Portland News Magazine

Life.Art.Being: Integrative Arts Summer Festival

June 21st, 2013 by Caitlin_Bargenquast

Hello Dear Sangha and Friends

Today I get to wear my Arts Council Chair cap (we’ve decided it is glittery and a crown and definitely has garuda feathers sprouting out at jaunty angles) and spread the news about a fantastic arts opportunity coming up July 15-20, 2013!  I am so excited to announce the inaugural Life.Art.Being: Integrative Arts Summer Festival.  This is also the first official collaboration between the Portland Shambhala Center and the Be Space movement + expressive arts studio.

This week-long immersion is intended to be a retreat from the body+mind that speeds through summer all too quickly.  The container will be dedicated to creating beauty and practicing presence with the self, the body, the other, and the mystery.  Movement artist and Naropa alum Elizabeth Russell (with whom we all fell in love at our Spring 2013 Shambhala Arts Festival) has curated an incredible line up of artists to contribute.  Feast your eyes on the rich schedule here and dive in for all or part of the week.

The lineup includes Dharma Art, Authentic Movement, Contemplative Dance Practice, a Warrior Artistry panel and more inspiring community events. The week will include not only practice but also exploration of the personal and social context for our creative practices.
   Tuesday and Thursday evenings will be held at the Portland Shambhala Center, with Lisa Stanley starting the week off with a Dharma Arts Talk.  I am thrilled to be participating as moderator for the Thursday night panel of local artists discussing contemplative movement practices and their applications to diverse fields of work.

I will also be facilitating the Wednesday night writing practice at Be Space.  For those of you who got a taste of “Action Writing” at our Spring Arts Fest (read some of the amazing poems generated here )  we will again relate to our streams of consciousness through the body and let it directly inform our written words.  We will get wild with huge pieces of paper, “shovel” with lines, and play with feedback.  This is a perfect opportunity for dancers and movers who fear the line, and for writers interested in loosening up habit and hesitation.

Of course, mine is just one of many offerings!

I look forward to exploring, playing, and cultivating beauty with all of you!

Many Blessings,
Caitlin Bargenquast

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

Eternally Present Past

February 26th, 2013 by John David Smith

Hello there,

Sangha members Marc Otto and Melanya Helene have created a new performance entitled “The Eternally Present Past.” It is equally inspired by the teachings they’ve received from the Sakyong and from their intensive studies of interpersonal neurobiology.




From the creators of Play after Play family theater and the award winning “Hopeless” — The Brooklyn Bay presents “The Eternally Present Past” – a new performance piece exploring how implicit memory shapes our experiences and relationships.


What people have been saying about The Eternally Present Past:

  • “A lighthouse of understanding. We haven’t stopped talking about it since we saw it.”
  • “Thank you for your audacity and your courage.”
  • “Genuine and human.”
  • “Utterly connected to my experience of life unfolding.”
  • “Your show was more than a show for me- it was a healing session, which is a strange thing to say, admittedly. I was processing what happened to me the whole next day, and I felt a gentleness, an aliveness, and a wholeness took root in my heart. I noticed in the days afterward that I just felt easier in myself, and more apt to be in a good mood. My self-critical voices were much quieter. I just felt better! I want to see it again! I want others to see it!”

WHAT:                  The Eternally Present Past 

WHEN:                                  March 8th and 9th, Friday and Saturday at 8pm

WHERE:                               The Brooklyn Bay
1825 SE Franklin St.

Portland, OR  97202

COST:                                    $20 general admission

TICKETS:                             http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/304447

Advanced purchase recommended.  Seating is limited

WEBSITE:                            www.thebrooklynbay.org

You are invited on a journey to explore our inner landscape.

Below our conscious awareness, bodily sensations, surges of feeling, behavioral impulses and perceptual biases continuously influence our relationships and experiences.

Have you ever wondered why you feel the way you do? Why do you keep falling into the same patterns of relationships again and again?

Based on the most recent discoveries in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, The Eternally Present Past explores and embodies our most basic human need – relationship – how we are affected by our past experiences and how we can transform our relationships.

