Author Profile: Melvin McLeod

Teaching of the Day: Joseph Goldstein on Mindfulness

The Vipassana teacher and IMS founder Joseph Goldstein doesn’t write a lot, but when he does, it’s clear, elegant, and completely to the point. Here’s a terrific teaching of his that we called Here, Now, Aware: The Power of Mindfulness. It’s adapted from a little jewel of a book, A Heart Full of Peace, which was based on a series of lectures Goldstein delivered at Harvard Divinity School. And as always, if you want to order it, why not go directly to the publisher, in this case Wisdom Publications, and support the dedicated Buddhist publishers who are so important to the dharma.

And there are plenty more teachings on the mindfulness tradition at the Shambhala Sun’s Mindfulness Meditation Spotlight Page.

Teaching of the Day: Judy Lief on Glimpses of Awakened Mind

I think Judy Lief belongs in the first rank of Western Buddhist teachers. A close student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and former dean of Naropa University, Judy is too laid-back and soft-spoken to be considered one of the “stars” of Western Buddhism. Yet every time she writes for the Shambhala Sun or participates in one of our conferences, I am struck by her subtlety and depth. This is someone who has passed the tests of the dharma, both intellectual and personal, so that she teaches right from the essence point. Here’s an essay by Judy from last year’s annual all-teachings issue of the Sun, called Glimpses of Awakening, in which she points out the the true nature of mind is showing itself to us all the time. Now all we have to do is notice.

Beyond Hope (and Fear): When the Honeymoon Ends

I think Barack Obama will be an excellent president, and possibly a great one. But he is a human being, one who has become the focus of much love, hope, and projection. Even if he proves to be the outstanding leader I think he will, there will inevitably be disappointment when the hard reality of governing sets in. What human being, faced with so many conflicting forces, could live up to all that projection? It’s no different from what happens when we fall in love with someone–try as we might, we can’t hold on to that great feeling of infatuation in the face of relationship’s realities (which is a good thing). So my recommendation for post-election-day reading is an outstanding essay by Judith Simmer-Brown, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and a scholar at Naropa University. We published this essay in the Sun a number of years back. It’s not in our website archive now but I found it on a blog called Heart of Us. The piece is called Romantic Love Versus Everyday Disappointment.

And for transcending that whole hope and fear thing we’re caught in, there’s nothing like the teachings of Pema Chodron and of her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa. Here’s a teaching of his called The Warrior Tradition: Conquering Fear.

Teaching of the Day: The Value of Community

Starting tomorrow, I think we’ll all be thinking a lot about the value of community–how to recognize our common values, how to put superficial differences aside, how, basically, to love each other. That’s the change we really need. Community is important in Buddhism too. It’s called sangha, and with the Buddha and the dharma, it’s one of the so-called Three Jewels that support our practice. Here’s an excellent essay by the Vipassana teacher Christina Feldman on why as practitioners we are alone together. It’s called Making Friends on the Path.

Maxine Hong Kingston on Hawaiian Values and the Real America

The novelist and friend of the Shambhala Sun Maxine Hong Kingston argues today in a post called Obama on O’ahu that the Democratic candidate reflects the transracial, consensus-building values of his native Hawaii. It similar to the argument that Charles Johnson made in his piece on The Meaning of Barack Obama in the current Shambhala Sun.

PS I know we’re posting a lot of politics now, and that some of our readers wish we’d stick to straight Buddhism. We could have a whole debate over the relationship between Buddhism and politics, but today of all days, how can we not reflect on what may be the most important political event of our lifetime?

Teaching of the Day: Yoga Body, Buddha Mind

My good friends Cyndi Lee and David Nichtern–she the owner of New York’s very successful OM Yoga and a longtime student of the Tibetan Buddhist master Gelek Rinpoche, he a composer and teacher of Shambhala Buddhism–teach a program together called “Yoga Body, Buddha Mind.” I think they have a terrific approach to combining yoga and Buddhism to create a complete mind-body practice. They’re both sharp, funny, insightful, caring, and serious practitioners, making them great teachers (and friends). Here’s a teaching they did for the Shambhala Sun outlining their approach to Yoga Body, Buddha Mind.

PS There’s a lot of other great stuff on yoga and Buddhism at the Sun’s Yoga and Buddhism Spotlight Page.

Urban Zen: Donna Karan’s Cancer Project

I had the pleasure of meeting Donna Karan outside the Beacon Theatre after the Dalai Lama’s final talk of his New York visit last spring. She was very impressive, obviously–she’s built a fashion empire–but also open and interested in the people around her in ways that highly successful people sometimes aren’t. I liked her. She spoke movingly of the difficult deaths from cancer of her husband and her best friend, and how they had inspired her to promote a gentler, more holistic approach to cancer care, integrating Western medicine, alternative approaches, and mind-body techniques like yoga and meditation. The work is being done by her Urban Zen Foundation, and it’s profiled in today’s New York Times.

By the way, the December/January issue of the Sun will feature a pair of articles by Elizabeth Hamilton and Ezra Bayda. The two Zen teachers, wife and husband, talk about how their practice has helped each of them deal with Elizabeth’s breast cancer.

And here’s an outstanding story on living with cancer by the Zen teacher and writer John Tarrant, which he wrote for the Sun after his diagnosis with prostate cancer. He called it 5 Reasons to Get Cancer.

Teaching of the Day: Thought-Free Wakefulness

Every day on SunSpace we’re going to select an outstanding Buddhist teaching by one of the great teachers of our time. We’ll be roaming around all the major traditions of Buddhism, from Theravada to Zen to Tibetan, and every teaching will be chosen because it applies directly to your life and spiritual practice, whether you’re a Buddhist or not. Today we start with a teaching by the Tibetan teacher Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Called Thought-Free Wakefulness, it offers the profoundity and clarity of two great Tibetan meditation traditions, Dzogchen and Mahamudra.

By the way, you can go to the Sun’s Spotlight page on Tibetan Buddhism for more teachings from the Vajrayana tradition.

Something Big Is Happening on Tibet

Following the Time story on the Dalai Lama’s statement that he’s “giving up” on trying to convince the Chinese government to give the Tibetan people more freedom (see post below), Associated Press reports that His Holiness has called a big meeting in Dharamsala of representatives from Tibetan communities around the world. Hard to know where this is leading, but it seems to me it could result not only in a new approach to dealing with the Chinese, but in a significant move toward a more democratic Tibetan government-in-exile, which the Dalai Lama has long advocated. Here’s the AP story.

And for another point of view, here’s Robert Thurman’s essay from the July Shambhala Sun arguing that giving more freedom to the Tibetan people is in everyone’s interests, even the Chinese government’s.

Zen Book of the Year?

Nyogen Senzaki is one of twentieth-century Buddhism’s most important figures, the first great Buddhist teacher to immerse himself without reservation in American culture, a poet and wanderer, a modern, progressive man and yet at heart a Zen traditionalist. His teachings are as fresh today as when they were given to his small band of pioneering American Zen students. Two books of his teachings have been published and now there is a third, Eloquent Silence, brought to us by Eido Shimano Roshi, who continues the Senzaki lineage, editor Roko Sherry Chayat, and Wisdom Publications. This may be the last trove of unpublished Nyogen Senzaki material, and it includes his commentary on The Gateless Gate.    Continued »

Teachings for a Time of Fear

If you’re watching the ship of state rolling in heavy seas, wondering if the next big wave will swamp it or some erratic guy will end up at the wheel and crash it into the rocks, you’re probably experiencing some fear. I know I am. There isn’t much we can do as individuals to right the ship, but as practitioners we can work with our state of mind. If your state of mind right now includes fear, here’s some very practical Buddhist wisdom on working with fear–four essays by the Buddhist teachers who appeared at our Shambhala Sun/Omega Institute program last year entitled Fear and Fearlessness: What the Buddhists Teach. And here’s an extraordinary teaching by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, published only in the Shambhala Sun, on Conquering Fear.

Mindful Politics

We’re doing a lot of politics on SunSpace, but that’s because it’s top-of-mind right now. Who can deny that the old cliche applies: this is an election of historic importance. But as we watch the day by day developments (and I do, compulsively), it’s good to take a step back for a broader and deeper view–a dharmic view, even. If you’re looking for something a little more profound than today’s poll results, here’s a selection of stories, essays, and discussions from the pages of the Shambhala Sun offering an Buddhist approach to the political process:

Here’s Pico Iyer’s take on the unique qualities His Holiness the Dalai Lama brings to world affairs and Perry Garfinkle’s look at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Engaged Buddhism, Politics of a Still Mind.

From our issue before the last mid-term election, here are John Tarrant’s Zen approach to politics, Charles Johnson’s Dharma for a Dangerous Time, and Who Does God Vote For?, Barry Boyce’s look at how various contemplative traditions are getting politically involved.

Finally, here are two outstanding panel discussions: on the loss of civility in the political process (and why we need it back), and Jerry Brown, Roshi Bernie Glassman, and our own James Gimian talk dharma and politics.

Charles Johnson on The Meaning of Barack Obama

We’re honored that the MacArthur Award-winning essayist and novelist Charles Johnson has an essay in the new Shambhala Sun about the long-term meaning of Barack Obama’s candidacy for American society. Johnson argues that win or lose, Obama is helping us to transcend the artificial and pernicious identities that divide Americans from each other and from the rest of the world—nationalism, tribalism, American exceptionalism, and above all, the fiction of race. Johnson clearly admires Obama (and let me say, risking angry letters from our right-wing readers, so do I), but this piece is not about who should win the presidency. Continued »

Healing Zen from John Tarrant

For me, Zen teacher John Tarrant is one of the most interesting minds in Western Buddhism, and one of its best writers. A couple of years ago he found out he had prostate cancer (he’s doing well, by the way) and that led to an invitation to teach physicians and executives at Duke Integrative Medicine, where he was treated. At his Pacific Zen site, he has an excellent piece on meditation and healing. Also on this page you’ll find his extraordinary piece “5 Reasons to Get Cancer,” which we published in the Shambhala Sun and which I included in the  2007 edition of Best Buddhist Writing. Both essays and other essays and talks by John are at

Kwats to You Too!

Who knows who can really walk the walk, but we all try to talk to talk. But are you finding your snappy Zen patter is not generating the intended satori in your listeners? At the New York Observer, Will Heinrich has some dialogue that should guarantee at least one person gets a mind-stopping slap.