Sangha Meeting Minutes: January 26, 2019

Thank you to all who attended our January 26 sangha meeting. Attendees are listed at the end of this report. We have three sangha meetings per year. Minutes are published on our website and will continue to be posted on our bulletin board.

Brief Meditation: Led by Henry

Approval October sangha meeting minutes:  Moved and approved by attending members.

Ratification of 2019 Board and Recognition of out-going board members

Two outgoing board members, Kathryn and Abigail were acknowledged and presented gifts of appreciation. The incoming board member, Sondra, was introduced.  The second nominated board member, Valerie, has declined her nomination due to time constraints.

The current board members are Damon, John, Jay, Chris, Steve, Sondra, Michael and Rachel. Officers are Michael as Treasurer, Rachel as President and Johanna as Secretary. The sangha approved all members and officers. 

Teacher’s Report see below for full report.

Following his report, Henry answered a few questions and elaborated on a couple of topics.

When asked, Henry stated that he has about 130 students including those in Germany and San Diego.

Henry noted that he wants to form a small committee that manages Sunday and other guest programming. Henry no longer will be attending the Sunday morning weekly event and would like the programming committee (under his guidance) to program ecumenical events that include sitting followed by guest speakers or facilitators from a variety of traditions. A sangha member recommended that Mary Ann be included in the Sunday planning since she has been leading the Sunday event for more than a year. Will B, Mark P, John B volunteered to help with Sunday programming. 

A sangha member questioned how current programming has been targeted and defined. Henry admits that this has not been well thought out, which is why he would like to create a programming committee going forward. Henry has carried on with the events and programs that were established when he arrived at Mountain Cloud: weekly sits and regular sesshins. He has added weekend introductory retreats, a weekly Intro to Zen class as well as externally focused programs like RGMI. 

RGMI Report

Stressing that RGMI is a program of Mountain Cloud, John reports that RGMI outreach is one main way the dharma is expressed outside of MCZC, specifically to educators, students and administrators who work with youth.  

In 2018 RGMI reached 68 schools all over the state, including Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, Aztec, and southern parts of NM. One teacher will be attending her 5th Heart of Teaching (HOT) retreat this spring. Several HOT alumni have invited RGMI into their schools to give a targeted program/presentation.

RGMI has focused on adding instructional staff, beyond John and Henry. RGMI now has a diverse faculty of 15 teachers who vary in expertise but all have a mindfulness background. RGMI selects and trains faculty based on certifications, practice history, observation, post-observation interview, feedback, and sangha-member preference (ie Nic, MaryAnn, Sarah). RGMI seeks broad diversity in both staff and participants.

The Heart of Teaching program has two tiers. Tier one is HOT workshops at MCZC which are funded primary by grants from the LANL Foundation or self-pay by attendees. Tier two is HOT programs at individual schools and are funded by the schools with public money or private school funds. The HOT programs are popular and growing widely. In 2017 RGMI reached 160 people. In 2019 RGMI will reach 1000. RGMI has also had programs for teens, including in 2018, a customized program for a group of teens who are the first in their family to attend college. 

RGMI is having a scholarship fundraiser on September 14, 2019 at a historic house on the National Register. Sangha volunteers will be needed at the September 14 House Party fundraiser.

Volunteers are also needed to help at our upcoming Saturday HOT retreats this spring: greeters and parking lot attendants from 9-9:45am. Contact Melissa (melissa@mountaincloud.org) if you can help on Feb 9, April 13 or May 4. 

John is grateful to be allowed to bring yoga and mindfulness into schools through RGMI. It is now clear that RGMI has established a secular identity and no longer geta religious push back. John expressed his appreciation for the support of sangha members, in particular Karen who set up a social work certificate program for HOT participants. He also expressed appreciation for his assistant, Melissa, who performs many tasks that keep RGMI organized, including her help with the sangha meeting presentation.

Jay is impressed by RGMI’s diversity but is concerned that Zen centers in general and MCZC in particular is not diverse, is mainly white. How could RGMI help us increase diversity in the sangha?  John recommends a book, Awakening Together, which focuses on how to achieve diversity in the western Buddhist world. A few points: 

  • Diversity comes to us through our own programs; students and teachers from RGMI HOT programs have attended our Wednesday intro class and our Intro Retreats  
  • We need to work hard to be sure there are no impediments to people attending our programs, such as financial limitations and lengthy scholarship applications requiring financial details.
  • Board of directors needs to be diverse.

The diversity discussion generated a number of additional ideas: 

  1. Peg has contact information for a sangha of color in ABQ. She will get that information to the programming planning committee, once it forms. 
  2. Put the diversity issue on the board agenda. 
  3. Explore and discuss diversity within our community. Sarah G has some ideas. 
  4. Paul notes that the intro class seems to attract a more diverse group of people, hispanic, Native American for example, but these people generally don’t stay for long. 
  5. RGMI’s funder, LANL Foundation, has suggested that RGMI consider working with immigrant populations as a way to help them settle and integrate.