Conceived, directed and performed by Melanya Helene and Marc Otto


Melanya Helene and Marc Otto have been performing together for over 20 years. They are married and have two teenaged children.

Melanya is an award winning performer and director, and the lineage holder for the mindfulness based performance process passed down from Scott Kelman. She has been leading groups, individuals and families through deep healing creative processes for many years.

Marc has an MA in Somatic Psychology from The Naropa University and 20 years experience in the mental health and addictions field.

Together they have trained extensively in many forms of non-verbal attunement practices, which is to say they have really explored how to connect and play.

Ikebana Practice at the Kids Club

January 29th, 2013 by John David Smith

Child drawing a flower during the January 20th Kids ClubOn January 20th the morning Community Sit included a parents discussion group and our Kids Club, during which parents can meditate with the rest of the community in the main Shrine Room while their kids participate in Kids Club.  On this particular Sunday, the kids  did a little meditation at the beginning and the end, as well as having a look at a children’s book that went over the ABC’s of Shambhala.  It’s a children’s book about the basics of Shambhala teachings, presented in a child friendly way.

But for this Shambhala Kids Club program, the main focus was on the dharma arts.  The children spent time creating imaginative flower arrangements by following basic principles of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangements.  Kids arranging flowersChildren explored the history of Ikebana, how monks developed the art form long ago, and they looked at and talked about the different styles of flower arranging.  The group had lots of fun, and they produced flower arrangements that were displayed around the Shambhala Center.   Kids Club teachers  AJ Rock and Ruth Hampton thoroughly enjoyed working with the children and guiding them through the process.

The kids used real Ikebana materials and tools provided by  Amy Aycrigg, who is the Practice Coordinator for the Ikebana group that does flower arrangements at the Center every week.

Here are some additional photos:





Melayna & Marc of Brooklyn Bay Have A New Show! Finally…

December 10th, 2012 by Lesa Ricci

Things always take so much longer than I expect.

 Marc and I started working on a new show about relationships at least two years ago, maybe three. We started thinking we’d do a show based on an article called ‘Anatomy of a Bad Mood’ by Robert Sapolsky. It was a funny article, kind of a gender dynamics thing he wrote for a men’s magazine. But when we started working on it, it fell flat. It just wasn’t right. We had to let it go…

We tried again a few more times from different angles but it always felt forced. We were trying too hard. Again and again we had to let it go…
We wanted to create a performance that would offer something truly valuable. A piece that would not just satirize relationships but really offer understanding and a way to transform difficulties. 

And we were creating this piece about relationship together…and all our difficulties have come up.

And much has been transformed between us – and continues to in surprising and mysterious ways.

For the past three or more years, we’ve been studying experiencially the neurobiology of relationships using our own relationship as fertile ground for discovery. And now we’ve created a piece about it. 


But I have to say, I believe it is worth the wait. 

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about this project, is that you can’t rush a process like this. When a project really has integrity and something valuable is emerging, it takes the time it takes. And rushing it just creates frustration. When this piece was ready to come, it came in a big rush – seemingly out of nowhere.

I’m telling you all this not only to invite you to come experience this new performance piece yourself (See below for details). But I also wanted to share a bit about our process in case it’s helpful.

 Maybe you have a project, or an intention that seems to be taking too long. Maybe you are coming up against blocks and needing to let things go again and again. Don’t lose heart. And if you do lose heart, be kind to yourself. These things take time.

Warmly, Melanya


The Eternally Present Past

How Implicit Memory Shapes Us

Have you ever wondered why you feel the way you do? Or why you keep falling into the same patterns of relationships again and again?

You are invited on a journey to explore our inner landscape. Below our conscious awareness, bodily sensations, surges of feeling, behavioral impulses and perceptual biases continuously influence our relationships.

This transformative performance piece inquires into the neurobiology of relationship through story, poetry, movement and sound.

January 11 & 12


The Brooklyn Bay

$20 / ticket

Tickets Available Now