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Shambhala Teachings and Practice Aim to Create a Culture of Kindness

By S. Mathur

All change begins with the individual. Shambhala practice is based in Buddhist thought but is open to all, as a response to the troubled and conflicted world in which we live. Premised on the essential goodness that is part of fundamental human nature, meditation and practice seek to draw out this goodness so that it radiates outwards from the individual to family, friends, community and the larger society. In the Shambala tradition, an enlightened society would be one where challenges are met with "kindness, generosity and courage".

Travis May, the St. Petersburg Center Director, believes that Shambhala helps individuals to realize their full human potential potential: "Meditation allows us to slow down and connect with our innate well-being and wholeness. Thus, our interactions with others, the decisions we make about how to live our lives, and so on are improved and we affect the world in a more beneficial way." In the writings of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the living lineage holder of the Shambhala teachings, this is the road to a confident society, where confidence is based not on aggression or competitiveness but on self-knowledge and awareness.

For those seeking a simple introduction to Shambhala practice, there is the Sunday Open Sitting Practice every week at 11 a.m. One of the community's most popular programs, it offers meditation and free instruction in an informal setting, followed by a soup and salad social for old and new members to meet. This is also a chance to talk to the teachers and find answers to questions about the meditation and mindfulness practice.

Other classes and programs focus on basic teachings, art, and meditation, says May: "Some are series, such as the five week course Contentment in Everyday Life class that explores foundational Buddhist and Shambhala teachings (there are four other courses in the In Everyday Life series). We also offer weekend retreats and an annual week long retreat over Thanksgiving. We offer classes on Shambhala Art (contemplative photography, flower arranging, and more), and a lot of other things. Our Thursday night Heart of Recovery program that explores meditation, and how the Buddhist teachings and traditional 12 step recovery programs can compliment each other has also been growing a lot and becoming very popular."

Also for beginners, the Learn to Meditate class on the first Sunday of each month, from 10am-noon, provides in-depth knowledge of the practice, teachings, tips, discussion and question and answer. May adds, "We recommend, even for new beginners, a daily home practice. If not daily, three or four times per week is recommended. The consistency is important. When beginning it is fine if the sessions are only five to ten minutes. It's better to do five minutes per day than an hour once per week.

We also offer the chance to meet regularly with an authorized meditation instructor to help you with your meditation and establishing a home practice, as well. This offering is free to all of our community members. We start to get more in touch with our feelings and thought processes and learn to not be so controlled by them. We learn to take control of our own mind and lives."

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