The following are the minutes for the October 2020 Board Town Hall in which Board President Kris Roehling presented the new RD website and answered questions from the community.

Kris:
This is our 2nd Town Hall, the first one was about trademark and logos. ThisTown Hall can serve as a report, to let you know what the Board has been up to. We have a little bit of info on the website today. I just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to catch up on where we’re at and whats coming up next.

Kris presents the following powerpoint presentation.

 

Community member 1:
What’s the status and outcome of the first Town Hall? The question of a trademark for the RD Board and whether the Board requires a logo that’s different from the current logo and if the community will have access to that logo. It sounds like the website will use the existing logo which I think would be great for the community.

Kris:
There’s not a definite answer yet. We are exploring the possibility of doing a wordmark. We are still talking about doing a logo but it’s on a separate track than the website and if we don’t get it done before the website is done we’ll go w/ our current logo.

Community member 2:
In regards to the website and newcomers, are we making sure that the site is comprehensible to someone who is completely new to this? Will we be making sure it’s accessible to people who are struggling?

Kris: Yes we’re working with the website developer (Firespring) to make sure the language is bite-sized and accessible. There will also be a whole section dedicated to beginners that will include things like the practice and meetings. We will work with Outreach folks to help write the content since we don’t necessarily have the capacity to do all of that ourselves.

Community member 3:
2 part question. I want to know more about what the Board is doing in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion training and also, is there a mechanism for oversight? Since we’re peer-led I know the intention is to not have a top-heavy approach with the groups. But how do we handle issues that come up at the level of the individual sangha especially if it’s being repeated across different sanghas.

Kris: First part of question: we went out looking for DEI training, which generally costs around $12,500. One of the things we’re looking at is something offered by a person from the East Bay Meditation Center. They offer a 6 month ongoing training that we’re potentially interested in. In addition to that, we’re also interested in promoting or hosting talks by folks on the topics of equity, access, diversity. For me its important to integrate it into our practice just like our practice with other substances and behaviors. There are aspects to it that are repetitive and harmful and it takes practice, attention, and effort in situations where I sit in privilege or in places where I experience oppression.

In regards to accountability, other than an annual election and these town halls, we don’t have direct accountability so we need to start working together to create that structure.When we put out big pieces of literature they’ll go through various checks like a literature circle and the inclusion circle but we’re still writing up those processes.

Community member 4:
When the website is set up, will there be access for circles to have resources on there? Part of the issue is finding things right now. Is that being addressed?

Kris: Yes the blog on the website will serve as a library for resources that you’ll be able to search. For example you could search for “compassion” or “mentorship”. It’ll be accessible and more expansive.

Community member 5:
Is it possible to have a part of the new site dedicated to professionals at rehabs and correction facilities? Also, how can Outreach get help in reaching the greater community and advertising. We’ve asked for help but haven’t gotten much of a response.

Kris: 1st question: Adding a section for professionals would be great. We’re limited in the work contract we’ve agreed to with the developer but we’re getting a WordPress team together so that when the website is up we can start adding pages.

In regards to the other point, advertising and getting the word out falls under a Communications Committee purview but we have to get our feet underneath us. As I’ve been calling and talking to people in the global sangha I get a sense of overwhelm that they’re barely just keeping their own group together so it makes sense that when you put out a call for help, that unless there’s something coming back, they don’t have anymore to give.
In terms of the Board for example, we’re not just asking for support, we’re giving things back like training and a sangha you can be a part of. Its not just asking people to dig down and give more but also asking for people to be a part of a community. Having a town hall on it would be a great option.

Community member 6:
New to RD and have a question about meeting facilitators. I attend lots of different meetings and the facilitation is inconsistent. Is that the intention or is the plan to have global training and set up guidelines?

