Portland News Magazine
May 12th, 2013 by John David Smith
Much of our community’s communication depends on email, a medium that is a lot more chaotic than we’d like.
Our emails (and other communications) should be at least as orderly and user-friendly as the shoe rack in the Shambhala Center’s entry-hallway.
You get too much email, right? There’s something about email as a medium that just seems to multiply: email list subscriptions, offers, and invitations easily crowd out stuff we really want.
On the other hand there’s the email you do want that doesn’t arrive. ”They” forgot to write back or they are ignoring you, or you sent them a message but it got lost in their SPAM folder! A recent example is relevant: I sent out an announcement about the Kalalpa Ikebana Class to the Shambhala Center Newsletter list, but our new Director, Lisa Stanley, who happens to be teaching the class, never got it. When she figured out that she wasn’t even on list of recipients, it took me a long time to figure out why. (Hint: you actually have to request it to be on our Newsletter the list!)
We’re trying to overhaul how we do email at the Shambhala Center, to try to make our communications more mindful. I’ve been thinking about sending out an email message to the community about reducing email volume and insuring that you get on the right Shambhala Center email lists. Wait, stop! Another email? What are we doing?
Here are the broad goals that have emerged about our Center’s communications:
- Make our community more visible to itself (and by extension more transparent to the outside world)
- Avoid SPAM: send fewer broadcast emails about classes, events and other goings-on (and carefully target the rest)
- Make it super clear: who it’s from, and what you have to do to send or receive specific kinds of emails (for members as well as event organizers)
What follows is my thinking about how we can do this. I’d love to hear about what you think (either in a comment on this blog or in a message to me).
This blog is the best place where we can see ourselves as a community (apart from meeting at the Shambhala Center– or wherever we meet away from it). It’s the place for more extensive communications, with more detail, more context, more questions, and more voices. It doesn’t clutter up anybody’s in-box, so we can say as much as needs to be said. I’ve been recruiting people to write for it during the past several months. So far Caitlin Bargenquast, Marc Otto, Melanya Helene, and Willa Rabinovitch have signed up. They haven’t posted here yet, so we need to urge them to get to it. Better yet, would you be up for writing the occasional blog post about our community?
We’re still working out the details, but the plan is to limit broadcast emails to our entire email list to:
- A weekly schedule update: pithy with links to registration pages or details on “how to connect,” “when it’s happening,” and “where to show up”
- A monthly forecast with program and event descriptions so people can “save the date” well in advance
- The occasional exception
We will use the “large” email list that we have been using all along for the weekly and monthly email messages.
Community Newsletter emails
We will be using the Shambhala Database (referred to as “the SDB”) to send out the Newsletter emails as well as the occasional members-only message. (You can fill out a membership form online or in person at the Shambhala Center.)
Signing up to be on the Newsletter list is easy. If you are a member or have ever registered for a class at the Shambhala Center, you have an account so you can edit your subscriptions and update any other information, such as email address, here:
Once you’ve logged on to the SDB (help for lost passwords, etc., is provided) you’ll see a link on the left-hand side of the page for My subscriptions. Don’t be distracted by all the email lists for Shambhala retreat centers in Colorado, Nova Scotia, France, or Italy, or the other “miscellaneous topics” like family. Look for the tick-box for Newsletter for Portland under Your center & affiliations.
April 29th, 2013 by John David Smith
Our new Practice and Education Director, Michael McCormick, writes:
Vaishakha Day is the day that Buddhists commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of the Buddha. It is undeniably significant. The Portland Shambhala Center has scheduled this commemoration for May 25 this year. In the last couple of years, it has been celebrated by a small contingent of our sangha. This year we have been unable to find someone to organize and lead the event. After much beating of the bushes, including asking people who have been rumored, inaccurately, to have led the event in the past, the Center’s Council has reluctantly let go of holding the event this year. The Buddha taught us that letting go is good, right? It certainly makes sense when there are no bodies to make something happen. If, however, you come to value this commemoration enough to bring it to fruition by next spring, let me know. We can only gain by appreciating our teachers.
April 22nd, 2013 by John David Smith
For most of us, the Shambhala Center will be completely closed from Saturday April 27 to Friday May 3rd! There will be no sitting, no classes, no office hours, no groups, no meetings, no anything.
