Notes from the Community Gathering, October 28

Those present: Jim Schrider, Erica Hamilton, Barbara Newell, Bill Menza, Carolyn Bluemle, Irene D'Auria, Steve Sidley, Jeanine Cogan, Colleen Corrigan.

1. Discussion of Second Body Practice

It was noted that there is a problem with people signing up for the practice, and then being unavailable to their second bodies once the practice period begins. Some of these people have then signed up a second time for second body practice, only to be unavailable again.It was proposed that Joe Toole would act as a "troubleshooter" when this situation arose. The person or persons affected will contact Joe, and Joe will ask how that person had addressed the problem, talk about possible approaches, and leave it to that person to take the next step. Joe would then check in some time later to ask what the results were in the person's effort to reach their unavailable second body. If it was still a problem, Joe would try to reach the unavailable person to see what the problem was. He would also make sure this person was not included in the pool of people for the next round, if the situation had not been resolved.A number of people wondered if the roles in second body practice were understood well enough. Perhaps they signed up not really knowing what their responsibilities were. Yet others noted that it was pretty clearly communicated at the beginning of the present round to make sure that people did not sign up unless they were definitely available.It was suggested that there be some sort of informational clearinghouse. It was further suggested that information about second body practice be put up on the web page so that folks could access it at any time if they had questions. Joseph Byrne suggested this information be forwarded to him so he could put it on the WMC web page. It was also suggested that an article on second body practice be put in the next newsletter.

2. The Resolution for a Moratorium on the Death Penalty

Bill Menza presented the latest version of the moratorium resolution, which was originally brought to the community by Joseph Byrne. Bill outlined the changes to the original resolution; Joseph gave some background. Joseph noted that the original resolution was part of a campaign to gather resolutions, which is now concluded. He asked Bill what the current uses for such a resolution would be. Bill said that organizations he works with in Virginia have taken up the campaign to gather organizational resolutions calling for a moratorium on executions.Bill presented some questions that a sangha member raised about the resolution being "too political." Bill replied to these concerns by saying that the criminal justice system needs to be criticized and reformed, and that the death penalty was inescapably political. He also said that the "political" information in the resolution was there to help educate those considering passing it. Someone else noted that to speak out against injustice is part of engaged Buddhism, and is one the 14 precepts.It was then put to the group: do we feel strongly enough about this issue to pass a resolution, at the same time setting a precedent for future resolutions? The sense of the room strongly in favor of passing the resolution, though some felt the resolution would be stronger if there was some language that made it clear that we "heard" the suffering and pain of those who favor the death penalty. Some addressed this by taking up such issues as the death penalty having a deterrent effect, and providing "closure" for the victims' families, arguing that neither of these things have proven to be true. Bill then agreed to add some information to the resolution, addressing the issues of deterrence and "closure." Someone else noted that since the resolution calls for a moratorium instead of abolition, it includes those who favor the death penalty, but who think it needs to be stopped for now.In terms of setting a precedent for other resolutions, it was suggested that we not worry about it for now and instead deal with it when it comes up. Though it was the sense of some people that the WMC would probably not be flooded with resolution requests.The discussion concluded, Bill said he would add the proposed changes to the resolution and present it to the Board to vote on.

3. Elections

Irene D'Auria, head of last year's election committee, volunteered to head the committee again this year and to get the process underway for our next election, which will be at the next Community Gathering, on March 3.Irene asked for volunteers. Carolyn Bluemle and Jim Schrider, who also served on last year's election committee, agreed to serve again this year. It was noted that, if any of the three on the committee will be running for office, they'll have to find non-candidates to count the votes.

4. Experiments with Sunday night practice

The Community Care Committee had some suggestions to allow for more social time on Sunday nights. Beginning in November, an effort will be made to dharma discussion at 9 p.m., thus allowing a half-hour for social time. This experiment will run indefinitely and we'll see how it goes.Another suggestion was, beginning in December (December 2), to have a pot-luck once a month, on the first Sunday of the month, starting at 5:15, at the Vihara. This would include at least 15 minutes of silent, mindful eating together. This would begin on Sunday, December 2, as a "holiday kick-off." A reminder will be sent out on the list-serve and Irene will create a "paper announcement."A third suggestion was to invite local dharma teachers to give a dharma talk on Sunday night, instead of listening to a tape, especially since we will shortly have four more ordained dharma teachers in the area. These dharma talks would happen every couple months, beginning with Anh-Huong in December, if she's available. Those at the Community Gathering agreed that these were all good suggestions. It was further suggested that it might be a good idea for the dharma teachers be invited for the pot-luck Sundays, making a richer experience for both the dharma teachers and the sangha. Someone also suggested that when dharma teachers from other cities were in town, they might be invited to give a dharma talk as well.Finally, Carolyn Bluemle announced that she would offer guided meditation each month on Newcomers Night, from 6:30 to 6:50 p.m. Everyone in the sangha is invited.

5. Sangha discussion group

Following up on the suggestion at the last Community Gathering that the sangha have some kind of small discussion group, it was announced that the Practice Council approved the idea. The group will be limited to no more than 10, and will meet for six sessions, once every two weeks, over a three month period. The topic for this first small group will be "Sexuality and Relationships" and the book the group will center its discussions around will be Teachings on Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh. Steve Sidley volunteered to organize the group, putting out the word and asking for those interested to contact him. His email address is: stevesidley(at)

6. Mindful politics committee of the WMC

Members of the new special WMC committee on mindful politics gave a short report of their initial ideas and actions. Based on Thay's first statement after September 11, they have created a "love letter" to be sent to Congress people, asking them to work for peace. In a couple weeks, they will initiate a second phase, which would be "mindful lobbying" on Capitol Hill. The committee has also been involved in the Peace Walks around the Capitol. The next one will be November 6.Erica Hamilton will also be offering stress reduction and mindful movements to Congressional staffers. Her first date was October 29, with other dates coming up soon.

7. Report on the scholarship fund for retreats

The WMC board has announced plans to do some fund-raising for the scholarship fund. An envelope asking for donations will be sent out with the next WMC newsletter. The WMC can reimburse up to half of the cost for a retreat to those who apply for scholarships. Right now there is a limit in the yearly budget of $1,500 for scholarships.

8. Sangha Directory

There was discussion about creating a sangha directory, including all those who would like their names and addresses to be made available to other people in the sangha. Joseph Byrne said that it would be fairly easy to create an online form to help create such a directory. He could put it up on the community web page and send an email out to everyone on the WMC email announcement list serve, with a link to the form. It would be a matter of following the link and filling out the form online. The directory, however, would not be available on line.Joseph also said that a re-design of the WMC web page was in the works. He hopes to free up some time in the next couple months and, with the help of other people on the Communications Committee, do the re-design. If anyone in the sangha has some interesting pictures of sangha activities, please contact Joseph Byrne so that he might arrange to get them from you and scan them for the WMC web page.

9. Miscellaneous announcements

The Operations committee is looking for a librarian for the WMC. Those interested can contact Carolyn Bluemle. Also, bell inviters and greeters are needed to sign up for the coming months. It was suggested that being a greeter was a wonderful way for people to contribute who don't feel confident enough (or don't have the training) to be a bell inviter.Next Community Gathering (and WMC election): March 3, 2002.