Sangha Meeting Report: January 25

 

Attending: Will, Stephen, Lisa, Christian, John, Karen, Peg, Gudrun, Mark, Vivian, Valerie, Paul, Laura, Christy, Rob, Dan, Henry, Chris, David H, Mary Ann, Yvonne, Rosemary, Damon, Bill, Kathryn, Katie, Sarah, Sean, Rachel, Jay, Deborah, Sandy, Dave S, Johanna

Welcome: Introducing Valerie, Yvonne and Dan, and the visiting students;  Sgt Pepper’s Heart of Perfect Wisdom Band, framed art piece.

Approval of Minutes of October 2019 Sangha meeting: Approved

Endorsement of Board of Directors for 2020 – Thank you to long term board and founding sangha member Steve Hughes.  He be available to answer legal questions if needed. Board slate approved including new members, Laura Cooley, Peg Froehlich, Karen Klinefelter.

Teacher’s Report – See below
Henry will be taking a mini-sabbatical thru Feb 20, 

Calendar Reminders for 2020: NASZ session is April 30 – May 5;  Kenshukai Teacher’s retreat is August 8-16; Henry’s mini-sabbatical begins January 26 and ends about February 20;  MCZC summer closure is August 21 – Sept 6.

Financial Statements – Damon reports that we are making our accounting information more detailed so we can better track where our income is spent. Damon has created a new budget with numerous new categories which he will be closely monitoring throughout the year.

We exceeded our year-end fundraising goal. 42% of members made donations during the campaign. This is an increase from the previous two years. In 2018, 32% of members donated during the year end campaign and 28% donated in 2017. Thank you to all who participated in our fundraising appeal!   

Bond: Jay reports that the $60,000 bond from our cottage construction is close to being returned to us so that we can repay our lender. The facilities team has worked tirelessly to complete all county requirements. 

Our roof-top solar panels have greatly reduced our PNM costs. Bill reports that we appear to have zeroed-out electric payments. Bill also reported that we had a lightning strike which took out some path lights but didn’t effect our PV system.

RGMI Report
John expressed gratitude to Program Manager Yvonne Sebastian. She worked as a counselor at Monte del Sol School (for ten years) and has strong links to Santa Fe public schools.

John and Yvonne gave a slide show presentation. RGMI events are growing rapidly, from 5 events offered in 2017 to 20 events in 2019.  RGMI has four types of programs: 

  • Heart of Teaching (HOT) Retreats for public and private school educators from all around the state.  HOT programs are financed by grants and donations with a small amount from participants. In 2019 HOT retreats served educators form 87 schools.
  • Tier 2 customized programs are provided for specific school groups; many of these customized programs have come through the recommendation of HOT graduates of these schools.
  • Corporate Programing for business and non-profit organizations
  • Teen programs delivered directly to teenaged students. 

Yvonne has been creating RGMI Social Media posts in order to provide support for HOT graduates and to build the RGMI community. Facebook and other social media outreach has increased about 680% in recent months and page followers have increased by 238%. A general RGMI goal is to activate community awareness for both RGMI and MCZC.  John is seeking foundation funding for mindfulness weekend retreats for educators as follow-up to HOT one-day sessions. Mountain Cloud will be offer a second weekend mindfulness retreat in June; HOT grads will be welcome to attend.  Additionally, Henry and John are creating a series of training modules that will lead to RGMI certification.

Both RGMI and Global Treehouse aim to improve employee well-being, creativity and ethics.

The different goals of mindfulness training and Zen training were discussed. The conclusion was that there is no conflict, as there is no hierarchy involved. The Intro Class helps people dedicate themselves to mindfulness practice that may or may not expand to include awakening.

Visiting Resident Program Report
Rachel recognized Sarah for the successful and and well organized Visiting Students Program that she created for the January 2020 cohort. Sarah attracted eight residents, created a full daily schedule with sitting, samu and other activities, and a detailed handbook. She consulted with Sandy to provide low cost healthy meals for the residents and enlisted the help of a cook-resident to ensure food needs were handled efficiently. 

A major goal of the program is to help participants develop an extended lay practice which they can integrate into daily life. Sarah successfully enlisted a varied and intergenerational group and believes that the experienced sitters provided stability to the program. The program also included mentors, advisors and teachers from the local sangha and greater Santa Fe community. Sangha members noted that the visiting students greatly enliven the life of our local sangha.

Henry recognized Katie Widlund, who is part of the January cohort and was an early sangha member, for her important role in the early years of Henry’s tenure at Mountain Cloud. 

Other Business
75th anniversary of Hiroshima.  Events will take place at LosAlamos. Jay is raising awareness

No cell phones in the zendo please!

Film – Walden in the Woods – independent film director Alex Harvey wants to show his film in Zen communities. Gudrun and Chris H are spearheading this project. 

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Teacher’s Report 

October 13, 2019 to January 25, 2020

I. MOUNTAIN CLOUD

Retreats:

a. Sesshins.

