Connecting with Copiapo
During the Chilean Garchen, the Sakyong made an especially strong heart-connection with a group from Copiapo
by Pablo Coddou
Nestled in the stunningly beautiful Atacama desert of the north, this small yet potent sangha found itself at the front lines of a devastating natural disaster, with an amazing opportunity to directly apply the teachings of Shambhala meditation and basic goodness in action. On March 24, 2015, a torrential storm ravaged the area, causing massive mudslides that left tens of thousands of people stranded without power or drinking water. A few members of the Copiapo sangha who were present at the Garchen shared with the Sakyong their experiences of relating to the to the catastrophe. The Sakyong was very moved by their courage, compassion, and skillful responsiveness during this difficult time.
Constanza Halzapel of Copiapo put it this way: “This natural disaster affected thousands of people, including many of our sangha. The experience touched us deeply as a group, and presented us with the question of what it truly means to be a community and how we can take care of one another. From my point of view, meditation is what allowed us as practitioners to directly confront the challenge, and see an otherwise overwhelming situation as one of rich opportunity. It made us ask: what is really important?”
It was in this context that they began to offer meditation workshops and instruction. Even though they would not be capable of recovering lost homes, they could create a space that accommodated intense feelings, where the people could regain hope and rediscover their confidence in basic goodness. With the help of the Shambhala Center of Santiago, the Copiapo sangha held a Level I, as well as weekly open house gatherings, to which hundreds of people came seeking inspiration, guidance, and support. In the words of Lorena Jelou: “We saw a situation of complete desperation transform into one where people were able to smile once again.”
In recognition of their bravery and dedication to genuine warriorship, the Sakyong gifted the sangha with a blessed Gesar flag to put up in their center.