Written by Court Donner on April 10, 2017
Last month, Shastri Nick Kranz, along with several members of the Nashville Shambhala sangha, took a road trip across the southeast U.S. to teach Social Meditation. Making stops in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, we made connections with other groups of young meditators, and started generating energy for the 2017 Ziji Collective Summit in Nashville later this year.
Things kicked off in the Nashville Shambhala way, welcoming Nick and Jade with an open mic Dharma Jam, followed by a day-long Social Meditation intensive and then Shambhala Level III. After a day off to rest and prepare for the coming week, Camille, Aubrey, Danielle, Nick and I hit the road.
Our first stop was Birmingham, AL, where we were warmly welcomed to dinner before heading to the Shambhala Center. Birmingham has hosted a young meditators’ group for several years, and our program gave us an opportunity to share the Social Meditation practice with members (and first-time visitors) of all ages. During his opening talk, Nick made an analogy about the Care Bears, and at the end he was gifted a Care Bears book from the center’s library.
The next morning, we headed out on the five-hour drive to Atlanta. Again, we were warmly greeted with a wonderful meal, and we took a moment to settle into our home for the night. We arrived at the center just in time to begin the program. That night I heard the most encouraging quote of the trip: “I think I have been longing for this my whole life.” One participant broke the form of the practice to ask the Center Director, “When can we start doing this here regularly?” And at the end of the program, it was announced that they will begin hosting a young meditators’ group soon.
We were invited to stay with our hosts for an extra day, which was wonderful since we were enjoying the music we played and the company so much. After two days of non-stop Social Meditation action (Nick was providing instruction and advice in the car along the way), a day to actually enjoy the town was a welcome change of pace.
The next morning, we headed out for the longest leg of the trip: the nine-hour drive to New Orleans, which took us back through Alabama and also Mississippi along the way. One great aspect of Social Meditation that I’ve experienced is that friendship happens easily. I already knew a couple of the members of the NOLA group from past Ziji events, but as we all met for tacos at Kelli Gann’s house, everybody else’s presence felt just as comfortable and familiar.
The next morning, we headed to the NOLA Yoga Loft, where the Shambhala group meets each Sunday to practice Social Meditation. Here, we held a two-day intensive, an incredibly intimate version of the annual Ziji intensive at Karme Choling. Rather than the pastoral quiet of the land center, our outdoor activities (such as dyads with flowers, and silent partner walks) were infused with the experience of the city–very vibrant and flavorful.
At the end of the first day, we decided to go out and have fun–a decision we might not have made if we’d remembered Daylight Savings Time began, but one that I don’t think anyone regretted. Even so, the second day began with a very different (but still very good) energy. We discussed the challenges we face as group facilitators, and Nick shared insights about the “preamble” portion of the View that we give to begin each session of Social Meditation.
Once it was over, it felt strange to say goodbye to people I hadn’t even known 48 hours earlier. It was especially strange to say goodbye to Nick, who was staying to fly directly home from New Orleans. Camille, Aubrey and I headed back to Nashville that night, to greet Monday morning as if the past week had been a magnificent dream.
Court Donner is the chief Ziji representative within the Nashville Shambhala sangha. He is also the chair of the Summit Planning Group, coordinating the Global Summit, which will be in Nashville this November. Contact him at email@example.com.