With the results of Windhorse:evolution's Christmas trading in, the state of the business talk by Keturaja on Monday 5th January bore all the hallmarks of a death knell. It was clear to most of us before he'd even spoken a single word that things had not gone well. Facing a huge loss much much greater than last year's, the business is now in no position to carry on. Ways to downsize the business were looked at, but each one gradually ruled themselves out as the continuing rate of business decline made even our core profitable shops look less and less bankable. Even though Jnanasalin had told me of the decision ten days before, actually hearing the announcement 'we were to close' brought forth a downhearted somber mood.
With our warehouse landlord offering us the possibility of getting out of the lease early, The Managing Directors felt they had to grasp the slim chance that this offered. A way of exiting that was as ethical and clean as is possible given the circumstances. The main concern now is to be able to pay all our loyal suppliers the money they are owed, and to allow Windhorse staff sufficient time to adjust to redundancy and start preparing themselves to find work outside of W:E. I guess its inevitable that there will be some who'll use the redundancy process as an opportunity for settling old scores, venting resentments and generally getting things off their chest, which we'll all have to bear with however stroppy, malign or unfair those views may be. This is just one of many obstacles, both practical as well as emotional rites of passage that we will all have to pass through and get over. Many things could still call a halt to the planned 'managed closure' and force the business into administration. The latter prospect would be a far far more brutal and unpleasant way to end the business, but currently there is still hope that this dire outcome can be avoided.
If all goes well, all the remaining warehouse stock should be sold, and the shops closed by the end of March. By this point most of the redundancy notices should have been completed, and all the people I've come to know at Windhorse will gradually disappear and disperse to who knows where? Its the end of one thirty year experiment in doing business ethically and a spiritual ideal, One that has provided both a context for ethical work, and for literally hundreds of people to deepen their Going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Deciding at this point how best to mark its passing, its significance on a personal level, to the Triratna Buddhist Community,and to celebrate its achievements, all seems a little premature at present, but if we are not careful the moment will arrive and few of us will be left to participate in it. Hopefully the appropriateness of the time will become obvious.
At the moment I'm feeling more the effect on other people of Windhorse closing than upon myself. Particularly those people who will soon have to return to their home country, to reconnect with a situation and employment they'd had to give up in order to come here to deepen their Buddhist practice. I've also a feeling for the effect making this decision has had on the Directors who've been holding the responsibility for the businesses future for so long, all the stress and strain that has led up to this point, and dealing with the fallout afterwards. The burdonsome weight of this responsibility is not yet ready to lift from their shoulders.
In myself I'm feeling more subdued but sanguine than morosely melancholic at present. I don't think I'm experiencing any more difficult emotional responses than preparing to let go, and the sense of loss to come. Though my past life experience has been recollected; in the early 1980's I was made redundant twice in the space of two years and in 1997 I had to close my own business, so I have walked across the hot coals of this territory before. It never proves to be quite the end of the world as we know it, though it might have felt like that at the time. Changing my situation and my context for practice, undoubtedly will upset the stability of the old apple cart for a while, and I ought to expect some of my old demons to show me their bleak little faces again.
At the moment we are in the first ten days of the wind up. My present task is a rather tedious one of going through the Property and Retail Team areas. Throwing out all the useless tat we've acquired and doing an inventory, then deciding what to keep, dispose of or sell what's left. I am finding this a rather drawn out and emotionally difficult process, going through vast amounts of accumulated crap and throwing them away is painful and dispiriting and not remotely cathartic. It is no good me moaning about it, this has got to be done, and I am quite good at sifting, organising and cataloging.
For the immediate future Jnanasalin and I are intending to stay in Cambridge to find work and start saving money. We have ideas for longer term plans, which though only roughly sketched out at the moment, we both can become quite excited about should we start discussing them. Moving these ideas forward will inevitably be a steady gradual process. Our energy is going to be a bit divided for a while. Once most of the emotional and physical challenge of helping Windhorse wind up effectively is done, then perhaps we can start putting realistic flesh on the bones of those plans. What these plans are I'll no doubt be blogging about as they take firmer shape over the coming year.