Project Sunshine has evoked a flow of goodness – Let’s celebrate!



This image of a snow capped mountain, warmed by the sun, so that the glacier can melt into a stream of pure turquoise water – this is what seems to be happening now for Shambhala. I have important news to share!

I have been approached by Shambhala International. They have hired a mediator and asked me to speak with their mediator. The circle of elders that has come around me have had two reflections on this. First, that Shambhala International recognizes that Project Sunshine is not going to disappear. Second, that perhaps they have felt too much fear to dialog with me directly, and that it is wonderful that they have found a way to be in communication. Certainly it is better for the community if Project Sunshine can work with Shambhala International in dealing with the sexual violence in our community. Please include prayers in your practice that this may happen in an auspicious way for the benefit of all sentient beings!

I hosted a good first Q&A call last evening. You can listen to the replay here:  https://fccdl.in/I0Wdx01qZT. In this call people expressed a loss of trust in Shambhala International. (I feel this is all the more reason why it is good news that Shambhala International has found a way to communicate with me.) We have received a waterfall of donations in the past 18 hours! Since the Q&A call, we’ve received 10 new donations, totalling $1,550!

The money being donated will allow Project Sunshine to continue. We very much need funding at this point to keep going. 

 

Here’s what we’d like to do!

We would first of all like to set up a Project Sunshine moderated social media discussion for people to talk about the situation of sexual violence, both in Shambhala and in Tibetan Buddhism in general.

We also want to stabilize Project Sunshine by working to establish the following:

1. A Wisdom Council—an advisory board for credibility, fundraising, and guidance

2. An Upaya Committee–a board of directors under some name that includes an attorney, CPA, fundraiser, and a Buddhist clergy member, as well as myself

3. 501C3 – become a charitable organization

4. A Website

5. Endorsements

6. A PR pack

7. Get endorsements from HHDL and HHK

8. Raise funds

9. Tides, Threshold, Buddhist endowments, etc.

10. Strategize healing truth and reconciliation projects in some format

11. Broaden mission into its fuller implications

Today is the last day of our fundraising campaign. If you would like to see this work move forward, please contribute before the end of today: https://www.gofundme.com/project-sunshine-phase-2

You can also help us by sharing this with friends and community members, and on social media.

Heart thanks for being part of this profound melting of ice into a flow of goodness! This is such an auspicious time in the history of Tibetan Buddhism in the West!

April 28 Campaign Update



We are heading into the last 3 days of the campaign, as it closes on Monday. This is a time to bring focus and clarity to achieving the success needed at this time for this work to move forward.

Thank you to everyone who has donated in the past few days, and a special thanks to Lorre Fleming for leaving the message yesterday, “Thank you for taking on this important work.”

It’s clear we are not going to meet the fundraising goal, so I’d like to share the guidance I am receiving from the elders, the Circle of Wisdom, that is forming around me for leading Project Sunshine.

They are concerned about how I have been hyper extending myself through this much volunteer work in service of Project Sunshine, and they want to see me receive basic support for housing and food.

One elder in the circle said, “We are setting the ground work for this [Project Sunshine] and doing it in a conservative way. This serves the healing more than continuing the healing in an unsustainable way – it serves the mission more.”

In our exploration of how best to use the funds raised, we are settling on a blended approach of using the money over the next three months in the following three areas:

1. Operating expenses for Project Sunshine

2. A stipend for myself to continue leading/coordinating the project

3. Doing one piece of the original plan for Phase 2: I will write a guide for social media conversation moderators, find qualified volunteer moderators, train the moderators, and set up a moderated Project Sunshine social media conversation space so people interested in healing sexual violence in buddhist communities can connect and engage this healing work.

I hope all of the contributors to Project Sunshine will feel good about this use of funds. I welcome hearing from you about this!

We are hoping to raise $3,000 more by the end of the project to ensure Project Sunshine can move forward in a sustainable way for the next 3 months.

Please talk with your dharma sisters and brothers and share widely on social media so we can raise these final funds.

With heart thanks,
Andrea

What could an abuse-free Shambhala look like?



 Spring Romance, by Karen Tarlton

I was having an exploratory conversation with someone on the Project Sunshine team yesterday, and he said, 

“I want to help make Shambhala safe. We all want to be safe, we all want to be loved. People want a society they feel good about, where every single person is safe, not targeted for sexual violence. What I want is to feel proud and feel safe – that is what I long for. I’m an optimist. I believe it is possible for a community to heal.”

I appreciate him daring to dream about what he truly longs for. It would be good for all of us to give ourselves permission to explore a community that is truly satisfying, and even inspiring for our dharma path and our lives as Shambhalians.

Shambhala is a very unique path, and has so much potential to help this world. We don’t have to look far to see the degraded and even frightening places some parts of the world have sunken into. Our Shambhala teachings and practices evoke abilities within us to take on these challenges and attend in a visionary and inspired way to uplifting the world.

This is why it is so very important for us to clean up our own house – our lineage – so we can bring these teachings into the world in new, powerful, and much needed ways.

I have done a lot of work with business leaders, helping them to move beyond the borders of the box with their thinking. One of the techniques that can be helpful is to envision what it will *feel* like to be in a healthy Shambhala community, where people are emotionally safe, where we know we can count on the integrity of our leaders and feel safe in our relationship with them, where there is space to feel a gentleness as we do our daily practice and open to new dimensions of connection with these sacred practices… you get the idea.

What would it feel like to be in a nurturing community like this?

