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Feb 17
International Programs
Exploring Our Future

In Boulder last night, Joshua Silberstein (Chief of Staff to the Sakyong) and Lodro Rinzler (Shambhala’s Director of Development) kicked off their tour of 15 centers in North America. Their purpose? To explore the future of Shambhala. Beginning with a series of four contemplations by Kalapa Acharya Adam Lobel, and culminating in a lively discussion, the format was open and the primary purpose was listening to each other.

Jennifer Holder shares her experience of the discussion.

Genuine Kindness
In the gathering, it was clear that the Sakyong’s emphasis on kindness has been a wake up call for many of us, as we really listen to feedback from people who walk into our centers for the first time, as we look at the way we treat each other and our differences, as we relate even to ourselves. The genuineness of this goes deeper than our behavior and penetrates deep into our heart of hearts, into our experience of basic goodness and our view of the world. As the Sakyong pointed out in his Shambhala Day address, the attitude that results makes all the difference. And as Chogyam Trungpa was fond of reminding everyone, we can talk the talk, we can broadcast messages far and wide, we can work our behinds off to up our memberships. But unless we radiate our genuine experience of basic goodness, it’s all for naught.

Genuine Growth
During the discussion, it struck me that growth as a community means deepening, stabilizing, and expanding. By ever deepening our practice, commitment, loyalty, and devotion intensifies and it is true – we radiate it. We volunteer, take on projects, and give more generously. This is our bedrock, but concerns were shared that we may not have the infrastructure to support expansion. Many of our buildings can hardly house the crowds, but we don’t have the financial resources to move to larger spaces. Staff in both urban and land centers are overworked and underpayed, relying on a currency of inspiration. Feeling stretched across the board, their attitude suffers – and they are a vital point of contact for people who are exploring Shambhala.

And at the same time, we have a tremendous sense of inspiration. The question dangled in the air: how do we manifest as a genuine beacon people can turn to in this dark age, and when they arrive, how can we offer an environment vast enough to greet them with full Shambhala expression?

Genuine Solvency
As Lodro discussed the “Our Future” campaign, I contemplated the uncomforable reality that “Our Future” relies on fundraising. My discomfort was not about the campaign, but about how I have seen money and membership being handled in our centers and in our own hands. Yes, we all know that Shambhala needs money to exist and grow, and we all know that generosity is one of our primary practices. But it is my humble opinion that as a community we are struggling to balance our financial needs with a sense of genuine offering. We work to increase membership to make the rent. We send out end-of-year letters that express the reality of dire financial straits if the money doesn’t come. And leadership appeals to the cultivation of our generosity to fund our many forward-thinking projects.

But what is the experience of the people who donate the money? And what is an increase in Shambhala’s income reflective of? Does it mean that we are genuinely radiating to others, inspiring their practice and commitment to Shambhala vision? Is it a preservational response to panic? Or does it mean that we are becoming increasingly clever in our fundraising efforts?

Like the rest of the world, we are in a state of financial panic as we trim budgets and reach out to donors. I fear that in both our panic and our efforts to grow, we walk the proverbial razor’s edge, as we risk giving in to our cultural default — operating like a business, with promises of kindness and wakefulness as our product. I know that sounds crude, but last night’s event got me thinking about what the genuine exchange of money feels like.

Genuinely Curious
I emerged from the gathering wondering what inspires us to give to Shambhala. What is at the heart of that potent moment when we jot down our credit card numbers? Do we do it because President Reoch asked us to (again)? Is it because of our devotion to Shambhala vision and the Sakyong? Is it because we love the experiences we have had at SMC and want them to continue?

Why do we give, and why do we hold back? Let’s really ask ourselves, because what is abundantly clear is that the future of Shambhala will indeed be shaped by generosity. And that what we will all need to come to terms with is our relationship to money and our sense of the value of what we are doing.

The truth is, generosity needs to increase and I feel that Josh and Lodro are curious as to how that might arise genuinely. It is clear that they have tossed these ideas around at length, and now want to hear from us.

Please do attend this gathering and share what arises in your part of the mandala.

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1 response to “ Exploring Our Future ”
  1. Jeremy Fagan
    Feb 17, 2010

    Well said, this is a very potent topic that needs our attention, and given the fact that we wanting to reach out into society in a bigger way, money is fundamental.

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