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Feb 03
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Atlantic Contemplative Centre

 

Supporting the integration of contemplative practice into society in Atlantic Canada

by Jim Torbert and David Whitehorn

Looking out from the ninth floor window, my attention went first to the elaborate metal gate that marks the main entrance into the Halifax Public Gardens, a huge holiday wreath on the gate declaring the season. The gardens, an institution in Halifax since 1867, are a 16 acre oasis of calm and beauty in the midst of the busy world of the Spring Garden Road district with its shops, restaurants and hotels. It occurs to me, looking out over the gardens, that this ninth floor suite that has recently become the home of the Atlantic Contemplative Centre is, in a similar manner, a space of sanity and wakefulness in the swirling confusion of this dark age.

The Atlantic Contemplative Centre (ACC) was formed in 2010 to bring together people in Atlantic Canada who were working to bring the benefits of mindfulness and related contemplative practices into the local culture and society. Using an academic model, the organization was structured with two Directors (Jim Torbert and David Whitehorn) providing continuity and leadership to a faculty that grew over the years to more than sixty. Faculty membership required the person to have a personal contemplative practice and to be engaged in a process of integrating mindfulness and related practices into some aspect of society, including education, business, healthcare, and sports.

In talking with potential faculty members the Directors emphasized two points: First, the ACC is here to support them in the contemplative-related work they want to do. Second, interactions within the ACC are based on an appreciation of the Basic Goodness of every person and situation and hence, we are a compassionate organization whose operating mode is kindness.
The legal status for the ACC was established as part of Nalanda Foundation Canada, an organization that had been established in the 1980s by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and associates to encourage and facilitate educational activities related to contemplative practice in a secular setting.

Development of the ACC, 2010-2018

In the early years of the ACC, the organization created a yearly conference that featured many local speakers and enhanced networking and awareness of local projects and initiatives, as well as providing updates on international developments. An annual public lecture on Mindfulness and Society was also established. Most significantly, the growing faculty engaged in deep conversations about what was needed to help introduce and integrate mindfulness in the local society. One major initiative that arose from those discussions was the creation of a network of weekly open mindfulness groups located in a number of community settings. Currently there are six of these Open Mindfulness Groups in operation through the generosity of the ACC faculty who provide facilitation on a volunteer basis. These groups have become an essential support to many people who wish to maintain a consistent mindfulness practice but have no other organized supports to do so.

The ACC also has offered one-day retreat/workshops for healthcare professionals and a program of individual mentorship under which senior ACC faculty mentor people newer to contemplative practice. A six-month pilot program with a strong mentorship component was explored as a basis for offering more formal training and certification for those interested in becoming mindfulness facilitators.
The ACC email list (the Atlantic Mindful Network) has grown to be over 500 individuals who receive notices of ongoing programs by the ACC and the ACC faculty.

In collaboration with the Halifax Waves of Compassion Association, the ACC sponsored a series of workshops on cultivating compassion and is in conversation with Halifax to explore how the city can become an intentionally compassionate city.

A physical space for the ACC

Throughout the first seven years of the ACC it was a virtual organization in that there was no permanent physical space. This meant that workshops sponsored by the ACC, as well as the many, many workshops and programs offered by ACC faculty members without direct sponsorship from ACC, were required to find and schedule time in a wide variety of venues, some quite good, others not so much.
With that in mind, it was decided to create a permanent physical space for the ACC that could be used for a range of contemplative programs including those sponsored by the ACC or ACC faculty, as well as other related organizations.

Main Room of the ACC

A suite in an office building on Spring Garden Road became available ,and the owners agreed to significant renovations. What emerged is a bright and light complex including a large meeting space suitable for up to 40 people, a smaller space for groups of 12, a kitchen, an office and a coat room. The large windows looking out over the public gardens, as well as the city beyond, provides a sense of Lha, and the clean lines and brightness of the newly installed inner walls are uplifting. The building itself is very quiet and being on the 9th floor there is no street noise. Altogether, entering the suite has a sense of spaciousness and accommodation.

The change from being a virtual organization to one with a permanent physical space was coupled with a change in legal status in which the ACC became an independent nonprofit organization. The ACC could not have developed as it did without the umbrella of the Nalanda Foundation, and the Directors are deeply appreciative to the Kalapa Council for that support. We thank, as well, the faculty members who continue to inspire us with their integrity, kindness and dedication to deep contemplative practice. It is in no small part due to the presence of the ACC faculty as they interact in our local society on a daily basis, that the benefits of contemplative practice are becoming more and more widely recognized and appreciated in Atlantic Canada.

To learn more about ACC and the possibility of using our space, please contact us at by email at [email protected], or by phone at 902-407-5760. You can also find out more on our website http://contemplativecentre.ca/

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