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Sangha Meeting Minutes from January 29, 2022

February 6, 2022

January 29, 2022
Sangha Meeting Minutes

The meeting was held on zoom. 58 attendees were present.

Agenda approved by those present

Minutes from the October 30, 2021 sangha meeting were also approved.

Teacher’s Reports
Written versions of Henry and Valerie’s reports are at the end of these minutes.

Financial Report,  Presented by Johanna Sindelar

Mountain Cloud ended 2021 in strong financial postion. Looking at the financial report from 2021, we saw a total income of about $381,000 which is quite high in comparison to other years, largely due to the great success of our new Original Love program. Given that our projected income was around $217,000, to say it was a year of unprecedented growth is an understatement. Thank you all so much for continuing to support us this last year, and thank you to all those who put in many hard hours to make this happen. We can’t wait to continue to offer new and exciting programs for our members.

Through all this growth, we have also seen an increase in our expenses. All of our staff who work as independent contractors worked more hours this year, with all salaries totaling an expense of $225,000. With are many new offerings, we have an increased need for staff and can expect to see this number growing throughout 2022. We have also seen a significant increase in bank fees from Stripe and Paypal, given that the majority of retreat participants pay with a credit card, leaving our bank fee expense at slightly over $10,000.

We have also seen a growth in charges related to our virtual zendo, including Zoom fees, our email hosting platform MailChimp, and wifi at the center for hybrid capabilities.

Our budget for 2022 has not yet been finalized, however we are anticipating several large capital expenditures in the next year. The roof on our main center will likely need to be replaced, and we are also looking into water system maintenance and a furnace replacement.

Note:  Since the santgha meeting, the board has approved extensive roof repair at a cost that is significantly less than replacing the roof.

Bylaw Amendments,  Presented by Peg Froehlich

As reported by the teacher’s, Henry and Valerie have been increasingly busy and there has been an increasingly large number of students. Henry’s Original Love program has resulted in many new students and he is initiating teacher training to accommodate their needs. Valerie is carrying an increased schedule doing hours of Dokusan each week and leading or co-leading Zazenkais and retreats. It became apparent that Mountain Cloud needs more than one guiding and assistant teacher, so in order to more clearly define their roles, the new position of Spiritual Director and amended position of Guiding Teacher have been submitted and approved by the board. The by-laws have been amended accordingly.

In essence, their roles will change very little, given that this is only an expansion of their previous positions. The additional responsibilities that Henry will take on include leading the new teacher training program in an official capacity. In Valerie’s new role, she is proactively making steps towards moving to Santa Fe to better engage with the local sangha. These new roles will allow Mountain Cloud to continue to grow as we take on new teachers and programs, and we hope you will celebrate with us as we do.

The sangha approved the new teacher’s rolls, as required by our bylaws

Equity and Inclusion committee Presented by Sarah Giffin

The Equity and Inclusion Committee at Mountain Cloud, open to board and sangha members alike, has been working diligently since the last sangha meeting to finalize our statement on the topic. Here is the final statement:

Mountain Cloud is committed to cultivating a community that reflects the diversity of our society and world, in which everyone feels welcome, safe, and respected.

We seek to promote the participation of people of all races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, classes, religions, abilities, and ages.

Inequity, exploitation, and oppression are deeply embedded in our social and economic systems. These are the waters in which we swim. Clearly seeing injustices, and our complicity, requires constant inquiry, feedback, and reflection. We are committed to using a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to understand and hold accountable our teachings, organizational culture, and practices.

We vow to embody a culture of teachings and practice that will result in a compassionate and caring presence in the world where all may find freedom to awaken, liberate, and protect all beings.
This is our shared practice.

Because this is a constant process, we would love to hear from our community, members and non-members, to gather your thoughts on this statement and ideas for where we should go next. Please look out for a survey in our newsletter. It will be multiple choice and very low stress, so please consider giving us your feedback. We greatly appreciate it.

New Outreach Initiative: Monthly Meals for Pete’s Place
Presented by Karen Klinefelter

Some members of the local Sangha are hoping to initiate a community project. A coordinating committee has been organized to help Mountain Cloud donate one meal per month to Pete’s Place, a shelter local to the Santa Fe area. On our donation night, we would bring a salad, a main dish and a dessert for 60 people. We are estimating the monthly cost of this to be around $200 and are willing to accept small donations at our normal donation link.

