Four Years Later: A Look Back (and Forward) at our Societal Health and Well-Being

When I took my leadership oath as council representative for Societal Health and Well-Being at our Harvest of Peace festival in September, 2016, I came into the seat with a number of hopes. I had hoped to expand our repertoire of affinity groups, especially our family group. I’d hoped to see our deleks reinvigorated. I’d hoped to find ways for us to engage with community partners through mutual aid and social action in our greater Portland community. After four years I can confidently say that I accomplished nothing that I had hoped…but provided a lot of what we needed in a very tumultuous time. Here are some of the things that I helped facilitate or direct:
  1. In response to a need for more specific guidance for staff and volunteers at our center, I developed a draft personnel handbook that might be further refined if we come to a place of regularly hiring staff.
  2. I gathered a team to lead the community though a search process for a center director transition.
  3. I served as secretary for a period of about 18 months, taking notes and facilitating communication with the community.
  4. Following the Buddhist Sunshine Project reports, I led a series of reflection groups and community forums for the purpose of helping our community come to terms with the reality of sexual misconduct and abuses of power within both our local and global sanghas.
  5. I developed a list of Care and Conduct “benchmarks” to help focus the work of our C&C team. We drafted a welcome statement, outlined the specifics of a staff and member training in diversity and inclusion, and researched resources for creating a care and conduct process at our center.
  6. I helped to train and orient our new co-directors following our former director’s abrupt transition out of her role.
  7. I helped revitalize the “Dharma Umbrella” association of local Portland sanghas.
  8. As needed, I took the role of maha-coordinator for several of our quarterly festivals.
The sangha has changed drastically during my period of leadership. We have lost nearly half of our membership, largely our newer and younger members who were still starting out on the Shambhala path. Although we still have a wide circle of friends and associates who appreciate our community and have benefited from our teachings, mistrust in Shambhala as an organization has become an obstacle in their participation in our life as well as a barrier to inviting and retaining new members.
I believe the future SHWB representative will need skills to accomplish the following:
  1. Facilitate relationships between long-time members of Shambhala and new(er) members/participants.
  2. Assist in crafting a community vision and goals for increasing participation in community events and programs.
  3. Facilitate Care and Conduct training for members.
  4. Offer ongoing opportunities for members to learn about diversity and inclusion.
  5. Continue to identify and create affinity groups as the need arises.
I am grateful to have served our sangha in this position and will take my release oath in September 2020. I am returning to work that I have loved, helping coordinate gateway programs (especially Learn to Meditate classes) and providing assistance with our Sunday practice sessions. I encourage anyone who has passion for continuing to guide our sangha toward the vision of the Great Eastern Sun to step into this SHWB seat for a term, and will be an enthusiastic supporter of anyone who chooses to do so! Thank you for your support for me and for our whole council.
Mark Douglass, outgoing council rep, Societal Health and Well-Being

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