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"Ziji" is the Tibetan word for the innate, brilliant confidence possessed by all beings. The Ziji Collective is a community inspired by the Shambhala vision of an uplifted human society and dedicated to manifesting that vision in the world through the transformative power of collective action. There are Ziji Collective groups all over the world. Find the closest one to you!
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Written by alexvangils on November 5, 2013
“Building a good human society will take manual labor.” -Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, The Shambhala Principle
Last month in Los Angeles, California, some intrepid Ziji warriors got started on some of that manual labor—leaders of Ziji Collectives from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Davis, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Boulder, and Boston assembled for the first-ever West Coast Ziji Collective Summit. We shared ideas, skills, resources, connections, innovations, parlor games, and dance moves, setting the ground for further collaboration and community.
After a festive opening night at Culver City’s very cool City Tavern, the Summit began with a series of presentations: what are we doing in our various collectives? What can we learn from each other? Alex Rodriguez and Marina Kantarovich of LA shared their group’s origin story, and their aspirations. Shastri Nick Kranz gave a presentation on the very successful Under 30’s group from Boston Shambhala. Particularly interesting was the Boston group’s rich program of retreats, in homes and in nature, and their organic methods for empowering and training natural leaders as they arise.
Leaders from the NorCal Ziji Collective: Cody McGough, Rees Sweeney-Taylor, Leslie Gossett, Alex Van Gils, and Katrin Welch, delivered the first public presentation of their Ziji Recipe: a work-in-progress that shares how the Bay Area Ziji family has come together and sparked creativity and action. It was heartening to see the members of the council together, each sharing a piece of the picture. Truly a collective work.
Following a delicious lunch, and an equally delicious open time of collaborative art creation and a four square tournament, Shastri Kranz brought the group down to earth in a powerful way, leading us in a grounding session of “Social Meditation,” which is a new method of facilitating groups of meditators (stay tuned for an in-depth interview with Shastri Kranz about Social Meditation). This practice took us all into our hearts and connected us further with the people around us. We closed the day with a question: how do we lead conversations about Sakyong Mipham’s new book, The Shambhala Principle? Each member of the assembly opened this seminal book to a completely random page, placed their finger on a page, read the sentence it landed on, and provided some on-the-spot commentary.
We danced through Saturday night at an LA Ziji member’s home and eating pizza catered from a Ziji member’s family pizza business. Sunday morning was a playful exploration of the boundaries of “what makes a Salon,” led by the inimitable Shastri Holly Gayley. We had the freedom to experiment with what we could do with a Salon. A favorite moment was when the group played a beta version of the game “Culture,” created by Cody McGough, in which everyone starts off doing and saying nothing; there is no culture yet. Someone makes a gesture, the first dot of a new culture, and society takes it from there.
An important part of the Ziji recipe is that we invite action. We closed the weekend by doing some networking and brainstorming for enlightened society: several people spontaneously shared ideas or questions that they wanted to explore. Others naturally gravitated to join those people to share contact information, ideas, and next steps to bring those ideas to fruition. One idea that arose was a website that could host a worldwide “Ziji Lab,” where people could share and refine best practices and innovations across time and space. It will be the new Ziji website: look for it in the new year!
More important than all this activity was the incredible feeling of camaraderie that was fostered by all of us coming together, exploring and sharing with each other both exciting innovations and difficult questions. I can’t wait for the next regional gathering, somewhere else in the world! Perhaps I will see you there.
Written by Rees Sweeney-Taylor on August 4, 2013
Of the many kinds of sacred spaces that one finds in contemporary America, children’s playgrounds remain the most robust. And within the Bay Area, the high temple of them all must surely be the Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park. Spending an hour enshrined there on a quintessential Bay Area afternoon–low 70s, light breeze, cloudless (for now)–absorbing the ambrosia of children’s laughter, marveling at the invincibility of their rubber-band bodies, one does begin to wonder what god realm this is.
I wondered just that the other day, scrambling and shouting after a dozen Oakland ten year olds, who, unfazed, sprinted out in front of me. They didn’t even pause to search for the entrance: careening haphazardly over the wall that surrounds the play structures, a moment later they had dispersed and dissolved into the collective ecstasy that haunts this place from dawn to dusk every sunny day of the year. Huffing and puffing, I descended from the stone wall and was nearly blown back by the delta waves of fun.
For a moment, just imagine all that fun. They ran experiments and the Super Slide alone gives off 21,000 megafuns per hour in the summertime. Hecka fun. Vajra Fun.
Children of all ages and colors were frolicking, screaming their heads off, falling over, bouncing along, and getting back up from the mysterious and now ubiquitous vulcanized substance that covers new playgrounds, revolutionizing the gravel of yesteryear (how poignantly I recall searching for a lost tooth among those many white and yellow pebbles).
One of my charges, solemn with fun, came up and handed me his “Heelys,” the little wheels that live in the soles of his shoes and that have revolutionized walking, and told me that he had already been down the Super Slide three times. “But that’s not even possible,” I mused, for we’d been in the playground only a minute.
This was no place for such conceptualizations: “This time I’m going to ride down on my stomach with hecka sand in front of me!” he cried, returning to the glinting slide that towers over the playscape. Relinquishing any hope of managing my charges, I took a brief tour of the holy space.
Its sanctity is strictly maintained: a man excused himself to answer a phone call, and just outside its gates an entire cadre of grim-faced ice cream vendors stalk like so many Hindu florists or Russian icon painters.
Inside, everywhere the children speak in exalted tongues, incomprehensible to us humbled adults. They sing in tongues by the Play Pipes upon which the holy and atonal songs of children are banged out; they wail in tongues on the Wall That Must Be Climbed; and they cry in tongues as they soar on the Swings of Ecstatic Experience and hurry over the mystical Bridge to Happiness.
A layman in a cathedral, a pilgrim in a foreign land, I bowed my head and smiled.