Read the intro from the new Shambhala Sun book, Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West

In addition to A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation, this Spring marks the release of another Shambhala Sun book, Buddha’s Daughters, edited by Shambhala Sun Deputy Editor Andrea Miller. The book is available now — click here to order or for more information. Below, you can read Andrea’s introduction to the book (as well as browse its chock-full Table of Contents). 

miller-2014Buddha’s Daughters: Introduction

I had my first taste of Buddhism in university when I took a class on Chinese and Japanese religions. Since the presentation was dryly academic, I didn’t immediately connect with the Four Noble Truths. Truth be told, I can barely remember taking notes on them, but what did spark my interest was the dissemination of Buddhism. My professor explained that as the Buddha’s teachings fanned out across Asia, they took on the flavor of each culture they encountered. And the result—from Tibet to Thailand and beyond— was that Buddhist traditions came to be so varied that early Western colonialists and missionaries were not always aware they embodied a single religion.

My professor did not go on to address modern Buddhism’s state of flux—that was beyond the scope of our class. Yet Buddhism is indeed still transforming. Now it’s taking root in the West, and decade by decade it’s developing into its own Western strain, or strains. Admittedly, the results are mixed. It’s uncomfortable, for instance, to see the Western vice of materialism seeping into Buddhist practice. But to date there is one hallmark of Western Buddhism that I believe is cause for unreserved celebration. In the West, women teachers play a prominent role; their wise voices are strong and getting stronger. Continued »

Artist and former Buddhist monk Andrew Binkley explores “A Space Between” in Hawaii museum installation

Photography collage from the "Just Being" series.

Photography collage from the “Just Being” series.

There was a point at which American artist Andrew Binkley had had it with school and set off for China to explore Ch’an Buddhism. A year’s immersion in the art and philosophy of that culture moved him to dive even deeper and off he went to Thailand where he spent two years as a Theravadan monk in the strict, meditative Thai Forest tradition. Such experiences now infuse Binkley’s full-time artist life in a home he designed and built in Maui, Hawaii, and his regular journeys back to Guangzhou, China.

This spring, Honolulu residents and visitors can participate in Binkley’s contemplative installation work, A Space Between, while he is artist-in-residence at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House. Binkley’s m.o. might seem a bit odd at first—identifying cracks in the pavement surface outside the gallery, then painting them gold—until one discovers the inspiration: Continued »

Tell us what you think of the May Shambhala Sun in our quick online survey

May 14 Shambhala SunHi, this is Melvin McLeod, editor-in-chief of the Shambhala Sun. I’d like to ask for your help.

We’d like to know more about you—who you are, what you like and don’t like in the Sun, what you’d like to see more of. That’s the only way the magazine can improve and serve the Shambhala Sun community—and the dharma—better.

We want more dialogue with our community of readers. We want to hear what you think—and we’ll respond.

Please click here and fill out this easy on-line survey about the current issue of the Sun. Tell us what you read and didn’t. It will only take a few minutes.

The Shambhala Sun and you—let’s get the conversation started.

Melvin (McLeod)

Read “Run for Freedom,” about training the body and mind through parkour, from the May Shambhala Sun

Freerunning, or parkour, isn’t merely a daredevil’s game. It’s a way to reappropriate our urban spaces as training grounds for body and mind. In our May 2014 magazine, Vincent Thibault looks at how running, jumping, and climbing can beautify our cities—and our lives. It’s all accompanied by a photo essay by Andy Day (above is the detail from one of Day’s included shots).

Click here to read “Run for Freedom” online. | Or view/download a PDF of the article, including Day’s complete photo essay. Enjoy!

“All improv is meditation”: the “Buddhist theater” of David Razowsky

david razowsky“I teach Buddhist theater.”

So says David Razowsky, the erstwhile artistic director of Second City’s L.A. training center who’s now trotting the globe giving workshops as a comedy “improv guru.” And maybe that’s not simply marketing hype. In a Chicago Sun-Times profile published yesterday, Razowsky cited Steve Hagen’s Buddhism Plain and Simple in his recommended reading list, and says great improvisers need an in-the-moment presence, a “zero-point [of] non-engagement”:

“When I give an improv class, I say, ‘Your personality’s not allowed in the room, your ego’s not allowed in the room.’”

Razowsky goes on to observe that, “the only source of suffering is non-acceptance” and that truly inspired improvisation avoids judgment, jettisons ambition, notices everything that arises as it arises, and is imbued with a sense of gratitude.

