Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center

Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center


Face Mortality — Reap More Joy

Nothing like a deadly pandemic to remind us that “death comes for all” actually applies to us, too!

Buddhists get a bad rap about death - lots of people think we’re morbid or depressed because we think about it a lot. But it’s really the opposite - we bring our minds back to mortality so that we can defuse our fear and thus open to life more.

Many in the West run in terror from death, as if it were some kind of monster that’s out to get us. We’re so busy fleeing that we can’t stop and get to know what we’re running away from. The meditative reaction to any fear is to slow down, “invite it over for tea,” and get friendly. Make it familiar - and our reactions to it, too.

Think - without death, there’d be about 100 billion people on the planet today - with over 141 million more each year! Big trouble. And animals - would they also be “free” from death? I wonder how many feet deep we’d be in writhing critters by now.

But from a less ludicrous point of view, I think we’d have difficulty making sense of life it had no expiration date. If we’re good at procrastinating now, what would we be like if we knew that we could put off until tomorrow forever? Who cares if I’m in a car wreck? So what if my house burns down with me and my family in it? If I don’t have the resources for food - big deal! I think I’ll stay drunk for a hundred years - what’s the worst that could happen? Nah, I haven’t talked to my sister in 30 years - we got time.

Many spiritual traditions - including Buddhism - encourage us to see death as a friendly presence that’s with us all the time. It reminds us to appreciate our lives, which will not last forever. Personally, I still haven’t seen an erupting volcano. That’s been an unwavering life goal since I was a child. Since I’m 70 freakin’ years old, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’m acutely aware that if I don’t turn that fantasy into a real adventure, I will miss it. If I’m alive in a year - and if travel again becomes possible - I intend to make a Major Trip. And I suspect I will gather great joy and awe.

But closer to home: Is a meal just a refueling stop? Or can I wake up a little and savor the tastes and aromas and textures? Someday I’ll be dead, and the smoothness of an avocado will be gone. One of these days, my partner or I will die, and the other will be left. That fact of life need not be frightening - but it does remind me that I won’t be able to hold him forever. So each hug is part of a dwindling supply. That awareness can remind me to pay attention when I touch him - to enjoy him and remember that he’s precious.

Scarcity is part of value in the human calculation: if something’s rare, it’s more precious to us. Mortality reminds us that our experiences are scarce. Even a crappy day is filled with treasures - for most of us, each day has hearing, vision, physical mobility, thought processes, emotion. Even if I’m depressed or angry, I can feel something! That will not be true for all that long. I’d best enjoy these things now.

We Buddhists have a saying: One day, this body will be a co**se. With the right mindset, it’s not an invitation to fear. It’s a friendly goad to mindfulness: I won’t always be here. The joys and terrors of living will end. None of this is disposable! Wake up! Savor! Enjoy this precious life while you can!

People who work with the dying report that those who fear death often struggle terribly and die with pain and terror. Those who accept that death is natural and not to be hated often die with peace and even joy. In this pandemic, it’s worth our time to invite death in for tea - to befriend this inevitable companion. We can still mourn the passing of those we love; we will miss them, and there will be a painful hole in our lives. But a death can remind us that we are still here. We retain this body that can experience such joys - both extraordinary, like my longed-for volcano, and mundane, like an avocado.

It seems like a silly admonition, but remember that you’re alive! Look for the shower of delight and joy in each day - because those things are inherent in being alive. The fact that we only occasionally notice doesn’t mean that the shower isn’t there. But when we go through the day in a dulled-out trance, the joy may as well be absent, for all we know.

Imagine a young, struggling person buys a fixer-upper house. They make it a home, however sparse their limited means allow. For decades, they live a modest life there. After a few decades, the wooden floors are shot - and the owner at last has enough resources to pull them up and replace them. The owner finds, between the joists beneath the floorboards, rank upon rank of gold bricks, left there by the previous, miserly owner. How odd that our no-longer-young homeowner has been fabulously wealthy since the day they moved in, but they lived a life of not-quite-poverty. They’ve lived with riches but didn’t know it. With the help of contemplating our mortality, we can “rip up the floorboards” right away. The wealth is ours for the noticing.

So make friends with death - an ever-present reminder of what we each possess.

When people start looking into meditation or Buddhism, they often say that they’re looking for “peace.” As with so many things we want, we usually aren’t really sure what this is, but it sounds like something we’d like. That makes perfect sense - if we knew all about what we think we want, we’d already have most of it, wouldn’t we? So these often vague longings give us a direction in which to move.

