Community Gathering Minutes -- November 17, 2002

Notes Compiled by Mary Hillebrand
Meeting Facilitated by Jeanine Cogan

Present: Steve Sidley, Richard Brady, Jeanine Cogan, Carolyn Bluemle, Sara O’Brien, Joe Toole, Bill Menza, Joseph Byrne, Mary Hillebrand, Carolyn Cleveland, Carrie Rose


Operations Committee

1. Library -- Tom Eigelsbach has the list of books and tapes owned by the WMC. He is checking on what is missing and what needs replacing.

2. Bell inviters and greeters -- Carrie Rose is encouraging bell inviters to sign up to lead gatherings in January and beyond; also encouraging all who are interested in acting as greeters on Sunday nights; sign-up list is in the basement book closet.

3. Retreats -- Jeanine Cogan reported the results of the summer survey on retreat preferences:

a. People generally want practice opportunities including meditation, walking meditation, noble silence, and dharma discussions at WMC retreats.

b. Few expressed interest in theme-oriented retreats.

c. Friday evening to Sunday after lunch was the most popular timeframe among respondents.

d. The majority of respondents said they are open to the inclusion of families and children and said they would attend such a retreat.

e. Very few respondents expressed interest in a winter (January) retreat; most said fall and spring are their preferred times. Despite this fact, the WMC will hold a winter retreat January 24-26, 2003, because the Family Committee requested an opportunity to offer child-specific activities (see Family Committee report).

-- Jeanine also reported that the fall 2002 retreat had higher than usual turnout, perhaps because the survey helped boost awareness that the WMC holds retreats and also let WMC members know they have a role in creating their retreat experience.

-- The WMC is forming a new committee to plan, operate, and evaluate retreats, building on the momentum generated by the summer survey and well-attended fall retreat. Jeanine agreed to head the committee and is seeking volunteer members.

-- Suggestion: Make the schedule of events for each retreat available in advance -- perhaps in a flyer -- to help people decide whether to attend.

Community Care Committee

1. Welcoming Ceremonies for New Children -- Carolyn Bluemle reported that the first such occasion, a "baptism" for Rob DeBara’s twin girls, was "very wonderful"; the event, planned with the help of the CC Committee, provided the WMC an opportunity to support parents and acknowledge these milestones; the community now has a model to work from when assisting other parents in creating or planning their own welcoming ceremonies.

2. Clearness -- Richard Brady reported that the committee continues to explore how the WMC can provide an opportunity for members dealing with conflict to get assistance in finding their own clarity about the issue. More details to come at a future Community Gathering.

3. Second Body Practice -- Steve Sidley reported that the current round is going smoothly, with 14 people participating at the start.

-- Changes implemented in fall cycle: is the first in which the new 1-1 paired format is being used, instead of the 1-1-1 groups formed in the past; Steve has increased contacts with participants to check on how the practice is going; Fall cycle will be slightly shorter because of a late start and the holidays at the end of the year, will return to 4-month cycle next year.

-- Early observations about the changes: there is "a lot of energy behind it," Steve says; people like the 1-1 format because it makes contacts easier to schedule and facilitates deeper interactions

-- 1-1 format’s challenges: Because each person in the pair plays both the roles of speaker and listener, participants report tendency to fall into "conversational" mode instead of deep listening and mindful speaking; Some pairs find it challenging to divide the time evenly during each interaction to enable each person an opportunity to speak and to listen; Some participants noted that it is easier to determine how the time should be split during face-to-face interactions than during over-the-phone interactions.

-- Suggestion: For future cycles, provide ideas or examples of how pairs can split the time of their interactions equitably.

4. Study Groups -- Steve Sidley reported that there is "lots of good energy" among the four groups now underway, up from two groups in the second cycle that ran during late spring.

-- Current study groups are due to wrap up in mid-December, and a new round will start sometime in January; New round may be coordinated with the effort underway (led by Mitchell Ratner) to form study groups about the 14 mindfulness trainings.

-- Suggestion: Mitchell’s groups may be larger than the WMC has typically formed for reading groups, so WMC may want to form smaller groups to meet the needs of others who want interaction in small groups.

