Practice Committee 2018-02-05

Present at meeting were:

On the Committee: 
Tim Burnett, Kate McKenna, Connie Martin, Hannah Sullivan, Chris Burkhart


Other Senior Students:

Edie Norton was absent; however, her notes delivered through Kate McKenna were integrated in the decision-making. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Tim presented a document titled "PRACTICE COMMITTEE MEETING FEBRUARY 5, 2018,"  which he said differed from the agenda he had emailed earlier in the day. This agenda is appended as ATTACHMENT 1. The minutes follow the new agenda with additional business listed at the end.

Forms Change Update: It was noted that during the 1-day sesshin the doan ryo did a terrific job working with the modified forms for morning service. Credit also goes to the scripts that supported them in their individual jobs. Our search for a musical notation for the sung version of the Metta Sutta chant has been unsuccessful so far; however, sangha member Linda Mariz has a friend who may be interested in helping create the notation. It was restated that singing this translation of the Metta Sutta is a trial for the practice period only at this point, and he noted that based on earlier studies of the Pali original this translation is much more literal.

Sesshin Refinements:  Tim and Hannah discussed if and how we could support the attitude of remaining silent during sesshin. Looking forward to Samish, the following ideas were discussed:

· Create sesshin conduct guidelines. People who sign up are asked to review the sesshin conduct guidelines and agree to them. A link to the guidelines will be embedded in the registration.

· Send out sesshin conduct guidelines with the confirmation letter. Some people do sign up months in  advance, the inclusion of the guidelines is a rerminder.

· Issue sesshin admonitions at the beginning of the Samish retreat. Chris will provide a copy of admonitions used by Green Dragon Temple (Green Gulch, 2008 version). See ATTACHMENT 2.

Naming of Senior Student Bodies: We agreed to maintain the name "Practice Committee." As a by-note: Senior students (post-shuso) are warmly invited to sit in and attend Practice Committee meetings at any time, but the Practice Committee itself will attempt to schedule meetings so all 5 regular members can attend.

Oryoki Eating:  We discussed whether or not to serve oryoki-style meals during 1-day retreats. We came to the conclusion that the emphasis on just sitting is better served by a simple  buffet-style breakfast (3 items plus condiments, no coffee or tea) and a brown-bag lunch. To equally serve members with mobility issues, in the future breakfast will be set up and eaten upstairs.

Since there is a wish to have more oryoki meals to support our eating practice, there is a proposal to do table oryoki at Samish starting in either 2018 or 2019. There is a possibility that Samish staff prepares the meal with guidance provided by the Red Cedar Zen Community (i.e. tenzo). Tim will discuss with retreat manager Talus and Samish staff.

"Add Samish work sesshin with oryoki?" question is handled under "A sesshin at Samish for the Bellingham sangha."

Helping at Samish: On Feb. 17 after the shuso class, everybody is invited to go to Samish for a work party. 

May 5 is a scheduled sangha work day. There is a possibility for sangha members of a) working at the  dharma hall & garden and b) joining Camp Samish for the day as part of their official work week.

A Sesshin at Samish that's really for the Bellingham Sangha: There is a possibility of doing a shorter, work-oriented, lower-cost sesshin at Samish. We would use their church (just before the camp) as our zendo, kitchen, and dining hall. The committee enthusiastically supported the idea. Tim suggested late April or early May, starting in 2019. We found that evening Thursday until late afternoon Sunday might work best. 

We would provide our own food and cook our own oryoki meals and would not impact camp staff. We would set a minimum and maximum attendance that would depend on whether another group would be using the camp at the same time.

We would find a way to give Bellingham sangha members priority to attend such as having a 2-week period to register before the offer is advertised outside the Bellingham sangha. Remaining slots could be filled through advertising using our mailing list.

Problem of too-full March Sesshin: March sesshin with Norman and Tim was half full before Practice Period even started making it impossible for all PP to attend.

