The leadership of the Shambhala Mountain Center released a statement Wednesday apologizing for failing to appropriately address sexual misconduct and other abuse at the international Buddhist organization’s Larimer County meditation center.
The statement by executive director Michael Gayner and the center’s Governing Council came in response to a report published by The Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call on Sunday detailing Boulder-born Shambhala’s long history of suppressing abuse claims within the organization.
Some of the incidents detailed in that report occurred at the Shambhala Mountain Center, the organization’s 600-acre meditation grounds at Red Feather Lakes in the foothills west Fort Collins.
“SMC’s Governing Council and I want to acknowledge and apologize for the reported incidents and the pain caused by the failure to address them appropriately,” Gayner said in the statement.
In one incident, former Shambhala Mountain Center staff member Karuna Thompson said her concerns about what she believed to be a sexual relationship between a middle-aged staffer and an underage girl in the late 1990s were brushed off by other employees.
“Ultimately, we were made to feel like a nuisance,” Thompson told The Post.
In another, former Shambhala Mountain Center staff member Ariel Hall told The Post that when she sought help from the center’s leadership in extricating herself from an abusive relationship with another Shambhala member, she was told that abuse was “good material” to work with in meditation.
“That these incidents occurred in past decades does not absolve current SMC leadership of our moral responsibility,” Gayner said in the statement.
Gayner said he has been in contact with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office regarding its investigation into “alleged incidents in SMC’s past,” and reached out to make sure detectives were aware of the 1990s incident reported by The Post. (Larimer County officials have not publicly detailed the allegations, but a Boulder police report characterized the case as an investigation of sexual assaults at the Shambhala Mountain Center.)
The leadership of the Shambhala Mountain Center is committed to learning from past shortcomings and improving its ability to create a safe place for guests and staff, Gayner said in the statement. After allegations of sexual abuse within Shambhala first broke last summer, the center released a statement supporting those who came forward and promising to be transparent.
The center has revised its code of ethics and is providing regular training to all of its staff in recognizing misconduct, the statement said. The training is being led by the Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Center in Fort Collins.