Queer Dharma: The Truth of Being Queer


Acharya Eve Rosenthal

Acharya Eve Rosenthal

By Eve Rosenthal

Acharya Eve Rosenthal will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eric Spiegel, March 28-30

What is queer dharma? There are people who are queer and there is dharma, but what is queer dharma? First of all, a person who is queer identifies as someone with a sexual orientation outside culturally established norms. In our culture, it is someone who is not heterosexual — a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It is someone who does not want to put a label to their sexuality, or someone who is questioning their sexual identity. Dharma in its broadest context means truth or what is, and can also mean the Buddhist teachings—which is saying the same thing. The Buddha experienced the truth of reality and then talked about it. These are the Buddhist teachings that have been written and passed down orally. The path of meditation is the way to gently make the journey from self-deception to truth.

So, queer dharma is the truth of being queer. Everyone who is queer realizes at some point in their life’s journey that they have feelings for others, or about themselves, that are outside what is easily accepted in our society. At best, it results in some serious soul searching to come to terms with who one really is, and at worst, imprisonment or death. There are probably not many queer folk planning to vacation in Uganda, Nigeria, or Russia any time soon. Even in relatively tame countries like Canada that have accepted same-sex marriage, there are still unthinkable hate crimes against sexual minorities. Even if we live in a relatively accepting world, there are privileges of heterosexuality that are taken for granted and not available to all. Here is a great web page about heterosexual privilege, homophobia and its impact, and things non-transgender people take for granted: http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/chhs/safe-zone/privilege/.

We are holding a “Shambhala Queer Dharma” retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center from March 28-30 which will add the “Shambhala” aspect to the picture. There are two key themes that define Shambhala — that the nature of all humans is basically good, and when people relate to others and the environment from their inherent goodness, a good human society manifests. There are countless examples of good human relationships between people and communities that value kindness above individual self-interest. Sadly, we often doubt our basic goodness and self-worth. This results in a constant attempt to find happiness outside of ourselves as demonstrated by the tyranny of materialism ruling our lives.

Putting it all together — what is the inspiration for having a Shambhala Queer Dharma retreat?

Queer people have to come to grips with who they are because of the obstacles they face in society. Whether one has achieved peace with that or not, it is good to be with others who respect and recognize your journey. There is comfort and deep relaxation in just knowing that. However, there is something more to these retreats than just the comfort of being with sympathetic people.

By virtue of being queer and outside the societal norm with regard to sexuality, we are required to explore the dharma of ourselves to cut through confusion about who we are and not be afraid of that—probably more than those who have heterosexual privilege. The path of meditation is a natural way to accomplish this exploration of “who we really are” and come to certainty regarding our self-worth.

Social Innovation
My experience of doing queer dharma retreats is that people are generally well along the journey of this exploration, whether they are experienced with or new to official “dharma” and meditation. That affords the Shambhala queer dharma community a unique opportunity — to go the next step beyond the individual journey and explore what it means to be a good human community based on kindness. The courage that inspired our non-negotiable self-reflection can extend into reflecting on our relationships with others, and to be genuine about what prejudices and habitual patterns are barriers to kindness.

The aspiration is that the queer community can be an example to the greater society as humans who treat other humans well. The Shambhala Queer Dharma retreat at SMC can help us deepen both as individuals and also as a community. Chögyam Trungpa said “you bring your whole self to meditation” and that in Shambhala, your whole queer self is welcome and celebrated. In fact, this retreat is an opportunity to explore how we might share the gift of our queerness with others. The gift being that we can come to know, through meditative reflection, that we are basically good and have much to contribute to the creation of an enlightened society. At the very least, we can enjoy practicing and discussing the dharma of life, each other, and the spectacular environment of SMC.


Be sure to check out two upcoming live interactive sessions with video and audio from Eve and Eric. If you have a webcam and mic you will be able to come online with video and audio as well. If you don’t have a/v equipment, you will be able to interact using text.

