Center Spotlight: Columbus Shambhala Center Maintaining Community in the Time of Social Distancing

Shambhala International
Created Wed, Apr 1, 2020 by
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KCL Staff
Columbus Shambhala Center

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How are centers staying connected in the time of social distancing? How are they serving their communities? “City centers are stepping up and doing their own thing” said Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus (Ohio) co-director Jean Pitman. She should know. Along with her co-director Phong Nguyen, the Leadership Team, and a generous sangha donor, the Columbus Center was one of the first to get “zooming” with online programming. After being recently sworn in as co-directors, their first order of business was to quickly make the difficult decision to close the center in the face of social distancing requirements to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19. Jean Pitman affectionately refers to this moment as being “handed a burning bag of dog poop” right off the bat!  If you’ve dipped your foot into the world of online programming, you’ve probably heard of Zoom, a video software platform that enables groups to meet in virtual space. The free version allows only 40-minute meetings for more than two people, but you can upgrade to a business account for an annual cost of $150 which allows much longer meeting times and the ability to record meetings to share later.  Columbus dove right in. Thanks to Phong’s web design/IT skills and the Leadership Team’s marketing reach (Basecamp, Mailchimp, website, Facebook, phone calls, etc.), they were able to get the word out fast to folks to join them remotely via a device or phone, including their weekly Heart of Recovery group. So far, their attendance numbers are very good, with at least 8-10 people coming, but usually more like 15 or more, including friends from as far away as Dallas. Hooray for ZOOM! They are in the process of adding a weekly White Tara session and are soliciting feedback from their sangha through phone calls with Practice and Education Director Linda Wolf about what kinds of programs they would like to see offered.  Their Leadership team consists of Phong, Jean, Linda and Sue Young as Chagdzo and Karen Carson as Communications Director, along with anyone else who may like to offer their expertise. They still have their monthly “circle”; the next one will be on Zoom April 19th.  In addition to online programming, their dekyong, Jon Carron, is fielding calls from sangha in need; just the other day one of their sangha went to help move some stuff at another sangha member’s home so she could get her car in her garage. They stick together through all weather!  “Some centers are overwhelmed and are opting to take a break, and that’s OK,” said Jean. Online resources are being broadly shared. So if your center doesn’t have them yet, look around. For starters, check out the Columbus center offerings.

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What is your center doing to stay connected? Let us know in the comments. Be safe everyone, and let’s stay connected! About Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus The Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus sangha has existed informally since the 1980s with founding members Hellen Thirry and Karen Shockey (students of CTR), but became an official Shambhala City Center in 2008. Their Shastri is Janice Glowski. Phong Nguyen, Co-director Phong came to Shambhala in 2010 after stumbling upon Pema Chodron’s teaching entirely by chance. He was looking for a way to alleviate his own suffering, yet he found so much more and a community he vowed to take refuge in. He has served as Director of Practice and Education at Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus for the last three years. He has a variety of interests in art, design, and technology and now works at Chase headquarter in Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his husband Nick, Lucy (the dog), and Meo (the cat). Jean Pitman, Co-director Jean has been involved with Shambhala for almost a decade and was most recently the Head of Personnel at Karmê Chöling, a Shambhala Land Center in rural Vermont. Born and raised on Lake Michigan, she is a visual artist who has lived and worked all over the planet and now works at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. She lives with her partner Tom and two cats, Leo and Isobel. 

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