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Sangha Meeting Minutes, May 15, 2021

May 23, 2021

Mountain Cloud Zen Center
Sangha Meeting Notes
May 15, 2021

Teacher’s Reports

Teacher Reports prepared by Henry and Valerie are at the end of this post.

Interim Executive Director’s Report – Rachel Belash

Updates at Mountain Cloud

There are currently three residents at the center. There has been some serious progress on the land conservation front. We have been able to better control our irrigation systems to limit unnecessary water use. It has been discovered that the center might need to have some work done on the well, however the Board is waiting for a full report on what needs to be improved. A huge thanks to Karen Klinefelter and David Bacon for their work on this.

There have also been some improvements to the Library, which was recently reorganized to provide better access to materials.

Re-Opening Committee

The Re-Opening Committee has met and reached a decision about how and when the Zen center will re-open. Beginning June 1st, daily sits will resume in person at Mountain Cloud in the Zendo. Attendance is limited to 20 individuals and those who wish to participate must show proof of vaccination. Upon proof of vaccination, members will not be required to wear masks or maintain 6-foot social distancing in the Zendo. Vaccination cards will only need to be shown once and we will maintain a list of those who have provided this proof. Daily sits are Monday – Friday morning and evening sits. 7-8am and 5:30-6:30pm respectively with the exception of Thursday night. Once the tech set up is complete for reliable zoom streaming from our zendo, we will have the Thursday evening teishos and sit on sit as well.  

In addition, the online zoom daily sits will continue as they have been for the last 14 months. 

The outdoor Sunday sit will also continue and is open to those who are not vaccinated, however we ask that you continue to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.


The website is coming along beautifully and will be ready to debut soon.

Postcard Project

Christy has finished her postcard project and you can sign up to order this set in the newsletter. The set will be $55 including mailing, or $50 if you arrange pick up at Mountain Cloud.

Outdoor Work Day – Karen Klinefelter

Coming up on June 5th, there will be a volunteer work day from 9-12 in order to work on the land conservation efforts at Mountain Cloud. All are welcome and no level of strength is required as there will be many jobs available. We have a limited number of tools available for this work, so if you have gardening tools and shovels, please bring them! We will also be offering snacks and refreshments for those who give their time.

Board Meeting Update, Presented by Sondra Byrnes

On May 11th, the Board held its most recent meeting. One of the issues that was raised from this meeting is the growing need for new Board members. Currently, many board members serve on one or two committees in addition to holding other duties. Because of this, the board approved an addition of up to three board members. According to the bylaws of the Board, 75% of the board must maintain Sangha membership. There are currently no candidates, however the nomination committee will begin its search promptly to fill this need. If anyone is interested in Board membership, please reach out to either Sondra Byrnes or John Braman.

RGMI Report, Presented by John Braman

RGMI has been incredibly busy during early 2021, hosting 21 events between January and May 2021, compared to 4 events last year. RGMI has doubled the number of participants in its workshops this year by adapting and embracing the online model, meeting people where they are and when they can in meditation. Helping workers ranging from educators to healthcare professionals, we have been able to serve 332 people, aiding them in finding mindfulness beyond traditional meditation. Previously, we had been more focused on educators, but the last year has brought many different industries to RGMI. A huge thanks to all of those who have helped RGMI to grow this year.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been major shifts in many of the lives of those RGMI aids. These changes brought new opportunities to develop more targeted programs that would bring mindfulness into educator’s spaces. RGMI’s retreats have shortened since last March, with many events taking place over just one lunch break. This has not only made RGMI more accessible but has allowed us to engage more people than ever before.

Unfortunately, due to some health challenges it has become increasingly difficult to spend many long hours in front of a computer. Beginning in July, RGMI will be taking a short break in order to allow the faculty of RGMI some much needed rest. In addition to this, Yvonne Sebastian has announced that she wishes to retire. Yvonne has been a great asset to RGMI and we wish her the best in her retirement!

Financial Review, Presented by Johanna Sindelar

So far, Mountain Cloud is on track in terms of income and expenses for 2021. Currently, we are ahead in donations, however a good portion of this can be attributed to the donation received in order to update the website. Over the last year while Mountain Cloud has been closed, there have in general been fewer overall expenses. As we moves towards reopening on June 1st, expenses will likely begin to rise as we start to invest in a hybrid model and bring members back to in-person retreats.

Equity and Inclusion Committee Report, Presented by Sara Giffin

The Equity and Inclusion Committee (formerly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) has been formed and is looking to gain new members, including both Sangha and Board members. This committee will work to identify actionable changes that can be made to promote an inclusive environment and compose these commitments in a written statement to be posted to the website. We hope to do a lot of learning together, connecting with experts and other Zen centers on these difficult to discuss topics. If this is something that you would be interested in building, please reach out to Sara Giffin (, as we hope to represent our Sangha in its fullest capacity.

Notes prepared by Katie Rader, reviewed by Johanna Sindelar

Teacher’s Report: Henry – 18 October 2020 to May 15, 2021

4 Day Retreats:

October 22-5: Original Love 3, (attendance 55-84) 

November 19-22, Original Love 4 (attendace 60-80)

 led by Valerie and Henry

December 17-20 (attendance 70-100)

Zendo team on all retreats, coordinated superbly by Peg, included: Peg, Johanna, Dan, Mark, Bernd, Christian, with movement from Mary Ann and Luke Wientzen

Two intro weekend retreats led by Valerie:

October 10-11 (attendance around 30) 

November 7-8 (attendance 36) 

Both times the team was: Peg, Johanna and Mary Ann.

