Talking Spirituality: Shambhala Meditation in San Francisco

by Natalie Grigson on May 28, 2013

By the time we arrived at the Shambhala Meditation Center, the double doors were locked, a thin sliver of light peeking through from within. My roommate knocked and while we waited and waited, I wondered if no one answered, should I just take a photo of the door and write about our journey there? Write some hackneyed post about how life is, after all, about the journey and not the destination? Or perhaps we could just sit down on the sidewalk, wind blowing through the alley like a tunnel, and try to meditate on our own? Or maybe I’d just dig up some information on the Shambhala Center online, read some reviews, and write about it in that way?

Luckily, before I had time to fall down this increasingly un-Buddha-like hole, the light in between the doors dimmed momentarily, a body passing by, and a moment later, said body had opened the door.

“Welcome,” he said. And quietly, we crept into the center, took off our shoes and jackets, and then entered the meditation room.

It was completely still within. Not quiet, mind you, but the type of well-practiced stillness that isn’t so much heard as it is felt; the type of stillness that only a group of practiced meditators can co-create. As soon as I sat down, I had this wonderful feeling that my head had suddenly been filled with feathers or stuffing.

In reading that sentence, yes I am aware that sounds really weird. But that’s how it felt. All of my thoughts about being late, about the excitement of the day, about how the guy who opened the door was kind of cute, and I wonder what his name was? All of those thoughts just fell away and my body buzzed with a sort of pleasant, comfortable, Here-ness. I’ve never felt anything so immediate in a mediation group.

After about half an hour of silent meditation, we walked around the room, slowly, slowly, slowly, breathing in and out, noticing each step and movement of our bodies. I’ve never participated in an organized walking mediation before, but I’ll tell you, it was such a nice and gentle way to check in with my body, to feel the life—that tingly something—with each step.

This was a good segue to what came next: the discussion portion of the evening.

See, every Wednesday night the San Francisco Shambhala Meditation Center does something very special for their guests. They put out a beautiful spread of snacks, teas, and drinks before the meditation, and they invite a speaker in to give a talk or facilitate a discussion surrounding Shambhala Buddhism. Clearly we missed the boat on the snacks before the meeting, but we did stick around for the discussion. And I’m so glad we did.

Our speaker was none other than Amy Conway, the Bay Area’s own shastri, which in Sanskrit literally means “teacher learned in the texts and commentaries,” and in Laymen’s, means she’s a badass. We discussed healthcare in relation to Shambhala Buddhism—kind of a hot button issue to be discussing while sitting on squishy pillows. But when you think about it, what better way to discuss something heated than after meditation? Perhaps if our world’s leaders sat down and meditated for half an hour before making decisions, we’d be better off.

But that’s a different topic—who knows, perhaps it will be next week’s.

All and all, I loved my first experience with this center and I can whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone A) just starting out in meditation, B) well-practiced in meditation, C) just checking out meditation, or D) anywhere in between.

I know I’ll be back. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

The San Francisco Shambhala Meditation Center is located on Stevenson Street in San Francisco, CA, 94103. For more information about hours, group meditation schedule, other locations, and some really cool-looking workshops coming up, visit

As always, I want to hear your feedback! Is there a spiritual practice that you want to see discussed? A place in the Bay Area you’d like me to research? I want to write about what you want to read about. So let me know.

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