IN ATTENDANCE: Barbara Newell, Mary Hillebrand, Joseph Byrne, Irene D'Auria, Jeanine Cogan, Steve Sidley, Richard Brady, Ute, Paul, Rob DeBara, Carolyn Bluemle, Jim Schrider, Freddie Schrider. Thanks, Irene, for taking notes.

BARBARA NEWELL chaired the meeting, opening with gratitude for the community and for the support and nourishment that attending this meeting gives to the community.

Charter Hall

The last two scheduled retreats were cancelled due to insufficient response.

Charter Hall can accommodate fewer people than before, and has become more expensive — leading to the question: "Who wants to go on what kind of retreats and when?"

Determination: Jeanine came with a wonderful survey that, with minor additions, will be circulated among the community. The Practice Council will study the results of the survey and discuss with the Board of Trustees what to do. Surveys are included with this newsletter — PLEASE COMPLETE AND RETURN THEM. WE NEED YOUR INPUT!

Buddhist EducationThere is a lot of interest in answering the question, "How can we more deeply engage our children in the community and in Thay's teachings?"

Determination: There is a great deal of rather focused interest, and the discussion presented many options, ideas and obstacles. The community agreed that the Practice Council would start collecting names of those who will take a lead in answering this need. A new committee will be formed. Those present and willing were Irene, Steve, Rob and Mary. Based on previous discussions, Marie will be contacted shortly for solicitation of her support. An invitation will go out on the listserv to invite others who are also interested.

Study Groups

The issue of better defining guidelines of how study groups will operate is remarkably complex, due, in large part, to its wonderful initial success, and the tremendous appeal it has developed. Discussion began with a reminder of what needs the study groups were designed to fulfill: Creating a means for intimate, trusting, safe interactions in a small group of people that continues to meet for some designated period of time.

Determination: The questions of study groups being open vs. closed, running indefinitely vs. time-limited, allowing couples vs. no couples require more thought and attention. All agreed on the following:

More specific guidelines will be helpful

The Practice Council can and should be called upon to determine guidelines in response to a specific situation or conflict.

It is important that when answering a conflict, the Practice Council consults and considers the study group itself, so that decisions don't "come from above."

Reminder: Keep our eyes open to opportunities for growth in the dharma. Without challenges, there is no growth.

Committee Reports

Community Care Committee:

1. Welcome ceremony for babies/young children:

Each ceremony will be custom-made according to the values of the parent(s)

The committee will develop a questionnaire it can use as a tool to determine what is important and meaningful to the parent(s)

The committee will develop a gross outline of a ceremony within which these personalized elements may be presented

2. Second Body Practice:

The committee will call Second Body participants halfway through the session to check in and see how things are going for each participant.

The committee is also considering the feasibility of reorganizing so that each participant is paired with only ONE other person, alternating listening in one meeting and speaking in the next meeting.

Communications Committee:

a. Newsletter forthcoming

b. WMC Directory

Initially it will be distributed only to those who have agreed to have their contact information included in the directory.

With each WMC election in the spring, the committee will issue regular calls for people to include their information in the directory or update their current listing.

Eventually, the directory information submission form and the directory itself will be made available on a password-controlled page within the WMC web site.

Operations Committee:

1. Freddie and Jim are STAYING IN D.C. (yippee!)

2. The committee needs to get stuff back that was borrowed from the library for a long long time.

3. Committee is seeking money from the WMC budget to buy new books and tapes.

4. Thay's teachings are now being presented on CD format, instead of cassette tape. The committee has decided to buy the CDs and transfer them to cassette tape so we can continue to stop and start easily on Sunday evenings. The alternative was to buy a CD player and have to fast-forward to the correct starting point each Sunday evening.

5. The next bell training has been scheduled for August 18. See WMC Calendar, p. 4, for details.

Board of Trustees:

1. Passed creation of the WMC Directory to the Communications Committee.

2. Is exploring ways to help the residents of the Buddhist Vihara make physical improvements to the Vihara — special emphasis on making the basement area more welcoming for meetings and dharma discussions

3. Has begun collecting money to help fund Barbara Newell's extended stay in Plum Village. See notice, p. 3.

4. Financial report: Treasurer Joseph Byrne reports that the WMC sets money aside in several sub-accounts, plus a general fund.

General fund balance: approx. $4,000

Scholarship sub-account: approx. $1,500

Sub-account for contributions to the Vihara and other Buddhist residential communities in the U.S.: $3,000 per year

Sub-account for Plum Village web server: We have paid out $2,000 of $2,500 raised.

