Kagyu Changchub Chuling seal   Newsletter — September 2016
Greetings, !

We hope you enjoy this packed September edition of the KCC e-newsletter. We strive to include a mix of news and updates, and more reflective pieces. The newsletter includes notices of important events and reports on both our Sit For Mindfulness fundraiser and the recent week-long retreat taught by Lama Eric Triebelhorn.

In addition, we continue our Thangka series, with Sanje's Elliott's curation, and include a reflection on personal interviews. May this issue be of benefit to you. We look forward to your story ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche—Save the Dates!
NOVEMBER 25—27, 2016

Mark your calendars and plan to join KCC for a very special post-Thanksgiving weekend with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche!

On Friday evening (November 25) Rinpoche will discuss Buddhist approaches to working with emotions, including ways to release and transform emotions to reveal our innate wisdom.

The program for Saturday and Sunday (November 26—27) will cover the union of relative and ultimate bodhicitta, or, in other words, the union of profound compassion and deep insight.

Complete program details will be announced when confirmed.

Read more about Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.

In This Issue

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche—Save the Dates

Cynthia Irvine On Personal Interviews

Sit For Mindfulness Afternoon

Discovering Awarness Retreat

Featured Thankga

KCC Children's Program

Kids Visit SCOL

Anthony Kimple, Welcome

Events Update




Linda Besant,
Deborah Brink Wöhrmann,
Abby Cummings,
Sanje Elliott,

Cynthia Irvine,
Mary Woods,
Rosemarie Sweet, and

Ryan Fitz contributed to the production of this newsletter.

Personal Interviews: One Practitioner's Recommendations

By Cynthia Irvine

You never know what will come from having an interview with a teacher. For instance, I am writing this article because I met with Bill, and he requested that I help out in this way. I have often felt I did not know enough and did not practice with enough focus to “waste” a teacher's precious time. But slowly I have gained confidence that my questions are good enough. And seeing the vast benefits I have gained, I would like to encourage other people to have interviews.

I cannot remember why I first requested to meet privately with a teacher; I think it was because I was desperate. After several years of attempting to meditate, I felt like a failure because my mind wandered regularly. It still wanders regularly, but now with proper guidance and compassion my practice feels totally workable and joyous.  

Get yourself a notebook. Bring it on Sundays and jot down things that are interesting, surprising or confusing. Take notes when you read. What don't you understand? Make note of your daily habits and emotions. Since the dharma guides us through all aspects of life, there is truly nothing you cannot bring to an interview (at least, so far nobody has ever rejected my queries, whether they be about dealing with anger or trying to understand Chenrezig). When I have a handful of questions, I set up an interview. Do not be intimidated by the people who are chatting effortlessly with the teachers... you can talk to them too. And if you can squeak out the words “can I come see you?” they know what to do.

And yes, you may be scared before the actual meeting. Julia King-Tamang once explained that this fear is normal, as nothing is more meaningful and makes us more vulnerable than our spiritual life. Preparation for an interview can be a fascinating way to learn more about one's neuroses. I love bringing different things as dana, and watching how my mind worries about these acts of generosity. Of course, dana can be something monetary, something homemade or homegrown, or it can be something that is important to you. It can be part of building a relationship with a teacher.

When I meet with a teacher, I do not always ask the questions I prepared. So it is good not to feel you have to have it “figured out” before you arrive. Just go and cry if you have to. Some people have told me, “Oh, I thought about having an interview, but then I figured I could answer my own questions.”  Perhaps this is because so many “answers” are there on the internet. Or maybe it is because we are taught that contemplation of what we learn is important (and of course, it IS.) However, I can look up how to do hand mudras on the internet, but I won't remember them until they are taught by someone I revere.

By bringing a teacher a question, we learn unexpected things that we never could realize on our own. And by building a connection with a teacher, we also have an opportunity to watch compassion in action. The Kagyu tradition places a great emphasis on devotion, a concept that I have always been squeamish about. But, the more I meet with the teachers at KCC (and yes, I have met with several teachers... there is no need to just meet with one), the more devotion grows naturally in me.

These teachers are committed to being kind. To helping. And to being fearless in their pursuit of wisdom. How could you not take this opportunity to be in their presence?