Henry’s Sabbaatical, 21 December 2020 to 21 March 2021:

With much gratitude to the Board, I spent this time away from teaching in taking care of family matters, resting, sketching, endeavouring to restore some neurological deficits from post-concussion, and working on a potential new book about practice.

Since March 21, 2021:


March four-day online retreat, Why Koans. Led by Henry.

Attendance peaked at 108. Generally 80-100.

April four-day online retreat, Why Mu. Led by Henry and Valerie.

Attendance range about 55 to a peak of 82.

Dokusan – not yet up and running. See “health” below.

Practice counseling sessions – resumed in April, one day a week, with scheduling through Calendly, set up by Clare. Doing these by audio. 


Basically my brain is doing much better. I can do sessions, give talks, handle Q&A. Can also work on writing on screen, though not as long as normally. 

But it’s still sensitive to triggers – primarily driving and images on screens. I don’t watch any TV and more than 10 or 20 minutes of Zoom is likely to trigger symptoms. I mostly do zoom meetings without looking at screen. Hence problem with dokusan for now…

Other Venues

Rick Hanson – offered 30 minute meditation  and 40 minute talk at Rick Hanson’s Wednesday night sit. 382 attending.

Two new batches of audios (24 total) for Waking Up app with Sam Harris, delivered in December and March. Doing another conversation with him late May.

Henry has done a number of podcast interviews too: Ultimate Health, BeingWell, and others. 


1. Exploring a new program for MC, Original Love. This will offer retreats, workshops, a weekly sit and courses. A secular approach to mindfulness and awakening. Serving as a bridge from intro level to Zen koan practice.

2. Exploring new social media support for MC programming, as part of board marketing group.

In general, there seems to be great untapped potential for us. We might have many more people attending our online events. Without significant exposure in the social media world of Facebook and Instagram, where many of our potential audience hang out, we are not offering support that is needed. This is a key area for MC to address, and it will be hard to do without advice, guidance and support from people with experience in helping organizations in these areas.

Teacher’s Report – Valerie
March 9-May 11, 2021

Henry’s Return

Henry returned from his three-month sabbatical in time to lead the four-day ‘Why Koans?’ virtual retreat, March 25-28. 

Valerie continues to offer Thursday night talks on rotation, retreats (together with Henry), twice weekly dokusan, individually scheduled counseling sessions, and to share in planning and administrative collaboration. 

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 April and May included Peg, Luke, Johanna, Dan, Christian, Nancy, Mark, Bill, Gudrun, and Karen.)

Implicit Bias Study Group – Equity and Inclusion Committee 

The implicit unconscious bias study group suggested inviting guest teachers who whose teaching might help draw more inclusion to MCZC. Karen, Laura, and John led this study group for most of its first iteration. Sarah Giffen, new to the board, stepped into a leadership role in early March. Valerie participated in this group from November through the last meeting in April. At the request of the group, Laura, Sarah, and Karen initiated a new Equity and Inclusion Committee that will report to the board. Thanks for this excellent leadership! 

Intro Class 

Beginning June 1, the weekly Intro class will meet on Tuesdays at 5:00pm. Currently, members of the intro team include Kathryn Stedham, Nancy O’Connor, and Mary Ann Bennett. Lisa Lincoln will join the rotation in June. Nic Redfern is willing but not currently available. Bill Bruce has offered to join in the fall. Once in-person gatherings resume, Will Brennan will re-join the Intro class teaching rotation. 

Ongoing talks on Thursday evenings, given by Henry and Valerie with occasional guest teachers. Attendance Thursday evenings has ranged from 30-60. 

Visiting Teachers

None since Henry’s return. Valerie and Henry have begun to discuss options for future guests. Lewis Richmond will be guest offering the dharma talk on May 27


The zendo team for retreats, superbly coordinated by Peg, has included Peg, Dan, Mark, Johanna, Mary Ann, Christian, Bernd, Hans, and Nancy. Mary Ann, Luke, and Susan have led movement. 

Intro Day of Zen, March 13, led by Valerie; Peg organized the zendo team; Mark collaborated on posture demonstration. 19 registrants; 23 tuned in at various times. 

‘Why Koans?’ March 25-28, led by Henry. Valerie attended; 99 registrants. (Participation peaked at 108.)

 Intro Retreat, April 10-11, led by Valerie. Peg organized the zendo team. Dan modeled postures. Susan and Mary Ann led movement. 15 registrants; 27 tuned in parttime; 29 for second talk. 

‘Why Mu?’ April 22-25, Henry with Valerie; 59 registrants, considerably higher participation. (See Henry’s report.)

Coming up next week: Zen Basics, May 20-23; Henry with Valerie

Change in Intro Offerings:

Beginning in May, Valerie will lead “Saturday Morning Stillness: Learn to Meditate” as an introduction to sitting practice that builds on the weekly introductory classes. Henry’s OL retreats will take the place of the weekend intro retreats on the calendar.  

Beginning June 1, the weekly Intro class will be held one hour later on Tuesdays at 5:00 in an effort to accommodate work schedules. The roster of teachers in June will include Mary Ann, Kathryn, and Lisa Lincoln. 


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. 

Counseling Sessions

Valerie offers individual practice guidance and spiritual counseling sessions to about 25 students on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. 

Meetings with Residents

Valerie’s weekly meetings with residents are on hiatus until the cohort of residents grows again. 


Valerie partnered with Mary Ann in teaching and guiding movement for a series of five sessions for RGMI’s project: The Community Health Funder Alliance; “People Who Help People” (April 6-20). Yvonne and John offered training and hosted the sessions. 


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