Sub-account for Barbara Newell Plum Village fund: no balance yet (just started)

Practice Council: is involved in many of the things already discussed above. Nothing new to report.

Sister Sanghas

In response to the question: "How can sanghas support the Middle East peace process?"

Determination: Mitchell Ratner has volunteered to head up a dialogue about how we might develop a network of sanghas in order to communicate with and support each other. Anyone interested in participating in this discussion, please contact either Mitchell Ratner, 301-270-8353, info(at)StillwaterMPC.org, or Richard Brady, info(at)mindfulnessdc.org.

The Love Sangha: Inaugural "Study Group" Strengthens Bonds, Deepens Practice

In December 2001, the WMC created a new mindfulness practice opportunity to enable members to deepen their practice through mindful study and discussion of personal challenges and insights in the context of Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Teachings on Love. The group met six times, every two or three weeks over the winter months. Each of the eight members committed to attending at least five of the six meetings, hoping to create a stability that would foster deep trust and sharing.

In late March 2002, the initial WMC study group decided to meeting for an additional six sessions, centered on Thay's latest book, Anger: Wisdom to Cool the Flames. In addition, a second study group formed to read and discuss the same book. The WMC plans to continue forming study groups periodically to enable members to meet in small groups focusing on a specific topic or text. If you are interested in finding out more about the study groups, please contact Steve Sidley, 301-897-3648 or stevesidley(at)aol.com.

A few members of the first study group share their thoughts on this new practice below:

From James Figetakis:

The Love Sangha, as we now call it — although we have moved from Thich Nhat Hanh's book on ‘Love' to his latest one on ‘Anger' — has evolved from a book club discussion into an intimate circle of friends who share some of their most personal issues — from those relating to family, relationships and friendships to those related to death, love and religion. It truly embodies the spirit of a Sangha, as an extended family whose members help each other through their struggles resulting from life issues, always anchored in the three jewels, in the teachings of Thay, and in the spirit of engaged Buddhism in lay life.

We start each meeting with an opening silent meditation, we respect the Sangha's principles of bowing to listen and speak mindfully, and we are aware of one individual's need to explore a particular issue close to their heart and practice.

The intimacy and trust we have developed transcends normal Sangha practices: whether we are straight, gay, married, single, divorced, with children or simply with ourselves, in our 20s or our 60s, we share our life experiences through the prism of Thay's teachings in order to integrate the practice into every moment of every day of our lives. And each time we reconvene, we can report on our progress or on our challenges, and it is that humaneness that bonds.

Perhaps it is our commitment to our practice of mindfulness and to ourselves as a consistent group that makes this a sub-Sangha both rich in the breadth and profound in the depth of our practice, growth and awareness. We may speak for 15 minutes or remain silent for nearly the duration of the 2-hour meeting, but we are listening deeply and integrating the kaleidoscope of wisdom and insights that enrich our practice and our daily lives.

Often we laugh, sometimes we cry, but usually I see all of us smiling and sending the most loving energy to each other, and to all the other Sangha members and people we touch. Sometimes, we realize that words get in the way. It is the energy of love, of compassion and of understanding that bond us and enable us to spread this energy in the way that Thay teaches.

So from a book club we have developed into a family of friends and relatives, enabling us to expand that love and compassion into the broader Sangha Family. We realize that Thay's teachings on Love and Anger are interconnected, just as we are with all our Sangha Siblings. And this enables us to be both teachers and disciples to all whom we touch in lay and spiritual life.

From Bill Menza:

The WMC book discussion group has been a very rich experience for me. It is actually a kalyana mitta group — a spiritual friends group, where noble friends have noble conversations about the Practice of the Way in their lives. What has been most helpful for these noble conversations is that the group I have been in has remained stable and solid over a period of months. This has allowed members to really get to know and trust one another.

I think this has happened because the group dynamic has been stable, whereas if new member(s) had joined it, the group would have had to spend time establishing a new structure before it could proceed with deep conversations about real practice in everyday life. That is, members would have had to get to know the new member(s) and to learn to trust them.

Having the intimate connection in the group over a long period of time has also brought a great affection between members. Another benefit of this long term kalyana mitta group is that it has allowed members to do some rather deep sharing of their suffering or problems, which is usually seen only in Dharma discussion groups in long term retreats.  Also, Thay's books — Teachings on Love and Anger — have been a most remarkable base from which the group could draw to speak about their Practice. These books are very rich, and a group could spend years discussing what they say about Practice. My experience with the group has been a force in my helping to establish a kalyana mitta group at the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax. You could say in summary that the discussion group has been a very deep practice which continues to grow.

