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What Needs Our Attention in Shambhala Practice and Education? Report on Phase One Community Conversations

“Curious”; “inspired”, “heartbroken”; “skeptical” – these are some of the attitudes expressed in check-ins during the nine P&E Refresh Phase One community conversations held between April 21st and June 2nd 2022.  Over 180 people joined and explored together what is essential for Shambhala in the Practice and Education domain, and what topics need our attention going forward.

Part One:  Appreciation

The conversations began with an opportunity for participants to journal about the practice and education experiences in Shambhala that were most meaningful to them personally, and why. These were then shared in small breakout groups, as people discussed together the essential characteristics of Shambhala P&E. Participants commented that it was deeply meaningful to explore this question personally.  They also noticed that others in their group were drawn to other aspects of the Practice and Education experience and it was illuminating to share the conversation.  Some sample comments were:

  • Within the basic teachings of basic goodness and making friends with ourselves, it emerged in our group that the community is our practice, that we, collectively with all our differences, need to find a way to work together to create what we call enlightened society.
  • I think that is something that Shambala does really well, when we have programs is holding a container. And I’ve actually been to programs outside of Shambala. And there is a difference in that, and I hadn’t thought about that before
  • it occurred to me in our group that it’s been a tremendous gift to have received responsibility within my local center and then in a broader way as a coordinator of programs initially and then as a teacher, it’s been so enriching to my life to be given to be asked to step up into a role like that. 
  • [Trungpa Rinpoche] always said, meditate and meditate, meditate, you must meditate, please meditate. When we hold meditation in the way that he taught it, it works for everyone; from somebody who’s never been to meditation, who can get some meditation and sit there, to the oldest student, to the most advanced student: just meditate. We have a situation where we have that as our fulcrum. And that’s the seed that the flower blooms from.

There was much appreciation for the profound teachings participants have received in the Buddhist and Shambhala traditions, as well as great esteem for realized teachers and lineage holders who have been part of our paths.  Within these conversations, participants acknowledged that the terms “lineage” and “lineage holder” mean different things to different people, and are topics that call for deep and nuanced exploration.  Similarly, the relationship between the Sakyong and the Shambhala organization is still unfolding, so the challenge of understanding where these streams converge and diverge cannot immediately be resolved. 

 

Part Two:  Attention

In the second part of these conversations, we journaled and discussed again in small groups the areas that need our attention going forward.  Participants were eager to talk about their concerns and their inspirations. For example,

  • It’s a big question mark, I kind of find it a little overwhelming to even think about the incredible diversity of interests and needs of our family. From people who started studying with Trungpa Rinpoche back in the 60s all the way up to people who are still joining Shambala in the past couple of years.
  • I think in every discussion around this, of where do we go, as an organization and then as a Sangha, we’re having these discussions. I think every time I hear people having a thirst for other Buddhist teachings, not just Shambala teachers, but other Buddhists, either no longer with us or right here, right in our communities. It’s somehow inter weaving that or maybe you would have a separate track that you could almost take simultaneously or I think that there’s a real thirst for broadening what we offer at our Sangha.
  • One of the things that was brought up in our little group and took traction was this notion of  having many opportunities, many ways to meet people. What’s exciting to me as a longtime practitioner, and then what somebody who’s 40 years younger than me coming into our center going to be interested in now?  Where are people now? And how do we take these teachings that we’ve received that have a timeless quality and speak them to now?  How do we do that?
  •  I once heard David Rome say that, you know, what, was the most important part about Trungpa Rinpoche? And he said, though  you might think “Dharma teacher”, but in his view, it was “artist”.  To me, if we can reignite Dharma art in a way that connects in with the Shambala curriculum. So it’s all unified. When you bring in all the experiential aspects of Dharma Art practices in Shambhala training, I think that would be — and you know, the Sacred Path as well. It would just be quite marvelous. 

There was broad agreement that Shambhala practice and education should include flexible educational formats and approaches, with a refreshed vocabulary that is relevant to contemporary everyday life and are inclusive and accessible.  We want robust teacher and instructor training that is both of high quality and is accessible and welcoming to a broad range of practitioners.  An important element that became more clear as the conversations unfolded was the significance of being part of a sangha to people’s experience of Shambhala.  Going forward, community-building and attention to maintaining a welcoming and protected environment should be established features of P&E activities. 

 

Next Steps  

The many imperatives for our attention can be sorted generally into five content areas: the Shambhala teachings, the Buddhist teachings, practices of arts and embodiment, meditation practice and enhancing the experience of societal engagement.  You can read a longer description of the inspirations and concerns in these areas, as well as more background on the content of the Phase One conversations in the P&E Refresh Phase 2 document. 

The next phase of the P&E Refresh process is to identify specific actions needed in these five areas.  These are actions that will support practitioners, educators and Shambhala centers in offering and experiencing teachings and practices in these areas in the most rewarding ways.

You are warmly invited to participate in identifying these action steps; here is the schedule for the Phase Two P&E Refresh conversations that will take place between July 21st and August 16th.  All voices enrich our understanding and the quality of our journey ahead, so please join us.. 

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