Minutes of the Community Gathering of the Washington Mindfulness Community

March 11, 2007, at the Buddhist Vihara, Washington, D.C.

Mary Hillebrand recorded these notes.

Present: Richard Brady, Elisabeth Dearborn, Patrick Smith, Joann Malone, Bill Jenkins, Sankar Sitaraman, Carolyn Blumele, Mary Hillebrand, Steve Sidley, Carrie Rose, Azara Turaki, Allison [whose last name I don't know, sorry!]


Retreat Committee Report, by Joann:

  • Had a very successful first silent retreat in January. Thirteen people attended. Joann has notes from Richard's dharma talk on the last day, which she is glad to share with anyone who inquires.

  • Next retreat will be April 20 if there is enough interest.

  • Committee is looking into other venues, because of the distance to Charter Hall and the age of the facility. Mold and other factors have presented health issues for some participants.

  • Jindra and Joann are scheduled to visit Wellspring, in Germantown, March 18, and the committee is seeking other ideas for locations. To be discussed: Must there be a minimum size?

Community Care Committee Report, by Steve and Carolyn:

  1. Second Body Practice: Participation had been getting smaller, but the Fall dharma class at Richard's about Second Body gave it a boost and 13 or 14 signed up. The Spring cycle had 3 or 4 pairs. Summer cycle starts in May.

  2. Book Groups: Nick Chang is hosting "Teachings On Love" with several new sangha members. Carolyn's "Going Home" group is having trouble getting started due to schedule conflict. The committee is looking for new people to host and suggest a book. Ideas should be presented to the committee for feedback, and the Practice Council may also chime in. There will be no Book Groups held during the summer.

  3. Dharma Classes: Recently resumed in the renovated Vihara, with Inessa offering a class in March and Carolyn slated to hold a class in April. We need more voluteers and ideas for future classes. This practice is good for community building.

Board of Trustees Report, by Carrie and Sankar:

  1. Fundraising: Raised $350 for a DVD burner for Plum Village.

  2. Scholarship Fund: Some funds have been used to help Jackie Randolph stay in Plum Village. See her thank you letter downstairs in the WMC library. Trustees may set a deadline for requests for scholarships for the August Stonehill College retreat so they can consider who and how much. This is open for discussion.

  3. Savings: A 5% CD is earning interest for the WMC.

  4. Scheduling: A Sunday evening calendar and a yearly event calendar have been compiled and are available for viewing in the WMC library.

Operations Committee Report, from Richard and Brigitte:

  1. Newcomers' Orientation: Leaders should remember to use the handouts in the library and review procedures. The committee needs a new member to manage a list of volunteers to conduct orientation each month. It may be useful to conduct a basic training session or orientation leaders.

  2. Library: Committee is working on seeking out sangha members who have borrowed materials and not yet returned them. March is Library membership month, and the library organizers are encouraging sangha members to contribute $5 for the year, to enable the purchase of new and replacement materials.

Practice Council Report, from Elisabeth:

  • Recent meeting: Discussed items on agenda for today's Community Gathering -- potlucks, retreats, spring/rebirth ceremony, newcomers orientation

  • Purpose for above items: How do new people come into the community and connect?

Communications Committee Report, from Mary:

  1. Listserv signups: instead of collecting new signees for the listserv on a piece of paper on Sunday nights, we are asking Bell Inviters and others to encourage newcomers to send us an e-mail to subscribe to the listserv. They can also be reminded to take a mantra card home with them, since that has our e-mail address on it.

  2. Sangha directory project: hope to have it completed by the end of April
    -- will seek two new volunteers to join the committee and spearhead this project
    -- will distribute in multiple formats, including Excel spreadsheet, PDF, and Word doc
    -- will distribute to everyone who is included in the directory – one must be in the directory to get a copy of it.

  3. Mindfulness Bell computer program: Nick Chang is working on creating a web-based version, plus he will be working with the original programmer to work out bugs in the downloadable version

  4. Committee List: will be included in next Sangha Reflections, with members of each committee, so people in the sangha can learn what the committees do and who to contact to pitch in.


