Seattle Shambhala Teachers On Connecting During Pandemic Times

Matthew Lyon

As the pandemic continues to frame our daily lives and our decisions, our meditation practice can be especially powerful. When we sit down to practice, we are asserting the prominence of the inner path in our lives. The inner path of mindfulness and awareness is not an escape from external stresses and fears.

Instead, it is a process of facing these forces directly. We may have discovered that attempts to escape or avoid the multifaceted pain of this time only provide temporary relief. 

By connecting with our heart, and our inner being, our life force, in the simple space of awareness, we tap into our inherent strength. We can feel a courage and a confidence naturally arising within us. This allows us to accommodate our anxiety, to acknowledge it, and to feel it, without being ruled by it.

We can discover that the inner path, like the ground beneath us, as an ever present source of stability that we can return to always. Like a mountain, we can allow the rains to fall and the winds to swirl, but we remain unmoved in our strength.

The anxiety may be still there, but we invoke courage by shining the natural light of our wisdom mind upon its presence. As Pema Chodron has said, this is the “wisdom of no escape.”

In this way, the simple act of mindful sitting is an expression of bravery. It is an act of confidence and of our willingness to carry on, to move forward, one step at a time.


Shelley Pierce

Practicing during a Pandemic is the best use of our time!  We have been asked to simplify, stop running around, social distance, wear a mask, and pay attention.  Be “not too tight, and not too loose” and to think of others as well as ourselves, so we don’t pass COVID on (even if we show no symptoms). 

What could be the best way to raise our lungta in this difficult time of COVID, BLM, politics, protesting…then to come back to square one, ourselves, and feel our good posture, feel what IS happening at the present moment?  Our breath going in, filling our lungs, our breath going out, dissolving before breathing in again.  And as our myriad thoughts come up, we don’t have to judge them as good nor bad, brilliant or stupid, and just let them dissolve into space with the outbreath?  Ah, Ah, Ah.  So much better to not be caught up with frivolity.  We can then emerge in post meditation with a clearer mind of what to accept and what to let go of. This is Shamatha practice, the Development of Peace.

As well, we offer a visualization practice, White Tara, that is open to everyone via zoom. It has been led on Sunday mornings by senior teachers from our SSC and from several Acharyas, internationally.  This is an excellent practice in this time! White Tara is practiced by the different schools of Buddhism. Emanating from moonlight, White Tara sends  healing warmth and wellness to society, transcending negativity and disease. Regal, sitting in full lotus, White Tara sees clearly with expansive gaze and one-pointed intent.

White Tara practice is offered on the first Sunday each month at SSC beginning at 8:30am.  


Dan Peterson

Sometimes I think that the karma that brought me to Shambhala provides an antidote to a preference I have for being alone.  In prisons where I have volunteered I regularly meet men who spend long periods of time in solitary (they call it ‘the tank’), and they really hate the isolation.  And I have worked with people released from prison who spent years in solitary, and their mental health condition is demonstrably worsened by the experience.

But I have always wanted to go into solitary retreat.  I visited the Dark Retreat Cabin in Kalapa Valley on Cape Breton and for a very short period experienced the utter darkness and quiet inside.  To get there I crossed many brooks and streams, so many that I left my shoes and socks off on the trail, only to find that the cabin was surrounded by snakes.  Luckily I did not step on any.

On one hand, it is a special and rare occasion to meet and talk with fellow Shambhala practitioners – there is no one else in the world who holds our shared understanding of practice and path in quite the same way.  Community practice events, with rota, schedules that fill the day from morning to night, and the rub that comes in a community setting break down the predilection to find private corners to hide-out.  I remember at Seminary a fellow tried to avoid everything by never leaving his room.  The Vidyadhara heard of this and walked into his room, went to a window and looked out for a bit, then turned and left, without saying a word.  The message was that the fellow was creating a tiny cocoon, and avoiding the big world.

I have never been a good practitioner, though I spend hours practicing.  It is only after a week or two of solitary day long practice that things start to settle.  Maybe that isn’t the point, but I am haunted by what is quiet.  A traditional Kagyu lineage aspiration is ‘May I die in retreat’.   Maybe the Shambhala aspiration is “May I die in a busy place!’.

One thought on “Seattle Shambhala Teachers On Connecting During Pandemic Times

  1. Please join Shambhala every Sunday morning for guided meditation instruction and 30 minutes of meditation on a Zoom format. See our Calendar.

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