-- The CC Committee is looking for suggestions for books to read during the next cycle: contact Steve Sidley via wmc(at)

Communications Committee -- Joseph Byrne reported:

1. Fall newsletter due out in late November or early December

2. Several new pages about the Dec. 7-8 weekend of prayer for peace have been added to the WMC web site

3. WMC member database currently has about 300 people in it.

4. Mary Hillebrand reported that the WMC directory, distributed to WMC members who have agreed to have their contact information included in it, will be updated and distributed with the fall newsletter; people can now choose to be included in the directory by checking the appropriate box on the annual voter registration forms in the spring, by making a note on the WMC mailing list signup form, or by sending an e-mail to Mary Hillebrand, mhillebrand(at); Joseph continues to work on a directory sign-up form for the WMC web site.

-- Suggestion: Include in the directory a list of the members of each WMC committee and a note next to directory listings indicating the committees they participate in.

Family Committee -- Steve Sidley reported:

1. Childcare on Sunday nights -- Committee will provide childcare for parents during the first half of Sunday evening sits that are preceded by a WMC Peace Walk (currently the 3rd Sunday of each month).

2. Family-oriented Events -- Committee organized an Interbeing Scavenger Hunt for adults and children in November to create an opportunity for families and children to interact mindfully with other members of the community.

3. Parent Support Group -- Committee is talking about future options for this; currently members have agreed to be available by phone to each other when needed.

4. Mindfulness Education -- Committee is exploring what other communities are doing and ways to benefit or learn from the mindfulness education already offered by the Vihara.

5. Retreats -- Nearly all committee members have committed to attending January 2003 retreat and organize events for children; Irene D’Auria volunteered to be registrar and Annie Sidley volunteered to head the cooking team; Steve will work with Richard and Joanne [last name] on preparations; WMC must bring in at least $850 to cover the cost of the retreat hall.

-- Suggestions: Create a flyer with a description of the family-oriented activities included in the retreat, plus a full schedule of events, so people can see how this retreat compares to others in the past; get Practice Council feedback on retreat activities; find volunteers to act as an onsite coordinator and facilitators for each activity

Committee on Mindful Politics -- Carolyn Cleveland reported:

1. Interfaith Prayer Vigil and Peace Walk -- replaced scheduled October reorganizing meeting; drew 150 participants and 10 religious speakers; opportunity to work with Green Mountain monastics was "enriching," Carolyn says; now sending thank you notes and books to the speakers and trying to continue contact with them; also compiling database of people and organizations interested in interdenominational mindful politics activities.

2. Future Activities -- soliciting feedback on what to do next and when to hold next meeting.

3. Carolyn’s personal project = bring Thich Nhat Hanh to address Congress, either by speaking to the entire body, holding a retreat with some members, or speaking as a guest at a program; working with Faith & Politics Institute and looking for opportunities for WMC members to get involved; Suggestion: hold a "welcome to Washington" event in January for new members of Congress.

Elections Committee -- Bill Menza reported for Irene D’Auria:

-- Openings on Practice Council, Board of Trustees during Spring 2003 elections; nominations due in January, election in March; Joe Toole and Carolyn Bluemle volunteered to assist.

Practice Council -- Richard Brady reported:

1. Live Dharma Talks -- will continue in 2003; Bill Menza will join the group of Washington area dharma teachers, after receiving the lamp transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in January; Bill will give live dharma talk in February.

2. Practice Council is available to hear concerns of people attending community events or participating in WMC efforts, including Sunday evening sits; Council is the place to direct feedback.

3. Suggestions for future Community Gatherings: more time for open conversation of issues, not just committee reports; hold on different night from Sunday (makes for long Sunday evening when held before evening sits) and combine with potluck; be clearer about what the Community Gathering is when announcing it beforehand; examine ways to encourage more WMC members to participate.

Board of Directors -- Joe Toole reported:

1. Fundraising -- looking for ways to make money from items made at fall glass fusion parties; proceeds will be spent on improvements to the Vihara, working in conjunction with the resident monastics.