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I started meditating on a regularly sporadic basis a number of years ago.  It wasn’t a resurrection of the kind of meditation I learned and practiced in the ’70’s — TM, or Transcendental Meditation, where a secret/sacred word, or mantra, was used in repetition as an energy focus. No. Rather, it has been a somewhat intuitive practice of sitting developed out of a weekend of small learning at an MCU Buddhist University meditation weekend in Thailand a few years ago.

I’ve meditated without direction or instruction for most of my practice. Informed by the short instruction received in Thailand and a variety of readings, tapes, books and dvd’s — largely Chogyam Trungpa‘s and Pema Chodron‘s work — I have developed a mostly regular practice of mindfulness meditation and awareness meditation which has been helpful and powerful in my life and for moving beyond my self.

That being said, the cushion is not always my friend. Ha. Surely not. Sitting can be challenging and well as rejuvenating. It is not always easy to be quiet with my self or to allow my self to be quiet,  though it is always about being a friend to my self. Tough lessons really. Damn cushion. But, I am digressing.

As my own idiosyncratic practice developed, I began to wonder what people with instruction did while they sat and what on earth would they speak with an instructor about. So, earlier this year, I began to attend meditation weekends in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition.  The Way of Shambhala this path of learning is called. The weekends have followed the teachings from Shambhala: The Sacred Path Of The Warrior. I like that they abbreviate this to WOS because it makes me think of a workout routine. The WOS is challenging and the sequelae are profound and far-reaching.

Sitting in meditation for long periods of time is trying. Not attending to thoughts, not thinking, is tough. Seriously. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding.  Whew! It can be downright exhausting!

Physically there are challenges of sore hips, stiff knees, falling asleep, sore back and shoulders, and obstructed circulation causing numbness or that ‘falling asleep’ sensation in your feet and legs.  Just try to stand up after a seated practice period on a leg that is pins and needles from hip to toe…holy lurching walking meditation batman!

All these wonderful physical complaints become my work on the cushion, providing distraction and allowing me to stay in safe places. Getting bravely beyond them is important.

Thankfully, short periods of walking meditation can punctuate longer periods of seated practice. It is also possible to begin or end long sessions with stretching or LuJong or Shamatha Yoga.

Shamatha Yoga is a short, nine posture flow constructed to provide both loosening of the body during formal sitting and opportunity to use posture and movement as part of a mindfulness practice.  Stretching, moving body energy, and encouraging flexibility, the specific sequence of Shamatha Yoga allows for the experience of physicality and a return to the sitting practice fresh and renewed.

Joining heaven and earth with this simple but profound series allows me, as a practitioner, to mindfully wed a sense of being engaged in my body on this earth with the spaciousness and vastness experienced in meditation.

The Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche developed this series in conjunction with yoga masters.

My daughters, aged 23 and 15 in the video, demonstrate the postures at different levels of ability.

While looking at the video, be mindful of these postures:

  • EARTH – scanning the body in order to fully relax; feel solid
  • GREAT EASTERN SUN – how to lead our lives with openness and joy
  • GATHERING THE MIND – taming the mind with mindfulness; a loving heart
  • OFFERING – generosity, serving others
  • COURAGE – to be present, to cultivate an awake mind
  • WARRIOR – in the world, warriors search for inner and outer peace
  • FOUR DIRECTIONS – representing the four noble truths
  • GARUDA & TWISTING GARUDA – a great winged bird born ready for full flight, intelligent and cognizant of a detailed social structure
  • JOINING HEAVEN & EARTH – vastness and groundedness joined in mindfulness.

The series would begin and end with a bow.

Below, please enjoy Choyce and Jaz as they perform the nine postures of Shamatha Yoga.  Each does so within their ability, as you should. The series of postures is a lovely antidote to work on the cushion just as it is a wonderful companion to work on the cushion.



