Red Cedar Zen Community, 1021 N Forest, Bellingham Washington

Practice Committee March 19, 2011

Present: Tim Burnett (former shuso, Spiritual Director), Edie Norton (former shuso), Nancy Welch (former shuso, lay entrusted), John Wiley (former shuso, lay entrusted), Talus Latona (Ino), Bob Penny (former shuso).
0) Brief check in on feeling of practice / sangha health
Most felt things to be on the whole healthy and balanced with a strong sense of community.
Concerns were expressed about whether we can do more to teach and guide people on the the physical process of learning how to work with the body in zazen particularly and in zendo in general so that people don't do Zen in a way that is ultimately more painful than it has to be. 

Concerns also expressed about a sense of too much intensity perceived by some. And that the two observations might be connected - if one's physical form is off Zen might feel too difficult. And encouragement to keep stability and steadiness in practice as a high priority - that the changes made as we go forward be made slowly and carefully. Aim for precision with rigidity.

On the topic of intensity of practice an earlier discussion was resumed about having an informal dinner during our in-town sesshin (long break to eat out or eat quietly downstairs). Give people some time to interact, especially for the multi-day sesshin which have many friends from out of town. And give everyone a break.

1) Tim Dharma Transmission schedule, add a ceremony on return (Weds 7/13)? 
    Might be helpful to the sangha's transition to do a modified shuso entering ceremony - ritually enact welcoming Tim back and inviting him to take his seat.
 
    Tim will be offering dokusan not practice discussion
     In dokusan the teacher is waiting in the room and needs either an assistant (jisha) to get each person or a waiting area or some system
     of taking turns and passing a bell. Tim explaining that he hopes to make dokusan a bit more formal and brief than practice discussion has
     been to date. And John and Nancy expressed an interest in studying practice discussion more actively as well - how to offer these meetings
     in the most helpful way.  Probably dokusan times would be scheduled in some way and everyone present invited to come (just like we do
     with Norman during retreats). This led to a general discussion of  making sure practice discussion does not impact the zendo. 

     Follow-up: the 3 people currently doing practice discussion (Tim, John, Nancy) will be more careful of the zendo: have a brief meeting
     before Wesd. night practice starts to coordinate use of the room, only one person at a time offering practice discussion (don't use downstairs,
     just the main room in the back), and they will not go out into the lobby to check the sign-up sheet during zazen.

     After transmission Tim can take jukai / priest ordination students (no rush!)
     This wasn't discussed. Tim does hope to make the jukai process and the other ceremonies of empowerment and commitment a bit more clear to the
     sangha. Such as changes in role of ordained people - that being ordained as a novice priest is not a teaching step per se, etc. 


2) Changes in 2011-2012 Norman schedule, Red Cedar / Mountain Rain practice periods
        To both mark the transition for Tim, and Kate and Michael in Vancouver, there will be some changes in the practice periods for Mountain Rain's
        Fall 2011 practice period and Red Cedar's Winter 2012 practice period. These changes also allowing Norman to start easing up his
        travel and teaching schedule and have more time for writing.

        No Norman Oct. or Jan.
        Local priest(s) open that sangha's P.P. with a weekend retreat
        No shusos at these practice periods, newly transmitted priests will be in the center

        Mountain Rain Fall 2011 practice period:
            opens with late Sept. weekend in Vancouver led by Kate/Michael
            mid Oct. Bellingham study retreat led by Tim
            Loon Lake w/ Norman as usual to close

        Red Cedar Winter 2012 practice period:
            opens with late Jan. weekend in Bellingham led by Tim
            mid Feb. weekend retreat led by Kate/Michael
            3-day Bellingham sesshin w/ Norman as usual to close

      Norman would continue coming to the Pacific Northwest 4 times a year in this scheme:
      end of March: Bellingham 3-day sesshin
      mid May: Vancouver weekend retreat
      late June: Bellingham (Samish Island) sesshin
      mid November: Mountain Rain (Look Lake) sesshin.

3) increasing practice on Saturdays
     Tim explained that survey data and discussions at our annual meeting suggest that increasing regular and consistent
     practice times on the weekend might help grow the sangha and serve members both. He proposes two related ideas:
     1) have the early morning Saturday sit every week, just the early part through service.
     2) extend one or both of our current 1st/3rd Saturday practices into a public-facing program that would continue
         for the rest of the morning including zazen instruction for all comers, a dharma talk, perhaps ultimately a meal.

     every Sat     6am - 8am (no soji, breakfast)

     1st/3rd Sat  6am - 9am as now, then add
           9:30 zazen / zazen instruction
          10:10 kinhin
          10:20 zazen
          10:50 dharma talk
          11:30 close
    maybe in the future add muffins+tea or lunch
    
    The Committee discussed the integration of these Saturday program ideas with family programs as some length 
    (see #4 below) and also suggested a go-slow approach with the longer late morning program being offered one a month
    at first.  And whether Sunday or Saturday is better was discussed.