Kris: Just like other recovery communities, if you want to start a meeting, you can start a meeting. All you need is a book and some resentments. That expansiveness is intentional. Some Intersanghas, like RDO, have more of a foundation. Hopefully the new site will be able to support the people who are running and starting meetings better. The plan is for them to be able to edit their own meeting listings and also have better access to resources.

Community member 7:
I don’t think $12k is a lot to pay for unconscious bias training. I’m witnessing and experiencing harassment in BIPOC meetings with people coming in and saying things like “all lives matter”. I was kicked out of a different sangha for identifying racism. This is a Buddhist inspired program and we have Asian people and Latinx people being blamed for scapegoating. Training is important so that BIPOC members can have safe spaces to heal.

Kris: I want to acknowledge that the amount I quoted for the training wasn’t necessarily sticker shock even though that was probably how it was communicated. We want to make sure we have the funds to be able to do that. We need a spending plan and a budget so we can make sure that happens. Some things need to happen sooner- like this, and elections for instance. This needs attention sooner rather than later. Lets work on it.

Community member 8:
Works at a peer-run org mental health organization that hosts multiple recovery groups. The language on the website sounds like its going to be very complicated. We have to remember that the first time someone visits this site they’re probably not doing too great in their life. Its important to make it as simple as possible, using recovery-based language so they feel comfortable and accepted. All of the people that run our meetings are trained as peer recovery coaches which can really help especially with topics such as racism. If you’re going to train people to run meetings it should be a small group of people who then go on to train other people.

Kris: Agree about simple language. The website has simple language initially with the ability to get more info by hitting various buttons. I think training is great but the trick is to build our capacity to be able to do that. Our job as RDG is to empower things like that to happen.

Community member 9
What we’re talking about is a core issue of why we started Recovery Dharma. Moving away from a model of gurus or established teachers and moving into a peer to peer models where we trust people to sometimes make mistakes. The issue of inclusivity as a large part of our founding and I’m hearing that people aren’t understanding that as a baseline of what we do. The real question is does any of this match how we started?

Kris:
Institutional memory is one of the pieces that we want to make sure we hold on to. Our goal is to find the balance of not being too centralized but making sure we have a structure. That’s the path of Buddhism, not too much of one thing. I value the reminder of the core values of what we were built from and empowering folks to create spaces to do the work. Also, Amanda asked me to mention that we’re doing Board 101 training and made sure the facilitator we hired was someone who could also bring messages and training around inclusion and diversity.

Community member 10
In regards to the inconsistent facilitator subject, if someone comes from a rehab etc looking for information, its important that meetings are consistent in certain ways. We need to hit all the elements that are part of our core intentions.

Kris:
There will be a whole section on the new site for people who are starting meetings so theres a solid set of resources. Regions and intersanghas are a good place to have support for people who haven’t run meetings before and that’s an area that still needs development.

Community member 10: We’ve been working on an outreach facility document that we feel good about.

Kris: We can work with you on that so we can upload that doc onto the blog.

Community member 3
I don’t think that training alone solves the issues I’ve heard about, sometimes they’re happening outside of meetings. Related to that, has anyone looked at what 12 Step has done with these types of issues particularly with racism? In order to create a culture that is truly inclusive. The meeting we’re in right now is mostly white. Has that been looked at and if not I’d like to get involved.

Kris: Yes lets chat. I don’t know about resources from 12 Step but I would be really curious to hear about it. What I bring is from the Unitarians and Amnesty International and a whole bunch of POC organizations across the South. With the experience I had in those other orgs, I understand its fits and starts and boundaries and education and reeducation and so thats exactly our path. For the folks that think this is outside of our practice, that is a hard place for me to stand. I think this is directly within our practice. Also acknowledging both that its urgent and that its a process.

Community member 11
We started outdoors, in-person meetings. Does RDG has guidelines? This goes back to the issue of having structure.

Kris:I haven’t seen anything but I know that Chicago has been pretty creative with that. No we haven’t done anything with that.

