Monthly Archives: June 2011

Notes from a London Meditation Flash Mob

Text and photo by Steve Silberman

Tonight at 6:30 in front of St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, dozens of Londoners and global citizens of all ages took their seats on the rain-damp cobblestones to create a meditation flash mob sponsored by a local sangha called Wake Up London. Organized quietly on Facebook, the mass sit-in was the second public dharma event hosted by the group; the first took place in June in Trafalgar Square.

It was a challenging setting for urban practice. Continued »

Registration open for “Creating a Mindful Society” conference

Keynote speakers (clockwise from left): Richard Davidson, Tim Ryan, Janice Marturano, Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Center for Mindfulness, and Omega Institute have announced a first-of-its-kind conference. Designed specifically for those interested in the integration of mindfulness and its increasingly documented benefits into American life, Creating a Mindful Society will be open to the public and held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, on Central Park West in New York City, September 30–October 1.

Four keynote speakers and others leading unique breakout sessions will be present to address mindfulness as it applies to society and the individual. Continued »

On meditation and changes in the brain

Meditators say their practice fundamentally changes the way they experience life. In “This Is Your Brain on Mindfulness,” from our July 2011 magazine, Dr. Michael Baime reports on how modern neuroscience is explaining this in biological terms.

A new excerpt from the article is now online; it looks at the pioneering work of Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar and researcher Britta Holzel, who are proving that meditation can literally change your brain. Read the excerpt here.

Lakers forward Ron Artest to change his name to “Metta World Peace”?

Yes, you read that right — Lakers star Ron Artest wants to change his name to “Metta World Peace.” That’s Metta, as in that word you may have learned about through Buddhism, translated variably as “lovingkindness,” “lovingfriendliness,” or “goodwill,” and World Peace as in, well, world peace. The Associated Press reports that Artest has had his lawyer file to have the change made, for unnamed personal reasons. (Surely the influence of meditation enthusiast and former coach Phil “The Zen Master” Jackson is a factor?) We hope Artest will make those reasons more public soon. Here’s more on the story. And by the way, according to gossip site TMZ, it’ll be “Peace” that appears on the back of Artest’s jersey.

Conversations from Wisdom 2.0: Dr. Stuart Lord, President of Naropa University (Video)

At this past February’s Wisdom 2.0 conference, featured in our July 2011 magazine, we got to speak with Dr. Stuart Lord, president of Naropa University, about the conference’s theme of “merging wisdom and technology” — and how it dovetails with Naropa’s vision of contemplative higher education. Watch here:

Dr. Lord has also written a new Shambhala Sun article about the value of contemplative education. It’s called “Answering the Call to Serve” and you’ll find it, too, in the current, July 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine.

To learn more about Dr Lord and Naropa, visit them on the web. You might also enjoy this article from the Shambhala Sun Archives: Hearty Discipline: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche on the philosophy of Naropa University.

More “Conversations from Wisdom 2.0:”

“Mind Deep” blogger Marguerite Manteau-Rao (Video)

Wednesday: Aung San Suu Kyi to address US Congress; watch live

On Wednesday June 22, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and ongoing advocate for Burmese peace and democracy Aung San Suu Kyi will for the first time address an U.S. Congressional hearing on Burma. This can be seen live, online, via the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs website, beginning at 12:30 EST; click here to watch.

Thich Nhat Hanh to begin North American tour

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh will be heading to Vancouver, BC, this August, to lead an “Awakening the Heart Mindfulness Retreat,” and a public talk. These events have already sold out — though you can still follow developments at the event’s website or its Facebook page — but they mark the beginning of Thich Nhat Hanh’s upcoming North American tour, which will continue through mid-October, taking him to Colorado, California, Mississippi, and New York. Click here for details. And for more from Thich Nhat Hanh, see “Savor,” from our July 2011 Guide to Mindful Living issue. You’ll also find many great pieces by and about Thich Nhat Hanh on’s Thich Nhat Hanh Spotlight page.

On “Hoarders” and our relationship with “stuff”

hoarders1Yet another new season of A&E’s harrowing show Hoarders is to begin on Monday night. Described as “a fascinating look inside the lives of people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis,” the show is a heartbreaker. And exploitative though it may at times seem, the show might be useful on the whole because it helps us put things — and our relationship to them — into perspective. After the jump, SunSpace’s earlier look at Hoarders, for those who want to get caught up. (Or don’t want to have to.) Continued »

Savor a taste of mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

Our often mindless way of eating, say Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung, can cause us to miss the many delights present in, say, the simple act of eating an apple.

