A Rigden King Is Born

I am not entirely sure what leads a person to the path of the Buddha. I suppose we all have our own journey and experiences that lead us here. I have spent a lot of time suffering—worrying about how I look, what I should say, what I did say, what to do, what not to do. Worrying what other people will think and if I’ve done the right thing. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the future and panicking about something I did in the past—always feeling on edge, claustrophobic, like I was not quite right.

This feeling was what brought me to this path.

Shambhala has given me a way to face this feeling—a way to look at myself and find out what it really is to be human. Along the Shambhala path there are a variety of classes that deepen our understanding of Buddhism and the Shambhala teachings. The Rigden Weekend is a graduation of sorts for the first set of classes called “The Way of Shambhala”. At the core of these teachings is the very basic, simple idea that all beings are basically good. That there is nothing inherently wrong with us seems to fly in the face of this uneasy, on-edge feeling that seems to follow me around wherever I go.

But there have been flashes of light within all of that heaviness and these are the moments that have pointed me to this path. There are moments when I can just be in an experience and my heart is open and soft. My heart/mind have begun a training to stay in the moment, to stay with what is instead of travelling away. A training to let go of my habits, and the imagined safety of the wall I build around myself. A training to just be my genuine self, naked, vulnerable and a true warrior.

The moments are often simple and ordinary, yet profound. A moment on a bus watching a child and parent interact. A moment when I feel the wind on my face or the smell of the sea. A moment when I see a homeless person and have responded with compassion instead of turning my head to look away. A genuine ordinary moment that can be experienced with an open heart. This is the training in the real world. This is why I am here, why I come back. This is how I made my way to the Rigden Weekend this fall.

Those of you who have attended Shambhala programs will know that a great amount of effort, planning, and attention is given to all aspects of the program. Everything from the needs and comfort of the visiting teachers, registration and administration, food for the reception, flowers, the sound system, organizing teacher interviews —the list goes on. These duties were doubled or maybe tripled when the sangha (Toronto and Mississauga Shambhala community) realized that the large numbers of people registered for the Rigden program meant it had to be held offsite in a local school gymnasium. This was a huge undertaking and required almost a year of planning; Adam Lobel, one of the teachers, was actually booked two years in advance.

I was anxious about the idea of spending the entire weekend meditating in a school gym. Flashes came back to me of awkward school dances, and a myriad of childhood inadequacies including my consistent lack of athletic ability. But more than that, I was worried about the cold damp energy of the gym and greatly longed for the comfort and warmth of the Toronto Shambhala Centre. I had doubts around whether our community could pull this off— the amount of planning and organizing required was immense!

This fear, doubt, and neurosis occupied a tiny shelf in my heart as I walked into the gym. What welcomed me in that cold space was beyond my expectations. This school gymnasium—a space that had long held a negative association for me —was magically transformed into a beautiful shrine room. The physical space was beautiful with carefully placed flowers, banners, thangkas, and the typical Shambhala Rigden Shrine. My heart jumped. Beyond the physical space, the typical hollow cold feeling of a gym had some how vanished.

This weekend turned out to be one of the most powerful experiences I have had so far as I walk along this path. I was genuinely humbled by the generosity of the community and the teachers who devoted so much time and energy to this event. Beyond their time and energy their soft open hearts set the tone for the weekend. The generosity and precision with which the teachers taught gave us the space to be our genuine, good, selves.

When the program was finished we were all organized into teams to pack up the shrine and all of the furniture, equipment, cushions, zabutons, etc. This was truly a magical experience to watch 100 open-hearted warriors move busily around the school completing their tasks. Within ten minutes the gym was back to normal: just a big empty space. I looked back as I left the gym and my heart felt an immense joy, big and open, with a twinge of sadness. With soft tears in my eyes, it was there and then it was gone.

So with much gratitude and humbleness I thank all of those who made this possible. Without you this experience, this genuine experience of enlightened society, of what a community can do, would not have been possible.

A Heart Beats

A heart beats, cold gym floor
A hollow space
A heart beats, tiny doubt
A heaviness in my heart
A heart beats, a hollow space
Turns to warm spacious brilliance
The Great Eastern Sun
Fed by 100 Warriors
An Enlightened Society
A smile
A socked foot down the school hall
A gong
100 fearless warriors step into the unknown
Radiate confidence
A spacious container
A heart beats, warm radiant
The sky dances
100 genuine warriors
A tear in my heart, a smile
The moment is here and then gone
A heart beats, a Rigden King is born