SPIRAL LEARNING OR THE ‘CRYSTAL TUBE’

In recent discussions, Kalāpa Acharya Adam Lobel, the leader of the Practice and Education pillar in Shambhala, discussed the possibility of changes that we might make in our understanding of the culture of learning in Shambhala. 

We currently have a model of the path that is a bit like a ‘tube’ or a ‘ladder.’  In this model, you move from one step to another in a strict sequence.  In our Shambhala Centres, the path begins by focussing on meditation and continues with simple teachings on contentment and gentleness towards ourselves etc.  In the ‘Everyday Life’ series, we focus on how to use the teachings in our lives and study basic Buddhist teachings on subjects like Bodhicitta (mindset of awakening), the Immeasurables (loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity), and the 4 Noble Truths (suffering, its causes, and its cure) etc.   The Everyday Life classes provide an intimate container where people share their insight and join together for deep communication. 

The classes give a wonderful overview of foundational Buddhist and Shambhala teachings, but they should be seen as just the beginning of that exploration.  Because we have taken a course once does not mean we have integrated those teachings into our lives or even begun to understand their profundity.  Nevertheless, we often feel that we have ‘done’ those teachings and want to go on to the next thing.

In a Spiral Learning model, we return to the basic teachings over and over again.  We can never say that we have ‘done’ them.  Each time we come back and study the teachings  again, we understand them on a deeper level.  Regardless of your practice level, you might return to those topics that are needed in your life at a particular time.  It’s not just about thinking “what is the next step?”

If our Shambhala Centres dedicate all of the resources and energy to running entry level programmes, nourishing long-term committed members could be neglected.  Many people say that they miss the camaraderie of being together on Shambhala Training Levels.  And people who have completed the big core programmes like Enlightened Society and Sacred World Assembly miss the intimacy of being in a study group together and really contemplating what the Dharma means in their lives.

In our fragmented societies, many of us want to belong somewhere; we want to belong in a community.  Because there is little provision for long-term community members to come together to study and practice at the Centre, it is sometimes difficult to engage with community.

At the recent Harvest of Peace we were asked to say what our intentions might be for the following year.  I said that I was interested in helping to find ways that the established membership at the Centre could come together to study and practice.  We might come together to form book clubs, study sessions for particular practice groups, or multi-generational groups who could study basic teachings together.  The Practice and Education people would love to hear from members about ideas on what you would like to see happening, what you would like to do, or what you think is missing from the current curriculum etc. 

 

 

Jane Hope is a long-term student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and a founding member of the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. She has been appointed by the Sakyong as a ‘shastri,’ or senior teacher, for the UK and the Ukraine. 

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