I’m imagining my own body relaxing, and feeling more present in my body – feeling my skin, muscle, bone. I’m imagining my chest feeling warm and relaxing into a greater spaciousness, and how wonderful that would be for my Prajna Paramita practice when I am gazing into the wide open sky, mixing my mind with space.

I’m imagining feeling even more relaxed and open when I’m having conversations with people. Feeling more resourceful and safe to pay attention to the sparks of energy, and being able to be curious and explore them in the conversation rather than shutting down and just moving on. I’m imagining feeling more confidence to stay present in the uncomfortable moments, so these moments have a chance to reveal their brilliance and insights into new ways of thinking.

I’m imaging being able to move in the world, especially Point Pleasant Park, with my senses being far more open and free to experience the beauty, the smells, the life that is in this city forest. I’m imaging my spirit being more easily fed by the pure sensing of natural beauty.

I’m imaging being able to walk into the Halifax Shambhala Centre and feeling I can totally be me (whoever that is!), moving about the center and connecting with people of all races and colours, enriching my sense of connection with the vibrant richness of all humanity. And there is the space and peace for us to take our time in our communication so we can learn about each other’s culture and our different ways of understanding things – Ah! what an expansion this would give to my way of seeing things!

I’m imaging on this same visit to the Halifax Shambhala Centre that I go to a room where we are meeting about some exciting initiative that is significantly impacting the local Halifax community. That everyone in this room has their own connection with the stream of lineage blessings, and that we invoke those blessings together as we begin the meeting.

There is a natural spirit that flows through our conversation, again feeding all of our hearts, and there is a wide open space for each of us to bring our very best to this worthy initiative. There is peace, respect and love. 

Love is an overused word, but we all still know that love is the basis of goodness in our connections with each other. It includes respect and honour, fondness and a genuine desire to see another grow. So, yes – I envision a love that supports us being at our best and forming relationships that embody freedom, flow and joy.

So this is a taste of what I envision for a healthy Shambhala community this morning. I’d love to hear what you envision for *your* healthy Shambhala. I invite you to share in the comments space at the bottom of this page.

And if you want to be part of the group that is about making us safe and creating a healthy Shambhala, you can do one or both of these things:

1. Contribute to the Project Sunshine fundraising campaign (no donation is too small, even $5 is a help!)

2. Sign up for the Project Sunshine email list

Is there really a problem?



 

I think there is a part in most, if not all, of us that hopes this is all a dream, and that we will wake up and everything will be the way it used to be. But you know, change can be good. Really!

I’d love for us to face our reality and dig in and take proactive steps to take care of this situation.

Some people have written me and said they are waiting to see what Shambhala International does. There is a sense of wanting to support Shambhala International, and wanting to give them a chance.

I myself dedicated many hours last year in building my relationship with members on the Kalapa Council. I felt it was important to support them in developing their confidence so they could lead the community through this. We developed a good relationship of mutual trust and respect. 

After publishing the Project Sunshine Phase 1 report, I emailed them and invited them to collaborate on building a good solution for the community to work through the sexual violence problem in the community. It is a mystery to me why they suddenly stopped responding to my emails at that point. I am guessing they don’t feel the confidence to take one step at a time through dealing with this, and relating with the people who have been impacted by the abuse.

From my point of view, we can best help Shambhala International by taking some responsibility ourselves at this point. From what many people have been writing to me, they see that Shambhala leaders are good people (who they dearly love!) and that these leaders are out of their depth to deal with this.

As I learn more extensively about the harm, I am learning of Shambhala leaders, some of them high up, who have committed clergy sexual misconduct. If you would like to educate yourself about what clergy sexual misconduct is, and why it is so detrimental to the health of spiritual communities, I recommend reading this article from An Olive Branch: Clergy Sexual Misconduct and the Misuse of Power

Shambhala International announced  in their communication on March 19 a number of key initiatives, including “Creating new sexual misconduct strategies, policies, and procedures based on these conversations [with survivors], input from the community, and guidance from third party organizations. We are in active conversation with an established organization, An Olive Branch, about taking on such a role. ”

I wonder how serious Shambhala International is about dealing with this problem, given that there have been growing allegations of clergy sexual misconduct regarding some men within that leadership. Might the Council have too much of a conflict of interest to truly deal with this? I hope not, and that they will persist in doing the right thing.

People have been writing me and asking for details and a better understanding of the scope of the problem. I appreciate these questions and that people want to know the scope of the problems that have been raised.  At the same time, we want to be sure that we are not spreading information that is not true, or naming people who have not been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Is Shambhala International ready to launch such an investigation, so people can know the scope of the problem and also ensure that no one is falsely accused? I am not seeing evidence of their willingness to do this. There is no way that our community is going to be able to move through this and heal without proper investigation of all the leaders who have been implicated.

I heard yesterday from a friend who gave me permission to share this with you. He just went through the formal Care and Conduct process for a Shambhala teacher in his local community who sexually assaulted him. His concerns have been strongly supported by two leaders in his community, including a Shastri. Despite the support of these two leaders, he received a final report yesterday from the Care and Conduct committee that stated, “Our findings did not identify behavior on Mr. [perpetrator]’s part that requires any kind of ongoing protection of Mr. [victim]” How is this possible after all of the recent attention at all levels of the community to the issue of sexual violence, and specifically Shambhala International’s heartfelt commitment to improving the Care and Conduct process? 

This same victim was a high-contributing member of his local Shambhala center, including managing their social media. He joined Project Sunshine as part of his healing journey. A couple of weeks later he was fired as their social media coordinator because a leader in Shambhala International said he had a “conflict of interest” being associated with Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine’s mandate is to bring healing light to the abuse problem in Shambhala. I would like to understand what the conflict of interest is for Shambhala International. Do they feel the need to cover abusive behaviours up?

