Enlightened Society Assembly in Hertfordshire



Why Enlightened Society Assembly now? What are the circumstances of my life that have led me here? These were important and valuable questions I was encouraged to contemplate on the first day of the program. My heart response told me it was the right time. At a deep level I felt the sense of urgency, the chaos point we have arrived at on the planet, and the desperate need for change to manifest. It was also on my mind that there were many other Enlightened Society Assembly programs happening around the world this summer, a somewhat reassuring thought that it wasn’t just the 27 people in the room trying to create an enlightened society; this really was a global intention. As I sat on my meditation cushion each day I imagined all the venues in different parts of the world radiating basic goodness.

These ten days were incredibly rich and there were so many moments of joy, sadness, wonderment, suffering, inspiration, kindness, courage and delight that it is difficult to find words to express all that I experienced. Instead I will highlight and pay homage to some of the magical, auspicious and enlightened moments that have stayed with me since.

Something magical happened here

‘Love in the Dharma’ – Chögyam Trungpa


This year, for the first time, Enlightened Society Assembly took place in the UK. I was excited that many of the Sangha members I already half-knew would be gathering together at Dower House for ten days. Booked late in the day and in the hope of accommodating the group’s needs, the venue proved to be an auspicious setting in its own right. On arrival I discovered a little of the magic the area held; a walk to scope out the surroundings revealed that the local pub was called The Raven and that we were in a village called Hexton.

On the evening of the Enlightened Society Vow ceremony the meteors of the yearly Perseid shower shot across the sky and offered us a spectacular display of light. In a talk before the vow Acharya Samten Kobelt announced that amongst hundreds of NLP and therapy books on the shelves in the library of the house he had found a copy of Chögyam Trungpa’s book ‘Born In Tibet’. Not only that but it was inscribed by the Vidyadhara himself; ‘Love in the Dharma’ was written on the inside cover. There was no denying something magical was happening here.

Glancing out of the window as I watched my fellow assembly participants receive their copies of the Shambhala Sadhana I noticed that the darkened sky was also being lit by a full moon, casting a glimmering shine over us. Later that evening on a walk through the woods with a friend, moonlight soaking through the trees and lighting our way, I reflected on how fortunate I felt to have found the Shambhala teachings and to have the opportunity to take part in this assembly. When the sun rose each morning I gave thanks to the green and lush grounds; a perfect place for walking meditations, aimless wandering, spontaneous yoga sessions, afternoon naps, fruit-picking, Kasung drill, lhasang ceremonies, secret singing sessions with horses, effortless play and summer time joy.

In a toast to Dower House itself on the final evening celebrations, I heard how it had been home to many musical, inspired and creative souls; Charles Aznavour, Petula Clark and David Soul had once stayed and slept in the rooms we were sleeping in. By now there was no doubt in my mind that there was something auspicious about this venue and I had a feeling deep in my bones that we were supposed to be here, now, doing this.

Creating an enlightened society

‘We don’t know where we’re going but we know where we don’t want to go anymore’ – Acharya Samten Kobelt

With vision and gentleness we worked together to transform Dower House into a sacred and uplifted space; a once ordinary living room became a beautiful shrine room, old wooden tables draped in yellow cloth offered us a glowing shrine, colourful kado arrangements appeared on window sills and fireplaces and the banners of the four dignities and Great Eastern Sun hung elegantly from the walls.

Each day we followed a tightly packed schedule that tested our patience, kindness and strength and allowed us to experience a way of being together that acknowledged and reflected back our basic goodness.

The morning voice and body workshops were led by Shastri Dorothea Gädeke with such enthusiasm that they invoked in me a seven-am energy that I had not known before. One morning we were invited to make eye contact while roaming the room making noises like a tiger and I can recall the spontaneous feeling of heart-opening love for my fellow participants as I watched them find liberation in being given permission to let go of self-consciousness and fully be in the moment. By the end of the assembly the group found its singing voice and we collectively birthed some joyful on-the-spot harmonies and rhythms while swaying from left foot to right foot.

The daily schedule hung on the wall each day became a hot spot of conversation (and an inexhaustible range of facial expressions on days of silence) as participants gathered to express their disbelief: “Three practices of the Shambhala Sadhana in one day?!”. Late in the evening after a particularly intense day of practice one participant commented: “I usually don’t speak that much in my life”. There were a lot of words; indeed there were times when we were left gasping for air and water. But as I engaged with the practice over and over I began to realise the potency of this uninterrupted – at times song-like – flow of words, mantras and visualisations. It also offered immediate feedback to whether I was present as I heard myself stumble and fall over words when my mind attempted to wander.

In the final days the air had a tangible aliveness to it – all that inspired windhorse energy we had invocated needed somewhere to go! As we focused our hearts and minds on the bigger vision, conversation topics erupted in an almost volcanic-like bubbling: How could we extend the vision of Shambhala out? How could we publicise our centres more? How could we utilize technology? How could we engage more with young people? How could we make contact with other groups in society? In spite of myself I found myself rising from my cushion, emboldened and excited to lead a conversation about making Shambhala more visible in society.

‘When you’re in a big ocean you can let yourself be directed by the stars’ – Acharya Samten Kobelt

It has been a month since returning from Enlightened Society Assembly. The initial post-retreat glow has curtailed somewhat and I am beginning to see, as the dust quietly settles and the moon returns to its spectacular shining fullness once more, what remains. The words of the vow linger somewhere deep inside me with declaration, devotion and intention. I feel a trust in the flow of life that I have not felt before. Despite old, deep seated beliefs of not being good enough and not knowing how to lead I have felt inspired to take more of an active role at the London Centre and trust in my basic goodness. I am excited to see how the burning embers of our conversations inspire good, wise, kind and strong action in the world. 

This was a precious, challenging, joyful and heart-opening assembly and I feel so grateful that the circumstances of my life came together to allow me to attend. I left feeling dignified, uplifted, deeply peaceful and inspired to connect to my own practice and basic goodness and to help others and society touch the goodness, wisdom, power and strength that is available to all of us in this existence.

Meredith Husen is a sentient being currently living on this beautiful planet. She works as a primary school teacher and enjoys learning from children as much as teaching them. When she isn’t in the classroom she can be found sitting in the therapist’s chair as she is in her final year of training to become a counsellor. In her free play time she enjoys dancing, singing, writing poetry, making music and art, drinking tea, hanging with the trees, star-gazing and walking barefoot on the earth.

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