Meet the Sangha – Michael Lipscomb

Our Meet the Sangha column continues with Michael Lipscomb, who leads our Heart of Recovery (Sarpashana) group and is also the founder of Mindful Hike, an outdoor wellness adventure community which combines meditation, mindfulness, and communion with nature. Follow Mindful Hike on Facebook or send an email to join the mailing list.

The seeds of my interest in eastern philosophy were planted during a college course featuring the basics of Taoism and Buddhism, and, for several years, I pursued those interests intellectually through texts and through sporadic samatha practice.  It was not until I found myself struggling through a failed marriage that I first began seeking a more direct dharma experience.

I first sat publicly in 2002 with two very different Buddhist communities, a Rinzai Zen group and a group from the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT).  I learned the intricate simplicity of sitting zazen from the former, but it was with the NKT group that a teacher first guided me through a tonglen exercise. The teacher invited me to consider that the path to releasing the anger of my life circumstance was through helping to remove the barriers to my ex-wife’s happiness.  The teaching penetrated my “soft heart” and I remember the hair on my neck standing up the way it does when I hear a powerful piece of music. Afterward, I genuinely felt a switch had been flipped and I was instantly convinced I was on the right path.

Finding a particular tradition to follow was never an intention of mine as the very challenging experiences with the churches of my youth had long before solidified a strongly-held personal objection to all religious or spiritual doctrine, regardless of tradition or teacher.  As a self-described “temple hopper,” I have been a member of numerous sanghas over the last 15 years.  I have received instruction from teachers of several different traditions and meditated with very wise people in many majestic places, but I would never have considered any one of them my “home” before I experienced Sarpashana.

Having also struggled with addiction, my first Shambhala experience occurred when I began attending the Sarpashana/Heart of Recovery group in 2011.  It was there I had the great privilege of meeting my mentor, Frank Sebille, and many of the wisest “teachers” I have ever known.  Frank’s persistently gentle encouragement helped group members to recognize their basic goodness as the reason to choose sobriety every day, and, as a result, they evolve into skillful teachers for one another, particularly for the newcomers. In 2012, Frank asked that I begin co-facilitating Sarpashana, and I am grateful for the ongoing opportunity to be a resource for those in recovery and to continue Frank’s vision for the group.  Sarpashana has become a “home” for many in the recovery community, myself included, and we are thankful for the ongoing support from Shambhala.

Previous Meet the Sangha posts:
LaDawn Haglund
Stuart Rice