Notes from April 4, 2004, Community Gathering

If you have questions or comments about specific items reported here, please e-mail the specific person involved (if known) at wmc(at) Your message will be forwarded to that person. Thank you!

Report compiled by Mary Hillebrand

Present: Richard Brady, Carolyn Bluemle, Bill Menza, Mary Hillebrand, Bill Jenkins, Pawel Gajer, Susan Hadler, Brigitte Pichot, Elizabeth Dearborn, Carrie Rose, Joseph Byrne, Sankar Sitaraman

Thank you to Richard for leading the gathering.

Committee Reports: Community Care Committee

  1. Second Body Practice - Carolyn reported that the practice has attracted many new participants in recent rounds. Current round has 14 participants in seven pairs. The practice has helped participants not only feel supported in their mindfulness practice but also connected to the sangha. It has also fostered new friendships outside of WMC activities.

  2. Book/Study Groups - Carolyn reported that one study group, focusing on Tara Brach's book Radical Acceptance is underway this spring, following a successful winter study group centered on Thich Nhat Hanh's Being Peace. Study groups typically consist of 7-9 members, and last approximately 6 sessions. Most participants agree that meetings go smoothly if at least one experienced practitioner is a member of the group. The committee is open to new book suggestions and is seeking hosts for future groups. If interested, please contact Steve Sidley.

  3. Non-violent Communication Group - Carolyn reported that a separate study group focusing on Marshall Rosenberg's practice of non-violent communication is ongoing and open to new participants and drop-ins. Hosts John and Inessa Love request that participants read the book Non-violent Communication before attending group meetings.

  4. Couples Groups - Carolyn reported that two couples groups are currently underway. One group of five couples meets every two weeks in Friendship Heights, while a second group of four couples meets monthly in Takoma Park. The groups focus on developing various communication techniques and strengthening the partnership and its connection to the sangha. Each group may consist of a maximum of five couples, but additional groups can be formed as interest arises. If interested in participating in or hosting a couples group, please contact Steve Sidley.

  5. WMC Dharma Classes - Carolyn reported that this new activity, begun in January, offers mindfulness practitioners a forum for asking questions and experiencing specific teachings in greater depth. The classes take place the third Sunday of the month, immediately prior to the WMC's evening meditation and dharma discussion gathering. Seven to 13 people have attended each of the three dharma classes held so far this year. The next class will be in April, taught by Richard Brady, on impermanence and non-self.

    • Richard added that volunteers are needed to teach a dharma class, and new topic ideas are welcome; also, teachers may want to draw from Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching for guidance or as supplemental reading for their classes, since that book addresses all of the fundamental mindfulness teachings. The WMC has several copies of this book available for purchase from the downstairs library.

  6. Still in the works - Clearness Committee Practice - Carolyn reported that the committee continues to discuss the opportunity to form a clearness committee as needed. Richard Brady outlined the practice at a previous Community Gathering. The Community Care Committee plans to revisit the concept at its next meeting.

  7. New items

    • Volunteer Service Efforts - Carolyn reported the committee is discussing a way to enable WMC members to participate together in volunteer service activities. The committee has determined it is not practical to create a sangha-based volunteer effort because many members are already involved in volunteer efforts on their own. Therefore, the committee may create a list of volunteer opportunities in which sangha members are participating or for which members need more help. The list would be posted on the WMC web site.

    • New item #2 - Sunday School for New and Continuing Practitioners - Carolyn reported this concept has evolved into the current Dharma Classes on the third Sunday of each month (noted above).

    • New item #3 - Family Committee - Carolyn reported Community Care continues to explore ways to help families involve their children in mindfulness practice and activities.

Committee Reports: Operations Committee

  1. Retreats - Richard reported that the WMC's approach to community retreats has been revamped, with the help of a Retreats Subcommittee

    • Elizabeth reported that she and Jeanine Cogan, the only members of this subcommittee, are seeking additional volunteers. They have been able to generate much interest in the retreats, particularly among first-time attendees and new members of the WMC - things that have made a difference include giving each retreat a specific title, putting out more publicity and giving more advance notice of upcoming retreats. The current retreat format calls for pairs of attendees to collaborate to create one meal for the group during the weekend, rather than designate one attendee (usually Annie Sidley) to plan and prepare all meals. Next retreat is April 23-25 at Charter Hall, in Northern Maryland; if interested in attending or volunteering to help, please contact Elizabeth or Jeanine.