The sessions will be taking place on the following dates:

Sunday, January 26, 2 pm Mountain; 4 pm Eastern.
Sunday, March 16, 2 pm Mountain; 4 pm Eastern.

Here is the link for the sessions – get on early if you want to test your equipment:

Acharya Eve Rosenthal will be leading Shambhala Queer Dharma Retreat, along with Acharya Eric Spiegel, March 28-30. To learn more, please CLICK HERE

Sacred Ecstasy


Award-winning composer, world music artist and peace activist Yuval Ron shares a chapter from his upcoming book, Divine Attunement: Music as a Path to Wisdom, to be published by Oracle Institute Press in 2014.  Read excerpts below or click here to read the full chapter on “Sacred Ecstasy.”

Rasa_Vitalia_-_Yuval_Ron_EnsembleYou are there, standing among several indigenous men and women whom you have never met. Everyone around you is drumming and chanting. The drumbeat is tantalizing; it feels so good to be a part of such a group. The collective group’s presence slowly overwhelms your individuality. As the beat gets faster and faster, you and everyone around you stop thinking, stop being aware of time, stop being aware of who – you think – you are. And the rhythms and vocal chants drive everybody into an ecstatic trance where there is no self-consciousness or judgment.

Then gradually, the music slows down and fades. You are physically and emotionally exhausted, yet your senses are so sharp, you feel more alive and awake than ever before! You look around, and in a magical way, all your fellow drummers seem simply beautiful. There is a certain smile in their eyes and a misty light over their faces. You feel an intimacy and closeness to them, something you never could have imagined feeling just an hour ago, before the ecstatic drumming began.

In a sacred, ecstatic state of mind, we feel connected to all living things. We feel that we are within all of creation, and that all of creation is within us. Some might cry out at such moment, “God is in me!” as some Sufi saints have expressed. But the words are not important; we may call Source anything we like. A deep sense of the unity of all things is what we are seeking – not an intellectual understanding of the idea of unity. It is a gut feeling, a sensation, a perception. Yet, is this a true perception or just another illusion?

Yuval_Ron_Ensemble_Image1The mystics of old have been saying for centuries and in various terms that the unity of all things is the true reality. They have insisted that we do exist beyond our bodies. Isn’t it fascinating that recent research is now confirming that our brain neurons actually reach beyond our bodies, connect with, convey information to, and affect living things outside of our bodies!

The implications of such neurological studies are far reaching and support the mystic’s assertion that we are inseparable from all creation. If we truly feel that we and the “other” are one, if we truly love the “other” as we love ourselves, then peace would be the natural consequence. Having gained this comprehension, we would never dump toxic waste in our neighbor’s yard, we would be generous with a stranger, and we would never unleash violence in a distant part of the world. That is the essence of the ancient Great Commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Even though the concept that “you are everything” is extremely difficult for many of us to truly internalize, there are numerous ways to experience it. Within ancient shamanic wisdom, it is told that music and ecstatic movement can move us outside of ourselves so that we may reach an altered state of mind – a state of sacred ecstasy – the same goal of ecstatic rituals and celebrations conducted by Hassidic Jews, Sufi Muslims, and Pentecostal Christians.yuval-ron-ensemble-crop

With music, the journey to an ecstatic experience typically starts with a dark, intimate, and introspective tone. Both the Sufi and the Hassid begin with a slow and pleading musical melody, almost a lament; but, it is actually the sensation of longing that the music evokes. The foundation for this quest is the human condition of separation. The soul is captured in a physical body in a physical world, yearning for Spirit, pleading for Union, aching to reach the Source of life – the powerful energy that is behind everything. The musical modes (i.e., the musical note combinations) that are used in the Turkish Sufi and Hassidic Jewish traditions share some striking similarities. Both paths employ modes that express pain and longing but – when sped up – evolve into powerful and joyful musical expressions.

