January 16, 2014

A Personal Appeal regarding the State of our Shambhala Mountain Center for all who Care.


Photos: @waylonlewis on Instagram


To the Noble Shambhala Sangha and His Majesty the Sakyong, Mipham Rinpoche,

I just spent two weeks at Shambhala Mountain Center.

Shambhala is an ancestral home for the Shambhala/Vajradhatu community (see photos, below, via Greg Smith). The sky is open, the air is wakeful, the land is dignified, the community is a precious opportunity.

And, we’re in danger of losing this place for good.

Everyone in our sangha knows more or less than what I’m about to say below, but no one’s talked about it publicly. So this is an uncomfortable position to put myself in, but I have the platform and the simple caring to do so.


Learn more about Shambhala Mountain Center, visit shambhalamountain.org 

Want to meditate for the first or one-thousandth time surrounded by nature & beauty? Sign up for a retreat.

Support Shambhala at shambhalamountain.org/support-smc

Shambhala has been named a top ten Buddhist retreat in the US, it’s a beautiful Buddhist center on 700 acres in the Rocky Mountains that’s open to all kinds of programs, all year long.




But first, I have easy news to report, for those of you who, like me, may not have visited for too long.

It’s just as powerful and ordinarily magical as always. As Trungpa Rinpoche said (in direct contradiction with Ever Wrong, our feng shui hexpert), every blade of grass and rock is blessed, tamed by the Dharma.

Old warriors like Joshua Mulder and Dickie and John Ohm and Greg Smith hold the fort. While many of the old cabins have been condemned, most of them are rescue-able, if there were funds (which there are not).

Michael Gayner, current director, is devotedly serving with cheer, charm and attention to details.

As he and anyone on staff freely offers, Shambhala is in rough financial shape after the big loans of the expansive Waltcher era being followed by caring, but non-business-savvy directors. That’s all water under the bridge, but that water, like the recent floods, threatens to drown The Land and even the Stupa, with it.

This place needs some help.



For photos and my video conversation with Director Michael Gayner:

“A Place Where Decency Can Arise.” Waylon talks with Dir. Michael Gayner at Shambhala Mountain. {Video}

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been doing interviews and talking with Shambhala Mountain staff, off the record…but what I can say is that it’s in dire financial shape, as all of you know.
But, there is also residual strength—good brand awareness, constant tours of the Stupa, the dralas and power and awake of The Land, a mostly devoted staff.

That said, someone has to say this publicly, not just off the record, before it’s too late.

The Emperor has no clothes. If we truly love this Land, we have to act. We are in debt and we need to fill the Lodges,  we need to uplift the habited areas of The Land and clear up the confusion that is the Regent’s Stupa, in Bardo (the stupa is 99% complete, but at the request of Lady Diana has been put on semi-permanent hold, scaffolding still up around it. I’m not arguing the good or ill of such a decision, but it needs to be dealt with sooner than later).

All that’s workable. But to use straightforward, un-flowery language, those who are best informed and devoted on The Land all agree that this place is going down, friends—unless.


Beautiful photos of the history of Shambhala Mountain Center:


Shambhala Mountain Center could go down. We could lose the Lodges and the Stupa. The sangha would rally, I’m sure, but without a solid and actionable plan for rescue, it would be a difficult ship to keep afloat. We are at the end of our rope with the County, who has been dignified and patient with us for many years.

This is a case of water flooding the vessel. Someone needs to be willing to holler “Emergency!” and take the hand-off from Mr. Gayner in a year or two, and to give up three years of their life, alter and improve the charter to be more along the lines of Denma Ling (no debt), and they need to be supported 108% by Shambhala itself, and His Majesty.

Michael has a year or two left in his tenure during which he’ll continue to work to form a strong leadership and lungta-ful staff, and to right some of the financial karma that Shambhala Mountain has been suffering beneath for too many years.

Shambhala Mountain is save-able with the right support and a director with an eye for programming (the Lodges and tents need to be full) and fundraising. The right Director will know she is not the answer, alone, but will beg, cajole and charm the necessary support to help recreate a major donor board and foster significant, and immediate fundraising.

