Neighborhood Delegs Overcome Social Isolation

by Andrea D’Asaro

Despite the short-term shuttering of our center, members are gathering for happy hours, meditation groups, and salons, along with helping each other with grocery and pharmacy deliveries.

No, Shambhalians aren’t breaking social distancing guidelines, they are congregating online in community delegs, or subgroups among members. “Our center has nine delegs from Port Townsend to Tacoma,” explained Terry Jaworski, the head of Seattle Shambhala’s Office of Societal Health and Well-Being, who oversees the delegs.

At a recent Saturday Happy Hour zoom meeting among deleg coordinators (or dekyongs),  coordinator Shelley Pierce reported: “We toasted our warriorship training, knowing that meditation is so helpful for knowing what to accept and what to reject during this uncertain time. It felt good to connect in our North Seattle community.”

Pierce and co-dekyong Alison Day noted that all of the 17 members who zoomed in were in good health and half were still working full or part-time. They reported that some community members are working from home, spending time in their garden, or trying new recipes. Others are lonely and missing their extended families.

“Being part of a deleg group is a way to get to know other practitioners on a more personal level and provide support when needed,” said Jaworski. Members were called or emailed by volunteer dekyongs to assess needs and harvest ideas for upcoming zoom meetings. “We all are feeling helpless, and delegs give us a way to connect, contribute and step outside our usual boundaries.”

Some ideas that have been proposed as ways to support each other through our delegs include:

  • Physical assistance getting groceries and medications, or help finding delivery services for these needs
  • Recommendations for online exercise/yoga classes or other online resources
  • Support in navigating the process of filing for unemployment or requesting a small business grant
  • Help in how to use Zoom or other communication platforms
  • Someone to chat with on the phone
  • Online Zoom book clubs, dharma discussions, or “Happy Hours”
  • Volunteering to help others in need — in the deleg, the sangha or beyond

The North-Central Deleg met with enthusiasm on Saturday night, April 25th, for a zoom tea ceremony and warm gathering. Co-dekyong Stacy Hall de Gomez facilitated the introductory discussion among the nine members attending, who shared reflections on their current experiences, including ways of coping with isolation, and news of a tree falling on nearby electric wires. Next, participants enjoyed a mini tea ceremony led by co-dekyong Andrea D’Asaro, who demonstrated the symbolic cleansing of the tea utensils and how to whisk matcha tea with a bamboo chasen.

To the sound of Japanese flute, members mindfully enjoyed their favorite hot tea at home, and then brainstormed about future meetings, which might include art or music showcases. Member Faith Purvis, now relocated to Oregon, showed off her new piano and Sam Yilmaz described the meaning of his new painting, which shows the intertwining of the inward-facing and outward-facing aspects of the hear, including compassion and discipline.

All agreed to meet again next month and offered each other continued support and basic goodness.

Jaworski, who initiated the system of deleg groups 8 years ago, has coordinated home-based potluck dinners, discussion groups, meetings to process communication difficulties among members, and outreach groups to bring meals or solace to sick or dying members.

Such groups may be more important now than ever.  “Social isolation can be traumatizing,” says Jaworski, a practicing psychotherapist. She suggests that members contact her if they haven’t heard from a deleg coordinator.

You can contact Terry Jaworski at [email protected].

One thought on “Neighborhood Delegs Overcome Social Isolation

  1. we are in a rather rural area on the North Olympic Peninsula. we are so happy to have our small sangha continuing via zoom and our teacher, Lucille. I want to thank her and Shambhala for providing this much needed, weekly meditation and discussion.

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