From Barbara Newell:

Two of the most important things to me in life are the practice of mindfulness, and intimate friendship. Mindfulness practice is important because... well, for me, life is the
practice. The practice is love. What could be more important than that? Intimate friendship is important because it is the most wonderful field of learning and support for watering that seed of love in me, for making my heart bigger.
I was very happy when a sangha member suggested a practice in which a small and consistent group of practitioners would meet very regularly and be able to share deeply about their lives. Community practice on Sunday nights at the Vihara, with its ever-changing kaleidoscope of faces new and old, is wonderful, and I would not want to give
it up. Second body practice is another prism through which we may have a more personal interaction, and I have supported it wholeheartedly.

Yet there is something unique about a small group of people making a really firm commitment to be there for an agreed set of several meetings, to listen deeply to one another's most raw and tender struggles and joys. A level of trust can be achieved there that may not be reliably available in the other two practices. This is indispensable when we need to talk about our practice in some of the hardest or most sensitive situations in our lives, such as sexual relationships. It also can be especially important for practitioners who may not have many opportunities for these kinds of close, trusting conversations (such as with an intimate partner at home) in their day-to-day lives. I know that I personally have been able to share on deeper levels than I likely would have in the Vihara, and probably also compared to second body practice.

The study group of which I've been a part for the past six months has been so nourishing to me. It has been all that I had hoped: It has watered the seeds of trust and love in me and helped me find insights into the growing edges of my practice. I am so grateful.

 

Plum Village's Big Bell of Mindfulness

EDITOR'S NOTE: Several mindfulness practitioners from the Washington area were fortunate to have the opportunity to join Thich Nhat Hanh in June at Plum Village, his retreat center in France, for the Hands of the Buddha retreat. Carole Baker shares this snapshot from her time there.

In Plum Village, at Lower Hamlet (there are five), my dorm room was closest to the largest bell of the village. Other, smaller bells intended to announce scheduled events hang from small shelters or tree branches. This bell has its own square pavilion, raised above the ground, and it hangs from heavy, carved timbers that support a roof that ends in four upturned corners. The bell itself, black, thick, with Chinese characters on its outside and about the size of a beer keg, hangs in the center of a square pavilion. A six-foot curved pole hangs beside the bell on two wires, so to invite the bell to ring, one swings the pole towards a spot on the bell and then pulls the wires back out of the way.

At 5:00 each morning of the year, one of the nuns will address the bell, tap it a few times with the pole to "awaken" it. Then she begins about fifteen minutes of chanting, honoring all the buddhas and bodhisattvas one by one, inviting the bell to ring with each verse. So, every morning, in addition to the smaller, clanging bell that told us we had 10 minutes to get to the meditation hall for morning sitting, this big bell would give out its deep, rich BONG, BONG, BONG. Joseph Byrne, who lived at Upper Hamlet about 3 miles away, said he could hear the big bell every morning. I felt so privileged to be only about 20 feet from the big bell when the morning chanting began. I felt my heart go out to the Universe on the sound of this special, sacred bell. Because of it, I started every morning with a smile.

One day

you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices

around you kept shouting their bad advice:1

"Be like me -

this is the only way

to be -

like me

is the way

you can be

free!"

But you knew in your heart

knew in your bones

that the job of thee

was not to be

like any other "me"

but thee

And so you packed up your bags

and hit the road

wandering long

and hard

up mountainsides

down dark valleys

and slippery slopes

You stopped to rest

to drink in the beauty

of a tree

or to listen

to the pain

of another

to find truth in your experience

adventure in the faces you met

along the way

You loved the teachers

and guides

who showed

what they knew

And yet,

at some point,

you always packed up your bag

again

each time

to rejoin the path

though the destination was unclear

though the lure of easy answers

always called out

in your weak moments

But you kept walking

inquiring

all along

as to the nature

and the purpose

of this journey

in this body

called you

in this body

called me

free

free

free

Sharron Mendel

November 29, 2001

Living Peace by Walking Peace: Monthly Global Silent Walks

Groups around the world are participating in Peace Walks on the third Sundays of the month. People around the world are walking with a slow pace, in silence, with no banners, no chanting, and no polarizing confrontations. They are walking to practice peace, to show that peace is every step, that the voice of peacemaking and peace-building is alive and steady, step by step. The slow pace and the silence of this walk can help us to step into the source of understanding and compassion within us, and to hold everyone with care. Please join us.