Most importantly, if we truly care about the legacy of this Land, it needs us to all step up now.


From my meetings with everyone, it’s out of rope. But I keep thinking of Shambhala Mountain with optimism, inspiration, devotion and motivation to right this ship.

I’ve been thinking about it and I think it would take:

> a devoted director who knows her weaknesses to take the hand-off from Mr. Gayner in a few years’ time, after he’s been able to continue to stabilize and reinvigorate Shambhala Mountain Center with the help of his staff.

> practically shutting the place down in the winter, skeleton crew for a few years, saving money, losing 50% of the staff that is ready to move on

> reforming a donor board

> begging a skilled businessperson with devotion to His Majesty and Shambhala’s vision, and with connection to Trungpa Rinpoche’s vision and sangha, to be chair of the board

> reassembling a vision, a concrete 5-year plan; and establishing succession criteria so we don’t have to go through this again

> making personal desperate appeals, shoring up the immediate-term

> kickstarter or other crowdfunder for the Stupa, which is built for 1,000 years but is on the line if Shambhala Mountain goes bust, which it already is…this campaign would make public, fun noise and as prizes give lodging, getting folks back up here and re-engaged on heart as well as involvement and giving levels

> reinvigorating staff and upliftedness up here day to day (the food is great, the land steward is great, coordinators seem strong, there are plenty of existing strengths but the place is worn and unkempt in areas)

> getting more programs in stat, which is totally doable

> having support and protection from SMR and President Reoch, etc., to do what is needed without complication

> praying

More detail if interest:

This can be done. Our first steps could be to reinvigorate open and honest and transparent communication (which exists, but Shambhala Mountain needs to humble itself and communicate openly).

Additionally, the next director would work to reform a major donors board, ask them to help reform a 5-year vision, then set about fundraising on an emergency and non-emergency basis. Crowdfunding for the Stupa to help get Joshua 100K to continue his work (no one is getting any younger 😉 ) will help lift morale, re-engage the core sangha, and get them back up and in Lodge rooms and tents (prizes for the campaign). Expand the Gift Store’s offerings both physically and online, and add a café—there needs to be an uplifted gathering spot for visitors and staff, as well as coffee that doesn’t taste like warmed-up police station coffee (an army runs on its belly, and moreso on wakeful warm stuff to drink).

Do we have the will to right this ship? Hai! Do we have a director willing to step in and forge a path forward? Michael, John and the other directors have all served devotedly. Now, we need to step up Shambhala Mountain’s income and stabilize our Land for the next 960 years.

My above is based on two weeks of conversations. I do not consider that I know more than anyone else, or even as much as many. I am simply communicating my concern for this land that we all so dearly love that was left to us by the Vidyadhara.

Yours in the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,

Waylon Lewis



Irrelephant background info:

I’ve been going to Shambhala Mountain Center, formerly Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center and Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, since I was a baby (I have diaper photos to prove it). I did 1985 Seminary, Hinayana and Mahayana, as well as the first Shambhala Sun Camp up there (which fast became the hardest, sweetest week of my life, every summer), and a half dozen Seminaries as participant, then staff, and Kasung.

I then worked for the Expansion Project, learning how to do business (I’ve now built elephant up to 7 million readers a month, and it is most fundamentally an expression of the continuation of the legacy of Trungpa Rinpoche, the Sakyong, my teacher, and our sangha’s inheritance, the teaching and practice of meditation). I worked for Jeff for three years, starting a year after the Sacred Studies Hall had been completed, and left a year or two before the second Lodge was begun. During my time we expanded greatly, both in programs, income, and in debt and building. Jeff’s aim was to build a financial foundation beneath said expansion, and he magnetized a strong donor group to do so. Unfortunately, after my time, various problems arose that I’m not privy to, and things fell apart. Jeff left and the next director, while among the sweetest gentlemen ever born, was put in an untenable position that required extensive financial and business savvy.

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