Shambhala Day 2017

Shambhala Day 2017: Year of The Fire Bird

Reading the description of the Fire Bird definitely got me in the right mood for this year’s Shambhala Day :

“Legend says that the Fire Bird is a feisty sign and is related to the phoenix, so this new year is most definitely about fresh starts. In Buddhism, we see the firebird as a tenacious animal, determined and built for hard work, but also impulsive and hot-headed in her demeanour. She is also ambitious, so this is a good year to channel that ambition in the right direction. Similar to most passionate individuals, they adore the fine art of connecting. We open ourselves to a time of greater community involvement and socialization as we welcome this year. We can create something grander together than we could on our own.”

Although it was on a Monday, fortunately I was free of work commitments, and given I’m not an early riser by nature, I awoke with enthusiasm and got myself to the centre in time for the 108 gongs and the lhasang to welcome the dawn. There was a good turn out, and a hearty vegan breakfast had been lovingly prepared for us by David Morris and our very own Jez Taylor……A buck’s fizz in hand (or mimosa, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are from) and convivial company made for a celebratory start to the day; any Monday blues wanting a look in were definitely cheered up on the spot!

This year instead of continuing the day with the Elixir of Life birthday practice, we did the Sakyong’s Shambhala Sadhana, followed shortly after by The Sadhana of Mahamudra written by his father Chӧgyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Both of these practices felt quietly powerful and meaningful for me this year. I had always felt a strong heart connection to The Sadhana of Mahamudra (long before I knew anything about what is going on in it! Something about that extraordinary and poetic language…) but I had struggled to feel the same connection to the Shambhala Sadhana. It was good to feel how this had shifted since making a greater personal connection to the Sakyong after attending Sacred World Assembly last year. I had been given the lung for this practice –along with her own personal copy of the Sadhana- by Shastri Alice Haspray at Warrior’s Assembly the year before, and every time I do it now I feel touched by her generosity and genuine devotion.

At lunch time those staying for the afternoon split into groups and ventured out into Clapham to eat together. I went home to rest and to prepare an offering, as I had been asked to MC the evening’s celebrations.

Meanwhile, the AGM was held, organised by Paul Vercruyssen: the Trustees were reappointed (with the exception of Jane Ward who has now stepped down as a Trustee and has subsequently been replaced by Tessa Watt). The other Trustees are Merlin Cox, David Rule, David Hope and Philip Cohen. The financial situation of the Centre was reported to be healthy. Some of the community members present felt it would be good to get more information on how we are doing – not only financially, but also in terms of numbers of people doing courses etc. The Council have already been talking about how they can make more information available to our members on a regular basis, and are considering how we can create and present this data. Appropriately enough, given that she had co-ordinated the day, Annalie Wilson was appointed as Director of Culture and Decorum, while Jim O’Neill and Peter Condradi stepped down as Centre Shastri’s, having held this position for six years (Peter was not present on the actual day).

The early part of the evening commenced with the Sakyong’s Shambhala Day address live from Boulder, which we all gathered to watch in the main shrine room. As the Dorje Kasung marched onto the screen with the Tiger Lion Garuda Dragon banners and colours of Shambhala accompanied by a live piper playing the Skye Boat song, I felt the usual mix of moving solemnity and upliftedness, mixed with a touch of hilarity…Surely intentional on the part of the Dorje Dradul when he conceived the idea of the Dorje Kasung?

The Sakyong’s speech itself emphasised kindness, and the notion that when the times feel chaotic and aggressive then that is when we have the opportunity to put the teachings on warriorship and awakened heart into practice: “Can we be brave and vulnerable? Can we be fearless and patient? This is the time, Ladies and Gentlemen, to MANIFEST.”

To do this, he said part of the secret is the ability to raise Lungta – windhorse- and mix a unique flavour between survival and celebration. Kindness can be a Drala in our centres so that it can be felt as you walk into the space. Holding another without accepting or rejecting. “Can we in our heart hold the human family?” He ended by sending his love and blessings to everyone, and asking us to “please practice, and contemplate how you can help, and expand that out.”

The Sakyong Wangmo then gave a short but cheerful address, emphasising the message of “gentle AND tough”.

Next the Shambhala Service Awards were given out. These have been reinstated by the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, and 27 of our members were honoured with awards ranging from The Great East Award (recognising service to Pillars of Government, civil service, and leadership) and the Sakyong Wangmo’s Awards (a new award for social engagement, peace, and relief efforts) to Higher Orders Awards (recognising our long serving leaders who have held high levels of responsibility in Shambhala).

The day culminated with a delicious candle-lit ‘fiery feast’ of curried chicken and equally delicious vegetarian alternative (courtesy of David Curran and Ariela Cravitz) in the Oddfellows hall next door, which was full to bursting. During the meal toasts were made to the Sakyong, the Sakyong Wangmo, and The Druk Sakyong Chӧgyam Trungpa Rinpoche, followed by some fantastic offerings. These were kicked off by a rousing and heart opening Georgian choral song from Ali Warner, Annalie Wilson, and Tessa Watt, who have been singing these songs together for several years now, and boy does it show. Annalie also shared a song she had composed whilst at Shambhala Mountain Centre for Sacred World Assembly last year which perfectly captured the magic, power, and tenderness of that experience. The evening felt very energised and the buzz of conversation continued as people helped to clear up then gradually left, as ever leaving a cheerful core bunch finishing up, hardly able to tear themselves away from the uplifted energy of the event. The Fire Bird qualities had definitely been channelled!


Richard Hansell Knott is an actor. He is a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

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