A new feminine leadership paradigm: Healing trauma though resilient hierarchy and mutually empowering relationships

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I have always longed for deep and powerful leadership. A leader who creates a space of respect and empowerment for all. Where each member’s value is appreciated. Where the ebbs and flows within the community are seen with eyes of wisdom, and are handled with great skill. Where everyone feels they belong and are contributing a valuable part to the wholeness of community.

This month’s article is inspired by deep words from a Heal Your Heart Through Meditation community member. She brings up important issues, arising from her longing for a new leadership paradigm. Her words touched on my own longing. I propose this as the basic question arising from a longing shared by many:

How can we define a new leadership paradigm that is healthier than the male-dominated, hierarchical, top-down, oppressive, life-snuffing, inspiration-killing, and abuse-prone structured paradigm we’ve lived within for decades, and perhaps even centuries?

The quote below is shared with permission by our HYHTM community member. She engaged a deep insight process and emerged with the following pearl of longing:

Is it possible to create a program that is structured in a way that feels supportive, organic and developmental (which I think yours does [Heal Your Heart Through Meditation]) but at the same time, not fall into the male hierarchical structure that is top down and prone, I believe, to misuse and negative power imbalances?

I just wonder if the female inspired path can create something a little different. Structured but not too top down hierarchical, something like that?

I guess I know what I am seeking, and I am wondering if others would create it…and I certainly respect the time and effort it takes to create such programs so I believe women should empower each other to financially support each other as well etc…

I must first acknowledge some trepidation as I enter into responding to these thoughts. I just came out of a two-year healing retreat last Wednesday, and I have been reflecting intensively on these issues in light of my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. In fact, this was the topic of a counselling session I had last week with my now former counsellor, Leland Maerz. (We contracted to do six sessions together, and this session was the sixth.)

Leland is a strong justice advocate himself, in the domain of domestic violence. He said in our last session that he sees me as one of the greatest whistleblowers of our century because of the wisdom and skill with which I lead Buddhist Project Sunshine. I was surprised by his statement. I’m going to be transparent in saying I am currently grappling with my leadership style.

I am going to begin by teasing out two topics that I see embedded in this courageous community member’s statement. First, she speaks about meditation programs, such as Heal Your Heart Through Meditation. Second, I feel she is speaking about a more feminine style of leadership.

Topic 1: Meditation programs structured as supportive, organic and developmental

In terms of the first topic, I love what she says about having a meditation program that “feels supportive, organic and developmental.” Being transparent about my own experience, I grew up in the Shambhala cult with emotionally absent parents. This was a double whammy in my experience, and together these two facets severely impacting my childhood development.

The silver lining is it caused me to immerse myself in a steep learning curve in adult life to develop emotionally, relationally and my sense of identity.

I lived in Toronto for 19 years, and I worked with master healers, including top relational therapists, two indigenous shamans and the imminent energy psychologist, Dr. Joan Beattie. With strong mentorship, I did a lot of healing and development out of my state of childhood wounding, walking through great blazing healing initiations, and I formed a personal sense of identity and responsibility as a citizen of our world.

After this therapy and other healing, I did a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). In my degree I specialized in trauma healing, and applied each academic course to my journey of learning about developmental and relational healing.

Through all of this, I have grown a profound respect for each individual’s unique process of human development. Therefore I strive to create a space in Heal Your Heart Through Meditation that weaves together two aspects: (1) the space is palpably gentle and permissive, and (2) it evokes eustress (positive stress) through shepherding my courageous students to keep moving forward in their healing and meditation practice. My shamanic training informs how to create an organic process for this in Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

This describes how I create a healing/feeling/organic-growing space in the program. Let us now move to the second topic, the longing for a healthier and more feminine leadership style.

Topic 2: A new paradigm of feminine leadership

This is new and juicy terrain, and I feel it’s risky territory to enter. I am a woman who has taken incredible risks in the past, knowing risk is the doorway to creating new worlds. So let’s take this risk of this discussion together, shall we?

Part of managing my risk here is to invite you to participate in this dialog. We must include a diversity of perspectives to truly form a strong new paradigm.

My approach today is to put out some initial thoughts, which I will call “puzzle pieces,” that I am currently working with, and hopefully with some more pieces that *you* bring from your experience, we can create a more complete picture.

Puzzle piece 1: I hosted a series of community discussions in the Fall of 2020, and in one of those discussions we talked about the abuse of male leaders of spiritual communities. All of the women present at that discussion had gone through an experience of profound spiritual betrayal within such a community. There was a natural aversion and even repudiation of hierarchy amongst the participants of this discussion.

We first took time to acknowledge the betrayals, wounds and resulting caution from those experiences. Then I proposed we face the fact that some people train themselves deeply and have something to offer to others from that extensive training.

Do we regard those people simply as our equals? Do we honour them for what they worked to achieve and are now sharing with us? How do we properly relate with teachers who have developed something unique and valuable? How do we relate in a way that allows us to connect with them in positive ways and receive the gifts they are sharing with us? I don’t think that coming with a hard shell of defensiveness allows for the communication and honour needed to receive gifts from a master.

The conversation participants agreed.

In my own experience, I aspire to hold masters up with the honour they deserve. I recognize their gifts, as well as their work and sacrifice to serve as a teacher. I also know that we are all human, and if they behave badly, I will call it out to be addressed and give them an opportunity to grow.

Puzzle piece 2: In 2018 another treasured member of my community recommended a book to me, “Reinventing Organizations,” by Frederic Laloux. This is a powerful book in its analysis of different types of organizations, and the role that hierarchy plays in each type. Laloux proposes there has been an evolution through history of organizations, and the currently most evolved organization type he calls, “teal organizations”. It’s been a couple of years since I read this book, so I’m going purely on my memory – so forgive any mistakes, please!

In teal organizations there is a founder who establishes core values for the organization, and then through an organic process they transmit those core values in a way that people in the organization begin living them without a top down hierarchy. The founder steps back and serves as a coach, when asked by a team within the organization that feels they need support. If core values are getting lost, the founder will step in and reassert the values in an organic way that empowers members of the organization to step up and live the values.

I love the vision for the teal organization. I love that Laloux provides numerous examples of existing teal organizations, proving it can be a reality. I continue to explore how this might work with the communities I lead.

Puzzle piece 3: I have started a number of communities and organizations, and although I have tried to create collective leadership, it has always failed. For instance, with Buddhist Project Sunshine I first tried to gather women leaders who had been harmed within Shambhala to heal together and then lead the initiative together. Their response was to beg me to abandon my project, because they were afraid I would get hurt. If I had listened to them, none of the suppressed harm would ever have been exposed.

Mid-way in the project a collective circle was forming, and I thought we could be a group leading together. However, strange dynamics started happening where the men in the circle were shutting down the voices of women survivors and demanding all the attention. I formed this initiative to hold up the voices of survivors, and I found this behaviour was sucking the life force from the project. So I ended that circle and continued forward as the solo leader.

In a much simpler example, during my Christian journey I was hosting an Easter dinner for friends from the LGBT Catholic group I was part of. I did not invite one man who was a straight ally, because he was rather dissociated and often brought strange energy into the mix. A week or so before the dinner, we were all having brunch one morning after mass, and one of my invited guests suggested in front of the straight ally that I could always make room for another person at the table and invite the ally. I said no.

Now I felt really rotten about this, because it seemed uncharitable and un-christian of me. I felt so guilty, I brought it up with one of my professors at Regis, the Jesuit College where I was studying. To my surprise my professor complimented my decision. She said that if I had allowed the dissociated man to join, it would have been a very different space for everyone. In fact, I had done something good in protecting the space so that my guests would be able to be more open and vulnerable with each other.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I spoke with my counsellor about my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine, he said similar things about my decisions in Buddhist Project Sunshine. He said that what he saw is that I made difficult decisions to protect the life and vitality of the project, fully aware of the possible harm I might be doing to those who I excluded from the leadership circle.

All I can say is that I am passionate about protecting space so people can be vulnerable, heal and authentically pursue their spiritual path. And it really sucks when I need to step in and remove someone from leadership. However, in the end, the group feels safe, and that seems important. It seems important to strong leadership. I do my very, very, very best to minimize any hurt someone might feel when I remove them from leadership.

I believe we all have different and valuable gifts. Some people have strong leadership skills. Others have other valuable skills. If we try to make everyone exactly the same and form collective leadership, it can become watered down and wishy washy. This leadership will never lead profound and brilliant communities.

Puzzle piece 4: I experience myself being more clear and visionary than many people I lead. I feel alone in this, and I long to share leadership power.

I also know that an inherent aspect of my leadership is that I welcome everyone sharing the gifts they possess. I know that everyone has a valued place in community. Many community experiences are pioneering experiences. Since they are so new, it feels important to me to solicit input and wisdom from the community. (Like I am doing here, in asking you to contribute your thoughts on this subject.)

We are all human, and we all have our unique connection with wisdom. I value learning from other people’s perspectives and the hard won wisdom from their life experience. And what they have to say creates more wholeness for the community wisdom.

I first learned of the notion of mutually empowering relationships at least two decades ago, and since I first heard of it, this ideal has been dear to my heart. It comes from the feminist researchers connected with the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies at Wellesley College. You can read about their ideas in the book, “The Healing Connection: How Women Form Relationships in Therapy and in Life.”

There is enough on this one topic to warrant a book, and it goes beyond the scope of this article. The one thing I will highlight from their research is the idea of zest. These feminist researchers claim that one of the aspects of mutually empowering relationships is they have zest – they give all parties in the relationship a sense of zest for life. I feel this particular quality is important, especially in communities impacted by trauma. We all deserve to come out of the shadows of trauma and live relationships that fill us with zest!

For me as a hierarchical leader who invites high engagement from members, I experience zest in walking the “tight wire”: on one side actively encouraging participation, and on the others side when someone has fallen into a bad energy, addressing it if it is impacting the whole. Since I often find myself with the clarity to discern this, I find myself in a lonely place of holding the space, holding the higher perspective, and guiding communities forward into bright new spaces.

Puzzle piece 5: Accountability in hierarchy. Since I often find myself with a unique level of clarity, and at the same time holding inviting space for other’s contributions, I have been developing a new leadership paradigm which I am calling resilient hierarchy with mutually empowering relationships.

It’s not comfortable for me to say I am a hierarchical leader, because I long for the collective leadership vision that I spoke of at the beginning of Buddhist Project Sunshine.

In my last session with Leland I spoke about my discomfort with practicing hierarchical leadership, and he asked me how I, as leader, safeguard against causing harms. I told him that I strongly rely on my spiritual practice to help me stay grounded and coming from a perspective of compassion. I also practice very deep self-care and make sure I get into nature regularly.

I spoke to him about having “checks and balances”. I am constantly looking at myself and assessing, “Is what I am doing fair? Is it uplifting the situation? Is it empowering the people I’m working with?” I constantly evaluate myself. This close scrutiny comes from my having seen the impacts of abuse from leaders. It is very important to me to lead from a place of deep integrity. When I fall short in my integrity, I do deep debriefs with mentors and counsellors and ensure I learn the lessons there for me to safeguard against ever making those mistakes again.

I’ve laid out some puzzle pieces here that might be useful for a new leadership paradigm. I know I have much to learn from others, and I would love to hear your ideas for how we can create a new paradigm of feminine leadership. Please do share below, or respond further through my community needs survey . Your contribution will lead to a better understanding for what can be possible.

If you are interested in checking out Heal Your Heart Through Meditation, you can try a free 2-week trial, PLUS it is on sale in the month of May – you can get it for 50%.

Why must our inner child be included in trauma-informed meditation?

Photo by Jhon David on Unsplash

I am grateful for the engagement this past month in our community needs survey! A warm thank you to everyone who participated. 

The energy this month was directed towards wondering what trauma-informed meditation is and exploration of what can open up to blossom when we include our inner child in our meditation practice.

I will put the words of community members in bold and respond below to their words. Each of these people gave permission to include their words in this blog.

Needs survey question: Are you interested in trauma-informed meditation? If yes, please share more about your interest.

Yes. Not sure what it would look like. 

I was brought up in a Tibetan Buddhist community where profound meditation practices were explored with no awareness of or attention to trauma dynamics, boundaries or the inner child. The strong drive towards spiritual fulfillment coupled with active suppression of red flags regarding sexual misconduct proved fertile ground for gross spiritual betrayal and harm in my community. 

We’ve seen this dynamic in many spiritual traditions, including the well-known sexual exploitation in the Catholic church.

I would suggest this harm is made possible and perhaps even fostered by the combination of strong needs for spirituality at the expense of and suppression of other basic human needs.

When we start to talk about trauma-informed meditation, we are opening up a space for a wider spectrum of needs, needs for spirituality along with safety, autonomy, respect, being seen, being heard, and other emotional, relational and physical needs.

In the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation (HYHTM) program we include energy psychology to release trauma blocks within the body and emotions. We also listen for and work closely with our inner child. One of the greatest gifts of working with your inner child is s/he gives you access to knowing your quieter, more subtle needs. 

Gaining access to this subtle knowledge empowers you to then act and get your deeper needs met. This allows the practitioner to form a fuller and more robust meditation practice.

Another community member who has completed the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program wrote:

Intentionally embracing my inner child at the beginning of each meditation is helping me to connect with the vulnerability of feeling and connecting with chronic fear and slowly, gently transform this fear to a felt sense of safety and ease.

Many who have experienced trauma go through life with a hardened armour around their heart and around their feelings. It’s like a layer of shellack around those soft places, and it is created by speed – by quickly skirting around or jumping over anything threatening. 

Meditation in the HYHTM program offers a slowed down space to begin to *feel* again. We create a space of safety where even decades old fears can become less intimidating, and we can begin to see how to touch them, tend them, and move through them, as this community member so eloquently describes.

