The St. John's Shambhala Meditation Group
Billy Rahal Clubhouse (behind 100 Elizabeth Avenue)
Origins of the group: The group originally began following the meeting of Ani Pema Chödron, an influential and well-known Shambhala teacher, and St. John's resident, Cathy Jones. Jones invited Ani Pema Chödron to teach in St. John's, which eventually led to weekly meetings in a private home in the city. After some time, Level I Shambhala training was taught in a rented space on Barter's Hill, and from this beginning the community has grown to what it is today.
Highlights of the group's history: A major highlight of the group is undoubtedly the establishment of the Dharma Livyers program by Acharya Moh Hardin, regional Acharya for the Atlantic Provinces. The program is said to have brought a great deal of continuity to the group, despite the various stages of the Shambhala path each member was on. Other highlights include two special events: the first Buddhist Wedding performed in 2007, and the group's first Open House in March 2010.
Achievements and present goals of the group: The group sees their greatest achievement as the obvious positive and very real change that occurs in the lives of its practitioners. This has led to their ongoing desire to help improve the level of contentment within individuals, and the community as a whole. Another important goal is the financial and spiritual health of the group, made possible through the promotion of voluntary participation, membership, and program offerings. Short and long term goals are the same: facilitating the practice and study of individuals within the group, the acquisition of a safe and permanent space, and the heightening of their profile within the community. The group sees their biggest struggle as a lack of a permanent space that can serve the group's basic needs.
Life in St. John's: Regarding the issue of religious diversity in the city, the group believes that there is a great deal of tolerance, which has often led to the sharing of space and faith. There is recognition that differences will always exist, but that there seems to be a reasonable level of respect and appreciation for other's beliefs. In addition to this, one member commented, "Through this practice (meditation) we see the pure principles in other faiths."
Membership: The group consists of about an equal number of males and females, within a wide age range, possessing a variety of life skills. There are currently 126 full-time and part-time participants, with attendance ranging from 5-25 people per meditation session. As well, the group has 300 people on its email list.
Leaders and contacts: While part of the greater Shambhala worldwide organization, as a smaller, local group, the St. John's group operates strictly through volunteer activity and runs its activities through a chosen council in consultation with the membership, and under the advisement of Archarya Moh Hardin (regional Acharya for the Atlantic Provinces).
Leadership and Volunteer Positions: - 2 Group Co-coordinators - 7 Council Members (includes coordinators) - 1 Finance Coordinator - 1 Membership Secretary - 1 Practice and Study Coordinator - 1 Calendar & Database Coordinator - 1 Ashe Society Coordinator - 5 meditation guides - 1 Meditation Instructor - 1 Provisional Meditation Instructor - 1 Audio Visual Coordinator - 1 Librarian - Various volunteer duties
For further information regarding Shambhala International, visit http://www.shambhala.org/
Facilities: Currently, the group rents the Billy Rahal Clubhouse behind Elizabeth Towers (100 Elizabeth Avenue) from fall to spring, which offers space for two mediation halls, a set of washrooms, a kitchen and a meditation instruction room. During the spring and summer months, the group usually rents a room at The College of the North Atlantic.
Information: The group's website describes the activities and intentions of the group, and provides information on the origins of Shambhala and what it offers. This site also contains a full calendar with up to 6 months advance notice of programs, as well as links to Shambhala International as a means of providing extra information and resources. The group also uses many other methods of communicating their presence in the city, including newspapers, flyers, public magazines, TV ad channel and word of mouth. Programs offered to the public are most often advertised through posters placed at various public venues throughout the city. The group is currently in the process of creating general information flyers to be available in public places. In addition to all of this, a weekly email newsletter is sent out, which covers topics for discussion groups, upcoming programs, relevant information to meditation and Buddhism, and sometimes, as one member puts it, "even a touch of humour".
Schedule of Events:
Group Meditation: - Every Wednesday 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM - Every Sunday 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM (noon)
The website is a great way to find out about upcoming programs.
Free meditation instruction sessions are offered, as well as a weekly discussion group open to all. Occasionally, a guest speaker or teacher will present on various topics relevant to Shambhala. In-house sharing of knowledge, covering topics such as shrine-keeping, timing of meditation, and protocols is also a common, and the group generally hosts two in-house retreats a year, which are open to the public, as well as various holiday and social events.