Posted inGeneral News & Announcements

Sangha Meeting Minutes: January 30 2021

February 15, 2021

Board of Director’s Update

Presented by Sondra Byrnes, Board President

We would like to thank Michael Waldron and Chris Hebard for their service on our board. While their terms have come to an end, they will continue to be involved in various capacities at Mountain Cloud. Thank you!

Due to these changes, we move to elect three new board members, Josue Damian-Martinez, Sarah Giffin, and Mark Petrick. Sondra Byrnes has been elected as President of the Board with Rachel Belash graciously serving as the Interim Executive Director.

Teacher’s Report

Presented by Valerie Forstman – see below

Interim Executive Director’s Update

Presented by Rachel Belash

Website Project

Behind the scenes, Mountain Cloud has been working quite extensively to improve our website. Since the beginning of January, our team has met on several occasions with design associates AJ&Smart in order to create a more Zen space for our content. This design consultation will wrap up in February with implementation possibly continuing to March. We hope that our members will agree with this new, beautiful, and easy to use design, and will come to enjoy it as much as we have!

Resident Program

Presented by Dan Martin

At the start of the pandemic, Mountain Cloud’s resident program came to an abrupt close, with only a few solitary residents maintaining limited interactions. As time has gone on, we have gained a few more residents and together have developed a daily, weekly and monthly schedule that works to support the property in work service and provide group Zen support. We currently have 5 residents on the property who sit each morning, participate in work service, and group meetings with the Zen teacher. Residents have also been meeting as a group on a regular basis to build camaraderie. This flexibility has been much appreciated by the residents and we hope to continue our resident program this way.

End of Year Appeal

During our 2020 End of Year Appeal, Mountain Cloud was able to raise a record $54,000. While this is the largest End of Year Campaign held at Mountain Cloud, unfortunately most of this money was raised from non-members. While we are excited about these prospects, only about 21% of members donated to this campaign. Looking forward, we hope to raise more money from our membership!

2nd Annual Art Exhibit

Last June, Mountain Cloud hosted an Art Show featuring art inspired by Mountain Cloud submitted by Sangha member Christy Hengst. This year, we are looking to expand this event to any Sangha members who are interested! If there are any artists interested in submitting work inspired by Mountain Cloud, please contact Christy Hengst for more information.

Outside of this project, we also hope to gather a series of photographs of Mountain Cloud or inspired by Mountain Cloud to create a set of postcards to be sold on the website. If you are interested in this, please contact Christy Hengst for more information.

2021 Budget Report

Presented by Johanna Sindelar

In order to establish a budget for 2021, the Mountain Cloud Finance Committee is working on the assumption that we will continue in the Virtual Zendo and not return to the physical Zendo until 2022. Should the public health situation change, the finance committee will meet and prepare a new budget.

Otherwise, much of the 2021 Budget is very similar to that of 2020. We are expecting most of our income to come from our online retreat offerings, and we will continue to offer several types of retreats throughout the year. Overall, expenses have mostly stayed the same, however we have added extra allowances in the website category due to the upcoming overhaul project.

RGMI Update

Presented by John Braman

In 2020, we had 638 participants, almost double the amount of the participants in 2019! Being able to offer shorter online workshops to a variety of communities has been incredibly beneficial for RGMI, and we hope to continue these efforts in 2021. Last year was also a record fundraising year for RGMI, having raised over $60,000 in 2020. This fundraising will allow us to offer more workshops and scholarships to teachers and students in our community. Some of our new workshops include breakout room activities for personal connections, drop-in events to tune up skills, journaling exercises, and rewards for Zen practice. We have also created a Spanish program to bring mindfulness to immigrant moms in partnership with United Way.

Virtual Zendo Project

Presented by Mark Petrick

At the beginning of the pandemic, Mountain Cloud hosted a Virtual Zendo fundraiser with two goals in mind, the first being to establish a virtual space to bring our teachings online, and the second was to bring technology into the physical Zendo to incorporate virtual teachings when the pandemic ends. In the next few months, we will continue to work on this second goal. So far, we have been able to improve the internet connection at the center through NM Surf and have sent Valerie and Henry some additional equipment to improve their connections as well. We hope to set up the facility for Zoom broadcasting once allowed back at the center.

Minutes submitted by Katie Rader

Teacher’s Report, Valerie Forstman

Prepared by Valerie in Henry’s absence
October 17, 2020 to January 30, 2021



Henry’s Sabbatical
Henry began his three-month sabbatical on December 21, immediately following the Winter Solstice retreat. He plans to return with the Spring Equinox on March 20, in time to co-lead the March four-day retreat (25-28). 

Valerie joined the MCZC faculty in late September and has stepped in to cover for Henry while he is away. 

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 on a monthly basis. 

Intro Class
Every Tuesday at 4pm with members of the intro team: 

Kathryn Stedham, Nancy O’Connor, Mary Ann Bennett; Nic Redfern has agreed to join the team. Mary Ann volunteered to offer Zoom training. 

Ongoing talks on Thursday evenings, given by Henry alternating with Valerie prior to the Winter Solstice retreat; given by Valerie supported by a roster of guest teachers through the end of March. Attendance Thursday evenings has ranged from 40-70. 

