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Jul 26
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An Introduction to Shambhala Culture: Awesome Like a Hot Dog

by Amanda Hester
Shambhala Office of Culture and Decorum

An Introduction to Shambhala Culture is a handy little booklet newly published through Shambhala Media. It is presented by the Shambhala Office of Culture and Decorum. It is elegant, and orange, and it whispers ‘tiger’ at you. It is simple and it is beautiful, and most of all it is timely. Ordinary and extraordinary all at once, this perfect little jewel of a book is awesome like a cosmic expanse; but it is also awesome like a hot dog.1 An Introduction to Shambhala Culture

So much onus has been put upon Shambhala Culture recently; in a way it is all coming together with a sort of ‘ah ha’ moment where we realize that the culture of Shambhala is basic goodness. Then, it is all of our forms, disciplines, parties and pins, as well. It is also the means for global social transformation because, ‘ah ha’: basic goodness is the new paradigm. It is exciting to feel the amazingly fortunate access to this culture of basic goodness that can help us to transition out of a mindset of basic discontentment.

But, of course, that is where it starts to get sticky and tricky, and let’s just face it, our culture and community can at times be perceived as being arrogant, elitist, clique-ish, intimidating, off putting and grumpy. I’m sure there are further descriptors because it is not just those outside the community who feel irritated or put off, more often than not it is we ourselves who feel that way. Partially this is because, while generally (in Shambhala) we know that we don’t have the corner on the market of enlightenment and basic goodness, we can sometimes come off that way. This is particularly true in how we relate to sharing our forms.

When people engage with Shambhala and feel put off it can be due to misunderstanding, or miscommunication, sometimes to rudeness, or any number of things. But it seems that the majority of instances of resistance and disconnect tend to be around how we communicate our forms and culture. There is often the feeling that these, and thus our community, are not accessible.

I love our cultural forms and disciplines. I feel them and love them through my entire body, my entire being, and yet I am so sensitive as to how they might be experienced or perceived by an ‘outsider’ that I almost become an apologist for them, or end up trying to soften their potency. I have come to realize that this is the problem. People are not ‘outsiders’ to basic goodness. The answer to how to share our cultural richness isn’t to dumb it down, or change and soften our scary forms, it is to reflect upon our attitude and approach. Yes, our forms and the little nuances and gestures of our culture, like many cultures, are connected to incredible profundity, the cosmic expanse (or mirror, as the case may be). But that is an intimate inner path; it should be trusted and given space to allow people to find their own experiences and realizations within it. What can be shared and proclaimed and revelled in is something far more ordinary and accessible.

Amanda Hester at Great Stupa of Dharmakaya

The other day I saw this guy just rocking a mullet. While I am not personally a fan of that hairstyle, he was amazing. I thought “now that is Shambhala Culture.” I knew that if I asked him why he had chosen that particular style he would have said that it was because he loved it, and because he thinks it is so cool. That is how I feel about Shambhala Culture. Whether it is bowing, or standing, or rocking a sweet pin from a program that changed my life, or doing some Kasung service, even just meditating or thinking about the dharma and how everything is basically good. I love it. I think it is just so cool, and sure there is profundity and inner, and secret, and guru, and all of that, but why should I hesitate to share how awesome I find my culture when that guy doesn’t hesitate to rock his outrageous mullet?

Maybe it is because I don’t want to proselytize. I don’t want to be pushy, or trapped by some limiting projection. Maybe I’m just being lazy. Sometimes, I know, we hold back in Shambhala because we don’t know how to explain or share. Meditation, and much of Shambhala culture, is so experiential and intimate that it can be difficult to formulate the right words without feeling like a tool. But when we love it, and then hold back or are self conscious about using the lingo, people feel left out and put off, or even suspicious. It is when we don’t share our obvious love and passion, when we don’t talk easily about this huge part of ourselves and our lives, this is when people feel like Shambhala is something with which it is difficult to join or connect to.

But this reticence is so unnecessary, because Shambhala is about basic goodness. It is about fostering a paradigm shift, and its culture and forms facilitate and house this. Shambhala cultural forms provide accommodation with discernment, and because of this one is able to relax and to trust, knowing that everything is accepted without being ignorantly indulged. Sangyum Friedman writes in her introduction, “The intention behind all of the rituals, actions, and protocols is to put yourself and others at ease.” Shambhala culture is basic goodness, and its decorum is about caring for oneself, and for others, and for the world. An Introduction to Shambhala Culture makes this accessible.

Amanda Hester

The first in a series, this little orange book is readable and interesting. It is sweet and simple, and clear, and it isn’t tempered as though it were a beginner’s manual; it is a literary jewel that is compelling whether one is a new, old, or a non-practitioner. Open and available to everyone, An Introduction to Shambhala Culture has been designed to fit easily, and elegantly, into any situation: a coffee table, reception desk, a back pack, or a puja table. It shares our Shambhala heart with people. It is sweet. It will make a wonderful gift for a new member, friend, neighbour, parent, sibling, or bus driver. It can help us all share this awesome thing that we are a part of and that we love. It can help us explain why we celebrate New Year’s in February, or take our shoes off, or bow all the time. It can help new practitioners and even old practitioners to not feel embarrassed or unsure. It can help us offer ourselves and our richness to the world.

However, most important and most timely is how this sweet little tome clarifies how Shambhala is a container for richness, not just some self important wisdom generator. It opens everything up and makes it so that people can begin to feel more and more comfortable to bring their richness into the situation. An Introduction to Shambhala Culture sings about how we revel in basic goodness and it invites the world to come join us with its own unique connections and expressions because that is Shambhala Culture: a live, growing, beautiful thing. An Introduction to Shambhala Culture flagrantly invites the world to share in our delight, both cosmic and ordinary. Thank Goodness!

1This is a reference to Eddie Izzard’s stand up routine ‘Awesome Universe’ from his 2000 tour Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rYT0YvQ3hs

An Introduction to Shambhala Culture may be ordered from Shambhala Media by clicking here.

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8 responses to “ An Introduction to Shambhala Culture: Awesome Like a Hot Dog ”
  1. Mimi McLorie
    Feb 13, 2013

    Jolly Good Show ladies,
    my love to us all
    Ms Mimi

  2. P. Kevin Strader
    Aug 6, 2012

    You make me miss my mullet.

  3. Jan Watson
    Aug 4, 2012

    If the contents of the book are as delightfully written as your review, Amanda, it will be a huge success.
    …with love

  4. I’d love to see the information in the booklet made available online.

  5. Rev. Mike Henderson
    Aug 2, 2012

    Me four!

  6. Me three!

  7. Jonathan Hanna
    Jul 26, 2012

    me too :)

  8. This makes me smile.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

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