When: currently held on 2nd Sunday of each month
Who: all, effort is being made to make them child-friendly
Why: help people get to know each other

Questions and comments:
     Richard – Should there be a period of silence in the beginning?
     Jindra – What do people think of meeting at a restaurant, to increase attendance?
     Elisabeth – maybe we just need some time to get it going again after Vihara renovations
     – should emphasize beautiful new kitchen space
     – allowing talking (no silence) might help
     Brigitte – should remind people they don’t have to cook, they can buy something vegetarian to bring
     Carrie – 5 min. of silence is valuable, since some rarely get chance to eat mindfully with others
     Sankar – mindful eating can be very educational, for those who haven’t done it before
     – perhaps increasing energy/effort to publicize potlucks will improve attendance
     – holding restaurant get-togethers separately, on a separate night, is appealing
     Bill – prefers both short period of silent eating and social time
     – perhaps we can add tea to the start or finish

Social Time at end of Sunday meditation meetings:
Elisabeth – suggests once a month having some kind of structure for the social time
     – example: direct people to pair up and chat or offer a playful small group acitivity/chat
     – purpose: provide warmer, more welcoming atmosphere or opportunity for those who are new or shy about socializing
     – can be opportunity to encourage newcomers to attend a newcomers orientation in future

Questions and comments:
     Steve – would need to be really careful to end dharma discussion on time and ensure time for people to go downstairs for library and info table too
     Brigitte – since newcomers come any week, what if we take a little time away from dharma discussion to welcome and connect with whoever is new that night?
     – need to be mindful not to keep the monks up late
     Sankar – could evenings start at 6 instead of 7?
     Carolyn – main issue with starting earlier has in the past been cutting into family dinners
     Bill – what about study groups meeting at Vihara at 6 p.m.? that would aid convenience and need to connect with others
     Jindra – Should we end dharma discussion at 8:45 (instead of 9) on structured social Sundays? That would leave time for downstairs visits and enable rich small group or pair talk
     – concerned about making newcomers who want to be left alone to process their experience feel uncomfortable
     Richard – Practice Council tends to be cautious in making changes – may try something along these lines once and seek feedback from community; maybe start with Blue Sky practice, which facilitates pair sharing
     Carrie – supports shortening dharma discussions for opportunity for paired sharing

* End of discussion: Practice Council will decide how to go forward

Spring Celebration Evening:
Purpose: to celebrate birth and life

Questions and comments:
     Jindra – great idea; link to Vesak (Buddha’s day)?
     Elisabeth – confirmed Vesak link is the intention
     – format similar to candles for evening of remembrance of the departed (in Nov.), but people will have flowers and put them all together
     – two volunteers needed to work with Elisabeth to create a ceremony: Patrick and Allison

Retreat Formats and Locations:
Committee is seeking other ideas for locations. Also to be discussed: Must there be a minimum size?

Questions and comments:
     Richard – The Sanctuary is closer but costs more
     – could save money by starting Sat. a.m.
     Mary – will closer location result in greater attendance, so we can afford renting space for full weekend?
     Jindra – will ask Wellspring too about shorter weekend rate
     Carolyn – Friday to Sunday means more chance to slow down and is already a short enough period
     Carrie – can we use our scholarship fund to make up shortfalls?
     Brigitte – we could offer a sliding scale to increase attendance
     Richard – if child rates vary at some places, we could go to one place for the adults-only silent retreat and another with lower rates for the family retreats
     Jindra – is there a barrier to enabling all the area sanghas to mix?
     Azara – That would work if planning was done jointly by reps of both sanghas, and reps could announce them at both sanghas’ gatherings
     Richard – we are getting interest from people with kids but no connection to any D.C. area sangha, wanting a mindful getaway with their kids
     – January’s silent retreat was nice because we had high attendance by WMC members
     Joann – Peter Cook has been an active retreat organizer and participant even though he is more with Still Water these days
     – people who are new to retreats and not connected to a sangha have benefited, but that attendance has been driven by our need to meet minimum attendance requirements
     – we don’t advertise much to the Fairfax sangha
     – important question: if retreat’s intention is mainly to build WMC sangha, why don’t we get more people coming?
     Elisabeth – if energy is in the adult retreats lately, why not let the mindful parenting group (across multiple sanghas) organize family retreats separately?

*** End of Community Gathering ***