Portland News Magazine

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).


Learning about leadership from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

March 18th, 2013 by John David Smith

Sakyong Mipham on a video screen at the Portland Shambhala Meditation CenterOn March 16th some fourteen of the people who play a leadership role at the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center met in the main shrine room to watch a video recording of a talk that the Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradul, Rinpoche had recorded a week ago of a talk to Shambhala leaders all over the world.   Just as we all heard somewhat different things in his talk, we were all taking our own notes in our own ways.  But everyone was struck in one way or another.  Here are some of the reflections that people offered afterwards:

John Smith:  For those of us who think we need to take a break, the Sakyong told a story about asking his father what happens after you become enlightened. His father replied, “You go to work.” I found that very moving — a caution about any false notions of what enlightenment might be and a great encouragement to lean into our lives, not tempted to kick back or dream about flaking off.

Melanya Helene: What has really stayed with me is the teaching that our inner work towards inner enlightened society is the basis or ground of the true confidence to engage with the world, to handle challenges compassionately. That without that we are trying to use grafted on confidence and that will not help us hold our seat.

Taking it in at the Sakyong's address to leaders

Meditation Instructors coordinator Lee Scher takes notes on his iPhone and Membership co-coordinator Marc Otto writes it down on paper.

Aletha Eastwood: The thing that struck me the most was the emphasis on getting in touch with our own innate strength or basic confidence as a means of connecting with our own style of leadership. In order to truly lead or hold our seat, we have to be connected with who we are and what inspires us. Having this kind of deep connection with our own basic goodness is what enables us to stay more fully present when challenges come up. The suggestion, too, was that having this kind of deep inner connection with oneself mirrored and enhanced the connection we could build with others, or those we sought to lead.

The Sakyong also spoke about not having all the answers as a leader, but having bravery and confidence in the face of discomfort, becoming comfortable with discomfort. In being fully and resiliently in touch with our selves and our inspiration, we make good leaders. It made me think about how uplifting others, acknowledging and affirming the basic goodness in others, was a path of leadership. On one simple level, by first getting in touch with our own basic goodness, we reveal that possibility to others.

Nancy Smith: I liked that the Sakyong said we need to start by asking ourselves who am I, what do I want, and combined with our mind of practice, that relationship is the basis for our bravery and confidence. It begins to build enlightened society with oneself, which is the starting point for building enlightened society with others and in society.

Angie Reynolds: I was struck by the practicality of his advice. Near the close he told us something to the effect: I hope you are meditating, I hope you are exercising your body, and I hope you have and spend time with friends and socializing… reminding us not to become so absorbed into one thing but to create balance in our lives.

Gardner Murphy: I recall the Sakyong bringing up the issue of balance. Talking about how the fields of nyen and lu, covering all the details and working out relationships and bringing others along, can become the focus of leading, while the connection with lha, inspiration, and lungta can fade. It reminded me of the I-Ching reading from Shambhala Day with image of the lake of joy and richness draining away into the lowlands so that the energy becomes depleted. So the advice about that was to prepare on a personal level for the situations of depletion and to know that is not a permanent state, but it is necessary to attend to one’s own well being at that point.

Melanya Helene: I was struck to contemplate the ways and situations in which I withhold a sense of fundamental trust and encouraged to practice remaining open.

Alice Price: What resonated and awakened within me was his comment that confidence is an innate strength that all of us have. Discovering it is the jewel to hold on to.

Michael McCormick: I was struck, gently but forcibly, by the Sakyong’s framing of leadership as “sacred” – an opportunity to help. This cuts across the many times I have felt leadership as a burden, something that felt like a demand on me. To view it as sacred not only takes the focus off “me,” but reminds me of my fundamental motivation to provide leadership.