Portland News Magazine

Hello from Gampo Abbey

May 30th, 2013 by John David Smith
Photo of Gampo Abbey Stupa from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Ruth Hampton (whose most recent job at the Portland Shambhala Center involved teaching kids at our Kid’s Club) writes:

Hello Portland Shambhala Sangha!

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been here at Gampo Abbey for 7 weeks.  Almost 2 full months! Time is going quickly, and somehow the long days of practice fly by.  I am so very glad that I made the choice to come here, and I am so thankful for all of you that helped support me in the process of getting here.  Our center in Portland is doing wonderful things, all of which prepared me well for this new adventure. I miss the morning shamatha sits that we have there!

What can I say?!  For starters, the wilderness surrounding the Abbey is absolutely beautiful and is incredibly nurturing to be in it.  I am so grateful for my daily walks and time to reflect outdoors.  Almost every evening there is a breathtaking sunset over the ocean that gives an amazing display of color and bigger perspective.  The Abbey itself it quite comfortable, and I am enjoying being with the community here.  I am working in the kitchen, and I love my job as one of the cooks.  The Shambhala Buddhist path creates a vibrant community of people who work diligently and gently at waking up to the present moment.

The amount of practice time has been very helpful in enriching my practice and letting me go deeper.  It is amazing how seated practice can reveal so much about yourself, and then within that revealing there is the opportunity to truly learn how to just let things be as they are. There are many things I thought I knew about myself, and the more I sit, the more I see things clearly.  It isn’t always easy to see how my mind works, but the teachings give good guidance on listening to my heart and being kind to myself with whatever happens.

There is a small group of us who have been doing a study group of the refuge practice from the little book that they give you when you take refuge.  It’s been a fantastic practice to contemplate taking refuge in the Three Jewels, as well as learning what we truly take refuge in ( self, people who support our sense of self, material objects, exercise, practice, etc).

On a personal level of study, I have been exploring basic Buddhist philosophy and have been studying the Five Skandas.  That has been very helpful in deepening the understanding of what seated meditation practice is about and what we are exercising as we do it.  I have a very supportive MI and also a novice monk who support me in my studies.  The wealth of knowledge here is great, and the library is quite extensive.

I don’t want to keep you with too long of an email.  We are currently low in the number of men who are residents, and we also need someone to fill the facilities position.  It’s a paid position, and there will be a posting listed on the website.  If you know of anyone, man or woman who is interested in coming, please send them along.  This is an AMAZING opportunity for a practitioner, and one that a person couldn’t regret.  The community here would be a great place for any of our Portland sangha to come and call a new home.  If you’ve ever thought of coming here and somehow there is space in your life to come…Please Do It!  🙂

Again, thank you all so much for your support and kindness for getting me here.  I have limited email addresses.  Would someone be willing to pass this along to the participants that I was with in the last Shambhala levels 1 and 2, as well as the teachers?

Well, the han is calling and morning chants are about to begin.

Best wishes to you all and I think of you!!  Stay committed to your practice, be gentle with yourself, and listen to your heart.

In the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,

Mindfulness of (Portland Shambhala) email

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.

We've figured out how to organize shoes in the entry-hallway

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!)

Communications goals

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).

Community blog

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?

Broadcast emails

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.