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Zone of Peace and Twittering in the Midst of Change
Zone of Peace, Washington, D.C., November 2008

Zone of Peace, Washington, D.C., November 2008

What a fascinating presidential season at the Washington DC Shambhala Center! In early November, President Richard Reoch visited and helped to energize a 36-hour marathon session of open sitting to provide a space of quiet and sanity surrounding the presidential election. This effort brought together the oldest and newest members of the center, who signed up for three hour shifts that ran from noon on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4, until midnight on Wednesday, November 5. Volunteer meditation instructors were on hand throughout the day and a half, and light refreshments were served.

Zone of Peace

From the appeal sent to the community by our then director Chris Montone:

“The view is that we will provide a ‘zone of peace’ in the midst of the intense polarization of the elections. We will offer this to everyone, regardless of affiliation, background or beliefs. Our Center will be an open, dignified environment of compassionate silence where people can come at any time to rest their minds. During this time, we will offer meditation instruction to anyone who wishes it. There will be no chanting, Shambhala Buddhist practices, or discussion of politics… just fellow citizens simply sitting in quiet meditation, contemplation, and sanity.”

Meditating through the Night

In response, the kasung staffed the door, and sangha members filled all rota positions from hospitality to umdze. We had a team of Meditation Instructors and Shambhala Guides on hand. I personally took the 3:00-6:00 AM Shambhala Guide shift because I was curious how things would go. I usually get up early to meditate, so why not sit at the DC Shambhala Center with President Reoch. To my great surprise and delight, a man walked in off the street in the middle of the night–amazed to see that we were open and ready to offer meditation instruction! I had a wonderful 30 minutes with him, providing instruction on technique and discussing who we are as a community and why we were motivated to do this marathon meditation session. We also talked of his motivation to practice and the interesting chain of events that led him to walk by our center at 3:20 AM on Novemeber 5th. The Karma of the moment was palpable.

The shrine at the Washington, D.C. Shambhala Center

The shrine at the Washington, D.C. Shambhala Center

DC before Inauguration Day

Then we arrived at inauguration day. The long weekend around Dr Martin Luther Kings’ Birthday holiday is traditionally the weekend that Acharya Judy Lief teaches at the Washington DC Shambhala Center. Her program on “The Truth of Suffering and the Path to Liberation” was well attended and as always her teachings were timely and on point.

To set the stage, DC had been stirred into a frenzy for the several weeks leading up to the inauguration. News reports had a tidal wave of citizens crashing on the shores of Washington DC consisting of anywhere from 2 to 4 million people. Intergovernmental agencies from all around the greater Washington DC area were working together planning everything from where to park buses to where to place porta-potties. Helicopters buzzed around the city skies like an early hatching of mosquitoes from Foggy Bottom.

The day before Judy was to arrive, Connecticut Ave was shut down for hours because a van was parked with strange boxes in it near the Cleveland Park Metro exit which is about 20 yards from the front door of the Washington DC Shambhala center. As I listened to this on the radio and comtemplated picking up Judy at Dulles Airport the next day, all I could think is “what have I gotten myself into.” As with every other thought it’s best to breathe out. The next day, the airport was hectic and the traffic more packed than usual, but the weekend was wonderful. I asked Judy to write a few words highlighting her experience of the inauguration the Tuesday after her program.

Inauguration Day, by Acharya Judy Lief

My annual schedule usually involves a trip to DC each Martin Luther King weekend to teach, but this year was like no other. Realizing that my program (on “The Truth of Suffering and the Path to Liberation”) was just two days before the historic inauguration of Barak Obama, I naturally chose to stay for the event. I invited my husband, Chuck, to join me, and we commenced to lobby our one and only Vermont congressman, Peter Welch for tickets.

On Monday, with our letter from Peter in hand, we waited in line with thousands of others to get into the congressional office buildings to pick up our tickets at the Vermont office. It was so Vermonty– with cheddar cheese slices, a big dog wandering about, and personal photo op as Peter handed us our tickets and information packet.

