiking the eight miles of trails or wandering around the botanic gardens and meadows.

Read the full profile at the Denver Post

Why Samadhi?

by Erica Kaufman

Erica Kaufman at SMC

We like to think of ourselves as living in independent time, separate from each other and from cosmic influences. But that is just it. We “think” and create mind play for our thoughts. In a way our minds are like the dominant child within us, the one that steps forward and likes to take over but is not always the most sensitive or intuitive. While our bodies are more like the quiet child within us, the kind that needs patience and is worth the wait.

That is why Lîla Yoga™ is such a powerful harmonizing tool. It is both meditation in motion and philosophy in motion. Through our asana practice we learn to quiet the mind and allow the truths within our body to lead us to a more revealed state of awareness. From this state of being, our true Self is more easily exposed. This process is called Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). It takes great discipline and consistent practice to calm the mind into a tranquil state of stillness for Dhyana. So why bother?

This life offers us the opportunity to learn, to understand who we are, how we function and react. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the quality of our time spent. By practicing Dhyana we cleanse our active minds and allow the truths within our heart to shine. The more often we visit this exposed state of Self, the easier it is to access and the more it aids our perspectives in our daily activities.

I, like all of us, dwell in the creative manifestations of the material world, known in yoga by many names: shakti, prakriti and maya. I am deeply involved in this life; happily and knowingly interacting with the illusions of duality. I also know that no matter what cerebral activity I am involved in, I have tasted a deeper unwavering place that continues to intrigue me. My body is not the answer but the rhythmic cycles of my body are connected to larger forces (the tides, the pull of the moon, the sun) and provide me with a sounding board in which I can begin my journey into Dahyana and if I’m lucky, into Samadhi. My plans for this evening are to lie down in the open sky and watch, feel, join, meditate, absorb–will return soon, rested and ready.

Please join me for the Lila Yoga Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center June 28-30, 2013

Love Blessings Faith

Om Shanti

~Erica~

Way Seeking Mind: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat for Women

by Katharine Kaufman

open pavilionI offer a women’s retreat twice a year, on the hottest, longest days in the middle of summer, and the coldest, dark winter days. I see myself as more of a facilitator of this retreat, rather than a teacher. We arrive alone and together, 12 or 15 of us, and we simply practice yoga, sitting, sharing. Something subtle and close transforms because of this turning our discursive gaze inward. There is a luxurious break in the afternoons to hike, read, rest, or visit with each other. Transformation is not always a smooth ride. We have our practices, the support of the schedule, teachings, to hold us—and each other.

My favorite part of this retreat is when we individually choose a place outdoors, and practice solo the four postures of meditation. These beautiful places we choose offer us the chance to simply be in one area in nature, with no agenda. We understand the gentle wind, grasses, texture of rocks, as good friends, not just scenery. We can lean against a tree, close our eyes, listen, create a temporary nest.

It seems natural to pause, reflect, sit, gently move, talk and find silence amongst other women. This phrase, ‘Way Seeking Mind’ struck me when I first heard of it during a Zen women’s retreat. I hesitate to define it. It should speak directly to one’s heart and marrow, and not pause too long in any cerebral place. We have a sense of what that mind is—what that journey is. Or perhaps it is a big mystery.

This women’s summer retreat is special to me since it takes place in the eight-sided pavilion, which happens to be built on the old Girl Scout’s fire ring. This rustic pavilion is separate from the main area, tucked in the pines. The winter walls will be removed so that we experience a space both inside and outside—a living metaphor for our practice. To me, this is coming home to a place that has always been waiting—wild, familiar, natural. It’s reflected outside but of course, also in us.

The gap between what we experience and what we desire—inside and out—is not so far apart as we had imagined.

This retreat is now full.

Waking Up to the Wild on Shambhala Mountain

by Kay Peterson

hikers stopped in the woods

While leading a mindful hiking retreat through the mountains last weekend, I was reminded of a line from the J. R. R. Tolkien poem in The Lord of the Rings —”Not all those who wander are lost.” As we paused in a meadow for an intentional “aimless wandering” practice, we gleefully explored our surroundings and noticed the details—the blue-eyed grasses beginning to bloom and the lady bugs swinging on the tall grass. How liberating it feels to stop and just look up at the sky without worrying what other people might think.

Of course, Tolkien was also referring to the powers of perception. Sometimes we forget that things are not always as they first seem and rarely remain as they first appear. For me, there is no more powerful way to remind myself of this than by wandering in nature. In the course of a summer day at Shambhala Mountain Center, I can wake up to the birdsong signaling the promise of a warm, sunny day. As that day unfolds, I watch the clouds build over the mountains in the west. I feel the weather change and I brace myself for a storm. Then by late afternoon, anticipation lets go to showers so sweet that the fresh scent of wet sage lingering in the valley reminds me that the earth’s thirst has been once again quenched.hikers approach mountain ridge

Nature gently highlights the opportunities I miss when I’m quick to judge a person or situation based on first appearances or familiar assumptions. Like that supposedly sunny day, I can unintentionally make my world very small with limited possibilities.

When I woke up that day, I immediately felt the excitement and anticipation of the hike I planned to take to the top of the mountain overlooking the continental divide. As I followed each switch back up the mountain, I marveled at the diversity of vegetation and relished the vast span of open space that I could call home, if only for a short time. As I clamored up the last section of rocks toward the vista I could feel my heart beat with eagerness. I looked up and there it was—the grandeur of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains spilling out across the horizon as far as the eye could see. It stopped my mind and a sense of stillness and calm washed over me. Suddenly, my eye caught a small patch of lighter green on the distant mountainside and my mind locked on. I could feel myself search for explanations,”Must have been a clear cut from the seventies or so. What a shame. This pristine forest marred by consumption.” I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the dark clouds building and started to plan my journey back down to shelter.