A Sit for Mindfulness—An Afternoon of Spacious Attention

By Linda Besant

The clouds parted for A Sit for Mindfulness at Grant Park on September 3rd after days of drizzle and downpour. Some 62 people, including 10 who were new to meditation or to KCC, spent a peaceful hour or two or four practicing together in the brisk, clean air. The thwack of tennis balls, the murmur of children at play, and the rustle of the breeze in the curtain that defined the site proved surprisingly spacious as objects of focus for calm abiding meditation.

Many thanks to Bill Spangle, Peter Wood and Jeff Alworth for their skillful meditation instruction; to all the volunteers who helped throughout the day; and to everyone who came out to sit even though the weather had been so wet. We hope our practice together will indeed contribute to the welfare of beings.

Thanks also to everyone who gathered donations to support KCC. Please know that the sangha is grateful for your efforts. Though it is challenging to ask for money, we trust that it is of benefit to our friends and neighbors to forge a connection to the Dharma through their generosity. As of September 5th, we know that A Sit for Mindfulness netted close to $5,000.  Many sitters have told us that they still have contributions to turn in. Please do so as soon as you can so we can celebrate the final total.

Jennifer Cox, Brooke Huffman, Celedra Gildea and Linda Besant were the organizing committee for A Sit for Mindfulness. From our perspective, it is a worthwhile event, valuable in particular because it is so firmly within KCC’s mission, and because the afternoon itself provided such a lovely opportunity for us to practice together in the outdoors. We would appreciate input from all of you as we evaluate whether to do it again next year. Please send your thoughts to jcox@kcc.org.

Discovering Awareness Retreat—led by Lama Eric Triebelhorn

By Deborah Brink Wohrmann

Last month, Lama Eric Triebelhorn led Discovering Awareness, a packed eight-day retreat which focused on the practice of Shamatha—calm abiding. Weeks prior to its start date, the former KCC president sent out emails to participants in preparation: this retreat would be silent with no cell phones, no internet access, and no talking other than during the daily Q & A periods or in interviews. He requested that each participant show up prepared for the silence and plan to attend for the duration of the retreat.

"A tight container was meant to facilitate people being more able to settle into the retreat with fewer distractions," said Lama Eric. And, in fact, the retreat was silent (with several encouraging reminders along the way.)

Lama Eric was originally asked to lead a shorter Insight Retreat. But since this was the first public retreat he has led, he chose instead to focus on the practice of Shamatha—"foundational to all of our contemplative practices," he said. He felt better prepared for this focus and hoped it would support and inspire practice for retreatants.

"I wanted it to be for enough days so people could really settle in and perhaps meet with some obstacles and have time to work with those obstacles. I wanted it to be a full week of practice." Besides the focus on breath, sound, objects, thoughts and observation of the mind, relaxation was emphasized.

"Both in our daily lives and in our meditation in particular, we have a hard time really relaxing into the practice," he said. "So, a fair amount of effort was focused on getting this across to make this point: We need to relax."

He invited students to experiment with a variety of practices: "I felt the intensity of the sitting could be mitigated by having frequent breaks." The vast majority of the sits were no longer than twenty-five minutes with five-minute stretch breaks where people could stand, move around or even walk outside. "A little pain and discomfort can be an opportunity, but too much opportunity with pain can be a hindrance."

"I didn't want people to get tight mentally either, so I thought walking outside would be a way to open up and get a fresh perspective." He hoped this would be "less physically grueling" too.

During a final Q & A period, one student confessed that she had resisted the sessions of walking meditation. There were two each day, and she did not like them. But, she said, soon she began to see their value. She began to recognize how the walking sessions had an effect on the way she walked to her room and to meals. Heads nodded.

"The feedback has been quite positive," Lama Eric shared when asked about his experience leading this retreat. "Many people have reported that their Shamatha was sinking and had become quite dull and they weren't able to have much alertness in their practice. They feel they have some more tools they can use to pull themselves out of a rut they have fallen into—which is great to hear." 

"It's always nice to return to Portland and the Northwest. I moved here in '95. Even though I've spent half the time since in India I really consider Portland my home. KCC was the first Dharma community I deeply plugged into so it's always nice to go back and see my dharma brothers and sisters."