Another community member who is currently in the HYHTM program wrote:

Having a safe container – something I have felt intensely on 7 day silent retreats (I’ve never had the fortune of doing a longer one) – is really very important to me. So thank you so so much for encouraging me to create my own “shrine” and safe place AND to invite my inner child to come. 

Today she was very present in my meditation and so was the loving kindness and the tears, oh the tears! I saw her before me, all sweetness and purity, and I saw her journey of pain and pleasure and getting oh so lost, I saw it emanate and unfold from inside of her, I saw her journey to come, and I just loved her as a loving parent and I asked her to bring it all, and I held her in my heart chakra and it was very intense and now I feel a little shaky but it is ok and it is good and although it is not an easy process and one that needs deep and compassionate grounding, I believe in the alchemic power of the heart chakra that can integrate all things, through love and compassion.

Since I was brought up in a strong meditative tradition, I bring a robust firmness to the way I teach meditation. At the same time, I understand the kind of deep tenderness that is needed for healing trauma. I combine this firm strength and tenderness in my approach to guiding courageous students in the HYHTM program. 

In other communities, meditation learners are called students. I’d like to establish a different tradition in the HYHTM community and call learners, “courageous students”. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. The students of this program engage meditation with their hearts and they *are* very brave. Therefore, they are courageous students!

The HYHTM courageous students get one small exercise each day, so it is an easier load. The exercises are also part of a game, which allows for some lightness, play and fun. I feel this gentleness is necessary for any trauma healing.

At the same time, over the course of seven weeks, the courageous student creates a full, complete and rich meditation practice. Some courageous students have described this program as deceptively effective.

As courageous students grow their trust and tenderness within the careful and caring process of the program, they are enabled to establish a tender relationship with their inner child and have beautiful and heart-full breakthroughs like thie courageous student described above.

It may even be helpful to bring in the term “emotional literacy” here, which has been identified as critical to success in business and life. The quote above speaks to this courageous student’s growing knowledge of her emotional needs and flows; her emotional literacy is at a high level. Her words show how we need to start to talk about emotional literacy in meditation to deepen the possibilities of meditation for the modern Western world.

From my heart, I thank the community members who have stepped forward and engaged so beautifully this month. It is a true joy and pleasure to respond to you!

With all my love,


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Would you like to know the key to courage?

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As we move as a world community through the crisis of the pandemic, one of the biggest hurdles to working together is the stark polarization among views. Many people have grabbed on to an extreme view (doesn’t matter which one for this discussion), and they are arguing for this view to their last breath.

Why such polarization? And why such fierce defending of extreme views?

I would suggest the root is fear. Fear is a highly contagious emotional state. Just watch a flock of birds or a herd of deer when one member is startled. The whole group goes into panic and flees. Are we witnessing episodes of this fear contagion globally during this pandemic?

Why else would some people swing to such extreme views? Why else would they be stubbornly unwilling to hear alternative views? And why is there so little discourse about the middle ground?

Many people are afraid and in their own emotional “lock down” mode. Is this a trauma response?

What can reach such locked down hearts? Many people are struggling intensely with loneliness, fear about money, fear for their loved ones, uncertainty about the future, fear of the unknown, anxiety about the world going in the wrong direction, and fear of being unable to cope or manage. Is there a pharmaceutical company that can produce a pill that addresses this kind of fear?

I would suggest, no. Sure, they might be able to provide a pill that numbs the heart, but so far as I know, no company has produced a “bravery” pill.

What if I told you that the single best remedy for anxiety costs nothing and is accessible anywhere and at any time

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, in our increasingly complicated world, I fear we have lost some of the basic and practical wisdom of our elders. I challenging us to pull back some of that basic wisdom to serve us as we enter into 2021.

What do you think? Can we just run fast enough to be able to outrun our fears? Can we take the fear and put it in a box – maybe a soundproof box? Or maybe pull out our sword and kill our fear? Could that bring us to a steadier, more confident and engaged place?

I don’t know about you, but these strategies never work for me. Instead, it is this simple act of courage that works unfailingly for me: I choose to be present with my fear. I slow down, sit down, and become familiar with it.

It is the pushing away of fear that gives it strength (and an unearthly scariness!). When I choose to slow my thought process down, tune into my heart, and actually feel what is going on in my heart, my fear gets acknowledged and it begins to soften and slow down too. It is very much like getting to know another person. Being curious. Being open and kind. Being patient. These behaviours work miracles with fear.

As most of you know, I was brought up in a Buddhist community where I was taught that meditation is the ultimate act of a bravery. Willingness to sit down quietly and be with my mind in a kind, caring and courageous way is the way to develop inner strength and fortitude. Rather than being run over by spinning fears, we can develop the strength to be steady and to walk the road ahead.

The Buddha called this the middle way, and I can’t help but wonder if his ancient wisdom may provide the guidance needed in these highly polarized times.

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And saving the best for last… see the exciting launch of the new gamified meditation course: Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

Pioneering new pathways of healing for those abused within spiritual communities

Photo by Yoann Boyer (Unsplash.com)

A community member responded to our August community survey with deeply insightful and passionate remarks about healing from spiritual betrayal. I was so moved by what she wrote, I am dedicating my article this month to responding to her. She has given me permission to quote her for this article.

“Life is traumatic ! I am interested in what goes on in the brain when PTSD is triggered and how healing ,making new pathways can happen.If teachers are not trauma informed they can’t understand why people are not healing or making progress and often can do more harm than good.”

I am interested in the PTSD response too, and I have focused much of my study on what goes on in our heart space when PTSD is triggered. My studies have focused on relational trauma – traumas that occurred within relationship with another person or group of people (as opposed to other sources of trauma, such as a natural disaster). 

Here is what I have come to understand through my studies, working with clients, and over 30 years of my own healing journey: 

We form attachments with people, and when those attachments are suddenly severed through betrayal, it can can cause a rip in our heart. We can become psychologically fragmented after trauma. While this trauma remains unhealed, we can be easily triggered by experiences that cause fear or insecurity, and it can be challenging to form healthy relationships.

Furthermore, when betrayal happens in a spiritual context, the damage can be far more severe. Our spiritual life is perhaps the most intimate part of our experience. When a betrayal happens within a space of such internal tenderness, the traumatic impact can be far deeper.

I agree with your statement about spiritual teachers who are not trauma informed potentially causing more harm. Particularly in “high-demand” spiritual communities, those who have been previously traumatized will likely have their trauma ignored or even denied, and are encouraged to suppress their feelings in order to pursue the high-demand spiritual tradition. This adds layers of further trauma and adds further complexity to the healing process.

One leader in the trauma healing field, Dr. Sandra Bloom, discovered through her psychiatric practice that nearly all people in society have been traumatized – either through their personal experience of trauma or vicariously through connection with a loved one going through a traumatic experience. So we are living in a society of trauma survivors, most of whom do not acknowledge their trauma and act it out unconsciously in relationships with others, causing further harm and pain. This can include spiritual teachers. 

“I wonder what’s possible I’ve always had a feeling that healing is possible for all illness.Reconising and acknowledging seems to be the starting point.but deeper still I wonder how to heal unknown unremembered trauma. What happens to a young childs brain when trauma happens? Where does the life go ,it breaks off it departs ,what about the ego is it damaged at a young age? So much talk about dissolving ego but what if the ego was not properly formed in a young life?”

I like the idea you have envisioned of creating new pathways – whether in the brain or in the heart. With previous pathways disrupted from trauma, it provides an opportunity to develop new, healthier pathways as we take our journey of healing. Life can actually become more fulfilling and more joyous through the process of healing from betrayal trauma. This is a silver lining to experiencing trauma!

I love your insight and optimism! It seems to me, as well, that recognizing and acknowledge needs to be the starting point. If we accept Dr. Bloom’s statements about how many people are walking around with suppressed trauma, it’s mind boggling to think of how extensive this pattern is. Since so many have not yet reached a place of recognizing and acknowledging the trauma buried in their heart/brain/psyche, they remain trapped in limbo.

But once we do acknowledge the trauma, we can begin the process of healing. As I promote in the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program, the key stages of healing are (1) safety, (2) remembrance and mourning, and (3) reconnecting with community. That first stage: feeling safe, is critical for doing healing. 

Safety includes feeling supported and often requires spaces that embody an atmosphere of gentleness ,kindness, and wisdom. I experience this presence in my connection with the Divine Feminine; it feels like wise grandmother energy to me. When I am within the presence of this energy, it helps me connect with whatever healing technique I am engaging. The healing techniques might feel hollow or ineffective otherwise, but within the soft gaze and warm embrace of the Divine Feminine, whatever self-care I am engaging goes more deeply.

When you talk about healing “unknown unremembered trauma”, I will first say that the heart has a remarkable ability to protect us from overload by placing a veil over memories we are not yet ready to deal with. I am a firm believer that as we establish greater safety, those forgotten memories can begin to surface for healing attention. Our psyche knows when we are ready.

When you talk about a child’s life and where it goes when a child has been put through trauma, it makes me think of what I learned when I did an apprenticeship with a Mi’kmaq shaman in Quebec in the early 2000’s. My shaman taught me that parts of us psychologically break away in response to severe trauma. They are lost to us from then on. This is why people can have an experience of lost parts. My shaman worked with me around  the practice of “soul retrieval”. Soul retrieval is a beautiful ritual for bringing back lost parts of us, making us whole again.

The questions you are asking are powerful and relevant to all spiritual traditions that tell us we need to let go of and dissolve our ego. In the mid-2000’s, I worked with an expert trauma therapist at Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Clinic, and she also happened to be an experienced meditator. Like you suggest, she said that if we never had the chance to form a healthy ego in childhood, then we do not have an ego to dissolve. The first step is to form a healthy ego.

“My body remembers ,that I know but I can’t grasp fully or can’t reconnect that which is broken long ago.

I’ve had a year doing reliving process, CBT ,which was the real start for me I let go off and unlearned so much, I literally felt my brain reordering itself.flasbacks stopped anxiety levels dropped and I complain less making life more enjoyable for myself and those around me.”

I am so happy to hear of your healing! Your dedication to yourself is very moving. There has been a lot of research into which modality of therapy is most effective, and the main finding is that the therapist-client relationship match is the single most important factor for healing in therapy. I believe this speaks to the importance of the first stage of trauma healing: safety. It is critical to find a safe relationship in which we can do healing. You didn’t say it, but I bet you had a safe relationship with your therapist to do such powerful healing work.

“What is it to fully connect I wonder? Continental connection.

Joy is a reference for me.If there is no joy,no juice,then there is no life.

I’m grappling in the dark as I investigate.”

I love how you are using joy as your reference! I have found joy to be a wonderful balm for my heart; feeling joy has allowed me to trust again after betrayals. 

Your reference to continental connection is quite expansive! It reminds me of the third stage of trauma healing: reconnecting with community. Dr. Bloom’s seminal text was entitled, “Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies.” In this book she advocates for creating community healing environments where trauma survivors can be responded to with kindness and sanity. Trauma can heal in these specially-created healing environments, and people can then engage life in the “normal” world with their hearts whole.

In all the community spaces I create, whether through my justice activism work with Buddhist Project Sunshine or through the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation service, I strive to create trauma-informed sanctuaries where people can connect with one another in sane and loving ways, enabling them to heal through community connection. I know this is key to healing, and I am passionate about it!

Your image of “grappling in the dark as I investigate” is lovely! It is pioneering – exploring new uncharted ground. No one has a map for this kind of healing. It is always a personal exploration to find our own unique path of healing. 

Although the journey is unique to each person, it can be incredibly helpful to be connected with other people doing the same work so we can learn from each other’s discoveries. I welcome readers’ comments in the space below. We create a greater understanding together through dialog.

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Werma Vigil Day 21

Wow! Here we are at the 21st day of this vigil, and I am amazed at what a journey this has been! 

Today I felt moved to dedicate my practice in one clear focus: May the raining wisdom create space for those impacted by the Shambhala tragedy to heal. Healing spaces, that is the topic for this final day.

Healing from something as profound as spiritual betrayal is a deep journey. It can be hard to find ground for healing when we are bombarded by continual craziness. I’m a firm believer in carving out spaces that are sane – little islands of sanity. 

During Buddhist Project Sunshine, I hosted three community online discussion groups. These were safe spaces where people could connect and talk about what was happening after each of the three BPS reports were published. Looking back, these were holy grounds, where people extended trust and healed together in the midst of massive community revelations. 

There is true wisdom to the abuse healing adage, “The best revenge is living well.” Creating lives where we are taking good care of ourselves and where we can experience some measure of joy, I feel this is important. And if that means leaving the Shambhala community to create that, then it is important to leave. 

In my own case, I had a nervous breakdown at the end of Buddhist Project Sunshine, and I had no choice but to disconnect from what was happening in Shambhala. Over the past year I have been exploring delicate steps to find myself again. 

One of those delicate steps was creating a program to help me reclaim my meditation practice, the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program. I went off-road in creating what I needed to heal, bringing in Western trauma healing strategies, energy psychology, and some non-traditional fun techniques. The program has helped me and I feel very grateful that it has helped other Shambhala survivors. The Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program is about creating safe space to get grounded, reconnect and heal. I know that not everyone is looking for that kind of place right now, but if you are, I hope you will take a look at the program and consider if you’d like participate in the next group starting up soon. It’s a lovely program, and I’d love for you to join us!

Here’s a link to the program description: Heal Your Heart Through Meditation

As I close this vigil, I would like to say some thank yous. First, thank you to Maria for formally joining me in this 21-day vigil, doing mette practice. Thank you also to those who paid attention and reacted to my FB posts. A very big thank you to Tenzin for his amazingly supportive comments on my blog posts! And last, but certainly not least, I thank the Shambhala lineage mothers and fathers, those spiritual forces who are guarding the longevity of this lineage, for their rain of blessings. 

I dedicate the merit of this vigil to the continued healing in Shambhala. May it happen in ways that will bring the greatest benefit to all beings, past, present and future. Amen!


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 20

I pray for the powerful presence of the Mother Lineage, to turn the tide of darkness in Shambhala.

