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Feb 17
Scene and Heard
Warrior Tribute to Paul Warwick

photo by Charles Blackhall

photo by Charles Blackhall

Falling in Love with an Avalanche
Interview with Acharya Jenny Warwick

Commemorating the Life of Paul Warwick who passed away on February 2nd

Mr. Paul Warwick was an extraordinary teacher and mentor to many. He served in numerous capacities across the mandala since the early 1970’s along with his beloved wife of 53 years, Acharya Jenny Warwick.

Acharya Warwick was very generous to speak with the Shambhala Times about the life of her husband. “We have received hundreds of cards and emails from the sangha. So many students were touched by Paul over the years.” There is also an extensive collection of well-wishers on Sangha Announce on the Shambhala Network. Mrs. Warwick described Paul as being very generous and very interested in everybody, particularly in his role as an active meditation instructor for 30 years. Jenny and Paul have been proud grandparents as well, and their grandchildren spoke at the sukhavti last weekend at the Bellingham Shambhala Center, sharing their gift of gab and storytelling that they inherited from their grandfather.

Acharya Warwick shared their Shambhala history with us. Starting in 1974, Paul went to one of the first dathuns at Shambhala Meditation Center. They organized the first dharma study group in the Kooteneys. It became very active with practice and frequent nyinthuns. Shortly thereafter, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche convened a large Dharmadhatu conference that Paul attended, and after that Paul and Jenny hosted Trungpa Rinpoche in Vancouver and were part of the household for that visit. This led Paul to attending the 1975 seminary, where he was given the name Samten Gangri meaning Snow Mountain of Meditation, a name that was poetically appropriate for a 6′ 2″ bald guy.

Paul Warwick officiating at Dia and Eric Ballous's wedding

Paul Warwick officiating at Dia and Eric Ballous’s wedding

After Acharya Warwick went to Seminary, they moved to Berkeley, CA and became active in the Center there. Later on, they moved to Vancouver where Jenny was the Ambassador and Paul worked in Practice and Education. In 1985, Jenny was asked to be a of Director of Karme Choling, and so Jenny and Paul moved there with their daughter, Katie. Paul’s first job at KCL was as the Head of Building and Maintenance working with the wood crew, stewarding the land, and helping to keep the old cars and machinery working. After a while Paul became Head of Practice and Education.

When the Vidyadhara died in 1987 and the cremation was planned for Karme Choling, Paul was very involved in the physical details of making that happen. Paul was in charge of creating living situations on the land in the middle of a snowy April for the over 200 people from the world wide sangha who came to help as well as assisting with the 24 hour practice schedule. In his mind the highpoint of success for all the things he did to support the cremation event was figuring out the parking for the final day for the 3000 people expected to arrive. He invited the Barnet Fire Department to figure it out and staff it in exchange for the parking fees! From then on KCL’s relationship with the town of Barnet was sealed in good feeling. Acharya Warwick shared that living at Karme Choling was “a very exciting time for all of us, and a very important time in our family and practice lives.”

In 1990, the family moved to Seattle and then relocated to Bellingham, WA. It was there that Paul began to work at Whatcom Community College. It was hard to find a job after leaving Karme Choling, so his daughter hired him into her department where he taught English as a second language for 12 years. “Students really loved him,” Jenny shared. “In all of his relations with the new immigrants in his classes, he was always able to make them relax and smile and learn English.”

As the Center in Bellingham grew, Paul Warwick was the most active meditation instructor. At the recent sukhavati, one of his students from Seattle shared that, “Paul was an old fashioned, hands-on MI who followed you on your path and intervened with a firm hand when you needed it.” Jenny shared that as an MI, he often invited his students into his living room and spent time with each of them listening and encouraging them to continue on the path.

In 1988 and 1990 Paul taught at the Vajrayana Seminary at SMC. He also led a number of dathuns, some at Karme Choling and two on the West Coast which were held on Vancouver Island in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, he and Jenny went to Sopa Choling to celebrate their retirement. “Instead of a cruise, we joined the 2nd year of the 3 year retreat where we did Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara practices.” After that, Paul led several closed retreats at Sea to Sky Retreat Center in B.C. helping people get through Chakrasamvara practice. In 2009, they traveled back to Karme Choling to attend Scorpion Seal Assembly.

