Shining a Light: Buddhist psychotherapist and “RAIN” champion Tara Brach

Western psychology and Buddhism—together they offer us a complete diagnosis of the human condition. Andrea Miller talks to psychotherapist Tara Brach, who works to combine these two disciplines into a powerful path to love and fulfillment.

The open sky, the scent of pine, the smell of sea—summer in Cape Cod felt to Tara Brach like her true home. As she was growing up, the family’s summerhouse filled with relatives and friends, and later in her life with spouses and new children. For her, happiness was the shared haven of the beach, diving into the waves and somersaulting underwater.

But one day in 2005, two carloads of friends and family had to go to the beach without her. For twenty years Brach’s health had been mysteriously and painfully declining. Now she had a diagnosis: an incurable genetic disease affecting her connective tissue. She could no longer run or bike or swim or walk on sand. Watching the cars pull out of the driveway, she cried with grief and loneliness. The ocean would never again be her refuge.

“I realized that even if it wasn’t right now, eventually I was going to lose everything,” Brach recalls. “We all are. So how do we find the inner space of wakefulness and tenderness that’s big enough to hold it all?” Continued »

How to Meditate: Sylvia Boorstein on Developing Insight

We suffer, according to Buddhism, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with us but simply because we misunderstand the nature of reality. Sylvia Boorstein on developing insight into the way things really are.

I was walking through the airport terminal when my eyes met those of a baby approaching me, strapped into a carrier on his mother’s chest, and I knew that baby was me. A thrill went through me. I knew in that moment it did not matter that I was aging because that baby—me, in a newer, fresher guise—was on his way up in life.

I recall laughing, maybe even out loud, as the baby and mother passed by. I knew that the others around me were all me too, and the mother and baby and each other as well, coming and going in this airline terminal and in life. I felt happy and said to myself, “Thinking about interconnection is one thing, but these moments of direct understanding are great.” I sat in the boarding lounge feeling tremendous affection for my fellow travelers.

Such an understanding of interconnection comes, in Buddhist practice, from awareness of the three characteristics of experience, also known as the three marks of existence. Continued »

Safe and happy travels, Konchog Norbu…!

I hope you’ll all join me in wishing Konchog Norbu, who’s done such a wonderful job informing and amusing and enlightening us here on the Shambhala Sun blog, safe and happy travels. Why?

Well, long story short: Konchog is on his way, as of this morning, into a new adventure, in which he’ll work with a Khenpo (senior monk) in India, taking part in Tibetan/English translations of Buddhist materials, teaching English, and living in a monastery there. After he arrives in Dharamsala — after layovers in Amsterdam and Delhi — he’ll have a weekend to shake off the jetlag. Then, he’ll be in a Tibetan-language immersion program of sorts, “all Tibetan, all day,” he says.

Given his devotion, hard work, and good heart, I’m a bit sad to see Konchog go, but much more so, happy for him and all the good folks he’ll get to work with: he’ll certainly make a real contribution. Will he be back here on the Shambhala Sun blog, or the Buddhadharma News blog, to which he also contributed? The door’s open, of course, but he may be just a bit too busy, what with his travels and dharma-activities. Either way, I thank him for his friendship, and all his good work, here, and for our world.

Subtle and elegant perception: The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Kimberly Poppe. Andy’s comment: “This is a subtle and elegant perception that could have easily pass unnoticed. Kimberly nailed it. This is wonderful example of fresh seeing.”

Contemplative photography is Continued »

Please join us in welcoming Sharon Munson, our new Advertising Account Rep

sharon2014The Shambhala Sun Foundation is pleased to announce that Sharon Munson has joined the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma as our new Advertising Account Representative. Sharon has many years’ experience in sales and account management, and is also an artist and entrepreneur. In her own words:

“I grew up in downtown Toronto, moved to Halifax after Graduating from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, where I studied Painting and Ceramics. I co-founded a ceramic manufacturing company, “Spots Pots,” which won BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Award in 1993. I’ve also sold software, mostly for local start-up tech companies, to large telecom and service providers. I practice and teach yoga and am enjoying learning meditation. I continue to draw and paint and can be found at pop-up art shows occasionally in Nova Scotia or Ontario. I am so happy to be with the Shambhala Sun Foundation, creating new relationships with advertisers and potential advertisers who are interested in making the world a better place. I would love to hear from you.”

So, if you’d like to plan an advertising campaign to reach the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma community of readers, contact Sharon today: sharon<at>shambhalasun.com | 1-877-422-8404 ext. 39.

In birthday speech, Dalai Lama asks for end to anti-Muslim violence

Yesterday in Northern India the Dalai Lama turned 79 — and used the occasion to call for an end to violence against Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka. “I urge the Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of Buddha before they commit such a crime,” he said. “Buddha preaches love and compassion. If the Buddha is there, he will protect the Muslims whom the Buddhists are attacking.”

More from the Dalai Lama’s address, here.

Shocking: How far we’ll go to miss out on meditation

anxious manHow deep is our modern craving for distraction? A couple of years ago, folks into meditation were sharing and tittering over a piece entitled, “Sweating, shaking man never going to spend a little time with his thoughts again.” Why would that be funny? Simple: it comes to us by way of The Onion.

But it’s not only funny – not any more. Now, it’s funny because it’s true. Last week, the Washington Post reported on a study led by a researcher in the University of Virginia’s psychology department. The headline? “Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts.” Or, as rendered in Prevention‘s headline: “Up To 67% Of People Would Rather Receive An Electric Shock Than Meditate.” But — there are so many good reasons to work up the gumption to try meditation, and to keep it up, as our July magazine, “Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation,” explains. Check it out, and try some meditation now, here.

