October 2017 Update // Meet the BSC Staff

Good morning gentle warriors,

Welcome to the first featured blog post to be included in our new membership newsletter! We are excited to bring you some highlights about our community and direction on a monthly basis. This month I wanted to tell you about ourselves as Center staff: who are we and what do we do everyday?

First it’s important to acknowledge that the Shambhala Center is a community organization. This place could never operate without our members’ enthusiasm and service – your enthusiasm and service!  But unlike many centers, we also benefit from the dedicated leadership that is possible with full-time staff. This makes a huge difference in magnetizing people to an organization that feels welcoming and healthy.

As employees of the center, we work for the vision of the Shambhala lineage. We do this by engaging, training, organizing, and serving the community here in Boston. Our work is to align the vast Shambhala vision with the rich and complex experience of Boston in 2017 – or to borrow a phrase: to join heaven and earth.

With this view, we have worked hard to organize ourselves more efficiently, clean up old karma (financial and some closets included!) and operate in ways that are both leaner and kinder to our volunteers and members. To help us organize, we are often reflecting on what our mission is as a center and how we – particularly as full-time staff – fit within that.

The Four Pillars

You may have heard of the Four Pillars of Shambhala: Governance, Protection, Practice and Education, and Economy. These four pillars support all activity in Shambhala – from local center representatives for each Pillar, up to Ministers in each pillar at the international level. The Pillar of Governance is headed by myself, the Executive Director of the center; the head of Practice and Education Pillar is an open position but the work of that pillar is supported by myself and Max Roberts-Zirker as well as the Shastris; the head of the Protection Pillar at the center is Rusung Sarah Kimball; and while the Pillar of Economy does not yet have an official local representative, the work of that pillar is supported by our Chagdzö (Treasurer) Caitlin Smith.

The Four Domains: ‘What is the activity of the Center?’

The Shambhala center is more than a non-profit business which offers meditation classes. At this moment, however, much of our Center’s activity and therefore revenue is geared towards running programs and curriculum-based activity. How do we shift towards a community that is member supported and based on manifesting our principles in our households and lives?

We have been referencing Being Taoist, Eva Wong’s Taoist texts regarding how to live a balanced life. The Shambhala Center’s activities should be a reflection of the kind of society we want to live in. We use the following 4 domains to think about the activity of a balanced Center. Each domain is a vital area of life which supports and enriches the others for a full and balanced existence.

Mind/Body Training (referred to as the ‘private life’ in Taoist language) – studying and training through practices that cultivate one’s own experience of wisdom, kindness and strength.

Community (domestic life) – welcoming and supporting one another along the path.

Society (public life) – engaging with patterns of societal wisdom and neurosis.

Drala (or spirit life) – playing with the phenomenal world as unconditionally good and free.

None of the domains ever stands alone, they are interdependent and constantly in conversation with one another. For example, the Shambhala Sadhana is an opportunity to gather regularly as community members; it is also an important mind/body training practice for practitioners of all levels; it also invites us to reflect on and change our activity in society at large; and it strengthens our relationships with drala and the invisible world.

Challenging as it can be, distinguishing each activity of the Center into it’s closest domain has been extremely helpful in organizing as a cohesive and responsive entity to the world around us.

In Summary: The Pillars and Domains together

As Center Staff, we operate from the Governance Pillar which means we help connect the pillars and keep them working together in harmony to support the activities of the domains. In working toward a complete and balanced sphere of activity in Boston, we have structured ourselves as staff to each oversee a domain (with the domain of Drala/Spirit as an element supporting all activities).

Our Staff Mandala

Ashley Hodson

Executive Director, Head of the Local Governance Pillar, Society Domain

My role is to provide the link from the Shambhala Vision as expressed in the view and activities of the Sakyong to the local leadership team and community. Within the center this means working closely with leadership and court appointments such as the Shastris and senior teachers, the Dorje Kasung, the Head of Culture and Decorum, and Practice & Education, among others. With the leadership team, we develop a path and strategy for the longevity and flourishing of the Shambhala community in the Boston area.

The other aspect of my appointment is to connect Shambhala Boston to the world around us. We have teachings that are fundamentally about creating a better society, which means supporting conditions within our wider community for a culture to arise that is an actual alternative to an ailing and confused world. Primarily I have focused on stabilizing the conditions and culture within our walls but I’m reaching a point with our new staff mandala that I can make our offerings more visible to local businesses, organizations and other spiritual communities.

With the Sakyong’s next visit on the horizon, much of my focus will be fostering conversations both within our community and building connections with other local spiritual leaders.

Max Roberts-Zirker

Deputy Director: Governance Pillar, Community Domain

Like a Chief Operations Officer, the Deputy Director oversees the day-to-day operations of the Boston Center and in the absence of the ED can step in and make decisions on behalf of the Governance Pillar. This role is primarily focused on creating a stable community foundation through managing resources, facilitating communication, clarifying roles and responsibilities, building support for key groups and activities, advising on strategy and creating the structure to enact such strategy.

Membership and Community

  • Developing a strong path of membership for new and continued growth
  • Coordinating MI resources for Members
  • Supporting Gateway Programs and Affinity Groups such as Heart of Recovery, 30’s and Under, Open House, Nyinthun, Learn to Meditate, etc.
  • Supporting Community Gatherings, Celebrations & Practice Events such as Shambhala Sadhana, Ashe Society, etc.

Practice and Education

  • Overseeing program preparation from planning phase through first website draft
  • Maintaining internal center calendar and reconciling with external calendar and other planning documents
  • With Executive Director, planning the programming calendar 1-2 years out


  • Tracking revenue and expense from membership, programs, rentals and other sources
  • Acting liaison regarding program budgets, teacher payment, etc.
  • Working with Development team (John Ranco and Brandon Jellison) for Patron events

General Operations

  • Ordering supplies when they are reported low
  • Managing bookstore
  • Overseeing our building and appliance maintenance

Nicole Arseneault

Program and Marketing Manager: Governance Pillar, Mind/Body Training Domain

The Program and Marketing Manager has two primary functions. For marketing the role is focused on creating attractive and authentic descriptions for curriculum based programs and driving participant registrations through various channels. On the programs side they’re responsible for seeing programs through from web publishing to completion, including gathering and supporting the staffing mandala. By holding both aspects of programing at the Center, this role also continues to look for ways to improve the experience of participants and staff.


  • Reviewing existing copy and images, making any necessary edits to publish programs to our website
  • Developing social media outlets as channels of engagement for the community and sources of marketing when appropriate: Facebook, Instagram, Meetup, Twitter
  • Designing and publishing regular email newsletters and program announcements
  • Writing and editing most marketing materials

Program Management

  • Inviting and cultivating coordinators and staff for each program
  • Organizing program logistics and operations
  • Liaison for students (until a coordinator is assigned) and staff/teachers
  • Collecting and synthesizing student feedback

Cultivating Staffing Community

  • Publishing a twice monthly staffing newsletter
  • Organizing staff gatherings and trainings
  • Collecting and synthesizing staff feedback


Thank you so much for reading about our local Mandala!


Ashley Hodson

Executive Director

Shambhala Boston