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Lions Roar : July 2015
I’d like to set up an altar in my practice space. What should I include? There are no hard-and-fast rules. Let your inspiration and a sense of offering be your guides. You might, for example, include a statue or image of a Buddha, a bodhisattva, or Buddhist deity that inspires you and connects you with awakened mind. People often put photographs of dharma teachers and other inspiring figures on their shrines, or pictures of lost loved ones. Most Buddhist shrines also contain offerings to the buddhas and other realized beings. These are usually symbolic offerings of the sense pleasures, such as a candle (sight), incense (smell), a piece of fruit or cookie (taste), etc. Whatever it is, if it helps your practice-space feel more like “home” and inspires your meditation, it’s fine to include it on your shrine. Meditation sometimes doesn’t feel pleasurable to me. Any tips? As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “You have to learn how to sit without fighting. If you know how to sit like that, sitting is very pleasant.” (And, he adds, if you can’t sit like that, it’s okay to not sit at all.) But he and other teachers do have some time-tested tips for us. First, when taking your meditation seat, take some big in- and out-breaths. This will “prime the pump,” as it were, allowing your breath to settle and become more natural and less forced. Walking meditation is also a good way to shift your state of mind and enjoy the movement of your body. (Visit LionsRoar.com for easy-to-follow walking meditation instruction.) Then there’s the practice of the “inward smile,” which involves almost no effort at all. How to do it is right there in the name: simply allow yourself to crack a smile slight enough that you feel it but that it’s not outwardly visible. (Sort of the opposite of that old Coke jingle about “the smile you can’t hide.”) If that doesn’t come easily, you might find it helpful to pretend for a moment that you have a happy secret you’d like to share, but can’t just yet. There’s been plenty of research that suggests that going out of our way to smile can make us feel at more ease; likewise, the inward smile can make your meditation time feel more pleasurable right away. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? CRESTONE, COLORADO IT’S A SLEEPY Colorado town with a few shops, one gas pump, about a thousand residents—and perhaps the most concentrated Buddhist community anywhere in North America. It started in the 1970s, when Canadian tycoon and dip- lomat Maurice Strong bought hundreds of square miles of land around Crestone and gave much of it away to religious groups. Today, this small community is home to nine Buddhist centers—seven in the Tibetan tradition and two Zen communities. The late 16th Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism, was one of the first religious leaders to visit Crestone, and he felt it could become a hub of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. He established the Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang center in Crestone, which now features retreat cabins and a 41-foot stupa. Three important Kagyu teach- ers—Thrangu Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and Gangten Tulku Rinpoche—established their own centers in Crestone, joined by Nyingma teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and Reginald A. Ray, a Western teacher and scholar in the Vajrayana tradition. Crestone Mountain Zen Center was founded by Richard Baker Roshi, a former leader of the San Francisco Zen Center. Dragon Mountain Temple describes itself as an experimental Zen temple in the Suzuki Roshi tradition. Today, Crestone is a rich place to visit and study the dharma. The Tibetan centers offer programs ranging from morning meditation to three-year retreats, and even teachings in a traditional Tibetan tent. Crestone Mountain Zen center offers regular one-week and three- month retreats and Zen-based wilderness expeditions. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at firstname.lastname@example.org. SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 35 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE