Town Hall – July 25, 2020

The Town Hall on July 25, 2020 invited our community to continue to explore our challenges with polarization and inclusivity. It was intended to ask whether we will be able to hold the diversity of viewpoints and identities that exist in our community. As the conversation unfolded, one person, citing their background in anthropology, described how people once lived in small tribes day after day and somehow found a way to work together and live together. They asked: “Can our community do that, given how difficult it is to accept others’ differences?”

The following examples of how we experience differences can illuminate where we are.

One person proposed that “expanding the view of what Shambhala is” is actually happening now and they hoped that it would lead to greater openness, acceptance, and variety in what Shambhala means. Another person responded that that was good as long as the inspiration is “actually from Shambhala” — otherwise, they thought, we would “end up with a hodge podge.”  Then another person said,

“That was a nice exchange. Can we hold that kind of tension? It would be great if we could. I do think the idea of inclusivity could lead us down that path of being a hodgepodge, of trying to make everybody happy with what we are doing and never rubbing each other the wrong way. I think it’s important to keep that tension.”

As the town hall conversation went on, there were more opposing views. Here’s a quote from one person:

“There’s practice and then there’s taking the practice to heart. We might put in our minutes or hours on the cushion, but when we speak with each other, are we open hearted, are we tender hearted, are we using our prajna? In the wake of Shambocalypse, people started to get extremely judgemental, angry, and accusatory as a demonstration and expression of hurt and pain. It almost feels like when we do these things we’re not taking our practice to heart. And I feel like this whole situation is really challenging us to take our practice and the teachings to heart. I feel like that’s really our challenge.”

The use of the term “Shambacolypse” led to an extended discussion about what it means to use a term like that, what emotions it represents, and whether the term itself incites judgement, anger, or accusation.  Or, on the other hand, whether use of the term is the result of those emotions?

We discussed whether it was possible to get to the truths that exist in our community without dealing with some very negative terms and negative emotional reactions.  People have very different histories and different experiences in the community. It’s important to trust different their reactions and respect them.  It’s impossible to understand where different people are coming from without hearing where they are coming from.

It’s impossible to report on all the questions that came up, the things that were said and the answers to all the questions that were asked before and during the Town Hall. New questions emerged afterwards.  This blog is part of the conversation: can we extract any clues from the two examples that might help us find a way to work together?

The tension described in the first example might be a good place to begin. How can we differentiate between “healthy tension” and verbal abuse? Is there a boundary between them or is it a continuum from one extreme to another?  What are the nuances or subtle differences in the different points of view?  The second example shows the nuances or subtle differences in how different people could view the very same term.

As usual, there were no profound revelations about how to deal with all of our challenges. I am sure there will be more questions with more answers as the conversations continue.

In the end there was a lot of appreciation for the opportunity to be together and to listen to each other.


One thought on “Town Hall – July 25, 2020

  1. Really enjoyed your report and the carefully thought language. It does seem to be two opposite pressures: to make a big tent even bigger and eclectic or refine the specific practices of the Shambhala Terma and steer studenst into that lineage stream. That would depend upon the student’s acceptance of SMR as king/guru in an exaggerated hierarchical system.
    I hope you and family are well as is my extended family, so far.

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