Portland News Magazine

What Lisa Stanley did this summer

August 24th, 2013 by John David Smith

Lisa Stanley reports that during a recent two-week visit to Madison, Wisconsin she had the experience that should be familiar to most Shambhalians of switching from being a program participant to being a teacher to spending time with peers enjoying deep shop-talk.

Here are six photographs by Lisa from the Miksang workshops she attended and co-taught in Madison in July. Miksang (Tibetan for “Good Eye”), is a contemplative photography practice rooted in the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Lisa is a Miksang, Ikebana (Japanese Flower Arranging) and Shambhala Art teacher. Look for upcoming classes at the Shambhala Center this Fall!








Site observed under construction

August 19th, 2013 by John David Smith

construction-workers-medium_5662774101Why is it that construction sites are so watchable? And why is it that construction workers often look like they’re standing around watching other workers do the real work?  Think of the last time the City of Portland dug up the sewers in your neighborhood.

One answer is that construction is inherently a messy process, and figuring out how order will come out of chaos is fascinating.  Another is that in a construction process (either of the on-the-ground variety or of the virtual) there are many interacting disciplines involved.  And another is that a construction project is fascinating because something seems to arise out of nothing, something is assembled in front of our very eyes.

In cyberspace “under construction” usually means “go away, the magic happening behind the curtain is over your head.” However in the case of the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center’s new website, you can watch the construction process day-by-day here: http://demo.shambhala.org (it will become http://portland.shambhala.org by Labor Day).  You could also help if you chipped in with a little help right right now!

Could you provide design and content ideas specifically by checking other Shambhala Center websites and suggesting things that we should adopt or adapt here in Portland?  You could use this form to contribute a suggestion and you can see what other people have suggested here. Of course, our new site can and will evolve after it goes live (and you might play a role there or some of your brilliant ideas might not get implemented till after Labor Day).

So far we’ve had comments about Shambhala Center websites in AtlantaHalifaxLos AngelesNew YorkSeattle, and Vancouver with suggestions ranging from “please show office hours” and “Victoria has nice footer” to “we should emulate New York’s community page”.  What do you see out there?

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes via photopin cc

Reporting on Portland Deleks

August 19th, 2013 by John David Smith

This just in from Candace Staughton:

Hello everyone,

In my role as Societal Health and Well Being Director for our center, I’ve been asked to be a panelist on a Shambhala Online webinar on Saturday 8/24 about Deleks.

Because many Shambhala centers don’t have neighborhod groups (also called deleks in Shambhala), this is a way to inform the members of around the world about deleks, what they are, how they work, and what their value is to a Shambhala Center.

Each of the panelists has been asked to prepare a 6 minute presentation on:

– what’s going on with deleks at your Center
– what’s working well that others could learn from?

As I prepare my presentation I’d love to get input from everyone in our community.  Can you send me your thoughts about the two bullet points above. Based on your experience with our deleks, what do you think I should highlight about our experience here in Portland?

Please send me your thoughts by Wed at the latest so I have time to compile people’s ideas and present as many of them as I can within the time constraints of six minutes 🙂

Also, if you want to plan on attending, click on the following link at 10am Pacific on Saturday Aug 24: http://shambhalainternational.adobeconnect.com/delegs2013/

Thanks everyone!

Ann Cason and John Smith speak out on aging and sustainable learning

August 18th, 2013 by John David Smith

Community member Ann Cason recently contributed The Words of the Wise in  Elephant Journal, which is very youth oriented, has had almost no articles about aging, seniors, etc., (i.e. what they have to look forward to) so this is somewhat groundbreaking in that regard.  Here’s a snippet where she reflects on a visit to a memory unit at an elder care facility:

Reverend John asked a question of B. It was her birthday. “What wisdom can you share with us from having lived so long?”

After a long silence, B told us, “Take care of yourself and others.”

The elders clapped their approval.

Then, Father John asked another elder to say a prayer. J said, “May we be better than before and keep our eyes on the future. Amen.”

For a moment, I glimpsed The Shambhala Principle in action. Even with all of our foibles and hurts, our aggression or dumbness, there is something soft and open and feeling within. It might be covered over, but can’t be taken away. In spite of all of the details of each individual illness, these lovely beings are old and frail because they have been born human.They will die (with wisdom intact) because they were born, as I have been, as human beings.

Community member John Smith was interviewed by blogger, teacher, and systems thinker Howard Silverman. They discuss sustainable learning, including the connection between Shambhala vision and learning in daily life.  Here’s a snippet from the interview, titled “How does the community we belong to help us learn, and enable us to shape our community?

