Sangha business

Notes from planning meeting of Capitol Hill Meditation Group
Nov 8, 2014

Attending: Candace, Candy, Uli, Nora, Sheila, Spencer, Ric, Julia, Jean

We spent some time talking about how to organize the logistics of running the meetings – set up, clean up, letting people in, etc. We determined we need to define jobs more precisely and have written descriptions on file in the box, so anyone can perform them. Jobs we identified were:

  • setting up the room and tea
  • cleaning up the room
  • handling dana
  • running the blog
  • facilitating the meeting

The first four jobs were considered a group which would require a monthly “point person”. That person would be responsible for recruiting volunteers to fill the jobs each week. As an adjunct to this, we already have a Google calendar setup and a tab on the blog site which could be used to indicate who’s doing what and any vacancies.

We talked about the point person and the facilitator committing to one month at a time. The facilitator would be responsible for defining the topic well in advance and getting something to the blog, lead the sits and discussions, and make sure everyone gets a chance to share.

This led to a discussion of what kind of group we wanted to be and how we wanted to structure ourselves. The discussion revolved around wanting the group to be open and inclusive, but still focused on practice. Calling it a “drop-in” group seemed to us to devalue continued participation, we thought it might be more helpful to call ourselves a “practice” group. There was a lively discussion about the pros and cons of being a teacher-led group or a self-led group, particularly since Tuere will certainly miss the first months of next year and could miss more. We discussed finding ways to make the group open to newbies, but still a place where we can deepen our practice. We also discussed the possibility of doing a sutra practice regularly. This got agreement ranging from mild to strenuous. Ric then suggested we might do well to include a sutra or a reading from the Pali Canon every night as part of our close. He pointed out that this IS a Buddhist group, so we should try to hear from the Buddha more often than from secondary sources.

We discussed whether or not certain books might help us. There was some concern about accessibility, ie: people not being able to afford the books or not knowing about it because they were just dropping in. Two possibilities did seem most accessible: How to Tame a Wild Elephant, by Jan Bays and Just One Thing, by Rick Hanson. Both seemed to offer simple exercises we could practice during the week and discuss on Thursday.

We couldn’t decide which way we wanted to go without more discussion from the community as a whole, so we stopped there after assigning some jobs for the following Thursday.

After the meeting ended a subgroup continued the discussion focusing on why not simplify the whole thing even more. Since many of the group attend SIMS on Tuesday night, why couldn’t we just make ourselves into an extension of SIMS. All of Rodney’s talks are online. We could just have a running discussion, one week later than the SIMS presentation. That would allow people to attend the talk at SIMS or watch it online, if they choose to. Then we could reflect on the topic and in our discussion have a more pointed discussion of how we fold that into our own practice. This would give us the advantage of a teacher leading our discussions while keeping the group focused on how it affects our daily lives and practice. Again, more to talk with the whole community about.

Follow-up from Candy
Candy spoke with Tuere and got some clarification from her about how she understands and intended the group to be structured. Most important, as a SIMS LDL (local dharma leader), Tuere sought Rodney’s advice and approval for starting a Sims sanctioned practice group on Capitol Hill. Tuere’s intention was to have an “open” group that originated from SIMS and met during the week following Rodney’s Tues night dharma talks for discussion and support around Rodney’s bi – weekly homework assignments. Rodney supported this – as long as the group was led by a SIMS sanctioned teacher.

Open is in quotes because what Tuere meant by that was a group that did not have membership requirements or limits – but her assumption was membership would flow from SIMS. And, like Rodney does on Tues nights, folks would be strongly encouraged to attend beginning meditation class – but would not be excluded from the group if they were not directly affiliated with SIMS.

What actually happened was some SIMS members and lots of folks not affiliated with SIMS began and continue to participate in the group. It was based on feedback from folks attending that Tuere oriented the focus away from SIMS and towards a more independently focused group. She also pointed out that it’s pretty hard to have an openly advertised group and screen people for experience – unless someone wants to own the ‘interview’ process.

Tuere is completely supportive of changing our verbiage on the blog and how we talk about the group to newbies – focus on practice and commitment and encourage taking beginning meditation classes (available on the web).   She also supports orienting the group directly to SIMS – and does not see a problem with discussing a previous Tues talk on Thurs – assuming a teacher or sangha member lead can summarize the topic and use Rodney’s homework, and folks would be able to access the talk online for further discussion the following Thurs.

As for immediate logistics, Uli and Candy have asked for input on how folks would feel about letting go of the tea. This suggestion would greatly simplify set up & clean up.

Next Steps

  • Uli & Candy are going to talk to the church about the call box and look into possible teachers.
  • Next week Julia will open, Jean will facilitate and get something to Sheila for the blog and Ric will close with a sutra and own the clean up role.
  • We want encourage input on the blog and at gatherings and then plan to have a follow-up meeting including Tuere to make decisions sometime soon. Stay tuned.

One response to “Sangha business

  1. Sorry I missed this important meeting. I sometimes have work or family related obligations on Thursday nights. I think its fine to not have tea if that helps to simplify our gatherings. One issue I had wanted to bring up was about lengthening the time we spend in meditation at the weekly gathering. I believe now its 30 minutes? Could we stretch that to 40 or 45? If our group meets for a total of 2 hours (6:45 to 8:45) then it seems like 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for silent meditation.


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