Practice Committee minutes March 24, 2012

Minutes from Practice Committee Meeting, March 24, 2012 

Present:  Tim, Nancy, Talus, Bob, Marti, Edie

Excused: John, Karen

The practice committee (former shusos, Inos, registrar) meets quarterly to discuss and plan for our practice offerings and policies.  At this meeting the committee discussed and made decisions about the following practice topics:

1. Reflections on the 2012 practice period:

  • Mentoring pairs between senior students and students participating from remote locations - While communication between pairs occurred to some extent effectively, it might be helpful to provide more structure to the process: perhaps questions/topics to address, a contact plan or schedule, a delineated commitment for each person, etc.  For ideas we might find out more about what Norman's students do in their remote practice.
  • Things committee members liked about the practice period and sesshin: Wednesday seminars, yoga sessions, women's retreat with BIMS, full-time sesshin attendance by most participants (this facilitated many people taking sesshin roles), good kitchen teamwork and good balance between local and visiting students at sesshin.  It was a big change that Tim, not Norman, did jundo.

2. General plan for 2013 practice period: Return to 3 zazen periods Wednesday evenings (rather than a seminar), have a shuso.  Tim will select and guide the shuso (having consulted first with Norman and also the practice committee). 

3. Norman's plans for leading Bellingham sesshins in future:  March and June (Samish).  He will be in Vancouver in November (Loon Lake) and May.

4. Ideas and plans for enriching our weekly/monthly schedule while maintaining enough zazen:

  • The committee agreed that having two zazen periods on Wednesday nights is basic to our practice (plus we have three periods on Saturday mornings).
  • Re-establishing a regular study time prior to zazen on Wednesday evenings would be good. We can start with Edie's study group on The Lotus Sutra, beginning in April and ending in June, meeting 8 times. 
  • Consider making a study curriculum plan for 2 - 3 years so we know where we're going.
  • Consider changing the first Wednesday evening plan to include a 15 minute talk on a basic Buddhist text or concept and then a 15 minute forms training for everyone together rather than breaking into different training groups.  No final decision made on who and how the short talks would be done.
  • Consider making the October study retreat either begin or culminate a month of sangha study on a Buddhist topic.
  • Consider having more dharma talks that include discussion rather than just the lecture.

5. Noon zazen proposed change: Nancy needs to pull back from hosting on Mondays, so we are currently short on resources to adequately host all of the three noon zazen times. Tim expressed our appreciation for those who help out at the noon sits - opening the door, ringing the bells, and being available to visitors. However, he feels it is essential to have a host overseeing the practice who has at least had jukai. Lacking such a practice leader to replace Nancy, we decided to drop one noontime sit.  Since our main weekday practice is Wednesday evenings (thus offering a meditation opportunity that day), we will drop Wednesday noon meditation and keep only Monday and Friday noons.  Starting in April, Edie will move from Wednesday noon to Monday noon host, and Tim will continue with Friday noons.  In order to more smoothly transition the Wednesday noon participants, Edie will also continue hosting Wednesday noons through April, but starting in May, we will move to the two noontime sits per week. When she can, Nancy will be available as a substitute noon host. Edie and Tim will also train other regular noontime participants in how to open the zendo, welcome people, and ring the bell to start and end zazen, so that in the event the host cannot be there, noon participants can still have a good experience.

6. Sesshin fee reductions for specific volunteer roles were explored by the committee.  One idea was to look at a graduated fee reduction for roles such as registrar, tenzo, retreat manager, and perhaps other time consuming sangha roles such as membership chair.  Before creating what would amount to an expanded scholarship program or partial pay for substantial volunteer work, we would need a financial analysis to see if we actually can afford to reduce fees; and/or if we would need and want to raise sesshin attendance fees, etc.  The committee agreed that volunteering (rather than being paid) in sangha roles is an important principle of our practice, and also fairness an important goal in awarding fee reductions. Another important aspect of our volunteer structure is to recognize when individuals are becoming overburdened with too many roles and duties and then finding other, newer members to take on some responsibilities. We are working to do this in several areas now. As we grow, spreading the workload will continue to be an important practice committee and board responsibility.  The committee will continue to consider and discuss this complex topic before agreeing on a policy. 

7. New monthly public program: Tim reflected that the first two public programs (held on the first Saturday mornings of the month) went well, and the plans are in place to continue the program under Marti's leadership.  He asked that we put the dates on our calendars and support the program.  On April 7, Eido Frances Carney from the Olympia Zen Center will be the speaker.

NOTE:  Tim will be gone for much of April-the first, third, and fourth weeks.


Minutes respectfully submitted,

Edie Norton

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