Month: May 2019

Eddies in the Stream

By Dr. Rick Hanson // 1 Rivers flow and eddies form. An eddy is a relatively stable pattern whose elements continually change. It is “standing-streaming,” a term from Evan Thompson’s marvelous book, Mind in Life. All eddies disperse eventually. 2 In a river, an eddy depends on many conditions. These include: The state of the eddy itself just one moment ago The shape of the riverbed, nearby boulders, water flows immediately upstream, and the amount of snowfall last winter. Going back and back, those conditions depend on the history of the earth, the solar system, the universe. Countless molecules of water 3 Molecules depend on atoms, such as hydrogen and oxygen. Almost all atoms heavier than helium depend on the stars which made them, mainly while exploding. A river is fluid stardust. A particle of any size is congealed energy. A river is a flow of light. 4 Atoms depend on subatomic particles made from quarks. Quarks are made from even smaller entities – perhaps infinitesimal vibrating strings – that comprise the substrate of the physical …

Andrew Holecek

Andrew Holecek on Preparing for A “Good Death”

By Andrew Holecek // Death is one of the most precious experiences in life. It is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The karma that brought us into this life is exhausted, leaving a temporarily clean slate, and the karma that will propel us into our next life has not yet crystallized. This leaves us in a unique “no man’s land,” a netherworld the Tibetans call “bardo,” where all kinds of miraculous possibilities can materialize. At this special time, with the help of skillful friends, we can make rapid spiritual progress and directly influence where we will take rebirth. We can even attain enlightenment. Buddhist masters proclaim that because of this karmic gap, there are more opportunities for enlightenment in death than in life. Robert Thurman, who translated The Tibetan Book of the Dead, says: “The time of the bardo is the best time to attempt consciously to affect the causal process of evolution for the better. Our evolutionary momentum is temporarily fluid during the bardo, so we can gain or lose a lot of ground during its …

The Path of Grief, Joy, and Awakening

By David Chernikoff // I was a little surprised when I arrived at Maria’s room and found out that I needed to put on a gown and gloves because she was at high risk for infection. I understood what compromised immunity was. Still, I felt awkward and silly whenever I put that stuff on. The discharge planner had spoken to Maria about our hospice program and Maria agreed that hospice care was an appropriate next step. Still, Maria wanted to meet one of our staff people and I was happy to put a human face on our organization. She didn’t have any real questions that she couldn’t answer for herself. What she really wanted was to share the story of her life, and to prepare for the end of what she called, “my life in this world.” This was the kind of listening that I savored, a peak into another person’s soul that left me with a felt sense of what the Sufis mean when they talk about “the privilege of being human.” That night, …

Interdependence Is the Tie That Binds

By Stan Tatkin // I watched the popular TV show Madam Secretary, and there was a moment when the central figure got a mini lecture from a Nobel laureate mathematician about negotiations. The character stated that the key to getting disparate parties to agree on peace is to illuminate their interdependence. I won’t say I got the basic idea for this blog from the TV show, but I was inspired to write after watching it. Interdependence means, in the case of couples, that each partner has a stake in something. We could say childrearing is one such shared investment, although having a child is not sufficient to keep couples together. Just look at the stats. Because many partners do not function securely together to begin with, they tend to become increasingly insecure when they add children. They resort to childrearing as a separate endeavor and not as lovers collaborating in a family enterprise. The demise of their relationship should not be a surprising outcome. But there is another common tie that should bind partners together: …

With Nature as Our Guide

By Kay Peterson // These days I’ve been contemplating how hard it can sometimes be for us to come together to meet the challenges of today’s world with wisdom, compassion, and skillful action. In the wake of dramatic events that stir fear and uncertainty, it can be so easy to get lost in the split of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, or us vs. them. There’s a seductive illusion (or delusion) that choosing a side will bring safety and security, yet this actually narrows our view and a collective uneasiness remains. Somehow, I think we instinctively know that it’s not so simple, and being with nature reminds us of the delicate balance that is the web of life. There are so many causes and conditions that contribute to this life unfolding as it does. We may find ourselves often reacting to challenging situations with our habitual versions of fight, flight or freeze. While we can appreciate these coping strategies for how they may have helped protect us at one time, we also know that …

Self-Compassion ‘Is’ Self-Protection: A Guided Practice

By Ann Saffi Biasetti // The word self-protection may feel elusive and hard to wrap our mind around as it is not something we may think of often. Self-care, yes, but self-protection, not so much. However, whenever I teach about self-compassion I make sure to define self-compassion as self-protection because that is really what it is. Consider that with all the research done on self-compassion, the thing we know the most is that it helps to soften and soothe a self-critical moment. The question, “How would you treat a friend?” is the question used most often in the conceptual teaching of self-compassion. Understanding it through the door of being a friend to yourself and treating yourself in a kinder way is the first step. However, it is important to take the practice further and deepen our understanding of it. When we deepen our understanding of self-compassion, we come to understand that through treating ourselves with more kindness we are really practicing a critical form of safety and protection. When we soothe a self-critical moment, we …

Brooke Binstock

Sacred Simplicity

By Brooke Binstock // When I sit down to contemplate simplicity, I am struck by how deeply spiritual and sacred the practice of boiling things down to their essence feels. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated and even obsessed with getting down to the bottom of things.  I always questioned motivation and maintained a healthy level of skepticism when witnessing other human beings appear so certain in their convictions. I feel committed to knowing what exists beyond the labels and the masks that we are so prone to wear. Especially now, in an age where distraction is at our fingertips at every given moment, I find particular importance in finding out what is really here for us, under the surface. Every other week, I have the privilege to teach yin yoga and meditation to men at a conscious sober living house in Austin, Texas called Tribe. Having gone through aspects of recovery myself, I understand how deeply raw and vulnerable it is to feel so exposed during those early stages.  …

How Sydney Bridges became SMC’s Tent Master Extraordinaire

By Whitney Trotta // We all have a unique story—a path that led us to where we are today. This is the story of how Sydney Bridges, the man from England who is a self-taught engineer, with a PhD in Chemistry and Master’s degrees in Computer Science and Public Health, became the Tent Master Extraordinaire at Shambhala Mountain Center. It was a wintry May afternoon (gotta love “spring in the Rockies!”), when I sat down with Syd. I was ready for a long conversation, prepared with a cup of tea (English breakfast, of course), and a pen and paper in hand, ready to record Syd’s story. With a resume like Syd’s, it’s clear he has accomplished a lot. And so I had to ask, What brought a British man with a PhD and engineering experience to SMC? He began the story this way: In 1996, I first became a US resident when I came to work in New Jersey. My job in England had finished, and there was a similar project in New Jersey, and …

[VIDEO] Judith Simmer-Brown: Introduction to Mindfulness

By Judith Simmer-Brown // In this video, Judith Simmer-Brown offers an introduction to mindfulness—including her personal history of relating to the practice, and a description of a course of study that will be followed in the upcoming SMC program The Origin of Modern Mindfulness: A 4-Day Practicum of Meditation and Buddhism, as well as the upcoming online program from Shambhala Publications and Naropa University titled “Mindfulness: What It Is, Where It Comes from, and How to Practice It.” About the Author Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she has taught since 1978. As Buddhist practitioner since the early 1970’s, she became a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1974, and was empowered as an acharya (senior teacher) by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in 2000. Her teaching specialties are meditation practice, Shambhala teachings, Buddhist philosophy, tantric Buddhism, and contemplative higher education. Her book, Dakini’s Warm Breath (Shambhala 2001), explores the feminine principle as it reveals itself in meditation practice and everyday life for women …