Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Community Council Process - October 24 | Report on Summer Council

Teh Fall Community Council Process will be Saturday, October 26th from 9 am to 3 pm.
It will include a potluck lunch, so bring your favorite dish to share!

by Neil Myers

On Saturday, July 20, 2013, over 40 sangha members and dharma friends gathered in the Meditation Hall for the second of four planned Council Meetings, to consider how SMZC might sustain a vital practice for years to come. They heard Kwong-roshi talk movingly of the value of a shared commitment to a living community. Then, under the guidance of experienced facilitator Zenobia Barlow, along with Nyoze and Shunryu, they worked for an hour with scissors, paste, media cut-outs and felt tipped markers, to freely illustrate personal “body” maps which, when studied, provided impetus to direct each person into one of the four societies identified in Okanogan Native American culture: Tradition, Vision, Action and Relationship

During and after lunch, in intense, spirited discussions that drew on every member, each society articulated views of specific approaches to what might be needed to carry SMZC coherently ahead. Afterwards, representatives summarized these discussions.

Tradition Society felt that the central thrust of Zen spirit involves “having confidence in our loving nature,” in order to “actualize the stillness inherent in our original purpose.” Members said that Zen tradition implies “keeping our feet on the ground,” “living by vow,” being aware of our “basic goodness,” and in influencing how “active parents” relate to their children.  Tradition, then, can be seen as a “container” in which illumination and stillness are communicated to others through “what we do and say,” eliciting a powerful “kindness and compassion” that allows us to “listen to others without getting in the way. ”

Vision Society recommended making SMZC more accessible, to members, friends, and the surrounding community. Their emphasis was on “a variety of welcomes,” on open friendliness, generosity, hospitality,  focus on families and children, and further contact with schools. Suggestions included team building and local outreach, informal activities and programs, lessons for kids on bowing, bell ringing, brief sittings, story-telling etc.  Care, humor and warmth were seen as crucial in this effort, in order to show that, beyond its formal practice.  Zen also means humanizing the dharma spirit in all of life.

 Action Society stipulated five practical points. It recommended maintaining the effort to establish strong executive positions, in order to manage SMZC affairs as a whole, and make the entire sangha more alert and responsive. It endorsed designating a Volunteer Coordinator, who with the Workleader could do outreach for volunteers, developing lists and prioritizing projects, in order to match skills to particular needs, etc.  It underscored the urgency of stabilizing our current financial situation, raising funding for yearly operations, and creating sustainable sources of income. And it advocated having volunteer members regularly meet new visitors, welcome them to SMZC, and answer their questions.

Relationship Society proposed improving the connection of newcomers and members to SMZC .  It suggested asking greeters to welcome newcomers, explaining procedures and activities. It proposed that handouts, maps, instruction sheets more available. It urged that we openly "celebrate" our status both as a rigorous Zen training center, and as a welcoming, family-friendly community. It suggested Saturday morning child-care, regular guided tours, family-oriented gatherings, informal social events in which members simply talk and get to know each other. It recommended developing a volunteer coordinator, to match members' skills and interests with opportunities to serve Zen center needs. In addition to dharma talks, it advised facilitating discussions of Zen in daily experience, in order to clarify the intimate link of our rich tradition with the demands of ordinary life.

Again, these vibrant, enthusiastic "One Body Moving Forward" Community Councils, to strengthen this unique practice place for years to come, are opportunities to make your own voice heard, and to contribute to the longterm health and survival of SMZC.  We're immensely grateful for your participation so far, and we want to warmly welcome you again to the two final Councils, on October 26,  2013, and January 11, 2014.

Here is our Dharma Treasure: it belongs to you, to us, to everyone!

Sonoma Mountain Zen Center (  •  email:

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