Being Brave in Halifax

A Shambhala Sanga Retreat with Sakyong Mipham and Ani Pema Chodron, August 5-10 2011


The Being Brave Transforming Our World retreat took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 5-10, at the Cunard Centre — the same venue where Joining Heaven and Earth (the Sakyong’s empowerment) took place in 1995.

To provide a personal context, I entered Nova Scotia as a landed immigrant in December 1986. In 1982, Chögyam Trungpa announced in Boulder, my home for eleven years, that he was moving to Nova Scotia, “You are welcome to come along.”

It is now twenty-five years later. I am honoured to present my impressions of what I feel is a new beginning. The atmosphere created to support each of us in the process of the retreat was visually beautiful—staff wearing different coloured sashes representing hospitality, meditation instruction, health and well being, and kasung (protectors of the environment) allowed participants to relax and feel cared for. There was lots of laughter, lots of tears, lots of affection, and lots of humour.

Acharya Adam Lobel was the MC of the retreat. He welcomed everybody on Friday night and continued throughout the five days to be thoughtful, knowledgeable, and spacious — all sprinkled with gracious good humour. Not putting on rose coloured glasses, but allowing ourselves to be present as we are moment by moment: that is being brave. “Spiritual warriorship not warriorship.”

Sakyong Mipham, embodying the themes of basic goodness and enlightened society, encouraged us, in our meditation, to ask ourselves how we feel. Whatever we are feeling is a doorway. The only real obstacle to connecting to basic goodness is not knowing. Be awake and open to your own experience. Feel your heart. Look inside, be a spy. Treat yourself as your own beloved child. When we begin to trust and respect our worthiness, the notion of bravery is kindled in our hearts and minds. Then together, we can create enlightened society.

Ani Pema Chodron reminded us that when things are out of balance and falling apart, we should work with what we see, and not be daunted by adversity, or let aggression trigger further aggression. We should not lose confidence in your own basic goodness. Goodness is in the cells of humanity. Interconnectedness. Does it matter? If you come to the decision that it does, then how to act? Human beings already have what is needed to shift the culture. We can touch in with our basic goodness moment by moment. Now. Today.

Other activities that permeated the retreat: shamatha, yoga, dialogues, sensory exercises, open space exercises, and an evening celebration for participants under 40. There was also a delightful surprise. The Sakyong Wangmo, holding Jetsun Drukmo, accompanied by her sister came to the concluding ceremony, and the Sakyong Wangmo sang a beautiful song for us.

There were so many shared moments to see and feel the brilliance in this world. Thanks for the opportunity to share them with you in the vision of Being Brave and transforming our world,

Bonnie Rabin