But we quickly find that if we sit down to try to “achieve peace,” we fail. Instead, be feel discontent that we can’t find it. We realize that we don’t know what it is, so we judge ourselves for not understanding something so important. We try really hard - only to discover that trying really hard is not a peaceful activity.

Buddhism tends to talk more about “equanimity.” According to The American Heritage Dictionary, equanimity is “The quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure. [Latin aequanimitās, from equanimus, even-tempered, impartial : aequus, even + animus, mind.]” Thus the almost koan-like saying, “The Great Way is easy for one who has no preferences,” the joke being that we all have preferences - usually very strong ones.

Equanimity comes from knowing that everything is part of the path; everything comes and goes; “I” am not the most important thing in the Universe; I don’t have to be so terribly concerned with whether events go as I wish they would. Equanimity is knowing that my glorious victory is another’s tragic loss; that this moment of great joy will soon be just another memory; that the same is true of this moment’s grief. Though things really do affect us, and we really do have strong feelings about those things - those things and feelings are normal events in the course of the world. They aren’t unusual or special or really remarkable. We can feel them without being “captured” by them.

This is where people get the belief that the Buddhist ideal is to be “passive” or unfeeling - that we’re supposed to somehow transcend emotion and not really care. Not at all true. Equanimity doesn’t give us a smidgeon of buffer against the slings and arrows; nor does it tell us that we’re not allowed to have joy.

The experienced practitioner feels the whole gamut - just without turning it into a Greek tragedy or pretending it that it surpasses all joys humanity has ever known. Our experience becomes life-sized - neither bigger nor smaller.

As we sit in meditation - day after day - we see all of the exaggerations and minimizations that are the mind’s habits. If we’re cranky that day, we get to know what cranky is like - and how it passes eventually. If we’re in love that day, we get to see the same things about love. And if we’re sad … and scared … and outraged. It all comes and goes, and it all is something that our own mind conjures up.

This kind of friendly familiarity gradually becomes equanimity. “Ah, yes. Anger is back. Oh, hi, self-righteousness! Come have a seat for awhile. Sadness - you can come, too.” They’re all real in that we feel them - even if we’ve whipped them up on the spot out of pure fantasy. (When your favorite character in a movie dies, you’re sad and upset, even though that person never existed.) The fact that the feelings occur in our own mind doesn’t mean they’re neurotic or somehow unfounded: If a beloved partner leaves, we are genuinely and meaningfully sad - and that sadness occurs in our mind. There’s nothing wrong with the feeling - it’s perfectly natural. Equanimity simply means that we recognize the feeling as something that our mind is creating right now. It doesn’t apply to other people; it’s not a characteristic of the Universe-at-Large; and it will pass.

So someone with equanimity doesn’t fear that the bad feeling will go on forever, or hope that the good feeling will do the same. They suffer less from the sense of distress that the whole world isn’t in mourning because someone they love has died. There’s less sense that other people must be crazy because they aren’t as outraged over Issue X as I am.

As noted before, with equanimity, our responses and feelings stay life-sized, rather than being exaggerated or minimized. So situations and emotions don’t knock us off our feet. They’re all “just” events - maybe big ones, maybe small ones - but we’re left with the ability to see ourselves and our world as they actually are - and then take the next, needed step.

We’ve got a pandemic at the moment. Will I get sick? Will I die? What about people close to me? Should I panic? Should I not care? Equanimity dispenses with these questions. They aren’t real, in the sense that they are speculations, not actual events. The pandemic is real - there are real, sick people, and some of them have died; others will die. But speculation about the future and what it’ll be like is pointless.

We’re not hoarding at my house. I’ve gone out in search of paper towels, not out of desperate fear that we’ll be caught short, but because we’re running out. I wanted to find a 2-roll pack, just like always, but of course there weren’t any towels, despite several trips to stores. When I finally found some, days later, there were only 6-roll packs, so that’s what I got. The biggest concern was where to store the extras in a tiny apartment. We’re taking the social distancing order seriously, staying mostly at home. But if there’s good cause to go out, we go out - and take appropriate precautions.

