How and WHY I Started Meditating

A huge, stone Buddha towers, meditating in profile, above the trees, with an open sky behind - Photo by Béria Lima De Rodríguez

Hello readers! Below, you’ll find a piece by poet Mark Frutkin on his “how and why” of first starting a meditation practice, and finding his way to the Shambhala path. Maybe you’ve been on a similar journey, or maybe yours has been completely different – influenced by Buddhists like Courtney Love or Steve Jobs, or kicked off thanks to mindfulness influencers like Lavendaire and Kristal Naomi. Either way, you may find Mark’s words relatable.


Once Upon a Time

I’ve been meditating and walking the Shambhala path for decades now. But I wanted to take you back to the beginning, my beginning, and share the story of how I began my meditation practice.


Finding the Path

It started back in 1975, when I was living in a log cabin on a farm in Western Quebec. I came across a book on meditation, by Shunryu Suzuki, called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I don’t recall how I found this book. Maybe a friend gave it to me. Maybe it was mentioned in Whole Earth Catalogue or in Ram Dass’s Be Here Now – two works that everyone in my generation was reading at that time. I read Suzuki’s book with great interest and found that he included precise instructions about how to begin a meditation practice. Following his instructions I began practicing every day and have continued ever since. Forty-five years.

I can’t recall what actually drew me to meditation practice but it seemed totally natural to start. I didn’t give it a great deal of thought or consideration. Never struggled with any kind of decision about whether to begin or not. I just jumped into it, did it, and liked it! It just felt like the right thing to do.


Walking the Path

I left the farm in 1980, and moved to Ottawa. Not long after, an important connection happened that profoundly affected my meditation practice. I went to a dinner party at a friend’s one evening and met Helene. Helene was a member of the Ottawa Dharma Study Group. Helene and I closed the party down, then walked around a city park until early morning when we had breakfast together.

Talk about a connection!

Over breakfast, Helene told me she was going to a ‘nyinthun’ at the Ottawa Dharma Study Group. A ‘nyinthun’ was an all-day sitting and walking meditation practice. She asked me if I would like to join her. Yep. After staying up all night, we went and meditated all day. I believe I met Henry Chapin at this event.

It was from him and from Helene that I learned all about Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his teachings and started connecting with the Shambhala path. A few years later, I headed off to a three-month seminary with Chogyam Trungpa and several hundred other students in Pennsylvania. My journey on this path was in place.