On Thursday, October 29, Shantideva Meditation Center hosted our first-ever benefit auction at Fig 19 and the Lodge Gallery in New York City. Through a delightful evening in a gorgeous space with our beloved community, supporters, and special guest Ven. Robina Courtin, we managed to raise essential funds for the Center and meet our fundraising goal of $8,000. Director Jennifer Kim writes, “Sponsors came forward to offer their support in a way that we did not expect, businesses in New York and beyond were excited to give, our bidders were enthusiastic, the Center aspired to benefit others creatively, and there were heart-warming acts of generosity.”
Thank you to everyone who came and bid, and special thanks to Ven. Robina Courtin, to our amazing sponsors (Jeff Caspari, Snehy Gupta, Navtej Nandra, Chenrezig Shakti, Peggy Shannon, Alexandra Silva, and Andy Spreitzer), to all the wonderfully generous donors, to our fantastic volunteers, to Fig. 19 and the Lodge Gallery for the beautiful space, to Steve Utzig for being our auctioneer, and to our auction organizer, Leilani-Kali Rivers!
Click here to view more photos from the auction, taken by Christina Martin, Gigi Salomon and The Lodge Gallery.
Leilani-Kali Rivers – Secretary and Board Member, volunteer and auction organizer – shares her experience:
It has been about a year and a half since I woke up one morning and tasked myself with planning Shantideva’s First Annual Benefit Auction. The idea came to me after realizing the financial overhead that went into running our Center and its various programs – which on a personal level, have greatly benefited my spiritual practice and growth. With that in mind, I was determined to raise more funds for our Center. I spent some time meditating on how I could be of greater financial assistance, and having worked and volunteered in development, two options came to mind: an Annual Fund or an Annual Benefit … and we already had an Annual Fund. I guess that this would be a good time to mention that I have little to no event planning experience. Having attended numerous benefits and auctions over the past 12 years, I quickly learned that attending and planning were tremendously different. After our first brainstorming session in May 2014, I felt a little overwhelmed but nevertheless determined to bring about this opportunity for myself and others to practice generosity into fruition.
In the initial stages we had a vision, but as time passed that vision would change. What I realized from the various changing ideas, brainstorming meetings with Jennifer, discussions with friends who work in event planning, attending other benefits, and receiving candid advice from Venerable Robina – was that the most important thing was to not get attached to an expectation about how the event “should be” but instead provide room for the event to grow, and that would be how the auction would flourish. Rather than thinking of it from an attached perspective as my event changing – I thought of it as our event growing and tried my best to recognize the emptiness of our auction. As the months passed, it became essential to create an event that was appealing to both Dharma and non-Dharma practitioners, financially accessible to a broad spectrum, remain true to our Center’s spiritual foundation – and on a personal level, it was important to always maintain my optimism that our event would be a success.
What I realized … was that the most important thing was to not get attached to an expectation about how the event “should be” but instead provide room for the event to grow, and that would be how the auction would flourish.
After 18 months of planning, event day finally arrived and I was determined to maintain my optimism. I decided that if the event was not a success, I would own that failure alone, be strong and courageous enough to dust myself off, learn from my mistakes, and try again next year. However, if our event was a success, it would be all of our success, due to the outpouring of generosity and assistance from so many different sources.
Within a couple of hours I watched Fig. 19 and The Lodge Gallery’s blank canvas of freshly coated white walls be transformed into an artfully decorated room of black, gold, and white – adorned with gorgeous auction items and thangkas. As the crowd filtered in and the jazz and joyful chatter began to permeate the air, I was able to exhale and rejoice. Watching the crowd enjoying each other’s company I knew at that moment that whether or not we hit our financial goal – the event was indeed a success.
The live and chance auctions were fun and vivacious, but all unfolded in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, the winners had claimed their prizes, we were breaking down the tables, and sweeping the floor. All of the volunteers were gone and as I awaited my ride home – I was sitting in the gallery with Jason, one of the gallery’s directors, and just as my nine-hour day at The Lodge began, he and I were casually chatting about Buddhism in an empty room with bare, freshly coated white walls, and after a year and a half of planning for a two and half hour event – I exhaled, rejoiced, and found myself thinking of how to pull this off again.
Leilani-Kali Rivers has been involved with Shantideva Meditation Center since 2013. As she explains it, “When I first walked through the doors I knew that I had found a new home.” Leilani first encountered the Dharma in 2004 while staying at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea during a Fulbright Fellowship. While at Bulguksa she experienced a profound level of peace, generosity, and spiritual belonging like never before. Leilani is an Estate Planning attorney and has been practicing the Dharma since 2008. She holds a BA in Political Science from Union College and a JD from St. John’s University – School of Law. She also has a background in Fundraising and Development and is a member of the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Development Committee and Alumnae Board. Most recently Leilani assisted on Sacred Heart’s Capital Campaign which raised over $75 million over a span of two years.