Equanimity takes practice. We sit on the cushion and take a friendly, non-judgmental look at our mind as it unfolds within us. Just in the natural course of doing that, we notice the times that our stories about reality knock us off our pins and take us out of present reality. After awhile, we notice that process as it starts out, instead of long after we’ve run screaming down the rabbit-hole. Instead of, “Oh my god, I’m dooooommed!” we start realizing, “Ah. I usually start freaking out right about now. May be I can skip that today.” Instead of, “This is incredible! I’ve finally found the Answer!” our practice introduces us to, “I’m so tempted to act like this will fix everything. I wonder how it will actually be useful and how it will flop.”

As it turns out, this is really peaceful. We get to be who we are - no more and no less - in the situation where we actually find ourselves. We’re not so wrapped up in a story that we can’t perceive what’s actually happening, so we’re free to respond appropriately. We can see a rabbit hole, notice it, and walk past it.

All it takes is practice. (Yeah - there’s always a catch!) Thinking about the process is only minimally useful. It’s that act of sitting with the mind - practicing suspending judgment of what it does - practicing the awareness that everything we find there is simply something that the mind is producing, even down to basics, like visual perception. It’s that friendly familiarity that gives us the amazing power to recognize our own mental process as it happens in daily life. That’s when we can address an insult with curiosity rather than outrage. That’s when we can feel a sudden infatuation and wonder if it will really develop into something meaningful. That’s when we can be in the middle of a pandemic and simply do what’s needed at this moment - without a lot of hopes and fears running us down a series of rabbit holes.

Offering free meditation instruction & classes & workshops in Shambhala Buddhism & contemplative art. Public Meditation on Tuesdays at 7pm The Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center is part of an international community of urban meditation and rural retreat centers founded in 1973 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, artist, author and poet.

We welcome people of any spiritual background or way of life, and offer a variety of ways to engage in Shambhala Buddhist practice. We emphasize a commitment to the practice of sitting meditation as a way to awaken our true nature and actualize it in our daily lives. We invite you to join us in this wonderful journey.

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Suffering is not holding you, you are holding suffering. - Buddha


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Today is Thich Nhat Hanh's 94th birthday, or even more accurately, his "continuation day".

To celebrate today, we invite you to:

Read inspiring messages of gratitude from Thay's students: https://plumvillage.org/articles/happy-contination-day-thay-thank-you/

Walk in freedom: https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/blog/walking-in-freedom

Watch this video of Thay explaining why it is a continuation day: https://youtu.be/eQ-y7Amn0F4

And read stories from Thay's monastic students: https://plumvillage.org/articles/bamboo-shoots-and-tea/


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If you collect 100 black ants and 100 red ants and put them in a glass jar nothing will happen, but if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other. Reds believe that black is the enemy while black believes that red is the enemy when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar. The same is true in society.

Men vs Women
Left vs Right
Rich vs poor
Faith vs Science
Gossip, rumors, etc ...

Before we fight each other, we must ask ourselves: Who rocked the jar?













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Repost @ethannichtern 🙏
There is no neutral. The basis of the path is acknowledging that I have a position. That’s what mindfulness is. I have a location. I have karma. I have biases. I am part of an interdependent system. I am making choices, both consciously and unconsciously. Without acknowledging our relative position, the path can’t even start. Feigning neutrality is an obstacle. Neutrality is a confused view of reality. Equanimity is not neutrality. Compassion is not neutrality. Emptiness is not neutrality. The Middle Path is not neutrality. Those of us with privilege might do well to question why we ever thought neutrality was the goal.

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medium.com **Note this article is continually updated to ensure each item is accurate and needed today.**




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Be kind to every creatures.




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Flooding the world with your kindness ~ Pema Chödron

Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.

– Pema Chödron

from the book "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times"
ISBN: 978-1570629693 - https://amzn.to/15fmKwx

Pema Chödron on the web:

Pema Chödron biography:




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Love this artwork by Madison Bright 🌱


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More information about our programs, events and trainings on our monthly calendar at: http://dallas.shambhala.org/programs/monthly-calendar/

*Learn to meditate: Free instruction on Tuesday evenings
*Practice with a group: Tuesday evenings; Sunday mornings
*Evening and weekend classes and programs.


3839 W. Kiest Blvd
Dallas, TX

General information

Get regular updates by signing up for our mailing list: http://www.dallas.shambhala.org/index.php -------------------------------------- Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, and Shambhala Training are registered service marks of Shambhala International (Varjadhatu).

Opening Hours

Tuesday 19:00 - 21:00
Sunday 11:15 - 13:15
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