NY Times: “Panhandlers Dressed as Monks Confound New Yorkers”

Today via the New York Times comes a report on male panhandlers dressed as Buddhist monks, and female panhandlers dressed as Taoist nuns, who’ve become ubiquitous in Times Square:

“No one seems to know who they really are or where they come from. The police have taken no official stance, stepping in only when the monks become aggressive. Various Buddhists have confronted the men, asking about their affiliation or quizzing them about the religion’s precepts. The men remain silent or simply walk away.

[...] The police have largely left these men alone, to the consternation of Buddhist leaders in New York’s Chinese neighborhoods, who portray them as nothing more than beggars who undermine Buddhists’ credibility.

The Times piece tells more about the panhandler-as-monk phenomenon, which is hardly unique to New York City. Read the full story here.

There’s a party going on right here: “The World Festival”

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Illustration (detail): Tomi Um

“This past Fourth of July,” writes Howard Axelrod in the July ’14 Shambhala Sun, “having not thought about it for years, I was reminded of the World Festival.” Wait, you’ve never heard of the World Festival? Axelrod explains: “Through third and fourth grade, I had a recurring fantasy, though I thought of it as a project. Night after night, surrounded by my retinue of stuffed animals, I’d lie awake elaborating… planning for the World Festival.” It was to be a festival so big, so inclusive, that everyone in the world would be in attendance.

Now Axelrod realizes: the World Festival has been happening all along. Read all about it in Axelrod’s piece, “The Biggest Party Ever,” from our current issue. “The Biggest Party Ever” is also now available for you to read in its entirety online; just click here.

Remembering spiritual pioneer Reb Zalman (1924-2014)

Zalman with Ram Dass in 2008. Photo: Joan Halifax.

Zalman with Ram Dass in 2008. Photo: Joan Halifax.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, better known as “Reb Zalman,” one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal Movement, died on July 2, at the age of 89.

“Schachter-Shalomi believed in adopting and sharing spiritual traditions in order to create a world where distinct religions remain but are integrated with one another,” writes Shaul Magid in an obituary for The Jewish Daily Forward. “Adopting Buddhist meditation, Gregorian chants and Sufi zikher to Jewish prayer, Schachter-Shalomi sought to broaden the possibilities of Jewish spiritual life.”

Zalman held the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa University and was Professor Emeritus at Naropa as well as Temple University. Naropa was also the original home the Reb Zalman Legacy Project, designed “to preserve, develop and disseminate” his teachings. (Details about the archive, since relocated, can be found here: http://www.rzlp.org/.)

See also: “MY REBBE IS GONE!”, an appreciation by Bernie Glassman, from the Zen Peacemakers site.

Facing suffering, finding joy: Women combat veterans at Tassajara

tassajara womens retreatEvery year since 2011, more and more women combat veterans have been making their way to Northern California’s remote Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for specially focused retreats called “Honoring the Path of the Warrior.” This year, the New York Times sat in as twenty women vets processed “the impact of combat, of taking life and of seeing life taken” as well as the particular burden some of them carried of “[being] traumatized by sexual violence by the men who were supposed to be their comrades.”

Read here, from the Times, how, under the guidance of two longtime Zen teachers, six days of zazen meditation, art therapy, reflection exercises, and deep talk in a safe environment helped the women plumb the question, “How do you face suffering and how do you find joy?”

The Dalai Lama’s 79th birthday celebration: live webcast, digital prayer flags, local celebrations

dalai lama happy birthdayThe Dalai Lama will be sharing his 79th birthday this Sunday, July 6, with about 150,000 devotees in Ladakh, where he’s conducting the elaborate Kalachakra ceremonies. If you’ve been unable to make the trek to the remote Himalayan kingdom, however, you can tune in to a live webcast of birthday celebrations from Ladakh at 8AM IST (GMT +5:30), which will be followed by teachings from the Dalai Lama on two classic Buddhist texts by the Indian master Nagarjuna. And there are other ways to mark the occasion. Continued »

Watch CBS’ “Modern Masters of Religion,” featurning the 16th Karmapa, Thomas Merton, and Karen Armstong

This CBS News video presents the stories of three major spiritual figures of the modern era. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who introduced His Holiness the 16th Karmapa to the States (and who founded the Shambhala Sun), is seen, as is Lama Surya Das (and his self-described “Jew-fro”), in what amounts to not only a telling of the Karmapa’s place in modern religious history but also a look at a major episode in Tibetan Buddhism’s deepening presence in the West.

The “Seeing Fresh” Contemplative Photo of the Moment…

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Eva Bulath. Andy’s comment: “Texture and color, with a touch or two of mystery: there’s a lot going on in this old train. This is a fine example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

“Bless this cyber-space with comfort, bliss, and enlightenment” — A “Prayer for Internet Practice”

A “Prayer for Internet Practice” has made its way to the web — with its own Facebook page, naturally. “This prayer,” the page explains, “was requested of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche to help dharma students surf the waves of attraction and distraction on the Internet and turn them to practice.”

It’s not the first time Rinpoche has addressed the online realm so pointedly — see also his “Social Media Guidelines.”

Read the whole prayer after the jump, along with links to some of Rinpoche’s teachings from the Shambhala Sun. Continued »