Minutes from P&E – Oct 2019

Practice & Education Meeting

Thursday 24th October 2019



Present: Paul Gerstmayr, Jim O’Neill, Merlin Cox, Tessa Watt, Jane Hope, Ariela Cravitz

Apologies: Johan Thygesen, Rachael Cheang


Chair: Paul. Minutes: Ariela




  1. Review of previous minutes

Jane doing something on spiritual bypassing: It was agreed that this wasn’t just meant to be for MI’s and Guides, rather it’s better to have it as a more general event (as opposed to taking place on the next MI / Guide Event day). Health and Wellbeing Team are happy for the day to happen, but unsure how to get it up and running.


Sadhana of Mahamudra: Feeback was that 8 people had attended the first one after the SOM re-started, and 5 people attended each subsequent one, including leader and co-ordinator. One person attended the last one by Zoom.


Attending programmes / talks via Zoom: Ariela hasn’t yet heard from Rachael about this.


Programme with David Schneider: This has been confirmed for 21-22 March.



  1. Programming

2.1 Changes to Level One in Nov

Jim O’Neill circulated a draft text for changing the format and description of Level 1. Currently there are only 2 people signed up. Jim thought it would be good to open it up to people who’ve already done Level 1, and format it accordingly, hence his suggested text. Jane felt a lot of people come to staff because they want to hear the Level 1 teachings again. Repeaters can do it half price.

Action: Ariela to change website entries to Jim’s description.

Action: Jim will compose a personal invited to members to re-attend.


In response to a query regarding publicity, as courses are not being very well ascribed to, two points were raised: 1. A query over whether perhaps we’re doing too much. Perhaps it might be better to consider doing fewer programmes, which might yield more staff, rather than more programmes and struggle to find staff. 2. Pricing might also be a point. We’re charging almost twice as much for the levels as for the non-core programmes. Feedback was that from Jez’s perspective (as Centre Manager), it would be about lowering the price of the levels, rather than raising the other programmes, as that might price us out of the market (looking at course prices charged by local London meditation centres). 3. Another area to consider is how we get more MI’s. It was suggested that teachers could approach individuals if there is someone they’d like to MI for a certain level. Although this may not seem equitable, if people aren’t coming forward to offer, it may be more successful in ensuring there is a MI for a course.

Action: Teachers / Peter to liaise with teacher as necessary


Decision to keep food, if necessary simplifying it. Decision to have fewer programmes running. Pricing: experiment with bringing down the price of Shambhala programmes, and level the field between that and Buddhist programmes. Idea behind the Buddhist programmes is that they’re more for established members, who can’t / won’t pay more if there’s several programmes they want to attend.


2.2 More proposals for programming spring-summer 2020 incl. LTM


Deferred due to lack of time


  • Clarifying: who is cultivating the links to other Sanghas and teachers, if we want to invite them?


Deferred due to lack of time


  • Clarifying: once Jane and Tessa have written the description/overview, who takes care of the flyer?


Deferred due to lack of time


  • Simple Werma feasts

We should be doing Werma feasts, and haven’t for a while, as we went through a phase where they became very complicated, with elaborate meals. However a feast practice can be simple food. Merlin would like to see Werma feasts happening again. It just needs 2 people – someone to lead and someone to co-ordinate. Between those two people they could get food and drink. People could either bring their own contributions, or food could be bought in advance, based on numbers of people who say they want to come.

Action: Merlin to let Paul know dates – once every two months.

Action: Ariela (i) to send blurb to Merlin to check; (ii) put dates and blurb on website (iii) to invite people who’ve done Rigden Abisheka and Kalapa Assembly.


  • Teachers and themes to attract more people (raised by Tessa)

Next meeting, trying to come with ideas for what will bring people in – non core programmes that will bring people in. Everyone here come with one idea – e.g. a big teacher, a theme…


Action: ALL


  • Proposal for possible courses, including full-day meditation courses taught by experienced teachers (raised by Jim)


Deferred due to lack of time


  • Programme Finances
    • Additional thoughts on Jez´s finance report 2019-20?


Deferred due to lack of time



  • Pricing of programmes (raised by Tessa)


See 2.1 above.


  • Finances for future programmes (raised by Council/Finance Team)


Deferred due to lack of time



  • P&E Work and Volunteering
    • Ideas for how to organise DPE work without Paul (raised by Tessa)

Technically Paul is no longer Director of Practice & Education. Maybe we do less, but what we do, we do well. This means living with the fact we can’t do everything the way we did it in the past. Maybe we find someone who can look after the feasts, vajrayana practice, etc. and the work is split into blocks.

In the first instance, send e-mail to everyone past a certain level in their path, saying Paul will be stepping down at Shambhala day, we’ll be recruiting a couple of people, etc., and see what response we get. Then take it from there.

Action: Tessa will compose and e-mail and liaise with Ariela re. who it goes to.


  • Staffing / volunteer situation + meals

See 2.1 above


  • Names of P&E group members on website

Should we publish names on the website and / or are people happy to have their names on the website – none of the other teams do this. Decision to take names off, and have the types of roles e.g. P&E Assistant, MI Co-ordinator, Shastris and teachers.


  • Review of roles/jobs and support systems, in our case P&E assistant (raised by Council, give a short summary of last Council meeting – Paul)

Had first Council meeting. Went well. Mainly about the procedure and how to have a certain structure for the meeting. Two points came up: 1. Asked to conduct a review of Ariela’s job, and another team would check in with Jez, so there’s a clear understanding of who is line manager, lines of support, appreciation, etc. 2. Linked to finance team: agreed to work together with finance team given current financial circumstances. If it’s a bigger programme than e.g. LTM, not offered before, and not clear how it will play out financially, finance team will be consulted. Going forward, create a budget, listing possible expenses, income, and considering viability. Especially if it’s a visiting teacher.



  • Educators
    • MI situation

See 2.1 above.


  • Educators´day on 30 Nov (raised by Tessa)

Attendance has not been great for these days compared to a couple of years ago (8 at last one, compared to approx. 30 previously). Ideas of what we might do to encourage more participation welcome. Peer supervision model used last time was popular and well responded to. Jim suggested something about process groups – how groups can discuss difficult issues without getting lost in blame and so on, giving each other feedback. Perhaps more for people who are involved with admin.


  • Date of next P&E meeting: Wednesday 20th November, 8-9pm