Notes from January 2019 Community Gathering

Thanks to the more than 20 members who joined the community gathering on Saturday, and a special thanks to Patricia who took an early bus for her 2 hour commute to come early and help get the space ready.

The gathering was facilitated by Max Roberts-Zirker, Interim Executive Director, and Sarah Kimball on behalf of the Boston Shambhala Center Board..

To start, Sarah reviewed our current Board structure and some of the recent changes to this group. You can read more about the current board here and see the previous email about the restructuring process here.

Sarah let everyone know about several decisions recently made by the Board:
1) We will replace the throne in the main meditation hall with a teacher’s chair, hopefully by Shambhala Day. The Board received overwhelmingly supportive feedback for this decision when we emailed out to the community, and we are putting together a group to make this happen. Let us know if you’re interested in helping with some manual labor.

2) We will be open to the possibility of having other qualified teachers at the Boston Shambhala Center, either as rentals or co-sponsored events. We will be in touch about the next steps for this process soon.

In the big picture, the board is still working to make the operations and the leadership of the Center more open and inclusive, and beginning the process to look for a new Executive Director.

It was quickly pointed out that the board still has some blind spots, and could do a better job enacting the commitment to transparency and inclusivity. A few people brought up how the current Board was not chosen by the community. There was also a strong desire for more open dialogue with the board, and input by community members in decision making processes that affect the direction of our community.

The next quarterly community gathering will likely be in early April – keep an eye on the website for details. In the meantime, there will be monthly open meetings with board members, The next date is Wednesday, February 13 at 7pm. More info and register here.

I can say for myself that it definitely had its raw, shaky edges, but I actually left feeling that some important part of our community work was nourished. I still find myself energized, and hope to carry that with me. One of my takeaways is how we are unlearning some very strong patterns of organizing and relating to each other, and are just learning how something else might work in its place. I can’t help but compare it to the way my son is finding limbs he didn’t know were his, and learning to work with them. We will wobble and fall, might even smack ourselves in the face, but we can also enjoy the process.

Yours in the vision of a good society,
Max Roberts-Zirker
Interim Executive Director, Shambhala Boston


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In the words of some of the participants:

“It was sad. It was inspiring. There were differences of opinions. There were complaints. There was openness, flexibility and bravery. It was good.”

“It felt very raw, and surprisingly intense. The themes of trust (not trust), longing to be able to practice and participate at the Center but shaky, need for transparency and more work on 2-way communication — felt strongest to me. Working on issues of patriarchy and inclusivity are part of this. “

“At this time Shambhala need Teachers not Kings. If time and space are given. Shambhala can rise from these self inflicted ashes. Be. The Phoenix!”

“I left the Center with such a connection and sense of ownership-a great group of individuals all supporting each other through a difficult transition. I appreciated the opportunity to listen, to pause, to be confused, to be tender and to be silly together.”

“I’ve been away from the center, so I was shaken by the mix of feelings, ambivalence, and a lot I don’t know. Max, I was impressed by your flexibility. You spent hours crafting an agenda and people said no. Sarah danced in with a slow shuffle and we danced. Meanwhile, I had a long episode of dizziness which left me without words and picking up the feelings all around me… To me, the only important part of a guru is that s/he simply reflects the wisdom and goodness within each of us as together, we grok a gathering of good gurus.”

“It was good to come together and hear where fellow community members are with their thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. I want to try to continue to learn from and understand each other, to listen and share and be open to different ways of thinking and my blind spots. I was reminded that change takes time and patience and that mistakes and missteps will be made – I hope we can remember to be kind to ourselves and others when that happens. I hope we can call upon our teachings to help guide us through this time. I appreciated the dedication and spirit I saw and felt.”

“The Boston Shambhala center/community is honestly kind of a weird thing in my life — especially right now — but I love and appreciate it/everyone deeply for this. The gathering on Saturday had a full spectrum of reasons on display. There was a wide mix of uncertainty, frustration, anger, and sadness as well as sensitivity, open-heartedness, supportive presence, and solidarity. The gathering was challenging on many levels for me personally, with a lot of energy buzzing at times, but I was also awkwardly relieved by how genuine the gathering felt. I was especially grateful for how the gathering closed out and for the ways Max and Sarah facilitated. By the end, I felt that we were tapping into some ‘strength to rediscover our fearless nature.’

Themes important to me:
— 1) COMMUNICATION: Establishing and maintaining balanced, spacious, and receptive communication between both Boston Shambhala’s leadership structures and the wider community.
— 2) MAINTAINING THE SPACE: Ensuring the Shambhala Boston community has a dedicated practice space. The doors must stay open and the bills must get paid.
— 3) IDENTITY: Shambhala Boston needs to figure out what it’s about and where it stands (in a variety of contexts). It seems like the only way this will happen is by having really good communication.”