Kalapa Council thanks Sophie MacLaren
We wish to express our gratitude for over a decade of work that Sophie Maclaren has devoted to inviting, cultivating and nurturing young sangha members in Shambhala. We are thanking her today in light of the next phase in the development of this work which is now unfolding in both Europe and North America.
Starting as early as 2002, Sophie directed a 2 year teen program which enabled young people to choose their own Shambhala class topics, and cultivated a close young sangha. In 2004 she and friends started the first young teacher training in Boulder. In 2006, with the support of the European Donor Group, Sophie was invited to work full-time for Shambhala Europe, where she spent 6 years developing new programming and policy to support family, children and young adults in Europe’s 65 centres, together with former director of Shambhala Europe, Chris Tamdjidi. In this capacity, Sophie directed and oversaw the development of established programs including International Family Camp and Rites of Passage, and developed and facilitated more than 30 new residential retreats, dozens of talks and workshops, and established family and young sangha groups in dozens of cities. Some highlights have been the annual summer youth leadership program at Dechen Choling, in France, the annual EveryBodhi Festivals at the Hotel Schloss Heinsheim in Bad Rappenau, Germany, and a new youth cultivation financial policy adopted by Shambhala Centres in The Netherlands which has resulted in an explosion of ‘under-thirties’ growth in this region. These programs have provided a bridge from Sun Camp to The Way of Shambhala and brought hundreds of new young practitioners together for meditation, talks, discussion and celebration. These events have cultivated a global community of young meditators, and inspired many young people to engage fully in the Shambhala path.
With the help of the Shambhala Trust and European Donor Group, Sophie founded EveryBodhi, a pan-dharmic community under the umbrella of Shambhala Europe that organised and funded these youth retreats and events, enabling young buddhists and non-buddhists from over 30 countries to connect with each other, with Shambhala, and to explore teachings relevant to their generation. EveryBodhi started the first young leader and teacher training in Shambhala Europe, at the EveryBodhi Festival in 2011. Other key projects were supporting young people from other traditions to begin youth initiatives within their sanghas, and providing consultation to organisations aiming to engage the next generation.
In 2011, Sophie was asked to lead an international working group on young sangha with the goal of creating a larger international framework that would encourage and stimulate the “rising generation” within Shambhala.
In 2012, the Sakyong invited Sophie to be part of the steering group for a fresh international initiative, originally described as “bright lights”.
The initiative was designed to address the fact that Shambhala needs to continue to attract and stimulate youth discussion and interest in Shambhala Vision, and also be able to provide programming and events attuned to the needs of that generation. This would build on but not be limited to, existing initiatives within or parallel to Shambhala.
Aiming to explore the experience to date and identify other possibilities for the future, the Sakyong asked that she and other “bright lights” who have been working with youth in our mandala gather and envision ways to further stimulate youth connection with Shambhala Vision. Inspired by the Sakyong’s aspiration, the “Ziji Collective”, a spontaneous grouping of young Shambhalians on the West Coast of the United States, has now been reaching out to other members and leaders of that generation, both within Shambhala and beyond. They are exploring new and flexible ways of communicating and working. Please stay tuned for more news as they get underway.
As this and other iniatives, both within and beyond Shambhala unfold, we wish to thank Sophie for her tireless and pioneering work of cultivating many youth in Shambhala who now engage in the path and hold leadership positions themselves throughout the mandala. Having left Shambhala, Sophie is currently studying at the University of Oxford in the Unitied Kingdom, and in addition to thanking her for her work, we wish her well with her studies.
Ki Ki So So!
The Kalapa Council