Membership – It’s a Love Thing

My affiliation with Shambhala began in 2008, when I was living in Tampa, Florida. I’d been led, through years of spiritual searching, to read Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, which was a game-changer, to say the least. After many years of thinking, “I should meditate,” I finally bought a cushion and began to practice meditation on my own. Not long after that, I realized I needed to practice with other people. A Google search pointed me to the Shambhala Meditation Center of St. Petersburg, Florida.

It was months before I got up the courage to show up at a Sunday evening Open House. I have always been something of a loner, and seeking to join a spiritual community (and a Buddhist one, at that) evoked a palpable combination of anxiety and dread. But I had enough curiosity and spiritual hunger to step over my fear and walk into the unknown. I was greeted by a group of warm, friendly, like-minded folks who eventually became dear friends.

When the St. Pete center offered a Level I Shambhala Training weekend a couple of months after my first visit, I decided to do it. It was an amazing weekend, and when it was over, I knew I had found my path and my home. I took every program I could, and began staffing programs as soon as I was given the opportunity.

I became a member of the St. Petersburg Shambhala Center on Shambhala Day, my first year there. I continue to pay membership dues, in gratitude for the incalculable blessings I received there.

When I moved to Danville, Virginia in 2012, I knew that the closest Shambhala center was in Durham, more than an hour away. Not being a part of a Shambhala community was now out of the question. So I started driving to Durham for Sunday morning meditation a couple of times a month and occasional programs.

I soon realized that it wasn’t as easy for me to feel a part of this community as it had been in St. Pete. Not because the people in Durham weren’t every bit as warm and welcoming – they are – but because the physical distance allowed me to maintain emotional distance. I knew I needed to make myself a part of this community by becoming a member. And almost the very day I came to that conclusion, Dee Lutz asked me if I was interested in membership.

The Shambhala teachings are so incredibly powerful and profound. But the magic of the teachings arises in the context of relationship, of community. Being a part of the Shambhala sangha and making this journey with other warriors challenges and enriches me in ways I could never have imagined. Membership binds me to this community in much the same way marriage binds one spouse to the other. It is a moment-to-moment commitment born of love, the benefits of which cannot be contained. I highly recommend it.

~Lorre Fleming

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