Belonging in Shambhala, December 2020 and January 2021

Selected Quotes


What came up was the linear nature of the teachings and how you get involved. I see a reference to hierarchy, and it just strikes me that “I’m a person who likes ladders”: you tell me the next thing to do and I do it. But there’s lots of people in the world who don’t operate that way, and there’s not much room for them in the way we have things set up.

It is hard to be in a shared Shambhala space with others who do not have a heart connection to the Sakyong.

This meeting raised issues that I think of as Shambhala’s “shadow”: not racially or ethnically diverse, or inclusive. Very focused on achievement, on hierarchy, and the teaching seat. So many people I’ve known over the years have left the community because they haven’t excelled in leadership or didn’t feel appreciated.

People feel really strongly about how the teachings are important to the world at this moment and what a benefit they could be. Yet somehow as an organization we seem to have a problem connecting the teachings with a real deep sense of “people,” I’m going to say.

The way I wrote it down is that as an organization we’re kind of disembodied. We keep talking about trauma, and it seems Shambhala has a historical problem with trauma because things don’t get resolved. And one of the root causes of that is when you’re not in touch with your body, because a lot of trauma lives below the thinking level.

Feeling of not knowing and also of loss of/feeling abandoned by a teacher – need for a spiritual focal point for people in the community who are not following the Sakyong. Some feel they are getting the signal that they are not wanted in Shambhala if they are not following the Sakyong now.

The current situation is difficult for different groups with different levels of commitment—students of SMR feeling outside of Shambhala, early students not knowing how to proceed.

Shambhala as an institution and the Saykong do not seem to be heading in the same direction. It’s like being kids in a family where the parents are fighting and asking you to choose which parent you want to live with.

Just when we need a life raft in a stormy world, we feel more separate, less engaged.


After listening to the comments on how profoundly impactful the teachings have been to each of us, I don’t think it’s possible for any of us to not be a Shambhalian. We may not have a center, things may logistically change, but it’s part of who we are and how we think and how we view the world.

In a certain way, our hearts feel like they’re all in the same place – love of the dharma and love of the dharma as expressed by the Shambhala teachings. That heartfelt connection feels very strong in this group. Maybe that’s the “absolute” part – and then the relative part gets very messy – organization, skillful means, etc.

There’s a lot of dharma available in the world right now, and a lot of teachers available to study with. What has made Shambhala the place for me is our jewel of Sangha and the importance we place on it.

It was the people who kept me coming back, the warmth.

Belonging is created by seeing members being kind, cheerful, and direct with each other; connecting to the teachings; joining in with forms; having a role or having one’s skills drawn upon.

There is a huge amount of communication going on between the Sakyong and us, even if it doesn’t go through letters and conventional ways. It is our path unfolding.

We are part of a family, that can’t be taken away. You don’t walk away from your family, even if you are pissed off at them. We are all Mukpo – what does that mean? Responsibility and power. This is what we have been invited to.

Looking Forward

I aspire for us to come together and allow for each other’s complete opposite feelings. But the anxiety has to do with my own feelings, what I have a hard time listening to — we need to examine — how can I do this? Intellectually I want to hold it, but part of it needs to be expressed.

It would be great if everyone had an opportunity to be part of a group of people with diverse views AND an opportunity to be part of a group of like-minded people. Both groups could be ongoing and structured. As in racial inclusivity work – people have both caucuses with their own groups and a chance to exchange in a combined group. That is how we build community. That is how we bring resilience.

It is not about convincing, not about reconciliation, it is about co-existing. I am not ready for the Sakyong, but I have not left either. I am in waiting.

A relationship can be finished, it is not always true that we need to stay together. Something new could be growing out. A new thing could come about, we don’t have to put all our energy in holding all different opinions. I feel struggling against the natural endings of things. This is what I want to put energy into creating new things.

As difficult as this is, we are being called on to exercise our warriorship and bring it to the evolving situation. We are being invited to be part of bringing this incredible tradition into the 21st century world.

When all this happened I realized this is another gift. We received these teachings but didn’t apply them in our life. “Bread should always be baked fresh.”

If Shambhala doesn’t fall apart, we have a lot of inner work, communicating to do, with each other.

It seems nobody wants to exclude anyone, but people have a tremendous fear to not be accepted as they are, as they feel, with their own opinions or origins. How can we give each other the trust that we all are welcome in this Shambhala society?

We are so blessed, we have challenges. This is what the dharma is made for. If everything is just handed to us, we are not applying what we have learned. Creating a container that opens our hearts. Listening deeply, accepting completely. Now we get to study, practice and apply. I am excited for the future of Shambhala.


The connection that I feel is quite magical, and I’m kind of thinking “This is Shambhala” in a way: not the organization, but this, what we’re doing, seems like the real Shambhala to me.

The others in my group were very insightful and shared clear and helpful views and critiques of Shambhala. One described himself as completely separated from any form of membership or participation–and it was interesting to hear from him–he still cared very much. We spent some time talking about how many people we know who have left Shambhala and the reasons why.

I wish that we could hone society skills and honor those as much as we do teaching skills. I think we should continue to emphasize talking circles.

One of the things I appreciated most was hearing from people their own uncertainties, and really posing what I took as open questions that were important seeds for me for reflection. So that wasn’t trying to find a generality or common ground, it was more like opening up.

This opportunity really gave me a chance to see into others’ experience and allowed me to now reflect on that.

We need to have these conversations with the entire sangha. There is no quick fix as we know, and many sangha members are in wondering mode and could benefit from these guided conversations. This will take time.

I experienced a sense of belonging on the spot without expectation that it would continue necessarily. What was important to me was being with one another and expressing our unique connection with Shambhala.