The January 31st Community Meeting ~ ‘Opening Up the Space’

Contributed by Angie Fenwick Gibb

In light of upcoming major changes (details here), the Halifax Shambhala Centre hosted a gathering of members and friends on January 31 to share one another’s vision for how to work with our space and resources to better serve the greater Halifax community, our current sangha, the sangha of the future. Thanks to the excellent facilitation team of Sera Thompson, Marguerite Drescher, Acharya Marty Janowitz and Centre Director Rhiannon Wells, everyone was able to voice outrageous thoughts, simple ideas, big vision, and realistic concerns.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.08.20 PMAlthough the meeting was well attended by about 70 members and friends of various ages & interests, many of you expressed regret in not being able to be there in person. This blog will hopefully serve as a way for everyone to further engage in the process by recreating the key elements of the event. Please engage with the following content in a way that’s meaningful for you. Once you’ve done so, please contribute your ideas to the Halifax Shambhala Centre’s Ideascale webpage, the link to which was shared by Centre Director Rhiannon Wells on January 23 in an email with the subject “Opening Up the Space”. If you didn’t receive that email but would like to be part of the Ideascale page, please contact Rhiannon at [email protected]

As the evening began, the environment felt rich with warmth, curiosity, wisdom, and the feeling of family. Following a period of meditation, Sera welcomed the crowd and invited Acharya Janowitz to place the first dot. As Marguerite captured ideas on paper, Acharya Janowitz’s remarks set the stage perfectly and inspired us to consider what is at the heart of the Halifax Shambhala Centre, described as the intersection of inner transformation and societal engagement.

To hear Marty’s remarks, click the play button.

A video of the Sakyong touring the spectacular raw space of the recently purchased Chicago Shambhala Centre was shown next. As the Sakyong tours the space, he provides the planning team with his comments and feedback. Rinpoche speaks about the importance of planning a space for community engagement, areas that are quiet as well as areas that encourage conversation. It’s a meaningful exercise to contemplate his words and how they relate to our opportunity at the Halifax Shambhala Centre. Please view the video by clicking the play button.

Now begins the active contemplation process! The skillful means for considering the future of the Halifax Shambhala Centre were presented by Sera Thompson in the form of three rounds of questions for contemplation, discussion, and harvest. The first two questions are designed to draw out the Lha or Heaven view. After contemplating each question individually, please take a moment to write down your insights.

  •     What is working at the HSC now? What is most meaningful and inspiring to you at the Centre now?


  • What is the world asking the Centre to become? If HSC were to fully manifest its potential for cultivating enlightened society, what would it look like?


The third question is designed to draw out the Earth view. In order to have an understanding of the parameters requiring consideration before moving onto the practicalities of Earth, the contemplation exercise was paused so that Centre Director Rhiannon Wells could give an overview of the pertinent details, including the following highlights;

  • Details of the 1400 square feet of space being vacated ~ What’s possible?
  • Staff and volunteers are maxed ~ How does this impact space planning and replacement revenue streams?
  • Revenue comes in through membership, donations, programming, and rent ~ What’s working and what’s not?
  • Way of Shambhala program revenue subsidizes most vajrayana programming ~ How do we best work with this skillfully in light of space requirements?
  • “Rent” has not increased since 2001. Staff salaries have only increased by 4% in the last 12 years. Centre Director’s salary has decreased by 9% ~ Is this enough? What does this mean in terms of the projected deficit of $30-40k?
  • Kitchen raised all the renovation money ~ What happens now in light of our new situation?
  • Is the notion of raising an additional $40k+ in annual revenue daunting? ~ You bet!
  • …Can we do it? ~ You bet!



Rhiannon begins her talk by walking through the following floor plan which shows the 2nd floor spaces that will be vacated by Shambhala International. Please refer to the drawing while listening to Rhiannon’s remarks below.

HSC-Floor-Plans-2nd-Floor-color(click on the image to enlarge it)

So now, please contemplate the Earth question and take a moment to write down your insights;

  • What strategic steps can we take to build on our strength and move toward our vision? (New spaces, programmes, initiatives, campaigns, etc.)



Remember to share your insights on the HSC Ideashare webpage (as detailed above). The more inspiration we are able to share as a community, the better.

The harvest on January 31st brought out many common thoughts and ideas. These were organized into categories by Marguerite under the following headings;

  • Entry, Reception, Cafe, Community Room
  • Flexible Venue Space
  • Wheelchair Accessibility
  • Diversity of Programming & Teachers
  • Volunteers
  • Arts Space
  • Vajrayana Shrineroom
  • Work within our means
  • Fundraising Campaign
  • Expand Membership
  • Inclusivity
  • Address the Schism
  • IT Area


To view the visual presentation of the ideas gleaned from the harvest, click on the image.


A written list of what groups wrote on their post-it notes is also available to read as a PDF file: January 31 Community Meeting Harvest

To conclude what was a wonderful evening together, a slide show of the completed Chicago Shambhala Centre was viewed by the group. (For those who might not be familiar with their story, the Chicago Shambhala Centre is particularly inspiring as an example of turning the flower outward. You can read more about that here.) As a final spark of possibility for our own community, the slide show is shared for you to view here.

The next steps in the process will include gathering more ideas from the community, consulting architects to learn what’s physically possible along with associated costs, and engaging a committee to steer the process. Rhiannon will be outlining more detail regarding the next steps over the next few weeks.

Thank you for investing your time and energy into participating in this precious process of discovery we are embarking on together as a sangha. May the Halifax Shambhala Centre continue to prosper and radiate goodness for the benefit of all for years to come.

Ki Ki So So!


One thought on “The January 31st Community Meeting ~ ‘Opening Up the Space’

  1. Thank you Rhiannon, Angie, and Marguerite for putting all this together! Great work in sharing the process and ways for the community to reflect and be part of the transition together ~

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