Aspen Daily News – John Bruna and the Final Frontier
Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)
If you think space is the final frontier, you are so right. But I’m not talking outer space here but inner space, the space between our ears.
Even though practitioners have been studying the mind for thousands of years, it’s really catching on in the modern world. From yoga to Zen to Tibetan Buddhism, there is no shortage of opportunity to take yourself for a spin under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
I feel so lucky to have the Way of Compassion Dharma Center right here in Carbondale. The center means a lot of things to a lot of people, and the potential for personal improvement provided by the center is literally unlimited. It’s all in your mind.
I started dropping in on the Buddhist Dharma talks on Wednesday evenings at 6 in the Third Street Center. These meditation sessions, lessons and discussions are led by John Chophel Bruna.
Bruna has a fascinating history, and somehow after all his travels, trials, tribulations and explorations he ended up in Carbondale, of all places. His life has led him on a meandering path that includes living under a bridge at 19 years old to becoming a dishwasher, teacher, a Tibetan monk and, ultimately, a Buddhist leader with the chops to teach a newcomer like myself about the wonders of meditation and living a “mindful” life.
As I’ve just just started to learn, I have found that this mindful life stuff is like an ever-opening flower. It just keeps giving. Who knew that simple concepts like compassion, living in the moment, impermanence, interconnectedness, altruism and wisdom could blossom from a practice of focusing on each breath you take? So much junk falls away when you simplify, simplify, simplify.
Of course, nothing is really easy. As you begin to peel back the onion of a 2,500-year lineage of accumulated knowledge, it’s daunting and infinite. But don’t let that scare you. You can start by taking a few moments to focus on the breath entering and exiting your body right now.
Bruna makes these concepts accessible and even fun to learn. I leave his talks feeling better and wanting to know more.
Last year Bruna published his first book, The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life. In the book, Bruna weaves his way through the potential that we all have while still living in a complex, unpredictable, ever-changing world. He simply tells his story, but that’s enough to keep you turning the pages. There are lots of books on getting started with mindfulness, but Bruna’s is as good as any of them, and you have direct access to the author right here in the valley.
At first I was scared to start down a new spiritual path. I was raised Catholic and was an altar boy who went to church on Sundays and more. I still go to church with mom when I visit her home in Nevada. Once when I was sick and suffering, her parish actually prayed for me. You can’t beat a good sermon, no matter what the denomination.
Last year I discovered the Dharma Center in Carbondale and was drawn to the science of mindful living. It turns out that the simple practice of focusing on your breath is good for your health! That’s where I started. Even without the rituals and mysticism there are a lot of benefits waiting behind the shades of our eyes.
Don’t misunderstand. I know almost nothing of Buddhism, Dharma or mindful living. I’ve just started learning about the final frontier, but it’s pretty exciting. There are countless paths to take, from the more secular Zen practices to the more exotic tantric explorations and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism.
One thing is clear. When you get around someone who has been studying and practicing mindfulness, they are often very happy, wise and peaceful people. Good qualities. And to teach? That’s bold!
Many of us here in the valley are very fortunate to enjoy the causes and conditions conducive to learning the new frontier. We have access to good living conditions and a peaceful society, decent health, a stunning environment and qualified teachers. Not everyone shares our good fortune. It could be argued that I have taken these conditions for granted and wasted many years chasing self-satisfaction and worldly pleasures. I’m not alone! We all have.
One thing I’m supportive of and excited about is a potential new meditation center at the Third Street Center. The Way of Compassion Dharma Center is undergoing a campaign to raise funds to make it happen. This will be a place where we can take a break from whatever we are doing and spend a little quality time exploring our minds in a very supportive environment. Of course, you don’t really need a specific place to do this, but a designated cushion is not to be underrated.
Steve Skinner hopes you will join him in supporting the valley’s first designated meditation space. Visit the Way of Compassion at www.wocdharmacenter.org and reach Steve at [email protected].
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