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February 12, 2019

Dear Friends of Karmê Chöling,

Many of you have read the Wickwire Holm Report  and the letter from the Sakyong published last week. They bring up a wide range of emotions – possibly appreciation for the communication, possibly anger or further heartbreak and confusion regarding how we will go forward as a community.

It is important first to acknowledge the pain and suffering of those who have suffered sexual misconduct from the Sakyong and other leaders. While the investigation could only fully pursue claims of those who were willing to be identified, there were many more who, understandably, were not, and an unknown number who chose not to make contact. For all, may we hold them in our hearts, wish them healing, and stand by the position that sexual abuse is abhorrent and not to be tolerated.

Our community has been harmed by these behaviors. They call into question who we are as a Shambhala community, how we can heal, how we can change aspects of our culture that have been complicit, what our relationship is to be with the Sakyong, what a healthy governance structure would look like and many more issues.

As a Karmê Chöling staff and volunteer community, we have worked together over the past seven months to listen to each other from the fullness of our heart, acknowledging our emotional upheaval, and at the same time respecting difference, intelligence, caring and wisdom.  It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be as we move forward.

The Transition Task Force worked tirelessly for six months with the complicated two-fold mandate of bringing into being an Interim Board to hold financial and legal responsibility for Shambhala and a Process Team to engage in the daunting task of “leading the global Shambhala community in an exploration of what is necessary to reveal fresh relevance and needed changes” in the areas of healing and learning, cultural change, governance and sustainability and community building. The Interim Board has been in place for four months and the 89-member Process Team took their oaths three weeks ago, right before dön season began.

One of the aspects of this time I find personally challenging is to remain present and open to the time it will take to engage fully in the deep exploration we need to undertake. It is painful to be with my conflicting thoughts and emotions and difficult from there to listen openly to others, especially those with very different opinions. I would like to be on the other side of this process already so that I would know who we are and what to do!

Yet I truly believe significant long-lasting change takes time. We are at the very beginning of a possible metamorphosis from an immature form of society with considerable karmic damage to one that takes full responsibility for itself and the care of its members. We need to replace archaic and harmful structures. We need to address “abuse of power, financial mismanagement, racism, handling of past claims [of sexual misconduct], exclusion and shaming and neglect of the community outside of North America” as named in the Wickwire Holm report.  That takes time and it takes the participation of the whole community.

I am inspired by the vision of Shambhala, of a society that truly acknowledges the basic goodness of all and manifests it by treating each other with kindness. I hope that by working alongside each other and the Process Team, we can walk this path together. With generosity of spirit, may we offer each other the space to feel whatever we are feeling, to address past wrongs, embody our vision and be a living example of enlightened society.

Karmê Chöling itself exists to manifest this in community and to inspire all who live here and visit to discover their basic goodness. We are committed to meditation, kindness, devotion to service and responsiveness to the changing dynamics of society. We will continue to succeed by creating a safe, sane, uplifted and welcoming environment for all who enter our magical landscape.

Within the deep sorrow and distress of this time, I see the opportunity held within it. I feel an urgency, eagerness, and potency. May we rouse ourselves with creativity, collaboration, and tolerance to do the hard work of bringing our principles and the teachings forward to help create a better world.

With great appreciation and tenderness,

Myra Woodruff
Executive Director
Karmê Chöling Shambhala Meditation Center


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