Portland News Magazine

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

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)

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.


Helpful feedback on weekly emails

July 28th, 2013 by John David Smith

We ASKED for it and we got it!  Thanks to the inspiration of Melissa Mead, who has been faithfully producing the weekly email for the Portland Shambhala Center for the last 5 years, we included the following notice in our Weekly Announcements email last week:

What have we done wrong?

What do you think of this weekly events email now?  It has been changed to meet changing times, both in the sangha and in all of Shambhala.  Some of you have said you like it.  We’re hoping to hear from people who *don’t* like it.  We need to know what we’ve left out that should be here, what we should leave out, even what order we should be putting things in.  Do we experiment, make regular, trim more, expand?  Thank you for letting us know.  We’re the pub-team (alas, only swimming in ghostly electronic ink, not stouts and ales), Jason, Melissa, Nancy, John.  Email us here.

Here’s a sampling of the responses and some thoughts about where this leads for the pub-team.

Put the quote at the top!

  • “Personally, I kind of liked seeing the quote of the day at the top of the email.”
  • “Like the more practical stuff on top like you now have it.”
  • “I miss the “quote of the week” front and center rather than at the bottom of the page…always read it first before the business news, as important as that is!”
  • “Looks great!   I’d like to see the SMR or CTR quote at top.   Sometimes I only have a few seconds to minutes to glance at the newsletter … But I always have time for a dose of SMR or CTR.”

Our plan: put the quote at the top!  (Easy to do, and it makes sense on several levels.)

More detail, please

  • “I believe that tonight, Tues., would be a dharma talk if the 2nd and 4th format  continues. If there isn’t a talk I would like to know that, and if there is a talk I liked knowing who was speaking and what the topic was.”

Our plan: actually we’ve been working on this, but all the pieces aren’t quite in place yet.  The idea is to have speakers and their titles for these less formal talks appear in a calendar, on our Facebook page, and in the weekly email.

Increase the font size

  • “The only negative comment I can make is that the print is smaller than before.  Perhaps it’s my aging eyes, but it now seems like “work” to read it.”
  • “…. Also us older folks LIKE bigger print & images….”

Our plan: try to make the font bigger, experimenting with our emailing programs to find out why it seems so small.  (We’ve been working at that but seems like we have to keep at it.)  Meanwhile, some of us have discovered that on Windows we can change the appearance of the font by holding the control key and rolling the mouse wheel – that increases or decreases the size of the font on the screen.  It’s worth checking out on your machine – for Shambhala Center emails and maybe for other situations.

More Images

  • “I always enjoyed seeing the beautifully selected image and the quote that went with it. I know there’s still a quote at the bottom of the page but it looks like an afterthought now. It’s about visual style.”
  • “This is in response to your “What have we done wrong?” site.  I probably would not say “wrong” but I was very disappointed that you seem to have done away with the beautiful announcements for workshops.  Artistic, appealing and good explanations about classes.  What happened??  Anyway, I am one of the ones that is not thrilled about this new wordy format.  I am bored without the visuals, vision and feeling that went into describing what courses Shambhala had to offer.”

Our plan: add back more images as we get “the bones” of the new message structure stabilized.  (We were always going to enrich the mail messages visually, but are going to do it incrementally, in part depending on recruiting more help with this part of the production process.)


  • “By the way, I cannot access “email us here” under the “What have we done wrong?” paragraph.  Nothing happens.  How ironic.”
  • “Either way, there will ALWAYS be complainers, don’t lose heart! :-)”
  • “Appreciate your efforts designing the new format of the weekly newsletter.”
  • “Thanks for asking for feedback on the new weekly newsletter. I think all of the information is there, but I do find it hard to read… and therefore hard to find information. It might be that it’s because it feels squeezed into 2 narrow columns, like a newspaper.”
  • “Is it lack of time, lack of money, lack of personnel? Or do you still have the old format and I just can’t find it?  I am an Artist and your beautiful photos, pictures and graphics in your announcements gave me inspiration.”

Our plan: avoid “mailto” links without the underlying email address (instead we’ll use something like “stay in touch by writing us at pub-team (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org”).   Also we’ll keep working at it and keep asking for feedback.  For example, one generous person wrote a long message about quotes, beautiful images, and (ultimately) access to our programs and classes.  Those comments about access have led to a much broader discussion about our resources for producing publicity, about the function of our regular messages, and about access.

