Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Critical Devotion: A Second Letter from Miriam on Shambhala

Dear reader,

I have wondered if there was another letter in me. The first letter, and the following piece came out like a birth and afterbirth - I wrote them quickly, while still in the full pain feeling strength of the beginning of the situation. Since then, I have noticed my feelings dulling a bit, not because the situation has gotten less intense, but because my need to feel so deeply has modulated itself. Not to mention the fact that more complex emotions and thoughts are layering on top of each other now.

But then a student told me how helpful the first letter was - in fact, she and other remote Shambhalians (those without centers near them) had used it as basis for a conversation about what is happening, and others wrote their own letters after reading mine. I realized I do have some things to say, but mostly I have confusion to report.

Why should I report confusion? Because if I do it clearly, others will possibly see their own confusion mixed in mine. And, even more likely, others - or even I - will see the wisdom mixed in the confusion, because that is how wisdom and confusion roll. So here is a mix of experience, emotion, and thought, offered to you in order to help you find some resonance and consolation, clarity, and direction. Please take what you can and leave what you can't; it's not offered as debate, really, more as a sense of what a leader/teacher in Shambhala is thinking and feeling about all of this.

In a conversation with a meditation student this morning, she offered that this situation is like a muddy river - which is an analogy we use a lot in meditation instruction in Shambhala. Our minds often seem more like muddy rivers, but when we sit, the true nature of the water begins to reveal itself: clear, so long as we let the mud not disappear but settle into place. This situation won't settle for awhile - we are going to be in a muddy river a long time it seems, but that doesn't mean we can't work with our minds. In some ways, that's the main thing we can do now.

If you haven't read the first letter, please do. Respect the time and effort I put into writing these and see the context. May they all be of benefit.

1. War Zone/Apocalypse
A couple of weeks ago, a senior teacher told me I am now living in a sort of war zone. I blinked. What on earth could he mean? He explained how it was for him, when he lived through CTR's death and also the awful incidents around the death of VROT. The situation was constantly changing, with very little predictability. Important people would suddenly drop power or be put out of power, and news hit like bombs, blowing apart communities. Infighting, confusion, mass chaos. Ergo, war zone.

A few days later, without my repeating that line, an Acharya I was speaking to repeated the same thing. Clearly there was some resonance here, as these two teachers don't even know each other.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Where I Am

(This is a further exploration - this time more felt sense - of what is "going on right now in Shambhala." See this previous blog post for the details/what is going on, and resources/links. I think this likely stands on its own as writing, but context can help. "Where I Am" is a default prompt from Saundra Goldman's #continuouspractice community.)

Revised image:
Sandstorm by Linda Mead (shared with me, and given permission to me by the artist,
because she thought of this piece she made previously while reading this writing). 
I am in the desert. I thought this was an oasis, a placed beyond place, a respite from all the loss, the losses of all these years. Fear kept me here, in this mirage, convinced of that "What you see is what you get."  

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Letter from Miriam on the Current Shambhala Situation

A drawing I made this week when I couldn't write about this yet.

I am writing today as a teacher, Vajrayana sangha member/student, and lineage holder in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Most of my life is deeply entwined in Shambhala; all I teach has at least some if not a lot of contact with Shambhala. Today is the end of a very long and hard week for those of us in Shambhala, and I want to write to you about some of my story this week with my feelings (first) then thoughts (second) and resources (last).

Some of these things have appeared elsewhere – in Facebook conversations, in personal exchanges with others – some of these are new. I wanted to compile them all together for myself, for my fellow sangha members who are suffering, and for those confounded by the news and outside the circumstance all together. Everything I say here is in my own words and my own experience, however, I don’t exist in a bubble and I have been greatly inspired, and supported by many folks this week, especially my Shambhala Office of Social Engagement peeps this week.

I will insert a trigger warning here, because there is mention of sexual abuse and clergy sexual misconduct. I myself am a sexual abuse survivor, though I have never experienced abuse in this lineage. Please read with care – lots of self-care and also care for me and for other survivors who tell their stories. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Surprise - and Not Surprise - of Death

This last Sunday, one of our long-term Madison Shambhala sangha members died. Fred Mather had ongoing health issues, heart ones amongst them, and so his death wasn't a surprise in a sense. Yet, of course, when we think someone might die soon and they don't, as happened a couple of times with Fred in the last few years, actual death comes as a surprise.

A friend asked today if I know how to handle death - then answered her self by saying I must, considering how many deaths I have been through. But I told her I don't really. I am not sure we ever know - she and I wondered over what "death skills" would be and how one acquires them - because each death is unique. And in addition, all the deaths I have experienced have either be traumatizing or re-traumatizing, so what I associate with death is trauma, not just grief and loss.

Friday, June 01, 2018

What is Contemplative Writing, Again?

Recently I had an experience in an online class where I found myself going off in a way different direction, while writing, than I expected. Actually, I didn't know what to expect, and I ran into a trigger - a memory which carries trauma associated with it. I made the decision to *not* write about that, and came up with this piece. The prompt was "What are birds saying?"

It helped *me* clarify some things about how contemplative writing relates to formal contemplative practices. So here, for your exploration, is the piece as I wrote it, with very little alteration.

What are the birds saying when? Immediately my mind scatters in many directions. I could write part of this memoir or that project. I could use this time to write about writing. But can I just be here, in my weekly air conditioned second floor home office, with a huge fan blowing semi-cool air around the room?             
There are no birds in here.            

Oh. Fuck.