Author Profile: Melvin McLeod

Mindfulness in business: Who’s changing who?

Thich Nhat Hanh on the cover of our January magazine.

Thich Nhat Hanh on the cover of our January magazine.

There’s a lot of debate in Buddhist and political circles about the growing adoption of mindfulness techniques in corporate America. Is meditation being co-opted as a tool for increased productivity and profit, or is it a way to help companies care for their employees, customers, society, and the environment? As editorial director of Mindful, as well as editor-in-chief of the Shambhala Sun, I have faith in the basic practice, which inherently includes an ethical component, and in the many dedicated people who are bringing mindfulness into their organizations.

If there is one person who has credibility in both the dharma and political worlds it is Thich Nhat Hanh. He is both one of the world’s most respected Buddhist teachers and the acknowledged founder of the Engaged Buddhist movement. Snippets of an interview he did with the British newspaper The Guardian have been getting some play in social media to show that Thich Nhat Hanh disproves of mindfulness in business. In fact, his view is more nuanced—and positive. The full Guardian story is here. Thay also discussed this question with the Shambhala Sun‘s Andrea Miller in an interview we published in our January issue. You can view/download a PDF of the full interview here.

Tell us what you think of the March 2014 Shambhala Sun in our quick online survey

Hi, 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.

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Melvin (McLeod)

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth


At the Shambhala Sun, we’re great admirers of Alice Walker, and we’ve been honored to publish her work over the years. We admire her art, her commitment to social justice, such as her campaign against female genital cutting, and her spiritual practice, which is at least partly informed by Buddhism. Friday night on its American Masters series, PBS will be broadcasting Pratibha Parmar’s documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, with many appearances at film festivals to follow immediately. The Shambhala Sun recently published an excellent profile of Walker (also called “The Beautiful Truth”), by Colleen Morton Busch. In it, Walker discusses her inspiring life story, her famed novels, her fight for civil rights and social justice, and her spiritual path. Filmmaker Parmar is interviewed in the story, which we titled “The Beautiful Truth.” You can view/download a PDF of Colleen’s story, with great photographs of Alice by Andrea Roth, here.

And here are more stories by and about Alice Walker from the pages of the Shambhala Sun. Links open in new windows:

The Joy of Falling: Skiing as Meditation

With the first snow on the ground here in Nova Scotia and the ski season approaching (or already here in more alpine places) I thought I’d share a little piece I wrote for our “Body” issue (July 2013) on skiing as a practice of fearlessness and trust:

Skiing is a beautiful blend of body, physics, and nature. Through graceful bodily movements and subtle shifts in weight you redirect the force of gravity with your skis, describing any arc you want, at any speed you dare. When it all comes together—when technique, equipment, gravity, and the snow underfoot are one—it is winter’s dance.

It is also an unnatural thing to do. Skiing is falling down a mountain. A controlled fall, yes, but a fall nonetheless. That’s where meditative practice comes in. The problem isn’t distraction—things are moving too fast to get lost in thought. The challenges in skiing are fear and trust. Both are well-known to meditators.

Continued »

Why great leaders are spiritual

Mandela in 1998. Photo: Agência Brasi

On a day we honor Nelson Mandela, surely we are also pondering what makes leaders great. As in truly great—creating benefit, easing suffering, moving humanity forward on a large scale. We all have our own list of such leaders. Mine includes Lincoln, King, Gandhi, Gorbachev, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Deitrich Bonhoffer, and of course Nelson Mandela. What unites them, with the exception of Gorbachev, is deep spiritual practice combined with great political skill. All are moral exemplars as well as effective leaders.

The best of our leaders are a kind of saint-statesperson, whose character is immediately apparent and transformative in its own right. When Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech as Cooper Union in New York, one observer wrote afterward, “I have just seen the greatest man since St. Paul.” This is the ultimate power of decency, egolessness, and emotional intelligence. It is why Nelson Mandela’s light shone from a cell on Robben Island and changed his country and a continent and rid the world of a great shame.

Here are two Shambhala Sun stories about great leaders and the spiritual practice that informed their work. Here is Charles Johnson on Martin Luther King, Jr., and his biographer Roger Lipsey on UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.

Commentary: “America’s first Buddhist Terrorist”?

I’ve seen a headline asking if Aaron Alexis was “America’s first Buddhist terrorist.” This is wrong on two counts. Three, actually.

First, a terrorist who happens to be a Buddhist is not a “Buddhist terrorist.” That would be someone who uses terror to advance a specifically Buddhist agenda, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Second, he doesn’t seem to be a terrorist at all — which is not simply a violent person but someone who consciously uses terror for political purposes, probably in concert with others.

Finally, we are obliged, Continued »

Welcome, Enid Beatrice Boyce!