    Tim concluded by feeling like we should build on what we have (Saturday early 1st/3rd) first by filling in the empty
    Saturdays with early practice (in some cases this is followed by a BIMS program so we need to be out by 8:15am or so)
    and extending one of the 1st/3rd Saturdays. Of course some people would only come for the later portion and they
    would be defined as separate programs to make that feel more comfortable. 

    Follow up: every Saturday morning early to start in April, 1st Saturday of the month Saturday morning public program
    to start in September. Exact program of 1st Sat. late morning public program still TBD.

    check in about Listening from the Heart, was in this time slot
    Listening for the Heart will be reconstituted as a class with a number of meetings to allow for safety and intimacy.
    Time of week or when this would resume was not discussed.

4) Possibly family programs on Sundays in Fall, kids meditation group sooner? (Tim/Nancy)
    Much discussion of this and how previous attempts to offer programming for families (just childcare, once/month family program
    in the previous dharma hall) went. The conclusion was that the first step is to see if a kids sangha might emerge. Nancy
    willing to host a kids sitting group that's not like Sunday school so much as doing Zen practice (with briefer periods, less formality, etc)
    and discussion of doing meditation in the context of kids' lives. At first just offering a single group - not differentiating by age.
    If that develops into a community of it's own there will be ways of integrating kids and family programs with the general public
    programs. Perhaps offering family programs every other Sunday. Either then having separate programs on Saturday and
    Sunday or moving the public-facing Saturday program to Sunday and integrating it with the family program. Lots of ideas.

    This initial kids sitting group to be after school on a weekday - perhaps Wednesdays at 4pm. Start date was not discussed.
    The committee expressed appreciation for Nancy for her interest in leading this.

5) Extend August 6 one-day sesshin to a weekend and collaborate with Seattle Soto Zen?
    Some interest in having LESS not more formal practice during our brief sweet Northwestern summer came up right away
    around this idea. And also the need to offer more entry points into sesshin practice - back to the earlier concern about the
    perception of too much intensity. 
    Decision: reduce this 1st Saturday of August retreat to a one-day sit. 9am-5pm type schedule (not 6am-9pm) with just
    lunch served. Perhaps lunch being buffet not oryoki. Perhaps including yoga. More instruction and support generally. A 
    very gentle one-day sit oriented for those new to the practice of sitting all day. 
    This being the decision teaming up with Seattle didn't make sense. 

    Follow up: It might make sense to extend the 1st weekend of May retreat in 2012 and collaborate with Seattle on that so
    that there are two collaborative Bellingham/Seattle retreats each year: in December and in May.

6) Orientation volunteers (need 1-2 more)
    We ran out of time, not discussed.

7) Post-Shuso practices
    - practice discussion / practice teas
    - can receive dana
    - can give dharma talks w/ the full form

     Tim explained briefly that being shuso marks a step into being a Zen teacher (confusingly being ordained as a novice
     priest does not, the novice priest later goes on  to be shuso). And that as such former shuso's are authorized 
     to do practice discussion, give formal dharma talks, and receive dana. Whether they actually do so at any given
     time is a discussion with their teacher and depends on the circumstances of the sangha. 
     For now Edie will continue offering private teas in the format of our shuso teas and Bob continues to coordinate
     nature-based programs and will serve as tenzo (head cook) for our in-town sesshin. 

8) Zen and Creative Expression event
      Edie would like to initiate a sangha evening of creative expression and performance - wonderful! Details not discussed.

9) Standardize form for approaching and sitting on zafu
      - any other forms questions?
     Ran out of time not discussed.

10) Tim's Mindfulness Classes - eventually separate organization to keep things clear
    Not discussed in this meeting. Tim went on in email to the sangha to explain that he's offering a mindfulness-based
    class this Spring which is not a Zen offering exactly and somehow outside the Red Cedar Zen Community mission
    statement. Ultimately (in Fall?) he will create a separate organization to differentiate mindfulness courses from Zen
    offerings and keep things clear in terms of mission and resources used.
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