Working Away from a Top Down Governance Approach

By Eileen Malloy

The Governance Working Group is one of four working groups under the Front Range Shambhala Board.  For a directory of members of all the working groups, please keep an eye out for our informational pages on the BSC web site, under the Community Tab.

Our primary points of focus are considerable.  

  • Getting a transparent nominating process together and forming the Board Nominating Committee (the Nominating Committee is Andrew Bowen, Bob Sutherland, Brus Westby, Eileen Malloy, Emily Takahashi (Chair), Gabrielle Edison, and Valerie Robin)
  • Understanding the SUSA Charter and Affiliate Agreements & the Global Community Council representational body
  • We are developing different models for governance in Boulder to present to the community; the Board is developing different models that would fulfill the executive function at the Center
  • Organizing community meetings – we held an in-person meeting June 27th, and plan ongoing opportunities to interact with Board and Working Group members in various meeting formats
  • Working on how decisions are to be made.  How are decisions being made currently?  Currently decisions are made on an ad hoc basis, in other words piecing together decisions by various Board Members on a day-to-day basis.
  • We’re looking to create an interim decision-making structure to replace this crisis-management, ad hoc situation, as soon as possible. This middle-term solution is meant to govern us from now until Shambhala Day, with more permanent structures to be put into place after that.  

We also discuss internal-to-the-GWG issues such as how to balance the need to represent multitudes of points of view and work our way away from a top-down power dynamic. 

In my brief time on the GWG, two messages have come across to me.  One is that we very much need more hands-on presence in our sacred landmark Shambhala Center.  If you hold the Center dear in your life, now is the time to show up.  If you would like to volunteer, please contact Jean Westby [email protected]. Umdzes and front desk hosts are especially needed.  

The second point that’s coming across to me is that everyone acknowledges there is an essential need for more communication to and from the community.  

We had a passionate outpouring from the community at a community meeting on May 15th.  The thoughts that were expressed at that meeting in the discussion and in the Zoom chat were taken and held by the Board and the Working Groups.  The Board has written responses to each of the points raised in that community meeting. The June community meeting was hosted by the Governance Working Group and included breakout groups to further look at changes to the center and our sangha. (More to come on this!) 

We are in the works planning the next meeting in August, in different formats, for community members to communicate with the Board and the Working Groups. In addition we (and by we I mean FRSB directors Daniel Naistadt and Nicole Wolf) have set up a section of the Boulder web site to retain documents such as the FAQs, the Charter, and this Working Group blog. Some of these can be found under Community, in the members section.

For me personally, the experience of being on the Governance Working Group is listening to my action body shouting inside, ‘Enough discussion, do something!’.  It’s also working with the ego hit of putting effort into a project, only to have it be obviated by the Board’s or the committee’s next steps the very next day.  And working with the impatient internal voice perennially asking ‘Why are you still talking?’  

I have been attending the Sakyong’s online teachings, and fulfilling the practices he has recently given us.  I feel a deep sense of gratitude, devotion, and loyalty to him.  His voice is in my consciousness and my heart, and I feel seen and heard by him in some miraculous or psychological way.  This is a strange phenomenon in any circumstance, in the guru-student relationship, magnified by all the various distances that separate me from him and his family now. I recognize his history fully, and understand that not everyone feels the way I do about him, so I can discuss our current plight with my friends, and am learning how not to make incendiary comments to students who follow other teachers.  I can only hope that our community can learn to treat each other with equanimity, and learn how to be together in genuine, fulfilling, and non-codependent ways.