Posted inGeneral News & Announcements

Sangha Meeting: May 16 2020 Minutes

May 21, 2020

January 25 Sangha Meeting Minutes – Approved

Henry’s Report – January 25 – May 16 (see below)


This past March, Damon reported to our board of directors that MCZC would have a $53,000 net loss due to the cancellation of our many retreats and events for 2020. The very good news is that this predicted loss has shrunk to less than $20,000. This improvement is largely due to significant increases in general donations and memberships,  income from virtual retreats, and some staff adjustments. Damon believes we are on a healthy financial path, on our way back to our original budget in which we break even for the year. Thank you to all who have donated! Please keep the donations and new memberships coming if you are able. 

Zoom/Internet Upgrade

The opening of our virtual zendo has made it clear that there is a high demand for MCZC practice and teachings beyond our physical boundaries. In order to keep our expanding non-local sangha connected once we reopen our physical doors, we need to upgrade our internet capability and purchase appropriate equipment to broadcast directly from Mountain Cloud. Thanks to board member Jay’s written appeal and encouragement, we launched a campaign to raise money to cover these improvements. 

The virtual expansion campaign has raised $10,000, $3,000 from varying sangha donations and one $7,000 donation a single generous donor. We are happy to announce that we have what we need to accomplish most of our goals. Damon is arranging a test installation with NM Surf to see if their internet upgrades can meet our needs.  The test installation, which will hook us up to NM Surf, should take place in about two weeks.  Hopefully, this upgrade will provide what we need. Setting up high powered internet at our fairly remote MCZC site has proven challenging.  If all goes well, we will then begin looking for upgraded equipment, computer, microphones, wiring etc.  

Damon thanked all the people who have offered help/advice regarding equipment and other upgrades. He added that he hasn’t gotten back to many because we have not reached the stage of purchasing equipment. Final note: If NM Surf cannot provide the speeds that we need, much of our installation costs will be returned.

MCZC Management Update

Site Manager Sarah is leaving us at the end of the May for a full time job. The facilities maintenance and management tasks that she has been performing will be given to our caretaker Dan Martin. He will continue to meet and greet guests, prepare the site for events, and beginning in June oversee the general maintenance of the facility. 

Sarah was also in charge of samu and volunteer coordination. To accomplish this, Sarah has created a detailed plan for organizing and managing volunteers and tasks. It includes finding a volunteer coordinator and numerous task captains, each responsible for a specific area of work such as the garden, social media, hospitality, and land stewardship. The team captains will request a certain number of helpers from the volunteer voordinator for a specific project or event. The volunteer coordinator will use their list of available volunteers and send the appropriate helpers to the captain for the specific project.  The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for getting people to the jobs that need to be done. The captains are responsible for getting their particular jobs done, without chasing down people.

If you have not done so, please fill out the volunteer survey, Click here to do so. Sarah is creating a volunteer list of names, skills and interests from the data she gathers from this survey which is what the volunteer coordinator will use to match volunteers to tasks. If you are interested in being the volunteer coordinator, the position is open, or one of the team captains, email Sarah at

The residency program coordinator, also part of Sarah’s position, is on hold until the Residency Committee comes up with a plan.

RGMI Report

RGMI (Rio Grande Mindfulness Institute) is the outreach arm of Mountain Cloud. Their programs targeting primarily school personnel have reached over 800 people. The May 9 Hot retreat was adapted to the virtual platform and renamed At Home with Uncertainty was a great success. 85 people registered and 62 showed up.

Marketing to a national audience and meeting the requirements of the funder, were challenging. Although RGMI’s grant funding from the LANL Foundation is limited to seven Northern New Mexican counties, the virtual platform offered plenty of room to reach teachers and caregivers from all over the nation. The Focus of the Heart of Teaching (HOT) retreat adapted to meet the current needs of a wider audience under Covid 19 – At Home with Uncertainty. John and Yvonne worked with our website designer to upgrade the RGMI portion of the website to better suit the current situation. Check it out if you are interested.  They also redesigned their promotional materials and creatively found ways to bring in an expanding audience. 

Looking ahead, John sees RGMI reaching out to a wide variety of care workers and underserved populations (health workers, hospice, schools, homeless community, etc). John and sangha member Christian created a chart showing ways to integrate RGMI offerings with the greater community.

Remainder of 2020 Outlook

Much remains undetermined based on the Covid 19 situation. We have scheduled several virtual events this spring and summer….

May 22-24 – 3 day virtual retreat

June 7 – half day sit

June 25-29 – four day virtual summer session

July 17-19 – three day virtual retreat

You can register for any of these events on our website, each has a sliding scale. You are encourage to pay generously if you are able — to help us recover our 2020 loses. But if you can’t, pay whatever you can afford. We know many are having a hard time and  won’t turn anyone away.  Based on the Covid 19 and MCZC’s internet upgrade status, we may open our physical facility to a limited number of campers and single use cottage dwellers for the June summer retreat. This will be decided later, probably early June.

No additional business items.

Minutes Submitted by Johanna Sindelar



Henry’s Teacher’s report

January 26 to May 16, 2020



a. Sesshins.