In 2005, Lama Eric moved to India to take part in a Three Year Retreat with Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche. He now lives in Mirik at the Bokar Ngedon Chokhor Ling Monastery where his main job is teaching the young Bokar Rinpoche to speak English.

His recent trip to the United States was just over two months. From July 6-10, he joined the North American Kagyu Monlam and then attended teachings of Mingyur Rinpoche before visiting the Holy Karmapa's North American seat at KTD. From there, he went to visit family in Ohio for several weeks.

The Discovering Awareness Retreat  took place at the Ananda Center at Laurelwood in Gaston, OR, August 20-28, 2016. One special student of the retreat was Lama Eric's mother, Caren Ewart.

Featured Thankga: Naropa

By Sanje Elliott

Naropa was born into a Brahmin family in 956; he died in 1041 in India. At the age of 20, he married a young Brahmin girl, but their marriage dissolved when he was 28, and he entered the Buddhist University of Nalanda, where he practiced very hard and was renowned for his great scholarship. Eventually, he became the abbot of Nalanda, some four thousand student monks.

One day a dakini appeared before him and questioned him about his understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.  She was sad when he said he understood all that the Buddha had taught because she knew that her brother, Tilopa, was the only one who really understood the teachings.  So Naropa left his position and studies at Nalanda, and set off to find Tilopa, suffering many hardships and difficulties before he finally gained realization of Mahamudra after twelve years with Tilopa. One of Naropa’s greatest students was Marpa, who learned the six yogas of Naropa from him, and who also established the Kagyu order in Tibet.

Although Tilopa and Naropa look very similar in the thangkas painted of them, Tilopa holds his signature fish in his left hand, and Naropa holds a skull cup with amrit (nectar) in his left hand.  This thangka of Naropa was painted by Taja of Rumtek monastery sometime in the 20th century.

KCC's Children's Program

By Mary Woods

We are pleased to announce that this year, KCC will again offer a program to share the dharma with children, ages 5-10. The schedule will be twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. We will begin September 25 and go through the second Sunday in June.

With the idea of enriching the program, we have made some changes. The children will gather in the beautiful Lama room upstairs for the first hour. This allows us to begin the class in a sacred space. Use of this space will help the children to engage in short practice sessions, dharma-based stories and to participate in simple compassion practices designed to increase awareness of loving-kindness and to provide ways to share this with others. To facilitate this, there will be one other adult upstairs helping the teacher, Mary Woods, to guide the children through these practices.

The second hour will be in the children’s room as before and will be slightly less structured than the first hour. It will include a combination of the curriculum created by Julia King Tamang, art projects and play.

We have increased the number of children able to participate to eight. We now have a full class with several returning students and a few new ones.

I encourage any interested Sangha members to join us on Sundays. We hope that different people will come to read or tell a Dharma story and connect with young practitioners. This is a precious opportunity. I have been surprised at what I have learned during the time I have been with the children. It has been such a blessing.  

Please consider spending time with us this year as we share the dharma with these younger members of KCC. If you have questions or are interested in helping, please contact Mary Woods or the Children’s Program advisor, Zopa Herron (e-mail addresses linked here).

Kids Visit SCOL
By Abby Cummings

On August 13th, the KCC kids program visited SCOL for a day of connection and building bird boxes. Making the trip to our retreat land were three children and two parents from the program, as well as Sangha members Adele Hilsen, Mary Woods, Susan Giese, John Jennings, and Zopa Herron. SCOL staffer Peg Swift also stopped by.

It was a hot day. The group worked in the shade of the old barn, which is a cooler-temperature hideout for the land’s deer as well. Assembling the bird boxes was the day’s main focus, and Mary Woods also brought Buddhist-themed drawings for the kids to color and leave with the retreatants. The cedar for the boxes was donated by Greg Kust, an SCOL volunteer. In the weeks before the event, I cut them to dimension and prepared them for assembly by the children.

Birder and board member, John Jennings, gave a brief presentation of the boxes in the barn’s wood shop, explaining the significance of the land stewardship program at SCOL. In the five to six years he has been helping with the bird boxes, John says he’s seen a “steady increase” in the number of Western blue birds on site, and was impressed by the ease with which the kids took to the tools and the task.

