Introducing “Ashe Cafe”: Joining Work and Practice

Just another ordinary Tuesday afternoon at the Berkeley Shambhala Center: quiet, spacious, and a little dull. Core staff going about their business, a breeze blowing through the Community Room, and one person had stopped in to see if we had a dharma book for sale. Add to that a seemingly endless inbox to empty, flyers to be made, and the website to be updated, and I felt the familiar thralldom and anxiety radiate from my computer screen and gradually infiltrate my mind. Working in a dharma center, it turns out, is no guarantee to avoid the materialism and stress of our times.

Enter Shastri Sandra Ladley, and things didn’t seem quite as heavy. Rather than working alone at home, she decided to come to the Center to work, and we agreed to parallel play, as it were: each of us going about our business, but checking in from time to time, sharing an interesting update, celebrating a success, seeking advice. The spell cast by my computer loosened its hold; the to-do list quit its barking. Nick, our Office Manager, went out for a coffee, picked up an iced tea for an appreciative Shastri, and joined us at the table.

What had changed? On the one hand, not a whole lot: one extra person and a cup of tea. But the entire atmosphere had shifted from “business as usual” to community in action and the playfulness of creative work. Having a group of people to work alongside is an excuse to raise one’s gaze from time to time, reconnect with the present moment and draw new inspiration. In effect, it’s a means to mix dharma with our endeavors. If we don’t remind ourselves of the view, our work can take on the marks of speed and sloppiness.

The Berkeley Shambhala Center is so rich with activities in the evenings and weekends with wonderful programs and teachings. However, I’ve long felt that when the time comes that we have bustling centers on weekday afternoons, we will have realized the social relevancy of Shambhala.

Ashe is a word and symbol in the Shambhala tradition that represents humanity’s innate wakefulness, our compassion and our confidence. Ashe Cafe uses community as a way to bring the principles of the Shambhala teachings into our work lives. So, I invite all members and leadership trainees to stop in at our Ashe Cafe each Tuesday and Thursday from 1-6pm. You might be job hunting, planning a dharma talk, working from home, tending to Center business, or just looking to meditate after lunch and enjoy a cup of tea before heading back to work. Come on by: it’s free, and the tea and hugs are on us.

Ashe Cafe