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Apr 08
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Waking the Sleeping Giant

Mabinti Dennis, Shastri Charlene Leung, Acharya Arawana Hayashi, Shenandoah Gale, Joy Mickle, Joanne Martin Braun, youth participant

Mabinti Dennis, Shastri Charlene Leung, Acharya Arawana Hayashi, Senandoah Gale, Joy Mickle, Joanne Martin Braun, youth participant

A Report on the visit of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to Shambhala Chicago
by Shastri Charlene Leung

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche led two pivotal programs following Shambhala Chicago’s new West Loop Center opening. They were called, “Joining Inner and Outer Peace,” and “The Practice of Radiating Out: A Social Transformation and Leadership Training.” For Shambhala, this is a new chapter as we step beyond our comfort zone to partner with communities where our Centers are located and co-create enlightened society.

Shambhala and the Peace Hub
Joining Inner and Outer Peace occurred on Saturday, March 22nd. It was co-sponsored by Shambhala and the Peace Hub and drew over 120 of the most racially diverse people I have ever seen in a Shambhala Center for food, conversation, and meditation.

Difficult Questions for The Practice of Radiating Out

Joining Inner and Outer Peace

Joining Inner and Outer Peace

Then on Sunday and Monday, March 23-24, 140 Shambhala leaders gathered for The Practice of Radiating Out: A Social Transformation and Leadership Training, to hear the Sakyong share his wisdom and explore difficult questions we must face as we go beyond old views of what a Shambhala Center might be. Acharya Fleet Maull led experiential exercises to help create a safe atmosphere for small group discussion of several challenging questions.

Difficult Questions
“What are the most difficult, challenging, unwelcome and unsafe questions or issues for you and others to raise in our Shambhala community?” “Where do you see issues of inclusion and exclusion arising in our community?” “How aware or unaware are you of the ways that many forms of white privilege function in our American society and culture?” “How might our lack of awareness and ownership regarding privilege be a barrier to greater inclusivity and diversity in Shambhala?”

The Lion’s Roar, the Sleeping Giant
For Shambhala leaders on Sunday, the ground for the inquiry of “Radiating Out” was set by the Sakyong’s profound yet ordinary presence. I looked up at the Sakyong sitting on his throne. His voice was clear, gentle and direct. His candor and sense of humor lured me closer as he spoke, saying: “This throne represents the lion’s roar, two lions holding up the seat of truth….The fearless proclamation of truth…. The lion’s roar is unnerving.” He went on to talk about how that truth is our own mind and we hold the lion’s roar in our own heart. If we are going to change the world, we have to meet on equal footing our conviction in goodness, the lineage of wakefulness and human goodness. We are the practice lineage and that means we take on the practice and make it ours.

The Sakyong didn’t claim to have all the answers. He did say that if we take the transmission that his father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche passed on to us, if we actually embody that wakefulness and goodness, we become the real deal. We are sitting on a sleeping giant – the dormant potential: social awakenment. We are at the tip of the iceberg and we have wakened the sleeping giant. He told us, this is what we’ve been training for, what we’ve been waiting for.

The Power of Partnering, the ground for Joining Inner and Outer Peace

Aarti Tejuja, Director of Marketing and Social Engagement Shambhala Chicago

Aarti Tejuja, Director of Marketing and Social Engagement Shambhala Chicago

The sleeping giant began waking up last year with the “Imagining Peace” program when Shambhala Chicago partnered with numerous community organizations that work to cure the epidemic of youth violence. Since then, a Shambhala Chicago team led by Aarti Tejuja, Director of Marketing and Social Engagement and Janet Hasz, Director of the Creating Peace Program made human-to-human connections with the people in the partner organizations. That connection gave birth to this year’s program, “Joining Inner and Outer Peace.”

