2014 In Review – Looking Back at the Year of the Wood Horse
Thinking back on the year of the wood horse, the image that comes to my mind is, not surprisingly, of a horse. Dark brown, almost black, the stallion was standing in the meadow on the other side of a garden with a pond, 100 meters away from me. I was standing on the wooden platform in front of a place called Druk House, where I was doing a solitary retreat at that time. The moment that I looked at the horse, it vigorously shook its head and neighed.
The year of the wood horse is said to be a year of change, transition, and possibly turmoil. Powerful and energetic, like the stallion that greeted me on that spring morning in the Limousin. For our Shambhala group in Brussels, and for me personally, I can definitely say that this has been the case.
This year felt very much like a transition composed of meaningful steps forward, warm friendship, deep practice, auspicious new arrivals, and also painful experiences, waiting and uncertainty. Now that the dust has settled and the storm is over, we discover that in this past year the foundations were laid for Shambhala in Belgium.
On April 27 we created Shambhala Brussels ASBL and soon after we became an official Shambhala Group. For much of the year, the leadership of the group was held by only two people. Aurélie de Schoutheete and Florence Derail took care of the Sangha when Anna Whaley, Abigail Goundry and myself left to New York, Geneva and Dechen Chöling, respectively. I want to deeply thank both Florence and Aurélie for staying strong during that period and holding the group together. Florence, a teacher from the Paris Centre, came to Brussels almost every month for a year to lead nyinthüns, and Aurélie took care of coordinating everything and keeping the communication open with everyone on our mailing list.
At the end of August, Faradee Rudy, Paul Kelway and Mr. Cheeks (their dog) arrived from Orange County, California, Darren Dyke moved to Brussels to join his future spouse, Aurélie, and I returned to Brussels after my Sabbatical. In September, we resumed our monthly nyinthüns again, under the guidance of Faradee. Occasional participants became regular participants and offered to help. Then Diego Collado, Greta Mackonyte and Reinhilde Pulinx began to attend the nyinthüns and offered their help. By the end of September Shastri Brian Hilliard and Shannon Van Staden decided they wanted to ‘check out’ Brussels as a potential new home and decided to give it a go. Before we knew it, we had come together as a committed group of core people, dedicated to planting the flag of Shambhala Brussels in Europe. We opened a bank account, began working on the Shambhala Brussels website, and organised the first ever Shambhala Day party in Belgium, to celebrate the end of the wood horse year and to welcome in the year of the wood sheep.
This year was also an important year for Shambhala as a global sangha. Sakyong Mipham published his new book, ‘The Shambhala Principle’, which has since been translated into French and Dutch. In the book he writes about how ancient wisdom can help to address the problems we face in our world today. The Sakyong also led a series of events to bring this vision to the world. In October, Shambhala Amsterdam hosted a three-day conference in collaboration with Knowmads, a school for social entrepreneurship. Themes of this conference were education and the economy.
This year was an important year for Shambhala as the principles of basic goodness have been proclaimed even more widely. And we have made bold steps toward creating good human society by moving from our meditation seats and taking our action out into the world.
Looking back with appreciation and gratitude,
Thomas Demyttenaere, Shambhala Brussels Group Coordinator
Shambhala Day 2015 – Welcoming In the Year of the Wood Sheep!
Shambhala Brussels was delighted to hold its first ever Shambhala Day gathering on Saturday, February 21st with a cocktail party and dinner at the home of Shambhala Brussels members Paul Kelway and Faradee Rudy. There were ten members of the Shambhala Brussels community in attendance and fantastic food, drink, and conversation were shared by all.
Everyone present also watched Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s yearly Shambhala Day address via the technological wonder of You Tube and much rich discussion was enjoyed after his moving talk. In keeping with the Sakyong’s address, may we all work to cultivate a domestic situation throughout this coming year that is filled with harmony, stability, and love.
Shambhala Day is one of the most important yearly celebrations for the Shambhala Community and always falls on the same date as Tibetan New Year. It is a time when we gather together as a meditation community to celebrate and to mark the transition into a new lunar and astrological year. This year, we said goodbye to the turbulence, upheaval, and dynamic change of the wood horse and welcomed in the relative stability, calm, and perhaps even complacency of the wood sheep.
Sunday’s Nyinthün with Josje Pollmann – From a Rookie’s Eyes
Since I joined the Shambhala Brussels group in October 2013, the second Sunday of each month was somehow special. This is because I was coming to a Nyinthün – or meditation practice day. A standard nyinthün usually begins with meditation instruction, followed by sitting meditation, walking meditation, some yoga exercises, and a moment where the whole group can share experiences and reflect on a topic suggested by the teacher. And of course, most of the Nyinthüns in Brussels end at the same place – Little Miss Bagel – a cozy little restaurant in the neighborhood.