SPRING SESSHIN, March 9-15. six day retreat, 41-3 attendees. Zendo team was Johanna and Gudrun on bell, Mary Ann Peg sharing jisha sequentially, Will as tanto. 

AND Valerie Forstman Roshi from Dallas co-teaching with Henry. We had two dokusan rooms going in parallel throughout (the second being Mountain Room in Bradan-Wuest where Valerie was staying). 

b. Weekend retreats.

INTRO TO ZEN weekend February 14-16, led by Will. 30 attendees. Mary Ann was going to be in support but was ill, and could only attend the final part of the retreat. This was a drawback, and Will acknowledged that he should have reached out for more assistance. In future, we should try to have one assistant and a person on the bell who is a member of the Intro team, in case one drops out.

Weekly events:

a. Wednesday Intro class—up until March 9, attendance was regularly around 20-22 people. Led by intro team (Mary Ann, Kathryn, Will, Nancy), with Henry usually attending and  offering a short talk. Sarah G will be joining intro team soon.

b. Thursday evening teishos – ongoing talks on the 4 Noble Truths, now into 8th month, and finally concluded on March 5th. Attendance generally around 45-60.

c. All other regular weekly events ongoing: 

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

d. Dokusan/interviews offered: 

  • Wednesday and Thursday afternoons (1 to 1.5 hours each) 
  • Thursday evenings (1 to 1.5 hours)
  • Some weekday mornings (Monday or Wednesday): 2 hours of skype dokusan.

Other events:

Stephen Batchelor: 

  • Monday March 2nd, Talk on Montaigne, from his new book Art of Solitude. 75 attended.
  • Wednesday March 4th , 1-5pm workshop on Greek philosophy and Buddhism, co-led by Stephen and Henry. Around 45 attended.


January 26 to 31: Esalen retreat co-led with Tias Little: Yoga and Zen. 60 attendees.

January 31 to February 2: Esalen meditation retreat led by Henry. 13 participants (maximum capacity Esalen had at that time).


  • VISITING STUDENT PROGRAM: Sarah evolved, coordinated and managed an ongoing four-week period in January 2020 for eight Visiting Students. Wide range of prior experience, from brand-new to meditation and Mountain Cloud to seasoned practitioners. Superb schedule laid out for them – a very successful program, offering  many pointers for future residency programming. 
  • A residency program committee continued to meet. (Christy, Sarah, Damon and Henry, chaired by John Braman). Promising plans emerging…. 
  • Meanwhile several “interim” residents came to stay at MC with minimal programming laid on for them, besides the daily sitting and samu.



All teaching, sits, events and retreats have been virtual since March 16th 2020.

We set up our virtual zendo on Zoom, and our YouTube channel for Livestreaming and recorded videos of talks, thanks to major efforts by our technical team (Damon, Johanna, Sarah, Luke Wientzen, Chris, Peg and others).

This has resulted in:

  • Two daily sits every weekday.
  • Morning sits on Saturday and Sunday.

Intro Class 

Every Tuesday at 4pm with the intro team:  Kathryn Stedham, Nancy O’Connor, Mary Ann Bennett, Sarah Giffin, Luke Wientzen. 

Henry Shukman has been overseeing the sessions, and at the same time giving intro talks that have been recorded, so we will soon have a complete set of brief Intro Talks, which can be played on a rotating basis at the classes.

Zendo Team

Peg has skillfully managed the scheduling of a large zendo team to handle all sits. She has also scheduled the intro team.

We have had talks every Thursday evening and Sunday morning since Sunday March 22nd. For the first several weeks, all of these were given by Henry, often going in to Q&A after the talk. Attendance on Zoom has been higher than what we typically found in the zendo: 

Thursday evenings usually 75-95.

Sunday mornings usually 45-65.


  • We had a half day retreat on April 12th. Around 80 attended.
  • We had a weekend retreat April 25 and 26, 9am to 4pm each day. 82 attended, with attendance spiking to around 95-97 each day during the morning talk.


Dokusan has been offered all weeks except one (week of May 4th). Henry has been doing around 3.5 hours of dokusan each Wednesday. For now, this seems to be just about enough.


Henry has had more requests from people wanting to become formal students, and is working out ways to manage this during this time of virtual sitting. 

Henry also discovered that doing two talks each week was alas not sustainable in the long term, and has been trying to cut back to fewer.

Visiting teachers

Henry has been inviting teachers to offer talks at our twice-weekly events. So far: 

  • Ruben Habito Roshi gave one Thursday evening talk;
  • Valerie Forstman Roshi gave a Thursday and a Sunday talk;
  • Zen teacher Berta Meneses gave a Sunday morning talk from Spain, translated and delivered by her senior student Caterina.

Invitees who have accepted include:

Rollie del Rosario Roshi, from Philippines

Migaku Sato Roshi, from Japan

Eric Zimmer, of the podcast “The One You Feed”

Various other invitees, at this point all from the Sanbo Zen community, are pending, without confirmation:

Zen Teacher Marlis Muting

Yamada Ryoun Roshi

However, Henry may from time to time invite occasional speakers from outside Sanbo Zen as well.

Other things:

Henry has been invited to contribute some Zen-related content to the Waking Up app. This is in process.

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