Portland News Magazine

Cancelling our Vaishaka Day Celebration

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.

Shambhala Center is open and closed

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.


Ikebana Practitioners outing to a Japanese Gardens Exhibit

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

Introducing the Basic Goodness Series

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.

small-WOS_poster_WOS_poster_2013-01-03Meant 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).


Poems from the 2013 Dharma Arts Festival

April 7th, 2013 by John David Smith

24221_20130330basic goodness

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:
a heart
a hammer
(libraries full of hammers)
a head on a tenuous stem
the feet in a flowerpot,
basically good.

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 car
a train
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

shoe-rack-mar-2013Basic Goodness

Basic goodness underneath everything,
the invisible,
not where we think.
Where we’ve been headed all along,
thru the wrecks, the things we wanted to avoid.

Basic goodness,
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.

Now here.

— Michael McCormick

24240_20130331Basic Goodness

Basic Goodness
Always there finding Center
Buried in thought, buried in thought when lost
From ground.
Always holding

Basically Good
So many Centers for one Central space
All by design:
By design
By error
By balance
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

Basic Goodness
A moment away from hesitation
A Center that never shifts

— Jonathan Beck

24225_20130330The love stuff.

The blossom of a flower
Something playful
Tender, tender beating heart
The part that looks
The love stuff.

Basic goodness
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
infinite morning.

Basic goodness
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

2013 Dharma Arts Festival: Sacred Life, Festive Art, Playful Discovery

April 6th, 2013 by John David Smith

Shrine Room as Theater

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.

Tigers Eye Video

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!24278_20130331