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Inside the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine Print

Look inside the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine

FEATURING: Sylvia Boorstein, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and more on getting free from habitual patterns of thinking, relating, and acting; Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on three principles that bring dharma into our lives today; ABC News anchor Dan Harris talks meditation with Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Mark Epstein; Norman Fischer's "Useless Advice," book reviews, "About a Poem," and more.

Click titles below to read excerpts and select complete articles.

This issue's editorial:

• A World of Skillful Means

Melvin McLeod on the communication of dharma in a world of new media.

Special feature section: Get Off the Wheel of Habit

Getting free from habitual patterns of thinking, relating, and acting — it's the whole point of Buddhist meditation.

• From Getting Mad to Going Shopping: What's Your Pattern?

Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein on five styles of habitual reaction—and how to free yourself from yours.


• A Bad Day at the Airport

Sylvia Boorstein shares a practice for working with your mind when things aren't going well. 


• Watering the Seeds of Happiness

Not all habits are bad. Happiness is a habit too, says Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Here's how you can make it grow.  


• The Sunlight of Awareness

Shine the warm light of awareness on your thoughts and feelings, says Thich Nhat Hanh.

• How to Bridge the Gap

Whether we're relating to lovers, friends, family, or colleagues, habitual patterns separate us from each other and the present moment. Rose Taylor and Ari Goldfield show us how to cut through old patterns and truly connect.

• 5 Ways to Get Free

Helpful techniques to work with habitual patterns as they arise in the moment.

• Over and Over Again

What happens when negative thought patterns are taken to the extreme? Matt Bieber on his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and how Buddhist practice helps.

• The Natural Liberation of Habits

When you recognize the true nature of mind, says Tsoknyi Rinpoche, all habitual patterns are naturally liberated in the space of wisdom. Plus: Recognizing Clarity, a Dzogchen meditation.


• The Three I's of Twenty-First-Century Dharma

Individuality, Independence, Interdependence—Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on three principles that bring dharma into our lives today.


• You Can't Fail at Meditation

ABC News anchor Dan Harris gets the inside story on mindfulness and compassion from Buddhist teachers Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Mark Esptein.  


• Useless Advice

Zen teacher Norman Fischer has some surprising advice for university graduates: the best thing you can do in life is something that serves no purpose.  


other voices

• Full Engagement

If you zone out or slack off, you're setting yourself up for failure. In our intimate relationships, says Sakyong Mipham, we need to be fully present.  


• Five Things to Give Away

"Slow Cleaning" isn't just drawn-out housecleaning, says Christian McEwen. It's a chance to bring attention to what we have and decide what to let go.  


• Silent Is Part of the Song

Q&A with Meredith Monk.

reviews & more

• Review: Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis

Reviewed by Jessica Morey.

• Books in Brief

This issue's roundup includes books on mindful eating, spirituality for atheists, and the art of awakening as you grow older.

• About a Poem

Sherab Chodzin on the poetry of Kay Ryan. 

Shambhala Sun, November 2014, Volume Twenty Three, Number 2.

On the Cover: Rat photo (c) Dave Bredeson /

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The Sunlight of Awareness (November 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | November 2014

The Sunlight of Awareness

Shine the warm light of awareness on your thoughts and feelings, says THICH NHAT HANH. 

Observe the changes that take place in your mind under the light of awareness. Even your breathing has changed and become “not-two” (I don’t want to say “one”) with your observing self. This is true of all your thoughts, feelings and habits, which, together with their effects, are suddenly transformed.

From time to time you may become restless, and the restlessness will not go away. At such times, just sit quietly, follow your breathing, smile a half-smile, and shine your awareness on the restlessness. Don’t judge it or try to destroy it, because this restlessness is you yourself. It is born, has some period of existence, and fades away, quite naturally. Don’t be in too big a hurry to find its source. Don’t try too hard to make it disappear. Just illuminate it. You will see that little by little it will change, merge, become connected with you, the observer. Any psychological state that you subject to this illumination will eventually soften and acquire the same nature as the observing mind.

Throughout your meditation, keep the sun of your awareness shining. Like the physical sun, which lights every leaf and every blade of grass, our awareness lights our every thought and feeling, allowing us to recognize them, be aware of their birth, duration, and dissolution, without judging or evaluating, welcoming or banishing them.

It is important that you do not consider awareness to be your “ally,” called on to suppress the “enemies” that are your unruly thoughts. Do not turn your mind into a battlefield. Opposition between good and bad is often compared to light and dark, but if we look at it in a different way, we will see that when light shines, darkness does not disappear. It doesn’t leave; it merges with the light. It becomes the light.

To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem. To meditate means to observe. Your smile proves it. It proves that you are being gentle with yourself, that the sun of awareness is shining in you, that you have control of your situation. You are yourself, and you have acquired some peace. It is this peace that makes a child love to be near you.


Adapted from The Sun, My Heart: Reflections on Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight, published by Parallax Press.

From the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Five Ways to Get Free (November 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | November 2014

Five Ways to Get Free

Here are five techniques you can use to work with habitual patterns as they arise in the moment. In the same way that detrimental habits can become ingrained, they can be replaced with new behavioral styles that feel more wakeful and sane. The key is not to expect any quick fixes—please be patient and kind with yourself.

1. Expand Awareness Gain familiarity with your habitual patterns. Notice how you feel when you act out of a habitual tendency. Notice how particular areas of your body may feel uncomfortable. The more you do this, the sooner you will be able to identify your habitual behavior once it starts.

