History of the Longmont Shambhala Meditation Group


Bill Lyford In the Photo: Bill Lyford, Original Group Coordinator
Prior to 2010, the Longmont delek had been active for over 9 years, with weekly sitting practice in various members' homes and Shambhala Day brunches also in members' homes. Paul Cattermole started a Google group (longmontdelek) in 2006 so that we could contact people via email; there were about 75 people in this group.
In the autumn of 2010 the number of people attending our weekly sitting practice was reaching the limit for the capacity of our living rooms. At about the same time, Cliff Clusin, a local Zen teacher, was investigating the possibility of leasing space in a public building where he could conduct his teaching and sitting practice with his Zen community. In order to do this, he needed to rent the building out to other groups on an hourly basis. He contacted our group to see if we were interested.
At that time we had no organized leadership, simply people deciding where to gather for our weekly sittings, and where to have our potluck brunches. Because we needed to make some decisions, a group of six people arose to become what we've called the steering committee, which took on leadership of the delek. The original members of the steering committee were Tim Fischer, Bill Lyford, Trudy Lyford (previously, Trudy Van Leuven), Eric Meyer, Janet Solyntjes, and David Cook (since deceased).
We polled the membership of our delek and decided that we could afford to rent the public space from Cliff through donations from the group. We signed up with Cliff to use the space for two hours (7 to 9 pm) every Thursday evening for our weekly sitting practice, and for three hours (9 am to noon) on the first Sunday of each month for a nyinthun.
Auspiciously, Sakyong Mipham's "Letter of the Morning Sun" arrived in November 2009, adding to our enthusiasm for making this move. On January 2nd, 2010, in our first event in the new location, called The Meditation Place, at 940 Kimbark, Longmont, we performed a lhasang (smoke offering) and read the "Letter of the Morning Sun" to our community. We met in that space from January 2010 to December 2015.
Further encouraged by the "Letter of the Morning Sun", in the spring of 2010 we surveyed our members to determine our future course. This resulted in the formation of three focus groups, one for practice and education, one for health and well-being, and one for communications. We invited members of the community to join these focus groups.
After the focus groups met independently several times, we realized that there was substantial overlap among the three groups. Starting in the early summer of 2010, the members of the focus groups began meeting with the steering committee; this larger group evolved into the present leadership.
Up to that time we had simply been the Longmont Delek. However, the leadership group realized that we were really bigger than a delek. At Janet Solyntjes' suggestion, we decided to investigate the possibility of formally becoming a Shambhala Meditation Group.
Building on the work of the focus groups, the leadership developed a "view-to-action" plan which was presented at a special program at The Meditation Place with Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown in October 2010. Acharya Simmer-Brown spoke about the background for the Sakyong's 2020 vision, after which we rolled out our "view-to-action" plan to the members of our group. The plan was well received by those present, so we continued to work on implementing that plan. As you might guess, becoming a Shambhala Meditation Group was one of the actions included in our plan.
In September 2010, Anna Weinstein from Shambhala International was contacted about the possibility of us becoming a Shambhala Meditation Group. She sent us information on the requirements, one of which is having a Coordinator and Council. In early November 2010, Mr. Lyford was chosen to be the coordinator for our group. His first duty as the coordinator was to complete the application process so that we could become a Shambhala Meditation Group. The application was submitted on November 18th, 2010, and official confirmation was received on Monday, December 12.


We met at the "old" Meditation Place, 940 Kimbark, from January 2010 up to December 2015. It was a wonderful space, full of good energy. In those days we carried all our equipment up from the basement every time we met, in order to leave the space for other groups sharing that space.
During these years the number of people on our mailing list grew steadily, up to the level of over 200 names. Most of those people were interested but not active.
In 2013, Bill Lyford stepped down after three years as the LSMG Coordinator, and was replaced by Eric Meyer.
In 2015, we were notified that the landlord of the space at 940 Kimbark believed he could get more revenue by renting the space to someone else, so we searched for a new location. After some adventures, we were able to move into the "new" Meditation Place at 324 Main, Longmont. Cliff Clusin led a heroic effort to make the new space usable - for example, arranging to mitigate a mold problem in the old flooring.


On December 1, 2015, the LSMG moved into the "new" Meditation Place at 324 Main, in a really charming space in one of the oldest buildings still standing in Longmont. It featured lovely old exposed brick walls, a skylight, and such quirky features as a series of small numbers marking out various distances on the floor, dating from the days when that space was an old-time harness shop. While we were still sharing the space with other groups, as we did before, in the new space we got permission to set up a permanent Shambhala shrine fixed to the wall, which was covered by a lattice screen when other groups were in the space. The old floor markings were not the only quirky aspect from the past - the electrical wiring was, shall we say, not recent, so we had to be careful about plugging in too many tea kettles or heaters at the same time.
Around this time we were exploring new ways to reach people, including Facebook and Meetup groups.
In 2016, Eric Meyer stepped down after three years as the LSMG Coordinator, and was replaced by Tim Fischer.
In 2018, the worldwide sangha of Shambhala was thrown into turmoil as we learned that the spiritual leader of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, had been accused of clergy sexual misconduct by multiple students. This is a complicated issue with many aspects, but one thing to say is, an independent investigator found enough credible claims to establish a pattern of clergy sexual misconduct. For a good discussion of the issue see this link from the Shambhala Mountain Center. Each of us had to make a choice about how to respond. While the LSMG chose to keep going, partly because the teachings are so precious to us, and partly to see what others would do, some of our LSMG members chose to leave. Tim Fischer stepped down as LSMG Coordinator in April 2019 (primarily because of work and personal issues not related to the scandal), and since then we have been functioning without any person formally filling that role.


In approximately March 2020, in response to the Covid crisis, we stopped conducting live meetings at The Meditation Place, and switched over to online Zoom meetings. In one way we miss the direct contact. But in another way it turned out to have unexpected positive aspects: some of our members don't like to drive at night, so being able to Zoom from home was very appealing. Also, with Zoom, there's no need for people to be physically anywhere near Longmont. Some of our regular attendees have been coming from as far removed as Ontario, some who were travelling for business zoomed in from Europe, and some guest teachers have been coming to us from distant cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco.
In June 2021 we got word that, reluctantly, The Meditation Place will have to close as of July 1. The financial situation is just not workable. We are currently exploring possible future options such as renting space in one of the local churches, but nothing is settled. In the meantime we will continue to meet via Zoom as a matter of practical necessity, not just to avoid the pandemic. If you are aware of any place that might be suitable for us to meet in some time in the future, please let us know. (Send email to longmontshambhala@gmail.com)