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Ottawa Shambhala Centre participation in Capital Pride

2013-08-25 15.28.05(1)by Loretta Colton

On August 25th, 2013, the Ottawa Shambhala Meditation Centre participated in Capital Pride for the first time. Capital Pride is Ottawa’s Pride festival, and it includes a week of parties and events leading up to the big day, culminating in the Parade and the party at City Hall. I moved to Ottawa seven years ago, and until this year I had participated in Pride as a spectator only. This year, Pride was a little different for me, a little more meaningful. This year, my chosen spiritual community participated in Capital Pride, and in doing so I believe we helped contribute to creating enlightened society.

I have been a member of the Ottawa sangha since moving to Ottawa in 2006. I had been introduced to meditation and Shambhala some years earlier when I was living in Vancouver, although it didn’t really “stick” then. I moved to Yellowknife in 1997, and it was in Yellowknife that I finally put a lot of pieces together and came out of the closet as lesbian. I also re-connected with Shambhala – through a friend I had made in Yellowknife’s gay community, I joined a Shambhala meditation group. It was shortly after making that connection that I got real serious about meditation: my sister died, suddenly, and in the aftermath I just knew, deep in my heart, that the only way I would survive this awful heartbreaking grief would be meditation practice.

I moved to Ottawa two years later, and connected immediately with the Ottawa Shambhala Meditation Centre. In the 7 years since then, this place has become my spiritual home and community. I have deepened my practice, my understanding of meditation and of Buddhism, I have gotten involved in the day-to-day running of the Centre as a volunteer in several different ways, I have made some wonderful friends. It has felt like coming home.

And this summer, the coming out as a lesbian and coming home as a Buddhist came together, as the leadership at the Ottawa Centre started talking about reviving the dormant Queer Dharma group; and as we talked about that, we decided to participate in Pride. I confess I was initially hesitant about marching in the Parade. I got over that hesitation after talking to a good friend, who pointed out that you never know who might see and be inspired by a group of meditators, of Buddhists. That you never know who might be interested in meditation, or be searching for something but be afraid of reaching out and being rejected or merely “tolerated” by a faith community.

This is why community participation in Pride matters, why it’s important for churches, community organizations, businesses, sports clubs, any organization, to show up alongside all the pageantry and costumes and floats and fabulousness: it’s important for all of us to know where the safe places are, the places that will welcome us just as we are, without lecturing us, or trying to fix us, or telling us that who we love and how we love is wrong, that it should be hidden, that we should hide. It’s important to tell every young person who’s getting bullied, or lives in fear of the bullies, that the bullies are the ones who are wrong and who are behaving badly. It’s important for that young person, and every person gay and straight and everywhere in between and beyond, to see and hear in unmistakeable terms that they are deserving of love and respect just as they are. That they are basically good, and that there are people and places that will welcome them with open arms and stand beside them, and proclaim that love and acceptance loud and proud.

So if you’ve ever heard the complaint “Of course homosexuality is legal and fine and equal rights is all well and good, but I just don’t understand why they need to make such a big SHOW about it all”, that’s why. There are still a lot of places in the world, and even places in our country, where it is not safe to be queer. So every once in a while, we put on the big show, in all its fabulousness, to say what needs to be said. That you are perfect, just as you are, no matter who you are, and you can join in the show and you will have a place.

I believe that in this sense, Pride is a loud, vibrant, exuberant celebration of enlightened society. I am deeply proud of the fact that the Ottawa Shambhala Meditation Centre made its presence known and participated in the celebration. We’ll be going ahead with a Queer Dharma group at the Centre this fall.P1040342(1)

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