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)mindfulnessdc.org
Your message will be forwarded to that person. Thank you!
What's a Community Gathering?
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Retreats - Richard reported that the WMC's approach to
community retreats has been revamped, with the help of a Retreats
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Event Announcements - Joseph reported that when people place
flyers on the downstairs information table they should also send that
info to wmc(at)mindfulnessdc.org so it can be put on the web site or sent
to the listserv.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 www.wbpf.org/changeyourmind.asp.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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