Spiritual Journey, travel

How I Found Shambhala, Nomadic Life & What I’ve Experienced in Waking Up

What an incredible incredible experience in Atlanta!!! So short!! From 1am Sunday til 11am Monday. Fast and furious!!

I feel so rich and full and fulfilled. My AirBnB hosts were so freaking sweet. They refunded me the night I should have stayed there, but couldn’t due to my cancelled flight. They were so curious about me and my life. I shared my story of coming into Shambhala:

Buddhism made sense to me when I first heard about it my freshman year of high school (in a history class at boarding school) and again when I recontacted it in a course in college. Since then, I’ve read the work of Acharya Pema Chodron and practiced meditation on my own, experimenting with yoga, New Age, and 12-step spirituality and practices. Last fall, I found Pema’s book When Things Fall Apart when things in my life had indeed fallen apart (as they do over and over again, by the way, in ALL of our lives, because nothing is permanent), and I bookmarked Gampo Abbey in the back of my mind. Then, when I was at an ashram in India studying yoga in March-April 2017, I loved the simple lifestyle there, and I knew I had to check out a Buddhist monastery. I began connecting with the monastics at the Abbey. Before I knew it, I was invited to volunteer there this summer, and spent six amazing weeks practicing, cooking, connecting, studying, and reading. I knew at once that I belonged to the Shambhala Buddhist lineage.

At the Shambhala Center in Atlanta, I met so many colorful souls, one of whom was a beautiful woman from Montreal. She introduced me to her newly vegetarian daughter. I love helping anyone interested in veganism and vegetarianism. It is such an amazing honor to share my knowledge and passion with others, and to connect them to the resources that continue to help me. It’s great to be an activist everywhere, and comes so naturally now. I just tell people I’m a vegan chef. Often, they want to connect me to others interested in or in need of delicious vegan food.

Everywhere I go, I’m asked where I’m from or where is home. It’s one of those boring, conditioned white person questions that used to make me uncomfortable. Now I confidently own my nomadic lifestyle. I’m not embarrassed about it, or feel wrong for living unconventionally anymore. This past year, I’ve connected with so many nomads, one nomadic sister in particular at Karme Choling, who is on a similar path. Anything that feels wrong or embarrassing feels okay when aired out in conversation with nonjudgmental, compassionate others.

“I’m nomadic” feels the only appropriate thing to say when people ask where I’m from. I say that I grew up in Louisiana, but the last 6 years I’ve been quite nomadic. Since waking up really.

In 2012, I put down drugs and alcohol, and started to look at and unpack my habitual behavior. I began to look into my codependencies and addictions. I got help with therapy and medication and then with 12-step work. I deepened my spiritual practice and found my path. I educated myself about nutrition, food preparation, health, psychology, and spirituality.

So many lifetimes, I’ve lived in these past six years, like the snake shedding its skin (I am a snake in Chinese astrology, by the way). I tried out grad school in clinical psychology, and got my masters. I tried out being raw vegan, fasting, and cleansing excessively. I tried out living in Hawaii in a raw vegan community. I tried out living in my hometown in 2016 for the first time since I was 17. I tried out the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and health coaching. I tried out running farmers market stands in Hawaii and Louisiana as well as a juice business. I tried out others jobs, and worked towards and finally achieved financial sovereignty and independence.

I worked through and let go of family trauma and drama. I saw and stopped the cycle of my genetic and environmental lineage of insanity, racism, sexism, homophobia, addiction, materialism, and abuse. I named and recognized that these are a part of my inheritance. I came to appreciate, know, and understand my roots and privilege, and burn through layers and layers of karma by radically facing and embracing reality as it is.

I’ve fully launched into a choiceless existence, in which I’ve dropped my ideas about how to be, and instead taken the path laid before me, as it is revealed to me step by step. I walk courageously into uncertainty and trust in the kindness and inherent wakefulness of other human beings. Again and again, this vision is confirmed to me in my ordinarily magical experiences and interactions with others.

This year has been the best in my life. It has been organic and flowy, as well as painful and excruciating at times. It has been interdependent, not codependent. It’s taught me about love and opening my heart to others, allowing me to receive and give of myself fully. It’s put me in touch with the boundlessness of my heart, while also giving me ample opportunities to set energetic boundaries with others. So many opportunities have arisen to fall into habitual patterns of reaction to people and situations, and I continually choose space, sanity, and harmonious action.

I’ve let go of so much to make space for more peace, kindness, sanity, and authentic connection. I aspire to share light with everyone who enters my sphere. I’ve found my spiritual family, the human lineage I’ve been searching for. Now progress and realization accelerate faster.

I’ve taken in and integrated many shadow aspects of my being, embraced a new and truer level of self acceptance and love, and dropped many harmful behaviors and violence against myself and others.

I’m aware of my own and others’ microaggressions and feelings. I’m more aware of race, class, sexuality, gender, and privilege, and how my upbringing and whiteness have shaped what I’ve had access to and how I’ve been perceived and treated by others. I’ve recognized that many do not have privilege and learned how to see and hear their struggles. I hold space fearlessly, instead of collapsing in white fragility and the codependency of trying to fix, caretake, or advise. I’ve learned to meet others where they are and not merge with their stories or dissolve into their confusion.

I’ve grown more and more confident in my own basic goodness and the fundamental worthiness of all sentient beings. I’ve deepened my appreciation of this beautiful planet and felt the joy of incarnating into this human body to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, feel, and express in ways that are only possible in this three-dimensional world.

I’ve taken refuge in the Buddha, as an example of awakened mind. I’ve come to understand that Buddhists do not worship the Buddha as Christians worship Christ. The Buddha is but a manifestation of our own inherent wakefulness, not an external deity to be praised or prayed to or asked for salvation. We are already inherently good and worthy and have everything we need inside ourselves to realize our true nature and to understand the true nature of reality.

I’ve taken refuge in the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, as the path to attain enlightenment. These teachings inspire me to be kind to myself and others. They urge me to recognize and share my gifts with others to help fully realize and embody inherent wakefulness. This is my new favorite phrase: inherent wakefulness!

I have a vision of a world in which all sentient beings are in touch with their basic goodness (animals and plants already are!) and act out of their true nature as basically good, kind, strong, and wise human beings. I vow to be and do all that I can to promote this vision of Shambhala, this vision of enlightened society.

I’ve taken refuge in the sangha, the community of Buddhist practitioners. These are the kindest, most loving, inspiring, creative, awake, and welcoming people I’ve ever met. They sparkle and shine and reflect back to me what I need to see, and inspire and encourage me to be more of who I am. They love and accept me as I am, and make it easier to love and accept myself as I am. The sangha is supportive and generous on the spot, continually surprising me with their warmth and open hearts and minds.

As I move forward now, get onto another plane, travel to another country, and launch myself into this experiment of living as a temporary monastic, I do not know where I will end up or where this all leads. This story, this journey, this adventure is open-ended. So many possibilities lie ahead. I only know the next couple steps.

Where I go and what I must do is revealed on a need to know basis, no more and no less. I cannot see beyond the Abbey, and that is enough. That keeps things fresh and exciting and fluid and open. I don’t have to create excitement or adrenaline in my life anymore because it is already there!

It’s all already there! You’re already there, and I’m already there! We must simply contact this aliveness within and see through the eyes of clarity and unconditional love, this beautiful world which is but a reflection of ourselves.

Know your own mind to understand what is going on in the world. Heal your own mind to heal the world.

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