Sacred West

Buddhism and Modern Life

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Shambhala Training Level One Gets To The Moment

August 25th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: Shambhala Training

It’s Monday morning and I’m coming back slowly to this workaday world, after volunteering to staff a weekend intensive at the Austin Center. This was Shambhala Training Level I, otherwise known as “The Art of Being Human”.

Something is happening at these beginner levels, it seems to me: secret master practitioners are infiltrating, or else the world is simply becoming more profound.

Level I is supposed to introduce the practitioner to the basic technique of mindfulness meditation, the practice of going out with the breath, letting go of our attachment to thoughts by allowing them to fade away as we return our focus to the breath, again and again.

This is usually such a wearying experience, as I well recall, for meditators to sit endlessly all day and face up to just how much hard work it is to return one’s focus of attention to something so ever-present and simple as one’s own breathing.

But not in this class. This weekend was buzzing with active pursuit of the moment itself, nature of mind, nature of thought, and ways and means to get down and meditate.

On Saturday morning, barely into the first trial run at the experience, one participant wanted to know why we can’t hold the moment, when we can hold all the other junk we call our thoughts. She talked about dotting the “i” of the moment, and learned of course that the dot is moving, the “i” is moving, and it’s all moving.

And I think in amazement, it wasn’t like this at my Level One – who are these people, to have such brilliant experiences first time with Shamatha meditation, to see mind, and play with the moment, and ask innocent questions from such skillful experience?

There was a time – is what I’m trying to say – when it would have been a major coup simply to experience the moment, let alone to get specific about its impermanence, and to monitor its vapor trails.

I think: wait a minute, Level V is when you’re supposed to experience the moment, not Level I. Ah, how useful to be humbled in these beginner classes. This is when I realize how poorly still I’ve mastered the practice technique, how poorly maybe I’ve even heard the instruction yet.

Thankfully for these realizations, the core teaching of all five Levels in Shambhala Training is gentleness, being kind to oneself.

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