Minutes – Sangha Meeting October 12, 2019

Thank you to all who attended the October sangha meeting. We had nearly 30 attendees.  Gassho!

Approve agenda and minutes of last meeting: both approved

Teacher’s Report  (See below)  

Please remember on October 29 at Garcia Street Books, Henry will be reading from his new book, One Blade of Grass.

Site Manager’s Report 

Sarah reports that our vibrant garden flourished this year though we had fewer volunteer gardeners than last year. The summer residents/visitors provided help. It takes a minimum of 15 hours week to grow and harvest the garden. Next spring (2020) we will appeal for more volunteers.

As Site Manager, Sarah, has been working much in excess of her allotted job hours.  She would like help: more volunteers, expanded committees, and a strong zendo team that all contribute to the ways we care for our land and facilities. We continue to be a volunteer run organization. Monthly Sunday samu mornings have been well attended and they are fun and productive. We are hoping that individual samu projects become more common. Many outside and inside tasks need attention. Sarah emphasized that doing samu with the community has been a huge part of the depth and breadth of her personal practice. She highly recommends it!

We are advertising for an onsite caretaker. This residential work-trade position is non-paid, but offers a private room, a food stipend, access to our teacher Henry and to our retreats in exchange for basic custodial work and security oversight. The candidate should be someone with an established meditation practice who wants to be further immersed in such. 

On-Call: We have a list of another few months of on-call volunteers to cover weekend emergencies. Let Sarah know if you’d like to be on the roster.

Visiting students and residency program: we are exploring types of programming we may offer visiting students including mentorship and special projects. We are advertising for a special program for visiting students to take place in January.  All are invited for a month of residential practice at MC, including morning and evening meditation, daily samu, yoga, art, day trips and free time. You can apply for this program online. Contact Sarah for details.

Mentorship Explained: Specifically we are looking for peer mentors to support the visiting student and long term resident program. Mentors are not limited to visiting students and could also be peer mentors within our sangha. There are many ways mentorship might look and we have a focus group exploring this. It was noted that we once tried to create a buddy system in which an experienced student would “sponsor” a new-comer.  We found it became more complicated than originally imagined. 

Security announcement: We had a couple of thefts over the summer, please keep the chain secured on the driveway at night or on weekends when nothing is going on at MCZC. Latch the chain if you are the last person leaving at night.  Security deterrents include, the driveway chain, signage, and solar lights. Please note that there are six doors in the main facility that need to be locked. 

Finance and fund-raising 

Damon is doing financial modeling and analysis of our revenue streams and expense outlays. The 2020 budget will be presented at the January sangha meeting. Please note that the budget will have a line item for donations. We need to have a realistic estimate of donation income for any given year.  Without consistent donations we have trouble creating and balancing our budget.

The end of year appeal will be sent out shortly.  Our goal is to raise $30,000 by year end. We already have a good start toward meeting that goal from a few generous sangha donors. The fundraising/development committee consists of Rachel, Sondra, Johanna.  Rachel reminded us about the pyramid concept which needs a secure base of small donations (~$25-$200), a few large donations at the top of the pyramid and everything in between.  Please donate whatever you can. We would love to have ALL members make an end of year donation. The sangha is flourishing and we want to keep it flourishing. 

RGMI report  

John shared an RGMI flyer and impact statement sheet. He briefly described the RGMI mission as existing to address social ills. It’s what what other organizations call engaged buddhism. Through workshops (both on and off site) RGMI offers the tools of mindfulness to teachers and caregivers. John is actively pursing ways to bring RGMI offerings to expanded and diverse populations. John also stresses that another RGMI mission is to contribute directly and indirectly to the financial well being of Mountain Cloud.

RGMI had the first fall 2019 Heart of Teaching Retreat on Oct 5th with participants coming from Aztec, Alamogordo, ABQ, Taos, Santa Fe and other towns. We hope to offer lodging for the increasing number of non-local participants. In addition to the Heart of Teaching retreats, RGMI is hoping to offer a RGMI graduates retreat, perhaps funded by the Hemera Foundation. 

New RGMI programs include PlayShops, offered by Sarah, (as opposed to WorkShops) for serious mindful fun, and the first Trauma Informed Care Group workshop which occurred on Oct 11. This workshop included teachers, counselors and caretakers from a variety of social service groups in Santa Fe, including Girls Inc, Big Brother and Sisters, and many others.  We are trying to lower the entry barriers for a wide variety of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to (or even the knowledge about) mindfulness or meditation events. Note: offering childcare at MCZC Intro classes would be most helpful.