Our friends Bart and Barbara in Bethesda hosted us during this time and treated us royally. To our delight we discovered that Irene Woodard and her daughter were also coming in for the event. So up we all got, at 6:30 am, to hop on the Metro and ride into town. Chuck and I had infamous Purple tickets and directions for the Purple Gate (which started to seem like the Pearly gate after a seeming lifetime of shuffling forward and back in a wall-to-wall clump of people). After four hours, we became part of “the chosen ones” who actually got in rather than being trapped in a tunnel or outside the fence.

The energy was electric and filled with good cheer, and we found ourselves talking with people from all over the country and around the world. Although our sight line was mostly the tops of peoples heads with the US Capitol Building majestically behind and the right half of a Jumbtron obscured by trees, it did not matter. For a moment, cynicism was set aside, replaced by deep connectedness, heartfelt longing, joy, relief, and a kind of innocence, almost naive.

We had a long walk after to attend a reception at the nonprofit “Wall Street without Walls,” with block after block only pedestrians, no vehicles—how refreshing! And in spite of the crowds, we managed to just walk in and get a table at a delightful bistro meal across from the historic Ford’s theater:

– Many thanks to the folks at the DC Shambhala Center for hosting this most auspicious visit.

Twittering among Sangha

During the time Judy was downtown there was a celebration brunch; friends gathered at our place in Takoma Park. Watching the events unfold on TV and the Internet, I received tweets from sangha member Jon Kirkendahl (twitter name potterdc). As you can see from the following, he offered us a feel and flavor of the inauguration first hand:

– Parked! Legally even. Sort of. 10:43 AM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– 9 degrees out! 10:54 AM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

We think Jon and his group entered an area that was cellular and G3 network blacked out while President Obama was on the stage at the Capitol.

– Amazing!!!! Had good view of jumbotron. 4:24 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Great speech by Barack. I now know what the sound of a few million gloved hands clapping is!! 4:37 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– “We reject the idea that our ideals must be sacrificed for our safety.” 5:20 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– We have somewhat inadvertantly ended up on the parade route. Waiting for it to start. Very cold out here! Drink some hot tea for me! 5:22 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Nice lady passing out donuts! Mmmmm donuts. 5:28 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Standing at the very beginning of parade route corner of Constitution and Deleware. They’ve closed the gates allowing pedestrians through. 5:33 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Parade starting!!! 5:36 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Maybe not. Motorcade just zipped by – that’s all. New prez or Bush getting out of town? 5:39 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Maybe not. Motorcade just zipped by -that’s all. New prez or Bush getting out of town? Military personnel from all branches lining route 5:42 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Senator Kennedy had seizure. Ambulance and escort just left Capitol 6:00 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Biden family sans Joe just drove by. Jimmy Carter too. 6:20 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Color guard lining up. Can hear marching bands. 6:22 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Barack and Michelle just drove by slowly!!!! 6:38 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– 10 feet from me! 6:39 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Warming up now on a friends apt on Capitol Hill. 7:10 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Have been on our feet for 8 hours now. Stiff! 7:11 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

– Parked my car on Capitol Hill yesterday close so was able to pick it up and drive to where we parked this morning. Home to a fire and pizza! 7:30 PM Jan 20th from TwitterFon

In times of intense change and groundlessness, the Shambhala Center becomes a place for rest, recovery, and a resource that reconnects us with practice. To me, it is the sangha that make it so! The tea is hot, the fruit is sweet, and the cookies crunchy. The face that greets me at the door is friendly and calm.

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2 responses to “ Zone of Peace and Twittering in the Midst of Change ”
  1. dolly fallon
    Mar 1, 2009

    I read the article and found it interesting I am not informed on this subject so I did not understand much of it.

  2. Jinpa Lhawang (Nicholas Eden-Walker)
    Feb 25, 2009

    Regarding Twitter:

    To find other Shambhala Members using Twitter, search for the tag #Shambhala.

    This can be done through http://search.twitter.com.

    There is a growing and healthy group of Shambhalians engaged in the Twitterworld. Please join us :)

    Ki Ki So So,

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