The Challenges of Responding to Abuse at Shambhala: A Discussion with Susan Piver

On June 30th, meditation instructor Susan Piver posted this reflection on the crisis unfolding within Shambhala International. On July 5th, I published this response. But before I did I reached out to her to let her know it was coming, and to make sure that she felt it was fair. She asked for one correction, which I made, but then also suggested we book time to discuss our text-exchange via Zoom, and record it. Here it is.

I’d like to thank Susan for her invitation and her resilience in considering criticism. I’d also like to say something I think I left out of recording: I’m sorry my analysis hurt her feelings at first. I really admire her ability to pivot into a discussion nonetheless, and to have been inspired enough to turn this moment into a learning opportunity for her community, and for me as well.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • Just excellent. — Without minds able to have this discussion, this discussion could not have happened. Kudos to you both.

  • Like you two, I am an admitted autodidact, and there is something to be said for our ability to think for ourselves. We can educate ourselves in impressively freed-up ways, and in listening to this conversation, I was especially impressed with Matthew’s skillful dance away from the “mansplaining structure” of the talk. It was also impressive the way Susan allowed herself to not just give lip service to the idea of staying in the discomfort of not-knowing, but actually did it. That having been stated, I can only hope that her confusion about her own charismatic nature will someday “dawn as wisdom.” She really didn’t get Matthew’s point there, and that’s one of our vulnerabilities as autodidacts. Our charisma compensates for a lack of credentials, creates confidents in our students, and since it builds organically from a state of initial powerlessness, it’s easy for it to become an obvious blind spot (as it clearly has for Susan). Obviously, mansplaining is an issue for me, but at least I appreciate Matthew’s more evolved relationship to it.

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