THE SOPRIS SUN,Carbondale’s community supported newspaper • May 22,2014 • 13
Sopris Sun Staff Report – Former Buddhist monk/counselor/teacher John Chophel Bruna has partnered with long-time local Laura Bartels to create the Mindful Life Program, offering practical and transformative courses, retreats and re- sources in mindfulness. Based in Carbondale at the Third Street Center, they offer pro- grams locally and throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia to help participants live a meaningful life according to their own values, and learn to respond skillfully to life’s events, said a press release.
Bruna is the director of the Way of Compassion Foundation and co-founder of the Mindful Life Program. Not unfamiliar to the Roaring Fork Valley, Bruna, who was a Tibetan Buddhist monk for more than six years, used to tour with his fellow monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery through Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Having moved to Carbondale last summer, he now has a steadily growing number of people from the area studying with him and attending weekly groups, retreats and trainings.
Bruna’s journey to Carbondale is un likely. When he was growing up amid poverty, drugs and violence in Los Angeles, one of nine children of a widowed mother, he had one goal: to not go to prison like family members and friends.
Despite stealing alcohol from liquor stores at age 10, becoming an alcoholic, a drug addict, homeless and a father at 20, Bruna managed to achieve that goal, according to a press release. But at 22, as his life spiraled out of control, he decided to get clean and sober and set a new goal: God’s will be done, not mine.
“My will always got me in trouble,” he said. “For me, it translates into: How can I be of beneﬁt?” Fifteen years into recovery, another pivotal event came when he started to meditate and follow the Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama.
“I realized that much of the suffering in the world is unnecessary,” said Bruna, who in 2005 became an ordained Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition. “To have real peace in life, you have to have peace with yourself. Meditation allowed me to quit reacting to the world and to be able to respond skillfully with intention. I was able to go inside and look at the patterns in my life that led to unhappiness and ask myself: What will help me lead the life I want, a beneﬁcial life?”
Today, Bruna travels the United States and Canada giving workshops and leading retreats designed to help others lead happier lives. He is currently teaching a four- week mindfulness course in Carbondale. He also leads a weekly Mindfulness Group, and a weekly meditation and dharma talk. “The quicker we identify our emotions, the more skillfully we can respond to them instead of simply reacting to them,”
Bruna said. Bruna said he believes that one of the best ways to become aware of one’s emotions and respond appropriately is through cultivating mindfulness throughout one’s daily life, which is an integral part of his teachings. Mindfulness, even practiced for a few weeks, can transform lives, according to Bruna. The key to mindfulness is training the mind, which is done through meditation. “Meditation settles the mind, bringing it back to its natural state,” he said.
At the end of 2011, Bruna said he transitioned from the life as a Tibetan Buddhist monk to a layperson because he felt he could be more effective, reaching more people as a layperson than as a monk. In 2012, he founded the non-proﬁt Way of Compassion Foundation, with the mission of helping people live meaningful lives according to their own values and spiritual beliefs. The foundation operates on donations he receives from his workshops and public talks and from sponsors. Desiring to offer mindfulness training that was practical, accessible and universal, Bruna, along with Australian colleague Mark Molony, created a curriculum for a comprehensive mindfulness course that is adaptable to all types of speciﬁc audiences from the general public, to educators, therapists and recovery programs among others. The goal is to help participants live a meaningful life according to their own values, while cultivating emotional and “attentional” balance.
For more information about the weekly groups of both organizations see mindfullifeprogram.org and wayofcompassion.org, or call 970-633-0163.