by Margo Shean
As I go to open my mom’s fridge, which happens to be one of my happy places, I notice the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center brochure stuck to the door. The brochure is full of exciting things sure to fill the dreams of any Dharma Bum.
After a few months of readjusting to the world from living at Karmê Chöling for three years, I am becoming more and more involved in the center here in Boulder. The town where I grew up and knew so well is slowly becoming a whole new world.
I have the perfect job for my transition — working on a lovely farm. My boss, Peter Volz, happened to direct my Shambhala Training Level 4 in Boulder many years ago. A good friend of mine, Jill, also a Shambhala Buddhist, works on the farm.
While picking cherry tomatoes, Jill and I discussed our “Happy Places”. You know these places? The places where you’re at your best, fully accepted for who you are? Sometimes these places just delight our sense pleasures: the sampling of products and well-crafted cheeses can really boost your confidence. Delighting in the sense pleasures is perfect at organic grocery stores, which happen to be Jill’s most “Happy Place”. I would also put organic grocery stores on this list, along with any place I can eat ice cream, most movie theaters, my dad’s backyard, my mom’s fridge, the Main Shrine room at Karmê Chöling, steam rooms, Chautaqua park, Eldorado Springs pool, and I believe even the farm I’m working on would qualify as one of my “Happy Places”.
During a group practice session at the Shambhala Center, one of many group practice opportunities in Boulder, I sit on my meditation cushion and begin contemplating my “Happy Places”. What does this really mean as a practitioner? Isn’t every place a sacred place? Isn’t every situation just what I need – perfect in and of itself? Doesn’t every instance in my life bring me closer to waking up and seeing the world as it really is? Maybe every place is my “Happy Place”. I realize that I’m able to blame a total stranger on the road for something that may or may not have been his fault. I realize, like most people, even us practitioners (or maybe especially practitioners) need love, support, comfort and kindness in order to feel protected enough to handle difficult situations.
Sitting on my zafu, my awareness rudely interrupts one of my fantasy “Happy Places”, and I notice the tag on the meditation cushion in front of me which says “Samadhi Cushions, Barnet Vermont”. I am instantly reminded of my old home, Karmê Chöling, another happy place where my experience was truly invaluable.
My memory turns to appreciation, which always brings me back to where I am in the moment. I notice all the kind faces in the meditation room and all the people I’ve become so close with here after only a short time.
The large center in the middle of downtown Boulder has a deep history, mixed with a young exuberance, and I find the most common ground here is profound kindness. According to the brochure, there is something happening every night of the week, even if that means sitting down on Gomdens with your friends without moving or talking. It seems that everywhere you go in this town you’re bound to run into someone connected with Shambhala. The city is full of original Trungpa Rinpoche students, who I think of as pioneers of Buddhism in the West. There are also Dharma Brats – or as a friend is calling us, Dharma Heirs – who are dedicated students of the Sakyong. And finally, there are new practitioners, Naropa students, and a large community of people interested in meditation, health, and well-being as a whole.
Then it strikes me: My most happy place is the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center. Here, the receptionist often sings to me when I walk in the door, and the Director remembers my name out of hundreds of members – there are over 200 meditation instructors here. There are very senior teachers and practitioners as well as brand new people with fresh minds. But most of all, this meditation center is a community of people who accept you for who you are. Ahhhh, this is my “Happy Place”, and I don’t even have to share my bathroom like I did at Karmê Chöling. I can finally brush my teeth in peace, and still enjoy the company of my beloved Sangha – a Dharma Bum’s dream and a sun seeker’s paradise.
Contemplating the first noble truth is always important in a place like this, but then again, our minds create suffering wherever we go, and we could all use a little sunshine to help us along the way. What a wonderful place to be, I think to myself. Finally, with only five minutes left in the session, I label it all thinking…and then I breathe.