I had a good conversation with Judy Lief a couple of weeks ago by phone. I shared with her about Project Sunshine Phase 2, and how it involves a conversation format for local communities to meet outside of their Shambhala centers. Judy gave me permission to share in this blog how she responded: “I feel it is important for people to meet outside Shambhala centers as well as in centers because people tend to feel they need to be more polite and formal at the centers and do not talk as freely.”

It is important to find spaces where you can talk freely. I’d love to support that with Project Sunshine Phase 2. Dialog is very important at this point. And opening our hearts to doing what is right, so that we can go forward and not stay too long in this place of murky confusion.

I do believe that the light is going to continue to grow in this community. This community is pregnant with a growing desire to heal, and people are asking to know the extent of the abuse. They understand we cannot go forward as a community until this is properly investigated and dealt with.

So yes, there is a problem, and it can be sorted out one step at a time. That is what I am doing, and have been doing for over a year now. 

In my opinion it is not wise to wait for Shambhala International to sort it out. Instead, why can’t we can take practical steps, as community members, to deal with this so that the Buddhadharma can flourish in Shambhala? And would not this in fact be a support to the health and well-being of the leaders in Shambhala International? The simple fact is that we ALL need this related with in a direct and skilful way. Rather than hide or leave it to others to sort out, let’s BE the solution!

If any of this resonates with you, please take an active step in this moment now and contribute to the Project Sunshine Phase 2 fundraising campaign. This is a chance to actively contribute to creating a solution – for us, and for people beyond this community.

Ki Ki So So!

A letter from a loving Kusung



 

Life seems to come in waves, and the past two weeks I have found myself in conversation over tea with two of Trungpa Rinpoche’s long-term Kusung here in Halifax. These conversations have happened with care and mutual respect. I have appreciated hearing their views of our situation, and I’m grateful for their open-heartedness to hearing mine. I feel solid communication is happening with these deeply loyal and caring men.

I also received a letter from a third Kusung, and he gave me permission to share it here in a blog. Please see this letter below, as I feel Robert is writing from a deep place of care for the Shambhala sangha.

Today I am formally announcing a Question & Answer Teleconference Call I’m hosting this Sunday at 7:30 pm ADT. Learn more and register for the call.

If you can’t make the call, don’t worry; I will record the call and make it available through the Project Sunshine community email list. If you are not already on our list,  you can sign up here. 

If you are able to make the call, I’d love to connect with you directly and respond to questions.

With love,

Andrea

 

A letter from a loving Kusung

April 25, 2018

Dear Andrea,

I’m writing to express my concerns about allegations of sexual and other mis-conduct within the Shambhala mandala; about the Sakyong’s recent indirect, tepid response; and about allegations that reports of mis-conduct have been criticized, ignored or silenced by Shambhala International leadership.  I was an early student of the Vidyadhara, whom I  served as both a craftsman and a Kusung; I also served the Sakyong in the 1980’s.  During those years, by the way, I was friends with your mother and dad.

It is troubling for us to hear allegations of wrongdoing that place us in conflict with people we love and to whom we are deeply devoted. We also hesitate to bring public shame to an organization we want to protect.  However, there is no escape from our karma, as individuals or as an organization.  Human life is marked by sharp ethical dilemmas; love and loyalty must be disciplined by right speech, right action and right livelihood.

How to proceed?  Ken McLeod, a well-regarded Kaygu Buddhist teacher, recently gave a talk entitled “Vajrayana in Modern Times” [http://unfetteredmind.org/vajrayana-in-modern-times/].   A substantial portion of the talk is devoted to the mutual obligations between Vajrayana teacher and student.  He provides a useful framework for evaluating painful obstacles of the kind we face.

Next, from the earliest pre-Shambhala days, the Vajradhatu motto, imprinted on our banner, was “The Proclamation of the Truth is Fearless.”  In the presence of alleged harm and insufficient responsive action, the truth is the only safe harbor.  A modern, ethical organization employs an independent investigation to get to the truth.

Finally, Shambhala aspires to establish an enlightened society.  How can we ignore or hold ourselves above sensible legal and social standards set by the society we propose to uplift?  If we ignore reports of wrong-doing; if we do not correct wrong-doing when we find it; if we protect certain people at the expense of others, what claim do we have to teach? 

I applaud the careful way you have pressed a demand for the truth.  As I understand it, so far your efforts have not met with cooperation.  Pressing for that cooperation is a job for all of us. 

With kind regards, 

your dharma brother Robert Merchasin

Shambhala citizens expanding the borders of this conversation



 

I’m sharing a few more emails I’ve been getting from the community. All are shared with the writer’s permission.

 

~~~~~~~

 

Just remember that whatever happens that you changed the dynamic and the discourse for the entire Shambhala Community in a very short time. I can’t tell you how many years I discussed these issues with a good friend and she was so angry and frustrated that nothing ever happened. Also remember that a lot of women and men were finally heard and given a voice to speak their truth and open up about the serious abuses in the community over the years. People are really talking about these issues now in a way I have never seen before. So thank you Andrea for your devotion and compassion to help deal with these difficult issues in Shambhala. Project Sunshine will make people think and possibly change attitudes about the issues of sexualized violence. Just the fact that they are now having meetings at Shambhala International and local Shambhala Communities about these issues is a huge shift.

Barbara, St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia

 

~~~~~~~

 

Hi Andrea –

I very much appreciate your work, and the courage of those who have spoken up. While I strongly support an honest assessment and account of what has already happened, those aren’t my stories to tell.  

My personal concern is that our local communities are not equipped /authorized / encouraged to either investigate the misbehavior of those in a teaching or leadership position, not (at least in the one extended case I am aware of) have they been in any meaningful way supported by the international organization when they attempted to do so.  This is a terrible, potentially preventable loss for the victims of the abuse; it is also an unacceptable compromise to the reputation, lungta, and resources of the sangha as a whole.

Organizations that wish to survive – let alone presume to hold some moral high ground – must adopt and enforce some effective policies to prevent abuse of authority in general, and sexualized abuse and violence in particular.  No one should be free to think that inflicting their sexuality (or other kleshas) on others is a perk of their position.

Given that you are working closely with the victims, it seems to me that the time to address “what should we do going forward?” may still be some time off, since we first have to deal with what has already happened, and address the reality that it still can happen, most likely *is* happening.  

Whenever we get around to talking about how *not* to do this, I’ll be happy to participate in any discussion that arises.

Best,

Gordon Burgess, Cleveland

 

~~~~~~~

 

Hi Andrea,

I just wanted to connect to tell you how much I admire what you’re doing. I’m an “old” student having connected with CTR in 1972 and lived in Halifax from 1989-2005.

I quit FB last fall because it was so addictive and agitating, and it was great to come back into [your Project Sunshine Phase 1 report discussion] closed group with good boundaries, thanks to the way you set it up. I’ve since continued the conversation with some old friends I’d rediscovered through that process.

I can appreciate the perspective you have, having grown up in Shambhala, of wanting to reform it. There is a lot of good there, and I devoted most of my adult life to it.

At the same time, I think there are some fatal flaws in it, particularly the notion of an inherited lineage and the guru-knows-all-worship. As someone who remembers the Sakyong as a shy and insecure teenager it was quite bizarre to see how many of my friends were willing to lionize him just because of the inherited position he had. I think the West was wise to ditch this idea several hundred years ago.

But I also think the years I lived in Halifax between the death of CTR and the Sakyong “taking his seat” were some of the best of my life. We had strong ideas about enlightened society and people were doing a lot with it, without needing a king. Many people in Halifax who weren’t buddhists appreciated us for the ideas and uplifted attitude we brought. After 1995 it became an issue of whether one was with the Sakyong or not, and I felt that things degenerated. I finally left it all in 2005 and came back to Colorado. I wonder if there can be a Shambhala without the Mukpo dynasty?

In any case, you’re gutsy lady, and I wish you success and strength dealing with all the shadows you are addressing. It’s a modern-day story about taming the demons, and so necessary.

Dan Montgomery, Boulder

Words from a Seattle, WA citizen of Shambhala who “wants to do what is right”



 

Whatever happens with this Project Sunshine Phase 2, know you’re on a path of growth and healing. And you’re helping all of us Shambhalians go along that path too. Project Sunshine opened up an abyss of darkness and shone light into it. That’s what looking at the pattern of sexual harms in Shambhala felt like for me. I knew the abyss was there but I had pushed it away, I was afraid to look at it. What would looking at the darkness, the shadow mean for me? My spiritual path? My friendships? My community? My relationship with my teachers?

So you brought light to the darkness. But that darkness is powerful and deep. And it fights back against the light.

For me though, you brought healing and light into my life. You helped me look at this shadow in me, in my family, in my community. You did it bravely. In Phase 1 you helped my friend heal and stand up for themself. And you helped others talk openly about things that they kept secret for years, that they might otherwise have kept secret for the rest of their lives. You brought warmth and friendship to people who felt alone and cast out. It hurts me that you are being attacked for that.

And you helped me see enlightened society more clearly, that it needs to be a place where people feel safe about reporting sexual harm. You have a vision for that and I believe in it. I think others do too. One of my favorite authors is Ursula K. Le Guin and when she died recently, Jo Walton said of her, “She got in there with a crowbar and expanded the field and made it a better field…”

Well you wield a crowbar too. So keep wielding it. It matters.

I think the light will win. We may not see how now. But it will.

~ Adam Feuer, member of the Seattle Shambhala sangha

 

Thank you, Adam. I am grateful for the ways people are receiving the messaging I’ve been putting out. I am even more grateful for the steps people are taking to heal themselves and their local communities.

Judy Lief made a donation to Project Sunshine Phase 2 yesterday, and left these words with her donation: “May this discussion lead to healing and growth.” I see that this discussion has already lead to healing and growth as we can hear in Adam’s words above. Care needs to continue to be brought to this discussion for it to continue in this positive direction. 

As we know from the core Shambhala teachings, there are three qualities that we bring to warriorship: fearlessness, gentleness and intelligence. I feel the image I chose for today’s blog includes all three qualities. I hope it will speak to and inspire you to grow a deeper connection with your own intelligence, and a sense of care for your own truth. Growing courage is a life long journey, of course, but right now it is especially present.

Judy Lief’s words this week have inspired me to set up a question and answer conference call next Sunday, April 29 at 7:30 pm ADT. Ideally, I’d like for us to be able to talk about these things over a meal together. Logistically, that is not possible for a global community. So, let’s go for what we can do – a conference call.

This can be a chance for us to connect and talk about what is happening. I feel this is important. I will facilitate a one hour conversation and will be happy to respond to what you are needing. Watch your email next week for details for the upcoming Project Sunshine conference call.

I promised daily blogs this week, and I hope you enjoyed them! We’ll take some space to digest over the weekend, and then we’ll head into the final week of the Project Sunshine Phase 2 campaign. May there be great blessing!

Advice for how to relate with this controversial time



 

This is a very controversial time. The world is rocking with the current political environment. Buddhism is rocking with the increasing revelations of violence and sexual abuse. And on top of that, there are always things happening in our own lives.

I see people pulling towards shutting down. Shutting their eyes. Maybe if they wait long enough this will all disappear and we can go back to living the way we have been living. There is at least some security in knowing what we’ve had these past years, or even decades. There is a seeming security in  the known – the familiar.

This is a seductive and harmful trap, and I urge you to entertain the possibility that things are changing. I mean, they are! There is no doubt – things are changing. The abuse is coming more and more into the light. As much as we’d like to ignore this, or pretend it is not happening – the fact is, it is happening.

So what I want to urge you to entertain is that these changes are for the better. This is an opportunity for us to create a better situation for Buddhism in the West.

Good work has happened to establish Buddhism in the West. Many teachers have tirelessly, selflessly and tenderly looked at how to bring these precious teachings into the Western mindstream. They have explored countless ways to bring teachings quite foreign into practical, every day ways for Western people to engage, to live them, to bring them into our every day thoughts, spoken words, and activities.

In this magical and blessed process, Buddhism has engaged this Western mind, and this Western mind has whole heartedly and joyfully engaged Buddhism.

What we are looking at now is a piece of what that Western mind has contributed to the union. That piece is around trauma and violence. The Western world has a long history of oppression, domination of cultures and people, and heartless violence. Generation after generation of trauma, where the parents pass on the “lineage” of trauma to their children, largely unconsciously. Where we elect governments that replay the patterns of domination and violence on the people in their care. The Western world has been in a multi-generational cycle of trauma and violence.

Does it make sense that this societal pattern of trauma would have become part of the union of Buddhism and the West?

Perhaps this is believable, and we can acknowledge that some teachers with the very best of intentions have been the same people who have been doing great harm and violence to their students. Further, we could acknowledge this has been happening for years, and maybe even decades. And going even further, we could acknowledge that students around those teachers witnessed this happening to their fellow students and did nothing to stop it, and perhaps they even protected it with secrecy so the abuse could continue. Within a multi-generational trauma culture, all of these things are believable.

So if we can come to this place of saying, “Yes, I can see how this could happen and in fact, I see that it HAS happened.” Now what? What can be done about this. Without doubt, Buddhism has taken firm root in the West. Western Buddhists have had a string plucked that goes right to their core. They are faithful. They have become convinced of the purity, goodness and benefit of the Buddhist teachings.They want to pursue this path for their own benefit and the benefit of countless suffering beings.

As faith-full Buddhists, how do we now approach this crisis in our relationship with Buddhism? How do we navigate through this? It won’t work to turn a blind eye to the human corruption. 

What I propose is that we use the power of Buddhism and the wisdom of Western trauma healing and non-violent communication to walk, step by step, through cleaning and healing the human corruption. Buddhism offers many skillful means – many ways to work with our minds skilfully. That can be the engine that propels a sane way forward.

Trungpa Rinpoche taught about the wisdom of many traditions. I never understood him to suggest that Shambhala had the only access to wisdom. What I heard him say is that there is wisdom in many human traditions, and I would suggest that now is the time to bring together the wisdom from Buddhism with the wisdom of other human traditions, such as trauma healing and non-violent communication.

In my view, by bringing these different strands of wisdom together in service of resolving the sexual and other violence in Buddhist communities, we are going to more firmly root Buddhism in the West with a clear view of longevity for these precious teachings. This also opens the possibility of Buddhist communities providing leadership for other communities in the world who are grappling with issues of sexual violence. 

In my own healing journey, I have always accessed my Buddhist practices as a support for my healing work. I saw that I healed much more quickly than other women in the therapy groups I attended. It is without doubt because I had access to the tools from my Buddhist upbringing.

Now, on both the individual and community levels, we can access the wisdom support of our Buddhist practices as we take one step after another in dealing with sorting out this heartbreaking mess we have created. What I am saying is that this is possible. We have access to both the Buddhist and Western wisdom tools. Now, it is a matter of taking the steps.

I have prepared a plan for developing a Buddhist community sexualized violence toolkit. Please support the Project Sunshine Phase 2 independent healing initiative going forward. Over the past few days there has been a rising trend of support. We not only need to keep that going, we need to further magnify it to reach our fundraising goal of $55,100 – the amount needed to create and distribute the toolkit worldwide to Buddhist communities. Our fundraising campaign closes April 30th.

Please open your heart and take a chance. This is something for all of us, and can extend beyond Buddhist communities. Please help this happen by donating today and sharing about this with your community of contacts.

Here is the link to donate: Project Sunshine Phase 2 GoFundMe

Here is a link to all information and resources regarding the abuse in Shambhala

A message from Karmê Chöling



 

“Thank you Andrea! I’m so grateful for all you are doing, it’s amazing. I stand behind you. I want you to know I live at Karme Choling and yesterday we had a community meeting about Project Sunshine and the Kalapa Council’s response. I voiced my strong opinion about how important it is that you, who has so bravely raised shambhala’s collective awareness, be included in this ongoing discussion. Pretty much everybody at the meeting agreed with me. I wanted you to know that, as sometimes the opinions and voices of the Shambhala hierarchy are not congruent with and reflective of the community’s perspective.”

~ Leah
 
 
As a community we are going through a process of waking up. It’s important to wake up because for the true Dharma to be practiced and lived in this community, we must take steps to move into integrity.

Waking up is not easy for some of us. It could be attractive to stay in a dream land, where there are no problems, no big challenges, all the teachers we love are rosy good people, and we simply live in kindness. I agree – this is a really nice picture, and who wouldn’t want to live like that?

Well, the people who don’t want to live like that are the ones who have chosen to open their eyes and look into why good people have been leaving the community. Why the drunkenness and sexual misconduct of some key teachers is secreted away. Why some people teaching about enlightened society are doing things that are clearly adharmic.