The next Global Peace Walk will be August 18th. In Washington, D.C., the walk will start at 6 p.m. at the Buddhist Vihara, 16th Street NW near Gallatin St. Contact Joe Toole for more info: glasstool(at)aol.com. If you would like to organize a walk where you are, please do so and send contact information to walkingforpeace(at)yahoo.com.

Excerpt From Teachings On Love,

by Thich Nhat Hanh

"The Buddha's teachings on love are clear. It is possible to live twenty-four ours a day in a state of love. Every movement, every glance, every thought, and every word can be infused with love. The Four Immeasurable Minds are strong concentrations: the concentration of love, the concentration of compassion, the concentration of joy, and the concentration of equanimity. When you dwell in these concentrations, you are living in the most beautiful, peaceful, and joyous realm in the universe."

Excerpt From

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames,

by Thich Nhat Hanh

"We have to be there for our anger, we have to recognize its presence and take good care of it. In psychotherapy this is called ‘getting in touch with our anger.' It is wonderful and very important. You have to recognize and embrace anger when it manifests instead of suppressing it."

Dear Friends of the Community of Mindful Living,

Witness for Peace and Buddhist Peace Fellowship present: Buddhist Delegation to Colombia, November 1-13, 2002.

Colombia has endured over forty years of brutal armed conflict from right wing paramilitaries, left wing guerrillas and the government. Despite the violence, the United States has approved nearly $2 billion, mostly in military aid, to fight both the "war on drugs" and the "war on terrorism." Since the U.S. has increased its aid to Colombia in the last two years, political murders and displacement have doubled. Overwhelmingly, the victims of this conflict have been civilians.

This delegation will be a unique opportunity for Buddhists to engage their practice of non-violence and compassion in the midst of Colombia's conflict and bear witness to the suffering of the Colombian people. Buddhists from all different schools are encouraged to apply. Meditation, readings and teachings will be part of our daily schedule.

On this delegation you will:

— Hear perspectives on Colombia's war from government officials, human rights workers and the U.S. Embassy.

— Hear testimonies of displaced people and others directly affected by the conflict.

— Travel to areas outside Bogota to see first-hand the impact of U.S. military assistance.

— Become part of the national movement to change U.S. policy towards Colombia.

APPLICATIONS: Due by Sept. 1st with $100 deposit. Balance is due by Oct. 1st.

COST: $1,400 plus airfare. This includes all meals, accomodations, facilitation, translation and transportation while in Colombia. Fee also covers briefing materials and extensive training. Fundraising tips will be provided.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: Scholarship funds are limited, but fundraising consultation is available. Applicants
needing financial assistance have a very successful track record of raising the needed funds.

For an application and more information, contact:

Liza Smith, Tel: (504) 525-4394, e-mail: kali_70116(at)yahoo.com, Elizabeth Miller, Witness for Peace National Office, Tel: (202) 588-1471, e-mail: delegations(at)witnessforpeace.org, Web: www.witnessforpeace.org.

Dear Sangha Members,

We are asking for your help in disseminating our effort to create an urban Buddhist Co Housing community. Please forward this information to any and all you think may be interested.

Co-housing

Co-housing is a form of private home ownership based in community, (not communal), living. It recreates the closeness of village life both in design and in participation. Co-housing developments attract those who want to live interdependently and pro-actively but also have the benefits of personal ownership and privacy.

We feel co-housing is the best model for those of us who wish to live the Buddhist precepts and practices within a Sangha or community of like-minded lay people. We are looking for pro-active and creative individuals who want live/work situations as they envisage growing into their later years.

We are interested in attracting those committed to their meditation practice and who are also exploring low cost and simple urban housing. Non-denominational, we are looking for those who are interested in sharing in Buddhist precepts and practices without insistence on religious or cultural ties. We wish to explore options in the state of California or other warm sunny climates in states that would provide the best opportunities to achieve our goals.

We are also asking for any practical leads to land options, grant options or other people resources that could help us realize our vision. To learn more about us you may go to groups.yahoo.com/group/BuCoHo or to contact us respond to barbara(at)griggs.com or gsadix(at)

earthlink.net.

Please join us.

Metta,

Tim

WMC Meditation and Dharma Discussion: Every Sunday evening from 7-9:15 p.m., at the Buddhist Vihara, 5017 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. Sitting and walking meditation and a brief taped dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh are followed by a discussion. Everyone is welcome. Phone: 301-681-1036; wmc(at)mindfulnessdc.org; www.mindfulnessdc.org

Potluck Social Evening, first Sunday of every month, 5:15 p.m. at the Vihara. See contact info above.

