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Golden Goose Takes Flight

photo by Kevin O'Connor from the Rutland Herald

photo by Kevin O’Connor from the Rutland Herald

Interview with Jane Arthur upon the occasion of her retirement from the position of Executive Director at Karme Choling

by Sarah Lipton
Shambhala Times Editor-in-Chief

Karme Choling is buzzing today. It’s raining outside, and the snow is melting, but with the warmer weather the songbirds can be heard again in the forest. Deer tracks snake away through the melting snow and as I walk by the semi-frozen fire pond, I wonder how the little orange koi are doing. Inside, the lunchroom is full with Karme Choling staff, ngondro retreatants and dathun participants who have dish duty right after the meal. The corridors are quiet, except for the occasional outburst of laughter.

After just over seven years of devoted service, Ms. Jane Arthur will soon be stepping down from a very full career as Director at Karme Choling. Stepping into her new role will be Ms. Myra Woodruff currently of Burlington, Vermont. Jane and I meet in her warm, elegant office that sits above the thriving body of Karme Choling. She is upbeat about this ending, and looking forward to what’s next. The view out the window offers us a peek at dripping flags and those patches of white that have not yet entirely melted.

“This morning the wind blew away my Director’s parking spot sign,” sighs Jane Arthur as we begin to talk. “It seems to be a sign.” The dralas are in accord. She is about to leave and they must know it.

“Right up front,” says Ms. Arthur, “I’d like to say that though the leader of an organization is important, it is not just about my accomplishments as that leader.” She’s very clear on this point. “I think about all the people that came along over the years and how we made things happen together.” Sometimes, she says, “It’s about me getting out of the way to let others offer their wisdom and expertise.”

I ask, “So what did ‘we’ accomplish over the last 7 years?” Jane looks happier with this question and says, “I feel a lot of what we accomplished is in the human realm in terms of getting closer to fulfilling the vision of our Sakyongs – both of them. We have a sense now of pointing towards the recognition of our basic goodness and what would it look like to live that way.” She explains that the community feels really clear about where we’re going. “There’s no waffling about someone else’s idea or vision, but we’re closely aligning with the Sakyong and that feels really big.” When she began her tenure, there was still a lot of arguing about whether we were Shambhala or not, and at this point there is no question that Karme Choling is heading in the direction the Sakyongs have set. “The most important thing to me is that Myra will step into a place that is clearly the Sakyong’s retreat center.” Everything that follows will come from that.

In terms of more earthy accomplishments, the list is long. Reading off of her list of 73 things, Ms. Arthur highlighted the recent purchase of 170 acres, the building of the first ever Scorpion Seal cabin for retreatants and the overall sprucing up of the place. All shrine rooms have been painted, the Pavilion was winterized, and many roads were upgraded. Under her Directorship, the governance model changed from being a Board to a Council. “We re-did the entryway, moved the dumpster and gas tanks, and put a tenno room in for the Sakyong.” The receptionist area was uplifted and a director suite constructed. “Furthermore, we put together a master plan for the future expansion and development planning of Karme Choling,” she seems very happy about this last one.

Upon the death of Alice Patneaude (see article by clicking here), Karme Choling received the Patneaude House and turned it into much needed staff housing. In a different year, they received new computers and server systems for staff, allowing their shared data to be almost completely in the cloud. Jane Arthur oversaw the groundbreaking of the new stupa, and the painting and roofing of Ashoka Bhavan, which houses guests and staff in Barnet Village. During her tenure, the garden internship was started, shrine rooms were wired with Internet, and Karme Choling hosted the Vermont Leadership Institute for one of their sessions. And that’s only a fraction of her list of 73.

“It’s about polishing the jewel,” Jane says, “and cleaning up the whole environment. Cleaning out the old corners and sprucing things up is a recognition of the transmission of how to live from the point of view of basic goodness, in which we appreciate the senses and fullness of our humanity.”

Of all of this, however, the most rewarding thing for Jane has been watching people flourish, both staff and participants. “Witnessing the transformation that occurs is such a delight and privilege. Nobody is untouched by their experience of being here, and watching people become fuller, brighter human beings, well that’s just as good as it gets. There really isn’t anything better.”

Ms. Arthur is delighted to welcome Ms. Woodruff into her new role, particularly since she feels there is a very strong launching pad for Myra to take up the reins.

“We have a very strong staff and a really good operational structure right now,” says Jane. Suzanne Trahey and Pam Linnell are currently serving as two very strong Deputy Directors. They know the ropes so thoroughly that Myra will be able to take her seat without having to jump into operations right away. This will help her develop local and regional relationships, Jane says, and Myra will be well placed to begin to enact the development plan.

