On Meditation with Joseph Mauricio of Shambhala Center

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As an architect and feng shui practitioner, I help my clients create holistic home and work spaces. One of the most important aspects of the feng shui work includes meditation and visualization. I had the honor of taking one of Joseph Mauricio's meditation classes at the Shambhala Center in NYC. His teachings are very approachable and digestable. I believe it is incredibly beneficial to include meditation in everyday life.

AC:  How did you get involved in meditation and with the Shambhala Center -- what's your story?

JM:  I used to run a comedy club years ago in New York, I was a comedian, an actor and that was an exciting lifestyle but it was a little heavy and I was looking for something to help me balance out the pressure. Then I came across meditation. I had always known about Jack Kerouac, the Dharma Bums and Naropa University, founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (also founder of Shambhala Center) along with Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass and a number of people back in the ‘70s. So it was kind of legendary in my mind, the beat poets. They were an influence in my work as a performing artist. I ended up going in to a Shambhala Center and finding out there was this whole connection. I decided to drop out of the comedy club, moved to a dharma center up in the woods, then ended up at Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center at 8,000 feet in the middle of winter -- which was crazy. I went from being an actor in New York to a cabin with no heat. I met my teacher there, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and I ended up studying with him.

I became intrigued by the mind (my own mind) and the idea that I’d (maybe all of us) create the limitations and disabilities in our own world because of the way we think and the way we perceive the world. So I became really fascinated with that concept. It’s not something that you just pick up and put down, and I gave up my whole life and career to study. I studied in India, Mexico, a number of places for number of years. I was actually studying personally with Sakyong Mipham in 2003 when he suggested I move back to New York and go back to doing performance, which just shocked me. I didn’t expect that at all. I thought I would just be a yogi. I moved back and that’s when I started teaching at the Shambhala Center. I found my calling putting meditation together with performance and comedy. I’m also a life coach, motivating people towards a more healthy balance vision themselves.

So for other people, the way I recommend meditation is not that they drop out of their careers like I did for 17 years, but that they incorporate it in the same way with a good instructor. They study and go to classes and let meditation actually bring stability into their life. I recommend everybody read Sakyong Mipham’s books, particularly The Shambhala Principle. He teaches practical meditation, and it is not particularly religious. I study and teach meditation and training people of all backgrounds. I go in to jails and you can’t even mention Buddhism or any kind of religion. You just teach straight mindfulness training and it helps people. I’m a real believer that meditation can bring a lot of stability and clarity to people, to their lives.

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How would you describe meditation to someone who's not familiar with the concept?  

I would say that it’s a tool whereby you sit in an upright posture, which helps you to wake up and gain confidence. There are tests and studies showing the mind can change brain chemistry in only two minutes when you sit up straight. It starts to lower cortisol and raise testosterone levels. In short, you begin to feel more confident just by sitting in an upright posture. And relaxing down into the earth allows us to open up our heart and begin to feel our feelings and our sense of things. The upright meditation posture is very powerful in re-training the mind into believing that life is possible, that life is workable.

How is meditation helpful in everyday life?

Any given meditation session could be wonderful; maybe they feel very clear or calm. Or maybe their back hurts the whole time. But the real power of meditation comes from consistent practice. I recommend that people practice as little as 10 minutes a day, if that keeps them practicing every day. It’s more powerful than just an hour every few days. But to practice at the same time every day, you develop a consistency that brings stability to life. It becomes like a reference point. Every morning you get up, seat yourself up, recharge your confidence, open your heart and face yourself. It can be very powerful to do that in a few minutes.

Obviously, as time goes on, with longer sessions we can go deeper. I’m a believer in consistent practice even if the practice isn’t very long or arduous. I teach that practice doesn’t have to be perfect, great, or good, and not to be hard on themselves. If they’re on a cushion consistently, slowly and in time lengthen their practice up to 20-30 minutes, and settle in to their practice, they will see a profound difference in their life. But as I said, for beginners, I stress that consistent process.

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Now for my holistic space question:  Where do you like to meditate and what makes it sacred to you?

I have a number of altars. When I was single it was really embarrassing! I have one in my kitchen, and my room is basically a huge shrine. But that’s me and that’s not what I recommend for other people, I’m just obsessive and very devoted. And that’s why I teach it, it’s my living, it’s my life. But for other people, according to my teacher Sakyong Mipham, meditation should support your life, not be a burden to it. So I think if people are creeped out by a shrine, they don’t need a shrine.

I do think meditation in their house is helpful because it actually settles the energy of the space. If you start to feel open and calm in your own house, then that really makes you feel open and calm when you come home. A focal point is also helpful.

Meditation with community is good in a different way. If you just meditate at home, you tend to not have the same level of motivation as when you show up in room full of people. You’re not going to slump as readily. So I do recommend both for people. But I do think some kind of a meditation area in the house really empowers the home. And for some of the hardcore meditators, we have that instead of a television…Often the television is the central part of the home, that’s great and that’s fine, but what kind of energy does that create? So I think to balance that, a meditation area is wonderful, especially in New York apartments, where you can’t have the fireplace or a big beautiful kitchen and stove, the kinds of things that bring more warmth and life in to your house.

I think a little meditation area kind of does that, they can. I do also believe that the meditation changes the energy. If you go into a meditation center, it’s easy to meditate because people have been doing it there for years. That starts to happen in your house and it starts to feel a little more contemplative and meditative because of the practice.