For February’s Nyinthün this year, we were fortunate to have Josje Pollmann from Amsterdam as a teacher. Josje first explained that as practitioners, we can approach the path of Shambhala from a very interesting perspective – that we are working to be a part of society in a healthy way. She explained that the social aspect is never ignored in this tradition; Shambhala is open for all people. We tend to focus on problems in our daily lives, but what we actually need is to get more in contact with a healthy part of our lives. We need to get in contact with ourselves. Explore yourself while sitting silently on a cushion, imagine that you have a big package… You have your own personality and you need to find out your own way. It is a big luxury to have this quality time with yourself. By taking this time for ourselves to make friends with our minds and hearts, we can then contribute in more helpful ways to the world around us.
Usually we believe that we are thinking more than our neighbours, or that today we are thinking more than yesterday. Our mind is so stubborn and it tends to have persistent patterns. This is where suffering comes from. The most wonderful thing in Shambhala training is that we do not need to get rid of things that bother us. No – we need to become friends with both those little and big things that irritate us so much. And it is incredible to experience how many things are going on in our mind! But by relaxing, by coming back to your breath, your busy mind becomes more and more transparent, it becomes lighter. All those things are still there, but a difference is that you get to know them, you give them space, and they become less heavy, less bothersome – you accept them as they are. You become friends with your mind.
Even if you practice meditation for many years, you still tend to judge yourself. But an amazing thing is that you introduce an element of humour into your daily: you take things more lightly, and with a smile, you notice that these are just repeating patterns and you do not need to attach any meaning to them. In Shambhala, opening to yourself and trying to look at things from different angles is very welcome.
So often we think that we need to change things in ourselves. But actually they are a part of our overall picture. In sitting meditation, we let go of this idea. We start seeing in our mindscape so many things and thoughts. Very rarely we are present, on the spot and most of the time our mind is traveling somewhere else. But when you meditate, you become aware of things, you approach your mind with a smile. It is very natural to human beings to smile and feel good about things. This is where basic goodness is coming from. You learn how to appreciate things that you usually take for granted. You don’t reject any parts of yourself. But this does not come in one day or in one year… It is a life-time experience and very hard work to accept yourself as you are. Finally you realize that richness of you comes from different energies that you have. You realize that your different psychological states – laziness, generosity, craziness, passion… – are both your wisdom and your barrier at the same time. And you befriend all of them – one breath at a time.
Reflections on Meditation and a New Life – Mr. Cheeks Speaks
It has been a strange few months… My people and I were very happy in this sun-shiny place called Cal-i-for-ni-a, where the smells were of sea air mixed with delicious dog pee as I walked the ocean boardwalk, my people trailing behind me as I led the way. But one day, my cozy bed, blanket, food and water bowls, and stuffed toys were packed away with all of the other things my people seem to need. My house was completely empty. What was happening?
The next thing I new I was in a greyer place with strange moisture that would fall from the sky. How terrible that moisture was coming from the sky! It made me wet and very irritated. But luckily, my cozy bed, blanket, food and water bowls, and stuffed toys were back. I had missed them so much!
This new place my people call Brus-sels, and although it is colder, I have grown much thicker fur so I feel toasty and warm. And although there is not as much sun, the people are so friendly. Everyone gives me lots of pats and love and I feel so welcome here. And there is dog poo everywhere! How exciting!
I especially like the still sitting people. Often, my people sit still for very long periods of time. They just sit with their legs crossed and do nothing. When they sit this way, I sit with them too and do nothing. Lately, more people have been coming over and sitting with my people and doing nothing, too. I like these “do nothing” people. They are kind to me and give me treats. My favorite is fromage! It tastes exactly like what they call “cheese” from the other place I used to be.
I am so happy for my sitting still time. When I get irritated by the changes, or not having my sun spots to sit in anymore, or by the strange wet stuff falling from the sky, I just sit still and think about how grateful I am for my new thicker fur and all the nice sitting still people I now know. I think how change is ok because it is natural and how things will also change again. And then I feel good just to be sitting still and being me.
I hope I can sit still and do nothing with you sometime. That would be nice. Oh, and I hope that you also give me fromage.
Coming Soon: Level 1 – The Art of Being Human
This intensive introductory weekend meditation program explores and deepens the basic technique of mindfulness meditation. By settling our minds we begin to see the magic of the world beyond our habitual filters, we experience the power and fulfillment of resting in the present. In addition to meditation practice, the weekend includes talks by one or more of our senior instructors, one-on-one and group meditation instruction and discussions, and opportunities to socialize and make new friends with fellow participants. To register and for more information, please visit Registration page.
Program Dates: 2 October 2015 – 4 October 2015
General Price: €100
Members : €70
Students under 26 and low income: €50