Minutes from P&E – Sept 2019

Practice & Education Meeting

Thursday 26th September 2019



Present: Paul Gerstmayr, Tessa Watt, Jane Hope, Rachael Cheang, Ariela Cravitz

Apologies: Merlin Cox


Chair: Paul. Minutes: Ariela




1.      Review of previous minutes

2.      Introduction Rachael C., talk shortly about Zoom options

3.      Ideas spring-summer 2020, incl. David Schneider 21-22 March 2020 programme idea

4.      Path of compassion tweaks + descriptions? / open way idea?

5.      Ideas for next season, inviting outside teachers?

6.      Feedback mindful communication programme

7.      DPE´s end of term, Shambhala Day 2020 (24th Feb 2020)

8.      Discussing Jez´s finance report 2019-20

9.      P&E representative for 13 November Council meeting

10.   Names of P&E group members on website

11.   Simple Werma feasts

12.   Date of next P&E meeting



1.      Review of previous minutes


Item 1 – Harvest of Peace: This has now taken place. Feedback was that there was a good atmosphere, lots of interest in the different teams presented under the new structure, and it all went well.


Item 4 – MI / Guide events: Dates are now fixed, and a reminder e-mail has gone out for the event on 1st October, along with an agenda. 30th November will be the next one after that, for which there is still an open invitation for people who wish to contribute ideas for the day.


Jane said that she would like to do something on spiritual bypassing. This could fall within the P&E Team or the Health and Wellbeing Team. It may be possible that this is appropriate for an MI / Guide event.


Action: Tessa and Jane will discuss where this would be best placed to happen.


Item 5 – Monday and Wednesday Open Evenings: The new physical schedule is up and running, and appears to be working.


Item 6 – P&E in relation to new Working Group structure: Paul decided it was a little much to be the contact person for what is now the Practice & Education Team (formerly P&E Group), so Tessa has agreed to take on this role.


Item 8 – Ikebana Update: Martina Marx has been confirmed for Ikebana programme, and publicity has been created accordingly.


Item 10 – Sadhana of Mahamudra check-in: Ariela sent a rota out. There was a discussion around whether this is currently workable, a reiteration that the point of the rota is that it not be just one person leading the SoM all the time, also so that it is not too much of a burden on one person’s shoulders, and a suggestion that perhaps it should be stopped for a while. Rachael fed in that she really enjoyed being able to join by Zoom for the first one, and being part of the Sangha.


Action: AC will request feedback regarding numbers who have attended so far.



2.      Introduction Rachael C., talk shortly about Zoom options


Rachael was introduced to the group. She wanted to join both this team and the Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Team as she unsure which team internet access to courses, practices, etc. fits into. As Rachael explained that as someone who lives outside London, she has found it difficult to attend the centre, and can feel isolated from the Sangha, and that is has been really helpful and positive being able to join by Zoom. She raised the question of whether other programmes can be offered online, to open it out more to more people.


There was some discussion about the fact that many of the Shambhala programmes are offered as an official, professionally made online course such as Joy In Everyday Life, etc. Rachael is interested in co-ordinating to see whether making more of the London courses available online can happen. ‘On the ground’ – i.e. practically speaking – it needs to be explored whether there is a person with the equipment who can provide a link. There are also potentially issues regarding quality of sound, etc.


It was felt that perhaps we could add a clause to some / many / all programme publicity for potential participants: “If you feel the only way you can participate is by Zoom, send us an e-mail, and we will see whether we can accommodate this.” Some thinking needs to take place about which programmes, etc. to offer.


In terms of course feedback, Johan offered to do feedback on forms following programmes, and Rachael has offered to help with that. Both are experienced researchers.


Action: Rachael to identify something coming up in the autumn programme, approach the co-ordinator of that programme (via Ariela) to see if it can be offered live via Zoom, and see how it goes as an experiment.



3.      Ideas spring-summer 2020, incl. David Schneider 21-22 March 2020 programme idea


Discussion around what we are going to offer as a centre for Spring / Early summer 2020.There will be a Level 1 with Jane in January, the programme is then currently open. Paul encouraged everyone to think about what we would like to offer in the next 6 months, starting January 2020. The last of the Mahayana programmes – Meditation in the World – currently has no teacher.


The point was raised that what is scheduled is dependent on how attendance is for current / upcoming courses. However, this is always the case, but must be balanced against not leaving things until the last minute, in order to be able to schedule in and publicise, etc. Also, many teachers need to be asked quite far ahead – especially visiting teachers / those not in London.


Paul has spoken to David Schneider who would be willing to come to London again – 21-22 March, to deliver an arts programme, similar to the last one he did. It will be up to him to say what he’d like to teach. It was suggested that, similarly, it’s good to invite teachers, and leave it to them to say what they’d like to teach. This also feeds into Jane’s idea. Jane suggested Stephen Bachelor, although she doesn’t have any connections to him.


Action: Invite Rachael to the London Shambhala Google Calendar, so she can access it.

Action: Everyone to start thinking about programmes for the new year.

Action: Paul to confirm programme with David Schneider.