On the weekend passed, I attended a program on Contentment In Everyday Life at Dorje Denma Ling.  The opportunity to explore and deepen my sitting practice was appreciated and the richness of experience shared by other program participants was an important part of the weekend.  The program instructors were wise and helpful and humourous. It was good.

doing dishes at ddl

The kitchen at DDL fascinates me and I find myself drawn to rota duties which allow me to prep meals or do dishes. I most prefer the meal preparation and appreciate how I can be of service by washing, peeling, dicing, slicing, wiping, storing, fetching, rinsing. Mindfully. Appreciative of the small human symphony conducted sweetly by Lucy, the kitchen manager, and which produces delicious, nutritious, colourful, bountiful, earth-inspired compassion-filled meals. What a truly authentic and meaningful way to practice.

So, while I sat on my cushion, munched on sour chickpeas and chocolates, performed contemplations, and explored experiences of gentleness, nowness and inquisitiveness, Udo provided a lovely stand-in at home in the sunday soup department.  When I walked into the house late Sunday evening, he was dishing up single serving portions of Split Pea Soup. Love.

Split Pea Soup


  • 2c split peas, rinsed
  • smoked pork hock (the smokey flavour is important, so if you are vegetarian substitute in some liquid smoke or…simply enjoy the soup with a glass of Bowmore)
  • 1/2c onions, chopped
  • 1c celery, chopped
  • 1/2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1tsp sugar
  • dash cayenne
  • 1/4tsp thyme
  • 2tbsp ghee
  • 2tbsp flour


In a large pot of water (about 10c) cook split peas and pork hock for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until tender.

Add onion, celery and carrots, simmer an additional half hour.

Add to pot garlic, bay leaf, sugar, cayenne and thyme (and liquid smoke if substituting).

Chill soup and remove fat.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan and stir in flour until well blended.  Slowly add a small amount of the soup to the mixture. Cook and stir until it comes to a boil and then add it to the rest of the soup, stirring until incorporated.

This is another wonderful winter soup and I’d have to add that this is an exceptionally delicious batch he has wrought.

along the road to ddl

On the weekend passed I attended Levels 1 and 2 of Shambhala Training. The teaching provides a path toward and foundation for a mindfulness meditation practice.  Based on the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as collected and shared in The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Shambhala Training is sometimes referred to as secular buddhism.

Held in the beautiful snow-rich setting of Dorje Denma Ling in Nova Scotia, some 35 or so participants attended.  Offered by David Burkholder and a small cadre of staff, assistants and volunteers, the instruction combined gentle bodywork with meditation training and practice.  David is wise, gentle, amused and amusing, broadly intelligent, challenging.

buddhist meditation retreat

I have had a sporadic sitting practice for a bit more than 4 years, inspired by some brief instruction and a meditation retreat in Thailand in 2006 through MCU Buddhist University.  In the past year or so my practice has become more consistent but in need of instruction/guidance/exploration.

The Dorje Denma Ling weekend began with bodywork based largely on Will Johnson‘s work on The

fun on retreat

Posture of Meditation. Alignment, relaxation, resilience are the key principles to settling the physical body. We performed Shamatha yoga, a simple series of postures elaborated by the Sakyong, Mipham Rinpoche connecting mindfulness of body to a sitting practice. We particpated in body scans and lovely stretches. Taking care of our physicality allowed us to sit more gently and work with mind.

Discovering basic goodness in the world and in ourselves was the first level of instruction. Cultivating our willingness to observe our habitual fear and defense mechanisms – the protection of our conceptualizations – was the second level.  In each level, sitting and walking meditation practice allowed space and time to explore the teachings.

serene beauty

We sat. We walked. We sat. We walked. We sat. We walked. We sat.

And so I continue with my practice. It is important.

I might also mention the  incredible meals and lovely teas which were offered us and which helped sustain us through some challenging hours.  The food at Dorje Denma Ling is gaining some measure of reknown. Compassionate nourishment.

In the garden of gentle sanity, May you be bombarded by the coconuts of wakefulness.

~ Chogyam Trungpa

class schedule