The Warwick family; photo by Paul

The Warwick family; photo by Paul

The Warwicks have had a rich family life, as well as a rich dharma life. Their family includes three daughters: Julia, Katie, and Anna, and sons-in-law Lynn and Peter, as well as four grandchildren, Celsiana and Dashiell and Lucinda and Celia. He loved teaching Celia and Lucinda to row on St Margaret’s Bay in Nova Scotia and later took Celsiana and Dashiell camping and boating for 2 – 3 weeks each summer. Paul loved telling stories, walking, photography, and making fires. Jenny says he was good with wood and loved fire and passed that on to the grandkids.

At the sukhavati, Dashiell shared a story from his childhood. “I was bringing our 14 foot dory into dock at Montague Bay in B.C. I was 8 years old. The motor was so noisy I couldn’t hear the instructions from my grandfather, so I circled the dock three times trying to figure out how to land. When I finally headed straight for the dock I was going too fast and ripped a large whole in the side of the boat.” Dashiell remembered that Paul didn’t react. “He always had confidence we would make it.” Celsiana, a grad student in classics at UCLA read a story from Ovid’s Greek Myths called Baucis and Philemon, a celebrated ancient goodness couple, which Jenny asked her to read. Click here to read the story.

When Paul got sick last summer, he had already been losing strength for about a year. “We thought that it was a sign of aging,” Jenny said, “he was 75.” But it turned out he was severely anemic, with a syndrome called myeloid dysplasia. It’s a syndrome that doesn’t have a cure. The doctors tried to help him but by Christmas time, the family decided to call upon hospice. “We had him at home for 7 weeks,” Jenny shared. “Fortunately, there was no pain. He thought a lot about how to die well.” The last seminar he taught was called, “Wake up and Die Right,” which he taught in Bellingham. Within three months of teaching that program he found that he had myeloid displaysia. From then on Paul and Jenny worked together to create the conditions for Paul to die wakefully and well at home.

Paul WarwickPaul is well known in the sangha for his bravery and outrageousness in asking questions at seminars. An old friend of the family, Herb Elsky, shared a memory of Paul interacting with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche at a 1976 Seminar in Santa Cruz when Paul raised his hand and said, ‘Falling in love with you is like falling in love with an avalanche.'”

At the end of our interview, Jenny said she feels like her marriage with Paul had some of the qualities of an avalanche, mixed with the most gentle and whimsical appreciation that people can offer to one another.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Shambhala Center.

View more about Paul by clicking here.

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7 responses to “ Warrior Tribute to Paul Warwick ”
  1. Wendy Elizabeth Langmuir Baks
    Apr 29, 2013

    i in simplicity and appreciation love this man’s great lion activity, this great big bear of a man …. he was living at tail of the tiger when i resided there in order to complete my prostration practice …. kind …. a very kind man and his sweet heart jenny took me under her wing … a finer pair of human beings one could not find …. love is the word that comes to my mind love ….. <3

  2. Vince Moore
    Mar 3, 2013

    So sorry to hear this, Jenny. Great man! Great loss.
    Much love,

  3. Ben Bashore
    Feb 28, 2013

    I love Paul Warwick. His memory will always be an blooming inspiration.

  4. I knew Paul and Jenny from Missoula, and a few years later, I visited them in the eastern BC, near Kaslo. But I had lost touch with them. Out of the blue, I called Denny Blouin and he told me of Paul’s death. I wanted so much to see him again to discuss the rest of my life. If you read this, Jenny, I am still alive and kicking and you can find me in the telephone book for Dayton, Montana. Gene Presser

  5. In fourteen years working with Paul as my MI, I only saw him angry once, and in retrospect it was a bit theatrical (playing angry to teach). Mostly when he thought things were going awry, he’d hang his head and sigh. This from a gentleman who, in his youth, loved bare knuckle fights with strangers who heard he was tough and asked for a bout. He once told me that at football team parties in college at Princeton, he would pick up a wooden school chair and rip it in half while everyone roared. What I remember about Paul’s emotion decades later was his pure genuineness. When the tsunami hit Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Thailand in December 2004, Paul came into the shrine room at the first Pacific NW Dathun on Vancouver Island. He begin reading the news to roughly 80 participants who’d been practicing for three weeks. Before the first sentence was out of his mouth (the astounding death toll), Paul was sobbing — and so were we. We all just sobbed together for five minutes before he could continue reading us the rest of the article.

