Author: smcblog

Follow the Threads — Mindful Awakening

By Michael W. Taft // Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam When I started meditating in my teens, I believed in Enlightenment. I was going to get to the Big E, which involved having certain mind-blowing experiences. You’d see the Light, or God would open her kimono, or whatever, and after that you’d glow in the dark. I was super enthusiastic and worked really hard to do whatever I believed it took have those experiences. Months in caves in India. Pilgrimages to rivers, glaciers, and to the tops of mountains. Celibacy. Studying at the feet of masters wreathed in garlands of flowers. Mostly lots and lots of meditation. This setup for an article usually now transitions into saying that all that was a waste, and that Awakening is always available in every moment without any of that stuff. But that’s not at all how I would describe what I’ve found. Instead, I feel like, Yes, awakening is available in every moment, especially if you’ve done lots and lots of meditation. Even all those rituals, …

How Do We Live in the Face of Loss, Heartbreak, and Grief?

By Melissa Lago // Pain—in the form of loss or an existential crises—whether spurred by a breakup or divorce, facing our own mortality or that of a loved one or the loss of an entire species or forest can touch us on the deepest level and sometimes break our hearts. Perhaps you are experiencing this now or have experienced this in the past. It seems that while each of us have our own unique stories, the raw experience of our pain and grief is universal.  How do we live in the face of these difficult experiences?  This is a question that I have asked myself throughout my life. And while I have had different answers at different times in my life, it is always some version of: Feel your breath. Feel your body. Notice the surfaces of your body making contact with the earth. Notice what is going on around you. What do you see? What sounds do you hear? What sensations are you experiencing? When pain cuts to the very core of our being …

Walking into Quiet

By Tim Gallati // We may not know it, but we have a well-established history with environmental noise. From 6th century Buddhist scriptures lamenting “the ten noises in a great city” to a desperate plea for quiet scribbled on a wall in ancient Pompeii, environmental noise has troubled us for millennia.* Today, environmental noise is pervasive. High volume noise like the blare of car horns in city traffic, the roar of airplanes overhead, a neighbor’s loud music vibrating in the walls; lower volume noise like the pulsating tones of data centers, the high crackled buzzing of electric wires. Environmental noise takes a toll on our bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1 million years of healthy human life are lost each year from traffic noise in Europe. Long term exposure to noise increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cognitive impairment, anxiety, hearing loss and tinnitus, and sleep disturbances. Can we develop a healing relationship with sound in a noisy world?  One can begin by seeking out a quiet place with less noise. Developing …

Forgive Yourself Now

By Blake D. Bauer // Deep down we’re all good, loving people, and yet we all live with things that we’ve said or done that we struggle to forgive. Regardless of how bad, guilty, ashamed, angry or regretful we feel about past situations or decisions, we must eventually understand that each experience was ultimately awakening us to our true self and to the purpose of our lives. If we’ve unconsciously acted in ways that have caused ourselves or others pain, it’s always because we had lessons to learn so we could evolve and grow in a loving presence and awareness. The shame, guilt, anger and regret that we still feel and store subconsciously in our body hold jewels of wisdom that are waiting to teach us about what’s most important in life – about truth, honesty, forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love.  If we do not open to forgiving the things in our past that we still feel shame, guilt, anger or regret around, then these aspects of our lives will stop us from finding lasting …

SMC Update February 16, 2020

Dear friends, We’re nearly two years into a process of reckoning in the Shambhala community. We’ve learned of patterns of abuse of power, sexual misconduct, and harassment that have been a thread in the fabric of Shambhala culture. It is as heartbreaking as it is necessary to acknowledge and learn from this. Shambhala Mountain Center will turn 50 in 2021. In order to honor and hold responsibility for the 50 years of profound teachers and dedicated practitioners who have worked, volunteered, practiced and studied at our retreat center, we need to be willing to recognize and address these challenges. There is deep work for us to do. So far, we’ve updated and improved our Code of Ethics with the help of ethicist and therapist Dr. Cedar Barstow, instituted a grievance procedure, and launched a cycle of staff trainings on power, harassment, abuse, and bystander intervention led by Dr. Barstow, SAVA (Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center), and The Blue Bench. While these initiatives are a necessary start, they need to be integrated with an ongoing inquiry …

