Richard Peisinger, Halifax Shambhala Center

The Halifax Shambhala Center is part of an international community of centers for meditation.  It combines the teachings of Buddhism with Shambhala principles in order to work towards achieving an enlightened society.  The teachings focus on aiding the public in both furthering their individual development as well as the general well being of society.  Richard Peisinger is the coordinator of the Halifax Shambhala Center Sustainability Initiative and believes action needs to be taken quickly since a process like this can take a long time.

The Halifax Shambhala Center sees sustainability as integral to their pursuit of societal well-being.  They joined the Atlantic Canada Sustainability Initiative in 2007 and formed an internal Sustainability Initiative Group to help with their journey towards becoming a more sustainable organization and community.  The ACSI is a network comprised of municipalities, large corporations, as well as small businesses.  “We are organizations that typically don’t work together; but we all felt that sustainability was something all aspects of society need to work on” said Peisinger.  Forming this network has allowed them to come together as a community and support each other.

“Many of us on this planet have now become more aware and cognizant of what our limits are, and to what extent we have extended these limits, in terms of the living environment,” Peisinger explained. 

Ever since childhood, Richard Peisinger has felt a connection with the environment and an interest in sustainability.  A good deal of his youth was spent interacting with nature through activities such as camping, biking, canoeing, as well as spending time in the woods.  He was always around people who truly appreciated the natural world.  Peisinger explains that inrealizing our inseparability with the power and luminous quality of the living environment, he felt compelled to get involved with the efforts toward reaching a sustainable world.  He also sees the sustainability initiative as a means to live out the Shambhala Center’s teachings on development of the community and society.  “Sustainability is a way to connect us with our world, with each other”, Peisinger stated.  

The members of the Sustainability Initiative took part in a number of TNS workshops to educate themselves and to get comfortable with the TNS Framework.  This has allowed members to clearly communicate with others about sustainability and to envision what they would like the Shambhala community to look like in the future.

“One thing I like about TNS is that it doesn’t come across as dictums, but what I like to think of as reflections” noted Peisinger.  “Decisions can then be held up against consensus based principles, and we can see what’s workable and what makes sense”.

The Shambhala Center’s biggest challenge is to bring about cultural change toward sustainability.  In addition to taking part in educational programs, steps they have taken include using FSC paper for printing and photocopying, switching to fish oil based biofuel for their furnace, as well as avoiding the use of disposable plastics and opting for actual dishes instead.  They are hosting a sustainability film series for the greater community and co-sponsoring a lecture by Bill McKibben on Farmers’ Markets, Food Security and Climate Change. Although these are some good steps in the journey towards a sustainable world, Peisinger feels that the Shambhala Sustainability Initiative still has a long way to go. 

“Our primary focus has been to touch the intelligence and commitment of each person individually, in all the ways we live our lives - our families, organizations, and livelihoods," Peisinger said.  “We’ve touched a segment of our community, haven’t touched them all; but sustainability is starting to be a way we see ourselves”.

Although Peisinger has played a large role in the Shambhala Center’s sustainability initiative, he does not necessarily see himself as a leader in the traditional sense.  For Peisinger, a true leader is someone who can “bring forth other people’s confidence and allow them to extend their intelligence and way of contributing that is appropriate to their nature in the world”.

In terms of the future, Peisinger is hopeful that sustainability will help connect us with the basic goodness of our world and of one another.  He hopes that the actions taken at the Halifax Shambhala Center will help inspire other Shambhala centers to actively engage in the international organizational initiative, “Touching the Earth ”, towards achieving sustainability derived views and  practices within their own communities.