The people who want to wake up and deal with this are the ones who know they are going to feel better in a healthy community, and that their spiritual development will flourish in an open and transparent community where sexual harm is no longer tolerated.

More and more people are wanting to wake up. They like the vibe of Project Sunshine. They realize that a crack has happened in the dark encrusted structure that has been clamping down the life of Shambhala members past and present. There is now space to speak truth, and Project Sunshine has put forth a vision for cleaning up and healing this community.

I am glad to receive messages like Leah’s; she gave me permission to share it here. It is important for me to know that my efforts are reaching people, and that people do want to move forward in restoring integrity in our community. And for those who are just learning about the community abuse and the role Project Sunshine is playing in creating a path for healing and integrity, it’s important for you to know that there are people across the globe, like Leah, who are standing and saying Yes to this change.

Let us have authentic courage. Please do choose to be awake. It is so much better in the real world, with eyes wide open. You can feel your heart. You can take full breaths into your lungs. This is how we can see the true beauty of the world, and we can contribute to enriching that beauty.

There are only days left for the Project Sunshine Phase 2 fundraising campaign. Please give generously so we can make this healing a reality. And please, please share this with the people in your local community. We have no way to get in touch with community members, so it is only happening through word of mouth. Please do share.

With heart thanks,

Andrea

 

Contribute to our fundraising campaign here: Project Sunshine Phase 2

Learn more and join our email list here: Project Sunshine Welcome Page

How did Project Sunshine come to have a patron saint, St. Joseph?




People continue to say to me how stunned they are that I could have accomplished so much for the Shambhala community in such a short time. They are startled by my bravery and perseverance in the face of all the resistance from Shambhala International and the decades of covering up that has happened around the violence within our community.

I can assure you that I am quite human, and this has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure, too, it will come as no surprise that one person could not accomplish all of this. I have received a lot of help, from people like Judy Lief, Grace Brubaker and Karlene Moore, and also there has been inconceivable spiritual help. I would like to acknowledge one large area of that spiritual help today, in the form of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus.

I was ruthlessly driven out of Shambhala by the Toronto Shambhala leadership – by my friends and meditation instructor. It feels funny to write that, but it seems the time has passed to cover these things up with niceties. There has been a surprising amount of emotional/relational sickness in many Shambhala leaders for a long time.

In the Project Sunshine Phase 1 report, Judy Lief wrote, “Although I myself have not been abused, in my various roles, I have been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of response and even understanding of this problem from the leadership. As you say, it is a deeply entrenched pattern of power, chauvinism, and denial that mirrors the patterns of the larger society… At the institutional level, we are a culture (Shambhala), within a culture (Buddhism), within a culture (USA), within a culture (Tibet), all very patriarchal. ” Judy points to patriarchy, an unhealthy masculine-oriented dominance, as a source of this dsyfunction in Shambhala leadership.

Since I have done years of my own healing, followed by years of study and practice as a therapist and healer, I like to bring these discussions out of concepts in our head and into relatable embodied feelings – things we can explore and eventually come to know in our gut, or perhaps in the center of our chest, in our heart center. So what I am going to share today is from that place, and I hope it will speak to that place in your own chest.

I was alone for years after the Toronto Shambhala leadership forced me out of the community. After a time of grieving, I went in search of other community and visited many Buddhist centers in Toronto – Toronto is rich in Tibetan Buddhism. However, nothing stuck – I really didn’t feel a sense of connection with them. So I continued my Buddhist practice at home on my own, year after year after year. I was alone and miserable, and this is just how it was for a very long time.

Within that extended darkness, there was room for something magical to happen. I had a Christian awakening in late 2010. Believe me, it did not come easily! I was brought up in the Shambhala community in Boulder in the 70’s and 80’s, and I grew up in a fairly anti-Christian environment. My parents were definitely down on Christianity. Trungpa Rinpoche said various negative things about Christians, which seemed to aim at their being too focused on suffering. I was resentful about having to say the pledge of allegiance every weekday morning at school, with my hand over my heart, saying “one nation under God…”. I was equally resentful about the assumption every Christmas for the month of December that everyone was Christian. Basically, I grew up with a big chip on my shoulder about Christianity.

So when this Christian awakening happened, it was gut wrenching. However, I was touched by Christ, and I received healing for a great emotional/relational wound in me, much of it originating from what happened in the Shambhala community. In good conscience, I could not deny this healing from Christ. Every time I started to doubt my connection with Christianity, I remembered this undeniable healing I had received from Christ.

I first started going to a church in lent 2011. I heard, week by week, the story of Jesus and his persecution. I didn’t know the story previously because I’d always pushed Christianity away. In hearing the story, I was touched because it resonated strongly with what I had been through with the Toronto Shambhala leadership. It was step by step, heart breaking, and ultimately my ability to be part of formal Shambhala ended. Although I didn’t have the resurrection experience, I sure could relate with all that led up to his death. I cried and cried and cried. I cried for the first time in many years. It was a cleansing of my spirit and my heart, and it was healing.

I eventually found myself drawn to Catholicism, perhaps because the structure and ritual most resembled what I’m used to in Tibetan Buddhism. In any case, I was baptized a Roman Catholic in 2013. The week after being baptized, I began singing in the choir, and since that time, I have rarely attended a mass without being in the choir. The choir of angels, in my mind, is the best place to be! And to my surprise, every choir I have been part of has embraced me as a valued choir member, even though I am clearly more Buddhist than Christian. My relationship with Christian communities has been very blessed.