In fact, he says, “all improv is meditation.” Find out what he means and more in the full profile here.

And for more on the intersection of comedy and Buddhism, don’t miss Rod Meade Sperry’s recent Shambhala Sun article, Wise Fools, featuring Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Garry Shandling, and more of today’s most notable comic minds.

Join Brenda Shoshanna, Larry Ward, and Judy Lief — and us — for “Love & Intimacy: What the Buddhists Teach”

omegateachers14From July 18-20, the Shambhala Sun Foundation and the Omega Institute will present Love & Intimacy: What the Buddhists Teach, a weekend course perfect for anyone who wants to examine their relationships in the context of the Buddhist path. This will be our eighth annual “What the Buddhists Teach” program at Omega, and will be led by (left to right) Brenda Shoshanna, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Manhattan and a long-time practitioner of Zen and Judaism; Larry Ward, director of the Lotus Institute, and a dharma teacher ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh; and Judy Lief – teacher, author, and editor of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Profound Treasury collection. (Judy also wrote the lead piece for our current issue‘s special section on distraction.)

The workshop runs from July 18 – 20 at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, and is open to all. Complete information can be found here; or click here to jump immediately to the program’s registration page.

Scrabble goes Zen?

According to the Washington Post: “After a month of crowdsourced searching, the new addition to the official Scrabble dictionary will be either “zen” or … “geocache.” The working definition of “Zen” here is: “Zen, noun: a Japanese form of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation.”

Though the Post notes that this is mostly a publicity bid, it’s kind of hard to believe it’s taken this long for Zen to appear in the dictionary! Though, we’d like to add one note: While Scrabble is, of course, played in all caps, Zen should be capitalized in any case. (As opposed to how it’s rendered in the above quotation.)

The “Seeing Fresh” Contemplative Photo of the Moment…


From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by [username] Corinnaho. Andy’s comment: “This is such a delicate perception and excellently framed image. It’s a very nice example of fresh seeing.”

Continued »

Twin Peaks turns 24; Check out “Into the Light with Dale Cooper” from the May 2014 Shambhala Sun


Painting by Caroline Font

It was on this day in 1990 that Twin Peaks debuted on American television, quickly becoming not just must-watch dorm viewing but a full-on, culture-wide sensation. But were you aware of the Buddhist predilections of its hero, Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper?

In “Into the Light with Dale Cooper,” from our current issue, the Sun’s Rod Meade Sperry takes a look at the mix of “deductive technique, Tibetan method, instinct, and luck” that Special Agent Dale Cooper brought to one of television’s most oddball locales.

“Into the Light with Dale Cooper” is online now for you to read in its entirety. Just click here to check it out.

Peter Matthiessen’s novel of a Buddhist meditation retreat at Auschwitz published today

Peter Mathiessen and Bernie Glassman at one of the "Bearing Witness" retreats at Auschwitz. Photo by Peter Cunningham.

Peter Matthiessen and Bernie Glassman at one of the “Bearing Witness” retreats at Auschwitz. Photo by Peter Cunningham.

It was prescient of author, explorer and Zen priest Peter Matthiessen to say that his 33rd book, In Paradise, would be his “last word”. Matthiessen died April 5 at 86 (see the Sun’s coverage here); Penguin’s Riverhead Books published In Paradise today.

The novel chronicles a Buddhist contemplative group’s complicated outer and inner journey to the site of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz for a “bearing witness” meditation retreat. Matthiessen drew from his own participation in the first of just such retreats conducted by Zen master Bernie Glassman—who today posted a loving remembrance of Matthiessen, calling him “my first Dharma successor”—and members of his Zen Peacekeepers group.

Several reviews of In Paradise are now online, full of praise for the piercing, lyrical insight and honesty of Matthiessen’s prose, but with reservations—that Matthiessen himself had—about approaching a subject as mammoth and dense and well-worked-over as the Holocaust at such a remove. Here is a sampling: Continued »

On distraction and “The Practicality of the Profound”

melvin 2013“Like a lot of families,” Melvin McLeod writes in his May 2014 Shambhala Sun Editorial, “we have a screen problem. Sometimes we’ll all be in the same room on our own screens, separated from each other, from our environment, and ultimately, from ourselves. We share the space, but otherwise we’re in our own worlds.

“When people talk about distraction these days, this is usually what they mean. It’s a very real problem, and to help us deal with it, the meditation tradition offers us helpful techniques to create gaps and pauses in which we can unplug and reconnect with ourselves. But as simple and immediately beneficial as that is, it could also be the first step on a path that goes very far—all the way to enlightenment, in fact.”