And, finally, what we need from (some of ) you

We need your help especially if you can give a little time on a regular basis for selecting images, gathering quotes, producing email messages and program flyers, and other communications or publicity tasks.  If you are interested, drop us a line or get in touch with our volunteer coordinator at hello (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org.

Got an idea for a program or event?

July 17th, 2013 by John David Smith

We want your input for programs and activities at the Portland Shambhala Center!

As we plan the Calendar for 2014 we’d love to hear from you about the kind of activities, programs, and events you might like to see offered in the coming year.

  • Have you participated in a wonderful program or activity at another Shambhala Center that you’d love to see offered here in Portland?
  • Are you curious about a topic that you think would be inspiring, thought provoking, etc.?
  • Have you experienced a great Shambhala teacher you’d love to see teach in Portland in 2014?

shambhala-light-bulbWhile we can’t guarantee that our community has the resources to implement everyone’s wonderful ideas, we do want to receive input as we consider how to make decisions about what we might offer in the coming year.

Please send your ideas, inspiration, thoughts and more to us at: [email protected]

If on the other hand you want to send us a full proposal for a program or event, let us know and we’ll send you the proposal form.

The Calendaring Group

Lisa Stanley, Center Director
Michael McCormick, Practice and Education Director
Candace Stoughton, Director of Societal Health and Well-being

North-Northeast Delek bike ride

July 10th, 2013 by John David Smith

North/Northeast Delek joined the Sunday Parkways Rides on June 23, 2013.  Though the contingent was small, the ride was a blast!



July 10th, 2013 by John David Smith

(or reporting from Scappoose Bay on the hottest day of the year)

Step 1–Take your seat:


Step 2–Bring your attention to the “out breath”:


Step 3–Gather in functional silence:



Step 4–Stroke practice:


Step 5–Row, row, in a row:


Step 6–Open your 5 senses:

image001a image003a









is no Step 7!




Dan Rubin plenary talk and the Portland Buddhist Festival

July 6th, 2013 by John David Smith

On June 1st, one of those bright Saturdays before Portland’s Junuary rains, the Portland Buddhist Festival was held this year in Colonel Sumner Park with booths from Dharma centers, talks, momo’s (that sold out) and more.


The sun highlighting booths on either side.

Talks and discussions were held in the Pavillion:


Where we would have been huddling if the normal June rains had been falling.

The Shambhala Center was represented by a booth, by Shastri Jacobson on a panel and by Dan Rubin in a plenary address.


Lisa Stanley, John Light, and Kim Crossman handed out leaflets, talked with people and with each other.

Here is the text from Dan Rubin’s plenary talk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes impermanence takes effort

July 1st, 2013 by John David Smith

In some cases impermanence takes care of itself but often we have to make a lot of effort to change things.  When Portland got its new website several years ago it took a lot of effort to plan, develop and implement.  Over time, however, our website has gradually gotten to look more old-fashioned with no effort on our part as neighboring Shambhala centers in San FranciscoSeattleBellingham and Victoria, BC have migrated to a new web template that runs on WordPress.

Our current website was created a few years ago by Lisa Ricci, Davee Evans and others. It gathers all kinds of information about our community and its activities into one place.  We register for programs, find out how things work, and contact each other through the website.
But Lesa Ricci has temporarily moved to Toledo, Ohio (we expect a report soon); Davee Evans has moved to San Francisco, where he has been designing controls and user interfaces for refrigerator-sized gene-sequencing machines, teaching at the Shambhala Center, marrying Kate Merrill and having a baby:
Oona Josephine Merrill Evans!

Oona Josephine Merrill Evans!

Apart from the rather antique appearance of our current website, the fact that only one or two people can update any page on the website becomes a problem; it’s difficult to update.  In June, the Portland Shambhala Center Council decided that we should get in the queue for the new website template.  So it’s only a matter of time (and a lot of effort, including some fund-raising) till we switch to a design that looks like our neighbors up and down the West Coast.  Have a look at some of the features and at a map of the journey for moving on.
If you would like to participate in the move – along with others who have been helping to prepare for the move – drop me a line at John (dot) Smith (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org.