A Letter from the Seattle Shambhala Co-Directors

A Letter from Annica Holder and JoAnn Schindler, April 27, 2019


Dear Noble Sangha,

We write to you today newly seated in our roles as Co-Directors of the Seattle Shambhala Center. We are filled with gratitude and humility as we transition into our positions. It is an honor to serve a community that we care for so deeply and to help create space for the teachings we find so precious. None of this would be possible without our lineage for which we are most grateful. In particular, our community is blessed with the Shambhala teachings of Enlightened Society so needed at this time. These teachings would not be possible without the sacrifice and love of both Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

We hold our lineage and teachings as especially important at this time. They are the commonality that brings us together. Their truth and purity cannot be tarnished and they are essential to moving forward as a community and as a society. We will also need each other and the precious jewel of sangha. We must make the choice together not to collapse, but to meet current challenges with courage and compassion. We are inspired by the warriorship of our sangha; warriorship that will be needed to co-create a vibrant future.

We know that many in Shambhala are struggling at this time, as we hold space for those who have been harmed both by the Sakyong and others in positions of power in our communities. These actions cannot be condoned and the harmful and destructive behaviors of individuals and our culture must end. As the Co-Directors, we are wholeheartedly committed to using this moment as our chance to wake up. We have the opportunity now to fully turn towards this situation, to look at it with compassion, see clearly and make the changes necessary to create a stronger culture grounded in basic goodness, transparency, and accountability.

As your Co-Directors, we bring stability to the leadership of our center, an openness to change, and the ability to engage with the community to create our path forward. We hold the big vision of creating Enlightened Society in our center and communities. Within that vision, we hold these priorities for the next two years:

  • Protecting the precious dharma and continuing to offer a place where all feel welcomed and safe to practice and study
  • Establishing financial stability
  • Strengthening a culture of transparency, inclusivity, and warriorship
  • Creating a governance structure that will support the growth of our community
  • Cultivating volunteer energy to engage the passion and gifts of our members

While we have thoughts about how to work with these priorities, they are not ours alone to answer. We recognize the wisdom held by each of you and the care you have for this community. We will need community conversations and involvement to co-create our future as our sangha moves forward. In these early days we have prioritized and started work in the following areas:

Governance Redesign
It has become clear from member conversations and community meetings that a new structure for governance is needed for the Seattle Shambhala Center. The Governing Council supports this feeling and has begun work on a process that will involve the community in a discussion about future governance for our center. You can expect to hear more about this in the next few weeks.

Financial Management
We have been working closely with our Finance Manager, Meli-Tashi Happy, with the goal of producing regular Finance Reports that will provide further transparency of our financial situation. Through the actions of the Governing Council our center has significantly reduced costs in three areas which puts us in a more stable financial situation. These actions include lowering the pay offered for the Center Director position from a $2,500 per month salary to a $750 per month stipend and reducing our monthly UGM (Unified Giving Model) from $1,600 to $1,000. Over time it’s our goal to re-establish a more generous Center Director monthly salary and to increase our UGM to support the essential role of Shambhala Global Services. For now, however, these cuts are needed to bring our expenses in line with our income.

In addition, with the expert help of Alan Ameche, we have refinanced the Harrison House building resulting in a significant monthly savings. Our mortgage rate increased to 7.5% on April 1 when our loan switched from fixed to variable rate. Initially this increased our monthly payments by $200. However, the refinance has now reduced our mortgage rate to 4.74% and our monthly payments by $800. Our new payment is actually $600 lower than the prior amount we’ve paid for the last ten years!

Spring Fundraising Campaign
We have begun work with the Membership and Development Team on a Spring Campaign that focuses on reinvigorating our center in a variety of concrete and important ways. We have a long list of items to be cleaned, repaired, replaced or uplifted at our Center. We are so fortunate to have a beautiful building and surrounding gardens. It’s time to give our sacred space our direct attention. These efforts will require community involvement, effort, and financial support in order to succeed. You will be hearing more about this campaign in the near future.

Staff Training
In support of our coordinators, staff, teachers, guides, hosts, and all the volunteers who do so much for our community, we are working on offering training in various areas. A training for Hosts and Umdzes will be held Sunday, June 2nd, both to assist those already holding these roles and provide resources to those who wish to step into them in the future. We also commit to offering ongoing leadership training and classes that can help us all transform our culture and grow as leaders.

And as always, there is more to come. As we embark on this journey together, a deep bow to you and all that you give to this community in so many ways. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, suggestions, or concerns. We welcome your thoughts at [email protected].

In the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,

Annica Holder and JoAnn Schindler
Co-Directors, Seattle Shambhala

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