Financial Report and 2019 budget

Reports presented: 2019 Budget created by our Treasurer Michael and 2018 reports for the General Fund and the RGMI fund, and a 4 year summary report for the Construction Fund.

The construction loss of 60k is due to the outstanding loan for the bond.  We are renewing the bond for an additional year, cost $3400. We can get a pro-rated amount returned once we receive final county approval. Items yet to be completed are painted lines for the paved parking area, signage, and fencing. Jay asked for volunteer help shoveling and chipping ice off the parking lot.

Fundraising Report

We raised $20K from our 2018 year end appeal, our goal was $30K. We got a generous top leadership gift and a good number small gifts, $100 or less. We would like more intermediate sized gifts ($100-$500).

In 2018 36% of members contributed to the appeal
In 2017 42% of members contributed

A majority of members did not donate to our end of year appeal.  Any amount is welcome and needed. The goal is for 100% member participation.  Fundraising does matter, even though we pay membership fees, sessions and event fees, we still need folks to make an extra donation each year. Membership dues (which are low) only cover about 25% of our operating costs. We will do a mid-year appeal this year, hoping to raise the $10K we didn’t raise at 2018 year end. Much gratitude to all who made donations.

Henry also thanks all who donated and points out that many are giving by just being here and sitting. Henry appreciates that Rachel has insisted that he be given a monthly stipend, which make life more manageable for he and his family. Donations are need to support out teacher.

Weekend Coverage Volunteers / Residents

With our growth and new cottage, we often have guests staying at MC during the weekend, when no one else is here. We need to have a group of volunteers able to be on-call during these event-free weekends in case of emergency or simple malfunction (electric, heating, plumbing) who know about fuse boxes, boiler issues, water valves, etc. Volunteers will be thoroughly trained and there will be one person on-call per weekend.  We will have a 20 minute (or longer) orientation for weekend volunteers and for sit and class leaders.  If you are interested in helping let Sarah know at facilities@mountaincloud.org  or Johanna at mczcadmin@mountaincloud.org.  This request will be placed in the Newsletter.

Tor will be leaving Mountain Cloud, after two years as resident and manager. He will move out by February 24 but will remain in Santa Fe and involved at Mountain Cloud. 

With Tor leaving, we will need more samu volunteers and will perhaps reinstate samu Saturdays. This needs to be organized and we will probably have samu sign ups at the monthly sangha teas and on other occasions. You can volunteer to help anytime, contact Sarah. 

There was a short discussion about how to increase the number of samu volunteers. Work practice, as a donation of one’s time, is critical for our center’s functioning, but isn’t embraced by most members. In the past, we required that members attend a specified number of samu Saturdays each year. We change that requirement in our bylaws, because this requirement is difficult to enforce and track. Jay suggests that we increase the emphasis on work practice. Henry says that in Japan, at end of a class or sitting period, people stay and perform samu tasks as a group. The sangha discussed that we might have a category for work memberships but we recognized that people with money can pay to not work, which misses the point that work is part of practice. 

Mark asked some important question regarding membership — what does it mean to be a member? Is there a way to make membership more integrated and organized? What is practice and what is work? Henry may write a letter to members, defining membership more precisely and stressing the importance of work practice. There will always be tension within a community like ours which wants to offer an open and safe place for people to come, while at the same time needing people to participate and donate.

A number of members volunteered for samu and/or weekend on-call participation:  Rachel, Dave Stevens, Steve and Margie, Karen, Paul and Laura, Christy, Gudrun, Bill, Chris H, John, Sondra, Will, Johanna

Sanbo Zen Movie

Chris Hebard gave background about the Sanbo Zen movie that he has been working on for several years. It began with interactions with Henry and Abbot Ryoun Roshi and included interviews with various Sanbo Zen teachers at a teacher training retreat in Toronto. 

Chris’ original question was to find out about the many westerners who traveled to India, Tibet and other far east destinations in the 1960s and 70s searching for spiritual awakening. What do these people look like now? Through this inquiry Chris says he learned the real history of Sanbo Zen. He also says that he made a promise to our Abbot that the film would sincerely represent what Sanbo Zen has been trying to accomplish.  

The film has emerged organically over time. Its focus has shifted from a niche film specific to Sanbo Zen to a film for a broader audience. It’s gone through various titles, Zen and the West, Zen and Awakening, Peace in Troubled Times. Chris has interviewed many Zen and non-zen practitioners from various countries and has over 60 hours of film footage which has been reduced down to 82 minutes for the final product. Footage will be available for other purposes, yet to be determined, perhaps for Global Tree House programs, RGMI, Sanbo Zen, and Mountain Cloud.

Global Tree House has donated money to finish the film and the final delivery date is March 31. Chris will work on distribution and marketing.  The film’s intellectual ownership belongs to and will remain with Chris whose intent is get the film to the broadest audience possible and to make the large amount of footage available for appropriate uses.  

