Posted by: Kim Roberts | February 3, 2014

Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds

Buddha in golden clouds

We are all connected, you’ve no doubt heard this before. A friend recently sent me a link to this incredible video that shows why, from a scientific and a spiritual perspective. Rather than looking to the outside world to create peace on earth, we can change our planet by changing how we see things.

Please have a look.

Posted by: Kim Roberts | January 27, 2014

A Visit to the Golden Triangle

A visit to the Golden Triangle…

Anantara Golden Triangle

Elephant fields viewed from our (complimentary) suite at the Anantara resort, with a Burmese casino on the horizon.

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Golden Buddha looking over the Mekong, Burma in the background

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Downriver toward Laos

 

Posted by: Kim Roberts | January 20, 2014

Somewhere over the rainbow

A rainbow appeared out of the blue one day recently. It’s not a regular occurrence around here in Chiang Rai, so a few of us stood around taking photos.

I learned later in the day that an old friend –on the other side of the planet–had passed at the same moment. I wonder if this brightly colored arc served as his pathway?

Rainbow at New Life

Posted by: Kim Roberts | November 29, 2013

Attitude of gratitude and Thanksgiving resolution

Though I rarely celebrate Thanksgiving anymore– I’ve lived in Asia for over 10 years now– I love the spirit behind this day of thanks. There is a powerful message to be learned here.

This message was brought to me loud and clear this past few weeks, which have presented quite a few obstacles. Now, I know, obstacles are part of life. That’s not likely to change anytime soon. But I realized recently how much time I spend dwelling on disturbance, instead of reflecting on how darned lucky I am to have such unique obstacles.

The fact is, ruminating on how things are wrong does not make them right. So, as my wise and cheerful mother often says: just get over it! There are better ways to spend time than reviewing what went wrong.

I”m not suggesting that we go into denial–there is power in recognizing where things go slightly “off.” But once the mistake, or failure, or challenge has been identified, and we re-set our course, then it is a total waste of energy to keep looking back at what might have been. As we frequently hear, we attract the energies we send out. So if we want good things to come our way, there is no better practice than gratitude for what we already have.

I’m mixing things up this year: instead of waiting for New Years Day to make my resolutions, I’m starting early. My Thanksgiving resolution is to start each day with gratitude. I’m resolving to commit to a writing practice: to identify at least 20 things I’m grateful for in my life. The first on my list is yoga and meditation practice, which changed my life. Read how yoga and meditation can change your life too. Also high up on the list is writing, which keeps me sane and happy. And another entry on my gratitude list is readers like you, who allow me to share what I write.

So, thanks. May blessings flow to you.

waterfall

Posted by: Kim Roberts | November 18, 2013

The non-linear path of evolution

Just back from retreat at the new Soma Retreat Center in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Soma Retreat Center

Soma Retreat Center

It’s tempting to think that the spiritual path is a linear journey. What a surprise when you see your old neurotic patterns re-surfacing again, just like an old dysfunctional relationship you thought you had outgrown. Sometimes it can be painful to look in the mirror and not see growth.

Chogyam Trungpa puts it nicely:

“There is a problem in thinking that you are supposed to be advancing in your practice all the time. You don’t have to constantly be on the road. If you have a flat tire, that is also part of the journey. Ambition makes you feel that you are not doing anything. There seems to be a hypnotic quality to ambition and speed, so that you feel that you are standing still just because you want to go so fast. You might actually be getting close to your goal.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Posted by: Kim Roberts | November 3, 2013

Beauty is in the Mindfulness of the Beholder

Once upon a time I taught yoga in Hong Kong, managing the yoga studio at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It was an intense phase, living in the big, bustling, money-worshipping city. I had a hard time relaxing into the pace of that life.

What I learned then was that yoga practice has to involve a transformation of mind, otherwise you don’t really get the full benefit of practice. When yoga practice includes working with the mind–sometimes called mindfulness or meditation — then lasting evolution occurs. Since my time in Hong Kong, I’ve spent alot of time meditating.

This past week I re-visited my old neighborhood friends and realized how experience is colored by our state of mind. Whereas my previous time there was often characterized by struggle, something in my current state of mind allowed me to appreciate the beauty of life in that city. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if you live in a state of contentment, you can find beauty anywhere. The best way I know to access that peaceful state is through a constant application of mindfulness, learned through meditation practice.

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hk harbour

 

Posted by: Kim Roberts | October 16, 2013

Chiang Rai’s White Temple

Not exactly the typical Thai temple, but if you are looking for some interesting art, and like skulls and fantastic scenes of death and destruction, the White Temple in Chiang Rai might be your ticket to enlightenment.

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It’s the kind of thing Hieronymous Bosch might have created in 3-D– lavish references to the garden of earthly delights, evoking life’s fleeting nature.

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For me the connection between art and spirituality is clear. There has to be some acknowledgment of our shadow side in order to free the light within.

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Only by allowing the mind to travel to these obscure places can we free ourselves from being slaves to the darkness.

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Posted by: Kim Roberts | September 12, 2013

Timing is everything

Just as I was about to enter into solitary meditation retreat a couple of weeks ago here in Crestone, I learned that Tulku Damcho Rinpoche would come to give 3 days of empowerments at Vajra Vidya Retreat center.

Empowerment (Tibetan: wang)  in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is a ritualized way of transmitting the essential wisdom of certain deity practices, so that when one undertakes that practice, there is an authentic connection to the lineage. It makes the practice more powerful when you have a live connection–like having someone pick up on the other end of the phone line, rather than just standing there with a phone to your ear.