Join Yuval Ron from March 28-30 for a weekend of healing and consciousness altering through the sacred sound, music, and dance based on the ancient teaching of Zen-Buddhism, Kabbalistic-Judaism, Gnostic-Christianity, and Sufi-Islam. For more information on this powerful retreat, click here.

 Yuval Ron and friends will also be hosting a concert in Boulder on March 27. Read more here.

Paying Attention to One Detail: Listening

By Janet Solyntjes

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, February 14-16

JanetSolyntjesListening in Meditation
How many times have you wondered what to do with the discursive mind in meditation? Before we “do” anything, it is important to listen. With what kind of ears do we listen to this internal voice – the monkey mind? Our listening is with the ears of non-identification. Listening without identifying with the words is not the same as blocking out thoughts or ignoring what is already present in the mind. To listen in this way takes tremendous gentleness and courage. Sometimes the thoughts are self-critical, sometimes they are gibberish, and sometimes they are emotionally charged. Just listen. Let them be. Can you do this for the next 10 minutes?

Step 1: Settling into your body, into being present with yourself.
Step 2: With curiosity, noticing the internal dialogue. Are the thoughts passing through your awareness few, many, quiet, or loud?
Step 3: Listening without identifying. Opening to present thoughts with an attitude of gentle observation.
Step 4: Letting go of the “exercise” and proceeding.

Listening to Others
Research has shown that where we typically place the onus of meaning in interpersonal communication – on the person speaking – is a misunderstanding of what actually occurs. It is the listening that creates meaning. How we listen to one another, rather than how well we deliver our message is the foundation from which meaning arises in conversation. Today, when you have an opportunity to speak with others, can you practice “suspension of certainty” and listen with a truly inquiring mind? Are you listening to both the words and the feeling behind the words?

Training in Paying Attention
While paying attention is something we do naturally, we all would benefit from training this capacity further. There is a rich collection of mindfulness tools one can engage and utilize in daily life. The Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction retreat offers instruction and guidance in mindfulness and supports a “coming to our senses” which awakens and enlivens each moment.

I hope you will join me!

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, February 14-16. To learn more, CLICK HERE

Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth Part 1

By Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle will be leading Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, March 21-23

Martin-Ogle-La-Plata-PeakIn essence, this upcoming retreat will explore how our human mind perceives and fits in with where it came from! If we accept that our physical bodies evolved from this planet, it is a short leap to understanding our minds as originating from the same source. We are the conscious awareness of Earth! In this, the first-of-two blog posts, I introduce the scientific idea of Earth as a living system, setting the foundation for a second installment that will more fully tie our human awareness to rhythms of our planet.

In the 1960s, NASA wanted to know if there was life on Mars, yet a Mars mission was still decades away. The agency hired James Lovelock, a British chemist, doctor and inventor to look into it. Lovelock decided on a simple test, one that could be done from Earth. Studying Mars with a spectrophotometer, he observed that it had an inert atmosphere (one in which “nothing was happening”), and concluded that Mars was lifeless.

Mulling over his research, however, Lovelock realized that the nature of his atmospheric test had more to say about a planet as a whole than about the presence or absence of living organisms. Although he found the Martian atmosphere to be inert, Lovelock knew Earth’s atmosphere was wildly active – alive! This suggested to Lovelock that Earth is not just a planet with life on it, but is a single, living system. He was soon joined by American microbiologist, Lynn Margulis who saw that early evolution of microorganisms – and all subsequent evolution – involved both natural selection and symbiosis that resulted in a living system.

Lovelock, Margulis and colleagues amassed research that showed organic and inorganic parts and processes of Earth were tightly coupled as a living system that has greatly moderated global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors. The maintenance of oxygen at around 20% of the atmosphere and ocean salinity at about 35 parts per thousand over millions of years are examples. To find out more about this science, visit GaiaTheory.org.

