Practice Commitee May 14, 2011

Practice Committee meeting – 5/14/11

Present: Edie, Bob, Tim, Nancy, John, Chris


The Practice Committee meets periodically to consider ways to enhance and better support everyone’s practice.  The committee is composed of our priests and former shusos who, through their commitment to the practice, have been accorded senior roles by our guiding teacher.


At the committee’s May 14, 2011 meeting, several practice topics were discussed:           

  • Ongoing training in the physical forms of Zen
  • Saturday morning programs
  • Development of a policy concerning dana
  • Interest in bringing more teachers to Red Cedar.


Physical Forms training

The Practice Committee continues our interest in supporting members in the physical aspects of practice so that zazen will be the most beneficial.


Increasing role for the Ino (currently Talus) agreed on:

  • the Ino will make announcements and explanations on the forms twice a month – on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month.
  • Focus will be on different aspects of practice: zazen posture, kinhin, attitude, effort.
  • The Ino will also offer posture adjustment – on one or both of those practice evenings. Talus will receive training from Tim on this (Tim having received training from Norman).
  • The Ino before offering posture adjustment will make a short statement about the intention (feedback and suggestion for each person to consider in their own way).
  • Posture adjustments will be “opt out: - Ino will initially touch each person’s shoulder lightly, if they wish not to be adjusted they will shake their head.
  • Ino is encouraged to give consistent guidance with a light touch. Building it into our regular schedule will be helpful so that no one feels judged.


We also discussed having the forms training period on the first Weds. of the month focus more on basic Zen forms and more often keeping the whole group together (less often dividing up to do han, tenken, doan, etc). But also that an option to just ask questions for new people is a good thing to have too.


Saturday practice

Early morning continues: the every Saturday zazen & service is going surprisingly well with 5-10 people every week. Decision has been made to include soji (temple cleaning) every week whether or not we can stay in the Hall for our oatmeal + potluck offerings semi-formal breakfast downstairs.


Thus the every Saturday schedule is: 6am-8:20am with: zazen, kinhin, zazen, kinhin, zazen, service, soji.


And on the 1st, 3rd, and now 5th Wednesdays of every month unless there’s a schedule conflict we will serve oatmeal and eat together downstairs. On the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays (when usually an event by BIMS at 9am follows) we will invite all who wish to join to have breakfast together at the Food Co-Op.


Rest of Saturday morning proposed additions: Starting in Fall we are considering offering a program until about noon on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month (except when pre-empted by a retreat or other event).


·      1st Saturday of the month. 9am – noon: public zazen and Dharma Talk program.

o   Invite a variety of area teachers (e.g. Jeff Kelley, Kate & Michael) in addition to our local teachers to give talks (formal Dharma Talk format: must have been shuso).

o   Try to be very consistent with this 1st Saturday talk, including it in retreats if there is a retreat that weekend.

o   Eventually consider childcare or other ways of making this open and accessible.


·      3rd Saturday of the month. 9am-noon: work period.

o   An opportunity to regularly do sustained work as a sangha.

o   Sangha members with projects to get done can make use of these times (examples: membership workgroup has the materials for a mailing ready and the envelope addressing happens during one of these work periods; tenzo has soup ingredients ready and a soup is cooked ahead and frozen for an upcoming retreat).

o   Deeper cleaning and building repairs done together as a sangha (rather than ad hoc by individuals on their own time) has many advantages.

o   Would be good to have an ongoing Work Leader who coordinates this.


[Update August 2011: Tim has requested that we start this a bit later in the year after getting more sanghas input and just because it feels a bit rushed to add this now. To be discussed further.]



Dana and Teacher Compensation

It came to our attention that our policies and practices for dana at retreats and during our weekly practices might be unclear. Generally dana in the context of a Dharma center means a donation to teachers. Dana is the Pali word for generosity, and the practice of giving dana is one of the six paramitas (perfections).  Thus the practice of dana is important, but what we give and how we give dana may need to clarified and simplified.


We currently have sliding scale registration fees and also dana for the teachers collected at retreats. Whereas at our classes teachers receive compensation from the registration fees.


We discussed the varied ways different sanghas and Buddhist groups handle teacher compensation from pure dana (some Vipassana groups) to a mix (registration + dana) as we’re doing to no dana at all (teachers are paid by the sangha directly). And we discussed some bad experiences some of us have had where the dana expectation was unclear. It is clear that there is no “one traditional way” to handle dana.


We wish to develop clear guidelines for dana at our events:

* Provide typical giving ranges are for long and shorter sesshins

* Clarify who dana goes to

* Consider using registration funds for more teacher support.

* Respond to a concern that at some retreats there are many dana envelopes out (Samish especially) – is this stressful and confusing for participants?


Additional notes from the discussion:

* No dana should be collected for ongoing, weekly practice discussions (with Tim, John, or Nancy). No dana for shuso practice discussions, should they occur, at this point.


* Teachers teaching classes (Intro to Zen, Precepts, etc.) will continue to receive compensation from the registration – the rate already determined at $25/hr of class time.  This is different from dana. This would be split if a class is co-taught. [Example: 4 hour Intro to Zen so $100 teacher compensation available, if class is co-taught each teacher could receive $50.]


* A short statement about dana, including suggested amounts, will be written. This statement to be placed on a card by the dana box at retreats, on the website. Etc.
Bob will do the first draft.


* Options about whether secondary teachers should receive a reduction in registration or a stipend instead of dana were discussed. This to reduce the impact of the large array of envelopes for each secondary teacher at Samish especially (can be 6 to 8 envelopes in addition to the dana boxes for Tim and for Norman).


[Update August 2011: This discussion continued into the next Practice Committee meeting at which point clarity around what changes to make and what to leave alone were made to try to make dana more clear and accessible.]



Bringing more teachers to visit Red Cedar Zen

Interest was expressed. Teachers mentioned: Layla Smith, Chris Fortin, Kate & Michael, Jeff Kelley.  Good use of new 1st Saturday morning talks for now. In the longer term: consider adding one or two day retreats to the schedule led by other teachers.

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