  2. Library Maintenance - Susan Hadler reported that the Library Subcommittee, consisting of Susan and Brigitte Pichot, are in the process of organizing the library. The most important task is to create a better way to get the WMC's books back from borrowers. Brigitte reported that several have been loaned out in recent years but not returned. Improvements under consideration include implementing a number system similar to that used by public libraries, announcing more regularly at Sunday night gatherings that books should be returned, and creating an attractive label for the cover of each book to identify it as WMC property.

  3. Bell Inviters & Greeters - Carolyn reported that she will hold another bell inviter training within the next month or two.

    • Carrie reported that ensuring enough bell inviters and greeters are signed up for upcoming Sunday nights continues to be a challenge. She doesn't want to bug people each week, so we need more to sign up in advance. Carrie will consider sending an e-mail to all bell inviters periodically, announcing dates still needing to be filled, and bell inviters can respond to the entire group when they are able to fill a date. Then Carrie or a designee will update the list posted in the library cabinet. Carolyn will send all bell inviters an updated e-mail list of bell inviters, to facilitate communication about covering Sunday nights.

    • Regarding greeters, in addition to asking people to volunteer on the sign-up sheet, someone suggested the evening's bell inviter recruit a greeter if one has not signed up.

    • Mary will distribute the greeter guidelines via listserv to all WMC members, so people can get a better sense of how easy and fun it is and will want to volunteer.

  4. New Business - Carolyn reported that our Plum Village member, Sister Tung Nhiem (a.k.a. Barbara Newell), would like to listen in on Community Gatherings now and then via telephone. Carolyn has offered to donate a speaker phone but access to a phone line and use of a long-distance calling card are still needed. Richard volunteered to talk to the monks about using their phone line, and donations of money for a phone card will be solicited by the Board of Trustees.

Committee Reports: Communications Committee

  1. Event Announcements - Joseph reported that when people place flyers on the downstairs information table they should also send that info to wmc(at) so it can be put on the web site or sent to the listserv.

  2. Signage - Mary volunteered to create a poster for the downstairs info table explaining what the WMC committees, Practice Council, and Board of Trustees do, who's on them, and how to volunteer. Similar info is already on the web site and will be updated.

  3. Sangha Reflections Newsletter - Joseph reported that unless there are objections the newsletter will be distributed primarily via the web starting with the next (summer 2004) issue to save printing and mailing costs. We will mail a postcard to the entire mailing list announcing this transition and asking anyone who wants to continue receiving a print copy by mail to let us know.

  4. Web Site - Joseph is working on an online voter registration form in time for next spring's elections (volunteer assistance on this front is welcome).

  5. New Members - The committee, currently Joseph and Mary, can use a few more members. If interested, please contact Mary.

Committee Reports: Mindful Politics - With the departure of its founder, Carolyn Cleveland, to North Carolina, the committee is currently inactive. Richard suggested sending a notice to the listserv to gauge interest in reviving it.

Board of Trustees Report

  1. Treasurer's Report - Joseph reported that the annual budget report is in the current issue of the WMC newsletter. In general, we have about $15,000 in the bank, thanks to proceeds of Thich Nhat Hanh's recent visit to Washington. Some of that money is earmarked for specific purposes. The rest of the money is available as needs arise.

  2. Special Funding Projects - Mary reported that the Board has agreed to initiate a special fundraising effort to help Plum Village buy a DVD burner. Brigitte suggested we ask Deer Park what brand and model they use and whether they like it. The board will also confer with Plum Village about what they need and how much it is expected to cost, then will issue a call for donations.

  3. Past Projects - Joe Toole directed the renovation of the Vihara's basement bathroom, in collaboration with the monks, and continues to seek ways to build the WMC's relationship with the Vihara.