Enid at ten minutes old; Wilder holds his new sister

We want to congratulate two members of the Shambhala Sun Foundation family for the new addition to their family. Jamie Proctor Boyce, who worked in our publisher’s office until she had to stop for obvious reasons, and Eddie Boyce, the Shambhala Sun’s associate publisher, have a new daughter. Enid Beatrice Boyce was born on Sunday. Enid’s brother is the impossibly cute Wilder, who, Eddie writes, “is already the proud older brother, showing her his favorite spots around town. On the drive home from the hospital he alerted her to some key intel: ‘Baby Enid, that’s Java Blend!’” One day old and she’s already a hipster! We’re so happy for them all.

From the January 2012 Shambhala Sun: Melvin McLeod’s editorial, “Full Disclosure”

The new Shambhala Sun magazine is now on newsstands everywhere and here to introduce you to it is the editorial that kicks it off, by Editor-in-Chief Melvin McLeod. In it, Melvin declares — and celebrates — his and the Shambhala Sun’s involvement with the two great teachers featured in this issue. We’ve also included links to the various January articles Melvin mentions; these open in new windows so you can sample them all.

Full Disclosure

This issue features two of the great Buddhist teachers of our time. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is dead twenty-five years now. Thich Nhat Hanh is still vigorous and active at the age of eighty-five. So different in styles — the soft-spoken, celibate monk and the ground-breaking lama who celebrated life’s passions — they are alike in dedicating their lives to others, holding nothing back, and in the depth and breadth of the teachings they have given us. As much as anyone, they have defined Buddhism as we understand it today. Continued »

Video: The Second Noble Truth (Canine edition, with maple bacon.)

Continuing my viral-video-and-the dharma-series (See The Dharma of Marcel the Shell), I offer you the Ultimate Dog Tease, brought to my attention by Shambhala Sun deputy editor Andrea Miller. Of course the real reason I’m posting it, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is that I think it’s so funny — I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve probably seen it 15 times by now and it still makes me laugh out loud. But there is a teachable dharma moment here.

[More on that teachable dharma-moment after that jump.]

Continued »

Video: The Dharma of Marcel the Shell

My daughter Pearl showed me this over the weekend, and I offer it to those of you who haven’t seen it, appropos of nothing. Or is it? In the Shambhala teachings Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche talked about discovering our “sad and tender heart,” about touching the soft spot all of us have inside. In Buddhism, we call it by many fancy names, such as buddhanature or relative bodhicitta. But maybe part of it is just the way watching this makes me feel. See if it doesn’t touch your soft spot.

What’s Right—and Wrong—with Islam

There’s been an intense—and disturbing—controversy in New York, about the proposed construction of a Sufi mosque in Lower Manhattan. Some people are objecting to a mosque so close to the World Trade Center site. There’s been a lot of emotion around it and some Republicans are using it as a wedge issue.

The irony is that the mosque project is spearheaded by one of the most liberal and ecumenical Muslim clerics in the US, Feisel Abdul Rauf (pictured), a good friend to many Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish progressives and contemplatives.  Continued »

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me… About My Last Life

The NPR show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, my favorite political comedy show (plug: even better, to my mind, than Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert) has for the second time chosen a story about a tulku (reincarnate Tibetan master) as the epitome of unbelievability. It was during the segment of the show called Bluff the Listener, in which panelists tell three unbelieveable stories, one of which is actually true. On its June 6 show (you can listen to it free on iTunes or at the Wait Wait site), one of the panelists told the story of Lama Osel, which has been covered extensively here on SunSpace. The theme was adolescent rebellion, and the listener felt the reincarnation story was not even as believable as a tale about adolescent dung beetles who drug their elders with a psychedelic fungus so they can mate at will. This is the second time Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me has fooled a listener with a tulku story. Previously, a listener was told three “facts” about Stephen Seagal. He didn’t believe that Seagal had been recognized as the reincarnation of a famous Tibetan lama. But who can blame him?

So That’s Who Came Up with It

Phil Jackson (NBA coach and longtime Zen practitioner, for those who don’t follow sports) during Sunday’s Lakers-Rockets game: “As my mentor Red Holtzman said, the best way is the middle way, the middle path.”

Penor Rinpoche Passes Away

h_h_d75s285_wWe are sad to report the death of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, a senior Tibetan teacher and former head of the Nyingma lineage. It was announced earlier today that he had been admitted to the intensive care unit at Columbia Asia Hospital in Bangalore, India. His death has just been reported by Andrew Rose, a member of the board of directors of ODD. Penor Rinpoche was head of the Palyul monastery in South India and a highly respected lineage holder with a substantial following in the West.

We will report more details on his passing and on funeral plans when they become available.

Andrew provides this list of links to teachings by Penor Rinpoche, including the 4-part documentary  on his life and activities, “The Compassionate World of H.H. Penor Rinpoche”.

Update: Rinpoche’s organization main organization, Palyul Ling International, released the following letter on March 28:

Continued »

John Welwood on Spiritual Practice and Relationships

John Welwood is not a prolific writer but when he’s ready to say something, it’s important. If you’re not familiar with his work, John is one of the leading exponents of a Buddhist-based approach to psychology and psychotheraphy. We have an outstanding new essay in the November Shambhala Sun that I’ve found both impressive for its view and directly applicable to my own life. Called Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible, it shows us how our relationships can help our spiritual practice, and vice versa.