That’s the idea behind our May issue’s special section, “The Real Problem with Distraction,” featuring Judy Lief, John Tarrant, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Sharon Salzberg. Click here to read Melvin’s complete Editorial on that theme and how it relates to you, and here to browse the whole issue (which is on newsstands everywhere now).

“No complaints”: Writer, Zen master Peter Matthiessen, 1927-2014

Peter Matthiessen hands foldedBy Konchog Norbu

Peter Matthiessen—towering literary figure, passionate naturalist and environmental activist, onetime CIA agent, student and teacher of Zen—passed away April 5 after a year’s struggle with leukemia. He was 86.

Matthiessen was on the cusp of publishing the 33rd book of his 60-year writing career, In Paradise, a novel based on his experiences on three “Bearing Witness” meditation retreats at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau with Bernie Glassman’s Zen Peacemakers. In Paradise will be released by Riverhead Books April 8. (See the Sun‘s post about the novel from September, 2013).

Said Bernie Glassman about Matthiessen on his Facebook page, “With much love for a wonderful, inspirational and great Zen Master, I wish to honor the passing of a dear friend, student, extraordinary Author and Socially Engaged Human Being. We will love you forever.” (April 8 update: Glassman has now posted a longer appreciation of Matthiessen.)

Another longtime spiritual friend of Matthiessen’s, Roshi Joan Halifax, posted on her Facebook page, “My dear friend Peter, gone beyond. Offering incense and candlelight for his parinirvana………. In Kyoto and watching blossoms fall on this day of his death.” Continued »

Uncovered heart: Musician Kenny Werner heals the wounds of tragedy, gives back to Buddhist Global Relief

Kenny Werner and his daughter Katheryn

Kenny Werner and his daughter Katheryn

For jazz pianist and composer Kenny Werner—whose quartet will perform at Buddhist Global Relief’s Concert to Feed the Hungry April 25 in New York City—music’s ability to lift people out of even the most crushing of circumstances is not at all an abstract concept. On October 2, 2006, Werner and his wife Lorraine received the call all parents dread: their 16-year-old daughter Katheryn had lost control of her car and did not survive the rolling crash.

Months of numbing grief went by. At first, even at a Puerto Rican getaway gifted by a kind friend the couple found they could barely get out of bed. Then, Werner told Jazz Times, they tentatively turned to their longtime Siddha Yoga chanting and meditation practice.

“That’s when it began to elevate my consciousness,” he said. “In the middle of this pain, there would be these odd moments of inspiration. Seeing the whole thing in a different way. And in one of those moments, I wrote the poem ‘No Beginning, No End.’ And that’s when it all unfolded for me.” Continued »

George W. Bush paints Dalai Lama for “Art of Leadership” exhibit; Dalai Lama sits down with Maria Shriver (Video)


Former US president George W. Bush has debuted a new collection of his own paintings, including one of the Dalai Lama, for an exhibit of his work shown in his presidential library. Bush talked to his daughter about the collection in a segment for NBC’s Today, which you can watch here. Only a glimpse of the Dalai Lama portrait (shown in this screengrab, left) is seen, but we hope to show you a better image of it soon. Update: You’ll find a larger representation of the portrait here (link will open in new window).

Related update: NBC has also just released a new video interview with His Holiness, conducted by Maria Shriver. The Dalai Lama talks about compassion, anger — including his own — materialism, and more. Watch it after the jump. Continued »

Conference, public forums: “Awakening the Heart’s Wisdom” to bring together faith leaders, social activists in Boulder this weekend

awakening heart's wisdomHow can heart-centered wisdom forge social cooperation to create a just, equitably prosperous, and ecologically re-balanced future for our world? This will be the question foremost on the minds of 165 contemplative faith leaders and progressive activists as they gather this weekend at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, for collective engagement in Awakening the Heart’s Wisdom to Guide the Future: Protecting and Caring for Earth’s Community of Life. Included speakers include Judy Lief (contributor to our new issue’s special section/cover story), Lama Palden Drolma (profiled by Andrea Miller, here), Adam Bucko of the Reciprocity Foundation, and more.

There will be two public events connected to the conference: a Town Hall Conversation on “Spirit & The Earth” Friday evening at Naropa’s Nalanda Events Center, and an Inter-Faith Dialogue on “Sacred Activism, Ecology & Humanity” Saturday evening at the Shambhala Meditation Center (details here). Continued »