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Feb 21
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Transforming Oprah’s Store

Construction folks getting ready to varnish the floor

Construction folks getting ready to varnish the floor

COLUMN: Shambhala on the Move in Chicago

A series about Shambhala Centers and Groups who are moving into new spaces or renovating their existing homes.

article compiled by Candlin Dobbs, Column Editor

Shambhala has a long history in Chicago. The Chicago Dharmadhatu began in 1971. The first center not in an apartment opened in 1975 on North State street. The second center, on Clark, was near the “El” and when the trains rumbled by, they were so loud that everything had to stop until it passed.

For the last 17 years, Chicago Shambhala lived in a small mansion on Sheridan road, near Lake Michigan and the north border of Chicago. Chicago owned the building, but it had a small shrine room and inflexible space. It had once been a clinic – the second floor had many small rooms, most with sinks.
When Tom Adducci started as Center Director, one of his first goals was to move the center into a bigger space, in a more central location. But they couldn’t find a buyer for the Sheridan building, and they put that goal aside.

Chicago's old building

Chicago’s old building

Then, Tom got a call. It was a buyer, offering 4 to 5 times the market price. Was it a hoax? But it wasn’t – they wanted to buy the building, tear it down, and make a parking lot. And so Chicago sold their building, and then leased it back. From July 2012 to September 2013 they were able to stay in the Sheridan building while getting ready to move.

Chicago got help from IFF, a non-profit organization that helps non-profits find spaces. IFF helped them determine what they needed as well as looking for the new place.

The space they settled on was “Oprah’s Store” a retail space in the West Loop, in a 6-story commercial condo. The space is at street level with a lower floor accessible by elevator, it is 12,875 square feet, has bamboo floors and marble in the bathrooms, is close to restaurants, galleries and lots of condos.

“Oprah bought it at the height, and we were able to buy it when prices were down,” said Tom. “We had money for the renovation and to invest in some staff changes.”

The location was a little challenging. Members wondered would the West Loop be dangerous, problematic for parking, or change the feeling of the center?

Chicago Rennovation

Chicago Rennovation

Peter McLaughlin, the Shambhala Center’s Facilities Manager, who has worked on all five Chicago Shambhala Centers, said this renovation effort is different. “We could no longer just do the work ourselves.”

IFF helped them find an architect who specializes in non-profits. They also helped them find a general contractor who when he’s not busy, goes downstate to help people rebuild who’ve lost their homes to tornados. “He’s a reminder that Shambhala doesn’t have the market on basic goodness,” said Peter.

Last March, when the Sakyong was in Chicago during the Imaging Peace visit, he toured the new space.

The Sakyong emphasized that the design should start with a vision of society that includes food and conversation as well as study and meditation, saying, “It’s linking personal transformation and social transformation.”

The space will be open during business hours, at least 8 to 10 hours every day. There will be a bookshop, a cafe with tea, coffee and snacks, and a shrine room that will seat approximately 108 meditators.

Peter described being on the new building’s rooftop deck with the Sakyong. The sun was setting to the west and lighting up the Chicago skyline to the east. Peter was struck by the golden quality of the light and said, “Sir – I’ve never felt that the enriching practices that we do have caused any one of us to become unusually prosperous, but it seems like we’ve gotten somewhere as a sangha.” The Sakyong smiled.

Shambhala Center Staff meeting at a coffee shop while they had no center

Shambhala Center Staff meeting at a coffee shop while they had no center

During their months of homelessness, the Chicago sangha relied on multiple satellite sites for sitting and program venues, including Edgewater North, Des Plains and Oak Park West, and Hyde Park on the South side. These satellites will continue after the new center is open.

“The Sakyong’s visit and the Imagining Peace Conference was the start of us opening our doors to the wider Chicago Community,” said Aarti Tejuja, new Head of Marketing and Social Vision. “Part of my new role is working with the partnerships that started with the conference. I don’t understand anything about inner city teens per se – it wasn’t covered in Shambhala Guide training… Yet, I am willing to learn from those who do understand. We are willing to trust in their basic goodness and learn from them, while sharing with them what we can offer. And then, we see what happens.”

Tak-Seng Lodro, the new Head of Membership and Volunteering, says moving into the new space means that “we are being asked to embody enlightened society, rather than just talk about it.”

All these changes bring Chicago Shambhala more in contact with the city. They are truly turning the flower outwards. They are looking forward to the Sakyong’s visit in March when he will officially dedicate the new West Loop space.

You can see more photos of the new Center and events already taking place there by visiting Chicago’s Facebook Page.

This series is about Shambhala Centers and Groups who are moving into new spaces or renovating their existing homes. If you have a story to share, please contact Candlin Dobbs who is the host for this Shambhala Times column. If you are looking for more information, there is a wealth on the Shambhala Environments website: www.shambhalaenvironments.com

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1 response to “ Transforming Oprah’s Store ”
  1. Dear Chicago Shambhala,

    You are inspiring us all with your unselfish daring. May your new home cause social transformation in Chicago and beyond.

    KiKi So So and much love!

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