Live Dharma! Throughout the year, the Washington Mindfulness Community hosts dharma teachers old and new during our Sunday evening meditation and dharms discussion meetings. Schedule for the rest of 2002:

August 4: Vien Nguyen (Boat of Compassion)
October 6: Anh-Huong Nguyen (MPCF)
November 3: Thu Nguyen (MPCF)
December 1: Mitchell Ratner (Stillwater)

WMC Newcomer Orientation: Last Sunday each month. The newcomer orientation is a time to ask questions about sitting and walking meditation, bells, gathas and other aspects of Mindfulness practice. Open to all, but especially for newcomers. We will meet from 6-7 p.m., before the regular sitting. Informal orientations can be arranged for other Sundays; call or email to arrange.

WMC Retreats: Three times a year at Charter Hall, on the Chesapeake Bay. Next retreat: Sept. 27-29. Please use above email address to inquire about registration.

WMC Bell Master Training: Carolyn Bluemle will conduct the next bell master training August 18 at 5 pm at her home in Adams Morgan. Contact Carolyn for more information: tangokali(at)erols.com

Peace Walk: The last peace walk of the season was May 21. The WMC Committee on Mindful Politics will resume peace walks in September on the U.S. Capitol Grounds. The schedule will be posted on the WMC web site.

OTHER D.C. AREA SANGHAS

Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax (MPCF): Morning Sitting & Walking Meditation: Monday to Friday 8:15-9:15 a.m. Noon meditation: Thursday, 12-12:45 p.m. Mindful Movement: Tuesday, 4:15-5 p.m. Thursday Evening Meditation: Thursday 7:30-9 p.m. Please call 703-938-1377 to confirm. More info: www.mpcf.org.

Practicing the Art of Mindful Living: at the MPCF, with resident teachers Anh-Huong and Thu Nguyen. We come together once a month to learn and practice the art of mindful living as a community. At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, 2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, Virginia. Space is limited; call: 703-938-1377. Suggested donation is $30 to $50. Upcoming dates: Aug. 10, Sept. 21.

Next MPCF Retreat: December 13-15, Claymont Court.

Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center: Sitting meditation and reading every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 6:30-7:30 a.m.; sitting meditation and other mindfulness practices Thursday evenings, 7:30 p.m. All at Crossings in Takoma Park, Md. More info: contact Mitchell Ratner, 301-270-8353, info(at)StillWaterMPC.org, or www.stillwatermpc.org

Twelve-week workshops on Introduction to Mindfulness and Mindfulness at Work are offered each year on Monday evenings by the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center. The Center also regularly sponsors or cosponsors other workshops, classes, retreats, and special events. Interested persons may join the email list and receive a weekly update of activities via the contact info above.

Next Still Water Retreat: November 15-17, 2002, Charter Hall.

Capitol Hill Mindfulness Practice: Sitting meditation Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, from 7-8 a.m., at the Dancing Heart Yoga Center, 221 5th St., NE (off Stanton Park). Practice evening Wednesdays from 6:15-7:15 p.m. at 320 G St. NE. Contact: Carolyn Cleveland, 546-8826.

Boat of Compassion (Thuyen Tu) Sangha:

Mindful day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month except the two months, normally April and October, when a mindful retreat is held. Mindful day held at Giac Hoang Temple, 5401 NW 16th St. Washington D.C. More info: 703-938-9606, 301-294-7966, thuyentu(at)crpcv.org, www.crpcv.org/thuyentu.

Arlington Mindfulness Practice: First and third Sundays of the month at 7 p.m. Sitting meditation, singing and outside walking meditation (weather permitting). Practice Evening: Monday, 7:30 p.m. Contact: Peter Guerrero, 703-820-1524, pfguerrero(at)aol.com.

Annapolis Mindfulness Practice: Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Rd. Contact: Art Hanson, 410-216-9551.

Columbia Mindfulness Practice: First Monday of the month, 7-8:30 p.m. Contact: Judy Colligan, 410-730-4712.

Bethesda Mindfulness Practice: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 7-8 a.m. More info: 301-897-3648.

Baltimore Fresh Breeze Mindfulness Sangha: 8:30-10:15 a.m., Saturday mornings in Towson, Md. More info: Carol Fegan, 410-583-7798.

OTHER MINDFULNESS RETREATS

Next U.S. Retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh: August 12-17, 2002: Easton, Mass., led by Zen-master Thich Nhat Hanh. More info: www.plumvillage.org

Mindfulness Retreat: August 30-September 2, 2002: Bryson City, N.C., led by Charles Francis. More info: call 828-497-4772 or itccom(at)gate.net