HS: What’s the difference between book learning and — other forms of learning? Learning as practice? What’s the appropriate counterpoint?

JS: Book learning for me, at that time, meant discussing the books as we did at St. John’s College. Whereas the whole enterprise of Tibetan Buddhism was much more “mind-in-body,” asking: “How do I show up in the world?”

Early on, the social element was not so explicit. Trungpa Rinpoche’s students were very individually motivated: “I’m here for my spiritual practice and goals.” Now, in traditional texts, a Bodhisattva vow clearly is about “all sentient beings” — and that’s a great example of book learning. It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I take that vow,” and then go back to doing my individual thing.

Then, over the years, it became more clear that there was a kind of social learning component to what Trungpa Rinpoche was talking about. He was talking about transforming society on a deep level that contested the Western notion of individualism, contested the Western stance of mind-in-opposition-to-body, and communicated the idea that “I am the product of all the causes and conditions around me.”


Shambhala Principle Affinity Circles launched

August 18th, 2013 by John David Smith

As a follow-on to the Sakyong’s recent book on The Shambhala Principle, Affinity Circles are being formed with online opportunities, launched recently: http://affinitycircles.shambhalanetwork.org/

Here is a preliminary  list of local Shambhalians involved in Affinity Circles:


  • Ann Cason (family care)
  • Abbey Pleviak (arts)
  • Trime Persinger (Snake River) (prison outreach)

Circle Members:

  • Willa Rabinovitch (arts)
  • Marc Otto (arts)
  • Lisa Stanley (arts)
  • Mark Douglass (environmental action)
  • Dan Rubin (social work)
  • David Parker (research)
  • Jack Bodner (shifting culture and global values)
  • Julianna Heath (social work)

Remodeling OUR own barn

August 11th, 2013 by John David Smith

Photo by https://secure.flickr.com/photos/misserion/

The Oregon landscape is dotted with barns that we appreciate because they are beautiful as well as functional.  They also represent a collective effort because of their magnitude: people had to come together to raise a barn in just a few days.  But every barn needs to be replaced or remodeled occasionally.

You are invited to help us with this month’s electronic barn-raising!  This is one of those occasions where a lot of different skills and kinds of contributions are called for. As mentioned last month, we are about to migrate from our existing website to a new one. The analogy is that our website is a bit like the center of our homestead, where we store some of our accumulated riches, and where we contribute to the digital landscape in Portland.  And it will take a group effort to complete the migration.

There are many reasons for doing this migration (aka renovation).  The new site will have a lot of features that the old one did not.  It will look better (the website is the first contact that many people have with our Shambhala Center).  But a crucial reason for migrating to the new site is that it will allow the different areas and groups in our community to edit and take responsibility for one or more pages — to be visible and say their piece.  We’re working toward a more distributed model of community and this is one aspect of that evolution.

We need to complete the migration by Labor Day, September 2, 2013.  Of course the site will be evolving after that date, reflecting our community’s growth.  But we are taking up a slot in the “migration queue” and we need to make the migration as orderly and focused as possible.  So getting it done like one of the barn-raising efforts of the past makes a lot of sense.

Here are some of the skills that are going to be needed for this project:

  • Knowledge of the Shambhala community, our activities and programs

  • Writing and editing skills

  • Cut, paste, and simple formatting in a text editor

  • Group coordination and scheduling

Do you have some of these skills and some time to contribute?  Drop me a line at john (dot) smith (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org!

I imagine that barn raising in Oregon’s rural past involved pot luck suppers and dances, but that part hasn’t been planned out for our electronic barn-raising yet.  Got ideas?

An update from our own Changchup Nyima

August 4th, 2013 by John David Smith

Hello Portland Sangha,

I thought I should write a little update about how things are going here at Gampo Abbey.  I will include photos in this email.  I forgot to send some as I said I would for the previous email.

Otter Creek 1

Life is going quite well at the Abbey.  We have fully transitioned into summer, and the days are long, quite warm, and a bit humid.  Thankfully, the winds from the ocean keep us cool, and keep the breezes moving through the Abbey.  Yesterday we got out and did some community service.  There was a bike ride for children with cancer, and myself and 3 other monastics served 80 cyclists their lunch.  What a fantastic day!  There were very lovely people to engage with and inspirational conversations about their experiences knowing someone with cancer.  The main message I got from the cyclists was to “live life fully”!  It felt great to be of service.
Otter Creek

As far as daily activities at the abbey, I am now trained in most tasks that we have here.  I am opening/closing the shrine, acting as Umdze and Gatekeeper for our meditation practice sessions, leading the house in our morning chants (about 25 minutes or so of chanting) and meditation practice session, and I have also learned how to make tormas, as well as participating in the Sojong Ceremonies as an assistant.  Sojong happens on the new and full moon, and we take those days to recommit to our vows.