It is unlikely that we will be able to shift to a larger venue for the 2018 March sesshin. 

In 2019 Norman Fischer will be at Tassajara. Tim will assess the participant number for the 2019 March sesshin. The Practice Committee will review the potential need for a larger venue after the March 2019 sesshin.

Membership in Branching Streams: The Practice Committee concluded that there is not sufficient benefit in a membership in this network of SF Zen Center sanghas at this time. The sangha has contacts outside the PNW if the desire for an outside teacher should arise. Tim suggested that he might let the sangha know the next time he goes to Tassajara for work week and thereby encourage other sangha members to also go. Work week offers reduced fees. 

Suzuki Roshi Summer: Class and Dharma Seminar: Andrea Thach has offered to teach a 5-week long class on Monday nights from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. To keep within the 2018 theme of compassion, Tim will suggest a title like "The Compassionate Teachings of Suzuki Roshi" to Andrea. Meanwhile, the Weds eve dharma seminars during Tim’s sabbatical will be taught by senior students based on the Lojong Slogans from Norman Fischer's "Training in Compassion." The Wednesday schedule during the dharma seminar time (7/11/18 through 8/8/18) will be as follows:

· 40 min zazen

· 10 min kinhin

· short service

· 50 min talk and discussion.


1-Day Retreat Format:  We propose the following general format for 1-day retreats:

· Duration 6 am to 5 pm.

· Buffet-style breakfast served and eaten upstairs.

· Brown-bag lunch.

Coordination of Doan Ryo and Ino books:  There is a need to update and coordinate the playbooks for kokyo, doan, tenken, ino, soku, and doshi. Chris will take a stab at it in a spreadsheet format. The hope is that we can create repeatable action blocks, i.e. opening the hall, prepare for service which can be equally used in Samish or Bellingham.

Oryoki Instructions: Chris will also work on oryoki instructions. Three versions are needed:

· Oryoki with servers.

· Oryoki serving each other.

· Table oryoki.

· Buffet meals.

Oryoki with servers has priority due to the upcoming March sesshin.

Opening of Samish Registration:  It would be helpful to have an email announcement when registration for Samish opens.

Next Practice Committee Meeting:  The next Practice Committee Meeting will be on March 9 from 1 pm to 3 pm.



·       Forms Change Updates

o   Changed morning service is done and in the doanryo books - take a look and little by little we'll all learn it - John and Desiree did really well with it cold.

o   Metta Sutta sung is under review through Practice Period. No sheet music available so we have to learn from the recording. Tim can make that recording more obvious on the website. A chorus friend of Linda's might help us transcribe the melody.

o   Changes are always interesting….

·       Sesshin refinements

o   Silence - let's really turn our collective intelligence to this - we are on the chatty end of the Zen sesshin spectrum and without getting tense I think we will benefit from being quieter (Examples from Honolulu)

o   Set of Sesshin Admonitions that's ritually read by the Ino - I resisted this at the beginning and it's also been valuable giving the Ino some scope to respond to the situation and discern how many details are needed but maybe it would be clarifying to simply read a one-pager on how we conduct ourselves at sesshin.

·       Naming of these Senior Student bodies

o   Review: We're shifting to the larger body (all post-shuso) being called the Senior Students and it's monthly teaching/training/study meet at the Teacher's Circle and the business meeting with a subset of the Senior Students + Guiding Teacher + Ino is now the Practice Committee

o   Question: Is this confusing to the wider sangha which is used to calling the whole Senior Student's group the Practice Committee?

·       They can get used to the new naming 

·       Or we could call the new smaller business meeting section the Business Subcommittee - or some other name than "Business" but you get my drift? So it's the _____ Subcommittee of the Practice Committee which does the biz with minutes and agenda but it's clearly a subset of the Practice Committee?

