Contemplative Creativity Lab is Here!


Ladan Yalzadeh (Seattle Shambhala Center) 


Anne Saitzyk (Los Angeles Shambhala Center)

Calligraphy collage by Anne Saitzyk

If we open our eyes, our minds and our hearts, we will find that this world is a magical place. 

– Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche 

Inspired by the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and led by the global community of Shambhala Art teachers and special guests, Contemplative Creativity Lab is a monthly gathering of those interested in exploring contemplative practices through creativity.

Our purpose is to explore Basic Goodness from the viewpoint of a meditative discipline, including creative process. Connecting with our senses, our environment, our materials, and our heart, any activity becomes a meditation in action. We engage in simple mindfulness and awareness exercises that have the effect of quieting the critical mind in order to create from the foundation of one’s direct experience of the present moment. Square One! This has the effect of cultivating insight and confidence in our unique experience and expression. 

A snapshot of “Honey in the Temple” led by Ladan Yalzadeh last month.

We started the Contemplative Creativity Lab (or C-Lab for short) in 2013 in Los Angeles with the inspiration to come together to explore the dharma through the arts and in the spirit of curiosity, openness and non-judgement. This is why we call it a “Lab”. The point isn’t so much to make “art”, although that happens anyway. The point is to connect with our senses, our world and each other. To appreciate our world and practice non-aggression. To manifest wakefulness, dignity and playfulness. Everyone is welcome to join. We have a lot of attendees who would not call themselves Artists. We have a lot of genuine fun, too, which is so much needed always, but especially right now.

With the arrival of COVID-19, the C-Lab moved online. What we discovered, to our surprise, is that the online platform is a great setting for our gatherings. Rather than having to be focused on the computer screen as in many Zoom meetings, with C-Lab, the emphasis is on what is arising within you – the direct experience of one’s body, one’s environment, and working with materials and processes.  We start and end on Zoom, but most of the time, we are engaging with the practices and materials as opposed to the screen.

In August, the L.A. Shambhala Center joined together with the Seattle Shambhala Center to offer the C-Lab to both sanghas. Seattle’s Ladan Yalzadeh led the C-Lab with Honey in the Temple, focusing on experiencing joy and windhorse in our bodies through movement. Around 20 participants from LA and Seattle came together for this session, and it was so cool to meet each other.

Ikebana by Anjie Cho

After the Honey in the Temple session, one participant, Stacy Hall de Gomez of the Seattle sangha exclaimed: “I didn’t know quite what to expect, especially because I don’t think of myself as particularly creative, but it was such a great experience!  I was surprised at how relaxed and happy and energetic I felt after we did the exercises Ladan introduced.  It was truly a heart-opening experience.”

We are so excited to continue offering the C-Lab as a collaboration between the Seattle and Los Angeles Shambhala Centers going forward. We are also working on bringing the C-Lab to all sanghas around the mandala. We meet every second Saturday of the month from 10 to about 12 noon PT. Everyone is invited!

In a time of strife and seeming human degradation, we continue to be inspired by our precious teachings again and again; they connect us to our primordial Basic Goodness and the goodness of all beings. 

In the experience of awareness, you do not just get hold of one chunk of mindfulness and stick with it, but you experience the mindfulness and its shadow, the environment around it. There is a tremendous appreciation of life and of how to conduct one’s life. So awareness practice is not just formal sitting practice or meditation-in-action alone. It is a unique training practice in how to behave as an inspired human being, or an inspired sentient being. That is what is meant by being an artist. 

– Chögyam Trungpa from TRUE PERCEPTION – The Path of Dharma Art.

Our next C-Lab gathering is Fabric and Time with Berlin-based textile artist Diane LaVoie, October 10, 10:00 am to 12:30 PM Pacific Time.  Creating art during this time can be both orientating and fulfilling. Connecting to our natural environment can remind us that we are not separate from it. Sometimes limitations can be inspiring and give rise to ingenuity. So, in this workshop, we will use time and a limited selection of fabric scraps to produce quick and intuitive fabric collages of our natural environment.  

For upcoming C-Labs, please find us on the Seattle Shambhala website calendar, every 2nd Saturday of the Month. For more info about the C-Lab and our teachers, please visit the Contemplative Creativity Lab page.

Hope to see you there.

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