On the penultimate day of this werma vigil I dedicated my practice to Ösel Mukpo, aka Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and this was very emotional for me. 

In my service as head of Buddhist Project Sunshine, people came to me with many stories of Ösel’s early years. I heard about how as a young child he was violently beaten by the man whose care he was left in in Scotland until his father could bring him to America. I heard stories of how once he finally came to America, he was rejected by his step mother and told he could not live with his father. I was told how in later years his male personal attendant taught him to objectify women, and would ask him if he wanted a blond or a brunette brought in that night. If even half the stories are true, it is hard to imagine how Ösel could have developed a healthy sense of identity.

Later, as we brought the stories of his hidden behaviours out into the open, I learned of his heavy drinking binges in adulthood. I can imagine the kind of suffering he was trying to push away and escape through such violent self-abuse.

What we are witnessing in Shambhala is a true tragedy. Ösel Mukpo didn’t stand much of a chance of succeeding. I believe in my heart that he is a good person at heart, that he tried his best, and that he is spiritually gifted. But without a healthy sense of identity, he has financially abused his community of students, been physically violent towards his attendants, been a sexual predator preying on his female students, and spiritually betrayed this sacred lineage.

I feel a close kinship with Ösel Mukpo because we are of the same generation, my being five years younger than him. I understand we both grew up in a very chaotic community. And I know he faced pressures I cannot imagine.

So as fiercely as I fought for the dignity and justice of the women he assaulted, I will fight that fiercely for his soul. I pray that he will forcibly remove those people around him who are milking him for power and convincing him to continue the charade. I pray that he will stand up, be a man, and publicly admit what he has done. He may well go to prison, and this will be a better life for him. It is a chance to purify karma. It is a chance to be a better example to his daughters. It is a chance to make right the harms he has committed. It is also an opportunity to get the therapy and healing that I imagine his inner psyche has been crying out for for decades.

I have a friend who counsels men with sexual addictions. She told me that she once asked a group of men what turned things around for them to begin healing, and every one of them said that it took being criminally charged before they woke up and started their process of healing.

Ösel Mukpo, may you receive the blessing of my practice and connect with the confidence to take steps towards making things right and engaging your own healing. And with every step you take towards the light, know that I am fully committed to supporting you. You have my word.


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 19

I pray for union of the sacred feminine and divine masculine, to bring the blessings now needed.

Today I made a special dedication of my werma practice to the children of Shambhala – all of those who grew up in the community. It sure was a mixed blessing for many of us!

I can speak to my own experience. As part of the first wave of the second generation, it was really amazing to receive blessings from the old masters – the 16th Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche, Tenzin Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and of course Khentse Rinpoche, who blessed the Manjushri necklace I have worn for many years. And honestly, being immersed in the teachings of Shambhala and literally embodying them has been an unsurpassable gift!

I remember when I did the Women Recovering From Abuse program at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, I clearly saw that I was healing more quickly than other women in the 6-week program. I knew it was because I had access to the Shambhala practices – they really helped. They connected me with courage and wisdom and dignity. This kind of healing work can be *so* heavy. Having access to these sources of confidence made a big difference!

One specific thing I’ll share is the visualization of Shiwa Ökar, with his ocean of werma warriors, all galloping toward me on their white horses in the sky – well, for me, this feels like an army of knights in shining armour coming to save the day! That *feeling* is pretty amazing for a trauma survivor. It opens doors. It certainly empowered me to stay the course through the hard times during Buddhist Project Sunshine.

So today, I’ve wished for a special blessing for the children of Shambhala. May they heal. And even more, I send this wish to those who grew up in the Mukpo household. I’m sure none of us can imagine what those children went through, in the center of both the madness and the blessing. May we all receive the healing that we need at this time, and as a community may we move forward toward the light and resist hiding in the familiar darkness of the past.


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 18

I call to the wisdom dakini and ask for her blessing. May there be auspicious benefit in right timing, right pacing.

Today is one week since I injured my back. This has become a big part of my experience of doing this vigil; this injury has greatly impacted my physical activity. It has slowed me down, because there has been so much tending necessary to facilitate healing. The pain from the injury, and on top of the original injury, falling on the street the next day, all of this pain has brought me more into my body, which is also helpful for the deep work of this vigil.

I would like to revisit the theme I first brought forward last Friday, about accessing support. Last Friday I went to see my chiropractor to get help for the original back injury. Dr. Anne, my chiropractor, helped a lot, giving me advice for applying heat and ice, frequently moving my back, and she suggested I purchase an inexpensive back belt.

This back belt has made a huge difference, and I want to write about this. First there was the support of Dr. Anne, my chiropractor. Then there was the support of this back belt. First of all, it feels good to have it on. But more importantly, since it protects me from further injury, it helps me feel safe. My back muscles have been able to relax because they don’t need to be in defensive/protective mode against further injury. And since my muscles have been able to relax, my back has been able to heal very quickly.

I believe there is a lesson here and that emotional healing can happen in a similar way. If someone is trying to heal after a significant trauma, and they are on their own, they may be deeply distressed, feel very defended, and the healing could take a very, very long time. In contrast, if someone has a grounded, safe, compassionate and wise person who they can connect with for their healing journey, then the safety of that connection can be protective, like the back belt experience I described earlier. In the safety of that connection, a person can relax and experience warmth, and the tender work of healing from emotional trauma is far more possible.

So I am in favour of our seeking out strong, wise people – people with a strong back bone – people who we can viscerally *feel* their integrity and compassion. I think relationships like that can make a huge difference for our healing trajectory, enabling a shorter, kinder and less painful recovery. And actually, I don’t even like using the word, “recovery,” because after a relational trauma we will not go back to the way that we were before the trauma. Really, I see it more as an opportunity to grow through the healing process – to become a wiser and kinder person. That has been my experience over all these years.

So these are the fruits of my 18th day of this vigil. I am praying for the strength to make it to day 21. This has surely been an immersive and exhausting experience. At the same time, I feel closer to Padmasmbhava and to the wisdom dakini, and for that I am grateful. I sincerely hope that my werma practice will bring some small benefit to the Shambhala community. May the werma rain their blessings upon this community and inspire a movement towards the light, to honestly find a good way forward in which the teachings and the community may flourish.

This vigil experience has been very much like my early Buddhist Project Sunshine experience – feeling like I’m putting a whole lot of energy into something, and it seeming to be going into a dark void out there. Yesterday Tenzin’s short message in the comment section below was a welcome touch of human contact, as I continue my steps of this vigil. Thank you, Tenzin.

Sending my love out to all of you this evening.


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 17

I open my heart to the wisdom of the Mother Lineage, and I pray for your tender guidance in this vigil.

The Shambhala teachings that I received during my time in the community focused on the masculine. I suspect little changed after I left the community in around the year 2000. I have appreciated what the masculine teachings did for my developing my masculine side. However, there was a great imbalance in me.

I remember when I came upon the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes around the year 2002, I felt like the great imbalance from my Shambhala upbringing was finally addressed through the teachings of deep feminine wisdom in this book. In fact, I called this book my “bible” because it felt so important to me.

I feel we are witnessing a time of strengthening of the wise feminine. Perhaps this is crucial for the true birthing of the Shambhala teachings in the West, and even Tibetan Buddhism in general. I can’t help but think that these horrible mistakes, these incomprehensible harms, are somehow opening the door for these teachings to enter the West more fully to take authentic root.

It seems that the pervasive multi-generational experience of relational trauma in the West was ripe ground for the arrival of these teachings. Many people were vulnerable and seeking healing. They were not only willing to surrender to the guru, but they *wanted* to surrender their will, their intelligence, their money, etc.

This hasn’t just happened in Tibetan Buddhism. When I watched the Netflix series, Wild Wild Country, about the Rajneeshpuram community, I saw a familiar mentality in those students. It reminded me of what I saw my parents’ generation doing in the Shambhala community. I don’t mean the specific behaviours. What I mean is the approach, the desire, the surrender, the spiritual escape, the rampant sexual exploration, and I suspect the neglect of children in the midst of their spiritual fervour. The vibe in that series really reminded me of what was happening in the 70’s and 80’s in Shambhala.

There was a lack of being grounded and having common sense in the midst of the spiritual exploration. It was unbalanced. And I believe if there were women present who were grounded and in touch with wisdom of their ovaries, this insanity would not have spun out the way it has in many spiritual communities.

I would like to touch again on Pema’s recent resignation and how much I appreciate the grounded statement she is making. I wish we’d had this kind of female leadership all along! It seems Pema is in a process of awakening from the dissociated space so many have been operating in within Shambhala. I appreciate that she seems willing to open to being more in her body and her knowing, willing to look at the gross harm, and willing to find her voice to speak out about the violence. She seems to have gotten in touch with her “No”, and that is a powerful thing. We need more of this, and I hope other women will follow in Pema’s footsteps in this regard.

May we all grow stronger to face what has happened in our community so that we can take steps to repair, heal and ensure our community grows in healthy ways moving forward. May we allow the teachings to help us chart a good way forward with clarity and integrity.


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 16

I call to the wisdom dakini and request her blessing.

I’d first like to acknowledge the beginning of Trump’s impeachment trial. May the outcome of this trial serve to honour and protect our home, Mother Earth, and all of life living within our sacred home.

I am appreciating the experience of doing werma practice consistently every day. As I have written before, I was advised to visualize Padmasambhava as the Sakyong in the practice. I find it powerful to be in his presence every day in this way. After feeling depressed by what I see happening in much of the world’s leadership, it is powerful to connect with a historical person who lived such powerful and compassionate leadership. It feels like balm on a long aching wound – a reprieve from long-standing pain. It’s a blessing.

In today’s world there aren’t many ways to connect with that kind of powerful sanity and leadership. That is why I see the Shambhala teachings as so valuable and worth preserving. Access to this personal experience of wisdom, bravery and leadership is exceedingly precious – for facing everything from the every day challenges of life to greater systemic and cultural darknesses.

The people who have clouded our community with harm and confusion are not living the light of these teachings, and they cannot put out the light of these teachings.

The message I would like to put out there today is to trust what you know is good, tender and wholesome. Allow that light of goodness to live in your heart. And know that it is far, far more powerful than any of the corrupt doings of those who have been operating from confusion in the Shambhala community.

In fact, I would propose that this light of gentleness will ultimately melt away the corruption. The corruption will not be able to survive in the presence of such authentic goodness. So please, live your goodness, and know you are contributing to creating a better world. This can happen bit by bit, day by day. This will absolutely overcome the corruption. I remember a slogan taught in the anti-violence movement: The best revenge is to live well. I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. Let us live well!

Sending my very best to you this day.


This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1)  the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Werma Vigil Day 15

I pray to the Wisdom Dakini to bless the final week of this Werma Vigil. To make a fuller, more celebratory offering for this final week, my intention is to write short daily blog posts. May love and healing spread through this!

The werma practice is a core Shambhala practice about enlightened leadership, which surely our world could use. Although the Shambhala teachings open the doorway to connect with manifest enlightened leadership, the Shambhala community was founded in emotional disconnection, boundary violations, violence, and for many, gross personal harm. This is a striking contradiction! I hope that once community members ground themselves, they will work to resolve this contradiction in a deeply beneficial way.

At this point, the community seems a long way from such a resolution. I understand that 130+ members requested abhisheka with Osel Mukpo, a man about whom numerous criminal allegations have been carefully documented. In my time with Buddhist Project Sunshine I received a basic “Cult 101” education from Richard Edelman, who played a key role in Phase 2 of the project. Richard explained what is called, “the double down.” In the double down, cult members see behaviour in their leader that they don’t feel comfortable with, and instead of staying with that and resolving it, they “double down”, which means they double their devotion to the leader to block out the uncomfortable information. I suspect this is the case with these 130+ students who requested this abhisheka. I have no idea why the leadership decided to approve this abhisheka, other than to guess that they are (1) incompetent, (2) hand picked by those who are truly controlling the leadership, and (3) are operating under the loyalty oath they swore to Osel Mukpo upon being placed in this leadership role.

I have witnessed the profound darkness of those who have truly been directing this community – those who have worked hard to cover up crimes… those who with Kasung/Art-Of-War strategies maintain the old, dysfunctional order… those who created a pseudo-leadership structure to appear as if it was a “fresh start”.

I’m not sure what it will take to pierce this darkness. I tried to do it with the third BPS report, “The Nail.” Things were clearly spelled out in that report, and there is no turning back from what was presented there. And yet the cloud of dark, confusion-generating energy remains.

This type of corruption and cover up continued in the Catholic Church until class action lawsuits threatened to bankrupt the church. That is literally what it took to turn things around for the Catholics. I think of this when I chant the Invocation for Raising Windhorse as part of the werma liturgy, specifically when I chant the line that reads, “Strife, enmity, scandal, warfare, lawsuits, recurrent calamity, and so on — Pacify all such obstructing discord.” Perhaps if we follow in the footsteps of the Catholics, “obstructing discord” is necessary to pierce darkness such as this.

But I will tell you that I felt moved to offer this 21-Day Werma Vigil in the hope that there could be another way. That we could call down the blessings of the Rigden, the enlightened leadership principle. That through the power of love and a more sacred devotion than we could ever muster in a cult, that this could bring about a change in the hearts of community members, both those that stayed and those who have left. And that it could open a crack for the light of grounded integrity in Shambhala leadership.

So I offer to you today my request that you open your heart, in whatever way feels possible, to a better outcome for our community. An outcome that includes genuine healing and repair. An outcome that includes leaders stepping forward from unexpected places and bringing clarity and sanity to this situation. An outcome that manifests these teachings in such a brilliantly true way, that the cloud of darkness enveloping this community shrinks and disappears.

Love can melt the brittle shell. We can stop playing games to avoid the inevitable, and we can begin to clean up this mess. Those who have caused harm can find ways to be accountable for what they have done and make whatever repair is possible. And in the process of this cleaning up, we can discover new meaning in the teachings and open our hearts to being sacred vessels living the Shambhala teachings.

