Change Without Grace

Apr 2, 2024

Easter Sunday, I opened an email from Sifu Clair, my Tai Chi brother, letting us know (with a link to a news article) that our beloved building, which we knew as encompassing the Red Lotus School of Movement and Urgyen Samten Ling (USL) Buddhist temple, had begun to be ripped down without permission, my breath literally stopped.

The headline read, “Crews tear down part of historic LDS meetinghouse on Easter—without permission, Salt Lake City rushes in and halts the demolition of the vacant Fifth Ward building.”

Yes, this building was originally an LDS church, built in 1910. It was one of the oldest buildings of this kind in the downtown area. If you are interested in the history of the building, you can read a detailed history here. Scroll down to towards the end, and you can read how USL came to reside in this historic place.

As I read the article from the Salt Lake Tribune and saw the photos, my heart raced and tears began to stream down my face. Anger was rising from within. Who could do this? And, why? And it happened on a Sunday, a holiday to be exact? This was planned—no accident, as the media would like us to believe.

All local news channels covered it: including Fox13 News, abc4.com, and KUTV.com

My daughter and I went to see the building for ourselves, and the tears fell again. Yes, I know change is inevitable, and I also know it can be done with grace for the benefit of all. This was not the case.

As we walked around the demolition site, spreading dried roses my daughter had brought, fond memories washed through me.

The first time Sifu and Jean mentioned that they were considering moving us from a space on Cafe Pierpont to having a whole building for the USL temple and Red Lotus, a few of us were taken there one night after Tai Chi class to see our future.

When we first saw the building, it had recently been a nightclub; all the windows were painted black, glass was broken on the floor, and a dominatrix was painted on one of the walls. We were a bit skeptical, but Sifu reassured us that it would become transformed—not only on the outside but from within. And if you ever walked through the doors of the temple or the school, the energy there was inviting and welcoming. All sentient beings were welcome, including the mice.

We resided in this historical building from 2004 to 2019.

More memories:

When we began moving into the building in the summer, Sifu would not let me help paint or move boxes because I was pregnant. That year, we had our first annual Lotus Festival, and we had more than 400 people attend. I can still see the piles of shoes at the front of the temple.

For the first few years of the festivals, the USL gonpa made mo-mo’s (Indian dumplings), then the food donated was from the Star of India and the tea from Cafe Shambala, House of Tibet, and the local Tibetan community.

I remember my daughter and me taking the Parent/Tot Creative Arts class taught by Jean. (wish I had a photo)

Red Lotus had Tai Chi classes for adults and Kung Fu classes for adults, teens, and children 8 years of age.

We watched and witnessed our daughter, on the right, earn her kung fu belts. 

We had free lecture demos every season to encourage people to come and experience classes at Red Lotus.

I had the honor to design our marketing materials for the community, and I was on the Urgyen Samten Ling board for many years.

As we continued our annual Lotus Festivals, it was standing room only to watch demonstrations in Tai Chi, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Iaido, and Kendo. While upstairs, a silent auction was being held, the USL’s annual fundraiser for the temple. Of course, with delicious momo’s and yummy tea each year, everyone looked forward to our annual event.

Below is a photo of Sifu; he arrived before the fence was up, and he watched them put it up. He’s holding the blessing mudra for all who have entered into this space—may they be blessed. Of course, he also sent me a text reminding me, “Change is inevitable, and all things come to an end. Emptiness to Being, Being to Emptiness, All is Impermanence.”

I agree, and we are human beings—we have a right to allow our feelings to pass through us because they too are impermanent. When we do not allow the flow, the blockage of not embracing our feelings leads to suffering. Which is why I chose to write about this situation; writing is very cathartic for me. It helps me to let go and let it be. It is what it is.

As Sifu reminded me, the memories live in all of us, whenever you entered those doors. Whether you attended the LDS meeting house, heard music there, danced the night away, or were part of the Red Lotus and USL families, we are all connected in one way or another. And I believe that connection is LOVE. 

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