But for a group of hardy meditators who have registered for the week-long Spring Meditation retreat (or Weekthun), the Shambhala Center will be completely open in several senses. Open because participants they will be there for fairly long days (from 8:30 in the morning until 9 pm at night) for a fairly long week. But also open in the sense that a Weekthun requires some real effort to be open full time — to our own experience, to what comes up in meditation, to a schedule that is full of discipline. At this point there are 15 people registered for the program so, according to Shastri Rayna Jacobson (who is leading the program), registration is still open. In addition to the participants, there are many others who have been recruited over the past several weeks to help out as staff, as meditation instructors, and as helpers of various sorts. There are still some open positions on the roster.
Putting on a program like this requires a participation from a whole community and a lot of improvisation. There are many elements of a Weekthun that are very traditional. Shastri Jacobson, for example, has her talks mostly worked out, but still needs time before it starts up. If you are interested in preparing a meal for the group, for example, you can still contact Nora Nichols, who is the program coordinator, and who is still seeking volunteers to help in several different capacities. Nora is open to your offerings as to menu, or how and when you might contribute the meal.
For everyone who isn’t in the program or on the staff, my question is: while the Shambhala Center is closed what will you do? How will you be open? Please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.
April 12th, 2013 by John David Smith
On Saturday April 6th, eight Ikebana Practitioners from the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center met at the Japanese Gardens to view the Saga Goya School of Ikebana’s annual Exhibition. Thank you to Joan Sears for taking and sharing these pictures.
An arrangement by a student of the Saga Goya School.
Hana Matsuri – The Flower Festival Celebrating the Birth of Buddha
We experienced and participated in the beauty and elegance of this special
exhibition that featured an authentic Buddhist prayer ceremony in honor
of the birth of Buddha.
An arrangement by a student of the Saga Goya School.
Back left to right: Jan Rogerson, Elizabeth Craig, Nic Petersen, Jonathan Beck
Front left to right: Anne Emmett, Amy Aycrigg, Candace Stoughton
April 12th, 2013 by John David Smith
Who am I?… How can I help?… What is real?…
These questions are universal. They have arisen in some form across cultures and traditions throughout human history. Now they’re the focus of a new, three-course series in the Way of Shambhala path of training: the Basic Goodness series.
Meant for new and seasoned meditators alike, the Basic Goodness series introduces the view of Shambhala experientially. Participants receive teachings and support for exploring their present experience—with gentle curiosity and appreciation. From that starting point one can discover what it is to be fully human.
The first course in the sequence, Who Am I? The Basic Goodness of Being Human, is open to everyone. This course asks the question “Who am I?” and investigates the sense of self. It includes teachings on basic goodness, the development of ego, and confidence.
In the second course, How Can I Help? The Basic Goodness of Society, participants explore their relationships with others, aspirations to help the world, and four areas of social transformation—household life, work life, entertainment, and economy. This course also looks at the Shambhala idea of enlightened society.
The third course, What Is Real? The Basic Goodness of Reality, investigates the natural and elemental world. Emphasizing core Buddhist teachings and ecology, this course helps reveal the magic and wonder—the sacredness—of the world.
Like the other Way of Shambhala courses, these are designed to create learning communities where people of any background can come together, reflect on their own experience, and contact their own wisdom.
To learn more about the Basic Goodness series, see Acharya Adam Lobel’s introduction to the series by clicking on the image of the video below (which takes you to YouTube).
April 7th, 2013 by John David Smith
Mother and magpies break the night in half,
always and not broken.
My palms form a tray of fermented digits.
That’s right, cupcake, a container for breath and doubt.
Loudly with precision:
(libraries full of hammers)
a head on a tenuous stem
the feet in a flowerpot,
Stand ground standing on the ground.
the ground doesn’t care if I don’t make cash flow,
my grandmother is the ground.
I’m standing and I am basically good
ridged thumbnail carved in snow.
Basic goodness, a list of things to do & places I’ve been:
a dusty trail
a pit filled with water and toxic ore,
a flock of snow geese – a poem we sing to the sky.
We cover the water so as not to break their wings.
We ring a bell for days
send up the alarm.
– Elizabeth Russell
Basic goodness underneath everything,
not where we think.
Where we’ve been headed all along,
thru the wrecks, the things we wanted to avoid.
the kind my mother couldn’t teach me,
the real me,
the one that terrified her,
kept her speaking in tongues,
in words that couldn’t explain it.
Basic goodness tilts us
until we lean with it,
until losing our balance feels like coming home.
Home has no address.
– Michael McCormick
Always there finding Center
Buried in thought, buried in thought when lost
So many Centers for one Central space
All by design:
Expanding: recoil from lost
Not lost, always there
Always there? Of course, YES
Always seen? NO! Occasion blindness
Prepare for never
Prepare for never
Prepare for never
A moment away from hesitation
A Center that never shifts
– Jonathan Beck
The love stuff.
