Midsummer’s Day Eve Town Hall – June 20, 2020

Fourteen of us joined the Portland Shambhala Center virtual town hall on June 20, 2020. We started with three check-in questions: What have you most appreciated in your experience of society this week?; How are you feeling about our future?; and How are you feeling about Shambhala’s future? The participants had a wide range of answers to the third question. On one end of the spectrum, the answers were more on the optimistic side and ranged from “we are going to be fine” to “Shambhala will continue to go through changes but will be smaller than before.” On the other end, the answers were more bleak. Two examples of these grimmer responses were “this is the do or die time” and “I can not see how Shambhala will move on with so much ignorance.”



The break out rooms discussed moving out from the library building and about marginal voices. The “Moving on from Alder” breakout room discussion was mostly about logistics, but there was also some expression of sadness and appreciation for our home of 20 years. An exact date for vacating the premises has not been set, but conversations on the challenges of conducting farewell ceremonies and a shrine dissolution have already begun.There are ceremonial ways of treating sacred objects when they are packed up and some items need to be stored in a tantrika’s home. We also need to be aware different people own different things. A moving team needs to be put together. There is a photo inventory of items at our space in the Carnegie Building that is being assembled. The photos could bring back remembrances of being there together. Moving on from Alder could be a very personal experience and losing our Alder street home could feel like losing one’s community or one’s ties to other sangha members. It could also impact Vajrayana practitioners differently than Non-Vajrayana practitioners. Finally, we need to ask ourselves: How do we show up for one another and feel or experience our community and each other online?

The discussion about marginalized voices has been going on for some time.  But in the town hall we focused on events that happened here in Portland and have played out in various forums on the Internet. Two big issues that came up were transparency and who gets to know information about what is happening or what has happened in our community. There has been some debate on the council about whether linking to articles or postings on the ‘Net constitutes endorsement or whether it is basic forthrightness. What is the role of our newsletter that goes out to hundreds of people beyond our membership? If a painful story is all over social media and has been disseminated and discussed widely outside of our community, if it’s already spread all over, why mention it in the newsletter? Since it’s so spread so far, it would look really poor not to mention it. Either way it’s kind of a “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t” kind of situation. If you do put the link out, then they’ll say it’s like we’re splashing it all over. If we don’t put out the link, then they’ll think we’re hiding it. 

Some felt we have over-emphasized transparency and others that we have not been transparent enough. Either one one can cause harm. For the Town Hall we had sent out some links to discussions and stories on social media. That brought out the fact that, as we struggle with these issues and we make efforts to be more transparent than we have been, we also have to deal with unanticipated consequences of our lack of transparency and compassion. Within a couple hours of the announcement going out to community members, we got an email from a long time member announcing that they were cancelling their membership and their dues.  Obviously that is disappointing.

There was no definite agreement that came out of the town hall regarding more discretion (secrecy?) or more transparency. It will be an ongoing discussion. For our center, the Town Hall conversation was an authentic start. However, one point of a survivor story is to say the name of the person, so in a way we are still hiding stuff. It is tricky. Adding to the ongoing debate, I want to end this blog with an open-ended question to ponder: What would a middle way between absolute discretion (secrecy) and complete transparency look like?

If you have any thoughts, ideas, questions, or opinions you would like the council to hear, I will make sure your voice is heard. You can contact me at [email protected]


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