Catherine Éveillard The Shambhala Way: rediscovering the courage to be human.

- through Sophie Solere

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Catherine Éveillard teaches the Shambhala Way and the so-called "Awakened Society" mindfulness meditation. A retired architect, feminist and ecologist, she calls for cultivating trust in our human nature to support the immense societal changes that are coming.

You encountered Buddhism in Quebec in the 1980s. What attracted you?

First of all the teaching of master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. His interpretation of Buddhism, in direct relation to Western culture, immediately seduced me. For him, the goal of the path was not to awaken for personal fulfillment, but to create an "awakened and benevolent" society. At the time, this vision already seemed essential to me.

25 years ago, you co-founded Dechen Chöling, the European center of the Shambhala community, in Limousin. What are the particularities of meditation in your tradition?

Whatever the school, the primary definition of meditation is to be available to oneself, to learn to listen to one's emotions and to contemplate what comes to oneself in order to decide the course of one's life. existence. It's probably something that people did more naturally in the past. They had more time for themselves and were not permanently connected.

“We all have ready-made answers to all kinds of questions, formatted and superficial feelings that mask our deep experience. »

Meditation is now considered a very “hyped” practice, like yoga. However, it is not a crutch that serves to smooth over the rough edges of life, it is an experience that transforms us deeply by helping us to accept to look at things as they are. Shambhala meditation, more precisely, consists in reconnecting with the courage of being human, in not escaping into intellectual rantings, in remaining as much as possible in connection with what is happening, with people such as they are, every moment. This method is similar to that of other traditions: one focuses on the breath and on the body to calm and collect the mind. But in the Shambhala Way, called the Way of the Warrior, one applies a certain vision, one cultivates a feeling of appreciation for one's own life. If we realize that we have no self-esteem, we try to find a positive point such as being alive, having a functioning body, a loving heart, to have sensory organs that allow one to be in contact with the world. When you come to appreciate yourself, you become more receptive and aware of your qualities and your faults; we then develop friendship for ourselves and we value others in the same way.

You teach at the Buddhist cultural centers in Rennes and Shambhala in Paris. What is the importance of listening in this form of meditation?

The other particularity of the Shambhala practice, which for me is a way of societal meditation, is the sharing with the community of meditators. It allows an experience of awakened society and an exchange that is almost beyond speech. Starting from silence and the appreciation of oneself and others, one develops an energy which then makes it possible to exchange in a mode other than that of aggression, competition, ego... The key is is to learn to listen, a skill we often sorely lack. We all have ready-made answers to all kinds of questions, formatted and superficial feelings that mask our deep experience. Separating the information that we constantly receive and that we integrate, even without our knowledge, allows us to find a time when we listen to each other. And, often, we notice that it is by talking to others that we hear ourselves best.

Have these methods influenced your career as an architect?

All of this has served me especially at the level of relationships, which form a very large part of the architectural profession. I worked a lot with housing cooperatives, with groups, individuals, associations… Each time, I had to find consensual solutions, make my choices understood rather than imposing them. I worked on many construction sites, a world that is still predominantly male, even today. I had to learn to speak and to respect the know-how. It was a very rich human experience.

Beyond your Shambhala practice, you define yourself as a feminist and ecologist. Why do you think linking these battles is essential to transforming society in the face of the immense challenges that await it?

I believe it came across as such. When I was young, I started hanging out with the leftists of the day. Many were Marxists, Maoists… I quickly moved away from them and started to mobilize for women's rights, in particular for the right to abortion. As a female architect, I certainly felt the need to build a support network among women. When I met Shambhala, I said to myself that following Buddhism, after leftism and feminism, it was starting to create a lot of "isms" (Laughter). I understood that all of this represented a single and same process which, from my own process of awakening and consciousness, gradually touched all the circles of society in which I was involved: family, work , my place of life, my relationships with others, the objectives of solidarity and social justice.

How to link awakening and awareness with the objectives of change? 

The Way of Shambhala holds the world we live in to be sacred. Society is not a degraded thing, but turns out to be, on the contrary, the flagship of humanity. Forming a society that takes care of all beings is the best thing we can do on this planet. Much of our problems are tied to an economic paradigm that has made us incredibly individualistic. We are not naturally, we have become! The ability to reconnect in depth seems essential today to change our attitude towards Earths, to living beings and to ourselves. There are a lot of people who have no faith in human nature at all, and that's terrifying. We must absolutely regain confidence in our own nature.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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