The Power of Shambhala Training: Sam’s Story

People come to Shambhala Training at different points in their life. Many people are ready to make a change, or curious about what else is possible. Some people arrive with a solid meditation practice already, some have never meditated before. We want to share the experience of one participant in the “Art of Being Human” Shambhala Training program this spring. The text in italics below are the words of the participant, and have been slightly edited for length and clarity.

Sam had never been to the Shambhala Center before he walked in the door for the Art of Being Human Weekend on March 23. He’d been meditating on and off for a few years, using apps and then settling into practicing on his own, but he had never meditated in a room with other people. This is his story:


What was your inspiration or motivation to sign up for a meditation retreat?

I felt there was a need to go deeper into my own mind, my own surroundings, there was some sort of intuition that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the world around me, or that I was missing something, not in a FOMO way, but more so in a way of… there’s a whole world that I could be tapping into that I’m not, within myself and through myself into the world. 

The reason I joined this Shambhala retreat was that I wanted to see that in other people, and see how it’s practiced a space where there were people who were more experienced than I – in a program that was run for the sake of bettering yourself and looking into the world around you in a different view. I was impressed. It was exactly what I wanted and I couldn’t have expected the amazing benefit of everyone else also feeling the same way as me, wanting to promote openness, wanting to better themselves. That created a powerful space where everyone was pushed toward the same goal, where you could all work together but individually.

How was the practice over the weekend?

The weekend was my first experience of something that wasn’t in my own home, I had to get used to being present around other people, in the same room, and not engaging with the part of my brain that is very social. At first I had to really calm my brain down. By the second day I was used to practicing with people. The weekend was such a welcoming environment, really there was no judgment, but it did take me a while to figure that out. In the end, meditating with other people, but in your own head space, was very helpful, very calming. 

What else can you say about your experience?

My one-on-one meeting was very impactful, to have a personalized meeting with someone who knows so much about basic goodness and meditation, taking not just like 2 minutes but a whole 8-10 minute session with you, where you can just talk. Afterwards (the Saturday afternoon talk) the teachers speak about the culmination of everyone’s experiences, and offer advice. To offer insight into what people were experiencing was the most powerful part for me, to take everyone’s experience and then summarize them together in a way where it felt like everyone was kind of experiencing the same thing. So then when we talked about it afterwards, that was amazing. To hear people saying “Wow. I really resonated with what you said,” then I also felt like I resonated when I was talking about my own specific one-on-one session. 

What did you take away from having participated in the training?

I took 2 classes on Buddhism in college, where I learned the practice and the philosophy intellectually, the framework, skillful means and stuff like that. I applied it intellectually but not experientially. It was in my mind to see what the experiential side was like. After two days, as I left, I definitely had a much larger and deeper sense of community in a way that I didn’t have before going in.  It felt as though I was part of something bigger than myself. 

That group dynamic of being able to share how you’re doing and appreciate other people sharing their mission and their goal and their drive to be a better human in all aspects – it definitely filled my sense of community aspiration to know that there are other people working with this. And it definitely stayed with me these past 2 weeks – knowing that there’s a place where I can go where other people are feeling that same way. You know that you’re not alone. The world can be a lonely place especially with how fast everything is. There’s not much time to even catch up for yourself and by yourself. To have a space where you can sit with other people who also want to sit on a cushion. That is something very powerful that also stuck with me.

Any last words?

It was my first time doing anything like this. Being someone who was new, being around other people who were way more experienced than me, or just a little more experienced than me, gave me an opportunity to learn from others. I could hear how their journey has been but also not feel that I was behind, because it’s so individual, and because it’s promoted to be such an individual experience. I still felt like I could learn from everyone, that we were all on the same path