Sun Camp is an outdoor, sleep-away summer camp for children ages 10-16. Campers sleep in tents and enjoy the simple experience of waking up every day to their own world. Sun Camp is a place to have fun, make friends and learn to take responsibility for oneself and one’s world in a gentle and playful environment.
Camp consists of three interconnected programs: Sun Camp: the main week-long program, for ages 10-16. Cadet Command Workshop (CCW): a leadership training intensive for returning participants age 14-16 that starts three days before camp and continues throughout Sun Camp. Rites of Warriorship (ROW): a rites of passage program for 16 year-olds, for the two days following camp.
Sun Camp takes place in an open field where campers take time away from their busy day-to-day lives to experience living simply in a natural environment. Campers live in tents, assist in the preparation of food and the maintenance of camp, and live with one another. Sun Camp draws on military forms, like wearing a uniform and raising flags, based on the idea that discipline and camaraderie can be used to conquer aggression and produce peace and cheerfulness. In addition, there are one or two short meditation sessions a day as well as hiking and other traditional camp activities like campfire songs, marshmallow roasting, and talent night.
Camp culminates with a capture-the-flag game requiring training, discipline, teamwork, and a sense of humor. Living and practicing together in this way, cooking, eating, working and playing together, allows campers to discover themselves, their world, and each other in a unique and genuine way.
The philosophy of Sun Camp is both simple and profound, based on the Shambhala Buddhist teachings. The basic tenet is the belief that everyone is inherently good. Sun Camp provides the space for campers to experience their goodness without being religious or dogmatic. When young people are given a chance to discover who they truly are, they can more easily grow into confident, compassionate, and wise adults.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of the Shambhala community, was struck by the dignity and elegance of the military while he lived in England. The military had order, was uplifted, and crisp. When he came to the United States he created a Buddhist “military,” the idea being that it would utilize all the outside forms of a normal military (i.e. uniforms, marching, hierarchy, order and discipline), but that its goal and vision would be to cultivate a gentle heart, fearlessness and a wakeful mind. The adult program was called encampment; within a few years a kids program was created based on the same teachings.