After assembling three boxes, the group took a walk up the gravel road to the orchard and hung them. The kids even got to see blue birds in some of the boxes! The group also spent more time walking and talking about how Sangha volunteers take care of the land and the beings who inhabit it. Everyone gathered for a potluck at the creek house, and all basked in the labor of their good work.
Welcome Anthony Kimple

Anthony Kimple, a long-time KCC Sangha member, has joined the staff at SCOL. His duties there include cooking and facilities/land stewardship assistance. In the twenty years that Anthony has been part of the Sangha, he has seen enormous growth in the size of the community and the variety of its programs.

Anthony has completed a one-year retreat, as well as other shorter retreats. “One-year retreat was incredibly difficult and probably the best thing I’ve done in this life. I aspire to do more,” he said. He has also volunteered at SCOL over the years. When asked what motivated him to join the staff, he replied that he wants to support long retreat.  He noted that Peg, Marie, Abby, and Jake have created a very supportive and relaxed environment which quickly put him at ease about his choice to live and work at SCOL. (Full SCOL staff are pictured here: Jake, Peg, Abby, Marie and Anthony).

Welcome, Anthony. May you and all beings benefit from your service.

Events in September and Early October

Upcoming events at KCC include some new and some continuing opportunities. but please note the Thursday evening Mind Training Study Group is taking a break. Keep a watch on the website, www.kcc.org, for updates. For now, here is what is happening:

All events are at KCC Urban Center unless otherwise noted.

Newcomers’ Night

This is a great opportunity to stop by KCC, ask questions, and get acquainted with the community, as well as the ways of Tibetan Buddhism as practiced at KCC. If you are new or sort of new or just want the chance to be reintroduced to KCC, please stop by.

Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm

2016 Bokar International Yidam Seminar

The Yidam Seminar established by Bokar Rinpoche will be held in Tainan, Taiwan, directly following a 3-day Kagyu Monlam presided over by Khenpo Rinpoche. More details at the KCC website.

Thursday, September 15 to Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Tainan and Taipei, Taiwan

Painting At the Land of Retreat

The fourth and final summer painting class hosted by KCC at SCOL, where participants will spend the day painting high desert prairie, arid brushland, and pine and oak savannah landscapes under the guidance of highly-reputed plein air artist Phyllis Trowbridge.

Visit the painting series website for more details.

Saturday, September 17, 2016
Ser Chö Ösel Ling


Board of Directors Meeting

Sunday, September 18, 2016 - 1:30pm to 4:30pm

KCC Mind Training Group

The biweekly Thursday KCC Mind Training Group resumes this month, with Tim Campbell and Zopa Herron co-leading an exploration of the entire Lojong, or Mind Training tradition, including the Seven Points and beyond.

Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

All-Day Sit: Chenrezig

Resident Lama Michael Conklin provides detailed instruction on the practice of Chenrezig on alternating first Sundays from 9:00am to noon. Following a potluck lunch, there is a question-and-answer session from 1:30pm to 2:45pm, and then a last session of meditation ending at 4:00pm

Sunday, October 2, 2016 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Death and Dying Seminar

Eight classes to be held on consecutive Sundays at Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple, beginning in October. Participants are not required to attend every session. Details and a description will be posted on the KCC website soon.

Sunday, October 2, 2016 - 3:30pm to 5:30pm (first of eight Sunday sessions through November 20, 2016)
Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple

Led by Chozen Bays (co-abbot and co-founder of Great Vow Zen Monastery and Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple), and by Erik Fromme
Co-taught by Mary Woods and David McWherter

Young Adult Group

This monthly meeting welcomes the under-40 set to gather and talk about the dharma as it relates to daily life.

Friday, October 7, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Mandala Practice: Holding the World in the Palm of Your Hand and Letting Go—
Invigorating Your Practice In the Mahamudra Program - Class Four

The fourth and final class in this Mahamudra Program support series, this event will include a prepared teaching on the Mandala practice, Mandala group practice together (rice and mandala set-ups included), an opportunity to share experiences in community, and a ngondro and mahamudra question and answer session.

Saturday, October 8 - 9:00am to 12:00pm
Led by Erik Fromme and Bill Spangle


For more events, view the KCC calendar.


KCC now streams most events on YouTube at this URL: http://www.youtube.com/user/kccmedia

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