In 2010, after the Sakyong came out of a long retreat, he wrote a series of letters to the community, one which encouraged the Shambhala community to begin to “turn the flower outward.” He then selected Chicago as one of four cities that would begin to put together a program that engaged with the outer community. The work that arose from this program, called “Imagining Peace,” gave birth to a local position called “Shambhala Social Engagement Director.” For four years, the Chicago Shambhala Center, with the support of many members including Janet Hasz, Aarti Tejuja, Tom Adducci, Gretchen Neve, and countless others began to turn the flower outward. Hundreds of relationships with non-profits were formed. Art shows, a monthly youth led open mic night, peace circles, trainings, conferences, events, 4 visits in total with the Sakyong, and 1 from Pema Chodron all occurred.
In 2016, a new international office was conceived of, and funded and launched one year later. The Sakyong formally initiated this Office in May 2017 at the Shambhala Kalapa Garchen.
The Shambhala Office of Social Engagement (SOSE) is an International office that that supports and encourages engagement initiatives in the Shambhala community. While numerous forms of engagement and compassionate activity have been part of our community for years, a view, structure and training to support these efforts has never been created.
SOSE is also recognizes that in order for the Shambhala community to step outward, we must also step inward. Therefore in addition to supporting external projects, SOSE also encourages and develops “inner” projects such as projects that work with understanding systemic oppression, gender oppression, racism, discrimination based on sexual preference, discrimination based on mental and physical ability, and more.
SOSE is a vehicle for Shambhala to foster creative responses to the challenges that our society faces. It will provide a container and a support structure to individuals or groups who are inspired by the vision of Shambhala and wish to further the mission of Shambhala in the larger society, while also ensuring the community is continuously looking at what it is perpetuating internally.