Dear MC students, members, sangha, friends and supporters…
Thank you all so much for making Mountain Cloud such a vibrant and thrilling community to be a part of. Yes, we gather primarily in order to be quiet and still together in person, to allow the deeper realities of our consciousness, our nature, and our very existence to show themselves. And also to ripen in the Dharma, in order to grow (let’s hope) as wiser, kinder human beings. Mostly we do this together.
Silence and stillness are our key tools. But the result is not a number of isolated people, but rather a growing community of loving people who support one another in the great project of practice, which results in the emergence of a greater project — the growth of healthy community among and between us all, and in our wider world, in the great community, the “Maha Sangha” of all creation.
Thank you for making this a reality. I feel that for many of us our humble center has become an important support for our well-being, vitality and sense of belovedness upon this earth. And without one another, without each of your offerings toward Mountain Cloud’s well-being, this would not be happening.
Right now we are facing an exciting new time of discovery in Mountain Cloud’s journey. We are all wisely and caringly heeding the advice of the epidemiologists, and slowing down the pace of Covid-19’s spread, through social distancing and some amount of self-quarantine. Mountain Cloud’s board and leadership took the necessary decision to shutter the center for a while, with of course the hope and plan to reopen as soon as it is safe.
I want to say a little bit about the period of temporary closure that we are in. First, enjoy it! Can’t we all feel how much the world needs a rest? Rest used to be a natural part of life. Back in the old days the rhythms of the agricultural calendar created natural periods of intense work followed by times of deep rest. What animal doesn’t know how to rest? Well, perhaps only one – us. We have got ourselves caught on a running machine, an ever faster treadmill, in the view of Professor Geoffrey West, formerly of the Santa Fe Institute. It forces us to keep running faster and faster. And now we find ourselves in a pause. Somehow we’ve been forced to step off. Let yourself open to that pause. Breathe it in.
Second, this is already a time of dire economic hardship for many in our community, and the new circumstances will make it still harder for some. I hope we will do all we can to support those in even deeper need than usual. If we can, why not turn a little more of our attention to them? Take the foot off the pedal of self-advancement and self-protection, just as practice encourages us to do, and instead take time to see what we can do to be of help in our world. No rush. Quiet, patient help and service.
Third, what about Mountain Cloud’s offerings at this time? Basically, we are going to ramp up our online offerings.To find that we can actually gather in silence and stillness, without doing it in person, and receive dharma teachings without being face to face, and have it be an intimate and fulfilling experience, may come as a surprise to some. But it is the case.
This is something we have been meaning to do anyway for some time. Now it has moved higher up the priority list. Very soon we will be live-streaming teisho talks on a Thursday night, and offering intro classes at the usual time of 5 p.m. on a Wednesday also. Online interviews and dokusan times will also expand.
My own role at Mountain Cloud remains as central as ever, as long as the community wishes it. After my recent two-and-a-half week vacation, I feel an even deeper commitment to helping our center and community grow into a place of refuge for all those who may feel it could be the right place to harbor themselves from the stormy seas of self-driven life, and to start to enter upon the path to peace, joy and unconditional well-being, in the service of others.
It has been wonderful for me to have a little support lately from my dharma sister Valerie roshi from Dallas, whom some of you got to meet at the recent retreat we had. I have invited her to offer some teisho’s over the coming months, as well as online dokusan from time to time. This is because I have been feeling that with the growth of our community, it seems natural and healthy to gently start to broaden the teaching faculty, and a close Sanbo Zen sibling of mine whose dharma-eye is surely deeper and clearer than my own, is a natural way to bring in some additional teaching at the highest level of Zen practice I personally know.
I have also increasingly been feeling the importance of diversity in our community, and to have a female co-teacher on board at times represents at least one small step in that direction.
In spite of our current closure, our growth continues. Please enjoy the virtual offerings that are coming up. The Dharma never stops unfolding in new ways. It is itself boundless creativity. At the deepest level, all is well. Our lives are leaves on the great “world tree” of the dharma. How fine that they come and go, that we come and go. Covid-19 is also a leaf on that tree.
The life of the tree is what matters. Every leaf has a part to play in that — every leaf is precious, and leaves grow, flourish and fall in their good time. That is the dharma’s boundless way. What an incomparable gift to be part of it, and to be able to come to know that we are intimately and inextricably part of it. That is the deep relief and trust and healing that dharma practice offers us. Let’s keep it up!
With love and thanks,