The blossom of a flower
Tender, tender beating heart
The part that looks
The love stuff.
With a child’s voice
it feels like the code itself,
and the Destroyer sweeps through space,
Death evening the balance.
I see him,
radiant, luminous, playful and sure.
Play—that word skips through my mind- Play!
Make culture that includes all of us.
I will stay awake with you my love—through the setting sun,
through the long dark night, until
Sexy, falling apart,
Where will it end?
The play, the grasping, the longing and returning
Confidence radiating, dot on the spot arising
Basic goodness can be a shovel
Something uncreated, something unchanging—
I also have the poet’s practice of putting makeup on the space.
– Caitlin Bargenquast
April 6th, 2013 by John David Smith
Caitlin Bargenquast, of the Portland Shambhala Dharma Arts Council, provided this report:
As the sun shone over a delighted Portland this past weekend, a core of artist-community members found our own ways to radiate through the Dharma Arts Festival hosted at our Shambhala Center. Taking inspiration from Sakyong Mipham Rimpoche’s community Nyida Day address, we explored ways to harness the energy of the changing season by celebrating communication, family, and the arrival of Spring. The weekend was filled with on the spot art making, inter-generational collaborations, deep discussions, films, and the sharing of toasts and birthdaycake celebrating another arrival, that of the new Mukpo princess Jetsun Yudra. The Dharma Arts Council (Abbey Pleviak, Amy Aycrigg, Forrest Hale–thank you!) was at the center of it all, manifesting offering after offering with humor and grace.
At the end of it all I found myself lying on the shrine room floor staring up at the ceiling, letting the debris settle after the shake-up of the weekend festival. It was the last exhale, the shavasana after the exertion of practice. Letting it sink in. Letting it settle. Receiving the benefit. I felt immense gratitude.
In her opening Dharma talk entitled “Creating Delightful Society,” master teacher and arts practitioner Lisa Stanley suggested that recognizing our own and others’ basic goodness can be likened to witnessing our basic creativity. This simple idea stopped my mind and enlivened the Dharma Art teachings that dissolve the notion of “artist” versus “non-artist.” I was reminded, as one who often struggles with the concept of my role as an artist, that living one’s life with authentic presence and loving kindness is itself an artistic expression of humanity. I was certainly able to see that in my community this weekend as novice and master alike came together with open hearts to create and play.
This video showcases art created by members of the Shambhala community of Portland, as part of their personal art practice. Some pieces have a Miksang orientation, some are more traditional with their approach, and some are photos of physical art pieces (dyed silk scarves, Ikebana pieces, and work with clay). The music is from musical efforts that a local Shambhala member is part of.
In the coming week or so we will be releasing video footage and photographs from the event. For anyone who stops by the Portland Shambhala Center this week, the collaborative Ikebana installations are still on display and are delightful! Personally, I had the privilege of leading a writing workshop in which we explored the vast topic of basic goodness through an unconventional creative writing exercise. Some of the participants were generous enough to share their transcriptions with me and the greater community. I have included them here because I found them so very inspiring.
Dharma Arts Fest 2013… tender-hearted play, rich discovery, and festive celebration of the ever- rippling circles of family and community. I delight in your expression, I take refuge in your primordial creativity, and I radiate through your goodness! Thank you!
March 26th, 2013 by John David Smith
This post submitted by Nancy Smith:
On Wednesday, March 20, Charlie and Ella Rubin turned one year old! When they were newborns, Charlie and Ella were held by their families and many of our sangha members. We had weekly shifts with them, two hours each, to help their parents nap, be awake, eat, hold babies, do laundry, whatever. Through the summer, fewer “baby holders” were needed as the babies became more used to being in the world and tried out several routines. Over the summer, we amused them with walks in the neighborhood to consider the amazing flower garden two doors down, or just bouncing through the house looking out the windows at all the wondrous things outside. Outside! So fascinating!
Then the fall and winter brought toys, play mats and baby gates as they learned to crawl around the dining room, and now they are pulling themselves up on all kinds of furniture and people, standing up underneath the dining room table, standing on tiptoes to look out the window, engaging more and more with each other (they just pulled off brown bunny’s ear in a tug-of-war), family and friends who come to their house. Winter brought also cargo pants and striped shirts for Charlie, looking quite the dude, and girly shirts and green cargo pants for Miss Ella Berry, every inch the sweetie.
Twins, but they are so different! They keep the “baby holders” going, constantly adjusting to what will make each one happy. We marvel at their parents who seem to have unlimited energy!
