While a new generation of children began to find their way in this chaotic world, Lodro Rinzler grew up finding reflective stillness beyond the limit of his parents’ meditation cushions. Now, this New York-based meditation teacher captures the art of integrating his very idiosyncratic and sometimes off-the-wall humor into his teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to rooms full of young professionals who are striving to deepen their social interactions beyond the digital realms of Twitter and Facebook.
YogaCity NYC’s Ashley Rose Howard caught up with this author of two books: The Buddha Walks into a Bar and Walk Like a Buddha and founder of The Institute for Compassionate Leadership to learn more about his modern approach to Buddhism, and the secrets to bridging a spiritual practice with a worldly life.
Ashley Rose Howard:You’ve been mediating since you were a child. Were you born into a spiritual family?
Lodro Rinzler: My parents studied Buddhism since they were in their 20s under Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. My mom also became a yoga teacher and fell in love with the practice. I began meditating as a child and sat retreats by the time I was a teenager, including a silent month-long retreat where I shaved my head and took monastic robes and vows.
ARH: What did your high school friends think of that?
LR: I was always a weird kid so I don't recall anyone being too surprised that I went away to a monastery for a month. I did come back a bit too strictly "religious" in my understanding of Buddhism though, and I think there are few things more annoying than an overly righteous 17-year-old.
ARH:When did you first start teaching your very modern approach to Buddhism?
LR: When I started a meditation group in college I realized that the more I would talk about it, the more people would want to deal with things. I was going through a breakup at the time and I remember realizing there are other people going through the same thing as me. I also established Buddhist House, an eighteen-person dorm at Wesleyan University; this is the first time I began teaching meditation.
ARH:What inspired the idea of your first book The Buddha Walks Into A Bar?
LR: It was based on my realization that more people were talking about their mid-life crisis or quarter-life crisis and asking how to make Buddhism relevant to your life. In response, I started an advice blog on Huffington Post, What Would Sid Do? Sid (short for, Siddhartha, the name of Buddha) was a normal 20 or 30-something living a spiritual life and he had his own fair share of obstacles along the way. I asked questions like: what would our journey look like with today's obstacles? What do you do when you wake up to a one-night stand? Is it okay to be gay and still practice Buddhism? These conversations eventually developed into my first book, The Buddha Walks Into A Bar. How do you integrate spiritually into the lifestyle that you’re already living?
ARH: What do you do when you are a Buddhist and wake up from a one-night stand?
LR: Be kind. Communicate from the heart. Share what you are actually feeling. But above all, that first one.
ARH: Do you find similarities between modern Buddhism and yoga philosophy?
LR: Yoga has made the transition to make the teachings relevant to people’s everyday lives, like helping people find mind/body connection in the center of busy cities. Mediation has a similar role and it’s just starting to catch up. I wouldn’t be surprised in 5-10 years to see mediation studios popping up like yoga studios.
ARH: Can you tell me more about The Institute for Compassionate Leadership?
LR: It is relatively new. I founded this program as leadership training for people who want to help the world, but aren’t exactly sure how to do that. Students who go through the program get placed with an executive coach for 6 months along with meditation training. We look at the qualities of who you want be, as opposed to what you want to do. Can we actually become self-aware? We accept applicants with many different backgrounds and goals. For example, we currently have a 20-something woman who has worked in real estate and realized she wanted to make more of an impact. Now, she’s looking into more environmental reform opportunities. There are a real variety of people and the common dominator is: our students are going to do interesting work and help the world.
ARH:Do you have to apply to get in and how much does it cost?
LR: We are currently accepting applications for our July class. While the price tag may be steep for some, we are a needs-blind organization and accept leaders based on our understanding of their desire to change the world. If you are accepted, we believe you are the type of leader this world needs and will make it work for you financially no matter what.
ARH:How do you manage to bridge your spiritual practice and busy lifestyle?
LR: I wake up in the morning and ask: what is really important to me today? Whatever it is for the day, I go into my meetings/calls/projects with that intention in mind. Setting intentions is very powerful and practicing meditation makes us bring that experience of coming back to the present into our everyday activities like work and relationships.
To learn more about Lodro Rinzler’s books and The Institute for Compassionate Leadership, visit his website by clicking here or friend him on facebook.