So, talk about a powerful way to begin retreat.

tulku Damcho wang

After receiving the empowerments, I shut my door and spent the next 10 days practicing, using Thrangu Rinpoche’s commentary of Pointing Out the Dharmakaya as a guide for my meditation sessions. If you aren’t familiar with this text by the 9th Karmapa, go get it now. It is one of the most clear and concise guides for Mahamudra meditation there is, with excellent, easy to read commentaries on Shamatha and Vipassana meditation.

Some days were easier than others, and yet the vast San Luis Valley out my windows helped me keep perspective. After all, we can’t always expect clear blue skies.

rain in the distance

But finally, perhaps because of all those blessings, by the end of retreat something wonderful shifted, allowing me to see great beauty in the imperfection of things. Sometimes sunsets are made more compelling by the presence of dark clouds, especially when you realize that it’s all impermanent. Then you can appreciate the fleeting beauty of it all.

wild sky

Posted by: Kim Roberts | August 20, 2013

Historic Charleston, South Carolina

This week I’m in Charleston, South Carolina visiting family. Charleston was voted the most popular tourist destination in the world by Conde Nast readers recently, probably because of the incredibly rich history this city has lived. The first shots of the Civil War were shot here, and Charleston remains one of the most important ports in the US.

I’ve been ferried around by an enthusiastic team of guides (my mother, sister and nephew) to many of the sites. Here are a few of the highlights.

Carriage tour of historic downtown (with my sister as tour guide)

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streets lined with live oak trees…

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and Magnolia Plantation, which boasts the United States’ first garden, cultivated in 1670…

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and last but not least, a tour of the harbour on a tall ship…

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under what used to be the longest suspension bridge in America.

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One of the best things about pilgrimage is returning home to rest and digest the journey. It’s good to be home.

Posted by: Kim Roberts | August 5, 2013

3 Tips for Mental Health and Well-Being during your Pilgrimage

So you packed up your home, put your life on hold, and now you find yourself traveling in Asia with an open stretch of time ahead of you. You plan to rest, take stock, and discover a new angle on life. Have a few adventures. Maybe make a transition in your career. No more boring days at a job you hate, performing mind-numbing tasks just to survive in the modern world. Bliss at last, right?

Right?

What happens when you finally get to your dreamed of destination, your tropical paradise, only to find that your niggling doubts, your habitual patterns, your fundamental discontent have followed you here? The tropical wildlife sends you screaming and scrambling onto the nearest piece of furniture, which breaks upon contact. You can’t figure out how to find the travel agent because the streets don’t have names and no one answers the phone (not that anyone there speaks English even if they did.) Or when you finally do get there, the computers are down, or they are out to lunch. For the week.

How do you make the most of your time overseas when you are just not feeling it? How do you manage your mind when it is conspiring to bring you down just when you’ve decided to take some time to find inner peace?

Travel is one of the best forms of therapy I know. It forces you to come to terms with aspects of yourself you might not confront in your everyday life—things that come up when your environment is unknown, unexpected, changing and often challenging. Or, to put it more directly, frustrating as hell.

  1. Look at your resistance

    What are you unwilling to accept? Often when we are confronted with things that challenge our outlook of the world, we struggle to maintain our sense of identity. Look at any preconceived ideas you may have to see where you may be stuck. You may want to try writing practice–scribble it all down in no particular format and get it all out. See the irony or humour if you can. Sure it’s easy to complain about inefficient systems and poorly functioning organizations. But if you had wanted the known, you would have stayed home, right? You asked for an adventure, so here it is. Adventure doesn’t always come in the guise we expect or ask for.

  2. Let go

    Well-being is about adapting to new situations with ease, learning to ride each moment lightly. Release expectations of how you thought your journey would unfold and let the path reveal itself regardless of your preferences. Learn to to be flexible in the face of sudden change or conflict. Take a deep breath.

  3. Relax and enjoy

    When you can appreciate the similarities and differences, then traveling becomes a joyful practice of observation. You start to see there are other ways of doing things. From how to eat, to how to relate to death family and intimacy—all cultures treat these in their own way. You can start to question if the way you learned to do things works for you. It gives you options to make changes or adjustments to your own life if you choose to. When I spent a year in India I realized money was not the number one theme of life, something my American culture had ingrained in me. It changed how I perceive and approach my life, allowing other aspects of life to take priority—it was the first time in my life I’d actually relaxed fully. When you are able to settle into a situation with ease and joy, new layers of existence are often exposed.

Part of the education of travel is seeing how people from different cultures approach and manage life. But apart from seeing our differences, you start to see how utterly similar humans are, regardless of the culture that raised us. We all smile and laugh and experience emotions. We may behave differently and do different things with these emotions but the emotions themselves are universal. This one understanding can change the way you approach your life and make you more sensitive to and of those around you. It can open the door to compassion. Buddhists call this the seed of enlightenment.

Learning to adapt is the best way to create a strong mind and boost mental health. Children naturally bounce back with resilience and just keep going with the flow—there is wisdom in this. There is a slogan from the lojong trainings of Vajrayana Buddhism that goes like this:

In postmeditation, be a child of illusion.

In other words, don’t assume things are solid and real or that you understand everything that’s happening. Allow for things to unfold without knowing how or why. Watch the play of the phenomenal world with innocent eyes, as if in a dream. When you can rest in your center without depending on the stability of the outer world, you’ll surprise yourself with an increased sense of confidence and well-being, knowing you can handle whatever challenge comes your way with strength and grace.

One way to benefit from this experience of shifting perspectives is to take up a meditation practice as a way to observe your mind. For a simple meditation instruction, click here.

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