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Apr 12
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Crossing the Threshold of Court

By Alex Day

The first (and only time so far) I have been an invited guest at the Kalapa Court was after the Shambhala Congress, in Halifax, in November 2009. I was part of the Dorje Kasung contingent that had been requested to attend a thank you party for everyone who had helped in that campaign. When I got the text message invitation, my initial response was I did not want to go!

I was exhausted after a very long night, which started as dancing at an Irish Pub with the Ripa family and ended up as a long walk with a new friend around town (but that’s another story). How could I say no to such an invitation? So, I put on my best coat, a thick black felt “great” coat with gold buttons and drove the thirty minutes into town to the Court.

As I walked down the long steep driveway, the tall lawn lamps spread a Victorian glow across the house. I met some friends, by chance, at the flag pole in front of the house and we all had the same question of which door to use. They decided on the side door, the staff entrance. I have used it many times as a Driver, Gesar Officer (security) or general helper.

Tonight was different; I was a guest and I told myself, “Go in the front door.” Of course I have held the front door open or schlepped luggage through it but I’d never crossed the threshold without being on duty. I felt strange, like a ghost, seeing familiar object but not being able to work with them. The Kusung Dapon, the head of His Majesties personal attendants, was in the lobby when I arrived and he must have seen the thought on my face. I told him and he agreed it was different to be there as a guest.

We made our way to the kitchen. The mood was very Nova Scotian. Everyone was standing around, snacking and chatting, just like a regular kitchen party, except that the guests wore jackets and dresses, eating very elegant Chinese take-out. Their Majesties were wandering around chatting too. The Sakyong was wearing red monastic robes and the Sakyong Wangmo a light turquoise Tibetan dress. The feeling was very casual and friendly, and I had a hard time not standing silently at attention as I had done every other time I met their Majesties at the Court over the last three years!

After about thirty minutes I mustered the strength to approach the Sakyong and say “Thank you for inviting me into your home and I have to leave now.” He said “Ok, goodnight!” Later I heard that the Sakyong had spoken about how the kitchen stove was at the heart of the household, the center of the family. So all the guests that night had been standing around the very center of the Shambhala mandala.

The next day I was back at the Court, on duty, chasing cars up and down the driveway.

What I enjoy most about my experience at the Court is how fluid it is: one day you can be on general staff, the next a VIP and the next, who knows… It has taught me that the best way to experience the magic there is regular practice, preparation and to watch for the pleasant surprises.

Photos by Terry Rudderham and Christoph Schoenherr.

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