Although all signs point to our being part of a living planet, our modern cultural stories do not reflect this. Our language and actions suggest that we consider ourselves separate from the rest of nature, and that nature, itself, operates like a machine rather than a living being. The disparity between these underlying cultural stories and what our senses tell us creates great confusion. Our minds go off on tangents that are not reflective of or compatible with the way that life works. In the next installment, I will propose that Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth involves re-linking our intellectual and sensual perceptions of our living planet.

Be sure to listen our recent interview with Martin Ogle, available to stream and download HERE

Martin Ogle will be leading Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of Our Living Earth, March 21-23. To learn more, CLICK HERE

WATCH: Elephant Journal’s “Walk the Talk Show” Features SMC’s Michael Gayner


Yesterday, Elephant Journal’sWalk the Talk Show,” hosted by  Waylon Lewis, featured SMC Executive Director Michael Gayner.  In lively and huge-hearted conversation, the two longtime friends touched on some deep points about SMC life, land and vision.

For those who missed the live broadcast, or would like to watch it again, we offer the recording below. May it inspire you on this final day of 2013!

Q&A: Susan Piver Discusses the Writer’s Groove and “Fearlessly Creative”

By Travis Newbill

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23


Susan Piver

A couple of common obstacles that most writers–or would be writers–encounter: 1) No time to write! 2) The fear of putting the pen to the page (err, typing words into the computer).

Meditation teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Piver has a remedy. It involves structuring daily life in a way that is conducive to creative work, and…practicing meditation. Does that sound simple? Impossible? Worth exploring?

This weekend, Susan will be leading a retreat at SMC which is intended to provide a space for writers to find their groove and produce work, and also to model a routine which will allow them to live more fully as writers in their daily lives.

Recently, Susan took some time to discuss the retreat.

So, what is the intended purpose of this retreat?

Susan Piver: If you have something that you want to work on—a book, a memoir, anything—this program is meant to provide a container for you to do so. It’s not learning how to write, it’s not getting prompts and learning writing techniques, it’s for writing.

Who would you say this program is for? Anyone who wants to write?

It’s a program for artists of any kind—although I never say that because people get intimidated, thinking that they aren’t artists, or that they aren’t writers. But, you know, it’s for people who want to reflect, and create art with words.

Will there be lots of discussion, and that sort of thing?

It’s not about talking. I made it that way because, that’s the program that I want to go to. Maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know.

Does this sort of environment somehow help writers overcome the fear to see a work through or to start a work?

Yes, and it’s rather hard to explain how that happens. It’s not that you get a trick that helps you overcome your fear. Meditation practice is the trick. I never say that. But, there’s something about the combination of meditation, companionship of fellow writers, and specific periods of time for work that calls the words forward.

You say this is not how to write, but it kinda seems like it is?

It doesn’t teach you how to write, but it teaches you how to be a writer. Because every writer has to be afraid, and stay. And then allow. And it’s hard for everyone to do that. But this program shows you that you can do it. And you don’t have to be at Shambhala Mountain Center to do it–although that is better.

What’s the takeaway?

You will learn a technique for writing that you can take home. So, it provides an actual container in which to work, and is also informative for the introverts coming together here to take back into their regular rhythms.

So, folks may learn ways in which they can structure their daily lives to allow for writing.

Yes, it will model a routine–that they can replicate at home–for being a writer. No matter what else they do in their life.

Sounds great. Thanks, Susan.

Thank you.


Here’s a video with some folks who participated in one of Susan’s past writing retreats.

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23

Good Tidings (and a Great Recipe) from SMC Chef Avajra John Russell


Avajra Claus is real

By Travis Newbill

Did you know that Santa’s kooky cousin lives at Shambhala Mountain Center? He is just a jolly as Old St. Nick–though much thinner, and his magical sleigh is pulled by a single garuda. His name is Avajra Claus! His specialty is making tasty things in the kitchen for the SMC community—many healthy meals, and some sweet delights as well.

According to folklore, Avajra used to bake cookies for Santa back when they were little elves. Ever since they parted ways, Santa has been searching the world for treats as tasty as the ones Avajra used to make. In exchange for the cookies that the kids leave, Santa brings gifts.

