Author: smcblog

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 …

The Buddha Turns the Wheel of Dharma

By Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown // (Excerpted from Article in Bodhi Magazine, October 2002) After the awakening, a radiant Buddha remained seated under the Bodhi tree for seven weeks, enjoying the bliss of emancipation.  According to legend, the Indian god Brahma was concerned that he would pass into oblivion and appeared to the Buddha, supplicating him to teach what he had discovered.  But the young Shakyamuni hesitated; the truth that he had found was “deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand.”  How could he possibly communicate his insight into the nature of reality in a way that could be helpful to others?  The divine Brahma continued his request; if the Awakened One did not attempt to teach others the way to awakening, the entire world would be left in the grip of despair and torment.  How could the awakening be complete without the Buddha’s compassion? Moved by the supplication of the great god, Shakyamuni resolved to share his experience with others and to lead them to awakening.  Remembering five companions with whom he had practiced austerities, …

Simple Practical Strategies to Feel Better Now

By Blake D. Bauer // With everything that’s going on in the world it’s very natural to feel overwhelmed, worried or confused. Every emotion you’re feeling within yourself is valid. Helplessness, sadness, anger, and frustration are all healthy responses to the various situations we’re each facing. Instead of shutting down, numbing out, pretending you’re okay, or becoming paralyzed, I invite you to test the following views and practices for yourself. I promise they will help you feel better each day. They will also support you to find the strength and clarity you need to navigate this period skillfully. Open Up About Your Feelings It’s important to talk about what you’re feeling inside yourself regularly, especially with the extreme changes and concerns that are present. This is not the time to put on a brave face or internalize the rollercoaster of emotion and thought that is surfacing inside. It’s critical for your health and your future to find someone you can open up to. It can be your partner, a friend, a family member, a therapist, …

Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche on Taking Care of Your State of Mind at Home

In this video, meditation master Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche, a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition, talks about how meditation, patience, and positive thoughts and emotions help us take care of our state of mind at home or wherever we are. Next month, Rinpoche will be leading an online retreat through SMC titled Tips and Techniques for Clearing Agitation and Restoring a Comfortable Mind. In this online retreat, meditation master Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche will teach you how to break free from agitation and unhappiness and restore a happy and comfortable mind. Rinpoche will draw on his own experience, and on teachings from Dzogchen masters such as Guru Rinpoche Padmasabhava and Longchenpa. About Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition. He studied for nine years at Larung Gar in Serta, eastern Tibet, with his teacher, Jigmed Phuntsok Rinpoche, who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Dzogchen meditation masters of the twentieth century. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche lives in the San Francisco …

First, Do No Harm: The Need for Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness

By David Treleaven, Ph.D. // Trauma is big in the news these days. So is mindfulness. On first glance, this appears to be a good thing: But when we look deeper, things get more complicated. David Treleaven, PhD, talks about how we can implement mindfulness and meditation programs in a trauma-sensitive way. A few months ago, I was approached with a problem by a colleague who taught meditation in a classroom setting. Here was the issue: a student of hers had lost her father to COVID-19, and was struggling with symptoms of traumatic stress. When she’d meditate, images and sensations would flood her field of consciousness, leaving her more rattled than before. “Should I keep meditating?” she’d asked my colleague. “I want to work with my stress, but practicing seems to be making things worse. What should I do?” This is a conversation I’d been having for years with meditation teachers and practitioners all over the world. Given the global pandemic, this conversation has become even more frequent and intense. What should we do when …

[WATCH] Townhall with Michael Gayner from Sat. Oct. 3

Town Hall meeting with Michael Gayner, in which he shares the latest information and answers questions regarding the impact of the Cameron Peak Fire on SMC. Timeline of topics and questions 3:00 – Future email updates 4:00 – Gratitude for support 4:50 – Yesterday’s visit – firefighters 5:25 – Cameron Peak Fire and Mullen Fire “We’re not out of the woods yet” 7:00 – “Nature is already beginning to reclaim and rebuild” 7:30 – The rebuilding of SMC 8:30 – Staff housing 9:30 – The finances of SMC 10:15 – Reopening 11:50 – Insurance – “insurance will not cover everything that is lost” 14:10 – What was lost and what survived (Kami Shrine, Tori Gate, MPE Kitchen are still there) 15:45  – What are the “legacy staff buildings?” Which are gone, which are still standing? 17:30  – Tent platforms 17:45  – General return to the land for staff – safety, finances, etc. 20:00  – Volunteer work 21:00  – Stupa art work – status and restoration 21:55  –  Opening for visitors and programs 22:50  – Security …