I have now been here 4 months, and I have taken the temporary monastic vows, the Tsancho Genyen/Upasaka Brahmacharya ordination.  Initially, the ordination brought up the a feeling of groundlessness and a big questions of “who am I?” and “what is self?”.  The days following the ordination were a bit challenging, because I didn’t feel like “me”.  At the same time of not feeling like “me”, I questioned what that “me” is anyway. Having a freshly shaved head, maroon and saffron colored robes, and a new name was surprisingly unsettling.
I noticed that my sense of self was getting hooked to the uneasiness of the transition.  It felt clear that I had two choices: one, I could relax into the uneasy feeling, simply observe what was happening, and see the groundlessness as the moment of potential.   Or two, I could get hooked in the uneasiness of the situation and spin with the emotions and mental chatter.

A sense of self and having self-importance is such a fundamental part of being human, and there is much suffering in trying to maintain that sense of self.  “Self” is not bad, and the ego isn’t something to be done away with.  Yet, it is definitely something we can keep in check and question.  I did my best to go with option number one and relax into the transition.

Watching the landscape here, I am able to observe impermanence and see the constant flux of nature.  In moments when I can remember, I can also apply this to the sense of self.  Self is constantly changing.  Another reminder of this when I look back over the years and see all the different photos of myself, friends, and family.  We have all changed, grown older, moved to different places, and taken various life paths.  What a relief we can change and relate to all the different things we encounter.

I am learning here at the Abbey that all of life is simply a series of encounters that provide endless opportunities to make choices.  We have the choice to stay asleep and not see the beauty and freshness of each moment, or we have the choice to wake up to that freshness, inspire each other, and make the best of this experience of being human.  It might not be possible to awaken in every moment, but I think we can simply show up to the best of our ability which can look a lot of different ways.  From the Shambhala Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa says, “Do not be afraid to be who you are.”

Do we ever really know who we are?  What I am pointing to is the importance of questioning our habitual habits and thought patterns that create a fixed idea of self, and that seems to be a big part of what I am learning being in a monastic community.  It’s quite a gift to have the time to explore the questions in such a unique environment, and to be so supported by the monastic community here.

After four months of countless hours of meditation, I have to say that the mind is workable.  I thought it was before, but I am beginning to see that it truly is.  Patience and discipline are your friends. 🙂  So, to all you Portland sangha members, I hope you find ways to stay committed and inspired with you practice.  The more space we allow for our minds to relax into the environment and not force our minds into doing what we want, the mind begins to respond.  Of course, everyone is different, but as the Chogyam Trungpa has said, “the mind is like a wild horse”.  It’s definitely a process of learning the “not to tight” and “not to loose”, and most importantly KINDNESS!  Minds respond so well to kindness and compassion.  🙂  Believe me, in the beginning, I had a bit of an agenda, and this agenda was perhaps a bit too tight.  Needless to say, I was bucked by the “wild horse”!  For those of you who also experience this, no need to fear.  Simply come back to your breath and “get back on the horse”. 🙂

There is so much more I could share.  If I could sum up all that I am learning into two words, it would be this.  “Just relax”.  That’s all we really need to do in this life.  Simply relax into the present moment and let the beauty and chaos unfold around you.  I just read the Sakyong’s newest book, “The Shambhala Principle”, and he states that “Chaos is good news.  It is the great space of emptiness that occurs before genesis.  It is the openness where things fall apart and new creations arise.  When things are really bad, there is a great opportunity for good to happen.”  So true!

Well, that’s enough for now.  Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you to all who support the Gampo Abbey monastery.  We function here largely on donation, and I am very grateful to experience the generosity of others.  I wish you well from Gampo Abbey and am glad to stay connected with the Portland sangha!

In the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,

Changchup Nyima

(At the ordination we take our refuge names as our name.  Mine means “Enlightenment Sun”)

(The photo of the Lobster is from the annual lobster release that the abbey participates in, which is described on the website.  Otter creek is about a 1hr and 45 minute hike from the Abbey.  It is absolutely beautiful.