Now, Avajra has a gift for you: a classic holiday recipe! He asks that you enjoy it with your loved ones, and also leave some out for his chubby cousin, Santa.

From SMC lead chef Avajra John Russell to you and yours:

Here we all sing together…

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

and a Happy New Year.


Good tidings we bring for you and your kin,

Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.


O bring us some figgy pudding

O bring us some figgy pudding

O bring us some figgy pudding

and bring it right here.


And we won’t go until we’ve got some

And we won’t go until we’ve got some

And we won’t go until we’ve got some…

Well if you want your holiday guests to ever go home, better have some “Figgy Pudding” on hand. It is also noteworthy that here at SMC, we live as a community, so we are all home already, together, which is sweeter than any treat I could make.

Okay, this traditional Christmas dessert dates back to 16th century England. The many varied recipes that have been handed down to us include baking the dessert or steaming it in the oven, some call for boiling it or frying. This sweet gooey Christmas treat is more like a cake than what we’ve come to think of as a pudding. It can be soaked in Brandy, which makes it really luscious. Traditionally, it is served topped with “Hard Sauce”, although whipped cream can also be a fabulous pairing. I’m including two recipes here, one baked and one steamed in a double boiler.

Is everybody singing?? No?? … just the sound of one lone voice wafting out from the kitchen…  Singing & laughing. – Avajra John Russell


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 cup water

1 cup molasses

1 cup chopped dried figs

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup orange peel strips

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1teaspoon ground nutmeg


1. Grease the inside bowl of a double-boiler.

2. Mix flour, bread crumbs, water, molasses, figs, raisins, walnuts, orange peel, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg together in a bowl until batter is well incorporated; spoon batter into the prepared double-boiler bowl and cover.

3. Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer. Place bowl in the simmering water and cover. Steam until pudding is cooked through, adding water as needed, 3 hours. Cool slightly with cover ajar before serving warm.

*Thanks to sueb’s Great Grandmother for this recipe



1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup molasses

2 cups mission figs chopped

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups brandy



1. Preheat oven to 325, grease baking pan(s).

2. Beat butter until soft, add eggs and molasses and beat until fluffy.

3. Add chopped figs, grated lemon rind, and buttermilk, combine.

4. Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture, stir well.

5. Pour into prepared pan(s), and cook 1 hour or until toothpick comes out ‘almost’ clean.

6. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then carefully dislodge cake(s), and place on baking rack.

7. Soak cheese cloth in brandy.

8. After cake is cool, wrap up several times in soaked cheesecloth and allow to set and seep in brandy cloth for at least 24 hours.

9. May be served plain or with hard sauce.



1/2 cup butter

2 powdered sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

(for non-alcoholic 1 teaspoon rum extract)

1 teaspoon rum, sherry wine or brandy

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoons nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle with teaspoon cinnamon just before serving (optional)


1. Gently heat all ingredients

2. Whisk together over low heat or double boiler.

3. Whisk well until mixture is smooth, warm and fully incorporated,

4. Serve warm or chilled depending on preference.




New Year’s Intention: Take a Leap!

By Jon Barbieri

Jon Barbieri leads Take a Leap into 2014: Establish Your Intention and Commitment, December 30, 2013-January 1, 2014

Jonathan Barbieri

Jonathan Barbieri

New Year’s resolutions have earned quite a reputation with their knack for creating lofty, unreachable, goals. And still, they can be genuinely helpful in opening space for reflection, creating an opportunity to set clear intentions for the year to come.

In making resolutions we often envision what we would like to change about our lives: what to add, remove, or improve to become “better people.” With this approach, the whole thing can get a bit intense and self-aggressive. “I am never going to eat cake again, and I will meditate 2 hours a day if it kills me.”

So, how does the ritual of New Year’s resolutions change, when instead of developing a wish list, we start with our basic human qualities?

