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Mar 23
Atlantic Canada, Community Articles
Awakened Early, and Often: Family Camp at Dorje Denma Ling

Family Camp 2008 at Dorje Denma Ling was wonderfully successful with over 40 parents and children coming together for a week of practice, lawn games, crafts, beach outings, campfires, dancing, theater and ritual.

Throughout the Shambhala mandala, at Karme Choling, Shambhala Mountain Center and Dechen Choling, Family Camp has long been a well-loved summer program. At Dorje Denma Ling, this precious mixture of practice and family-in-community time has the strength and tenderness of smallness.

Last summer, our fearless group of babies, big sisters, uncles, friends, staff and grandparents woke up every morning and did the morning chants together. Each day, the chaos settled just a bit more. When the rain subsided, we gathered in the evenings as one big family around the campfire. The kids fell in love with Dorje Denma Ling staff, and vice versa. We really got to know one another’s children.

At Family Camp, during the morning practice period for adults, children break into two groups to meditate, chat about their experience, play games, learn crafts, sing and hike. This year, 8-year-olds will take part in the Rites of Passage program, which marks a child’s first major step toward adulthood. The young participants practice meditation and experiment with meditative art forms like ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) and spontaneous poetry. They’re given a taste of the physical disciplines of marching drill and kyudo (contemplative archery). The week ends with a Rites of Passage ceremony and celebration.

Family Camp at Dorje Denma Ling is a unique chance to experience the freedom and peacefulness of the center’s beautiful surroundings, with a pack of children and the adults who love them. “I’m very drawn to go back to Family Camp this year,” said Steve Grady, the father of 6-year-old Oliver and 8-year-old Will, “because there’s nowhere else I can get a full week with so much freedom, and so little to do.”

“In today’s busy world, it’s a real break to get up in the morning with my two boys, and know we can each do what we want to do, and that they are safe and happy,” he added.

Our 14-year-old son, Anders, took on a counseling role this summer, after six Family Camps as a Lion, a Tiger and a Garuda. “What I liked was how easy the kids were to be with, how good the food was and how friendly the adults were,” he said. I’m not sure about the food aspect, but I think the “easiness of being,” for both children and adults, has a lot to do with the time for practice (for the elders) and the space for everyone.

At Dorje Denma Ling in 2008, participants loved the strength and flexibility of the Family Camp container. We reveled in our ability to leave our children — after breakfast and flag raising — to dive into practice (and occasionally sleep) for three hours. It was fun to reunite with the young ones afterward, knowing that they were learning to love the space and beauty of Dorje Denma Ling, and that our most difficult decision would be whether to go to the beach or the petting farm in the afternoon.

“It’s a vacation at the end of which you feel like you’ve had a vacation,” a veteran Family Camp parent said. “It’s very straightforward; for one week there’s so much you don’t have to be responsible for. That’s soothing.”

Family Camp is on its way to becoming a traditional, and popular, summer offering at Dorje Denma Ling. This year’s dates are Sunday, August 1, to Saturday, August 8.

This year’s Family Camp is scheduled just before Sun Camp, a Kasung-inspired youth program that takes place on the outskirts of the DDL property. We are so thrilled that Dawn Carson has offered to coordinate Family Camp for a second year.

We invite you to join us this year. Family camp is a strong and spiritual space to play and learn with other families.

To learn more about this program, visit the Dorje Denma Ling website.

Photographs by Wayne H. Burt, courtesy of Dorje Denma Ling Family Camp

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