Red Cedar Zen Community, 1021 N Forest, Bellingham Washington

Practice Committee meeting notes: Oct 2, 2009

MEETING IN PERSON WITH Tim, Edie, John W., Nancy. Emailed suggestions from Talus and John K. below.

Practice Committee meeting after the Sangha Conversation about forms.


AGENDA
1) should noon practice forms differ from other practice times? (consistency is also helpful, no?)

2) announcements in the zendo? at noon? other times?

3) coming in late okay?  at noon?  other times?


4) is it really true that our forms are off-putting and things like service after noon zazen reduce the availability of Zen practice to the community? Is that something we should do something about or not?

5) are there simplifications or changes to the forms to consider for noon or other forms to make our practice more available?

6) how to keep the sangha feeling more heard and connected 

7) leadership roles - any feedback or suggestions on Tim's conduct and role or those of the other visible leaders?


DECISIONS: 
Noon practice: okay to enter quietly when late and have announcements in the zendo. Keep announcements brief and no discussion ("let's have discussions or questions after the announcements."). Encourage as needed that informal conversations be taken to the lobby or downstairs.

Wednesday eve, Saturday morning, sesshin: if you're late please sit in the library to help maintain quiet practice in the zendo and enter after zazen. But no special signs hung up. Just clarify that as the form. Enter at the beginning or end of kinhin.

Announce to sangha who the Practice Committee are and that we are available to speak with any sangha member individually about concerns about the format of our practice.. And that that is the job of that committee.

Work towards standardizing and improving orientations. Edie will take the lead on developing training tools (example: bullet list of what to cover in a 10 minute or a 30 minute orientation). And Edie will take the lead on organizing forms trainings.

Provide clear written information about what to expect when you practice with Red Cedar Zen at noon, or Weds. eve., and other times. Tim will draft a handout.

Continue to offer individual support for forms practice as needed.

Ask the Board to check on the status of the Welcome Workgroup. Are we still welcoming new people consistently at noon?

DISCUSSION:

Edie - noon zazen is different. Hasn't put sign out. People don't arrive late usually anyways. Announcements in zendo probably. 

Tim - but isn't announcemnts the same amount of time regardless of where we are?

Edie - we can say please take conversations to the lobby after noon zazen announcements in the zendo

Edie - maybe the welcoming volunteers felt undermined

John - makes sense to have announcements in the zendo at noon.

Edie - we could announce before service "We will now have noon service. We have three prostrations before and after chanting the Sutra on Loving Kindness. You are welcome to do standing bows or just stand instead of prostrations"

Edie - develop a consistent orientation. Orientation step 2. Emphasize eyes open. 

Tim - also make a sheet for details of the forms as a second step.

Edie - a forms class once a quarter. Class on "Establishing the Path Practice". Training for everyone doing orientations. Edie will take the lead on this

Edie & Nancy - transference/counter transference is really something that happens in sangha and we need to pay attention to that

Nancy - people here can misinterpret a facial expression of the way I'm saying something and they think I'm saying they're bad

Tim - we leaders can really help by attending to our own practice and being in contact with the joy we feel about practice, that helps people too.

Nancy - also like in practice, we get tender here and regress a little and might be a little vulnerable. They are giving themselves over. We have to respect that and feel gentle.

Edie - it is new to people and people are worried and looking for reassurance.

Tim, John, Edie - we want to keep service in noon zazen. It's core part of Zen and the noon service is our briefest and most accessible service. Can explain to people that they don't have to do prostrations.

John - what can we do about people feeling like they need to complain in the background, it doesn't work well for what we're trying to do. Have a suggestion box? Have a way for people to bring things to the Practice Committee and get an individual response. Hopefully having the 5th Weds. Sangha Conversations will help.

Edie - 1) practice committee was trying to refine and support practice,  2) people brought forward important insights about conflicts between forms changes and outreach/welcoming and the members of the committee deeply appreciate that feedback and are taking it to heart - Edie "it really made sense to me when I was glad to  hear what people had to say"

Tim - biggest action item is to offer clear trainings on how to do the form for people who've been practicing a while

Edie - will take lead on this

Tim - be sure and look at Mary's excellent welcoming binder which has orientation suggestions

John - with leadership roles: let's really pay attention to how what we're doing now is going

Tim - let's not be too worried about new people - that's a bit of an abstraction - we should serve the current members well and trust the practice. 

