Most spiritual traditions offer a path of understanding, training, and transformation. Though many themes are universal, the qualities of the path are different for each tradition. In order to understand the purpose of spiritual training, it is helpful to have a map of the journey and a sense of the practices that are utilized, as well as some description of how this journey unfolds in our experience.
The Shambhala Path emphasizes mindfulness-awareness meditation, the practice and study of the Shambhala teachings, and participation in retreats in order to gradually and systematically deepen our understanding and experience. We focus on personal and societal transformation, and we include study not as theory but as an aid to transformation.
The Shambhala curriculum, called The Way of Shambhala, consists of a series of classes and retreats (In Everyday Life series, Shambhala Training, Basic Goodness series, and Sacred Path) designed to stabilize and strengthen our meditation practice and to clarify our understanding of the teachings. These courses offer entry into the wisdom tradition of Shambhala as well as the classical teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
Mindfulness practice now plays an increasingly prominent role in contemporary society as interest in it continues to grow. A distinctive quality of Shambhala teachings is that they can be expressed through existing cultural norms, making use of them rather than replacing them. This allows people to practice meditation without renouncing their cultural heritage or radically changing their lifestyles. The path places strong emphasis on joining the view and practice of meditation with everyday life, rather than the more traditional monastic approach (though we also have a Shambhala monastic order). The Shambhala path has been carefully designed so that we can immerse ourselves in courses and retreats while engaged with family, career, and service in the world.
There is no religious commitment required; this is a path of training mind and body to be fully human. Instead of hopes and fantasies about transcendental realms or altered states of consciousness, we begin with the actual experiences of being human – with our emotions, bodily sensations, and life circumstances. We start where we are, as we are, and uncover the potential that abides in our own hearts.
Shambhala programs support meditators through interwoven practice and study. They include Buddhist psychological and philosophical teachings, dialogues, the arts, and contemplations, all based on Basic goodness and gentleness. All Shambhala Centres offer weekly introductions to basic meditation as well as weekly meditation sessions and talks, plus introductory classes and week-end retreats. Meditators at any phase can reach understanding and appreciation of meditation and a life path by attending such programs.