Let us be willing to be with the uncomfortable truths. Let us be genuine courageous compassionate warriors. It is time to plant the banner of sanity.

This vigil is for quelling suffering and invoking authentic healing for the hearts of those impacted by: (1) the Shambhala community tragedy, (2) the situation between Iran and the US, and (3) the bush fires in Australia.

Everyone is welcome to join. If you do werma practice, great! If you don’t, feel free to do any form of meditation or prayer. I welcome you joining me in this 21-day vigil!

Creating a better world post-#MeToo

I dearly love women. I deeply care about women. It hurts my heart every time I see a woman disregarded, dismissed, belittled, ignored, covered in lies,  sexually violated, physically assaulted, emotionally abused, or banished from a community because she spoke Truth.

I feel fortunate to have lived in the time of #MeToo – to have been part of such a profound time of women’s empowerment! As we move forward from this profound time of breaking open long suppressed truths, new supports are needed.

I heard on the CBC news yesterday that since April of this year, almost 700 battered women in Ottawa have been turned away from Violence Against Women Shelters. These women made what may be the most courageous decision in their life – to leave an abuser – and there was no safe shelter with support to receive them. The shelters are full of women saying no to abuse – indeed they are overfull!

Locally here in Halifax, a few months ago the Avalon Sexual Assault Center had to close its waiting list because they don’t have the resource to meet the needs of women recovering from sexual violence. The Avalon home page has a bolded message saying, “Avalon is temporarily unable to receive new counselling requests. We will be directing all therapeutic counselling service to those on the waitlist until we are able to estimate wait times.” A further over-stretched violence against women service.

In the midst of the startling changes happening now, it’s important to stay connected and talk. Thank you, dear reader, for your response to my post last week about what you are doing to meet the unique challenges of our time. In the same spirit as my post last week, I am seeking conversation about ways to be of support in these changing times. 

I have been in dialog with Avalon Center and have offered to donate the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program to the center for use by women seeking support. It is a way that I am able to offer support to an overstretched system. They are looking into the possibility of how this might work for them, and we will be in continued discussion.

I, myself, received a great deal of support from the Toronto Rape Crisis Center (TRCC) over the past three years. My former counsellor, Karlene, not only cared for me in my personal journey, but she also provided invaluable strategic consultations for my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. Once I put the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program on the market in 2020, I will be donating 10% of all sales to the TRCC.

In addition, I have offered to contribute to the TRCC as a motivational speaker for women who are thinking of doing what I did with Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS). I know there are many stories that didn’t succeed as women hoped. BPS is a shining example of success, and according to Karlene, my work and BPS are already a source of inspiration to other women coming through their center.

Post-#MeToo, this is a new world that we are all actively creating. I believe each of us has something to contribute to making this a more loving and humane world. There are a lot of things happening that are encouraging. Let us nurture these things. And let us share our stories for a collective uplifting!

What are you doing to create a new world post-#MeToo? What would you like to do? Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

Dissolving the relationship between BPS and the news service

After a month of deep and heart-full discernment, the News Service volunteers, Jamie, Annette and I have decided to dissolve the connection between Buddhist Project Sunshine and the news service. They will no longer use the name Buddhist Project Sunshine or BPS. This dissolution is effective today, and the news service is taking on new branding: a new name, new website url, new FB page, and new Twitter account. 

If you’d like to learn how we have come to this decision, read on…

On February 4th of this year I formally closed Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS). At that time, I felt it would be helpful if a news service could continue to provide information about the full range of updates happening regarding the Shambhala’s awakening to the imbedded sexualized violence within the community, as well as related stories in other Buddhist communities. I asked Jamie and Annette if they would be willing to run a news service through April 2019, and then they could decide if they wanted to continue. They generously agreed, and began running a news service under the name, BPS News Service. I went completely offline at that point to engage my own process of healing.

In April the three of us came back together and met as planned. They said they would like to continue offering the news service. They felt it was providing important value, and they wanted to contribute positively to the community awakening. Jamie organized a fundraiser for their costs to continue the service. I strongly supported and promoted their fundraising campaign. They quickly met their fundraising goal, securing the news service continuing.

In May, the three of us entered into a time of discovery and discernment. We discovered that the news service they founded was based in different values from BPS. BPS was about strong activism to bring light to the abuses happening in Shambhala. The news service was born in a time of the abuses being globally recognized, and the community needing to find its way forward. Unlike the original BPS, the news service provides their stories in a neutral way, allowing space for readers to think for themselves. This seems appropriate for the current phase of awakening.

Given the distinctly different values of BPS and the News Service, we have decided to dissolve the connection between the two, while still honouring the historical evolution that led from BPS to the News Service. Please contact Jamie Moffat directly about the new news service. You can find him easily on Facebook.

I am grateful to Jamie and Annette for founding this news service, and I feel it is contributing something valuable to the community. 

The Healing is Taking Root in Buddhism

Two heartening updates to share today….


An important letter to Tibetan lamas

A large group from Rigpa have written a letter to lamas teaching in the West, asking them to break their silence and speak out regarding disclosures of abusive behaviors particularly by Sogyal Rinpoche. They also mention disclosures of abuse by Sakyong Mipham.

Read the letter at:



Buddhist Project Sunshine is establishing a long-term home!

The BPS Phase 3 Discussion Group, whose focus has been on providing a place to grieve what has been lost through the profound abuses in our Buddhist communities, is coming to a close November 10.

Given the sincere interest to develop a sane and honest community space, BPS is founding a sustainable long-term discussion group. We are sharing the model with the Phase 3 Slack Discussion Group now for feedback before we launch the new group later next week. See the Plan for the New Group.

The impact of trauma on personal meditation practice

We had our first BPS community zoom call last weekend, and it was a very positive step for our community. In that call I shared some thoughts about meditation and trauma, and I’d like to share them again here.

In one Buddhist teaching, it is taught that there are three kinds of gifts:

1. Material gifts

2. The gift of fearlessness (calming people who are afraid)

3. The gift of meditation

Each kind of gift is more valuable than the last. The reason the gift of meditation is the supreme gift is because our mind is the part of us that perceives, and meditation is a technique to work with the mind. So if we have a way to bring gentleness to our mind, then our experience of life will improve.

But… What happens when your meditation community goes into crisis?

We naturally form relational attachment to the people we learn meditation from, and the community we practice with. That attachment gets tangled up with our own personal meditation practice.

When the teacher and leadership of the community where we learned meditation turn out to be untrustworthy, it can be shocking and traumatic. Shaken spiritual community attachments can deeply impact our relationship with our own meditation. The attachment to a guru who turns out to be a sexual predator can have an even deeper impact on our meditation – and relationship to our spirituality all together.

BPS offers a space to begin to untangle the connections that are no longer serving you, to free your ability to meditate. Our next community zoom is this weekend. See details in the BPS Online Moderated Discussion Group!

Never miss out on what we are offering – Join the BPS Community Email List

Join our free BPS Online Moderated Discussion Group

Be sure to check out a very special offering happening right now: The 29 Day Meditation Invitation


We hope you can join us

Buddhist Project Sunshine: Closing One Chapter and Beginning Anew

Buddhist Project Sunshine: Closing One Chapter and Beginning Anew

By Andrea Winn, Founder – September 28, 2018


There are important things to share today, as Buddhist Project Sunshine is shifting the focus of our work away from Shambhala and into a greater space of promoting integrity of Buddhist practice in the West. The needs of the greater world are becoming more apparent as political corruption rocks the foundation of people’s feeling of safety in their everyday lives. Buddhism can help this world. To do that, it needs to be healthy Buddhism. BPS is now joyfully engaging a greater mandate of increasing the integrity of Buddhist practice in the West.

The allegations in the three published BPS reports have been shocking. Many people have found it difficult to comprehend how trusted leaders could behave in the ways that survivors have described.

The reaction of many Shambhalians following the Phase 3 report reveals that the Shambhala community needs time to process the information BPS has provided, and to come to their own conclusions about how the community needs to change.

We’re glad to see the changes that have already happened: The resignation of the Kalapa Council and a few Shastris, and Pema Chodron confirming allegations against her in the BPS Phase 3 report. May other leaders follow in her footsteps and tell the truth. Telling the truth is an important step in repairing the harm of clergy abuse and sexualized violence.

The Shambhala community needs to muster strong and accountable leadership if it wishes to be a true reference point for enlightened society for future generations.  Assuring Ösel Mukpo’s legal and ethical accountability for the harm he has caused is important. Guaranteeing that selected leaders are not predators or abusers is essential. And, there must be deep investigation and reflection about whether a feudal system of patrilineal lineage remains a viable model for the transmission of spiritual teachings.

I am very pleased with what BPS has accomplished over the past year. BPS has succeeded in shining a light on a lot of deeply hurtful, adharmic behaviour within Shambhala. Hidden truths are now known, and the level of awakening in the community has increased dramatically. We are proud of our gift of light to Shambhala.

For the past nine months, Shambhala leadership has declined to engage with BPS as a partner in change. I accept this and have released my hopes of working together. We leave it to those still inside Shambhala to reform the current dysfunctional governance system. We wish the Shambhala community the very best.

Some have responded to our shift away from serving Shambhala saying they wish BPS would still be the “watchdog” on the outside of Shambhala and “hold their feet to the fire.” If you feel that way, then we invite you to help create a Shambhala Watchdog group. BPS will connect you together. Sign up to organize a group with others who share this concern here: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/shambhala-watchdogs/

As BPS concludes its work with Shambhala, I’d like to create space for an important expression of gratitude. Many people have been involved in BPS’s campaign of light. I am grateful to all of those people! One person has been an especially generous, largely unsung bodhisattva: Carol Merchasin. Carol is a retired investigator who has been at the forefront of her field both as an investigator and as a trainer of investigators. We were inconceivably blessed to have Carol come to BPS and dedicate hundreds of hours of expert volunteer labour documenting the stories of abuse survivors in Shambhala. I have set up a Thank You Card for Carol. Please come visit and write a note at the bottom to her!  https://andreamwinn.com/thank-you-carol/

Many Shambhalians have departed the formal community and are continuing to live out the essence of these precious teachings. This same goodness will be infused in the future of BPS.

BPS will continue to support the survivors of Ösel Mukpo’s alleged clergy abuse and sexual assaults by providing advocacy and support as they heal and become ready to make statements to police. BPS will continue to stand 100% behind the survivors pursuing criminal charges. We welcome more women coming forward who want to explore making police statements, and in particular we warmly invite the under age women reported in the Phase 3 report to make contact. BPS will continue to provide community updates on the legal steps the women survivors make.

In addition, we are organizing a healing group for the women survivors of Mr. Mukpo’s alleged abusive behavior and assaults who contributed to the Phase 2 and 3 reports.

To the broader Buddhist community, BPS will also continue to offer vibrant, sane and supportive community in our facilitated on-line discussion group. We are now pleased to be offering two group meditation sessions in our zoom room each week. Learn more about our free on-line community here: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine_discussion_group/

Moving forward, BPS will be shifting its focus to two main areas: addressing past harm and proactively preventing future harm.

First, we are exploring creating in-person programs and supports for the delicate work of healing from the abuse and trauma that members of Buddhist communities have experienced.

Second, we will be working to discern healthy governance models and ethics for Buddhist communities in the West. We have several passionate and intelligent members who are keen to dig into this area, so that Buddhist communities can become safe, thriving places for Western practitioners.

As we move forward into this new frontier, it is important to celebrate what may be our most profound accomplishment so far: forming a community within BPS that is sane, genuinely kind, and intelligently compassionate. It is trauma informed, since many who have gathered have been through significant relational trauma. Here is a sneak peek into the volunteer culture operating at the heart of BPS, The Buddhist Project Sunshine Volunteer Guide: https://www.andreamwinn.com/project_sunshine/BPS_Volunteer_Orientation_Guidelines.pdf

BPS is actively reclaiming the lost jewel: Sangha. It is time for all of us to have a place where we feel valued, safe and heard. It is a wonderful healing after years (decades for some) of alienation and suffering caused by sangha corruption.

Please join me in celebrating the profound success of Buddhist Project Sunshine over the past year. Our new focus will allow us to continue fostering integrity in Buddhist communities so the blessings of Buddhism can flourish in the West. Three cheers for Buddhist Project Sunshine!


We invite you to be part of BPS!

Join the BPS community email list

Join the BPS online discussion community

Contribute financially to continuing this important work

Volunteer with BPS

Thank you, Carol


Carol and Andrea were on a zoom call with the women survivors just before releasing the Phase 3 report, and one of the women spontaneously said how grateful she is to Carol. She talked about how deeply compassionate Carol was in listening to and documenting her story. After all those years of profound suffering in silence, she said that someone listening and caring to document her story was “like a dream come true.”

Although Carol has simply been doing her job as an investigator, the simple action of listening and taking these women seriously has in fact been a deeply compassionate activity – it has been genuine bodhisattva activity – within probably the most horrific situation that any of us can imagine.

Carol has brought light to the darkness. She has shone that light in a most professional, caring and thorough way. And she has spent hours carefully crafting her memos so they are clear and digestable.

What Carol has done for the Shambhala community, completely in a volunteer capacity, is truly “imponderable”, to use the word of one past blog commenter. Many people will want to express their thanks to Carol for what she has done for our community, so we are offering this “Thank You Card to Carol” today to give you an opportunity to express what is in your heart for what Carol has done for us. Simply write your note at the bottom of this page!


Assault survivors share why they are not participating in Shambhala’s Wickwire Holm investigation


In the Kalapa Council email to the community two weeks ago, they attempted to deny allegations made by Ann in the Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 report. We are aware that Ann’s story is shocking, and it takes time to ground this new information. The depth of betrayal by loved and trusted leaders is deeply heart breaking. To be clear, BPS stands firmly behind Ann’s statement. She has been through serious assaults in the center of the Shambhala mandala, and it is long overdue for these assaults and the people involved to be brought into the light. We are happy that leaders, like Pema Chodron, are starting to come forward to confirm allegations against her in the Phase 3 report. This is important for the process of healing.