I absolutely agree! Thanks Joe!

Read my other blog post where Joe shares his tips for beginning meditators here.

by Anjie Cho


Joseph Mauricio is a speaker, teacher, workshop presenter, and meditation instructor in academic, business and private sectors. A senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Tradition, Joseph began teaching twenty years ago at Karma Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in Vermont, and has subsequently taught in meditation centers, schools, businesses and community centers throughout North America, Canada and Europe. He has served as the Director of Public Programs and Outreach at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and has recently become the Executive Director of the Baltimore Shambhala Meditation Center.

Joseph is a close student of Meditation Master, Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche, the Head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. He has studied with renowned teacher and author, Pema Chodren, and many prominent teachers in the meditation and yogic traditions in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. He has completed dozens of solitary and group retreats, including three month-long meditation retreats, two month-long solitary retreats, an eight week silent group retreat, numerous shorter group retreats and years of advanced study. Joseph is a graduate of the Shambhala School of Buddhist studies and advanced meditation instructor and teacher trainings in the Shambhala Tradition.

www.josephmauricio.com


Let Us Welcome the Winter Solstice

It’s officially winter! Happy (late) Winter Solstice!

Many months after we celebrate the Summer Solstice, our longest day of the year, the Northern Hemisphere observes the Winter Solstice, our shortest day of the year. These celebrations are actually opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, where Winter Solstice brings the longest day of the year.

Our earth is tilted on its axis as it revolves around the sun, which means that the different hemispheres experience seasons and solstices (Latin for “sun stands still”) differently. During the Winter Solstice, the Northern part of our planet reaches the furthest point from the sun we will experience during the year.

Feng shui-wise, the winter is considered a yin season, where we start to move inward physically as well as emotionally. The yin concept is also about slowing down, and emptiness. Winter in feng shui is also associated with the water element. In winter it looks like everything is dead outside on the outside, but below the snow there is life (even if it’s dormant). The water element and winter are similar. Imagine the middle of a vast ocean, where it’s very still but there’s so much activity happening if you look beneath the surface.

My meditation instructor, Joe Mauricio, called me out earlier this month on my “speediness”. I spent all year running around, never stopping to be mindful. I can’t just blame it on the year of the Horse (Chinese astrology)! Meditation can help you find that space that many of us fear. During this winter season, I encourage each of you to accept the slower pace and pause to find emptiness and space. Even five minutes a day is enough! Let yourself slow down and feel…. Bored? Empty? Quiet? Rest. Peace. And love for yourself.

Fun facts about the Winter Solstice:

Usually occurring between December 21st and 23rd, longstanding Winter Solstice activities have been combined with the popular Christmas holidays, but many of our traditions began as ancient celebrations for surviving another year! In earlier times, winter was a welcome break from hard work during the rest of the year, and almost every culture celebrates the Winter Solstice in some way.

Some of our most mysterious world wonders, including the Irish Newgrange tomb and Stonehenge, were constructed in a way that perfectly captures the sun’s light at the moment of Winter Solstice.  The Yule log also originated as a celebratory festival for the Winter Solstice. Romans even celebrated the solstice for an entire week!

by Anjie Cho


My Favorite Things: 5 Amazing Meditation Tools

Welcome to My Favorite Things! Each month, we highlight products to help you create a holistic lifestyle that inspires and nurtures you, so that you can be happier and feel supported.

This month, we're talking all things meditation with my teacher, Joseph Mauricio. You can catch the first half of our podcast chats here, and the follow-up next week! As you get started (or continue) with your own practice, take a peek at some of my favorite ways to welcome the art of meditation with open arms (and heart).


Meditation Cushions

We use these meditation pillows at the Shambhala Center here in New York, and I love them!

It's great to have a dedicated cushion in your special meditation space to enhance your posture, help establish your meditation area and generally increase the effects of your practice all around. 

Available at: Samadhi Cushions


Round Mirror for Focus

Mirrors are used frequently as feng shui adjustment objects. They can expand your view, eliminate bad energy and add positive energy.

A 3" round mirror is particularly useful to focus your energy and makes a wonderful addition to any dedicated meditation space. Simply secure the mirror safely, directly above your head in your designated area and enjoy increased focus! 

Available at: Holistic Spaces


Buddha Statue

FlowLife is my favorite new age store and it's in my neighborhood! They have wonderful classes as well as beautiful products like this mini Chakra Buddha statue, which is perfect for a meditation space.

Tammy and Maria are the sweetest owners, ready to answer any question you have, so if you have trouble choosing a statue, have no fear! I even taught a feng shui class there recently!

Available at: FlowLife NYC


Buddhist Art

Carmen Mensink is my Tibetan thangka teacher, and she has lovely thangkas (traditional buddhist paintings) for sale on her website.

Not only do her paintings feature beautiful, meaningful images, they also include an explanation of the art and associated mantra on the back, which is great for starting out with a new meditation practice!

Available at: Tibetan Buddhist Art & Classes


Shambhala NYC

This one may be my favorite! Learning to meditate is no easy feat, as we've discussed with both Joe Mauricio and Lodro Rinzler, but it's such a rewarding one. 

Shambhala's meditation courses and workshops are a great way to get off on the right foot with a new practice and build a network of genuine benefactors and friends along the way!

Available at: Shambhala.org