Board Study Group
Ongoing exploration of whiteness in our sangha, of implicit unconscious bias, of barriers we may have to people of color joining us – both in some of the talks, and in the board’s study group, led currently by Karen, Laura and John. Valerie joined the board’s implicit bias study group in November. 

Visiting Teachers
At Henry’s invitation, Carmen Monske, a senior SanboZen teacher from Spain, sent a recorded talk, which served as the Thursday evening dharma talk on January 7. Natalie Goldberg was our guest on Thursday, January 14, speaking about her new book, Three Simple Lines. (She drew well over 100 participants.) Senior Student, Will Brennan, offered the dharma talk on January 28. Upcoming guests include Dosho Port on February 11, Maria Reis Habito on February 18, and senior student, Bill Bruce, on March 4. Natalie Goldberg will return for another talk on March 18.

Original Love 4 retreat, November 19-22, led by Henry and Valerie (82 registrations); The zendo team, coordinated superbly by Peg, included Bernd, Peg, Dan, Mark, Johanna, Mary Ann, and Christian. Mary Ann led movement. 

November Intro Retreat, Nov. 7-8, led by Valerie (30 registered, higher number tuned in for the talks). Zendo team: Peg, Johanna, Mary Ann, Dan. Susan led movement.

Winter Solstice retreat, December 17-20, led by Henry and Valerie (96 registrations, over 100 tuned in for teishos); Zendo team: Bernd, Peg, Dan, Johanna, Christian, Nancy; Mary Ann led the guided movement.

Yaza, all night sit, December 7-8, led by Henry and Valerie, great help coordinating by Johanna, who organized the reading of the Denkoroku Head Chapter, and by Dan who led the residents in candle lighting. Special thanks to the residents who divided up the night and took turns as jiki. We had about 40 participants. 

New Year’s Eve sit with short talk by Valerie and reflections from members of the sangha; organized with help from Johanna and Dan, who led the residents in ringing the bell 108 times 

January Intro retreat, Jan. 9-10, led by Valerie (35 registrations; 49 participants on second day; 52 tuned in for the talks; attendance dropped somewhat both afternoons) 

Zendo team, again expertly organized by Peg, included Mark, Dan, Christian, and Mary Ann. Susan Dollinger led movement both days. 

‘Encounter of the Heart’ retreat, January 21-24, led by Valerie (59 registrations, more than 70 tuned into talks on the weekend); Peg organized the zendo team (Peg, Dan, Mark, Christian, Mary Ann, and Luke Wientzen. Many thanks for the tremendous support! 

Valerie began offering virtual dokusan on Mondays and Wednesdays at the beginning of October. The number of students coming has steadily grown. In January, available time slots were added to accommodate increased requests. (Now 5+ hours/week.) Johanna oversees the schedule and has been immensely helpful in coordinating communication and offering tech support. Sanjiv Manifest also provided a very helpful training session for Zoom dokusan. 

Prior to January, Jisha’s for Valerie’s Zoom dokusan were Mark, Mary Ann, Johanna, and Dan. Johanna’s assistant, Katie Rader, is now serving as Zoom host for dokusan. 

Thanks to all!

Counseling Sessions
Valerie has been offering extended practice guidance and spiritual counseling sessions to an increasing number of students, now more than 30 on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. Most requests come through Johanna. Sessions are individually scheduled but students must be a member of Mountain Cloud.

Meetings with Residents
Valerie began meeting with MCZC residents in early November. Dan graciously helps to coordinate twice-monthly hour-long conversations with Valerie and the residents, which Dan also attends. 

New Initiatives
In December, MCZC moved to live-streaming dharma talks during sesshin with the goal of eventually live-streaming all recorded aspects of practice. Nathanial Sindelar has taken on this oversight with the support of Sanjiv and Johanna. Valerie attended a training session kindly led by Sanjiv in December to get a sense of this new use of technology. 

Mark Petrick very helpfully oversaw an upgrade to Valerie’s audio with a new mic and stand courtesy of Mountain Cloud. Thanks all around. 

In November, Valerie began training to join the faculty at RGMI. John and Yvonne offered a Zoom session about RGMI’s mission and history, then Valerie sat in on two workshops led by Yvonne, John, Kathryn, and Mark Wax. In December, Valerie joined John, Yvonne, and Helen Young (guided movement) in leading a workshop for arts administrators and master teachers in the Albuquerque public schools as part of the APS Fine Arts Teacher Mindfulness Program. 

Upcoming Retreats

February 13-14, Valentine’s Intro Retreat, led by Valerie

February 25-28, ‘Full Moon, Clear Mirror,’ led by Valerie

March 13, Intro Day of Zen, led by Valerie

March 25-28, Four-day retreat, led by Henry and Valerie

April 10-11, Intro Retreat, led by Valerie


footer support banner image

Support Mountain Cloud

You can show your gratitude for Mountain Cloud events, retreats, podcasts and other teachings by making a one-time gift, or by becoming a supporting member.

Donate to Mountain Cloud Become a Member