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Feb 04
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Community is Home
Ingrid and Devon at Home

Ingrid and Devon at Home

Many Shambhala Centers start in someone’s home. In Albuquerque, Devon and Ingrid greet newcomers at the door before the evening’s dharma talk. Their five-year-old daughter, Pidge, is already tucked in bed. Their dog, Daisy, trots around sniffing and wagging. The kettle is on; the cookies are out.

The feeling at the Albuquerque Shambhala Center is: welcome home!

It all started when Devon Finnegan attended Level I. The Level was held in the conference room of a hotel in downtown Albuquerque, and the staff–mostly from nearby Santa Fe–were talking about the need to find a more stable location to meditate. Devon mentioned she had an extra room in her home that had recently been vacated.

That Sunday, a small group came over, looked at the space, and left the extra cushions from the weekend. Devon now recounts, “I knew it would become a Shambhala Center.”

Participants at Level III in January 2010

Participants at Level III in January 2010

One month later, in October of 2004, after a fresh coat of paint, Devon and a handful of enthusiastic practitioners hosted a Level I in the space with just four people. In the meantime, she had decided to contact teachers visiting Santa Fe for weekend programs and to invite them to stay over in Albuquerque for a night to give a public talk on Sundays. Through these public talks and open houses that Devon and long-time partner Ingrid Koster organized each weekend, a community of practitioners grew up in Albuquerque.

Relaxed as she sits at the kitchen table–the same table used for breakfast during Shambhala Training levels–Devon says, “The main thing that we try to convey is that everyone is welcome. People really like coming into a home—their home. It’s a different environment than an office building. No one wants the center to move somewhere else, because it feels so homey.”

Backyard Paths for Walking Mediation

Backyard Paths for Walking Mediation

Devon and Ingrid have spent the last five years cultivating a community of practitioners in Albuquerque. Each year, they run Levels I to V, and every other year they hold the Shambhala Training graduate program. In 2007, eight people from Albuquerque completed the graduate program, and six of them attended Warrior’s Assembly that summer. In an impressive growth spurt, their center now has 35 dues-paying members.

Running the center is very much a collaborative effort. People cook for visiting teachers, take care of the grounds, help with maintenance, arrange flowers, and keep the shrine room clean. One time, the participants from a Shambhala Training level decided to band together and create a system of paths in the backyard for walking meditation. More recently, the members joined forces to build a new teacher’s quarters where an old storage shed used to be.

Teaching a Shambhala Bow to Daisy

Teaching a Shambhala Bow to Daisy

After six years, the Center is becoming more financially viable. Last year’s Sakyong Foundation matching grant helped tremendously, and a local member offered a second matching grant. This year, for the first time, the Center’s income nearly equaled the operating costs.

Until now, the shortfall has been covered personally by Devon and Ingrid, and a significant debt remains. If the Center continues to grow as it has over the last five years, the outlook for consistently meeting operating cost, offering more programs, inviting more teachers, and chipping away at the accrued debt is quite optimistic. Devon and Ingrid plan to accomplish this by keeping their hearts open, providing training and support for more and more leaders in the community and, as always, welcoming the sangha home.

In addition, members are stepping forward with heartfelt generosity. Two years ago, an anonymous donor decided to support a scholarship fund that allows programs to be accessible to more people. After a construction contractor joined the group, he volunteered to do a range of maintenance projects around the Center. Annually, members “adopt an item” and help to cover basic supplies from calligraphy ink to toilet paper.

Gateway to Shambhala in Albuquerque

Gateway to Shambhala in Albuquerque

The community continues to grow and deepen in practice. Over the winter holidays, they held their first weekthun with ten participants. This summer, two people who started their path in Albuquerque will attend Vajrayana Seminary. In only five years, “starting from scratch-ola” as Devon and Ingrid put it, the Albuquerque Center has trained a group of people ready to leave the nest for international programs at practice centers.

What’s more, they are now starting to train community members as leaders. This past year, the Albuquerque Center held a Shambhala Guide training and, in the months ahead, an AD/MI training will follow. These developments are key to extending the path, cultivating leadership among the community, and ensuring the sustainability of the center.

Kudos to the Albuquerque Center for their efforts to build community and seed the Shambhala dharma in a new location. Kiki soso!

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3 responses to “ Community is Home ”
  1. Kristine McCutcheon
    Jul 14, 2013

    Thank you, for growing and loving a group – An amazing practice. Would love it if you could write more on ‘how’.

  2. Nicole Speropolous
    Feb 4, 2010

    Wow! I’m so happy to hear that you guys are thriving and growing! I miss the ABQ Shambhala Center. I’ve been back in the Boston area for over a year now and have yet to find anything here that comes close to ABQ!

    Peace and blessings,

  3. Having visited Albuquerque Shambhala Center to attend a Level III program, I can whole-heartedly agree that the atmosphere is one of “Welcome Home.” I long for an opportunity to visit again, and keep an eye on the website and emails for programs that could fit into my travel schedule (from western Massachusetts!).

    All I can say is I hope to see ya’ll again soon, and when I do, I’ll call out, “Hi honeys, I’m home!!”

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