ROHATSU SESSHIN, December 1-8, seven day retreat, 42-3 attendees. Zendo team was Peg on bell, Will and Mary Ann sharing jisha sequentially, Bill as tanto with support from Luke Wientzen. Luke also led yoga/chi gong. Sarah (and Sean) overseeing work practice. 

Five people succumbed to illness over the retreat – any further precautions we can take? But it was a week of deep and strong practice.

b. Weekend retreats.

INTRO weekend, October 18-20, 2019. Small sweet retreat of 16 attendees, plus myself supported by Kathryn. Mostly teaching basic mindfulness. Considered to be very helpful supplementary practice by all present.

“MINDFULNESS” weekend retreat, January 17-19, 2020: 42 participants, led by Henry, with essential support from Mary Ann, and Johanna as time-keeper. A very positive and helpful experience for all.

c. Zazenkai.

November 10th: all day sit, 33 attending. Teisho and dokusan.

Weekly events:

a. Wednesday Intro class has had up to 27 people lately – usually 10-20. Led by a member of the intro team (Mary Ann, Kathryn, Will, Nancy), with Henry usually attending and  offering a short talk.

b. Thursday evening teishos – ongoing talks on the 4 Noble Truths, now into 7th month on this subject matter. Attendance generally around 35-45, sometimes into mid 50s (once over 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 – 30 minutes – there have been few morning dokusan periods, mostly through some fatigue.)
  • Skype dokusan for European students (two hours, about every three weeks).

Other events:

Henry gave a reading from his book on December 12th at MC. Around 60 people came. Nice candle-lit event, zendo set up beautifully by Dan and Sarah.

II. ELSEWHERE

October 25-27 San Diego weekend. 

Friday evening event and Saturday sit 1-6.30pm, both at Gather in Encinitas. Attendance around 25. Sunday afternoon event at Indie Yoga in Ocean Beach, attendance 22. All excellent students, some brand new, all hungry for practice and appreciative.

November 14: Henry taught a three-hour class to second-year students doing the Masters degree at Harvard Business School, in conjunction with Yamada Ryoun Roshi and Thierry Porte (GTH). Excellent response. 40 students in the class. A strong likelihood of more collaborative work there with GTH.

November 15-20: Henry was in Hawaii courtesy of Fred Schmidt (GTH), guiding Fred and an associate in daily Zen training, also leading his corporate team (about 30) in a morning of mindfulness.

III. RESIDENTS  

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. (This could be a prototype for future residency programming.)

  • DAN, our resident caretaker, has been at the center since December 1. Doing a fabulous job, and sitting deeply. Welcome Dan!
  • A residency program committee has formed: Christy, Sarah, Damon and Henry, chaired by John Braman. Three excellent meetings, with promising plans emerging.
     
  • Meanwhile we remain open to “interim” residents – people coming to stay at MC with minimal programming laid on for them, besides the daily sitting and samu.
  • Clare and Henry stayed at MC part-time, half of each week, living in the now insulated Yome, until the weather turned a bit too cold… they will resume soon.

IV. Prospects:

  • Stephen Batchelor is coming for two event in early March.
  • NASZ sesshin in early May 2020.
  • Kenshukai SZ Teachers’ retreat hosted by us in August 2020. Planning under way, with help from Sondra Byrnes as Kenshukai Team president, and Johanna (as ever!) as chief administrator.

V. Henry’s ongoing training, support, concerns, vision, other matters, etc:

  • Wellbeing of Mountain Cloud is a constant concern: how to balance the energy that retreats inevitably take for our organization, with the ongoing weekly and daily needs of the center… and with developing residency programming here.
  • Seems the need for more space is growing: what to do about that.
  • Valerie Forstmann Roshi visited from Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas, attending the January Mindfulness weekend retreat, and spending a week at MC along with the Visiting Students – she offered them a talk with discussion on the Kanzeon Sutra, and some general practice guidance. She is an associate master of Sanbo Zen, and has been a most welcome visitor to our sangha. She will be coming again to co-lead the Spring Sesshin.
  • Henry’s book One Blade of Grass has had a generally positive reception.
  • Henry did an interview about the book, and practice, with Rick Archer for his podcast “Buddha at the Gas Pump”; and an interview with Sam Harris for his “Waking Up” meditation app. Both have generated some new interest in MC.
  • Henry gave some local readings from the book, including at Garcia Street Books, Temple Beth Shalom and SOMOS in Taos.

Questions: 

  • it’s becoming a little harder to sustain 4 (up to 6) hours of dokusan each week outside of retreats. The retreats are wonderful but more tiring than in the past. So the balance between sustaining weekly commitments and retreats is something to consider.
  • The long-term dream would be that MC offers 6 sesshins and 12 weekend retreats per year, and that may not be unrealistic, in time. But with that kind of schedule, and even with the current schedule, Henry would need a little more down time, and more teaching support.
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