One Year Later: Ziji Highlights Since the Berlin Summit

It’s been almost exactly a year since the Berlin Summit, and for those of us working week by week to help Ziji flourish, it’s been action-packed.

We thought it could be very helpful to summarize what the results of that work have been, in an easy-to-skim document — rather than in, for example, slightly more than 13,000 Slack posts. 🙂 So here are some highlights of what Ziji’s accomplished over the year:

Events, Offerings, and Retreats

Weekly Open Call

Shortly after the Berlin Summit, we began keeping a weekly Open Call, on Zoom, the video calling program. The call is on Saturdays at 12 PM US Eastern time, which is usually 4 PM GMT depending on daylight savings.

These calls are on a wide range of topics: spiritual ecology, protector principle and kasungship, mindful finance, social engagement, and more. They’ve turned into the most consistent way we can meet face-to-face (if not exactly in person!) as a community.

Shastri Nick Kranz’s Tour through the Southern US

In March, we saw one very powerful example of something we wish to encourage more: regional organization among Ziji groups. The Nashville Shambhala Center coordinated with the Ziji groups in New Orleans, Birmingham, and elsewhere for a weeklong teaching trip by Shastri/inventor of social meditation/sacred unicorn Nick Kranz.

You can read about Nick’s trip here — it was really sweet, and we couldn’t have done something like it without the regional connections to know when something was happening with one group and get excited about broadening it.

The Ziji Gar

This July was the inaugural Ziji Gar, a summer youth retreat spearheaded by Lia Duggan, Llew Watkins and others in the European Ziji community.

The Ziji Gar is a new retreat form, drawing from four main influences: Ziji Summits, Shambhala Sun Summer Camp, the Summer Youth Retreat in Europe, and “Forest Camps” (secular camps in the UK). It took place outdoors, and its schedule and content were self-organized entirely among planners and attendees. You can read Sebastian Collado’s very beautiful description of a very beautiful event here.

Connecting with Sophie Maclaren

One of our most powerful meetings during this year was reconnecting with Sophie Maclaren, a person who worked tirelessly for around a decade to improve young people’s experience of Shambhala, and who ultimately left Shambhala after a series of very painful interpersonal and professional conflicts.

We spoke with Sophie this spring, and learned a huge amount about her prior work, and about the dynamics that led to her exit from Shambhala. The discussion was quite painful in parts, but it was also healing for many parties involved, and an extremely valuable source of insight and perspective as we work to take Ziji forward.

The Ziji Garden

The Ziji Garden is a beautiful community vegetable garden at Dechen Choling. Founded by Simon Bertin, the Garden has pooled together funding from DCL and from other donors, and raised almost $2,000 from donations at give.zijicollective.com, our fundraising platform. It’s now a thriving part of the DCL land.

Learn more at its very active Facebook page.

Internal Work

Clarity in Our Relationship with Shambhala

One very difficult recurring theme this year was Ziji’s relationship with Shambhala — especially the concern (unrelated to our own intentions) that Ziji might break away and start “its own thing,” a mini-lineage.

Clarifying how we relate to Shambhala was difficult partly because of the challenge having a decentralized leadership model, which often makes decision-making slower and more complicated, and the fact that we were also hearing concerns separately from many people.

In working through the issue, we learned how to speak with a clear voice while preserving our own model, using Loomio as our core democratic decisionmaking process. We also devoted a great deal of time and energy toward repairing relationships and building new ones. The result has been a clear statement of how we see our place in the Shambhala mandala, as a base to move forward. 

So what Is Our Relationship with Shambhala?

Thanks for asking! From our About page, here is language that reflects our Loomio decision: “Ziji is part of the tradition of Shambhala Buddhism. Ziji traces its roots to the inspiration of the leader of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, that Shambhala include an accessible, innovative, and socially engaged practice community for younger practitioners. In the Sakyong’s words, the young people of Ziji are ‘the future of Shambhala.’”

Another helpful phrase that we are starting to use is: Ziji is “the youth movement of Shambhala.” In other words, we work to help young people flourish within Shambhala, and we work to help young people — whether in Shambhala or not — connect with the beauty and sanity of Shambhala vision.

A Clear Working Structure

Organizing our work together has been an extremely labor-intensive task over several years. In the months since the Berlin Summit, we’ve moved onto a model we really like. We’ve even got a great chart to go with it:

The model is called, broadly, the “working groups” model: different project areas, like “Communications” and “Summit,” each chaired and staffed separately, and meeting regularly in meetings of the Working Group Leaders.

Clear Technology Choices

One of the biggest challenges for Ziji is that we interact mostly online. To make that work, we’ve made a number of technology choices that are now, for the most part, well-established and well-functioning:

  1. Zoom for video calls.
  2. The website for longform news items (like this one!) and general information about Ziji.
  3. Facebook for news and community conversation.
  4. Slack as an email-replacer, for all kinds of “work-in-progress” communication.
  5. Loomio as our decision-making tool: how we make major decisions collectively, openly, and transparently.

Having clear roles for each of these technologies is very helpful, and has made our work quite a bit more efficient in the past year.

What Comes Next

That’s where we all come in! 🙂 We have a number of projects in the works, such as the ongoing Ziji Manual project and the upcoming Nashville Summit, scheduled for spring 2018.

We also have an important specific announcement for tomorrow, so stay tuned!