With their email, the Kalapa Council included a letter from their new employment lawyer, Steven Suflas. In response to Mr. Souflas’ letter, two of the women survivors of Osel Mukpo’s alleged sexual assaults asked BPS to share why they are not participating in Shambhala International’s Wickwire Holm investigation:

“I submitted a statement to Buddhist Project Sunshine detailing abuse I experienced from Osel Rangdrol Mukpo (Mr Mukpo) aka Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, but decided not to speak with Wickwire Holm, the law firm hired by Alex Halpern who serves as attorney for Shambhala’s board of directors and Mr Mukpo.  I have no doubt that Wickwire is a respected firm, but I question whether it can serve as a neutral third-party investigator when its client is the organization that has covered-up Mr Mukpo’s egregious behaviors for many years. Additionally, Shambhala has not stated how it intends to use Wickwire’s findings or if it would share the complete findings with the Shambhala community. Therefore, I suggest an independent monitor be engaged to investigate the abuse claims against Mr Mukpo.”


“I made my decision to come forward about being sexually assaulted by SMR after many years of silence.  I saw that finally safe space had been created and I will be forever grateful to Andrea W and Carol M for their professionalism and depth of understanding of trauma.  They have given me a protected place to finally step forward and speak my truth.  In all of my interactions with Carol and Andrea, I have only experienced support to make my own decisions that are best for myself.  Any suggestion that I have been coerced by them in any way is both absurd and insulting.  What I experienced with SMR is criminal behavior and I deeply regret not filing criminal charges years ago.  I was beaten down and terrified and so I fled.  Even with as much healing as I have done over the years, the terror remains and safe space to speak of the sexual assaults is imperative.  I am not participating in the Wickwire investigation for the simple reason that this law firm has been hired by Shambhala USA, an organization run by my perpetrator, SMR.  How could this possibly be a safe place for me?  The so-called third party investigation being conducted by Wickwire smacks of a whitewash.  The firm was retained by Shambhala and the final report goes to Shambhala.  The new board, likely to be comprised of Sakyang loyalists will make a decision about what to release publicly or not.  How can anyone think that this is a legitimate third party investigation?  For me a third party investigation has grown in a grassroots fashion with BPS and this is sufficient for me.  SMR has committed crimes.  He should be held accountable for his actions by our legal system and charged in a court of law.  It is my hope that other survivors out there will know that BPS offers a safe place to tell your story.  I can say for me that this has been one of the most healing experiences of my life and I know that this healing energy can infuse the entire Shambhala mandala.  I am so very grateful to those of you who have spoken and written in support of the survivors.  Your words mean the world to me and you are in my heart.”

To conclude, here are seven quick observations from reading Mr. Souflas’s letter:

  1. He must have somehow managed to get an early draft of the Phase 3 report, as he is almost entirely citing outdated information about the Wickwire Holm investigation that is not in the Phase 3 report we published. He should use the published report for any response to the report.
  2. He is a workplace lawyer citing workplace laws. Shambhala is a spiritual community not a workplace, and there are significantly different dynamics as such. The women alleging being assaulted were not employees of Shambhala.
  3. BPS called for an independent investigation in the Phase 2 report to investigate Osel Mukpo. Mr. Suflas says this investigation is “in response to allegations of widespread harm” which distracts attention from the person, Osel Mukpo, who needs to be investigated
  4. To say that An Olive Branch conducts workplace investigations is simply false
  5. Both Andrea and Carol explained in the Phase 3 report why the Shambhala investigation is not sufficiently independent. Mr. Suflas does not address that and simply asserts his opinion saying “There can be no question that this investigation will be sufficiently independent”
  6. He refers to “Shambhala’s outside general counsel, Alex Halpern”. Mr. Halpern has been a Shambhala member from the beginning of the community.
  7. He says Wickwire has been “given their responsibility to make sure that Shambhala’s employees and contractors do not engage in misconduct while serving the Shambhala community.” Again, since Osel Mukpo is not an employee of the community, he has taken the lens off the true object of investigation. And since Shambhala is not a workplace, again, his workplace law perspective really isn’t relevant to a spiritual community

Carol Merchasin emailed Mr. Souflas on September 14, 2018 to inform him he was working from an early draft of the report and to offer some suggestions about the investigation, but he did not respond to her.

Would you like to be able to talk about your response to this information? Join the free Buddhist Project Sunshine on-line discussion group for a great space for reflection and connection.

Also, you can join the BPS email list to stay current and have access to all of our offerings. Sign up for the BPS email list



Buddhist Project Sunshine will be making a major announcement tomorrow (Friday September 28, 2018).



BPS Healing Message

As promised, Buddhist Project Sunshine is offering a healing message today for everyone impacted by the situation in Shambhala, including those who have left the community.

We understand we have now entered into a time of profound grief. The growing BPS community wants to support the delicate process of moving through the painful experience of grief, betrayal and emptiness that many are feeling.

The BPS Discussion Group community is beginning regular group meditation sessions next Tuesday. An intention will be made for the practice to benefit all of those impacted by the Shambhala situation.

We continue to affirm our confidence in the ability of the Shambhala community to do the right thing and create a new culture that properly addresses abusers and honours and respects the dignity and tenderness of all people so that the Shambhala dharma can flourish.

If you are interested in learning more about the BPS Discussion Group, see our BPS Discussion Group information page.

BPS Update September 6, 2018

BPS healing message coming soon

We understand the distress and grief community members are experiencing after reading the Phase 3 report and learning of things none of us would ever have wanted to happen to students within this community. In response, we have formed a Wisdom Circle to look at how BPS can offer further support through healing energy practices and a community healing message. This will be coming soon.


BPS On-line Discussion Group is open, and you are invited

We are pleased to offer a moderated on-line discussion space to explore an inspiring and honouring new approach to sangha that dismantles past abusive practices and behaviours. We offered this on-line group before, and it was so successful that people asked us to offer another one. Please join us!

Learn more and register


Visionary words

“You are attending to Buddhist Project Sunshine with so much grace and care. I’ve been struck by how your energy has always prioritized care and concern for the hurt and the trauma of everyone involved. There is so much sexual abuse happening in the world – in the Catholic Church, the #metoo movement – and too often these initiatives to uncover abuse are done in such a cold manner. It feels like all that happens is that abuse is uncovered, as though that is enough. But where is the care for the people in the community who are reeling from the hurt, who are picking up the pieces and trying to understand and express their deep pain?

I am in awe of the care that permeates BPS. I truly believe that this initiative needs to serve as a model for how other groups can and should operate. BPS exemplifies a genuinely human way of moving forward in the light of abuse which is actually directed toward people’s healing. I can’t emphasize that enough: BPS is so incredibly special.”

– Katie, a BPS Volunteer

BPS Phase 3 report coming next Thursday

After the last memo Buddhist Project Sunshine released on the alleged sexual assault in Chile, more women came forward with a deeper level of detail that I feel is important for the community to be aware of. BPS will publish our Phase 3 report next Thursday, August 23.

If you have not seen the latest article by Matthew Remski, Shambhala Investigator Tells Sakyong Accusers Not to Talk to Anyone, it is worth reading.

Thank you to the community for your bravery and on-going good heart as we walk the necessary steps to regain integrity for our spiritual path. I look forward to connecting next Thursday.

New BPS Administrative Assistant & BPS Feeding Your Demons event with Lama Tsultrim Allione

Buddhist Project Sunshine is developing into a more stable organization. Financial support is crucial for our stabilizing and continuing to serve as a beacon of sanity. Also, embracing a new level of volunteerism is going to be the way of the future for our continued service both to the Shambhala community and to helping create a new vision for Buddhism in this century.

I am delighted to announce that I will now be assisted by an Administrative Assistant, Vallie Stearns Anderson. She comes with the highest endorsements of those who know her. Please find her bio below. Please note: Vallie will now be responding to Buddhist Project Sunshine emails.

I am also sharing the video of the special talk and Feeding Your Demons event we hosted with Lama Tsultrim Allione. She spoke about the trends happening now in terms of abuses in Buddhist communities, and within Shambhala specifically. She offered words of wisdom and skilful means for relating with these challenges.



New Buddhist Project Sunshine Administrative Assistant

Vallie-Stearns Anderson, has been meditating and practicing with the Shambhala community since 2001.  She is active with the meditation groups in New Brunswick since 2005 as a Meditation Instructor, and is currently the Coordinator of Practice and Education in Sackville, NB.  She also holds a leadership position in the Dorje Kasung, the protection pillar of the Shambhala community.  She has been active for over six years with the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity, lobbying for economic justice for women.  In her work life, she has been active in the labour movement as a campaigner, negotiator and public policy researcher.  Prior to that she spent 15 years in the feminist movement working against sexual and other forms of violence against women and children, in public education, crisis counselling and emergency shelter services.  All this experience informs her present commitment to supporting survivors of sexual abuse and to the healing of the Shambhala community.



Lama Tsultrim Allione leads Feeding Your Demons® with the Buddhist Project Sunshine community

In these times of facing our greatest fears in a Buddhist spiritual community, we are blessed with this special program with Lama Tsultrim Allione. Lama Tsultrim said she appreciates the groundedness and authentic engagement people are having in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group, and she felt moved to reach out and help by offering this special Feeding Your Demons discussion and practice session. Learn more about Lama Tsultrim at: https://taramandala.org . If you are interested in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group, see more details here: Buddhist Project Sunshine Discussion Group

watch video now

In gratitude for the Shambhala dakinis

These are times of startling brilliance. Waves of gratitude have been hitting my email inbox as community members express sincere thanks for the light Buddhist Project Sunshine has brought to abuses happening for decades within Shambhala. Thank you so much for your gratitude – it deeply touches my heart.

This is a community-wide movement at this point, as we tend our grief and betrayal, and as we draw upon the rich resources of our training in warriorship to chart a good way forward for ourselves and our service of all humanity. This is a profound time of recovering the sacred ground of our lineage.

I found myself searching for language for the women who came forward and shared their stories of abuse by Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo (aka Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche). I didn’t want to call them “victims” or “survivors”. I feel these women are far more holy. The women who have come forward and shared the clear testimony of their abuse are strong, brilliant women. They are spiritually devout. They applied their body, speech and mind to their pursuit of their spirituality in relationship to Mr. Mukpo. They walked each step through his mind-bending abuse. They were cast aside. They were shunned by the community. They left, and beyond all odds picked up their pieces and formed better lives for themselves. And then when the opportunity arose for them to share their stories to bring light to a level of abuse more horrific than most of us could imagine, they stood up and shared what happened to them for the benefit of the community.

I feel the best name for these women is, “Shambhala dakinis.” They are a true blessing to us. The gift of their pain and their sanity is truly unsurpassable.

Because of the nature of the BPS Phase 2 report, their stories were anonymous. This means they have received no letters of thanks. I would like to open an opportunity today to give thanks to these courageous women. Please post your gratitudes to them below. And please do share this blog on your Facebook pages and with friends. Let’s spread this far and wide so this community can give abundant thanks to these noble women.


NOTE: The purpose of this blog post is to provide a place for community members to express their thanks to the women who came forward and shared their experiences of abuse by Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo. Only those thanks will be approved below. If you have other thoughts, please share them in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group. If you are not currently part of our discussion group, learn more and connect with the BPS Discussion Group.

Buddhist Project Sunshine Update – July 19, 2018

I had a vision yesterday morning of rich, fertile, feminine earth. A place where we can all draw the strength needed to face what is occurring in Shambhala. A place where we can receive good nourishment for our spiritual practices and path. A place where we can grow good things.

I’m seeing with the general MeToo movement, and with what is happening in Shambhala and other Buddhist traditions, there is a strong call for feminine leadership. It clearly doesn’t mean all women. Many women have bought into the male power structures and manipulative dynamics; they benefit from that system and so they perpetuate it.

We all know what it feels like when you encounter an authentically strong woman – someone you can trust and grow with. I have met women like that. I see women like that gathering around the work of Buddhist Project Sunshine. There are some pretty awesome men and gender queer folk gathering around the strong feminine energy of this project too.

We all have our heroes, and for me, Yeshe Tsogyal is the ultimate feminine presence. I have strongly wished her presence here for Shambhala as we go through the steps of cleaning up our lineage. I feel she was the most powerful woman leader ever. Tibetans fervently prayed to her for love and protection because they knew of her great dedication to their welfare. I feel her deep protection for Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism – and for Padmasmabhava’s terma teachings. The Shambhala teachings are regarded as terma teachings. I believe she wants them protected. And I believe she is outraged at what Mipham has done to this sacred lineage.

I am proud of the Shambhala sanghas who have been writing letters that speak from the true values of Shambhala. One of the first letters to come out was from the Victoria Shambhala Center, and it set a tone of gentle yet fierce bravery, that I see some other centres following suit with.

Here’s another example. I got a lovely email from the director of the London Shambhala Center this week, and I’m sharing it here with permission: 

Dear Andrea,

I’m sure you receive a lot of messages – I just wanted to say thank you for your commitment to justice and healing. Your work is an inspiration to us. As our community gathers in shock and disbelief, a pattern is also emerging in that many of us felt there was something wrong with Shambhala, though some of us didn’t exactly know what or why. We want to help create something better, something that lives up to the principles we have been practicing with. At the same time, I am willing to walk away from Shambhala if it does not look like the deep and fundamental changes that are needed are happening, and I have spoken to others in our community who feel the same way.

We are also making your reports, as well as other resources, available to everyone on our mailing list (not just members) and will be adding them to the London Shambhala website.

With much appreciation,

Lee Howson,

Director of Shambhala London

We have studied and practiced Shambhala warriorship for decades, and I feel we are now witnessing the fruits of these decades of practice. I feel so grateful to and for all of you!

