Shambhala Center Closings Related to Coronavirus

Dearest friends,

I am writing to share some decisions I’ve come to after extensive discussions with members of our Council, our Shastris, and our Affinity Group leaders. These are the strangest of times — so much so that it is difficult to believe it is real and thereby to implement stringent precautions. Yet it is very real! Austin has the advantage of earlier warnings than some of our friends in other states who are suffering so greatly. We have an opportunity to try to mitigate the severity of this illness — not only for ourselves but for all other people in our city. It’s hard to take extreme measures at a time when things don’t seem so bad. But everything I’ve read tells me that things are already that bad; we just don’t see it yet. My primary concern is to keep everybody safe.

We are totally interdependent. Even though younger people may be less vulnerable to getting sick, they are equal carriers. They can equally bring illness into the Center and carry it back out. It only takes one person! The essential nature of our teachings is the bodhisattva path. We must think about others, even if it creates a painful burden for ourselves.

For this reason, I have decided that it is better to err on the side of caution than to continue programming. If I’m wrong, we’ll all be happy and continue forward in good health. But the cost-benefit is too severe, truly a matter of life or death for some. I know this will be very disappointing to many, but we had to shut down the year before last (our first “season of the rat”) and we got through it.

Coronavirus warnings change day to day, so these are guidelines I am setting for the coming week. Things could change:

  1. No gatherings over 10 people. Try to do meetings by Zoom or other online systems.
    • P&E meeting this Saturday will meet as planned, adhering to the guidelines described below.
    • The facilitator of Conversations is closing it for tonight (he will show up to let people know)
    • Sunday afternoon’s Community Gathering will be held as an online Zoom meeting (information coming later in your email)
    • Close all public sits starting Sunday. If we meet this Sunday for the last time, we can make the announcement so people will know (we don’t have contact info)
    • Affinity group leaders: please inform your members as best you can
  2. No meetings longer than about 2 hours (so people won’t need food or water)
    • Meditation Instructors cancel sessions or meet with individuals and small groups outdoors
  3. Absolutely no use of the kitchens for food or drink! Remove cloth towels & only use paper
  4. Chairs and cushions 6 feet apart
  5. Start the gathering with these reminders:
    • No kitchen use
    • No hugs, kisses, etc. (social distancing)
    • No lingering before and after, except outside
    • Good ventilation, windows open
    • Don’t stay if you’ve been through an airport in the past 10 days, been around anyone who is sick, have a cold or cough
    • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer when you arrive and leave (keep it by the doors)

I realize this isn’t 100% consistent and leaves some wiggle room. If you have questions or comments about your specific programs, feel free to contact me for discussion.

My love to you all,

— Lauren Newton, Center Director Austin Shambhala Meditation Center