·       Maybe I'm just fussing over nothing here as the general sangha isn't super curious about all of this but I want to be as clear and transparent as possible

·       Oryoki Eating

o   I was in favor of simplifying the Feb 3 retreat to buffet breakfast & potluck lunch - Bob Rose not available and SO much easier but it took away one of just 3 opportunities a year in Bellingham (+ a 3rd at Indianola) to practice that form. How should we keep oryoki alive??

·       Add another retreat to the schedule in Bellingham that has oryoki?

·       Do table oryoki at Samish during our June sesshin? (maybe that's a post-Norman change?)

·       Add Samish work sesshin with oryoki? See below

·       Helping at Samish 

o   Head there Feb 17th after Connie's class - no brainer

o   Make our May 5th work day at Samish (work week is April 30-May 6)? That is a time when the garden and various things do need attending to at home)

·       A sesshin at Samish that's really for the Bellingham sangha

o   The current camp manager, John VanDerWalker has expressed a lot of trust and flexibility about our coming to Samish to do a work-oriented sesshin. Could even work while there's another camp in session if it's small. Especially if we did our own cooking in their church up the road and sat there. Cost would be reduced in exchange for working a half-day. This would:

·       Provide a low cost way to sit sesshin at Samish

·       Create oryoki practice opportunity

·       Create a sesshin at Samish where Tim (plus others?) can stretch his wings as a sesshin teacher @ a residential sesshin

·       Help out the camp

·       Big Question would be: WHEN?

§  Late April/early May?

§  October?

·       And HOW LONG?

§  3 days, mostly on a weekend?

§  3 days, midweek (easier to schedule w/ Samish)?

§  5 days?

·       Problem of too-full March sesshin

o   It was half-full before Practice Period even started and now most people who are participating in PP can't go

o   If Norman is at a sesshin should we always go to a larger venue than our zendo?

o   Not a problem in 2019 at Norman will be at Tassajara

·       Tim teaches it alone or with a co-teacher in 2019?

o   What about 2020+?

·       Membership in Branching Streams

o   Gives us access to Tassajara as a sangha

o   Costs $250/year

o   Annual meetings which Tim doubts he has time for but would be cool to go to and doesn't have to be me - would give you guys a lot more context about the wider family

·       Suzuki Roshi Summer: Class & Dharma Seminar

o   Monday night classes taught by Andrea 

·       5 weeks

·       6:30pm - 8:30pm 

·       July 9 - August 6th maybe, she is figuring out her availability

o   Wednesday night 5- week Dharma Seminar with Tim the Senior Students

·       Teachings from Not Always So

·       July 11 - August 8th

·       Dharma Seminar schedule (40 minute zazen, kinhin, service, 50 min talk & discussion)

·       Tim teaches the first week, then away on summer sabbatical
(usually month of July but this year July 18 - August 8th)




Be silent and still. Sesshin is a time to diligently care for and collect body and mind in one suchness. It is an opportunity to discover anew, clarify and actualize our ultimate concern. Please be sensitive to the fact that you and your Dharma friends are making an effort toward being upright and awake.

Follow the schedule completely. If you are unable to do so, tell the Ino.

Observe silence during Sesshin. Refrain from reading or writing.

As much as possible, walk and stand in formal meditation posture. Bow when meeting one another.

In the zendo be as quiet as possible. Walk quietly and carefully; muffle coughs and sneezes. Be silent with oryoki bowls and utensils.

If not in the zendo at kinhin, wait until kinhin has ended before entering.

During service chant briskly and with energy, listening to those around you 

Please see the Ino about difficulty with the zendo or other forms of sesshin 

Please see a practice leader about difficulty with sitting, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. Please communicate with the Ino or a Practice Leader if you step out of the schedule, preferably in person but at least with a note.

Be silent and still. Sesshin is a time to diligently care for and collect body and mind in one suchness. It is an opportunity to discover anew, clarify and actualize our ultimate concern. Please be sensitive to the fact that you and your Dharma friends are making an effort toward being upright and awake.

Sesshin starts now. ( No time drum, no bonsho.)

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