Spring 2019 Community Gathering

I first want to say a huge thanks to all those who gathered last Saturday in community and conversation – and special thanks to Mary Lang for co-hosting the meeting with me. I’m never sure who or what these gatherings will bring, but it’s so rewarding to feel inspiration and confidence in our community after an afternoon talking together. Having spent a lot of time over the last year reflecting and processing confusion and hurt in our community, this gathering felt like a shift into a more creative, active mode.

For those who couldn’t make it, and for those who did, I want to share some of what we talked about last weekend.

Overall we agreed that our community’s focus for the next 4-6 months will be on “building capacity”. While we didn’t have this quote to provide on Saturday, the following description from the National Council of Nonprofits summarizes my understanding of what this means:

Capacity building is not just about the capacity of a nonprofit today — it’s about the nonprofit’s ability to deliver its mission effectively now, and in the future. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit.

This is the basis of sanity from which we can have a positive impact on the lives of those in our communities. From a practice perspective, this feels like a return to shamatha for me: grounding in stability of the flow and cycles of the processes that sustain us; paying attention to what is already happening and allowing our posture to embody our healthy qualities (even when we have an illness).

This focus on capacity building deemphasizes revenue generating programs but does not mean we will stop offering programs. Instead it can help us focus on important structural work like creating a more welcoming and inclusive community, developing more transparent leadership structures, improving the ways we work together, clarifying policies and practices for preventing and addressing harm, learning to have difficult conversations, and continuing to offer training and practice space that benefits the people of Boston.

As a foundation for this focus, we agreed to start forming volunteer committees and task forces as an organizing structure. These two types of working groups will be a way to engage and commit to working together on what matters most. You can read more about the overall structure of working groups here.

Huge thank you to those who stepped forward to help coordinate these working groups. Here are some of the groups and the people :

Current Committees: these working groups exist indefinitely, with members stepping in and out. Their work is ongoing.  

  • Facilities: Paul Wilbur
  • Fun Gatherings – Emily Wynn
    Movies, potlucks, hikes, etc. including some meditation practice as well.
  • Program Planning Committee – Diana Evans, Kate King, Ashley Buchanan, Max Roberts-Zirker,
  • Marketing and Communications – Mary Lang, Jen McLaughlin, Amy Maguire
  • Ikebana – Lourdes Ramos-Heinrichs
  • Shrinekeeping – Nealy Zimmermann
  • Finance Committee – John Ranco, Max Roberts-Zirker


Task forces: these groups come together for a limited time, to accomplish a defined task for the benefit of the whole sangha. This could be answering a single question like “Should we start a compassion study group?” and reporting back to the whole community, or to run a process like a Director Search. Some task forces mentioned on Saturday:

  • Discussing if and how to reach out to those who have left – Judy Vreeland
    Quite a few people expressed still feeling connected to people who had left, and wanting to talk about respectful and helpful ways to reconnect where possible.
  • Discussing around offering Social Meditation circles for the wider community – Travis DeTour, Emily Wynn, Anu Menon
  • Discussing how to best offer a compassion training program – Charlie Trageser
  • Discussing skill building programs for our community, inter-sangha dynamics – Emily Wynn, Amy Maguire, Travis DeTour, Ruth Blackburn
  • Discussing the possibility of hosting a women’s group – Anu Menon
  • Discussing a community resilience, harm prevention, etc. committee – Sarah Kimball, Max Roberts-Zirker

If you’re interested in being part of any of these groups, reach out to the person or people listed. If you don’t have their contact info, write to me and I’ll put you in touch.

At least for the next year, and possibly into the foreseeable future, we will operate with only one full-time staff person. This means that much of the work which had been done by three paid staff will have to shift to volunteer roles. Historically Shambhala has asked a tremendous amount from a very small group, and hasn’t handled turnover well. This committee proposal is my effort to change that dynamic.

Friday, May 17th we will try out an evening practice and Working Group gathering. We’ll order some food – pizza? Barbecue?, start with some sitting meditation, then break into groups to do some work together. This is not mandatory; if you’re interested in a certain group, or just curious, come join us. Obviously there will be people who can’t make this, but it’s a good opportunity to try it out.

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