On the train of gratitude now, I have to say I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the messages people have been sending me of your thanks for what I and the Buddhist Project Sunshine team have done. I love hearing about how it has positively impacted your path.

I am also deeply, deeply grateful for the flood of donations that have come in. I confess that I thought Buddhist Project Sunshine was over in June, as our funding had run out. 

Now, with more donations, we have an opportunity to envision a future for Buddhist Project Sunshine to continue it’s work. I’m hopeful we can raise further funds to provide me with a half-time salary to continue as the project lead, and to hire an administrative person. At least for now, we have money to ensure Buddhist Project Sunshine can pay for it’s basic monthly costs like having a website for the foreseeable future. This has brought some security for things to continue, and I want everyone who has contributed to know how very, very grateful I am for that!

I was asked by one of my mentors to post something about, “This work doesn’t happen in a vacuum”. We have witnessed Buddhist Project Sunshine playing a key role in a new dawn of possibility in the Shambhala community. My mentor felt it is important for the sangha to know about the toll of doing this kind of work.

I worked for 16 months without pay to create the foundation of what we have now (January 2017 – April 2018). I not only donated my time, which has been more than full time since January 2018, but I also donated the use of all of my business systems.

I’m not sure if people realize this, but Buddhist Project Sunshine has been an internet initiative. All of the change we created happened through the communication opportunities of the internet. I have never met any of my collaborators in person, except our Chod practitioners. Everyone else I have only met on zoom and email. These relationships have been built through the Internet. 

I think it is important to realize that the success of Buddhist Project Sunshine was made possible because I used my business internet systems and my computer science training to build these many initiatives.

Beyond my contribution of time and business systems, I have: 

  • Provided strong leadership and project management
  • Did 1 year of research into the sexual abuse problem in Shambhala 
  • Wrote a significant Phase 1 report that opened conversations and the first disclosure from the Kalapa Council about Abhorent sexual behaviours of some Shambhala leaders
  • Hosted a 3 week Facebook discussion forum after the phase 1 report
  • Found staff to facilitate that Facebook discussion
  • De escalated high drama situations in that Facebook discussion
  • Coordinated an intensive  phase 2 fundraising campaign in March/April
  • I have been overseeing the investigation into SMR
  • Doing ALL technology work – setting up web pages, program registration pages, etc.
  • Given all tech support for people having trouble accessing the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group
  • Keeping in weekly contact with our community outreach team
  • Fostering ally relationships with women involved with revealing Sogyal Rinpoche 
  • Wrote the phase 2 report and asked for contributions from collaborators
  • Did behind the scene work to foster relationships so we could successfully produce phase 2 report
  • Managed all people involved with the report ensuring we met our publication deadline
  • Asked people to do chod for Shambhala and BPS, gave updates and requests for practice
  • Composing and publishing numerous blog posts
  • Created a safe emotional container for the SMR abuse survivors who have come forward; 
  • Envisioned a cutting edge social media discussion group forum for the Shambhala community to process their shock and grief 
  • Spent many hours implementing the discussion forum technologically
  • Screened, signed up, and oriented discussion facilitators
  • Co-leading the group discussion program
  • In June and July I have spent over 5 hours a week facilitating our  excellent discussion
  • I have led the team of facilitators
  • I have read many hundreds of emails and FB messages, and answered most of them
  • I set up bookkeeping software and have been doing the Buddhist Project Sunshine bookkeeping as I have time
  • I have been doing many media interviews so word can get out to community members who might not otherwise know what is happening in Shambhala
  • I have dealt with the numerous attacks from Shambhala International, including their fake mediation, their fictitious report of allegations against me in Toronto, and their threat of a lawsuit if I published the Phase 2 report
  • I have dealt with personnel issues, including firing people who turned out to be a poor fit for working with Buddhist Project Sunshine 
  • I found a lawyer and have attended meetings and numerous email exchanges with this lawyer to protect us from Shambhala International’s threats
  • I manually thank every person who donates to Buddhist Project Sunshine, and sometimes post thank you videos on my FB page

All of this has taken more time and energy than probably any of us can imagine, and it has been done out of my passion for justice for the victims and my desire for a healthy Shambhala community. 

I am truly tired from all of this, and I am praying to every spiritual energy in the universe to bring more volunteer help so that this burden of over-work can come off of me. I asked for volunteers a couple of months ago and there was no response. I hope that as people get more grounded with the community changes, there will be people who want to join us and be part of Buddhist Project Sunshine. You can help us move forward with exciting and important work ahead!

Now that we are more financially secure and can afford our beautiful Buddhist Project Sunshine website, I can soon post blogs there, as well as a formal call for volunteers. May our new secure home on our website be blessed!

Please share this update through social media, as we have no other way to get our messages out.

Visit our main information page at: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine/

Update On The Findings Of Sexual Misconduct Of The Sakyong

Buddhist Project Sunshine’s investigator, Carol Merchasin, has prepared an update on the findings of sexual misconduct of the Sakyong. An excerpt from her update:

“Within 24 hours of the Phase II Report’s June 28thairing on the Buddhist Project Sunshine blog and on Facebook, a woman came forward to tell the story of her 2002 encounter with the Sakyong in Chile. I interviewed her several times and I interviewed a corroborating witness as well.  I also interviewed a kusung who came forward and was able to corroborate certain details.  Once again, I will say, as I did in my prior report, that this can only be considered a preliminary investigation.  A full investigation must give the Sakyong, leaders of SI and others the opportunity to give their version of this incident.”

Read her full update: Update On The Findings Of Sexual Misconduct Of The Sakyong


Also, the Buddhist Project Sunshine Discussion and Loving Kindness Program is still open to all people who have a connection with Shambhala. Registration closes this Friday, July 13. Learn more and register


Let’s celebrate Andrea’s retirement and all that has been accomplished!

Today I am retiring from a job that has been the hardest thing I have ever done – cracking open healing light on a deeply suppressed systemic infestation of sexual abuse within the most precious Shambhala community. I would like to take a moment to honour this journey with you, as I pass the baton of social activism on to the community itself to continue this noble work.

First, I would like to thank the many people who have helped along the way. Important elders are thanked within the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports. Others have helped in other ways, such as community outreach. Because of the nature of this work, people often don’t want to be publicly named, because it puts them at risk of being attacked. My valued collaborators, you know who you are – know that I am deeply grateful for all you have contributed to this noble initiative.

Second, I would like to acknowledge and deeply thank the 147 people who donated $11,424 to Buddhist Project Sunshine, far surpassing our fundraising goal of $8,846. I am truly blown away by the response and support of this initiative! It makes me feel that all this effort was worth it, and that there may be something important here to continue forward with. Please know how much this means to me, and that I will bring care and attention to the planning for a future for this work.

My retirement today is not a full retirement, because I will continue doing things beyond the activism work – more peaceful things.


Here is what I will continue to do for the next while:

1. Co-leading the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group through July 31, when it completes

2. Doing the Buddhist Project Sunshine bookkeeping, including posting April – June financial statements on the Buddhist Project Sunshine website by July 31

3. Doing follow up interviews with three journalists who have expressed interest in attending to this story in a deeper, more mindful way

4. Passing on information from Carol Merchasin to the community as her investigation continues

5. Setting up a discussion space for a group of potential leaders who may be able to take Buddhist Project Sunshine forward

6. Posting updates about how we discern a future for Buddhist Project Sunshine


I am formally retiring from my activism role today. I will no longer be:

1. Addressing Shambhala International’s misinformation and cover ups

2. Doing interviews with journalists, beyond the three who I have agreed to meet with


I must say, I chuckled when I read what one donor said on our GoFundMe site, “Thank you so much for everything you have done. I think of you as our very own Ekajati, protector of goodness.” Well, in some ways this is what I have done for this community. And now, with me retiring from this role, it is time for the Ekajati protector of goodness to be invoked in each of you in this community. May the torch of Ekajati now pass to you!

What is ahead for me? First and foremost, I am going to have time to attend to my health and paying down the $37,500 debt I have accumulated. During the course of Buddhist Project Sunshine, I developed a cyst on my left ovary. In the reading I have done, this symbolizes wounding of the feminine and overworking. Perhaps my body has reflected problems in Shambhala, and in greater society. I have an MRI for the cyst next Thursday – please think of me. 

I have been approached about two job offers in the past couple of weeks. The first I have already begun: working on a research project to get girls more interested in Computer Science careers. This is my own story, and I am thrilled to contribute to this area! Second, a large research team at the IWK Health Sciences Center in Halifax specializing in distance healing is interested in hiring me. I have an interview next Tuesday. Please think of me.

Going forward, I will attend lovingly to my femininity and reduce my work load – which was extreme and indeed inhuman to produce what has been produced through this project. I ask you to join me in a great sigh of relief as I lay down this burden today.

I love you all. Every ounce of effort I have exerted over the past year and a half has been done with that love for you. May you be surrounded with the peaceful light of awareness! May you be happy! May you be free to practice dharma for the great benefit of all sentient beings!






By Richard Edelman, Buddhist Project Sunshine Collaborator

I would like to personally praise Andrea Winn for her brave and insightful work in creating Buddhist Project Sunshine.  I have witnessed her work first hand and will call it like I see it.

What she has accomplished is something that needs to be recognized not only by the Shambhala community but by Buddhists everywhere.

In a short period of time, Andrea Winn and Buddhist Project Sunshine have:

  • Completed a professionally and sensitively conducted forensic investigation into the facts of sexual and spiritual abuse within the Shambhala community.  We now know that Shambhala is among the dharma communities worldwide which have been ravaged by sexual and spiritual abuse. This investigation has proven that a serious situation truly exists which demands that Shambhala walk its talk with courage, integrity, and love for those who have been hurt.  It is a model of right action for dharma communities everywhere.
  • Created a discussion forum for those affected by this daunting psychological and spiritual crisis to share their voices in a secure environment moderated by a professional psychologist who is also a dharma teacher. This has been the first time many have encountered a sacred space for testifying to and having one’s voice heard and acknowledged regarding their suffering and witnessing of such spiritual harms. This is unprecedented and opens a pathway for healing wounded sanghas.
  • Informed the world through the media of the challenging situation within Shambhala while modeling how it can be met with compassion and integrity.
  • Encouraged those involved to maintain their daily practice and embody it in their efforts.
  • Offered heart-felt and wisely considered assistance to Shambhala International in embodying its professed ideals in ways they thus far have not been able to do.

This has been a charnel ground crisis that would challenge the bravest of hearts. She has faced with sensitivity and grace the grievous wounds of a sublime spiritual legacy that has been damaged through its emergence within an embattled world.  Andrea has attended to the wounds of those who have suffered within that community with inspiration. Her modeling of how we wounded and imperfect beings can nevertheless rise to the occasion of meeting spiritual challenges is inspiring.

Andrea Winn has accomplished all of this on a shoe string at best. She has more than earned genuine and meaningful support for what she has done and deserves the praise and generosity of us all, especially those within the Shambhala world.  I therefore appeal to everybody who recognizes the value of what she has accomplished to make whatever financial contribution they’re inspired to make, great or small, to Andrea Winn.

We will all dedicate the merit.

Richard Edelman


If you feel moved to make a financial offering to Andrea, there are three ways you can make your offering. You can:

  1. Donate through our GoFundMe page and say you want the donation to go to Andrea
  2. e-transfer your offering to andrea@andreamwinn.com, or
  3. send a check to her at:

Andrea Winn

1083 Queen Street, Suite 257

Halifax, NS  B3H 0B2

(Note: This mailing address is active through July 31, 2018)

Andrea’s last words

I’m hanging up my social activist hat tomorrow. My activist retirement has been on the horizon for a week now, and tomorrow will be the official day. I hope you will join me in a little celebration tomorrow of the work accomplished during this journey. I’ll put up my retirement post tomorrow, including what I will continue doing, what I will no longer be doing, and the plan for exploring a future for Buddhist Project Sunshine.

Today I offer my final Buddhist Project Sunshine activist words, and I hope they will be of benefit to some of you.


Buddhist Project Sunshine’s ongoing investigation

Another woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by the Sakyong has come forward. Carol Merchasin, the Buddhist Project Sunshine investigator, has continued investigating. She will have an update that I will post possibly as soon as next week.


Kalapa Council’s conflict of interest

Apparently rather than focusing efforts on hiring a neutral third-party investigator this past week, the Kalapa Council hired a PR firm led by Matthew Hiltzik, who got his start with Harvey Weinstein at Miramax in the 1990s. He has represented an infamous band of clients that includes Glenn Beck, Don Imus, and Donald Trump’s aide Hope Hicks.

I am disappointed to learn this.

I understand that three senior members of the Kalapa Council are implicated in the allegations of the Sakyong’s sexual misconduct. I see a clear conflict of interest.


Allegations of the Sakyong’s financial abuse of the Shambhala community

There are some common aspects to wife abuse. One common aspect is the husband isolates the wife so she has no support and is focused on him for everything. Another aspect is he controls her financially.

I have seen these dynamics at play in the Sakyong’s relationship with the Shambhala community. A number of people have told me insider stories about this. One person emailed me this past week. He gave me permission to share what he said:

Having a financial background, I explored Shambhala’s budgets and financial reports. When I saw the money being spent to keep the Sakyong’s family living a life of comfort (e.g., servants, cooks, nannies, personal secretaries, etc.), I was totally turned off. Very non-Buddhist in my view. To this day, Shambhala uses its various media vehicles to promote the Sakyong’s books, without any benefit of book sale proceeds. Free advertising, how nice! I engaged in a long dialogue with Richard Reoch about all this, but it became quite clear to me that nobody within Shambhala was going to challenge the status quo. They were too enthralled with worshiping the king!


Steps for cleaning up the misconduct at the core

For this community to heal, Shambhala International must appoint a neutral third party investigator to investigate the Sakyong, the Kalapa Council, and some members of the Kusung.

