“Beyond Thought”: Ram Dass on how we arrive at spiritual understanding

x107.jpg.pagespeed.ic.w9GNsgfDbGIn his book Polishing the Mirror, bestselling author, spiritual teacher, cultural icon, and consciously aging elder Ram Dass shares his essential teachings for living in the here and now. In this excerpt from the book, which comes out in paperback this September, he recalls a lesson he learned at one of his own teachings.

I remember lecturing in a hall once, back in the early ’70s. Most of my audience at that time was young, and they tended to wear white and smile a lot and wear flowers. I wore my māla and had a long beard. In the front row there was a woman of about seventy, who had on a hat with little fake cherries and strawberries and things like that on it. She was wearing black oxfords and a print dress, and she had a black patent leather bag. I looked at her, and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing in the audience. She looked so dissimilar to all the rest.

These talks were like a gathering of an explorers club, where we would come together and just share our experiences. I started to describe some of my experiences, some of which were pretty far out. I looked at her, and she was nodding with understanding. Continued »

Exiled Tibetan monks travel from India to support Ferguson protestors


A group of exiled Tibetan monks made the journey from India to stand alongside protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, and did so late this weekend. The monks stood on the street with their hands up in surrender, a gesture that, along with signs and t-shirts reading, “Don’t shoot,” has come to represent the protests and the frustration felt after the shooting of Michael Brown, and the clashes between civilians and police that have been recurring on the streets of Ferguson.

Response to the monks’ presence seems to have been overwhelmingly positive, with people lining up to hug them and take their pictures. Huffington Post has photos and footage of the scene; click here.

How to Meditate: Jack Kornfield on developing “A Mind Like Sky”

Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield, whose call for peace in Burma can be found in our September 2014 magazine, explains the why and how of developing wise attention, or open awareness.

Meditation comes alive through a growing capacity to release our habitual entanglement in the stories and plans, conflicts and worries that make up the small sense of self, and to rest in awareness. In meditation we do this simply by acknowledging the moment-to-moment changing conditions—the pleasure and pain, the praise and blame, the litany of ideas and expectations that arise. Without identifying with them, we can rest in the awareness itself, beyond conditions, and experience what my teacher Ajahn Chah called jai pongsai, our natural lightness of heart. Developing this capacity to rest in awareness nourishes samadhi (concentration), which stabilizes and clarifies the mind, and prajna (wisdom), that sees things as they are.

We can employ this awareness or wise attention from the very start. Continued »

Sister Chan Khong’s path of peace

Photo: Florence Delahaye

Best known as Thich Nhat Hanh’s closest collaborator, Sister Chan Khong is also a dedicated activist and a gifted teacher in her own right.

 “People think that engaged Buddhism is only social work, only stopping the war,” Chan Khong says. “But, in fact, at the same time you stop the war outside, you have to stop the war inside yourself.”

Continued »

Pico Iyer on “The Folly of the Weather Forecast”

As soon as he reads a weather forecast, writes Pico Iyer, “tomorrow is clouded for me, even if it’s sunshine that’s predicted… It isn’t that weather forecasts mess with my mind. It’s that the mind is so ready to mess with everything it touches — to make theories around it, to draw fanciful conclusions from it, to play distorting games of projection and miscalculation — that even the elements are not safe from it.”

To read more, see Pico’s Shambhala Sun article, “The Folly of the Weather Forecast.” (Also includes link to a collection of Pico’s other great articles from the magazine.) Enjoy.

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 Didi Young. Andy’s comment: “These lush, curvaceous succulents are reminiscent of Edward Weston’s work, but with the added bonus of color. It’s a great example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

How to Meditate: Sharon Salzberg on getting started

Sharon Salzberg explains the ins and outs of a core technique—meditating on the breath.

This classic meditation practice is designed to deepen concentration by teaching us to focus on the in-breath and out-breath.

Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair. Keep your back erect, but without straining or overarching. (If you can’t sit, lie on your back, on a yoga mat or folded blanket, with your arms at your sides.)

Close your eyes, if you’re comfortable with that. If not, gaze gently a few feet in front of you. Aim for a state of alert relaxation.

Deliberately take three or four deep breaths, feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and flows out again. Then let your breathing settle into its natural rhythm, without forcing or controlling it. Just feel the breath as it happens, without trying to change it or improve it. You’re breathing anyway. All you have to do is feel it. Continued »

“How to Be a Peacemaker”

“Looking at modern champions of peace such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama,” writes Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “we see that as life put them to the test, they all came to the conclusion that peace is the way. How did they do it?”