“I feel that we are very fortunate in that we’ve come to understand something about community in this region,” Ms. Arthur says. Her great aspiration is that with full support of the local community, the whole situation will flourish. “Myra is coming in to a well placed situation, and I think under her leadership, this place will really flourish.”

I ask, “But what’s next for you, Jane?” She is busy, and while there aren’t 73 items on this list, there are a good many activities in store for her. “I am really pleased to say that I might continue to work with Shambhala! We are investigating the possibility of me continuing to make an offering to Shambhala as a mentor and guide for other residential centers. But as this wouldn’t be full-time, I am looking into ways to stay active and engaged in my Vermont community.”

She already is very active here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, of course. Jane was recently invited to join the local Hospital Board, and this year will begin a new tenure as President of the local Rotary Club. She serves on the Board of the Northeast Kingdom Youth Services and sits on the Catamount Arts Advisory Council. “I care a lot about my community and am excited to be involved in all of these ways. This area of Vermont is ripe for working with people who share the Shambhala principles, whether they call them that or not. That’s exciting to me.”

Jane Arthur at her farewell party

Jane Arthur at her farewell party

But that’s not all; Jane is also looking into the idea of doing something on her own. She is interested in doing some kind of coaching, consulting, or mentoring, saying, “I’d like to be my own boss for a while.”

At this stage of her journey, Ms. Arthur feels a sense of completion. Every Director comes in with a particular karmic propensity, she says. “You make your offering and then it’s time for you to go. Your presence and activities prepare the ground for the next Director to enter.” It is like any natural cycle, and everyone offers what they have in them to offer. “I personally feel that I offered all I could to Karme Choling. I feel complete,” she says, her eyes sparkling and radiant.


Jane Arthur’s Shambhala Name is Golden Goose.

Wish her well and share your thoughts by submitting a comment below.

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10 responses to “ Golden Goose Takes Flight ”
  1. Mimi McLorie
    Feb 13, 2014
    Reply

    Jolly Good show. xoxoxo Ms MiMi

  2. Lucie Benzerdjeb
    Feb 2, 2014
    Reply

    ….wish you a successful being boss for yourself ;-D (ex-head of practice in DCL)

    Lucie

  3. Alison & Richard Driscoll
    Jan 29, 2014
    Reply

    Dear Jane,

    We remember the day you began as Director and here we are seven years later. What a lot you and your team have accomplished in that time. And what a rich legacy you have left for Myra to continue to build upon.

    Thank you for all you have done in service of this treasure of the Shambhala mandala from all of us who love Karme-Choling and consider it our second home.

    With all best wishes your way,

    Alison & Richard Driscoll

  4. Vivi Spicer
    Jan 28, 2014
    Reply

    You couldn’t have done it better, Jane. I have always admired your service from afar. KCL will miss you and so will I, but look forward to your further offering to the mandala, the greater community, and the universe. You are a jewel in the cuff or whatever Leonard Cohen wrote.
    ~Vivi Spicer
    Washington, DC

  5. Cynthia Morgan
    Jan 27, 2014
    Reply

    Dear Jane. You were such a beautiful presence the two times I have participated in programs at KC. A “Breeze of Delight” …..and such an inspiration. Thank you for all you have done for so many. Warmly, Cynthia

  6. Thanks for your warm and dedicated service to KCL. You brought a nurturing and inquisitive spirit that was of benefit, and will continue to benefit those who visit KCL. Good luck on your next adventure

  7. Dear Jane,

    I stared on the Shambhala path with Karme Choling as my land center. What I wish to most acknowledge and appreciate you for is for making Karme Choling a kinder place.

    Wishing you well in all to come,

    Kiki Soso

  8. Suzanne Prysor-Jones
    Jan 27, 2014
    Reply

    Congratulations on all your accomplishments of gentle leadership, Jane, and all the very best for exiting beginnings in your life. Would be lovely to see you more in Europe. Love. Suzanne

  9. Terry Rudderham
    Jan 26, 2014
    Reply

    Congratulations Jane for doing such a great job! I look forward to your next manifestation.
    with appreciation, Terry

  10. Dawa Lhatso
    Jan 26, 2014
    Reply

    KI KI SO SO! Dear Jane, thank you for all you are and have done. You were always a generous source of warmth and love to me every time I came home to Karme Choling, and I am ever grateful. Much love to you as you continue on your journey. xox


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