If by their silence the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council are denying that any of these allegations are true, then they must appoint a third party investigator.  Of course, if on the other had, they know that these are true, they need to say that.

In an investigation of sexual misconduct in any organization, it is standard practice for those implicated in the investigation to step down from all official duties pending the investigation. The Sakyong and the Kalapa Council should step down while a proper investigation is carried out.


Shrine rooms and Shambhala liturgies

There is a conversation thread happening in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group about how centers are relating with pictures of the Sakyong in their shrine rooms, and references in liturgies.

I would like to strongly encourage centers to cover pictures of the Sakyong for an interim period. In my view, the covering should be done with the utmost gentleness and respect for all the Sakyong has contributed to our community and lineage.

I would further suggest that individual centers can reflect on the unique culture of your local center and choose a cloth covering that reflects the best of your culture and your deepest intentions for healing for everyone affected by this situation. You could begin by using a white cloth covering, and then meet and discern a suitable healing covering.

Similarly, you could cover sections of chants that speak of the Mukpos with a kind covering.

I am emphasizing taking small steps and doing them with the deepest of kindness, because the changes we want can only come from a place of the best intention.


The financial welfare of the community

I encourage the community to consider carefully what parts of Shambhala are vital services. For instance, Shambhala Online provides teachings to people in rural areas who have no access to local teachings. Please consider supporting vulnerable parts of Shambhala who need help during this time of community transition.

I encourage centers to open their doors to inviting Buddhist teachers who can be of most help to come and offer teachings for where your community is at this time. There are important Buddhist teachers who have long-term relationships with our community who can be invited to teach.

Please be open minded and consider who can be invited to teach and/or lead programs that will benefit your local community. There is no reason why cancelling the Sakyong’s teaching schedule needs to mean the downfall of centers. Let us take this as an opportunity for a revival of true Dharma. Please open your hearts to asking for the teachings that will be of most benefit for your communities, including secular teachings on abuse, trauma and community healing.

I will also remind you of the useful tool I promoted early in Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2: The Miq Maw anti-violence community toolkit: http://awrcsasa.ca/community-development-social-advocacy/responding-preventing-sexual-violence-paqtnkek-project/


My offer to Mipham

Once I finish my service of the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group July 31, if I can be of help to Mipham in his journey of healing, I will bring my heart to that.


Sangha member words

Dear Andrea,

I was able to successfully navigate GoFundMe to make a donation.
Thank you for your concern about my Weekthun plans. There will always be other opportunities in the future. What is important NOW is supporting the Project Sunshine and it’s dedicated team.
I have a good feeling that because of BPS the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sanghas will once again flourish and be a safe place for all. The truth will prevail and positive changes will happen thanks to you and the people who helped you on this journey.
Namaste and take care.
Elisabeth : )


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Horizon Analysis of the Sakyong’s “apology” letter


We all grew up with caregivers, and we looked to them to help us sort things out. Then some of us grew up and engaged spiritual traditions with leaders who we looked to for answers.

At some point, however, it seems to become necessary to learn how to listen to our own inner wisdom. Maybe no one taught you how to listen to your inner wisdom (they don’t teach it in school!) Maybe you have already learned how to listen to your inner wisdom. Maybe you would enjoy refreshing your  ability to listen to you inner wisdom today.

Whatever the case, I am encouraging people affected by the upheaval around Sakyong Mipham to take some quiet time to listen to your inner wisdom. This could be a way to get your feet on the ground and have more meaningful discussions.

The method I proposed in the Phase 2 report is called the “Horizon Analysis,” and it is described in Appendix 1. I used it myself this past week to more fully understand what I felt around the Sakyong’s “apology” letter sent out on Monday.

I’m sharing my Horizon Analysis of it with you today, in the hopes that it may inspire you to do your own Horizon Analysis. We are all individuals and will have different experiences of that letter. It can be helpful to get in between the bones and down to the heart of what that letter meant to you personally.

I offer mine with love:


NAME: Andrea Winn                                                           Date: June 26, 2018


1. Reading(s) (by Author): Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s (SMR) “apology” letter June 25, 2018


2.(a) What is my strongest attraction or attractions to the reading/s. Why?

<1>” I write to you with … a mind of self-reflection.”  I have learned from talking with many people personally impacted by SMR’ gross and prolonged transgressions, and deep reflection would be necessary to begin to repair such transgressions.

<2>”I am now making a public apology.” I am ready to hear him make an apology and I acknowledge he has not yet done so, as it is not included in this letter.

<3> “Like all of you, I am human and on the path.” He recognizes he is human and is not putting himself up on a “guru pedestal”.

<4> “It is my fervent wish that we be a community that relates to each other with compassion and kindness, so I have offered teachings and written practices to support such a culture.”  I have heard that he has been offering teachings on kindness, and this is not a result of his being accused of abuse.

<5> ” I am committed to engaging in this process with you.” This is a sign that SMR is willing to go through a true process of reconciliation, which will be very painful for him.


(b) What might be the source of my attractions(s) to the reading/s?

<1> In my heart I *hope* that SMR understands how deep his transgressions are and that he will do what is truly necessary to begin the process of repair. I’m hoping his heart will shift towards authentic healing that would clearly begin with an extended time of very deep inner reflection.

<2> I deeply desire repair to this situation, and I am hopeful that he understands it will begin with him making an apology, and I hope it will come soon!

<3> I feel deeply relieved that SMR is not expecting his transgressions to be excused because of misguided understandings of samaya – I’m relieved he is admitting he can and *has* done wrong.

<4> This may be a sign of an authentic wish – it may be something genuine from SMR.

<5> It feels good to hear him say that he is committed to the painful road ahead. It gives me hope, and in fact joy, to hear of his commitment to engage.


3. (a) What is my strongest resistance or resistances to the reading/s. Why?

<1> “I write to you with … tenderness” After reading the impact statements of his violence towards vulnerable women, I doubt SMR’s ability to know what tenderness is, and this rings false when I read it.

<2> “I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community” He is using “relationships” in a way that is commonly known to be between equals. From hearing about his “relationships” with the women who have approached me with their stories, these relationships have involved force, violence, rape, public humiliation, abandonment, spiritual abuse, and other unbearable forms of violence. In our society, we do not call these “relationships”.

<3> “women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships” He seems to be trying to put the responsibility of his alleged violence onto the women suggesting that they “felt harmed” rather than naming what actually happened, which is in contrast to what the women themselves said that he violated them physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually.

<4> “I am now making a public apology.” He says he is making an apology, but he does not say what he is apologizing for.

<5> “over the years, I have apologized personally to people who have expressed feeling harmed by my conduct” Again, he is dodging responsibility by suggesting people “felt” harmed rather than actually were harmed by his actions. He seems to be implying that when he has caused gross harm that an apology is all that is needed.

<6> “I have also engaged in mediation and healing practices with those who have felt harmed.” He is again suggesting women “felt” harmed rather than actually were harmed. He seems to be suggesting mediation and healing practices as a form of addressing violence with integrity, and yet what I have learned from the women who I have spoken with and whose stories are documented in this report, his violence towards women has continued for decades, so therefore I don’t understand why he would be suggesting that he has made truly done anything to repair these situations.

<7> “I have been, and will continue to be, committed to healing these wounds.” This is in stark contrast to my learning from women that they have been living in isolated pain and silence for decades due to his reluctance to heal these wounds.

<8> “As the lineage holder of Shambhala” He is implying that he is the sole lineage holder of Shambhala, which is not true. We all are.

<9> “I want to demonstrate how we can move toward a culture of kindness in line with our legacy of teachings. ” This letter is in direct contrast to his suggestion, as he is demonstrating how to cover up truth, avoid responsibility, and abandon both the women who have alleged his sexual misconduct and the Shambhala community entrusted in his care.

<10> “I am now entering a period of self-reflection and listening.” On the surface that sounds good and appropriate, but he does not say what this means. Is he going into retreat? Is he opening up a forum for women to share how they have been harmed by him? Is he going to open a forum to hear how his actions and deceptions are impacting his students around the world?

<11> “It is important to me that you know I am here, continuing to do my best.” I don’t feel he is here.

<12> “it is important to me that we continue to create a caring community where harm does not occur” So far all we have discovered is that this community is falling short of that as more and more people are coming forward who say they have experienced gross harm, so I do not understand what he is suggesting we continue to do.

<13> “For me, it always comes back to feeling my own heart, my own humanity, and my own genuineness. It is with this feeling that I express to all of you my deep love and appreciation.” I see no evidence in this letter of him feeling his own heart, his humanity or his genuineness, so it is confusing to hear him say that he has done that. When he suggests that he is expressing deep love from that false place, the love feels false.


(B) What might be the source of my resistance(s) to the reading/s?

<1> I am deeply disheartened by lying from the head of my lineage – it brings a great shadow on my feeling of connection with Shambhala, and a great shadow on my hopefulness of living.

<2> This feels to me like he is painting a fake picture to mislead people and possibly to avoid a lawsuit.

<3> I don’t like feeling he is trying to avoid the truth, because I want true healing and reconciliation, which requires him to face the truth himself and to speak it publicly.

<4> I feel I am doubting him. I feel mislead. I want him to apologize, and he is suggesting he is apologizing right here, yet he is not apologizing for anything here. So I feel he is trying to mislead me, and that just feels awful! I want him to be a man who can speak truth and mean it – I want him to be a leader who stands truly behind his words. I *want* to be able to believe in him again, and this takes one step further back from that happening.

<5> I feel angry that he might even consider an apology as a remedy – as a way of making things right – after he has harmed people in the ways that have been expressed to me and are documented in this report. It disrupts my sense of the world making sense – because the leader of my spiritual community is saying something that is so grossly wrong for the context of the situation.

<6> It feels like he is trying to make this sound like enlightened society – it sounds all “ladee-da”, and at the same time women are telling me a very different and dark reality involving sexual predation and gross spiritual harm. I am looking for a return to integrity, truth, and genuine reconciliation which will undoubtedly involve a lot of pain and right-shame for SMR. I want him to turn and face the music so we can begin the healing process. I really want healing.

<7> It is painful to feel SMR is continuing to evade truth and reconciliation.

<8> This bothers me because it implies we need to rely on him to clean up his act. I know that we do not. Each of us has been empowered as a holder of the Shambhala lineage, and I know that it is time that we take responsibility for the care and continuation of this lineage, with or without SMR, independent of his decision of whether or not to do his own rehabilitation and healing.

<9> I feel abandoned by the official holder of my lineage, and that sucks.

<10> I feel further distrust since it sounds good on the surface but he is not being upfront and saying what exactly he has decided to do. I feel left dangling, and I hate that feeling. I am looking for solid security, and for the leader of this community to speak truth now.

<11> I see no sign of SMR being present right now, and that is deeply disturbing in the face of how important the Shambhala lineage is. I deeply desire for him to take responsibility and come now and be truly present and truly accountable to this community.

<12> I feel he is trying to cover something up, and that is disorienting. I am ready for truth to land on the ground, so we can move forward together as a community.

<13> This letter has brought me to an even deeper place of realizing there is nothing to work with in SMR at this time. It hurts. It is disappointing. And at the same time it is a good pain, because I realize I need to move on in the face of his lack of willingness to deal with where we are at.


4. How do these attractions and resistances challenge or affirm me as I engage in this reflection process? (Notice where the invitation to transformation is.)

There is a clear movement towards deep disheartenment here, and a facing of the reality of SMR’s heart. The invitation I feel now is to take responsibility as a holder of this lineage, and to care for these sacred teachings with honesty, integrity and true love – the kind of love that flourishes in the light of the sun.


Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Wrap Up: Report To Be Released Thursday June 28th


Dear Noble Sangha,

Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the day of most sunlight of the entire year and an auspicious day to release the light of Buddhist Project Sunshine. The project is wrapping up, and we’ve got three important updates below!

Loving bringer of light,


Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Report to be released June 28th

In Phase 2, Buddhist Project Sunshine has done further rigorous investigation into the situation of sexual abuse in the Shambhala community. We will release a report of findings on June 28th. Be sure to sign up for our email list to receive our communications. Sign up at: Buddhist Project Sunshine Email List


Andrea’s last day of work with Buddhist Project Sunshine is June 29th

I began working on Project Sunshine in January 2017. It has been over a year and a half of gruelling work. I put my heart out in this way in the hope that genuine healing can happen for the Shambhala community. I am grateful for the healing that has already begun. At the same time I have gone into significant personal financial debt. Therefore, as Buddhist Project Sunshine is coming to the end of the funds raised, I will close my work with the project on June 29th. I will, however, continue to host the Buddhist Project Sunshine Discussion Forum through July, as promised. (See registration link for the discussion group below if you are interested.)


Buddhist Project Sunshine Discussion Group is open

Buddhist Project Sunshine is hosting a thriving moderated discussion group, including healthy discussion threads about both historical and current sexual misconduct in the sangha. This community space supports people in their personal journeys of sorting through their spiritual connection with Shambhala. Click here to learn more and register for the Buddhist Project Sunshine  Discussion Group


Protected: A new vision for Buddhism in the West

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Healing trauma in Shambhala and other Buddhist communities

Dear friends,

I am hearing from a growing number of people who feel traumatized by reading social media, specifically from reading posts on the Shambhala Facebook page and the Shambhala Office of Social Engagement Facebook page. I am very interested in our shifting into a more healing mode. Please join me in this.

I encourage good self-care practices, such as disengaging from social media for periods of time, like doing a meditation retreat. We need to create space for our heart to breathe, as we move through this awakening process together. If we are constantly “plugged in”, we will burn out our system. It is important to create a discipline of unplugging when we need to.

Trauma healing must always involve right pacing. In order to know our own individual pacing, we need to be able to listen to what our heart needs – we need to be able to listen to our boundaries. My favourite definition of boundaries comes from Dr. David Gruder, Energy Psychology Conference Nov. 2005: 

Boundaries definition: Any limit I need to honor in order to love or work with you without resentment and with integrity. 

