December 22, 2007

Merry merry and happy happy


A Buddhist teacher, the Vajra Regent, Osel Tendzin, once asked me what I wanted from my meditation practice. I told him I wanted to be happy. He shook his head, said (more or less) happiness is ephemeral. Contentment is a more stable (noble) goal and perhaps I had already achieved some of that. I don’t think I had then but more so now.

Yet, I’ll still take some happy!

Posted by leya at 03:26 PM

October 22, 2006

Taking refuge

A week ago last Sunday I went to the Refuge Ceremony at the Shambhala Centre here in Halifax. My friend Heidi was taking refuge, becoming a Buddhist. The ceremony is about taking refuge in the Buddha (the teacher), the dharma (the teachings) and the sangha (the community of other Buddhists). When I took refuge in 1979, the ceremony was given by the Vajra Regent, Osel Tendzin, then the main student of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Regent talked mostly about refuge as giving up, leaving “trivial pursuits”, ambitions, strivings, behind, embracing our loneliness as sentient beings on the path. As Buddhists, we know that there is no external salvation. It is up to each individual.

Sunday’s Refuge Ceremony was given by the Sakyong, Mipham Rinpoche, Trungpa's son and current head of the Shambhala Community. His emphasis was on embracing the community, being with others who are meditating and learning and helping us. We have the teacher, the teachings and each other to guide and encourage us. This is a very rich path. However you talk about it.

Posted by leya at 08:24 PM

February 21, 2005

Good night Irene; I'll see you in my dreams

Michael Enright interviewed Robert Thurman, a student of the Dalai Lama and teacher of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, yesterday morning on CBC radio (The Sunday Edition). (Yes, Robert is the father of Uma.) The topic was anger. And there was a lot of laughing between the two of them about the topic. Obviously anger as a topic can be funny because we all experience it at some point and sometimes we react in very silly ways. Mr. Thurman was saying that anger comes as a result of frustration. It is important, therefore, to do something to relieve the frustration before it builds up into an explosive, aggressive situation. Intervene before you blow up, lose control.

He said it is necessary to observed our own reactions so that we know when anger will be a result. Or if we cannot change a situation, we can use the energy to get away from it, to change ourselves if we cannot change things outside ourselves. We need to cultivate the ability to be non-violent. He used the analogy of martial arts skills: when an opponent attacks, stay cool, step aside or turn the energy back onto the opponent to subdue it.

This discussion reminded me of when I had an interview with the Vajra Regent, Osel Tenzin, the day after I had taken Buddhist refuge vows, twenty-five years ago. I had been a regular practitioner and student at the New York City Dharmadhatu (now the Shambhala Centre) for about six months but had been uncomfortable about many things I saw and some of the ways people behaved. When I asked about this, about what to do when I was upset this way, he told me to respect my observations but step back from them, let the anger cool and then proceed, if necessary. When you act from anger people do not listen. It just generates more anger. No matter how much intelligence is in the observation, if there is too much heat in the expression, it is lost.

I always remembered that conversation. Having a tendency to be a bit hot-tempered at times but not having appropriate skills to make the anger useful, his words have been very helpful.

Posted by leya at 08:07 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2005

The rooster (or in this case hen) crows!

Yesterday was the Buddhist and/or Chinese New Year. There were celebrations of many kinds: meditation, talks, drink, food, socializing, etc, to welcome in the year of the wooden cock (yes, I know!). My day started at 7 am with a group meditation practice at the centre in Halifax, then breakfast, socializing, more mediation, then over to Pier 21, that stage that has hosted much activity, men coming from all over the world recently to talk here, one Tibetan from Vancouver, one Tibetan from (currently) here (mostly), and a Texan.

At the Pier we listened to the telephone company conducting an international hookup between the 101 Shambhala Buddhist meditation centres around the world. And then in his address Mipham Rinpoche, the director and head of the organization, encouraged us to develop compassionate thought and action over the coming year.

It was all very moving and friendly, cheerful, soft. (I had wet, teary eyes throughout.) Leaving the building I heard a couple mention they needed a ride home. So I offered my services, happy to have more than just me and artwork in my large vehicle. When they gave me directions to their house, I mentioned that, yes, I knew where they lived. I told the woman I had had a reading with her many years ago (she is a respected psychic astrologer in Halifax). And then, without censoring my comments at all, I said: �You killed off most of my family, but they are still alive, thankfully.� (She really had said many things to me that day which were all wrong, including a car accident for me that I missed, divorces that didn�t happen, children that weren�t conceived, and the family members who, thankfully, haven�t died.)

Fortunately, she was sitting in the back seat so I didn�t have to look at her after that uncensored outburst! I did quickly change the subject to more neutral topics to try to make amends, be more compassionate, but it was actually something I had been wanting to say for those many years after that misguided reading. And maybe it was misguided to tell her how off she was after that many years but I certainly hadn�t planned it nor knew that I could be so blunt with her.

But, nevertheless, in many ways I am thankful for how awful the reading was. It broke my addiction to thinking someone else had an answer to my puzzling life journey!

Posted by leya at 07:16 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2005

Fancy the mind

The past few days have been like basking in warm sunshine even though it is way below freezing outside. Dzongsar Rinpoche is without doubt a wonderful teacher. And hearing the dharma again after (for me) a long absence feels good. He is teaching about a meditation practice I have spent a lot of time with and continue to want to know better. His perceptions help my understanding of what I have done and want to do with my mind, mind training with the best.

But what fascinates me at times is that, even in the midst of hearing these teachings about how all human beings have within themselves the capacity to become enlightened, about the power of compassion, sometimes (although thankfully less as the teaching continues) I can meet people I havent seen in years and just want to run as fast as I can in the other direction.

Posted by leya at 08:14 PM

January 28, 2005

The visit

For the next few days (through Tuesday) I am immersing myself in the teachings of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. He is one of my most favorite teachers, taking on difficult topics with wit and intelligence of exceptional perception. He speaks perfect English and talks directly to the Western mind. Dzongsar hasnt been to Halifax in eight years and I dont want to miss a moment of his visit.

I havent spent much time with the Buddhist community here in quite a while. Yesterday I was at the centre helping prepare for the visit, tying knots in protection cords and gathering supplies. It felt like a visit to my parents, knowing that much has changed since my last visit and that I will be on my way soon, my way being a path that includes (these days) more time painting than meditation.

So (along with squeezing in teaching drawing, eating and sleeping) these few days will be a delicious treat. I will be savoring the dharma from a great teacher.

A few words about Dzongsar:

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche was born in Bhutan in 1961, and was recognized as the main incarnation of the Khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He has studied with some of the greatest contemporary masters, particularly H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. In 1989 he established Siddhartha's Intent, with the principal intention of preserving the Buddhist teachings, as well as increasing an awareness and understanding of the many aspects of the Buddhist teaching, beyond the limits of cultures and traditions. Siddhartha's Intent International, headquartered in Vancouver, coordinates international teaching engagements for its primary teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. More information at
Posted by leya at 07:40 AM