We begin by acknowledging that we aspire to do good, to be kind, that we wish for happiness and that fundamentally, we have everything we need to realize these virtues.

Using contemplations, meditation, and discussion, we will touch on these qualities. We will also look at actions or habits we have that are not healthy for us to continue in a very simple and contemplative way. In doing so, we can resolve to pay greater attention to these actions so that over the next year we will acknowledge them and work with them. In addition, we will look at our aspirations for those qualities we wish to cultivate, and make a resolution to nurture and bring them forward.

In this way our approach is not a wish for the year as much as it is a way to look at our life as a journey, and 2014 as the next step along the path.

Join us for this special program and allow your aspirations for the New Year to become clear, confident, and committed through reflection and renewal. What better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with a delicious full-course dinner on the magical starry land of Shambhala Mountain Center?

I’m so happy that Jon is continuing  the “Take a Leap into the new year” series.  I participated in the first program “Take Leap into 2012″, and for me the experience was life changing.  Jon’s ability to bring a group together with his warmth, kindness and humor is a gift. This is a wonderful way to begin a new year! — Gayle Sykes

Jon Barbieri leads Take a Leap into 2014: Establish Your Intention and Commitment, December 30, 2013-January 1, 2014. To learn more, CLICK HERE

Q&A: The President of Shambhala on ‘Who is A Leader’ and ‘How to Lead’ (Note: You Are A Leader)

By Travis Newbill

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.

Richard Reoch

Richard Reoch

Who are the “leaders,” anyway? Are the leaders “us” or “them”? Are we all leaders? The notion of leadership may arise in various contexts: we all strive to lead decent lives; when two people are dancing a tango, one person is leading (or else there will be extreme sloppiness, if not injury); some of us are in positions in which we lead groups of people in one way or another on a daily basis.

For leaders of any sort, there is profound guidance to be found within a set of teachings whose roots extend 2,600 years into human history. The Six Ways of Ruling stem from teachings on enlightened society given by the Buddha and were articulated in this age by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche–founder of the modern day Shambhala tradition–as a means to train his successor as Sakyong (“Earth Protector” or “King”). Only in the last decade have the teachings been made available to the public.

This coming January, Richard Reoch, the President of Shambhala, will present The Six Ways of Ruling in a weekend program at SMC. Recently, President Reoch generously made time in his schedule to have some discussion about what these teachings are all about, and who may benefit from engaging with them.

Can you describe the history of these teachings and who they may be applicable to?

President Reoch: When Trungpa Rinpoche first presented these teachings, he presented them as the training of the new Sakyong: When the prince first sees how much chaos and drama there is in the world, of all sorts, and how much needs to be accomplished during his reign, he might lose heart. So, Trungpa Rinpoche says, in order to accomplish his purpose while he’s the Sakyong, he needs to be thoroughly accomplished in the Six Ways of Ruling.

I see.

And from that perspective, these teachings are a recipe, or an orientation, for that kind of leadership. At the same time, of course, the notion of Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo [the female counterpart] is meant to be an indicator and an inspiration for how we lead our own lives.

So, we are all leaders–kings and queens–in a sense?

There is a quality in which you need to attend to your own life. You have relationships with others–whether you like them or not. Most people have to work–whether they like it or not. Most people end up in teams of some sort, and then there’s the larger notion of community and society.

And these teachings are helpful in working with that stuff?

These teachings are completely and utterly applicable whether you’re just figuring out how to lead your own life or whether you’re pondering becoming the next Secretary General of the United Nations. So, no limitations there in terms of leadership.

So, how can we be good leaders?

I think the first thing is to use your own insights about yourself in order to understand the other people that you’re working with. Fundamentally, I believe that most of the leadership work that we do, at most levels in Shambhala, is entirely about working with others, and working with others’ states of mind.

So, the first thing is not to reference a to-do list?

If we approach leadership from the point of view of task first, generally speaking, we find we’re not capable of accomplishing the task.