Fast forward to late February 2017. I had this idea for Project Sunshine to address the long term problem of sexualized violence in the Shambhala Buddhist community. Most people think of Buddhists as calm and kind. Heck, we like to think of ourselves that way! The truth is, we are still human. And unfortunately there has been a significant problem of sexual violence in the Shambhala community since the beginning of the community in the 1970’s. I grew up in this community, and I was sexually abused as a child, as were almost all the children in my age group.

This was a heavy burden on my heart my whole life, and I decided last year to do something about it. Hence, Project Sunshine.

The weekend before I was going to launch the project, I was VERY afraid!

What I can only describe as the Holy Spirit prompted me to reach out to Fr. Peter Turrone, the paster at the Newman Center in Toronto. This is the parish where I sang in the choir every Sunday. I asked Fr. Peter if he would anoint me with holy oil for launching Project Sunshine. He explained to me that the sacramental oil can only be used in the sacraments. However, he said he had oils of St. Joseph, and he could anoint me with those. I readily accepted. Half way through the initial year of the project, I asked to be anointed again, and Fr. Peter blessed me with the oils again.

When I was moving away from Toronto last November, Fr. Peter surprised me after mass one day saying that he had picked up a bottle of the oils and was sending me to Halifax with them. He taught me how to give the blessing of the oils of St. Joseph to others, and he also said I could continue blessing myself with them. In this way St. Joseph has become a patron saint for Project Sunshine.

The idea of Shambhala leadership providing a good source of father energy, as being something reliable and guiding me in how to be in the world, had long ago crumbled and died. I had to move on without the strong, steady, wise male support I had hoped for and needed, as I grew up. And in fact, Shambhala leadership had become a harmful influence. After all these years, honestly, deciding to deal with such rampant and embedded corruption in the Shambhala faith community has felt like an impossible task.

However, with the support and blessing of a pure and strong father figure in St. Joseph, magical things have happened – both within me, and in the connections I have made with people.

Perhaps the most striking support I feel I’ve received from St. Joseph is a capacity that is beyond the “human me” to keep going, keep reaching out, courageously meet with top Shambhala leaders and insist on their awakening, and then to professionally document everything. When I completed the initial 1-year scope of Project Sunshine, I published a report of my findings. This report prompted the leadership of Shambhala to publicly acknowledge the “abhorrent sexual behavior” by teachers in the community. There have been articles written about this situation since that time, both in blogs and in the general media.

At this point the Shambhala leadership seems to be focusing on managing their image and trying to calm the community, rather than focusing on care and authentic healing – such as exposing the abusers, bringing healing supports to the victims, and helping the community in general to digest what has happened and make responsible, empowered decisions going forward.

I have therefore taken on responsibility for creating an independent initiative, Project Sunshine Phase 2. I’ve prepared a plan of healing for our community. It involves adapting an existing toolkit that was developed by Nova Scotian Mi’qmaq for healing sexualized violence within their communities. The toolkit came highly recommended to me, and in looking at it myself, it looks like a very solid approach for this challenging type of healing.

It seems unusual for one person to conceive of a plan for moving forward for a large worldwide community. The reason this is being done in such a solid way is because it is not just one person. There is a lot of spiritual support from St. Joseph, and other Buddhist spiritual energies. And also, a growing number of responsible and caring citizens are gathering to support this initiative moving forward.

A group of us are currently raising funds for Project Sunshine Phase 2, to adapt the Mi’qmaq toolkit (1) for Buddhist communities and (2) to be used on a global scale. To move this healing initiative forward, we need to raise $55,100.

We received a $600 donation from Ari Goldfield yesterday, with the comment, “We very much support your efforts.” People have been contacting me saying what a respectable and good Buddhist teacher Ari is. Although I suspect Ari has no direct connection with St. Joseph, I experience Ari’s support to be energetically aligned with the positive “enlightened” male energy that is now needed for true healing to happen in Shambhala, and other Buddhist communities, suffering from the impact of sexualized violence.

Healing is possible, even for something as big as what we are facing here. Trungpa Rinpoche taught about how we can take practical steps to clean up any situation, like putting soiled clothes through a washing machine – they can be restored to their clean state.

Project Sunshine is about taking that same approach, with the level of skill, bravery and care demanded for authentic community spiritual/emotional/relational healing for such a serious wound. Please be part of this by connecting, educating yourself, talking with others, sharing on social media and contributing financially to whatever extent you are able to the Project Sunshine fundraising campaign. Even a $5 donation moves us forward, and is a precious contribution to this healing vision.

 

Here are the two most important ways you can connect:

Sign up for our email list

Please support this healing initiative and donate to Project Sunshine Phase 2

#ShambhalaMeToo



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Project Sunshine is announcing a new initiative today: #ShambhalaMeToo. We want to empower you to share your stories of how MeToo in our community is impacting you, and what your dreams for a positive resolution look like. Now is the time to dream out-of-the-box and envision the kind of Shambhala community you long for, free from abuse and control, and authentically enriching your ability to pursue your spirituality. Use the #ShambhalaMeToo hashtag to join our wave of truth-telling, positive healing and good will!

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Since the release of the Project Sunshine Phase 1 report, I’ve received an overwhelming number of emails and Facebook messages. Clearly the time has come for acknowledging that something disturbingly wrong has been happening in our community.

It feels important to start sharing some of the powerful messages I’ve been receiving from people  touched by the work of Project Sunshine. Margot gave permission to share her email:

“I too am grateful for your work, Andrea.  And when you say [Project Sunshine Phase 2] may be of use to other Buddhist communities, please think bigger.  I think this approach would greatly have benefitted the larger #MeToo movement, which degenerated into some place that I wished it hadn’t gone.  Your bright kindness is extraordinary.