Youth service workers, recognizing the stress of their jobs, wanted more mindfulness meditation training and an opportunity to hear how others join inner and outer peace. Youth also wanted to be heard, without being judged. In particular, the youth from Milwaukee wanted to hear from Cure Violence. Shambhala Chicago held the space for this monumental day with warmth and kindness. In addition to conversation and meditation, they offered great food.

Of the 120 participants at the Saturday program, roughly 35 were from the Shambhala community, and 85 were from the community, including 25 black youth from Milwaukee. Acharayas Gaylon Ferguson and Arawana Hayashi welcomed us and spoke of inner peace, a fullness that we can join to our outer worlds. Participant introductions revealed the diverse network of community organizations represented.

We broke into triads listening to one another talk about our ancestors and other people who have supported us. We shared our aspirations for the day.

Community Organizations represented
Alternative Schools Network, Ceasefire/Cure Violence, UCAN, La Casa Norte, Thresholds, Serve 2 Unite, Safer Foundation, City Colleges of Chicago, Enlace, Gary Comer Youth Center, The Field Museum, Alivio Medical Center, Kenwood Oakland Community, Community TV Network, ElavArte, Illinois African American, Coalition for Prevention, City Colleges of Chicago.

Joining Inner and outer Peace

Joining Inner and outer Peace

The Sakyong ~ Joining Inner and Outer Peace
Sitting not on a throne, but on a brocade-draped chair, the Sakyong addressed the diverse group Saturday and briefly shared that he comes from a meditation tradition and from personal hardship. As a child, he lived in refugee camps in India. His father saw his country being violently destroyed by the Chinese communists, yet still his father chose a path of forgiveness. He didn’t give up on society. He taught that the human heart is good, complete, and we can find these universal human qualities that we all possess. The Sakyong shared that meditation highlights how we regard ourselves. Meditation is becoming familiar, allowing our minds to rest on very powerful principles – bravery, warriorship, kindness, love. Internal peace is connected to external peace.

The Sakyong led us in meditation. To me, a seasoned practitioner, the session felt long for a room of mostly beginners, yet the stillness and peace were palpable. He addressed questions that ranged from how to work with external distractions, how to develop an ongoing meditation practice, to how to deal with pain – the memories of family members shot and killed. The Sakyong shared that meditation was developed to deal with pain. He said, “Being with pain is healing.”

Working with trauma was a recurring question during our subsequent meditation session led by Acharya Ferguson. A youth commented on how the sound of the gong startled him, how it made him jump like when he hears gunshot at home.

Later in the afternoon, when the Sakyong left the building and the youth group had gathered in the community room to have face time with a “violence interrupter” from Cure Violence, the adults meditated in the main hall. Shambhala volunteers cleaned up from the tasty lunch: meat loaf, chicken, blackened fish, greens, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, corn, and black bean brownies. The center was warm and full. It truly felt like a community center.

Requests and Offerings

Radiating out

Radiating out

In the Joining Inner and Outer Peace closing session we met in groups from our respective organizations. What more did we want? What did we have to offer? Acharya Hayashi led the closing and people made requests and offerings. Among Shambhala Chicago’s requests was wanting help with understanding how to work with personal and societal trauma as well as working with diversity. Others from the community organizations requested more opportunities to learn meditation. Someone offered help working with trauma. Many of the offerings and requests seemed to match up. The possibilities for social enlightenment are many. Indeed the sleeping giant has awakened.

At the end of the program after almost everyone had left, I found myself in conversation with Arno Michaelis, the founder of Serve 2 Unite, a group which brings youth from inner city and suburban communities together to work side by side on service projects. He brought 25 black youth from Milwaukee. To my surprise, twenty years ago, he himself was a disgruntled youth who became a skinhead, white supremacist. To see him speak about his journey from anger and violence to helping others, click here.

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Shastri Charlene Leung is the Chairperson of the Diversity Working Group. She and her husband, Robert Pressnall raised their two son’s in the Northern California Shambhala community. To see an article she previously wrote about the Friday event at the Chicago Center, please click here.

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