Author: smcblog

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 a relationship with quiet gives our bodies a break from processing environmental noise. We experience relief …

Peace

By Katharine Kaufman // This morning, right after the sun, I scraped ice off windshield and drove East, past black cows, brown horses, corn and oil fields, into the small town of Mead. A huge decoration says, Peace on Earth. Deflated plastic Santa and reindeer lie on the ground. We lie on the floor, rest our arms over heads and breathe. After class students give me cards and thin-lined journals, a candle, and a small home-sewn bag of lavender. ~ Last night I watched the black and white film, Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.  After credits roll down the page (like tears) in the bottom right corner of the screen, are the words, Shanti, shanti, shanti. ~ When Acharya signed his book and handed it back to me I asked for the translation. The first shanti is to the unseen forces, the second to one’s neighbors and village, and the last, the softest, is to oneself. ~ Compassion is complicated. It takes doing something. Being empathetic breaks my heart. Peace is simple. I put down my …

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 …

Communication is the Key to Happiness

In this video, meditation master Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche, a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition, discusses how communication is a true foundation to happiness.  His humor, wisdom and brilliance shine as he suggests that we be reasonable, gentle and realistic in our attempts at creating happiness. Next month (in the virtual realm of online programming)  Shambhala Mountain Center warmly welcomes  Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche as he draws on teachings from The Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions by the great Dzogchen master Longchenpa to provide guidance on six strengths we can develop so that whether we have difficult conditions or good conditions, whether we live in a city or an isolated place, no matter what, we can live every day with dignity, strength, and fearlessness. We invite you to join Rinpoche for a FREE Friday Night Dharma Talk on June 4th, 2021 @ 6:00 p.m. MDT Of course, you may join from any time zone. Learn more and register:  ONLINE • Six Strengths for Living in a Challenging World About the Teacher: Orgyen Chowang …

Post Pandemic Possibilities for Educators 

by Rona Wilensky,  PassageWorks Institute // When our country shut down in March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19, probably no profession, excepting frontline health workers, experienced the challenge more than educators.  The overnight switch to virtual teaching was compounded by 14 months of continuous changes in how and when teaching would take place.  If this wasn’t enough, educators faced the additional dilemmas of teaching students in the face of multiple police killings of Black people, political discord, and increasing natural catastrophes arising from climate change.   The result is that, as this school year winds down, most educators are on their absolute last nerve.  Teaching has always been stressful.  Too much to do and too little time and support to do it.  Overwork and underpay.  Enormous responsibilities, but almost no authority.  And a political environment that expects educators to solve the myriad problems created by our country’s unwillingness to address social, economic and racial inequality.  But this last year has taken stress levels over the top and it has morphed into actual job burnout …

Healing Sound

Freedom within the Dimensions of Silent Retreat Practice 

by Janet Solyntjes // Do you associate the practice of mindfulness meditation with freedom? How is freedom discovered within the form of a meditation retreat?  This article is intended to offer a framework in which to view silent retreat practice as a path to freedom.  The Gateway to Retreat: Motivation and Preparation  The gateway to retreat is acknowledging your personal motivation for retreat practice. Motivation is often based in a longing of the heart and a curiosity of the mind. The following questions might spark a knowing of your personal motivation: Are you seeking to bring a renewed inspiration into your life and relationships? Do you long for a deeper appreciation for your mindfulness meditation practice? Are you curious if hours of formal mindfulness and awareness practice will positively influence your sense of being human?   Having touched into the spark of personal motivation you will need to follow with some preparation.  The most important preparation involves cultivating an inner resolve to abandon any hope of fruition. Really.  Let go of hope regarding the outcomes of retreat.  Let go of fear, too. Simply attend to the three dimensions of retreat, as best you can.   The Outer Dimension of Retreat: Environment  Over thousands of years and across the globe, women and men have sought places of seclusion and quietude for engaging in deep contemplation and meditation.  What did their places of refuge look like? Picture Henry David Thoreau spending time along the shores of …

In Challenging Times, Your Body Knows What’s Needed

// by Hope Martin //   There’s a lot of uncertainty and groundlessness right now. Many of us have strong feelings of anxiety, fear or worry; a sense that we don’t know what’s coming, that our world has irrevocably changed. It might be hard to know how to handle our feelings, or what to do with them. Maybe we’ve been ill or know people who are ill or who have died.   Perhaps we’ve lost our business or our job or have other concerns or challenges.  Or maybe we’re doing very well with our own particular situation – may it be so! nevertheless, the world is reeling.   Embodied Listening, comprised of Mindfulness Meditation, the Alexander Technique and Focusing, teaches a different and life-enhancing way to be in relationship with what is happening for us. We learn to experience it and explore it in a bodily way.   When strong emotions or anxiety arise, dropping into the body gives us resources that have always been there, but that we never knew we had. It’s like discovering buried treasure under a floorboard in our living room.   So often our repetitive thoughts keep us on the surface, feeding more worry …

Samu: Training the Mind to Stay Present

By Dhi Good // “Meditation in the midst of activity is a thousand times superior to meditation in stillness.”  Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku Samu is work practice, meditation in the midst of activity. In Japanese Zen monasteries, samu involves the work of keeping the monastery clean, the monks fed, the buildings and grounds maintained. One could consider it a break from the rigors of zazen, or sitting meditation. Or it could be one of the most challenging and rewarding meditation practices available to a sincere practitioner.  As a Zen Buddhist in the 1990’s, I loved all aspects of the meditation experience. The little Zen garden with a cherry tree leading to the zendo. The persistent call of the wooden han, signaling it was time to enter the zendo, or meditation hall. The clean wooden floor lined with brown meditation cushions. Chanting the opening and closing liturgies, koan practice, the stories and dharma talks about ancient Zen masters. But samu was something else — not formal zazen, and not merely doing chores. It was neither, and …

Becoming Ageless As We Age

By Marcella Friel // Having no choice but to stay home this past year, I’ve taken advantage of the lockdown to deepen my commitment to what had previously been my “do-it-when-I-feel-like-it” yoga practice.  Enlisting the support of a pod mate, we’ve been spending 90 minutes a day, five days a week, in meditation, asana, chanting, pranayama, and luxurious periods of shavasana.    This has been an extraordinary endeavor for me, given that I started this rigorous practice with such severe low back pain I could barely bend down to tie my boots or pick up my cat’s food bowl.  For years I accepted my worsening condition as an inevitable ravage of time. And yet now, at age 59, I’m wrapping up my sixth decade of life feeling more fit, foxy, and flexible than I did 10 years ago, maybe even 20.  My once-disabling back pain is now a minor discomfort. I do headstands and full lotus postures with ease.  My renewed physical vitality, combined with the deepening self-knowledge that comes only with years of experience, make …

The Power of Yin

As we look forward to hosting an online retreat with long-time friend of SMC Sara Avant Stover next month, we’d like to share a dharma talk she gave during another retreat this past winter. In this talk, Stover, a bestselling author and teacher of feminine spirituality, speaks about The Power of Yin. “In a world that still condemns the feminine, or yin energy—like softening, resting, being, allowing—we still have a ways to go before really restoring this fundamental energetic balance,” she says, “first within ourselves and then on the planet.” We hope you enjoy this talk, and you can learn more about the upcoming retreat below. Join Sara for this upcoming online retreat: About Sara Avant Stover Sara Avant Stover is a bestselling author and teacher of feminine spirituality. After a cancer scare in her early twenties, Sara moved to Thailand, embarked on a decade-long healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia, and has since gone on to uplift tens of thousands of women worldwide. The founder of the world’s first Women’s Yoga Teacher Training, Sara …