In fact, it’s easy to truly enjoy the apple. Want to try? Go ahead and find yourself one. Then, click through here for a taste of mindfulness. (And for this article and more, see the new, July 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine.)

k.d. lang, ambassador of Buddhism

Photo by Liza Matthews

In a new interview with The Independent, singer and friend of the Sun k.d. lang addresses her relationship to Buddhism, saying that she considers espousing it as a cause to be “‘a full-time job’ during the months when she’s not playing music on the road.” (lang is currently touring behind her new album, Sing it Loud.) “I help out at the Buddhist centre and we run a shelter,” she tells the Interdependent, but my role is mostly as an ambassador.” Read the full interview here.

And don’t miss Shambhala Sun Editor-in-Chief Melvin McLeod’s landmark interview with lang, in which she spoke, for the first time, about her Buddhist teacher and practice.

Photographer Don Farber brings “The Dalai Lama and His People” to New York’s Tibet House

"Dismantling the sand mandala during a Kalachakra Initiation, Santa Monica, 1989." By Don Farber.

From July 5, September 15, NYC’s Tibet House will be hosting “The Dalai Lama and His People,” an exhibition of work found in Don Farber’s new book, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Farber has set his lens upon Buddhist life for three decades now, even serving also as a special photographer for the Dalai Lama since 1989. The exhibit, beginning with an official booklaunch, coincides with the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday and his coming Talk for World Peace and related events in Washington D.C. Click here for details on the exhibition.

Don was one of seven artists chosen by Shambhala Sun art director Liza Matthews to be showcased in a roundup of great art and artists from our first 30 years of publication. Be sure also to browse Don’s photography on his website, which features more photos seen in the book and exhibition.

Anthony Weiner’s “Zen” — What’s in a name? is reporting now that embattled former New York Representative Anthony Weiner has advised stripper and sexting partner Ginger Lee — who wanted guidance about how to conduct herself, post-Weinergate — “I want you to make decisions that help you be healthy and sane. We need to be zen about this.”

Of course, real, capital-Z Zen may be about being healthy and sane, but it’s also something much more, something about practice — “Zen” means “meditation.” And that’s not for nothing. Ultimately, Zen amounts to something far beyond mere words. That being said, is a usage like this harmful? Does it matter at all? What’s in a name?

American Zen pioneer Charlotte Joko Beck dies (Updated)

Photo by Elihu Genmyo Smith

[June 16th update: In addition to an obituary, has posted remembrances of Beck, by Barry Magid and Gerry Shishin Wick. And at Buddhadharma News, James Ford concisely places the life and work of the late teacher into context.]

After recently entering hospice, Charlotte Joko Beck, a truly influential Zen teacher (and bestselling author), died on Wednesday, June 15.

Beck, born in 1917, began her practice of Zen with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, from whom she received Dharma transmission.

She was the founder, in 1983, of the Zen Center of San Diego and, in 1995, of the Ordinary Mind Zen School. Through her teachings, and her work as the author of two modern Zen classics — Everyday Zen: Love and Work and Nothing Special: Living Zen — Beck became a very visible and widely admired force among the first generation of America’s convert Buddhists. Her influence continues on through her teachings and through those for whom she was a direct teacher.

Elihu Smith, a student of Beck’s, today shared a new message from Beck’s daughter Brenda (writing also on behalf of Beck’s son), with whom he’s been keeping in contact. It reads, in part: “Our mother, Joko, died peacefully at 0730 Wednesday June 15, 2011. Love to all and thank you for your prayers for a peaceful passing for the most amazing person I have ever known.”

According to the Twitter account of fellow Zen teacher Joan Halifax, among Beck’s last words was the statement,”This too is wonder.”

Silicon Valley pioneers — from Zynga, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and eBay — get mindful

Photo (detail) by Rucha Chitnis

How is Silicon Valley’s pioneering next generation using mindfulness to humanize the brave new world they’ve been building? That’s the subject of Wisdom 2.0: The Digital World Connects, one of the feature stories from the current Shambhala Sun magazine.

In this excerpt, Digg founder Kevin Rose, Zynga co-founder Eric Schiermeyer, Twitter’s Chris Sacca (all three of whom are pictured here, L-R), Facebook head of learning Stuart Crabb, and eBay’s Rich Fernandez share what it means to them, and to their employees, to have mindfulness be part of their workdays.

Uncommon people doing uncommon work: Get introduced to The Mind Body Awareness Project

Vinny Ferraro of the Mind Body Awareness Project

On our recent trip for the Wisdom 2.0 conference — detailed in our current issue — we had the good fortune to also spend an afternoon with the incredible folks at the Oakland-based Mind Body Awareness Project. By the time we’d gotten together that day, Barry Boyce’s May 2011 “Making Peace in America” feature, in which he’d written about the MBA, had already been written. Still, the MBA crew generously got in a circle with us and shared, one by one, some very personal reflections on their work with at-risk and incarcerated youths, helping them to find some peace despite their difficult circumstances and surroundings.

These are uncommon people doing uncommon — and very necessary — work. Get introduced to them in this excerpt from “Making Peace in America’s Cities.” Continued »