What boundaries aren’t: A boundary is not a line drawn in the sand, a position, posture, ideology, ultimatum or other tool for manipulation or control.

I hope this can be of some help to you for listening to your own boundaries, and honouring them, so you can rest in your own integrity. I am constantly having to work with this myself. I feel pulled by my sense of duty to this work, and at the same time, I am working very hard to see how to take care of myself so I am leading from a place of integrity.

I very much hope you will join us for the Buddhist Project Sunshine moderated discussion forum that will be opening soon. This will be a very different social media experience, because it is structured to facilitate a community healing process. For full details about this and all of our initiatives, including our mediation process with Shambhala International, be sure to sign up for our email list. (Full details at the bottom of this page)

Richard Edelman, yogi scholar, has become an important part of the leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. He has an extensive background as a Vajrayana practitioner, and he is a long-time scholar in many areas including the history of Tibetan Buddhism, the legacy of trauma that came out of historic Tibet, contemporary stories of abuse in Buddhist sanghas, and trauma healing. Richard has generously shared an excerpt from an upcoming essay. Some may find this enlightening in the context of the current situation of Buddhist communities who are healing from sexual trauma.



When we name abuse and trauma, we ring an awakening bell, waking us up to those who have been traumatized by the abuse rampant in today’s world. We are living through an era during which significant numbers of people are waking up to the global ubiquity of traumatic abuse. Stories about the many kinds of traumatic abuse continually unfold in the news and if we haven’t been affected ourselves, we surely have friends and family who have.

Fortunately, during the past few decades, an entire field of trauma studies and activism has emerged to illuminate the karma of traumatic abuse—revealing its causes and effects, how it affects our lives, and demanding healing and liberation. To become fully human in today’s world, we all need to absorb this new wisdom regarding traumatic abuse, especially if we seek to manifest enlightened society. For if we do not, we condemn future generations to even deeper suffering as recipients of an ancient multigenerational legacy of traumatic abuse. This is a clear and challenging existential decision we must all make—will we transmit trauma or genuine bodhicitta to future generations?

By recognizing that we are all in some way affected by traumatic abuse, we begin to both deepen our wisdom regarding the nature of trauma and abuse and awaken a lifeworld in which the dharma can flourish. This is why the time has come for all of us committed to the flourishing of the dharma to cultivate and express our bodhicitta by listening to the trauma stories of those who have been abused, especially when they have been abused within the dharmasphere. In our lifetime, we have discovered things about traumatic abuse that evidently were not sufficiently understood within the origin cultures of the Buddhadharma. It is clear that a synergistic understanding of both duhkha and trauma has become indispensable today. Without effective wisdom about trauma and abuse, our efforts to generate bodhicitta in the world will be blindsided.

When the Buddhadharma came to Tibet, Guru Rinpoche was called upon by the Tibetan court to vanquish the obstacles to it taking root in the land of the snows, transforming enemies of the truth into its champions. When sectarianism endangered the unoppressed manifestation of the dharma in 19th century Tibet, the Rime masters recognized the challenge before them and rose to meet it. Because traumatic abuse is the major block to a lifeworld of awakening and compassion today, we can draw inspiration from dharmic ancestors like Guru Rinpoche and the Rime masters in meeting its challenges. Buddhist Project Sunshine may help kindle a trauma-informed 21st century vinaya process, opening a portal to yet another surprising renaissance of living bodhicitta during a time of darkness.

Excerpted from “Trauma and Dharma” By Richard Edelman Copyright 2018


Sign up for our email list to receive our latest update, including:

We have a new name and a new email address!

Shambhala International and Buddhist Project Sunshine Mediation

Andrea Winn and Kalapa Council interview on Halifax CBC radio news yesterday

Buddhist Project Sunshine Moderated Discussion Forum – Anticipated to open June 1st

Call for Volunteers!

New Buddhist Project Sunshine website to be unveiled soon!

A personal update from Andrea

What did Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche say about samaya?


Please share this post through social media

so others can connect in with this source of healing.


And visit our Buddhist Project Sunshine Welcome Page to access all resources

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,

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,



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.


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,



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



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!


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,


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

What You May Not Know

Critical information that the Shambhala community needs to know 

I am proud that Project Sunshine pushed Shambhala International to publicly acknowledge the abuse problem in our community. They worked hard to compose a public statement to release days before the publication of the Project Sunshine report, and that is a very positive thing. I am grateful for their taking responsibility for acknowledging this to and for the community. However, since that initial announcement they seem to be backing into their usual way of doing business that is based on maintaining their public image, secrecy, and ultimately re-traumatizing those who have been victimized by abuse.

The most frequent question people have been asking me is why I did Project Sunshine. After I went through growing up in this community and being sexually abused by multiple men, I felt awful on a very deep level. Don’t get me wrong. In so many ways I have created a good life for myself. But there has been a deep sick feeling inside of me for all these decades.

Shambhala looked wonderful on the outside, and there is no doubt in my mind about the spiritual blessings in these practices. At the same time there has been this incomprehensible sickness.

I finally asked myself, do I really want to live this way any more? If this is what death feels like, I’m going to take one more stab at it and try to bring some sanity into this insane situation.

My doing Project Sunshine has been about my not wanting to live like this any more. What is happening in Shambhala is wrong. I hid for all these years because of the backlash for speaking up. What I have done with Project Sunshine was based on my principles as a human being. Activity like this in our modern world is very rare. I want to inspire others into living with this integrity.

I want to work on this issue for my own healing, but also to help others – other people who were abused in the past, and also preventing more harm to people in the future, ideally preventing abuse entirely, but also making it safe to report abuse or harassing behaviors… so that future reporters are not shamed, blamed, and ostracized.

This is a very powerful vision and one that Shambhala is not addressing or making clear statements about… but it’s a goal that is clearly a part of enlightened society.

I have felt concerned this week about the communications from Shambhala International. It felt important to address it, because I believe most community members don’t know important information in order to be able to understand what is happening with the leadership.


March 19th communications from the Kalapa Council of Shambhala: “Shambhala Initiatives to Address Misconduct and Harm”, and “Overview: Shambhala Harm Prevention”

Quotes from the Council’s communication:

  • “created a webpage which provides detailed information… which can be accessed by all Shambhala members” “If you are a former member of Shambhala without member access…”
  • “Creating safe spaces to listen to those who have experienced harm and have not felt heard by Shambhala leadership in the past.”

As we know from numerous sources, many abuse survivors have been forced out of the Shambhala community and are no longer members. This has been convenient because it allows the Shambhala community to be a calm place without the troubling presence of abuse survivors.

The council has set up community discussion in private, member’s only spaces. This continues the age old pattern of exclusion of survivors from the discussion and will assure a calmer discussion that will be easier for Shambhala International to control. They have offered to email information about their plan to former members, but they extend no invitation to survivors like myself to participate in the discussion. I know, because I emailed and asked for the information.

To be honest, it is a slap in the face for abuse survivors to be excluded in this way. This communication has been received with anger and hurt by the abuse survivors I have spoken with this week. Why is it restricted to current members? They could easily create an open forum.

The Council’s suggestion of “creating safe spaces” comes on the heels of decades of creating re-traumatizing spaces through the Care and Conduct Policy. This communication does nothing to acknowledge the break down in trust due to this policy and to the active silencing of survivors by Shambhala leaders. It is insulting for them to suggest that survivors simply did not feel heard. The truth is that survivors have knocked loudly on the doors of leadership, right to the top, and they were actively silenced or ignored. These statements of “good faith” and concern are empty words.

  • “new effort to address issues of past harm in our community, and to refine and bolster existing policies and procedures to create safer environments for our members…”
  • “Creating new sexual misconduct strategies, policies, and procedures based on these conversations, 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.”
  • “create a Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure as an addendum to the current Care and Conduct Policy”
  • “The new policy and procedure will incorporate: (1) Feedback and suggestions from those who have reported sexual misconduct, (2) Aspects of the current care and conduct procedure; and (3) Suggestions from ‘Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct and Harm: Draft Policy’”
  • The Committee will work to balance confidentiality of the matter with protecting the safety and well-being of all members.”

The Council is stating clearly that the Care and Conduct Policy will remain as the foundation for addressing sexual violence in the Shambhala community. They are planning on creating a new policy on sexual misconduct as an “addendum” to the existing policy.

They have already excluded the many abuse survivors who have been forced out of the community, so I wonder who they plan to get feedback and suggestions from. One of the problems with the Care and Conduct policy that has already been identified is how it protects the abuser’s confidentiality. It is clear that this continues to be a mandate of the Shambhala leadership even as they make changes and addendum to the policy as they state their intention to continue to “balance” the confidentiality of abusers with the safety and well-being of members.

In the absence of facing the overhaul that is needed, the Council is building on the corrupt foundation of in-house justice that has been hiding the abuse in this community for decades. They are suggesting further restorative justice approaches to keep justice in-house. This is in spite of abuse survivors forcefully calling for avenues of justice outside of an in-house system.

  • “We want to honour the many people who have been raising our collective consciousness around these issues for some time… We need to work together. If you have skills to offer or a desire to help, we encourage you to visit the website…”

I personally was shocked by the level of deception in this statement. I spent hours building relationships and working with Ministers Adam Lobel and Jane Arthur between September 2017 and February 2018. They expressed gratitude for Project Sunshine; I have emails showing how grateful they were for my work and acknowledged it was needed.

I sent them advance drafts of my report so they could stand on solid ground in their leadership of this community through the opening of our big can of worms about abuse. I have worked very hard to work *with* the Shambhala leadership each step of the way.

Instead of working collaboratively with me, they cut me off completely after I published the report. I emailed both Ministers on February 28th asking if they would collaborate with me on creating a healing path for the community. It has been nearly a month and they have not responded to that email. I sent another email the next day on behalf of community members who wanted the Project Sunshine report to be delivered to members through the Shambhala email list. They never responded to that email either. In the press Shambhala International has actively distanced themselves from Project Sunshine.

Their statements sound very open and welcoming, however, they restrict access to their members only forum. Far from honouring those who have been raising awareness, they have actively tried to suppress my efforts to help this community as well as the efforts of other survivors. I wish what they said was true, but they do not wish to work together.

I suspect the mandate of openness and true healing in Project Sunshine is not a fit for where the Shambhala leadership is currently focused – I believe it is more on public relations and protecting the stability of their leadership.

  • “community gatherings… where we can discuss our history in an open way. Students who experienced these eras will be able to share, and those who have questions or want to demystify past eras can inquire freely”

I have noticed in my conversations with Minister Lobel and in the Shambhala members Facebook forum that there is an effort to “contextualize” the sexual harm. He and others have suggested that the ‘70s and ‘80s were a time of new found sexual freedom and that somehow that makes the child abuse understandable.

What I have seen again and again in this community is an “open mindedness” that makes people feel they are above the law – that they can break the law because we are such a spiritually advanced community. That thinking is dangerous.


Hearing the voice of a survivor

Last night I was speaking with a deeply caring and wise woman teacher who I met through the Shambhala community. She is one of the many women who was deeply abused in this community and had to leave. With her permission, I am sharing some of what she said in response to the Shambhala International communications this past week.

“Shambhala International is so patronizing, patriarchal, top down, and out of touch with how to do these things.

The Sakyong’s letter is a total gloss over.  It really made me mad, especially when he talks about kindness and communication.  It is so duplicitous.  Most people don’t know about his total failure to engage, communicate, respond, support, not to mention his own inappropriate behaviours even recently.  They think that’s all in the past.  He and Shambhala are covering everything over with a thin layer of ‘niceness.’  It’s not fair for people not to know the truth.

Community members are fearful. Shambhala International is covering it all over. And I’m afraid that community members are compartmentalizing what they are hearing to make it ok. I did that for years before I left the community. It’s just so painful.

It’s like leaving an abusive relationship, where you don’t want to leave, don’t want to give up on it. A spiritual path is so deep, and when you don’t see an alternative, it’s easier to let the leaders whitewash it.

I like how you distinguish between Shambhala and Shambhala International. Because we all know there is something healthy in Shambhala – the teachings and the local communities.

People are afraid of breaking samaya, that they would be disloyal to the teachings. It’s not the teachings that are a problem. The teachings are indestructible. It’s the organization. It’s a worldly, ‘relative’ organization, so of course there are problems. The problem is not the problems. The problem is how they are being related to. That is a huge problem.

I’m afraid people will feel they are being disloyal. Because we know that people are basically good, that the teachings are good. The corruption that has happened is hard to believe, so we almost naturally default to denial.

There is so much love and loyalty in us for Shambhala. The crux is we have to separate the basic goodness from the behaviour. It’s like having a bad husband. He’s not evil. He is a wounded person who is not able to become self aware and do anything about it.  That doesn’t make it okay, or make our inaction okay.

Shambhala is a tribe. It’s so deep – this spiritual path. We’ve been in it so many years. It is so hard for people to untwine themselves, to disentangle the harm from the beauty of the whole thing.”

I feel she downloaded a message of truth for all of us last night. I understand that this is a lot to take in. And there is going to be a period of things feeling uncomfortable and sometimes overwhelming. But there is a way through this to the other side, where we have personally and collectively disentangled the human corruption from the dignity and goodness of the Shambhala teachings.


Giving a clear alternative

Project Sunshine Phase 2, a world-wide community healing initiative, launched on March 28. If you would like to receive announcements about this important work, sign up for our email list. https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine_2/ or support Phase 2 directly on our Project Sunshine Phase 2 Fundraising Page



Project Sunshine Report: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine/

Project Sunshine Announcements List: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine_2/

Project Sunshine Phase 2 Fundraising page: https://www.gofundme.com/project-sunshine-phase-2

Kalapa Council Letter: https://mailchi.mp/a6c9992e15df/kalapa-council-quarterly-update-766967?e=2f418b5410

Sakyong Letter: https://mailchi.mp/775a846a79bc/kalapa-council-quarterly-update-766995?e=4449cead6c

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