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Feb 25
Saturday
Regions, Southern States
New Orleans Event
A collaborative group comes together to host Shambhala programming in New Orleans–and beyond! An interview with group member and Ziji Collective participant Fred Meyer.
by Carol Henderson
Shambhala Times: I’m curious about how all of this came about, so maybe you could start by sharing how your working group came together, and how you decided to offer this particular program in what (for Shambhala!) is an unusual location.
Fred Meyer: The Shambhala presence in New Orleans started to coalesce when I moved there from Boston in 2014. I’ve been in Shambhala since I was young, and I was attending Shastri Nick Kranz’s social meditation Tuesday nights at the Boston Shambhala Center as much as I could during my final two years in Boston. I was really getting a tremendous amount out of that group and out of social meditation as a practice, and when I moved to New Orleans I made a commitment to start a group there.

Initially, I just created a meditation Meetup group that met a few times with very sparse attendance. The group went dormant for about a year, and then four other Shambhala practitioners moved down to New Orleans within a period of about a year: Tina Viscelli, Maddy Kolker, Anna Freundl, and Kelli Gann. The five of us became the core leadership team of the weekly “30 and Under” meditation group that we’re offering currently.

Danielle Livellara

The regional connection happened through the Ziji Collective: I became aware of Zach in Austin, who leads a very robust young meditators’ group at the Austin center, and Danielle Livellara in Nashsville, who’s the director of the Nashville center and is helping Ziji to organize itself financially. Through Danielle, I learned that Nick would be teaching a Level III in Nashville in March of this year. We all agreed that it would be wonderful if Nick could stretch his visit out into a regional tour, ending in New Orleans, and that’s the plan we’re working on now.

ST: You all seem to communicate and collaborate in a very beautiful way, with plenty of energy and a delightful playfulness in your approach: how does it feel to be part of a team like this?
FM: Well, it is wonderful! I’d say that almost all the work I do in Shambhala–the Ziji Collective more generally, planning this trip, and at all other points in my life–has the specific advantage that the people I’m working with are committed to transcending aggression. That shared commitment means that people are much less likely to take their aggression, when it does come up, as something healthy or warranted, and I would say that usually keeps the relationships at a certain level of health even despite the challenges that come up.
ST: How does the New Orleans event fit in with the previous work of Ziji Collective?
FM: The Ziji Collective exists to help younger practitioners in Shambhala connect globally, and to innovate ways of exploring the principles of basic goodness and enlightened society.
Nick Kranz’s practice of social meditation is something that energizes a lot of people in Ziji, and that offers what can be a startlingly direct experience of both one’s own basic goodness and how that goodness can dance with the goodness of others in an awake space, and it’s what we’ll be practicing during the retreat.
More generally, the way that I hope this retreat can connect with New Orleans as a community, and create an accessible path into a direct experience of wakefulness, is something I’m really excited about, and something that I think matches the mission of Ziji itself.
ST: Can you tell me more about the regional collaboration aspect of the New Orleans event?
FM: Danielle, Camille, and Court in Nashville have been instrumental in the logistics of Nick’s entire visit. The New Orleans retreat is listed on the Nashville Shambhala Center’s website, for instance, and the Nashville sangha has helped us enormously in planning logistics for the retreat.
Nick’s trip touches quite a few more towns than Nashville and New Orleans: Nick will be taking a weeklong road trip to visit lots of small and not-so-small meditator groups in the southeastern US, and the Nashville crew is traveling with him and coordinating that entire experience.
ST: Part of the regional aspect is the series of teachings Shastri Nick Kranz is offering in the southeast area of the U.S. — could you share some insight into that teaching tour? How is the planning going, and what events will be part of it?

Shastri Nick Kranz

FM: The teaching tour is really just the week of March 3 to March 10. Nick will be teaching a one-day social meditation intensive in Nashville on Friday, March 3, a Level III on March 4 and 5, taking a regional road trip from March 6 to March 10, and ending with a social meditation intensive in New Orleans on March 11 and 12.

My understanding is that during his road trip stops, Nick will be leading social meditation practice as a form that many of the groups practice and are interested in deepening.
ST: The southeast seems to be a focus of energy lately, a “hot spot” for Shambhala activity. After this weekend intensive, what’s next? Do you have plans for more events and activity in this region?
FM: We’re not sure! In New Orleans, we recently transitioned Nick’s program from our original plan of a Shambhala Level I into a Social Meditation retreat; one of the reasons is that it more closely matches the practice in our weekly group. So I personally would like to continue to gather members, energy, and connections in that group, and based on that eventually start a full Shambhala group or center in New Orleans.
There’ll also be the annual Ziji Collective Global Summit in November, and that will be in Nashville, so that should be an enormous amount of energy gathering in the region this year as well. I’m really excited to see what happens from that, both regionally and globally.
ST: Can you give us a glimpse into the Ziji Collective Global Summit? What’s the vision for that event, and who might want to be part of it?

Fred Meyer

FM: The global Ziji Summits are annual events that gather 50 to 100 Ziji practitioners from North and South America and Europe for practice and training. This year’s Summit has three principal themes:

Social Engagement and Action in the World: working directly with broader society

Getting Organized: skillful means for structuring organizations that can be of benefit

Inner Work: practice and contemplation as the basis and support for “outer work”

The Summits are often a really magical example of enlightened society as a palpable experience, and they also help us strengthen and energize Ziji itself so that we can offer more benefit in the world. Some good examples of the fruition of that this year are Nick’s road trip, the Northeast U.S. regional Ziji summit, and the upcoming Ziji Gar in Europe.
I’d strongly encourage any young and young-at-heart practitioners who have a week available in mid-November (final dates coming soon) to attend the Summit.
ST: Efforts like this usually involve plenty of generosity, and also a good measure of gratitude! Are there individuals or groups whose contributions you particularly appreciate?
FM: Absolutely! Here’s a partial list:
  • Shastri Nick Kranz, who’s an immense resource and inspiration for hundreds of people worldwide.
  • Jane Arthur, Minister of the Pillar of Government of Shambhala, who helped us manage the logistics of scheduling a retreat in a city without a formal Shambhala presence.
  • NOLA Yoga Loft, the venue for the New Orleans retreat and also for our weekly meditation group.
  • Danielle Livellara, director of the Nashville Shambhala Center, who’s put an enormous amount of work into coordinating the March event, as well as Camille and Court in the Nashville Center.
  • The core leadership team in New Orleans.
  • The Ziji Collective, and everyone who has worked and is working to make it strong and impactful, especially Corey Adkins, its current leader.
ST: And we also appreciate you and your group–for your work in New Orleans, and for spending some time with us and our readers through today’s interview. Many thanks, and best wishes for future success.
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1 response to “ New Orleans Event ”
  1. Cara Thornley
    Feb 26, 2017
    Reply

    The work of Ziji, Fred Meyer and others, and Shastri Kranz makes my heart sing! Thank you for this article.

    Learned yesterday that one of our very active sangha members here in St. Johnsbury, VT, Madge Rossinoff, is arranging for Shastri Kranz to address a morning chapel convocation at the St. Johnsbury Academy where several hundred students, both local and boarding students, will get to hear him speak about social meditation.

    Wonderful news for the New Year!


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