Our goal is to get this started in March, so if you are interested in making a financial donation,  you may do so using the DONATE button on our website and selecting the Homeless Project option. If you want to cook help, click here to sign up. This link will also be in our weekly Newsletter.

Sangha Meeting adjourned. 


Teachers’ Reports

Valerie Forstman

Virtual/Hybrid Zendo
In-person sitting in the zendo continues with limited seating capacity, participants masked. Proof of vaccination is required on the first visit. Thursday nights remain Zoom only (except for residents). Ahead of Rohatsu, Mark mounted the zendo camera on a tripod so that it could be moved as needed. He trained Joe and Luke in adjusting the state-of-the-art lights and managing the sound system. (Special thanks to Mark!) 

Daily sits
Two daily sits every weekday; Morning sits on Saturday and Sunday; all ongoing, handled by Peg with the Zendo Team; a wonderful scheduling job that Peg continues to coordinate monthly. Zendo teams for November-January include Peg, Johanna, Joe, Christian, Nancy, Mark, Bill, Gudrun, Karen, Becky, Rachel, and Will. Thanks to all! 

Outdoor onsite sitting on Sunday mornings, 11-noon, has been suspended until March due to weather. 

Intro Offerings
Will Brennan began offering “Wednesdays with Will” in December. These twice monthly sessions, in person and online, include a 25-minute sit, a talk, and Q&A. All are welcome but newcomers are especially encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

Intro Class
The weekly Intro class continues to meet on Tuesdays at 5:00pm. Members of the Intro teaching rotation include Mary Ann Bennett, Bill Bruce, Lisa Lincoln, and Kathryn Stedham. Nancy O’Connor has been serving as a regular sub. Katie serves as Zoom host.

The Intro class is organized around a six-session series of topics following the rubric of the short intro talks Henry has recorded. We encourage participants to attend all six sessions but it’s fine to come and go. Attendance for the Intro Class has averaged 12-15 for the past few months.

Valerie joins the Intro class most weeks, offering a short talk and, when possible, staying to share in the Q&A. On Mondays Valerie prepares the text for “Tuesday Meditation Tips” and sends this to Jeremy and Johanna for posting.

Weekly dharma talks on Thursday evenings, given by Henry and Valerie with occasional guest teachers. Attendance Thursday evenings has typically ranged from 40-90. This quarter included talks by Mountain Cloud Assistant Teacher, Maura Noone (November 18), and SanboZen Assistant Teacher, Scott Thornton (December 16 and January 13). SanboZen Assistant Teacher, Will Brennan, gave the talk on January 20. 

The zendo team for retreats, superbly coordinated by Peg, has included Peg, Joe, Mark, Johanna, Mary Ann, Christian, Bernd, Gudrun, Becky, Karen, and Nancy, with Mary Ann, Luke, Susan, and Shana Smith sharing in leading movement. For OL, Jeremy and Katie serve as Zoom hosts.

Original Love, November 27-28, led by Henry

Rohatsu, December 6-12, led by Henry and Valerie
This was Mountain Cloud’s first hybrid retreat with 12 participants sitting in the zendo and staying at MCZC, having quarantined the week prior. Nic Redfern served as cook. Close to 100 participants joined the retreat online. Feedback was quite positive.
(Ahead of the retreat, Henry and Valerie offered a joint webinar on Rohatsu, organized and hosted by Jeremy. Thanks, Jeremy!)

Zazenkai/Day of Zen, Saturday, January 15, led by Valerie (58 attended)

Upcoming Retreats
Exploring the Wild World of Koans, February 3-6, led by Henry and Valerie
Original Love, March 26-27, led by Henry

Valerie continues to offer online dokusan on Mondays and Wednesdays 5+ hours/week. Johanna oversees the schedule and offers invaluable support in coordinating communication. Katie Rader serves as Zoom host. Thanks to both!

Counseling Sessions
Valerie offers individual practice counseling sessions to about 35 students on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. New requests arrive several times a week. 