RGMI questions and other input: Sarah mentions creating gender inclusive bathrooms at MCZC. Peg asked if RGMI has considered targeting support groups.  Christian notes that Upaya works with homeless shelters and wonders what else RGMI may expand into. Johanna mentioned the Prison project. Residents could have samu projects that deal with homelessness or prison outreach, or any other worthy social outreach need. 

Bond retrieval

We have a $60K bond with Santa Fe county for our recent Cottage construction. Jay reports there have been various obstacles to retrieving the funds. The latest (and hopefully final) involves a compaction test on our driveway to determine how compact the soil is. Ironically, our driveway sits on rock. To resolve this, the county suggests the “owner” of MCZC absolve our contractor from doing the compaction test. Jay will write a letter stating this and Rachel as board president, will sign it. Jay will take the letter to the county. All other bond issues have been addressed.

Events/Programming Committee – Expanding programming at MCZC 

Henry and Chris are designing a programming plan for a variety of Mountain Cloud events intended to supplement our core teachings. Henry and Chris are considering programming that addresses tangential issues which arise with sitting practice. The purpose is to support healing and wellbeing. They have identified four categories to be considered which correspond with levels of practice.

  1. Psychological effects of meditation. Over 60% of meditators encounter negative psychological side-effects as sitting practice unfolds deeper levels of the psyche.  Programs addressing these issues include mindfulness practices, bodywork, and PTSD therapies.
  2. Archetypal effects which include deeper level experiences, dreamwork, somatic psychology, and animism.
  3. Dharma Practice techniques which break down the illusion of self and other; adjunct practices may include advanced mindfulness (ie. Shinzen Young), Vipassana/Insight meditation techniques, and Insight Dialogue. 
  4. Art Practices include motion and action, poetry, creative writing, visual arts, dance, music, flower arranging, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. 

Expanded programming requires tapping into the “spiritual marketplace” with research and networking. Chris envisions a speakers bureau that would include Sanbo Zen and other zen buddhist teachers, vipassana teachers and science/mind speakers. Chris and Henry are seeking interested and energized people for this new programing committee. Contact Chris if you are interested: chris.hebard@gmail.com

Other Business

Wider issues and how to address them. How is MCZC involved in climate change and other critical issues facing our planet and all life. Christian wants to look at ways we may be more aware and engaged as individuals and a community with these important issues.  How can we weave them into our existing programs? Henry suggested creating a serious of monthly discussion forums. We need to know if the sangha is interested in supporting or expanding this focus.  Christian itemized three areas of potential inquiry:

  1. Physical place – How does our stewardship of MCZC land, water, energy, and buildings fare when seen through a climate change lens?
  2. Personal choice/awareness – how do we as individuals make choices? Do we have awareness of the impact of our own decisions? Enormous amount info exists about personal choice in this area
  3. Engaged Buddhism – that impacts both symptoms and systems. How do sangha members interact with society at large? How do our programs support those doing front line work (e.g. RGMI supports educators)? How can contemplative practice impact problems at the systemic level (e.g political, educational, correctional, economic)? 

Comments about wider climate and socially engaged issues: 

  • Peg notes that David Loy’s May 2018 Eco Dharma workshop at MCZC was cancelled due to low enrollment. Peg also mentions that relatively few people volunteer at MCZC, so we need to keep our focus on what we do best.  Testing the interest of any new idea is critical. 
  • Rachel restates that we have a request for programming committee volunteers from Chris. Let’s start there. 
  • Richard observes that often good ideas dissipate due to low energy. Important to focus on what is most core at Mountain Cloud. 
  • Jay, relative to climate change and right livelihood, notes that New Mexico is home to two major industries nuclear weapons and oil and gas.
  • Henry’s announced that in April 2020 there will be a special retreat in Nuremberg, Germany. Sitting will take place in the former Nazi party rally grounds. 

Tan Removal: Karen (and a few others) are concerned about removal of the tan. Some feel unbalanced and unstable when standing up without something to hold on to. Henry and Bill had a plan about how to remedy this and need to rethink it.

