What comes next after a year of zooming?

The COVID-19 pandemic made Portland Shambhala do a lot of improvisation on how to do:

  • Zoom Practice and Education team, Council, “operations”, and all the other kinds of meetings that are part of a functioning Shambhala Center.
  • Zoom community meetings (to decide about moving out of the Carnegie Library building or talk about our future as a community)
  • Zoom coordination meetings for the actual move from the Carnegie Library (weekly, intense!)
  • Zoom “yard sale” and Lhasang when we moved out
  • Zoom practice events, community meetings, administrative meetings ever since
  • Zoom gatherings with folks from Eugene who are casting their lot in with us to form a larger community
  • Zoom events with other centers, the Shambhala Board, and Shambhala Global Services
  • Zoom retreats like we had over the holidays (with a great Sangha retreat afterwards)

In fact, thanks to Zoom, we really aren’t just “Portland Shambhala” any more.  We’re really “Oregon and Southwest Washington.”  That doesn’t roll off the tongue very easily, so for the time being our label is still just “Portland.”

In any case, when you’re improvising so much you sometimes just want things to work – it’s all ok as long as nothing bad really happens.  (We did have one Zoom bombing where a creepy guy was mocking people, we had a few challenges with lost passwords, with getting into  meetings, but in the end it felt like, apart from Zoom fatigue, it all worked pretty well.

Then comes this in the mail:


What a gift!  Thank you, Tom!

So stepping back: our effort to create enlightened society was visible and appreciated as far away as Minnesota!  Thank you Zoom!

Beyond that we flattened out and grew. People joined (some as new members) because it was easy to join us for various scheduled meditation sessions  – on Zoom.

What’s next?  We could, say:

  • Forget about zoom, let’s find a new home to lease or buy and settle in?
  • Forget about a “new home” and just continue as a “virtual only” Shambhala Center?
  • Try to do some combination of the two – a hybrid?

Obviously we will try to do both virtual and face-to-face at different points in the future.  What exactly that means is a big question.

In the long run, many of us really want to have a physical center, but how to get from a “virtual center” to a hybrid form is also daunting.  We will need to consider at least

  • Money:  We have a building fund, but that would just be a financial down payment.  What will it take to operate and maintain a building?  Can we grow membership or dues donations enough to pay our way?
  • Future COVID waves: when will occupancy restrictions be lifted?  will they be permanent?
  • Cohabitation: Could we share a space with another group?  Can we just rent space for individual programs?
  • Hybrids of various sorts: What will it take to keep on offering meditation events and classes (on Zoom) so that we don’t leave out our new found friends that live outside of Portland? Could we offer programs in people’s homes for small groups and include others on Zoom?

Maybe we need to have a community meeting about all these questions.  Up for more Zooming, anyone?

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