Starting to Meditate
Meditation has been scientifically proven to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, relieve depression, increase productivity, and promote creative thinking. Mindfulness, which has its roots in the teachings of the Buddha, can be a transformative practice for Buddhist and secular practitioners alike. The practice of compassion, or Bodhicitta which is central is the Buddhist path, has also been proven to improve health, emotional well being, increase happiness, improve personal relationships, and benefit families and communities at large.
Meditation is not about trying to turn off your thoughts and emotions. It is about training in awareness and learning to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Tara Mandala offers a variety of retreats, online programs, and practice resources for beginners and advanced practitioners alike who are looking to develop their hearts, minds, and emotional awareness to lead more fulfilling lives and be of greater benefit in the world.
A beginners practice, that anyone can learn, is called The Nine Relaxation Breaths. This is a short breath cleansing practice that can be done at any time and is traditionally done at the beginning of any meditation practice.
Nine Relaxation Breaths
Close your eyes and keep them closed as much as possible until the end of the process. You will be taking nine deep relaxation breaths.
For the first three breaths, breathe into any physical tension you are holding in your body, then hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath.
For the second three breaths, breathe into any emotional tension you are holding, notice where you are holding emotional tension in your body, then hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath.
For the third three breaths, breathe into any mental tension or worries you are holding, notice where you are holding mental tension in your body, then hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath.
Sit quietly and notice how you feel. Open your eyes.
(Excerpt from the Five-Step Process of Feeding Your Demons®)
Shamatha (Skt. śamatha; Tib. ཞི་གནས་, shiné) or Calm Abiding meditation is a foundational practice that cultivates concentration and clarity of mind. The achievement of Shamatha, or meditative quiesence, is widely regarded in the Buddhist tradition as an indispensable foundation for the cultivation of contemplative insight (Vipashyana) and other more advanced meditative techniques.
Lama Tsultrim learned several methods of Shamatha meditation from Apho Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche over the many decades of her studies as a nun and a lay practitioner. The method of Shamatha taught at Tara Mandala is from Lama Tsultrim’s study and practice under Trungpa Rinpoche.
Instructions on Shamatha Meditation with Lama Tsultrim Allione »
Vipashyana (Skt. vipaśyanā; Tib.ལྷག་མཐོང་, lhaktong) means “special insight” and refers to the contemplative insight that dawns when one sees into the true nature of self and phenomena. The image that Trungpa Rinpoche used for Vipashyana was that of “a flash of lightning in a clear night sky.” The illumination that occurs due to Vipashyana gives rise to the experience of ‘non-self’, which the Buddha taught as the key to awakening to our true nature, enlightenment.
Shamatha meditation is taught at Tara Mandala at various retreats such as the Sutrayana Retreat and the Shamatha Retreat. Walking meditation is also taught as a way to bring mindfulness into your daily activities.
Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill; it takes consistent practice to gain ease and proficiency. It is important to have a qualified teacher as you progress along the path to guide you in your experience and answer questions as they arise.
Developing a Meditation Practice
In Tibetan, the term for meditation is gompa, which means “to familiarize.” It is called this for a reason. Gaining comfort and ease in meditation takes practice and patience. We can’t expect to get it right or perfect right away, it will take time to learn new ways to relate to your own mind, your own thoughts and feelings. When beginning a meditation practice, what is most important is to meditate consistently and not give up. There may be flurries of thoughts, emotional upheavals, or other experiences that feel like setbacks. That’s OK. Just keep practicing, keep familiarizing yourself with the practice, and try to remain free of expectation and attachment. This is all part of the “practice.” As many wise teachers have taught, the path itself is the goal. It is more about the journey than the destination.
Another introductory practice that can be done by anyone at any level is the five-step Feeding Your Demons® Process developed by Lama Tsultrim. This process distills the teachings and practice of the 11th-century Tibetan yogini Machig Labdrön for the Western practitioner and is laid out in her book, Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. The method enables one to offer compassion and understanding to one’s inner ‘demons’ rather than engaging in a struggle with them. This allows the psyche to move from polarization toward integration.
Lion’s Roar article: How to Feed Your Demons by Lama Tsultrim Allione
Guided practice of Feeding Your Demons®
with Lama Tsultrim Allione »
Tara Mandala Retreat Center Open House and Intro to Meditation
Tara Mandala is open to the public several times each year. You are welcome to join us for a guided tour of our beautiful Retreat Center and Tara Temple, which includes a brief introduction to meditation, time for Q&A, and a vegetarian buffet lunch.
Intro to Meditation Class
Through sitting and walking meditations, short talks, and time for sharing and discussion, this afternoon class will introduce you to the basics of Buddhist meditation. You do not need to be a Buddhist to attend or to derive great benefit from this afternoon. This course is suitable for all levels, from complete beginners to experienced practitioners. Classes are be taught by a Tara Mandala Authorized or Apprentice Teacher. Classes are free, but if you would like to offer the teacher a donation (dana), you may do so with cash or check (made payable to the teacher). Learn more here
You can reserve your place for the Open House, Intro to Meditation Class, or the full day on the Programs page at www.taramandala.org. Visiting at other times is by appointment only. Please contact us if you have any questions at (970) 731-3711 ext. 108 or by email at email@example.com.