Because the states of minds, attitudes, aspirations, and insights of others are the raw material that we work with all the time, the first thing really is taking the time and having the insight and the kindness to have a real sense of who the other members of the team are.

Doesn’t that take time away from the “actual work”?

Well, this doesn’t mean we never get any work done, but there’s got to be a sense of “How are we today?” and “Where are we at?” and “Where are we going?” It’s extremely important to lay that sort of ground in order to work for the best interests and the benefit of the whole group.

It seems that, conventionally, people equate speed and agenda-obsession with accomplishment.

That sort of approach produces a certain kind of accomplishment, but usually that kind of accomplishment runs into the sand pretty fast. The alternative is to be a person who kind of understands what the mood of the group is, and where we’re at today, that kind of thing.

Sounds like how to not be a dreaded “boss.”

It’s really a question of being open minded and attentive to people and realizing that there’s wisdom and intelligence in the group. A quality of open heartedness, open mindedness, and intelligence of that sort creates a common spree decor.

And that sort of situation produces tangible results?

I would say that it is capable of accomplishing much more, having much greater stamina, and creating more mutual support than any amount of–no matter how well informed it is, or how well intentioned–directive leadership. That, by the way, is what it says in the Six Ways of Ruling.

How does the notion of renunciation relate to leadership?

In his book Ruling Your World, the Sakyong says–and I am paraphrasing–if you have the feeling that you can do something without working with others, that is a clear sign that you have not conquered self-absorption.

I think this is the key point here: You could say that in some forms of what are regarded as conventional leadership, people are seen as having large egos or being in it for themselves. And then you have extreme forms which we see in the world around us as abuse of power, corruption in high places, self-promotion, and all that sort of thing.

And this occurs on the smaller levels as well…

On the smaller level the person who is leading from the point of view of ‘what’s best for them personally’. Or, they need to accomplish their agenda. Or, they have a kind of narrow minded approach to things, you could say. That is what needs to be renounced. So, in place of what is being renounced, what is being adopted is a more open-minded attitude, a more open-hearted attitude, a concern for the welfare of others, and trying to lead for the benefit of the overall vision or the overall benefit of the group or the people that you’re leading.

It seems that there’s a quality or service.

I’m sure you might be familiar with the phrase “servant leadership.” There’s a sense that you’re serving. So the interesting thing there is that often people hear the word “serving” and they tend to think of it as “low in the hierarchy” or somehow associated with “servile” or has some kind of quality of denigrating oneself: “I’m only here for others,” that kind of thing. And I think the flip in the Shambhala approach is that actually the highest position–or the king’s view, or the greatest manifestation of leadership–is leadership which is totally devoted to the welfare of the entire society, and is ultimately the practice of egolessness.

There’s a line in a Grateful Dead song: “You who choose to lead must follow.” Is that what you’re talking about?

So, there’s a fine line there. Leading for the benefit of all might not be the same as following. Not to take issue with the Grateful Dead, but that’s part of the skill and discernment involved here. Asking “what does ‘serving others’ mean?” “Serving” is definitely not used in the Shambhala teachings as being popular. And at the same time, you have to have enough people like you so that you can be in your position. So there’s a real dance of discernment–of working with others, open-heartedness, dignity and integrity and that sort of thing, and one might be leading in a direction that is counter to what people habitually might want to do. Interesting, huh?

Yes, indeed. Thank you for your time.

It’s been a delight.

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.

Organization and Aspiration: SMC’s Path, Goal…and Snazzy New Structure!



SMC is no stranger to great structures.

There’s always plenty of work to do at Shambhala Mountain Center. At times, the sheer number of tasks feels overwhelming, yet with the support of our community, both on and off the land, things always manage to work out. When our Executive Directors Team began working with Susan Skjei, a long time non-profit consultant and Authentic Leadership teacher, they began to realize that though we had the energy to get things done, we needed the structure and experience to organize and execute our plans.