2. Make Space Simply breathing, relaxing your body, and moving into another stance may be enough to shift from, or slow down, a habitual reaction. So when you notice you are acting out of habit in a relational situation, slow down and take some space. Pause to breathe a few times. Feel how your body posture and sensations reflect your reactions to the situation. You may want to delay interaction by suggesting another time to talk, or by letting the other person know you need some time to think and you will get back to them. 

3. Explore Choice When acting out of habit it can be hard even to imagine there are alternative ways of doing things. So it is important to spend some time exploring what other options there are in the situation. Even if these choices seem outrageous or unrealistic, allow yourself to be free and creative. You are not going to act on any of these options yet, so have fun with it. If this step is difficult, imagine how other people, or even characters from books or movies, would act in the same situation.

4. Step into Choice From those options, choose how you want to act. Do not expect a particular result; simply act from the conviction that this is what feels right for you to do. When you first start challenging your habitual patterns, you may feel awkward and wrong-footed, but that lets you know you are in the right place. Even if you choose what you would have habitually done in the first place, it will feel different because you are acting voluntarily and with awareness.

5. Re-Run If you find you have completely played out an interaction from the stuck place of habitual tendency, do not get discouraged or self-critical. It is significant that you noticed your pattern, and you can still work with the situation by re-running it. When did you become aware you were falling into the habit? What could you have done differently? Imagine how that would feel to act in that new way. Doing this will build the power of choice around this habit for the next time it arises.

—Rose Taylor and Ari Goldfield

From the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Bodhi Trees (November 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | November 2014


Bodhi Trees

In nature we see Buddhist truths unfold, while in Buddhism we find ways to heal the natural world. JESSICA MOREY on Minding the Earth, Mending the World.

Minding the Earth, Mending the World
Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis

By Susan Murphy
Counterpoint 2014; 320 pp., $16.95 (paper)

How can we wrap our minds around something so vast as the destruction of the planet, and—instead of going mad or numb—grow interested? And how do we slow down enough to quickly take right action?

These are the opening questions of Susan Murphy’s new book, Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis. Murphy does not shy away from the stark realities of the destruction we are wreaking in every ecosystem on Earth. And though her book is dense with facts, it reads like poetry or a series of koans. The reader can feel the author’s presence, the inspiration of her roosters and dog, and the rhythmic shadow of trees and winter grass outside her window. It’s a book that must be absorbed slowly.

Read the rest of this review inside the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Editorial: A World of Skillful Means (November 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | November 2014


A World of Skillful Means

We live in a whole new world of communications. I think it will be great for the dharma.

We all know the downsides of 24/7 media—how it can separate us from ourselves, others, and the world around us. As our May issue’s cover suggested, such distractions can even distance us from our own potential for enlightenment. But that’s not the whole story.

The new media world offers Buddhists a wealth of skillful means. We can present genuine dharma in more ways, more effectively, to more people. As an editor and a devoted Buddhist, I’m really excited about the future.

Buddhism has always been about meeting people where they are with what they need. It has been a multimedia religion for thousands of years, from tweet-worthy pith instructions to lengthy treatises, spontaneous exchanges to formal lectures, step-by-step diagrams to monumental sacred art. Today the opportunity has never been greater to bring people the dharma they need, when they need it, in the form most helpful to them.

Even in this new world of constant and instant communication, one thing is as true as it’s ever been: it’s good content that creates community, connection, and transformation. For us, that means trustworthy, authentic, accessible dharma.

For more than twenty years, the Shambhala Sun Foundation has been an authoritative voice of Buddhism in the modern world. In the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma, our editors have curated the best dharma teachings, commentary, personal stories, art, and meditation techniques for our readers. I love the great writing, deep teaching, and beautiful feel of the Sun and Buddhadharma. I hope you do too. But for me, it’s never been about the form per se. It’s about what works.

At the Shambhala Sun Foundation, we measure our success in benefit. We aspire to serve people wherever they are on their spiritual path. To help people lead better lives and to benefit society. To always reflect both the profundity and the practicality of the dharma.

These goals can be served beautifully by the skillful means of twenty-first-century media. From print to social media, websites to video, apps to e-books, they offer us depth, breadth, effectiveness, timeliness, and impact. They create connection and community. They bring us the dharma we need, when we need it, wherever we are in our lives.

Taking advantage of this new world isn’t just for traditional publishers anymore. It is a challenge we all face as practitioners. Every one of us today has ways to share our wisdom and experience with others, and hundreds if not thousands of people can benefit.

Today, media is something we do together. This is completely new in human history. Something much richer than the old one-way publishing model is happening. We will co-create the new ways of communicating and spreading the dharma. What had been a publisher and an audience now becomes a community, brought together by our shared commitment to Buddhist teachings and practice.

With the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma magazines as our starting point, the Shambhala Sun Foundation is beginning this important evolution. Let’s do it together. This community needs your wisdom, your feedback, your experience of the dharma, and your support. It’s your participation—in all kinds of ways—that will make it real.

The dharma has made all the difference in my life. I’m sure it has been a great help to you too. Together, let’s offer the benefit of the dharma to many others, in new ways, where they are and when they need it. We can create a new, twenty-first-century union of the practical and the profound. 

—Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-chief

Twitter: @MelvinMcLeodSun

From the November 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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