MPC President’s Annual Report for 2022

HEART OF THE VALLEY MINDFULNESS PRACTICE CENTER, PRESIDENT’S REPORT, 2022 Excerpt from Thay’s book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet “Communities of Resistance A New Way of Being Together “ “You have your bodhicitta: the mind of love, the will to transform, the desire to serve. You have woken up and you realize you want to live differently. Bodhicitta is like rocket fuel: it’s so powerful it could send a rocket to the moon. But, in order to help the energy of bodhicitta be strong and sustainable, we all need a sangha, a place of refuge. We need a community to support us in our practice. … As soon as we wake up and we give rise to the aspiration to live differently, our healing and transformation begins right away, but, if we want to continue to heal, we need an environment that is conducive to healing. … As soon as we have found our path and a community, we have peace already. Simply to be on the path, we can have peace, and steadily that peace will develop and grow. … Entrusting ourselves to our community, allowing our friends to carry us, we feel at peace. The main task of a community of mindful living is not to organize events—whether they are events for mindfulness practice, or social justice, or engaged action. The main purpose of a sangha is to cultivate …[siblinghood], and harmony. And, with a sangha like that to take refuge in, everything is possible. We are nourished and we don’t lose our hope. That is why mindful communication, deep listening, and loving speech are so important: we need to find ways to keep communication open, share views, and come easily to collective insight and consensus. That is real sangha-building, and it takes time and energy. We need a lot of patience. We need time to sit together, eat together, talk together, and work together, and to cultivate a collective energy of mindfulness, peace, happiness, and compassion.” The year 2022 was momentous, indeed. On January 22, our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed. People all over the world watched the days-long funeral rites carried out by the monastics of Thay’s root temple in Hue, Vietnam. Individually and collectively, we, too, watched, and both mourned Thay’s passing and celebrated his life and teachings. Our entire sangha, both sits, have been reading Thay’s book The Art of Living, taken from the last 21 Day Retreat that our beloved teacher offered, in 2014, the summer before his stroke. The retreat was entitled, “What Happens When We Die, What Happens When We Are Alive.” It was fortuitous that we chose this book. From many readings, we know that Thay lives on in each of us: we experience his presence in our sangha meetings, and his teachings illuminate our gatherings. We know that we are continuations of Thay, our ancestors and truly, of each other. Our sangha is fortunate to offer two sittings a week, Tuesday mornings, now in person, and Wednesday evenings, on zoom. We maintained the zoom sangha so that those who live beyond the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire could continue “to help the energy of bodhicitta be strong and sustainable” within our community. The sangha sustains us and we sustain the sangha. Both groups are thriving, and cultivating sibling hood and harmony. We began the year meeting entirely on zoom, always watching the covid numbers in our region for a time in which we all felt comfortable meeting in person. We changed from all zoom to in-person Tuesday mornings mid June, and have remained in person, on Tuesday mornings, ever since. To assist folks in our community who are experiencing difficult times, the Board decided to create a special Sangha Discretionary Fund, separate from our current accounts. The Fund is made up of contributions specifically for the purpose of helping those in need. A “no questions asked” system was established. Our community also has funds to help with the purchase of our current study book and with attendance at retreats or courses, both in person and on line. In April, several sangha members attended the Order of Interbeing retreat, at Blue Cliff Monastery. This retreat is held annually, and this was the first well-attended one since 2019. Happily, a past and sometime attendee at our sangha, Ginger Wallis, as well as friends from other sanghas, ordained into the Order. That is a cause for great celebration! Our Sangha also experienced great sadnesses this year. Notably, Bineke and Bram’s granddaughter Mieke Oort lost her life. The sangha donated a tree at Blue Cliff Monastery in her memory. Sangha members hope to visit the Monastery for a memorial service, during 2023. Many also donated toward a tree or two to be planted at Blue Cliff in the name of our sangha. The trees are largely planted next to the Buddha Grove, just outside of the meditation hall. The sangha continued the wonderful Second Body Practice, throughout the year, with both the Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening members participating. From June through early October, guest facilitators lead the Wednesday evening sessions, once a month. The “guests” included members of our own sangha – Wayne and Ginger – as well as other friends of our community, including Coni Richards from Putney, Theodate Lawlor from Maine, and Fern Dorrestyn and Michael Ciborski from MorningSun Community. The timing for Fern and Michael’s leading the Wednesday session was fortuitous: practitioners unfamiliar with them had a wonderful introduction to their teachings. In November, Fern and Michael offered an introductory course on the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Wednesday evening group was happy to offer that evening’s time slot for the course. Many in our Wednesday group attended, with Suzanne Hinman and Kathryn Kennedy “taking” the Trainings in an on-line Transmission Ceremony, and two members, Jeff Nielsen and Christine Wallace, renewing their transmissions. People joined the course from across the US and from outside the country, as well. Jeff also spent time in Vietnam and continues putting his wonderful energy into the Loving Work Foundation. Sangha members came together for several events outside our usual meeting times. In August, Jeff hosted a sangha picnic at his home in Norwich. Many attended, bringing delicious food and a variety of musical instruments. Don Glasgo, with his trombone, lead us in a New Orleans parade with song. The wonderful musicians in our sangha added their own unique gifts and styles to the day, opening our hearts to Mother Earth. In December, two Solstice Ceremonies were held – in person and on line. (Illness prevented us from holding a hybrid gathering.) Both included Tea Ceremonies: meditative tea serving and drinking, and personal offerings from the heart, often musical or poetic. Each ended in a candle lighting ceremony, bringing light into the darkest day of the year. With this report goes deep gratitude to all the practitioners who have joined us in person and/or on line. We have come together at different times and in different configurations, but we are one Sangha, one community, practicing mindfulness, understanding and love. The greater the numbers we are, and the more we practice together, the stronger our mindfulness becomes, and the deeper the energy of love and peace that we can bring to the world. Thanks to everyone for your presence and for your continued support of the Heart of the Valley Mindfulness Practice Center.