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


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



Create a Meditation Space with Feng Shui

Feng shui is a philosophy developed in ancient China that outlines positive ways in which to organize yourself in your environment. Meditation is a practice in which you can learn to become familiar with your inner landscape. Both feng shui and meditation are used to generate harmony and peace within your life.

Why not use feng shui to create a sacred space in which to meditate that can support and improve your meditation practice?

Define a Space

Select a dedicated space that you can routinely go back to for your meditation practice. It can be the corner of your bed, a room in your home, or a place outside in your backyard. My meditation space is a quiet section of my living room that faces a river view. Since it's not in the commanding position, I've set up a mirror so I can see behind me to put me in a relaxing and calm mental space. It is okay if you cannot find a perfectly quiet spot. Life is full of distraction, and part of meditation is to learn to accept the interruptions.

You can further differentiate your space by sitting on a special pillow, cushion or blanket to define your place. I have a couple of buckwheat zafu cushions specifically designed for meditation. This can help you to dedicate and define your special “spot.”

Dedicate and Clear the Space

After you have selected your meditation space and defined it physically, it is of utter importance to clear and dedicate the area energetically. Space clearing dedicates the invisible energy of space so you can start fresh and set your intention for the space, the particular moment and for your life.

In feng shui, oranges and orange peels represent vibrant, life-affirming energy. Orange essence is refreshing, happy and contributes positive, fresh, and brightening energy to our inner and outer environments. You can use 9 drops of orange essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser to transform your area into a space with vibrant, life-giving, positive energy. Remember, when you clear the space of the existing energy, be sure to replace it with positive intention.

Add a Crystal for Clarity

Feng shui crystals are used to adjust the flow of energy in a space. They are particularly effective for bringing light, brilliance and clarity to your meditation practice. Feng shui crystal balls are made of faceted, leaded glass. For this application, purchase a crystal that is a minimum of 40mm and place in the center of your meditation space, above your head where you’re sitting or just in front of you so you can see it. The ball should be hung with a red string in a length that is a multiple of 9, for example 18”, 27”, 36”, etc. You can find crystals and red strings at the Holistic Spaces store here.

Use these three simple feng shui tips to create your own sacred meditation place to create harmony and peace in your inner and outer spaces.

by Anjie Cho


The Tortoise and the Yoke with Lodro Rinzler

Last week I shared part of my interview with writer, teacher and Buddhist practitioner, Lodro Rinzler. And here’s the rest!

AC:  How do you create holistic spaces in your life?

LR: I’m reminded of my teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, when he said, “the environment is a support or deterrent for everything we do." It’s really that straightforward. When you wake up in the morning and you have clothes everywhere, on the floor, on your chairs. You go to use the bathroom but you end up tripping over your computer. Then you’re cursing…and all of a sudden, your mental state entering that day isn’t going to be one of joy or mindfulness. It’s going to be one of aggression. In that way, I’ve always taken care to create a clean environment free from clutter so that when I wake up, I feel uplifted by entering into it.

What that means for different people is obviously personal to them. For me, it means having art that I personally find uplifting; it means that everything has a proper place. There are basic Buddhist principles for arranging objects in one’s home where you hold certain objects up high and others down low. You could say it’s respecting the natural hierarchy of objects. Generally, in my environment I like to keep it clean and maintain things in the spaces, if that makes sense. 

In my work environment I have reminders of the Buddhist principles I want to cultivate. Right above my computer is an image. It’s a very traditional image reminding me how precious this human life actually is. Whenever I’m distracted or annoyed or whatever, I can look up and see a gentle reminder that I really should be so appreciative for this life that I do have. I think it’s nice to actually have inspiring art images and writing within your environment as constant reminders to wake up to what’s actually going on as opposed to being lost in your head.

What is the image mentioned that you have over your desk?

It’s an image of a tortoise with a yoke around its neck. Within Buddhist canon, this is used as an analogy for the rarity of a precious human life. The image is of a blind tortoise who lives in the ocean. This ocean is as wide as the world. He only comes up once every century, even though he lives many, many thousands of years. It is said that on the surface of this “world ocean,” there is a yoke. A yoke is what one would traditionally place around your ox or yak’s back. That yoke, with its little head-sized hole floats, on the top of this ocean. The odds of this blind tortoise who comes up once every hundred years, poking its head through that yoke… it is said that it is even MORE rare and MORE precious to have a human birth. Our lives are an incredible opportunity that we have. It reminds me that we should make the most of it.

What are some day-to-day meditation tips for my readers, especially for those new to meditation?

I think the most important thing in starting a meditation practice is to be consistent about it. I teach at Shambhala Centers, one could visit www.shambhala.org, to find a meditation center near them. Or just type your city and “Buddhist meditation” into your search engine and see what comes up. Most meditation centers have an open house night where you could learn the basic meditation practice for free or by donation. 

Once you receive the practice, try to do it consistently on your own at home. And there are many places that have regular open sittings where you can go and sit with a group and gain that level of support. As you engage your practice, starting to do it regularly, you don’t have to meditate for long periods of time. But you could pick it up in the same way that you would pick up a new musical instrument. 

If we pick it up once a month and play around with it, often we spend that time figuring out what we learned last time. But if we picked it up 10 minutes a day, it starts to become easier and easier to remember what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how it goes and we actually get better at it. 

Just 10 minutes a day for 11 days, breeds a sense of consistency into our being. It becomes more habit-like instead of just something that we’re trying out. It’s said that after 11 days of doing anything, it could be stopping smoking, it could be writing, it starts to become a regular habit. Our brain fires differently to actually incorporate it and it feels weird when we don’t do it. 

So, if someone really wanted to launch a meditation practice, I recommend that 10 minutes a day, 11 days in a row. Scientifically they say that after 11 times is when a practice starts to become a habit in our mind. After 21 days, it’s the fully formed habit. But you must be consistent and practice regularly every day.

by Anjie Cho


Lodro Rinzler is a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and the author of the best-selling "The Buddha Walks into a Bar...", the award-winning "Walk Like a Buddha" and the brand new "The Buddha Walks into the Office." Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers and college campuses throughout North America. Lodro’s columns appear regularly on the Huffington Post and Marie Claire online and he is frequently featured in Reality Sandwich, the Interdependence Project, Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma, and Good Men Project. He is the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an authentic leadership training and job placement organization, and lives in Brooklyn with his dog Tillie and his cat Justin Bieber.

For more teachings and articles by Lodro visit www.lodrorinzler.com
Follow Lodro on twitter: @lodrorinzler