White-Knuckling and Self-Compassion

By Megan Prager // I am a recovering white-knuckler. I share this with you, because I know I am not alone. There are plenty of us “knucklers” out there that stay with pain, sometimes quite literally, until our knuckles become white. Pushing past our limits, fighting through difficulty, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. I remember several years ago being in a yoga class, and holding a pose that was both too hard and long for my body. I stayed, gritting my teeth, feeling the pain, until the teacher told us to release. Nevermind that I had to limp to my car that day, or that it took my knee several months to feel “normal” again. For this white-knuckler what mattered is that I stayed in that pose for as long as the teacher was holding me in it; staying with the difficulty, no matter the pain, in my mind equalled “success”.  Here’s the challenge with white-knuckling: it’s not black and white. Sometimes we may find that white-knuckling leads to developing strengths, discovering insights, and/or making …

Feeding your Demons: Revealing the Hidden Treasure Within Difficulty

By Charlotte Rotterdam // I was first drawn to the Feeding your Demons process and the teachings of Machig Labdrön – the great 11th century Tibetan yogini from whose teachings the process was developed – for the radical invitation to turn towards that which we find most repulsive or frightening. This view seemed so counter-intuitive, so clearly different from the human default response of avoiding or rejecting the ugly and threatening aspects of life. Perhaps it reminded me of my early childhood, when I spent time in the autopsy lab with my mother, a pathologist. There was an odd peacefulness in the autopsy room where the intensely eerie became quite ordinary and sometimes even sacred.  Beyond transforming the morbid into the mundane, however, lies a profound teaching on compassion. Ultimately, these teachings suggest that it is only by meeting and even nurturing whatever we consider threatening or “other” that we can live a fully integrated life, radiant with our own wisdom. Holding our inner and outer demons at bay draws us into a never-ending cycle …

Aprendiendo a Meditar en Español

Por Bruno Límenes // La vida es hermosa, dolorosa, divertida, confusa, es una amalgama de distintas experiencias. De ahí la pregunta: ¿qué tan seguido estoy presente con toda la gama de vivencias que el día a día me brinda? Esa fue la pregunta que dio a luz mi interés por la meditación. Quería entender cómo permanecer abierto a mi vida, y apenas empecé a buscar, noté que quería algo que además se sintiera como una herramienta aplicable a la cotidianidad. No quería algo que solamente funcionara mientras lo practicaba, sino que al levantarme del cojín de meditación la atención se mantuviera a lo largo del día.  Eso fue lo que encontré al llegar a mi primer retiro de meditación en el pequeño pueblo de Tepoztlán, en mi natal México. Una práctica que terminaría adquiriendo una cualidad parecida a la de bañarme cada día o lavarme los dientes, algo no tan ajeno a mi vida cotidiana. Aquello formaba parte de la manera cómo me relaciono con mi cuerpo, con mi mente y con las emociones. A …

[VIDEO] Nashalla Nyinda on Green Tara: Enlightened Feminine Wisdom in Action

Green Tara is said to have been born from the tears of the great compassionate Buddha, Chenrezig. She is the ultimate manifestation of sacred female enlightenment and activity. With one foot in the meditative posture, one in the world, she represents an ability to summon all beings from all realms and provide the swift action of enlightened feminine wisdom. In our recent interview, Nashalla Nyinda discusses Green Tara, and unpacks the meaning of “enlightened feminine wisdom in action.” About the Author Nashalla Gwyn Nyinda TMD, LMT began the study of Tibetan Medicine in 1999 and started treating with permission in 2004. She was then encouraged by her teacher, VV Thrangu Rinpoche, to complete her medical studies continuing in India. Nashalla earned her Menpa degree (Doctor of Tibetan Medicine) from Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, Tibet and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine in 2009. She has an Interdisciplinary Studies BA from Naropa University, with a focus on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. She has taught these techniques worldwide to Tibetan and western students, practitioners, and …