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Apr 25
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Strong Ground for Growing Brave

An invitation to join in community conversations about parenting, and about including children in Shambhala life and culture

by Rebekka Henriksen

“We are actually building a Buddhist world so that our children can grow up in an atmosphere that is right and good. It’s revolutionary and represents a fantastic vision that we are trying to build such a world. We would like to bring up our children in a situation in which parents, teachers, caretakers and even administrators are all working together, joining forces to upgrade the early growth of our young ladies and gentlemen—which is fantastic.”

Chogyam Trungpa, from a talk the Vidyadhara gave at the opening of Alaya Preschool on March 10, 1978.

Before I became a parent, I was fortunate enough to have entered the path of Shambhala Buddhism. I found it wonderful that a clear path of compassionate warriorship was laid out before me by my teacher, a path of practice and programs that allowed me to slowly peel away the layers of ego that I had built, and allow me to access authentic bravery. Once I became a parent, however, I discovered that while some wonderful programming and opportunities for children existed within the Shambhala mandala, these were scattered. If one lived as I did, far from a major practice center, these opportunities were non-existent. So, with my newborn son in arms, my husband and I started a Parenting as Path group at our local Shambhala Center. We did so with the hope that by coming together with other parents who shared the view that parenting can be a profound, and even accelerated, path to awakening, we could continue to practice and somehow manifest as Shambhalians within the groundlessness our baby’s birth had thrown us into. We knew that if we could do so, we would be giving our children the gift of profound goodness which was their birthright.

We struggled, to be honest. We recreated the wheel. Hunted through sangha websites for programming ideas, both Shambhalian and from other Buddhist traditions, and tried to get Center leadership to embrace the noise and mess children can introduce into a place dedicated to quieting the mind. Being a practitioner means being lonely. Being a parent in our modern world, often disconnected from family and a real “tribe” with whom we can share our ups and downs, compounds that loneliness tenfold.  We may find that our sangha is no longer as welcoming, and we are no longer as available to pitch in or attend events, particularly if they require we leave little ones at home. Our personal practice may falter.  On both an individual and mahasangha level, how do we truly include children and families in Shambhala world?

Fortunately, we were not the only family struggling with these questions. Tracy Suchocki and other sangha members working with the path of family have come together and created a beautiful opportunity, the Growing Brave Conference, to be held in Boulder, CO the weekend of October 6-9, 2017 under the auspices of Acharya (and father) Adam Lobel. This will be a rich weekend, full of teachings and connections, open to caretakers, educators, community organizers and leadership – all of us involved in the work of helping children, our “young ladies and gentlemen,” realize their own goodness and bravery. The aspiration of the conference is to create a clear path and curriculum to fully bring families and children into Shambhala world.

As preparation for this weekend, a series of online talks is being held on the first Saturday of each month, preparing the ground and offering opportunities to discover what is already in place for our families in Shambhala.  To connect to these talks, go to https://shambhalaonline.org/calendar-details/?id=307639.  From Acharya Lobel presenting the “View” of Shambhala family culture and path, to Tracy providing an overview of current programming, the series is a wonderful way to deepen our understanding of what including families and children in the path means both in our own households and in our local sanghas. The next talk is May 6 with Laura Burnham, on the topic of “Starting a Program.”

The hope is that this process will spark conversations, both in our “real life” spaces and online. To help support the latter, a forum has been created on Trello. To connect to the online board, go to https://trello.com/b/NSo7D1Ka/shambhala-families-children-programs.  We invite you to share details there about your group and family program. We also invite you to share information about what you need, what the gaps are, where support is lacking. Finally, we ask you to share what you can offer, whether it be experience working with teens or a love of cooking! Through sharing, we will find our strengths, and we hope we will be able to better support this precious path.

The aspiration is that through this coming together and sharing, a strong ground will be cultivated leading into the Growing Brave conference. We hope you can join us for at least some of the monthly talks, on the Trello forum, and finally, in Boulder.

Rebekka Henriksen is a long time Shambhala Buddhist practitioner, tantrika, and mother to three young boys.  She sporadically shares her thoughts on mindful parenting at www.parentingaspath.blogspot.com

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1 response to “ Strong Ground for Growing Brave ”
  1. Susan Williams
    Apr 28, 2017

    Great News. Thank you for your dedication to parenting as path!

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