Fire protection: Bill reported that the fire marshal of the Arroyo Hondo fire department met with him, Sarah and Gudrun recently. The fire marshal made a map of our center for his crew so they will be better prepared if called out to MCZC. We need fire extinguishers for cabin 1 and the cottage.  Also we ought to have CO detectors in the cottage and cabin 1.


Henry’s Teacher Report

May 25 to October 12, 2019.

I. MOUNTAIN CLOUD

Retreats:

a. Sesshins.

SUMMER SESSHIN, June 17-23, a six-day retreat. 36-7 attendees. Zendo team was Peg on bell, Jan as attendant and Luke Wientzen as acting zendo-head: all superb. Nice to have Luke in a team role. Powerful, calm, deep retreat. Sarah handled work-practice wonderfully. 

FALL SESSHIN, September 16-22, six day retreat, 38-9 attendees. Zendo team was Peg and Will. No yoga. Sarah (plus Sean) overseeing work practice carefully and well. 

Some talking was disruptive. Please – serious call for increased observing of “sesshin guidelines”…

b. Intro retreats.

August 22-4 Intro weekend led by Will Brennan, with support from MaryAnn Bennett – attendance 24. Henry led a morning session including a talk and Q&A.

c. Zazenkai.

July 14 Zazenkai – attendance 33. Very nice.

Weekly events:

–Wednesday Intro class: Attendance generally around 11-18; with Henry sometimes offering a short talk, while being led by a member of the intro team.

–Thursday evening teishos: Henry finished talks from three major koan books – Gateless Gate, Blue Cliff Record, Book of Equanimity. The past three to four months he has been giving a series of talks on early Buddist teachings from the Pali Canon. 

Attendance has been growing, generally from around 40 into the low 50’s (occasionally mid 50s).

–All other regular weekly events ongoing: dokusan at least twice a week, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, and some Monday mornings. 

–Morning sits Monday-Friday 7-8AM, and Monday and Tuesday evenings 5.30-6.30PM, Sundays 9-10AM – many thanks all jikis! 

— Skype dokusan/interviews  offered most Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, and some Monday mornings.

 

We had our annual break, with MC closed, from July 30 to August 14.

Other events:

Visit by Yamada Ryoun Roshi and Fred Schmidt, June 11-13. 

Screening of movie “Zen and the West: Finding Peace in Troubled Times” on June 12, an invitational presentation by producer Chris Hebard at Jean Cocteau Cinema, with Ryoun Roshi attending. 

Nic Redfern offered series of excellent Insight Dialogue classes Monday evenings, Sept 2 to Oct 7.

II. ELSEWHERE

A 7-day sesshin at Sonnenhof in Germany – 35/6 attendees. August 4-11.

III. RESIDENTS  

Sean and Sarah have moved out since end of September…. 🙁

Visiting students during this period: Deborah McMillan, Eliza Hillenkamp, and Xunxo from Mallorca. Varying from 3-week to 2-month stays. Very good program, much appreciated support from Sarah.

A committee is meeting to reform the residency program: Christy, Sarah, John B and Henry.  The overall approach to residencies needs developing. We hope to create a robust and sustainable program. 

We are looking for a resident caretaker for the property.

We will also be seeking a residents’ program assistant supervisor who must be resident here, to help Henry.

Clare and Henry have started staying at MC part-time, half of each week, living in the yurt.

Sarah has been evolving a plan to have an intense one-month period in January 2020 for Visiting Students. 

IV. Henry’s ongoing training etc:

–Henry attended the Kenshukai teachers’ retreat held in Osnabruck, Germany, August 11-14. He was one of two “associate masters” invited to offer a teisho there this year, and spoke on the koan “Roso facing the Wall.” Well received by Yamada Roshi.

-Wellbeing of Mountain Cloud is a constant concern: how to balance the energy that retreats inevitably take, with the ongoing weekly and daily needs of the center…

-Concern that my stipend is too much for MC to sustain.

V. Prospects:

— Stephen Batchelor is still in prospect for late February 2020 – talk plus possible workshop.

— Programming – Chris Hebard, Henry and others have formed a committee to explore more varied programming, both from sangha members and outside teachers

–Henry is considering inviting a visiting Zen teacher to support him with some teaching from time to time, and see how the sangha feels about it – Valerie Forstman, Associate Master of Sanbo Zen, from Dallas Texas.

— Henry’s book One Blade of Grass forthcoming from Counterpoint, due out October 15, 2019.

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