Edie - what do people mean by "everyday zen"? There seemed a lot of interest in that.

Nancy - classes - wants to offer zen for intermediate age and teens. What about a 4-hour intro to Zen for children targeted at different age groups. She tried 9-12 years old before, better to do 8-10 and 11-14. Was 1.5 hours, try a longer class, 2-3 hours. Do an intro class and then a follow-up class.

John can do intro to Zen class in January. 2nd Saturday. Get that on the schedule.

Intro to Zen classes: early January (John), April (Nancy), early November (Tim).

Tim - how can I help John W. and Nancy as they move into their roles as Lay Teachers?

John - will do intro to Zen classes, study more, need help with practice discussion differentiating it from therapy. Norman says people do just tend to blossom in different ways after doing the lay entrustment ceremony.


TALUS BY EMAIL:
I perceive some very sound reasons having been presented for rolling back the changes for the noon sit.  That sit is timed to be feasible as a lunch-hour activity (starting at 10 min after).  It would be consistent to welcome those who cannot arrive on-time, and allow rapid departure by keeping the announcements in the sitting room.

My understanding of forms in our tradition is that they are not rules but rather opportunities for practice.  Actions that are refined as practice progresses. The notion of enforcement comes in when behaviors have a substantial impact on the ability of others to practice.  Actions in support of the practice of others is also part of undertaking compassion as Bob pointed out.  In that light, sitting in the library until kinhin after late arrival in the evening can be presented as a form which has the opportunity to be taken up, which supports the practice of others.  Not as a requirement.  Similar to wearing dark colors!  The idea is mentioned occasionally, but not harped on, and not addressed to particular individuals unless as part of requested education about forms.

Isn't the early morning sit specifically billed as non-denominational? Consistency is important.  But one period of sitting at noon cannot be practiced the same way as a 7 day sesshin.  They can be self-consistent.  There is broad agreement that the formality of Wednesday evenings (Saturday mornings) is just right.

Yes, the forms will most certainly be off-putting to some.  But doing something about it all would be just as off-putting to others, and it would no longer be Zen.  The notion of standing bows instead of prostrations, at least at noon, has some appeal to me.  But I believe it would be totally inappropriate at this time to undertake that change, not just because it would put more people off than it would please.

Practice availability is at the opposite end of the spectrum from faithfulness to our tradition.  Total tradition would be Japanese monasticism.  Total availability would be Christian mega-church.  We must strike a balance.  What nourishes the greatest awakening for the most people?

I cannot conceive of how the message about the changes could have been sent out more clearly than it was.  It was mentioned in several emailed announcements, and discussed several times at sittings.  Maybe this meeting will give people confidence to raise concerns in forums that can lead to change instead of behind-the-scenes talk.  Maybe fifth-week discussions can be facilitated to bring out such concerns without becoming negative gripe sessions.

JOHN K BY EMAIL (responding to agenda items by number):
1)  It seems to me the noon practice is different in a number of ways.  The participants don't seem to be hardcore Zen types and there is a tighter time schedule, hence I don't see enforcing any restrictions on those who arrive late.  Standing bows would seem to be okay also. . . whatever the consensus.  

2)  Announcements are certainly necessary Wednesday nights, I like having them in the front room as is currently done.  I'm not a noon sitter, but does everybody have time for announcements or do they have to get back to work?  I'm not sure on that one.

3)  Coming in late should be okay for morning and noon sittings, but Wed. evening is Zen Time, so I think it should be more formal and late arrivals should sit in the library.  It's definitely more a consideration to others already meditating and not a punishment.   

4)  If the Zen Forms are off-putting to some people, they should maybe consider a different form of meditation.  We are, after all, a Zen Practice Group.  The noon and morning sits aren't so much Zen to my understanding, so I don't think they necessarily need to be nearly as formal.

5)  Don't know about this one.  

6)  I think the 5th Wed. night discussions are a good idea for open discussion and communication within the Sangha.

7)  Not sure what to say here other than I think Tim does a wonderful job and I appreciate him very much as I appreciate all that others who step up to take leadership roles in our volunteer organization.  Thank you all!
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