What is Infinite Smile?
The Infinite Smile Sangha is a non-profit organization that endeavors to integrate relevant spiritual practices with 21st century living. Infinite Smile’s mission is to invite all those interested to participate in the practice of spiritual teachings that integrate stillness, wisdom, and compassion into our day-to-day lives. For everyone taking this path, the intention of Infinite Smile’s members is to embody the transformation that they wish to see in the world through the Zen-inspired, meditative practices that are led and taught by Michael McAlister.
How long has the Sangha been around?
In 2002, Infinite Smile’s founder Michael McAlister started a meditation class for a small group of people in the Northern California town of Lafayette, California. In a short time, the Sangha (Sanskrit for the word “group”) has evolved into something more than just a collection of meditators. It has become a thriving community of people sharing a path toward an ever-deepening stillness, balance, and awareness of themselves and others. Infinite Smile’s Sangha continues to grow at an amazing speed.
Do you offer retreats?
The Infinite Smile one-day intensives and weekend retreats are held throughout the year at various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Participants will be able to “turn up the heat” of their practice, as Michael says, and step back from the course of their daily lives in order to more fully approach the depth and richness of the Unknown.
At their essence, daylong intensives and weekend retreats offer participants a time to question their most cherished ideas, opinions, and beliefs. This may sound intense, but that’s the point. This deep questioning allows us to open to the space that is beyond our pain, stress, and suffering.
The structure of our retreats is something we’ve developed over the years not only to support silence, solitude, and stillness but to challenge the various ways that we cling to what is small in us thus resisting letting go into what is Infinite.
Michael found that one of the most common questions that kept coming up among Sangha members involved whether it was possible to bring the peace of an enlightened perspective into the middle of our busy lives. With a resounding, “Yes,” Michael penned his book, Awake in This Life: A Guide for Those Climbing the Mountain of Spirit.
Written in clear, often humorous prose, Awake in This Life offers another path for those faced with the frustrating choice of either fitting into a faith that no longer inspires, or rejecting spirituality altogether. His alternative approach to deepening consciousness combines elements from various traditions that offer practical, purposeful lessons that guide readers on a profound journey. McAlister points out what to expect while walking the path toward authentic transformation, how to maneuver past pitfalls, and how to integrate ancient wisdom into a new way of life. With the help of this book, readers will uncover within themselves what is already truly awake and then learn to express this recognition in the midst of busy lives. They will discover how to bring an enlightened perspective into relationships, work, and day-to-day situations, while freeing themselves from past pain and future worries. Whether readers are searching for enlightenment or just want a more centered life, Awake in This Life: A Guide for Those Climbing the Mountain of Spirit offers a pathway to a happier, more meaningful way of living.
Are there recordings of his talks?
Slowing Down ………. $15
In this video recording of an Infinite Smile Sangha intensive retreat, Michael McAlister offers Zen-inspired insights and practices on incorporating slowness into our busy lives. Recorded in Northern California’s beautiful Marin Headlands, this DVD shows each of us how to deepen our practice of stillness while laughing a little along the way.
Runtime: 72 min
From the Ego to the Infinite ………. $10
In this video, Michael McAlister addresses the ways in which we can begin to consciously express that in us which is most sacred instead of living lives limited by fear and insecurity.
Runtime: 37 min
What about Podcasting?
Through Michael’s Podcasts, his lectures are shared all over the globe reaching over 100 different countries. The Podcasts are available on iTunes.
And you meet for sitting meditation each week?
Yes. And regardless of one’s wisdom tradition or previous experience with spirituality, an ongoing invitation is extended each week to anyone interested in deepening the way in which they meet their life. Michael follows up each weekly meditation with a talk and a question and answer period.
Tuesday’s 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Lafayette Christian Church
584 Glenside Drive
Lafayette, CA 94549
What about Michael’s background?
Michael has many facets to him: formerly a stand-up comic and actor on both stage and screen, he changed careers in the early 90s and ended up teaching psychology at his alma mater, Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California. He currently leads the Infinite Smile Sangha and also enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.
His path to spiritual teaching is an interesting one. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in history, he began practicing meditation with the Zen community at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Sausalito, California. Over the years, his spiritual journey led him to study abroad with masters in both Thailand and Nepal. While his teaching is Zen-inspired, he works to integrate the sacred teachings of several traditions such as Vedanta Hinduism, contemplative Christianity, Kabbalah, and Sufiism.