    Years later, I was sitting in Paul’s living room one Fall day, admitting that I’d come to see that I really didn’t understand emptiness, despite having taught classes on it. He ground his teeth and locked his intense gaze on me. “Tell me what you think it is.” By this point, I trusted Paul implicitly and felt a shiver of delight, knowing that I would be “getting schooled” in the most insightful manner possible. True to form, using simple examples of my sensory experience of objects in the room, in 30min I went away with a clearer understanding of emptiness than I’ve read in any book. And, as usual with Paul’s teaching, an understanding that sparked genuine little bits of experience at a Mahamudra retreat the year following.

    Paul’s teaching always pushed us hard towards real experience. He never let any subject, no matter how intellectually titillating, remain in the realm of memorized Buddhistic knowledge. My sweetie Zoey and I re-listened to one of his talks on the Mamo Chants recently. He explained that instead of this just being some esoteric Tibetan belief system, that mamos were (among other things) the personification of the ripple effects that mindlessness produces in our lives. He talked about the stock market crash of 2008-9, the investment in derivatives that no one understood, etc, and that “our real human suffering” results from this kind of reliance upon “shoddy theories that don’t match reality.” Paul’s talks were always like this. Wildly innovative and yet somehow easy to track, despite what seemed like a tangential logic. Seeing him teach so many times — indeed, when I first arrived in Bellingham, he and (the now) Acharya Jenny Warwick would teach every class — I came to realize how canny he was. How he would string a tangent out and out and out. And just when you thought there was no connection whatsoever. WHAP! Paul would pull it around to the exact set of questions you were wondering about in your mind.

    I can truly say that our lineage is blessed with dozens (hundreds?) of amazing Western teachers. Our Acharyas, our Shastris, the many Shambhala Training directors and ordinary masters in the heartful logic of transmitting living dharma. And I can also say that Paul was among the best Western teachers I’ve experienced. He held no title, and I think he rather enjoyed getting to be a wild card, tricksterish and sly. We’re working in Bellingham to gather an archive of his recordings, so that his talks can continue to illuminate over time.

    Paul always talked about death, and his death in particular. For years he would push us to examine our own inevitable death, and how we might live our lives with the knowledge of how it cast a deep shadow over our potential for frivolousness, our callousness. He taught a few of his “Wake Up and Die Right” weekends before having to cancel the last due to his own illness taking stronger hold. The last time I spoke with him, about six weeks before the end, he was lucid and cheerful, if a bit tired, talking about where and how he was hoping to die (in his chair in the living room, with practices he’d been working on for years — Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc). Finally carrying his body up to the shrine room in Bellingham and seeing him lying there, dressed as he always preferred, I felt it was his last teaching statement. Imaginary teeth grinding, grinning: “Do you see?”

    I will always miss Paul and I will never miss him. What he transmitted to me I can only say lives on as powerfully as he did, as it will hopefully after me, in whomever I can clumsily, inadequately transmit it on to, ala the very normal, very human view of lineage that Paul always emphasized with us. “It’s people, you see? Lineage is just living people like you and me. One to the next. Down the line.”

    That is dharma/truth. Goodbye great warrior. See you on down the line.

  6. Asata Radcliffe
    Feb 18, 2013

    Paul taught all of us to love ourselves for who we are, and that’s it! As simple as they may sound, it was the best teaching I ever received from him. His humor, keen inquisitveness, and caring is something I will always keep with me.

  7. Dale Hinchey
    Feb 17, 2013

    Such a stride he had,
    The walk of a hiking warrior,
    So much groundless ground
    Covered and uncovered by this
    Gentle Warrior;
    A dragon in the mist,
    A jolly good dragon,
    A flash in the mountain sky.

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