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Duvall’s new Tibetan Buddhist study group is all about mental health

  • Written by Kirsten Abel
“It’s really about mental health. Tibetan Buddhism is the study of the mind,” said Mark Winwood, the founder of the Chenrezig Project. “It’s not this new age thing. It’s this ancient, ancient wisdom.”
 
The Chenrezig Project is a Tibetan Buddhist study group now based in Duvall. Its website (chenrezigproject.org) states that its purpose is “infusing Western life with Tibetan Buddhist compassion.”
 
Members of the group explore the mind, what’s beneficial, what’s wholesome, what’s harmful, Winwood said. Then, they learn to let the harmful states of mind pass. They focus on applying Buddhist practices in daily life—at work, at home, and in relationships.
 
“We begin to really see that so much of our anxiety and our stress, our inferiority and our superiority, all arises in the mind based on misunderstandings,” Winwood said. “These Tibetan Buddhist teachings are about understanding the misunderstandings.”
 
winwood uncropped 1The Chenrezig Project’s founder, Mark Winwood (Photo courtesy of Mark Winwood)The Chenrezig Project recently moved from Monroe to Duvall, but the group originates in Florida. Winwood has been a college professor, a study group leader, and he is a current volunteer at the Monroe Correctional Complex. His book, Am Stopping My Finger Now, came out in 2015.
 
Winwood first discovered Tibetan Buddhism about 15 years ago. “It was around the age of 50 that I made my first trip to India following a divorce,” he said. “I needed to clear my head.” Since then, he’s been back to India about six times.
 
“I was very impressed with the people, the way they were, their generosity, their courage,” he said.
 
The Chenrezig Project isn’t just for Buddhists or for those who want to become Buddhist. In fact, Winwood said, the practical nature of the group’s teachings makes them uniquely applicable to many different kinds of people from many different backgrounds.
 
“People from all walks of life, it really resonates,” he said. “Whatever we did was never about converting people.”
 
Tibetan Buddhism can even be integrated into other religions and belief systems, Winwood said. “It can make you a better Christian, a better Jew, a better Muslim.”
Many people equate Buddhism with reincarnation. Others come looking to learn how to meditate. Still others associate the religion with a myriad of gods.
“That’s all kind of part of it in terms of the art and the iconography of it,” Winwood said. “There’s all different strains of Buddhist thought and practice.”
 
But at the end of the day, it’s all about the mind.
 
“Quite a few folks come and they’re having trouble with their kids, their teenagers. There’s some kind of discomfort,” he said. “Frequently people are here because either they have an illness or they’re dealing with something.”
 
Winwood said he is particularly interested in sharing the teachings with residents of Duvall.
 
“It is really very community oriented,” he said. “I guess I’m kind of a cultural Buddhist as well as a practicing Buddhist. And the Buddhist culture has really deep roots out here.”
The group holds weekly Thursday meetings at Winwood’s home in Duvall. Winwood also teaches online sessions every Wednesday.
 
Those interested can visit the Chenrezig Project open house on January 11, 2018 at the Duvall Visitor Center from 6-8 p.m., or email Mark Winwood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Anyone who attends the open house will receive a small set of Tibetan prayer flags.
“I’m really dedicated to sharing these teachings,” Winwood said. “It clarifies your mind. It makes you clearer and stronger and more confident and less distracted.”
 

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