At the end of 2020, six board members who have devoted themselves to the well-being and development of Sukhasiddhi for many years will step down from their posts and we will welcome four new members to the Board of Directors. This transition has provided the Board and Executive Leadership Team an opportunity to reflect on Sukhasiddhi Foundation’s history, to gain clarity about our organization’s structure and functionality, and to clarify our vision.
“While we will dearly miss our outgoing board members, those who are joining the board bring with them a wealth of experience and deep spiritual practice that will be a vital support as Sukhasiddhi Foundation continues its evolution and commitment as a holder and source of the profound teachings of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage,” said Lama Döndrup, the resident lama of Sukhasiddhi. “The current Board of Directors has successfully led Sukhasiddhi through several years of difficult times and transitions. Each member whose term is ending has offered a deep well of stability and resilience. Much gratitude to outgoing board members Annik Brunet, Joanne Molyneaux, Kelly Minor, Scott Davis, Sandy Shelton and Stacey Marvel. The members who continue to serve on the Board include myself, Lama Pat, Elizabeth Navas, Eric Ramstad, and Leslie Shelton.”
“I am deeply grateful to all who have served on the Board of Directors,” Lama Döndrup continued. “They have fulfilled their role of ensuring the financial and spiritual well-being of Sukhasiddhi Foundation during a time of much change with dedication, compassion and wisdom.”
Sandy Shelton Retires as Board Chair
“We offer an especially deep bow to Sandy Shelton, outgoing Chair of the Board, for her thoughtful, wise leadership,” said Lama Döndrup. Here, Sandy shares her reflections on this transition:
As the year end draws near, I am reflecting on impermanence. As we know, impermanence is not just about death, but also about the ever-changing world around us. This has been obvious this year with both the Coronavirus meteor, which has changed so much of our lives, as well as the ups and downs of the election. On a more personal note for Sukhasiddhi Foundation, COVID has moved us from in-person teachings to developing good on-line programming that has continued our sharing of the Shangpa lineage teachings.
As we welcome four new board members, I’d like to take a moment to thank Annik Brunet, Joanne Molyneaux, Kelly Minor, Scott Davis, and Stacey Marvel for their service to Sukhasiddhi and for the insight and wisdom they have shared with us. I too will say goodbye to Sukhasiddhi in the capacity of Board Chair. It has been a pleasure to work with this group and for this organization that I believe in so deeply. I feel so excited and confident about the future of Sukhasiddhi as these new directors come in and Lama Döndrup continues in her guidance of our lineage as Resident Lama.
Meet Eric Ramstad, our New Board Chair
As we prepare to enter a new and hopefully healthier 2021, Eric Ramstad, who first joined the board a year ago, will assume the role of Chair.
“I look forward to the chance to be of service to Sukhasiddhi Foundation as we move forward into a new, exciting chapter,” Eric said. “I will try to bring a collaborative approach to creating a new structure for the board and to solidifying our mission as a Vajrayana Buddhist center.”
Eric brings a wealth of experience to this role. Most recently, he was a founding partner of an internet real estate technology company, HomeFinder, where he was responsible for design and development. He served on their Board of Directors until the company was acquired in 2017, allowing him to step away and pursue his spiritual practice and other interests.
Eric has been a practitioner at Sukhasiddhi since 2005, when he began ngöndro on his own with Lama Döndrup. As he was completing this practice the six-year program of study was just about to begin, so he stepped into that program and then continued in the Lineage program. If you’ve attended a Chagdrukpa puja, you’ll know that Eric often plays the drum. We hope he’ll continue to keep the beat for us in 2021.
Meet our New Board Members
We are very excited to welcome the following new board members to the team. Each will bring unique talents and experiences to add to our existing group of directors.
Alicia Bell is known by many sangha members as a most delightful songstress, storyteller and practitioner at Sukhasiddhi Foundation. She completed the six-year Shangpa program of study in January of 2019. Alicia is a member of the Community Dharma Leader program facilitated by Lama Palden, and shares her knowledge of the dharma with children. As the Children’s Librarian at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library, Alicia has many well-developed skills in leading story-times and educational activities with children. She brought that magic to a daylong dharma class for kids that she taught at Sukhasiddhi a few years ago, which was a real treat to witness as the children sat mesmerized. Her joy will be a gift to the Board.
Gary Buck, Ph.D. brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a scholar and long-time mindfulness practitioner in the Theravadin and Vajrayana traditions, including three years as a monk in Thailand. Local Marin residents may know him best as the Associate Director at Spirit Rock Meditation Center from 1997 to 2004. In the 1970’s, he served as the Managing Director of the Insight Meditation Society and is currently a post-doctoral psychotherapy intern at the Child Therapy Institute in San Rafael and Petaluma.
He describes his special interests as the Buddha’s teaching on Dependent Origination, subtle energy practices, the role of imagery in Buddhist practice, and the interface between Buddhist practice and psychotherapy. Add his experience as a Reiki Master, as well as training to teach Yoga nidra/iRest, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Therapy and you can see what an amazing asset he will be on the Board. Many thanks to Lama Döndrup for inviting him to join us.
James W. Coleman, Ph.D. Long-time Sukhasiddhi members may know James as a member and participant in our annual June retreats or as a pilgrim in Bhutan, but may not know about his distinguished 40-year career as a Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University), his long-time Buddhist practice and study, or his books on Buddhism. He is one of the founders of the White Heron Sangha in San Luis Obispo and just recently stepped down from their board.
In addition to his interest as a Social Scientist in criminology, he has also been fascinated with the sociology of religion, especially the growth of Buddhism in the West. He published The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition in 1991, and continues to be involved with Buddhist theory and practice. He edited the talks of Reb Anderson Roshi into a booked entitled The Third Turning of the Wheel: The Wisdom of the Samdhnirmocana Sutra, published in 2012. His latest book, The Buddha’s Dream of Liberation: Freedom, Emptiness and Awakened Nature, was published in June 2017.
Reverend Susan Shannon is a long-time dharma practitioner who started a dharma center for Tibetan refugees in the Bay area, and for years has taught dharma to prison inmates as well as working for restorative justice. She has taught several series of classes for Sukhasiddhi, all centered around her deep knowledge and passion for Shantideva’s teachings on the Way of the Bodhisattva, of which she is an amazing example. We are featuring an interview with one of the new directors in each of our upcoming newsletters and Susan is the first. You can read the interview with Susan here.
The Board’s inspiration and guidance from Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche
With the intention of continuing to create a healthy, functional organization that reflects our bodhisattva aspiration, the Executive Leadership Team has been in the process of articulating the organization’s decision-making process and clearly defining the roles of the Senior Lama, Resident Lama, Lamas, Teachers Council, Executive Director, Financial Manager, Board Chair, Board of Directors, Volunteer Support Team, and support staff. We have been blessed at Sukhasiddhi to have a dedicated and generous group of sangha members who serve in these roles.
In 2003, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche spontaneously composed a doha (song of realization) for the Sukhasiddhi Board of Directors. It continues to be an inspiration and a guide as, together, we create a sacred and safe mandala for the flourishing of the teachings and for the spiritual development of every sangha member.
Making a Dharma Organization
When you are making a dharma organization,
The main thing you need is a mind that wants to help others.
You need profound knowledge that’s skillful in means;
You need patience that can embrace difficulties.
When things go well, you need to be free of pride;
When things are tough, you need to keep your courage.
If you do like that then the benefits you do will grow.
The way you help others will increase.
You will be on the path to enlightenment.
Ema! Ema! What a miracle!