Community Member 8: Our meetings are in-person. We set up cushions/chairs 6 feet apart, and supply hand sanitizer, we take their temperature, and have them sign in. If something happens we know everyone who was at the meeting so we can do the contract tracing. For indoor.

Kris: Sounds like a great article!

 

Community member 2:
I have a question about the political nature of the organization. What is RD’s stance on outside issues?

Kris: There were 2 issues with the Core Intentions Committee that took a lot of working debating and talking out. The first one was do we accept everybody or do we create boundaries around a safe space.The other issue was concerning outside issues and we decided to just take it out. “Outside Issues” are not named in the Core Intentions. When we were Refuge we also didn’t have anything on that. The next question is what’s an outside issue. Things like race, gender, I don’t consider those outside issues because its about the people who we welcome into our spaces.

Community Member 2:
Refuge has added something about not having an opinion on outside issues. From a practical position of someone new to meetings, are we being wary of creating additional barriers along w/ the ones that already exist. The language of inclusion can become an extremely high barrier to the people who don’t speak the correct way or understand the issues. I say that as a biracial person.

Kris: I think that’s part of what I was saying earlier about it being urgent but also a process and path.

Community Member 8:
One of the first things we say when we start a meeting is “everyone is welcome”. Sometimes when you put too much emphasis on other things it can push people away. We have every type of person in our meetings. If someone touches on politics, we say we’ll talk to you about that after the meeting, keep it focused on the reading or the meditation or your recovery. I think it’s a way for everyone to feel safe.

Kris: I’m going to step into my own personal experience piece. A couple years ago, women were talking about being harassed at meetings and not being able to say that’s not ok. We need to create a safe space for all. It’s a balance, it’s both. It’s welcome for all but that also means I’m safe from being made to feel unsafe at meetings. It’s not a single answer. The Core Intentions did a good job in saying that all are welcome and also that it’s important for us that it’s a safe space. Also coming from our past fellowship, one by one all the women in my recovery were dropping out and as soon as we flipped over it started to surge back. I’m an alley around race but I definitely also have a view around it with gender too.

Community member 12
I’m so encouraged. I was encouraged at the Sangha Summit. I’m grateful for the intense work that you guys have done. There’s lots going on in Portland. A series of wise friendship committees, workshops on peer support, doing inquiry questions and on December 5th we’re going deeper into the mentorship guidelines document. On Dec 12th and 13th we’re bringing George Hass in for using meditation for relapse prevention. We’re working on financing that. Another workshop at the end of Feb for mindful self compassion. One of the other things we’d like to say is that people are finding the Friends Act so valuable and the question is, what’s the relationship with the Friends Act and the org? How free are we to use those kinds of things in meetings?

Kris: The model that we follow, like in other recovery fellowships, like 12 steps, is that members create their own guides, so that’s similar here. We want to create the space for this literature to develop. Partially because the community needs the material and also because the core group doesn’t have the capacity or structure yet to create official literature. The closest thing we have to core literature right now is the book and the Core Intentions. Other than that most everything is something a community member has created. The blog on the website will be good for that. We will be keeping it to peer created resources.

Community member 13
H&I is a good way to introduce the program neutrally to people. Have we investigated that?

Kris: Along with creating a space thats on the website for professionals, we’ll be developing literature for H+I and creating the Outreach Committee.

Community member 14:
I know it can be complicated but I want to suggest keeping it really simple. Recovery should be simple. All I want to do is go to a meeting and if someone comes into a meeting and they’re suffering I want to be able to look them in the eyes and tell them what they need to do. There’s a lot of things being discussed but right now. The whole push should just be the recovery.

Kris: Yes we’re all here because we’re focused on recovery. It’s a practice and a process, some things feel more urgent but the reality is all this is about how do we connect with each other. The simple things are going for refuge, the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. Our practice is around taking refuge. I believe we can make it simple and am looking forward to the new site making it really accessible and really simple.