newsletter logo: Sangha Reflections

Clearness Committees

by Richard Brady

At times Sangha members find themselves facing difficult decisions or engaged in conflicts where a discernment process of a spiritual nature may be needed in order to move ahead. The clearness committee process, developed by the Quakers, can be a very useful one at such times. The Community Care Committee is interested in its potential benefit for the WMC. The clearness process has already been used by one Sangha member. A description of the process follows. If you are interested in getting more information about the process or in setting up a clearness meeting, please get in touch with Richard Brady at bradyr(at)

The process begins with the individual or conflicted parties choosing three or four (mutually agreed upon) people to form a clearness committee and setting a date for a meeting that will last for an agreed upon time (usually two to three hours). Next, the focus person or people (I will assume there is one in what follows) writes a short (one to two page) statement laying out the situation and gives it to each committee member at least one week in advance of the meeting. Before the meeting a clerk of the committee is chosen, if possible, someone who has experience with the clearness process.

The clerk starts the clearness meeting with a period of meditation. Followed this, the focus person has a chance to update the statements that the committee members have already received. Then committee members have the opportunity to ask questions to clarify particular things mentioned in the statement. These questions should be factual in nature, not probing ones.

The heart of the clearness process occurs next as members of the committee ask questions which can help the focus person gain a deeper understanding of the matter. These questions are not leading questions, nor solutions disguised as questions, but questions like, "Where do you feel this situation in your body?" or "What emotions come up for you as you think about this?" Time for silence is given after each question to let the focus person sit with the question and then answer it if this seems right.

The clerk stops the clearness meeting about fifteen minutes before its scheduled end and checks with the focus person to see whether clarity has been arrived at or if another meeting should be scheduled. Finally the members of the committee are invited to share how the process was for them. The proceedings of clearness meetings are completely confidential, not discussed by the committee members outside the meeting even with each other or with the focus person.

Touching the Earth

by Lisa F.

Thay says the practice of Touching the Earth is to return to the Earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We are their continuation and with them, will continue into the future generations. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of Life.

Those of us who have been practicing the Touching the Earth ceremony at the Vihara have felt this connectedness to the earth and each other. The ceremony helps us renew and reinforce our practice which is why we also call it "the beginning anew ceremony."

As we bow in gratitude to our bodhisattva ancestors and touch the earth with our foreheads and palms facing up, it reminds us that we have much to be grateful for including our families, sangha, teachers, and the dharma.

The ceremony involves an incense offering, shared readings, and touching the earth as we place our forehead on the floor, palms face up, and bow in gratitude. The ceremony ends with a guided meditation.

We welcome everyone to join us as we continue our practice of Touching the Earth.

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