As we set our intentions as an organization, people and structures began to fall into place. New employees with years of management experience joined our staff and, with some hard work, we created a new reporting structure. Before implementing the current structure, our Executive Director, Michael Gayner, was responsible for personally overseeing the work of 13 Senior Managers. This demand for super-human oversight from our Executive Director just wasn’t practical or efficient. Under our current system, all Senior Managers have a maximum of 5 people reporting to them, allowing Senior Managers to move away from crisis management and providing them the time to develop thoughtful long-term solutions.

Facilitating the new reporting structure is a new governing body, the Executive Council (see below). This council focuses on operations and keeping our land, buildings and programs running smoothly. The team consists of veterans who know SMC’s operational ropes as well as members with significant professional experience. While managing SMC’s day-to-day operations, they are also developing new structures and processes for working smarter, developing training and implementation of skills and systems such as: project management, reporting mechanisms, and other management and frontline skills.

SMC will always be a work in progress. Just as with any path, the journey is just as important as the destination. As we learn into the future, it is both exciting and daunting to realize that there is no gold-standard template for mindful and compassionate business management. The work we are doing as an organization at SMC will certainly help us as a business and, in time, we aspire to become a model of mindful management. As we move towards becoming a more sustainable, efficient and compassionate organization, it’s helpful to remember our highest goal: to benefit society. It’s proving to be an exciting, bumpy and beautiful ride. Thanks for joining us!

Meet the Executive Council

alison resizeAlison Campbell
COO (Executive Council Chair)

What skill/experience do you bring to SMC?

Before coming to Shambhala, I ran my own business, managed teams of employees, and trained horses and dogs for over 20 years and graduated from Naropa, where I studied Religious Studies and Tibetan Language. Years of coordinating Winter Dathun helped me to take my seat at Shambhala Mountain Center. Working with Rottweilers didn’t hurt either.

What inspires you about working at SMC?

The very thing that inspires me about working for SMC makes it difficult: the accelerated karmic “pressure cooker” intensity of working and living on sacred land. The bravery and true warriorship that I have the privilege to witness every day, in both participants and staff, as they work with their minds and each other is endlessly fascinating and awe-inspiring.


Steve-Seely-resizedSteve Seely
Guest Services Director

What skill/experience do you bring to SMC?

I bring a wide range of experience of working in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds, as well as nearly 40 years as a practitioner and teacher in the Shambhala, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions.

What inspires you about working at SMC?

The ability to be on this precious and blessed land just about every day, working with people who are on the path, and building this noble experiment in how to create an enlightened culture and workplace in this microcosm is pretty fascinating.


Margo Summer Dathun resizeMargo Dolan
Infrastructure Director

What skill/experience do you bring to SMC?

I joined the SMC team in September 2013 after sitting Dathun. I am a seasoned human resource executive and change agent with interest in organization design and development, colleague relations, LEAN/ six sigma methods, process improvement and project management.

What inspires you about working at SMC?

The greatest inspiration for me is the vastness of “all that is” at SMC–from the energy of the land, the great experiences that our participants and presenters have during their programs, to the work that needs to be done to sustain the mountain center. SMC offers a great deal to work with which helps me deepen my practice while applying my conventional world skill and ability to help with sustainability.


jacob resizedJacob Taylor
Programs Director

What skill/experience do you bring to SMC?

In the 3 years I’ve been at SMC, I have gained experience in several different departments and an understanding of the details and challenges. I am a committed Dorje Kasung and have experience with start-ups, community and campaign organizing, small businesses, and economics and quantitative analysis.

What inspires you about working at SMC?

The notion of basic goodness, and how the reality of basic goodness manifests in our bodies, minds, and society, and how it can be discovered through diverse traditions and studies is essential to our personal happiness and survival as a species. This is the best, most virtuous and imperative work that I could imagine doing.

SMC Organizational Chart

Here’s a broad overview of the current operational structure of Shambhala Mountain Center:
Org Chart