  4. Ongoing Projects - Vihara basement beautification remains underway. The board is eager for feedback and creative ideas from the WMC on how to make the basement a more comfortable place for Sunday night dharma discussions and other community events. The board has identified a few items that can make an immediate impact: a few floor lamps so we don't have to use the fluorescent overhead lights, a simple, attractive, thick area rug to sit on, one or two space heaters for colder months, and one or two small oscillating fans for warmer months. Bill M. suggested painting the dark wood paneling a lighter color to brighten the space. The Board will discuss this idea. Carrie offered to donate a couple of floor lamps. If you would like to donate another item in good condition, or if you have beautification suggestions, please contact Mary.

Practice Council Report

  1. Change Your Mind Day - Richard reported that the WMC is a co-sponsor of the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship's first Change Your Mind Day, June 6 on the Ellipse. More information about CYMD is available at

    • The WMC has donated $500 for the event, which entitles us to have an information table at the event. The Board of Trustees will discuss what to do with the table and will seek volunteers to assist with it.

    • Bill ..., who is working with the WBPF on this event, reported that the WMC's help is also needed to encourage people to volunteer and to attend the event. The Communications Committee will add a link from the WMC web site to the WBPF's page for the event and will announce on the listserv the upcoming April 17 party to raise funds and awareness for the event.

    • Richard shared with the gathering an example of a business-card sized card the New York sangha distributes at similar events, with basic Buddhist teachings, a peaceful photo, and the web addresses for their sangha and Plum Village. Mary volunteered to create a similar card for the WMC to distribute at various events and on the downstairs information table.

  2. Other Events - Bill M. reported that he and Mary will be offering a class in June in Silver Spring, in conjunction with the WBPF, based on Thich Nhat Hanh's book Creating True Peace. A notice will be made on the listserv soon.

New Business

  1. Sunday night social time - Sankar requested clarification on what time the Sunday evening's formal gathering should end to allow enough social time downstairs before we must vacate the Vihara at 9:30 p.m. Attendees agreed social time is sometimes inadvertently cut short and that bell inviters should be more mindful of the clock. A note will also be sent to bell inviters via e-mail reminding them that dharma discussion should end at 9 p.m. for announcements or 9:05 if announcements have been made earlier in the evening.

  2. Elections - Mary and Carolyn counted registrations and votes after the Community Gathering concluded. With 23 people voting, Carrie Rose was elected and Joe Toole was reelected to the Board, while Susan Hadler was elected to the Practice Council. Bill Menza and Jeanine Cogan tied for election to the PC, so they decided that Bill will serve the first year of the two-year term and Jeanine will serve the second. Joseph Byrne and Irene D'Auria have one more year on their Board terms, and Richard and Steve Sidley have one more year on their PC terms. Thank you to all who ran for election and all who voted.

The Community Gathering concluded with a delicious potluck dinner.

What's A Community Gathering?

The Community Gathering takes place roughly every three months. It's relatively informal, held at the Vihara, and is run a bit like our dharma discussions -- anyone can speak, and they bow to start and stop. But it also has some structure to it. Each committee or other organized body within the WMC (such as the Practice Council, the Board of Trustees, the Community Care Committee, etc.) gives the community a short update on things that group is working on, and there is a limit to how much time we'll spend discussing any one thing, so that we can get to all the items up for discussion. All WMC members have the opportunity to ask questions, offer suggestions, or volunteer to assist with such projects (or join a committee - the Practice Council and the Board are the only elected bodies).

After each group has given its update, there is usually time for new business to be brought up. This is an opportunity for anyone in the community to mention a project or concern they have, which they think the WMC in general or one of the committees might be able to help with. The item may be discussed and assigned to a committee for further discussion/action.

The Community Gathering is a great opportunity for people who have been practicing with the WMC on Sunday nights to learn more about what else we do, have a say in it, and perhaps get involved. It's also a wonderful way to get to know fellow members of the WMC better - outside the context of the Sunday night sits/dharma discussions. The gathering always includes a delicious vegetarian potluck, so it's worth coming just for that!

Keep in mind, if you have an issue or concern, or you want to get involved in things the WMC is doing, the Community Gathering is one way, but not the only way. At any time of the year, you can let someone know you want to be on a committee or just help out with various projects. Willing hands, new voices and creative ideas are always needed.