How the vision of Shambhala may support the transformation and well-being of all South Africans – by Michal George

We are approaching 25 years of democracy. Nelson Mandela is gone, and on many levels, his legacy lies in tatters. The newly-elected president of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is almost certain to become the country’s new President in 2019, recently vowed to “confront people who are trying to divide the ANC”, and urged “the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and equitable society.” But how does one pursue such grand aspirations day to day? How do ordinary citizens – who for years have been eager to contribute to Mandela’s dream of a legitimate Rainbow Nation, only to find themselves disillusioned by corruption, deep-seated racism, sexism, and political infighting – rekindle their faith in a brighter future?

Shambhala offers a roadmap. A simple and completely inclusive formula which anyone can apply in the ordinariness of the everyday. It can be practiced while stuck in traffic, implemented while eating in or out. It can be developed in communities and advanced through individual efforts. It is expressed as a response to our deepest aspirations in the pursuit of living in a healthy human society based on dignity and respect. When asked about a process for developing such conditions for living, or what is encapsulated by the Shambhala tagline Making Enlightened Society Possible, Chöyam Trungpa Rinpoche offered this simple formula:

  • Reduce speed
  • Reduce aggression
  • Fall in love

Yes, it can be this simple. To slow down enough to relax in the space of openness and possibility. In this space we meet the world with gentle eyes. We loosen the grip on our beliefs and expectations, and allow the world to permeate the core of our being and animate our being in the world. Trungpa’s threefold formula is expressed in the simplicity and grace of Shambhala Meditation, offered to us by his son, Dharma heir, and the inspirational leader of Shambhala International, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. The practice of feeling, being, and touching conveys the essence of where to start the process of living in supportive community. If we can feel who we are, and make room for the feelings of others regardless of whether they please us or not, then we will be able to be with one another, touch each other and the earth we find ourselves on, and share in our humanness.

Let me put some cushions out, I say to my neighbor. Join me. I’ll ring the gong for us. So we can start right here. Afresh. With this. And just sit a while side by side. Then, when our minds are clear and our hearts soften, we can walk into a world beyond debate, doubt, or hesitation. Just as we are. And be ourselves with each other, in the ease of our unproblematic togetherness.

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6 thoughts on “How the vision of Shambhala may support the transformation and well-being of all South Africans – by Michal George

  1. Michal, that’s really beautiful. Thank you for this heartfelt invitation to sanity and spaciousness in the midst of the world’s vortex. May many be inspired to take you up on it.

  2. I am talking from a situated gaze and place. Being a South African Black woman, who is priviledged in terms of hearing Dharma and aspiring to connect with basic goodness and kindness in an honest way; as well as materially comfortable and an advantage social position. South Africa is a highly unequal and racially divided society where the black majority face perpetual hardship. This material deprivation and survival festers harshness, aggression, violence. one would hope that Shambhala vision and presence would begin to touch these lived, complex realities in an uplifting way.

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