Good question! See Sakyong Mipham’s “How to Be a Peacemaker,” from the Shambhala Sun Archives, to learn how developing a meditative discipline is part of the answer.

Summer books: Looking for a fun and meaningful new read?

Then look no further — in our new, September 2014 magazine, Andrea Miller tells you about the latest books from Tom Robbins and Peter Matthiessen, a re-release of Nyanaponika Thera’s classic Heart of Buddhist Meditation, and more. Click here to read. (And once you’re there, click any book’s bibliographical information to purchase directly from its publisher.)


Thich Nhat Hanh on how we create misunderstanding, anger, and violence

tnh-detail-farber-216“It is crucial to look deeply at your thoughts and your views. What are you holding on to? Whether you are an artist or a businessperson, a parent or a teacher, you have your views about how to live your life, how to help other people, how to make your country prosperous, and so on. When you are attached to these views, to the idea of right and wrong, then you may be get caught. When your thinking is caught in these views, then you create misunderstanding, anger, and violence. That is what you are becoming in this very moment.

“When you are mindful of this and can look deeply, you can produce thoughts that are full of love and understanding. You can make yourself and the world around you suffer less.” — from “This Silence is Called Great Joy,” a teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Shambhala Sun. For lots more on working with anger, see our September 2014 magazine (which also includes Thich Nhat Hanh’s answers to children’s questions). And for many more teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh, visit our Thich Nhat Hanh Spotlight page.

Extreme Detox: How Buddhist monks led me to humility and freedom from alcohol addiction

Thamkrabok Temple

Author Paul Garrigan tells how Buddhist monks in a Thai temple helped him to drop his drinking, and even the very idea that he was an addict.

In 2006, I entered an addiction treatment program in Thailand. I did this in the hope of curing a problem that had been making my life miserable for almost two decades. I felt full of despair and saw the monastery as my last chance. That first day, I came to a decision: if the temple didn’t work out, I would make no further attempts to quit alcohol.

A liver function test I’d taken a couple of years earlier had shown there was damage. I suspected I didn’t have long left in the world. I wondered if a lot of my misery was caused by my yearning to escape addiction. If I just gave in to it then maybe I would have a few months of peace before the end.

I grew up on the south side of Dublin, mostly in Shankill. I started falling into difficulties in my teens. I attended my first addiction treatment facility at 20, before moving to England, where I spent a few years working in pubs. In my mid-20s I sank so low that I ended up begging on the streets of London.

Alcohol continued to drag me down further and further into misery. Continued »

Pema Chödrön on the power of love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, and inadequacy

“Without realizing it, we continually put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, and arrogance.

“But fortunately for us, the soft spot — our innate ability to love and to care about things — is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment — love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy — to awaken bodhichitta.”

For more, see “Stay With the Soft Spot,” Pema’s classic teaching from the pages of the Shambhala Sun, or see our special Spotlight page of her teachings from the Shambhala Sun.

“All the Rage” — read Andrea Miller’s new Shambhala Sun editorial about working with anger

andreamiller2014“At its best,” writes Shambhala Sun Deputy Editor Andrea Miller in her newest Editorial, “anger is a formidable tool that shows us when something is unjust and needs to be rectified. Much more commonly, however, anger is simply an ugly and destructive force.”

So, she says, “I gave a lot of thought to anger and how it manifests in my life. I became curious about what it would be like if I stopped getting angry in the face of my soft, uncomfortable feelings, and so I experimented.” How’d that go? Read the Editorial. And if you’d like to work with anger yourself, don’t miss our September magazine’s special section on Discovering The Wisdom of Anger. Browse the whole issue here.

How to Meditate: Thich Nhat Hanh on Walking Meditation

The practice of mindful walking, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth. We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home. Read on and learn how to.

Many of us walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another. Now suppose we are walking to a sacred place. We would walk quietly and take each gentle step with reverence. I propose that we walk this way every time we walk on the earth. The earth is sacred and we touch her with each step. We should be very respectful, because we are walking on our mother. If we walk like that, then every step will be grounding, every step will be nourishing.

We can train ourselves to walk with reverence. Wherever we walk, whether it’s the railway station or the supermarket, we are walking on the earth and so we are in a holy sanctuary. If we remember to walk like that, we can be nourished and find solidity with each step. Continued »

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 Lis Maiz. Andy’s comment: “It’s just a hint of what’s above, but the reflection of sky and leaves in the puddle makes the textures of this perception sparkle. It’s a fine example of fresh seeing.”

Contemplative photography is a method for working with the contemplative state of mind, seeing the world in fresh ways, and expressing this experience photographically.  Continued »