Many happy birthday wishes from the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center to Dan, Vanessa, Charlie and Ella Rubin! May you ever be strong! And please bring them to the Center often!
Posts from others about their experiences with the Rubins are most welcome!
March 25th, 2013 by John David Smith
Normally you don’t see leaders kissing babies after their term of office is over.
- photo: John David Smith
But on March 16, a full month after she stepped down from her leadership position as director of the Portland Shambhala Center, there she was kissing and hugging and helping the birthday twins open presents on their first birthday. Charlie and Ella and mother Vanessa Rubin (pictured) and father Dan Rubin (holding the camera on the left) were joined in the celebration by family (several generations) and a group of Shambhalians (including Jay Stewart, Lesa Ricci, Marc Otto, Melanya Helene, and Nancy Smith) who have been kissing and hugging and playing with and occasionally changing the twins’ diapers more or less every week for the past year.
So actually it’s not just Lesa, but a whole village that has been welcoming Charlie and Ella into enlightened society, which clearly goes beyond terms of office or even stage of life.
March 18th, 2013 by John David Smith
On March 16th some fourteen of the people who play a leadership role at the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center met in the main shrine room to watch a video recording of a talk that the Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradul, Rinpoche had recorded a week ago of a talk to Shambhala leaders all over the world. Just as we all heard somewhat different things in his talk, we were all taking our own notes in our own ways. But everyone was struck in one way or another. Here are some of the reflections that people offered afterwards:
John Smith: For those of us who think we need to take a break, the Sakyong told a story about asking his father what happens after you become enlightened. His father replied, “You go to work.” I found that very moving — a caution about any false notions of what enlightenment might be and a great encouragement to lean into our lives, not tempted to kick back or dream about flaking off.
Melanya Helene: What has really stayed with me is the teaching that our inner work towards inner enlightened society is the basis or ground of the true confidence to engage with the world, to handle challenges compassionately. That without that we are trying to use grafted on confidence and that will not help us hold our seat.
Meditation Instructors coordinator Lee Scher takes notes on his iPhone and Membership co-coordinator Marc Otto writes it down on paper.
Aletha Eastwood: The thing that struck me the most was the emphasis on getting in touch with our own innate strength or basic confidence as a means of connecting with our own style of leadership. In order to truly lead or hold our seat, we have to be connected with who we are and what inspires us. Having this kind of deep connection with our own basic goodness is what enables us to stay more fully present when challenges come up. The suggestion, too, was that having this kind of deep inner connection with oneself mirrored and enhanced the connection we could build with others, or those we sought to lead.
The Sakyong also spoke about not having all the answers as a leader, but having bravery and confidence in the face of discomfort, becoming comfortable with discomfort. In being fully and resiliently in touch with our selves and our inspiration, we make good leaders. It made me think about how uplifting others, acknowledging and affirming the basic goodness in others, was a path of leadership. On one simple level, by first getting in touch with our own basic goodness, we reveal that possibility to others.
Nancy Smith: I liked that the Sakyong said we need to start by asking ourselves who am I, what do I want, and combined with our mind of practice, that relationship is the basis for our bravery and confidence. It begins to build enlightened society with oneself, which is the starting point for building enlightened society with others and in society.
Angie Reynolds: I was struck by the practicality of his advice. Near the close he told us something to the effect: I hope you are meditating, I hope you are exercising your body, and I hope you have and spend time with friends and socializing… reminding us not to become so absorbed into one thing but to create balance in our lives.
Gardner Murphy: I recall the Sakyong bringing up the issue of balance. Talking about how the fields of nyen and lu, covering all the details and working out relationships and bringing others along, can become the focus of leading, while the connection with lha, inspiration, and lungta can fade. It reminded me of the I-Ching reading from Shambhala Day with image of the lake of joy and richness draining away into the lowlands so that the energy becomes depleted. So the advice about that was to prepare on a personal level for the situations of depletion and to know that is not a permanent state, but it is necessary to attend to one’s own well being at that point.
Melanya Helene: I was struck to contemplate the ways and situations in which I withhold a sense of fundamental trust and encouraged to practice remaining open.
Alice Price: What resonated and awakened within me was his comment that confidence is an innate strength that all of us have. Discovering it is the jewel to hold on to.
Michael McCormick: I was struck, gently but forcibly, by the Sakyong’s framing of leadership as “sacred” – an opportunity to help. This cuts across the many times I have felt leadership as a burden, something that felt like a demand on me. To view it as sacred not only takes the focus off “me,” but reminds me of my fundamental motivation to provide leadership.