At the same time… it’s time women received the respect we’ve been denied for thousands of years.  The time is now.

Yours in this struggle,

Mary”

There are threads in this short message that I am sure will resonate with many. I love how Margot is encouraging me/us to think bigger. In fact, in February I began speaking in zoom meetings with the Shambhala leadership – Adam Lobel, Jane Arthur, Wendy Friedman and Aarti Tejuja – about my vision for Shambhala working through our #MeToo situation drawing upon the strengths of our Shambhala tradition, and that in fact, we can provide leadership for the world in how to heal sexualized violence. 

I know this is possible. But don’t underestimate what it will take to accomplish this! It will take courage, skill, and deepening our compassion beyond what we think we are capable of. And honestly, just as Margot said, we must shift into a greater honour of women, and the feminine within all of us.

The good news from all the discussion is that people care, and that now the resource is available to heal this situation: I have created a plan for an independent healing initiative for the Shambhala community. This approach can also be used by other Buddhist communities affected by sexualized violence. See the Project Sunshine Phase 2 Plan for details.

The time has come for us to take personal responsibility for carrying forward the precious Shambhala lineage, and the most precious lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. You can help make this vision a reality by contributing money and also talking with others about this. True healing and change are happening one conversation at a time. Please participate with your full heart!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them at the bottom of this page, or contact us directly at projectsunshinecf@gmail.com. Also, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.

You can see everything related to Shambhala and the sexual violence situation on our welcome and information page.

How do we trust, in this time of the abuse coming out?



I have been asked to be not only a truth teller, but also a comforter in this time of change within our community. My words today come from a place of comforting.

People are struggling with many things right now, and one of the key things is Trust. When someone alleges your guru has sexually assaulted and abused women, it’s mind blowing! How on earth do you deal with something so profoundly shaking?

On the one hand, you may have had an authentic spiritual connection with your guru. This has been a foundational relationship for months, years, and for some, decades. It is the most intimate of relationships, within the tender space of your connection with spirituality, higher values, and your path as a bodhisattva.

And now this same person is being revealed as someone who has done things that you know are adharmic – things like abusing women, abusing animals, and doing very serious mind-altering drugs.

To complicate things, many of us have taken samaya vows. Prevelant interpretations of samaya say you should see your guru as a living Buddha, and never criticize anything he says or does. People also fear speaking ill of their guru to others, thinking that this will harm others’ path, and possibly cause them to break their samaya.

Most people want to be good people, and follow the rules. We are taught that samaya is the most important rule. We are taught that terrible things will happen if we break samaya, such as going to Vajra Hell. To put it lightly, the fear of God has been put into us around samaya, and I don’t think this has created a space where sanghas can sort out the things that need to be sorted out in situations where a guru has gone off the rails and committed atrocities that are clearly adharmic.

Many people are finding it hard to feel solid ground under their feet. They don’t know who or what to trust. Some people are so overwhelmed by all of this that they have gone into a place of denial.

For instance, I was listening to a talk given recently by the Kasung in Halifax on rape culture. The expert who was giving the talk referred to the recent revelation of mass abuse in the community as a “kerfuffle”. She clearly has not been able to take in the magnitude of what is happening and is not able to serve as a teacher or leader at this time.

Other people have reverted to a place of blind devotion to their guru. No matter what he has done, they completely rely on their guru. Or along the way they made an oath of loyalty to regard every member of the guru’s family as the guru himself, which then extends the blind faith to everyone in the guru’s family. No matter what any of the members of the guru’s family do, it’s all okay with this loyal student.

When people sink back into these places of blind faith, I can see that they see no option for including their own common sense, their own sense of human decency, their compassion for those who have been harmed, and for those who continue to be harmed by the guru, the guru’s family, and other representatives of the Shambhala leadership.

Trust is not an all or nothing thing. It is not about finding the “trustworthy” people and the “untrustworthy” people. I’d like to propose a different way of looking at things: Look at a person and work to discern what you can trust in them.

For instance, if I have a friend who always shows up for lunch dates 45 minutes to an hour late, this does not mean the friend is untrustworthy. Rather, I can trust that she will be 45 minutes to an hour late when we set up a lunch date.

So with your guru, ideally you will have a calm enough space to begin to discern what has been helpful in his behaviours and what has been harmful, and start to see what you can trust him to do. If he typically glosses over important situations without caring about the impact on the community, then this may well be something you can trust him to do. Ideally you want to have enough clear cognitive space so you can discern what works for you and what doesn’t, what supports your having a vibrant spiritual life and what shuts you down. Then you take personal responsibility for identifying what you need to do to create a solid foundation for your spiritual life.

Many people are not finding the safety needed at their local Shambhala center gatherings to honestly sort out for themselves what is good for their spiritual life and what is undermining their spiritual life. Furthermore, they are not getting the support they need to define a life affirming connection with their own spirituality through a clear and present discernment.

This is why Project Sunshine Phase 2 has been envisioned – to create the kind of space where people can feel safe and supported to be able to sort out their personal connection with the Shambhala teachings, lineage and community.

If you would like to learn more about Project Sunshine’s efforts to bring community healing, you are welcome to sign up for our email list. Join the Project Sunshine email list

See all the information related to abuse in Shambhala on our Main Information Page

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Usability Andrea Winn
Photography Christina Asante

 

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