Training New Teachers
Valerie will join Henry in leading a small training group of senior students and assistant teachers, helping them become ready to meet with students as “Mountain Cloud Assistant Teachers.” They will all be senior MC students who have finished their initial koan training, either with Valerie or Henry or both, and in some cases with other teachers as well.

Visioning Process
On January 4, the Board together with Henry, Johanna, Jeremy, and Valerie met with consultant, John Bell, for a brainstorming session focused on Mountain Cloud’s mission and vision for the future. Follow up continues. Of note were suggestions from current members for a variety of new offerings that could serve to support practice and build community (small group book study, practice discussion sessions, “kitchen chat” for members who would like to build relationships beyond sitting together). Leadership and organizational oversight will be key in moving these ideas forward.

Henry Shukman

MC’s first-ever hybrid retreat, December 6-12. 

12 of us, including Guiding Teacher Valerie Forstman and Assistant Sanbo Zen teacher Scott Thornton and myself, sat in the zendo at MC, while around 110 registrants participated online. The entire retreat was on Zoom, with talks and Q/A each morning and afternoon. Overall response was highly positive. Thanks for the audio visual tech to: Mark Petrick for setting it up, and Joe Cronemeyer and Luke Wientzen for managing the equipment.

Also to Peg as jiki throughout. And Johanna as registrar and administrator; and Jeremy for online marketing support beforehand.

Thursday Teishos
Continuing series of talks on the Gateless Gate koans, working through the collection.
Talks also offered by other teachers: two excellent talks from Scott Thornton.

Original Love Program
Concluded our Fall 8-week course on November 21, 2021 – 255 registered.
Weekend retreat, November 27-28 — 175 registered [?].
Very positive evaluations from many.
Excellent support for the program from: Jeremy, Katie, Mark and Johanna.
A great team effort.

Plans for 2022
OL management:
The program is being set up to have its own administration in all areas, run by Jeremy, with its own advisory board, staff and faculty in 2022. Henry and the Finance Committee have agreed a new, clearer agreement, as well as an organizational chart mapping the relationship between OL and MC, both in consultation with lawyer Carolyn Klamp (who is an MC member), who advised closely.

2022 offerings:

  • Four 6-week courses and four weekend retreats.
  • Four Q/A sessions.
  • Expanded features on courses including:
    ~ practice sharing groups
    ~12 guided audio meditations per course from Henry
    ~ visiting teachers, currently Rick Hanson and Roshi Joan Halifax, and likely others.

Teaching Roles
Henry becomes the Spiritual Director of MC, and Valerie becomes the Guiding Teacher. Please see documents on these roles.

MCZC Teacher Training
Henry will initiate a teacher training group run by him and Valerie, to help some senior students and assistant teachers become ready to meet students for interviews and in time, dokusan.

MC Faculty
Will Brennan has been appointed a Sanbo Zen Assistant Teacher and is offering “Wednesdays with Will” twice a month.
Maura Noone has been appointed an MC assistant teacher by Henry and Valerie. Her health issues make it unlikely she will be able to meet with students, though possibly at times she may. She hopes to offer more talks to MC.
Scott Thornton, a Sanbo Zen assistant teacher, has offered to lead a residency program once we reopen.

Henry’s brain health
Neurology remains an issue. Henry is exploring new treatments and finding them helpful. The neurologist agrees he is slowly getting better.

Strategic Visioning
After two positive and helpful “emergency” meetings called by Henry and Valerie with the Board, we are in a clearer, better place in the relationship between Teachers and Board. We’re in a renewal of our strategic planning assisted by organizational strategist John Bell. Good process so far.
Much to consider…

  • our growing online offerings
  • developing a larger teaching faculty
  • caring for our physical facility
  • building a residency program
  • our place as a key Sanbo Zen center

Other Venues
Waking Up App is including Henry for its “daily meditations,” which have mostly been led by Sam Harris until now.A second interview with the Tim Ferriss podcast aired on December 31, 2021. Guru Viking odcast recently recorded a joint conversation between nonduality teacher Rupert Spira and Henry.  Other invitations to podcasts have been arriving.

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