UPDATE 3/13/20: DUE TO CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19, WE’VE TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED HAVING VISITORS ON THE LAND.
Where to Begin at Tara Mandala
Tara Mandala offers a variety of retreats, teachings, and trainings in traditional Buddhist practices and modern transformational methods based on Buddhist principles. There is something for everyone, from the brand new beginner to the seasoned practitioner.
There are several retreats appropriate for beginners including the new Feeding Your Demons Online Training, Wisdom Rising Mandala Training, the Sutrayana Retreat, the Mahayana Retreat, and Kapala Training Level I. You can read more about different options for beginners here.
Tara Mandala has several practice paths for practitioners who would like to develop a daily practice and move through a series of practices to develop themselves:
Feeding Your Demons® Training: Lama Tsultrim Allione distilled the teachings and practice of the 11th-century Tibetan yogini Machig Labdrön for the Western practitioner for the first time in her book, Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict (Little Brown Co. 2008). We offer several ways to learn and become certified in this transformative practice, both online and onsite.
Our Magyu, Mother Lineage, developed by Lama Tsultrim Allione, is an innovative path rooted in traditional Buddhist teachings, emphasizing the importance of both spiritual and emotional growth of the individual.
The Wisdom Rising: Mandala Training Program offers an exploration into the ancient Buddhist template of the mandala as it applies to our inner path of transformation and our outer experience in the world.
The Ösel Nyingtig: Heart Essence of Luminosity is a multiple-year program for dedicated practitioners who desire a profound and direct path to realization. Lama Tsultrim Allione and her son Tulku Ösel Dorje (Costanzo Allione) teach together for the first time.
Our Gateway Program consists of a traditional Vajrayana three-year solitary retreat curriculum in the Dzinpa Rangdrol (Self Liberation of Clinging) teachings, adapted for the modern practitioner living in the world.
Many of the retreats at Tara Mandala may be attended by anyone, whenever prerequisites are required they will be listed clearly.
Visit our complete listing of retreats to begin your journey today.
How do I get started? How can I become part of the Tara Mandala Sangha?
- Read one of Lama Tsultrim’s books, Women of Wisdom, Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom For Resolving Inner Conflict, and Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine.
- Find a local practice group and/or local Tara Mandala Authorized Teacher and attend a teaching, retreat, study group or event.
- Come to an Introductory Retreat or Open House: Intro to Meditation at Tara Mandala Retreat Center.
- Sign up for an Online Program and receive teachings on a meditation practice or topic that calls to you.
- Attend a retreat at Tara Mandala Retreat Center with Lama Tsultrim Allione or one of her teachers. Check out the calendar of upcoming retreats here.
- Become a Sustaining Sangha Member to support Tara Mandala’s mission and receive special benefits, access, and content.
- Join a long-term practice program such as Magyu, the Mother Lineage.
I am new to meditation, what retreat should I take first?
For those new to meditation, we recommend starting with one of these retreats:
Learn about Buddhism through the life stories of the Buddha. You will also learn the fundamentals of seated and walking meditation.
Learn about the Bodhisattva path, compassion and wisdom. You will learn the Four Immeasurables (Brahmaviharas) and Tonglen (Sending & Receiving) meditation.
Learn about the emergence of Tantra, Yoga, and the sacred feminine. You will receive the teachings and transmissions of the Mandala of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, the Five Male Buddhas, and the Yab-Yum Mandala.
Feeding Your Demons® Level I Online
Learn the transformative five-step practice of Feeding Your Demons® in our new online course, which is also the first step in getting certified in the Feeding Your Demons® method. Open to all.
Feeding Your Demons®: Kapala Training Level 1
Learn the transformative five-step practice of Feeding Your Demons® and the profound teachings and meditation of Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom). Open to all.
Shamatha (Calm Abiding) Meditation
Shamatha meditation is the foundation of all meditative practices. It helps to cultivate a clear, compassionate, and concentrated mind in this fast-paced era. You will learn how to settle the mind in its natural state using simple and accessible techniques. Open to all
Lojong (Mind Training)
The Lojong slogans are pith statements that help us to transform adversity and joy onto the path of wholeness and awakening. These are key teachings on compassion, including the meditation practice of Tonglen (Sending & Taking). Open to all.
The Four Immeasurables
Learn about these four qualities to be cultivated through contemplation and meditation: Love, Compassion, Equanimity, and Joy. These are foundational teachings for all practitioners.
This retreat will teach how to cultivate the heart of awakening, Bodhicitta. Learn to cultivate compassion for yourself and others.
Wisdom Rising Mandala Trainings
Mandala Training Level 1 is a wonderful way to learn the theory and practice of the mandala, an ancient Buddhist template of the mandala as it applies to our inner path of transformation and our outer experience in the world. This is open to all.