A few sangha and board members asked how can we synchronize the film with fundraising for both MCZC and RGMI? This will be looked at by the board and others.

Contribution Statements

If you would like a contribution statement for total donations given to Mountain Cloud in 2018, please request it from Johanna, mczcadmin@mountaincloud.org.  It can be emailed, printed and mailed or left at Mountain Cloud for you to pick up.

Adjourn – Four Great Vows

Minutes submitted by Johanna Sindelar, Board Secretary and MCZC Administrator

*****

Teacher’s Report 

October 21, 2018, to January 26, 2019.

One. Activities at MC:

Retreats:

a. Sesshins.

Rohatsu Sesshin, December 2-9, 41 attendees, our largest enrollment to date, and was a seven-day retreat, our longest to date. (45 enrolled, four dropped out last minute because of sickness).  Around 40 is our likely maximum. The team was Peg on bell, Will as attendant and Bill as zendo-head: all were superb, and ran a powerful, peaceful, profound experience. Sean and Sarah again handled work-practice very well. Ten people slept in Bradan-West. All around, a new level of offering for us.

b. Intro retreats.

An intro weekend November 16-18, with attendance of around 25, led by Henry. Excellent experience. 

c. Zazenkai.

January 20, lovely all-day sit, attended by 35. 

Weekly events:

Weekday early morning sits have continued consistently, with breakfasts after, even through our Christmas-New Year break while residents were gone (at that time, led by Maura, Gudrun and Johanna). 

Afternoon dokusan continued most Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to Thursdays after teisho. Some Monday mornings too. 

Wednesday Intro class, and Thursday evening sits. 

Attendance on Wednesday and Thursday evenings has been steady — intro class generally around 12-18; Thursday evenings from low 30s to high 40s (once 51 people, reportedly). 

Skype dokusan/interviews: an issue over the years has been the wifi signal at the center – mostly better these days, but occasionally still challenging. About every 3 weeks, for 2 hours.

Other events:

Nic Redfern’s five week course of Insight Dialogue classes — much appreciated. 

Two. Teaching elsewhere:

Weekend of meditation in San Diego: October 19-21, 2018. Mostly at Gather yoga studio in Encinitas CA, also two short events at Peace House and Indie Yoga.

7-day sesshin at Sonnenhof in Germany: January 6-13, 2019. Attendance of 31. Superb retreat. 

Three. RGMI: report from John…

Four. Residents  

Tor, Sean and Sarah have been attending dokusan regularly and doing well in their practice. 

Five. Henry’s own ongoing support and training:

Henry attended the “Sanbo Sesshin” with 18 teachers in Dietfurt, Germany, followed by a smaller retreat for 7 associate masters, both led by Yamada Roshi. October 29-November 4, 2018.

In early May 2019 Henry plans to attend two weeks of John Gaynor’s four-week retreat in Germany.

Six. Prospects:

— ongoing training of Intro Class instructors and RGMI facilitators; RGMI faculty is expanding.

— Stephen Jenkinson offering talk Monday February 11th.

— Ben Connolly will be giving talk Wednesday April 24, 2019.

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

Overview:

All going very fine. Minor issues:

Henry’s back health caused him to miss a teisho and dokusan on Thursday January 3rd. He considered cancelling trip to Germany on January 4th but went and was OK with wheelchair assistance, and returned in better shape without assistanc, now on track for physical therapy. 

May underscore a need for recovery time after major retreats – Board has approved two clear days for teacher after each long retreat.

Programming committee: Henry plans to form a small programming committee to develop a clearer strategic vision on activities at the center that do not fall under MC’s Sanbo Zen programming or under RGMI’s activities. Approved by the board.

Teacher’s 2018 commitments:

79 retreat days:

MCZC – 44 days

4 sesshins – 25 days

4 Intro weekend retreats –  8 days (actually 6, with one intro retreat led by Will)

5 zazenkai – 5 days

6 RGMI days

California – 9 days

2 weekends with San Diego sangha – 4 days

Esalen – 5 days

Sonnenhof, Germany – 21 days

3 7-day sesshins 

Also: NASZ sesshin with Yamada Roshi – 5 days

Personal support and training:

Kenshukai teachers’ retreat – 4 days

Sanbo Sesshin for teachers – 4 days

Sanbo kenshukai for associate masters – 2 days

Weekly teaching responsibilities at MCZC:

–three times each week (Monday mornings, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday evening) 

–skype dokusan: extended dokusan with European students every three weeks. 

–In addition there are naturally managerial responsibilities, teacher being part of MC Operations Team and management.

Implications: 

–Sunday mornings: approximately 25 weekends per year have some teaching commitment as is. This has meant that teacher’s attendance at Sunday morning sits has become harder to maintain. 

–Teacher would like to consider a new approach to Sunday mornings, as a significant ecumenical meditation-based event with many visiting speakers/instructors, and less dependence on the teacher. This could be an excellent addition to MC’s weekly offerings, and provide a major service to our local community.

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