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Dec 02
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Building Family Bridges

Shambhalians gather for Family Camp in Snohomish, Washington

by Barbara Everdene fire pit

The wind shifted, and Seattle Shambhala’s 2015 Family Camp materialized in a circle of birch trees near the town of Snohomish in mid-August. A blue canopy with cushions and many colorful rugs created a magical meeting spot for twenty-five parents and children.

I have attended the Vancouver (Canada) Shambhala Centre for several years. I quickly realized that I wanted to bring my children with me on my spiritual journey. Above all, I expected my spiritual practice to strengthen my commitment, love and skillfulness as a parent. But I also wanted to teach them the language and practices of mindfulness, and connect them to the Shambhala community.

Last summer, we made it to the Shambhala Mountain Center’s Family Camp and loved it. This year, looking for an opportunity to connect closer to home, we ventured to the Seattle Shambhala Center’s 2015 children’s camp out. As we parked our car, I felt suddenly shy. Would we be welcomed? Was I even feeling the least bit mindful after a four hour drive and long wait at the border? I felt the familiar struggle around bridging my children to values I hold dear, and frustration over the times I fall short of modelling them. As we stepped on site, we were greeted warmly by camp Kasung Cheyenne Covington, and my shyness dissolved. Soon we were snacking on blackberries picked from the bush, creating a fire pit, and experiencing the exhilaration of roasting marshmallows!

I loved the collective spirit of friendship, a fresh sense of possibility in participating actively to make camp happen. We ate, trampolined, and ate again. On Sunday, horse-whisperer Mary-Anne Campbell drew everyone quiet and close, and told us the Greek legend of Pegasus and Bellerophon. What a vivid metaphor for the spirit of partnership, the quality of gentleness and connection between beings! Then, we actually rode two wonderful horses, Strutt and Blue, slowly, without taking anything for granted. The story echoed in my thoughts as a call to mindful parenting, to bringing my children close by tuning in and connecting. family camp band

It was wonderful to just play together, as part of a larger inter-generational gathering. There is magic in coming together this way: my children arrived as feuding rivals and with some space in the situation the next day, disappeared together for their own workshop of imaginative play. What a golden opportunity to just be committed, imperfect parents together in a container of acceptance and aspiration. It’s a relief to practice sitting meditation in all this chaos, just like the everyday chaos at home. Coming into the breath, and then called away to help tie a shoe. Balancing on this flow of caring for myself and being present to care for my children, working on making this transition with appreciation instead of resentment. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard, always worth it.

One enthusiastic camper, Georgia Macourek, said, “This was my first time camping without my family, and I had a great time at Shambhala Family Camp. I got to share my tent with my friend, roast marshmallows, make music, do lots of group activities, jump on the trampoline, and ride horses. I really liked the group activities like marching and singing together. I especially liked singing Yellow Submarine. I can’t wait for next year.”

Grateful thanks to the Shambhala Center of Seattle for organizing this retreat; to Margarett Rottsolk and Eric Niebler for so generously opening their home and property to 25 campers; to Chris Roberts and his parents for teaching us to listen for music everywhere in the world around us and for introducing us to musical instruments made out of plumber’s piping; to Cheyenne Covington for leading us in drill with good hearty spirit; and to Mary Anne Campbell, co-owner of the National School for Academic Equitation, for our encounter with horses and our minds. Lastly, a deep bow of gratitude to the members of the Shambhala Center who helped participants pay for camp, and to parents who nurture and protect the sanity, strength, and compassion of next generation. Thank you all!

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