4.      Path of Compassion tweaks + descriptions? / Open Way idea?


Jane introduced her idea of having a series of programmes under an umbrella (i.e. perhaps an encompassing title – ‘The Open Way’), and producing publicity as a whole. Her thinking is that this would be specifically for people who don’t want to follow the path, but who want to come to programmes, as there are people currently on the edge / looking to drop out, and not interested in the path, along with a feeling that we should be providing alternative options, that we have a stream that isn’t connected with e.g. the Sakyong. This might also encompass the idea of presenting something with a bit more ‘pizazz’ / repackaging. It would mean offering a broad approach, meaning that people are able to feel okay about not becoming Vajrayana students. There could perhaps be some kind of flyer overview, that in a new way gives an overview of all the non-Shambhala path programmes – e.g. Ikebana, David’s programme, Mindful Communciation, etc. It can include the Buddhist programmes too. Packaging them in a more professional way, so they look more like a package. Also including our Buddhist programme – e.g. Path of Compassion.


Next Open House series: Jane is thinking of inviting people to give talks on meditation and painting, meditation and music, and so forth – thus a broader remit than before. She will need to think about how to shape that into a professional format, and someone will need to draft copy, collect descriptions, etc.


Action: Everyone to think about ‘The Open Way’ idea.

Action: Ariela to change ‘Path’ to ‘Way of Compassion’ on publicity.

Action: Tessa and Jane to write a description of ‘Way of Compassion’ which Ariela can then add to the web page for this.


5.      Ideas for next season, inviting outside teachers?


Encompassed in 3. and 4. (above)?


6.      Feedback on Mindful Communication programme


17 people attended, and this worked well. There was an interesting mix of ‘regular’ Shambhala people, others were new faces / not regular attenders. Feedback was that it was very rich, although at times a little overwhelming, as a lot was being conveyed in two days. Susan Chapman used Powerpoint, using mandelas and traffic light analogies. Participants sat on chairs, and there was very little meditation, rather a format of sharing experiences. Although at this point there is uncertainty about how we did financially, it is believed that there was no profit. The programme was about interpersonal relations, and handling conflict, so from that perspective there were non-quantifying benefits to the programme. That said, we do need to keep in mind costs if we invite someone to teach from abroad, and the cost will ideally be shared by centres.


7.      DPE´s end of term, Shambhala Day 2020 (24th Feb 2020)


Paul is now in his third year as Director of Practice and Education, his understanding was that the term would be three years, and so that is now coming to an end. Having given it thought, he feels the best time to step down is Shambhala Day, so February 2020. He is hoping that by then the P&E Team will have talked about the programme, and be six months into the team-based approach, thereby giving enough time for things to settle before he leaves.


Sadness was expressed that Paul will be leaving, and gratitude and appreciation for all he has done for the London centre. His departure leaves a concern about how we will go forward, and a need to think creatively about getting more people involved – and that perhaps the role will be done by more than one person. E.g. having a head of Buddhist programme, head of Shambhala programmes, etc. Following on from that, it was expressed whether we should involve more people into the P&E Team generally, in terms of how to go forward. Currently, everyone in the group already has a role: e.g. Jane and Tessa are there to be teachers and advisors (not be Director). Ideas are welcome on how to approach this. The question was raised – how does having a director fit in with the new structure. The answer is that in this instance it’s been useful to have one person as contact person for the calendar – in terms of practicality, it can be helpful to bundle the work, so one person has an overview – having more than one person will be chaotic. Also (in terms of background information), P&E was felt to be a special case, as it already existed as a team, and had so much to deal with, and to ensure the continuity was there – otherwise there would be no programme, no income, and the centre would fall apart. It was felt that it would be possible to have multiple people, then more of a liaison task between the various people. This would be in line with the team approach – lots of shoulders, so a smaller burden. The P&E group were already working as a team (i.e. not one person doing everything). That said, at the time the re-structure took place, the group didn’t realise Paul would be stepping down.


Action: All to think about who we know who could be involved, and how it might work if more than one person takes on the work Paul has been doing.

Action: Paul – to think about how it might work if the role is split.


8.      Discussing Jez´s finance report 2019-20

Carried forward to next meeting


9.      P&E representative for 13 November Council meeting


Paul is unable to attend, so asked who would be willing to attend instead. The point was raised that trustees shouldn’t be a delegate at Council meetings, however Jane offered to do it this one time, as it was agreed it is important that someone is at the meeting who has in-depth knowledge.


10.   Names of P&E group members on website

Carried forward to next meeting


11.   Simple Werma feasts

Carried forward to next meeting


12.   Date of next P&E meeting: Thursday 24th October, 7-8pm (Zoom)


Agenda items for next meeting (carried forward / arising from this meeting)

– More proposals for programming spring-summer 2020
– Clarifying: who is cultivating the links to other Sanghas and teachers, if we want to invite them?

– Clarifying: once Jane and Tessa have written the description/overview, who takes care of the flyer?
– Ideas for how to organise DPE work without Paul
– Additional thoughts on Jez´s finance report 2019-20
– Names of P&E Team members on website

– Simple Werma feasts