Tori gate and Hiker

Emotions are a natural part of being human, but they can also capture and blind us. In a flash, I can go from feeling a sense of awe at a spectacular vista to remembering something I need to do and worrying about the future. One moment I’m enjoying the dynamic mountain sky and the next I’m worrying that I’ll get soaked in a rainstorm. The good news is that this bigger, sacred world remains all the while just waiting for me to stop, see and appreciate that all that I need is already there.

Stupa amid clouds

The name of Tolkien’s famous poem is “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter.” In our fast-paced and high-tech world, we’ve learned to pay attention to the sound bytes, the flashy buttons, the clever speech and all too often miss the deeper message. Not that one is better than the other—I learn a lot from my urban life as well—but I can easily get swept into a virtual world that leaves me feeling like something’s missing. Then I know it’s time to refresh my connection to the natural world, slow down, rest in the simplicity of the moment and gain some perspective on my life and place in the universe by laying on my back looking up at the vast, starry sky.

As I look out over the continental divide from my favorite vista at Shambhala Mountain Center, I realize that I too can relax into the natural flow of the Rocky Mountain streams meandering toward the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. I giggle like I did the very first time I saw this view. With this kind of awareness, I can continue my journey into the unknown with confidence, curiosity and maybe even a little sense of humor.

Kay Peterson will lead two retreats at Shambhala Mountain Center this summer. Waking-up to the Wild: Hiking as Meditation June 28-30 and Waking-up to the Wild: Mindful Hiking on August 1-4

 

 Photos by Doug Hamilton

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

 

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.

Bringing the Retreat Experience Home – Courageous Women, Fearless Living

By Sarah Sutherland

Thanks to a generous grant from the Shambhala Trust, Courageous Women, Fearless Living has launched its first-ever website: www.cwfl.org

The new website will make it easier for women touched by cancer to find out about the Courageous Women 5-day annual retreat and access resources that help extend the retreat into everyday life.

Fearless Women Touched by Cancer Unlike many retreats for women with cancer, the Courageous Women retreat not only offers respite and renewal in a beautiful setting but also teaches participants meditation and contemplative practices to work effectively with their mind and emotions.

“The basis of the retreat is that everyone has the courage, gentleness and strength to relax and find joy in the most difficult circumstances, even a cancer journey,” says Adana Barbieri, who runs the retreat together with Judith Lief, Victoria Maizes, and Linda Sparrowe. “This unique retreat offers women a supportive, nurturing environment and effective techniques to discover the courage to be fearless in the midst of a life-changing cancer diagnosis.”

Shambhala Mountain Center has supported and hosted the summer retreat since 2006 and its website has been the main source of online information about it. By launching its own website, CWFL hopes to reach a broader audience of participants and donors.

After this summer’s retreat, the new website will also include a robust “resources” section that will include access to talks, videos and instructions on meditation and yoga taught during the retreat. Integrative medicine and natural health information, including articles and recipes, will be featured as well. A secure social networking page will give retreat participants a way to stay connected, feel supported and nurture their friendships.

“With the website, we can extend the reach of the retreat into participants’ lives when they return home,” says Barbieri. “That way, they can continue to benefit from the wisdom, compassion and community they experience at the retreat.”

Smiling Woman Holding BannerThe generous grant from the Shambhala Trust—whose mission is to support projects that promote the creation of enlightened society—will also fund a promotional video. Intended primarily for healthcare professionals, the video will show the essence of the retreat to people who are unfamiliar with it but are in a position to recommend it to their patients. The video is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

In addition to the extraordinary support and retreat discounts offered by Shambhala Mountain Center, CWFL is sponsored this year by the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation  and the Beanstalk Foundation.

Upcoming: Courageous Women, Fearless Living is hosting three morning retreat samplers on Saturdays from 9-12:

May 18 – Ft. Collins
June 8 – Boulder
July 13 – Denver

 

Shambhala Mountain Center in the City

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As part of our mission to make ancient wisdom tradition teachings and body awareness practices as accessible as possible, this spring, Shambhala Mountain Center is offering a diverse array of classes in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.

These “SMC in the City” programs enable city-dwelling participants to engage in a short retreat experience, stretching mind and body.  Programs will range from daytime and evening talks to one-day and weekend programs.  These city programs stand alone and are also  ideal preparations for Shambhala Mountain Center’s more in depth retreat atmosphere.

Bruce Tift, MA, LMFT, and a teacher at Naropa University, gave an SMC in the City evening talk earlier this month in Boulder on Relationship as a Path to Awakening. Over 100 people attended the talk held at the Boulder Shambhala Center.

In regards to the Boulder talk, Bruce Tift wrote, it “was an overview of one way to understand and work with the very difficult and provocative experience of intimate relationships.” He hopes that people came away with new ideas about how to take better care of themselves and how to help keep their hearts open to their partners.

Tift will also be teaching a longer “Relationship as a Path to Awakening” retreat this weekend, April 26-28 at Shambhala Mountain. “The April weekend will go into much more depth on the same subject,” Tift explained, “and will hopefully be more personal.” There will be a mix of theory with experiential understanding.

There is still space available, so visit our programs page to learn more about the class and sign up today.

And join us for another juicy talk with David Loy on the Karma of Money, Fame, and Sex in Denver, May 18th, 7pm at the Denver Shambhala Center.

For more upcoming SMC in the City programs click the links below:

SMC in the City: Boulder

SMC in the City: Denver