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About White Heron Sangha


White Heron Sangha is a peer-led Buddhist community. The Sangha welcomes practice from all traditions of Buddhism.

Located in San Luis Obispo county, White Heron Sangha serves the California Central Coast and beyond. The Sangha hosts programs, meditation and practice groups, dharma study and retreats. Some events are held both on Zoom and in-person at the Sangha's meditation center in Avila Beach and some are held in-person only. Buddhist teachers from diverse traditions visit from outside the community and community members also offer their own perspectives.

The Sangha is entirely volunteer led and supported. To find ways you can participate in the community, click here.
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Mission and Values 

Mission:

Our mission is to provide a Buddhist community where all individuals can be empowered to awaken to their true nature, to develop wisdom and compassion based on the spiritual teachings of the dharma, and to support each other on the path of liberation. White Heron Sangha embraces the diversity of all people and Buddhist traditions and supports engagement of our practice through compassionate response to humanitarian needs, social justice issues and environmental stewardship activities within the wider community.

Values:

White Heron Sangha is a peer-led, Buddhist community on the California Central Coast offering a regular meeting place for meditation, instruction, study, and other Buddhist-related practices. The Sangha welcomes practice from all lineages of Buddhism.

As a community of practitioners, White Heron Sangha encourages the understanding of and respect for the basic goodness inherent in all individuals, groups and cultures. The Sangha is dedicated to fostering a welcoming and open-hearted refuge for all beings to explore the life transforming practice of meditation and the teachings of the Buddha and to embrace the precious life that we all share.

We acknowledge and honor the countless ancestors who have walked this spiritual path before us. Through our collective practice, we strive to embody the wisdom teachings of the Buddha, emphasizing the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion. Our members are encouraged to integrate these teachings into their daily lives, promoting greater mindfulness, empathy, and interconnectedness with all beings.

What is a Sangha?

Traditionally the Pali or Sanskrit word sangha refers to a group of nun or monks who have formally renounced worldly possessions and relationships and adhere to the many monastic rules.  However, for many western sanghas, including White Heron Sangha, the word refers to the community of practitioners who support one another in their aspiration to relieve suffering.

No particular set of beliefs or practices are required by members of the community. Nonetheless the people of the Sangha help one another to behave in ways that refrain from doing harm, that increase the capacity for awareness and that uncover the true nature of things.

According to the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, "The sangha is a place to practice for the transformation and the healing of self and society." He goes on to say, "this can only be done as a community—not as an individual, but as a sangha." (What is Sangha? Lion's Roar, July 7, 2017)


Information for Newcomers

Please check the event listing for in-person and Zoom options.

Everyone is welcome at White Heron Sangha. Please read the Inclusion and Equity section below.

Sunday programs, sitting meditation groups and some classes include a sitting meditation practice. Instructions are sometimes given by those leading the event and while it is not required, Meditation instruction is available to those not familiar with the practice. 

Chairs and meditation cushions (zafus and zabutons) are available at the Center or you may bring your own. Many people like to remove their shoes on entering the meditation area, however this is not mandatory. A shelf for shoes is located near the entrance.

The Center is a short distance from the parking lot and is ADA accessible. No dogs are allowed in the building except for trained service dogs in ADA-specified service.

In-person meetings are held in a fragrance-free environment. Your cooperation is appreciated.

For information see Ways To Be Involved.

Inclusion and Equity

White Heron Sangha respectfully acknowledges the Northern Chumash people who have stewarded the land for thousands of years and who continue to live in the San Luis Obispo county area.

As a community, we aspire to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere for all people. All social identities including all races, classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, spiritual traditions, abilities, cultures and ethnicities are welcome.

In an effort to foster an understanding of how racism operates in interpersonal and systemic ways, the WHS community offers the Being Mindful of Race course along with group practice in Sustaining Being Mindful Of Race.

To find effective ways to reduce barriers to inclusion it is important to better understand the barriers that currently exist. Input from the community on how barriers may be experienced and how to foster inclusivity, with an emphasis on feedback and experience from people who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and/or who are differently abled, is encouraged. Please click here to provide feedback.

How White Heron Sangha Operates

White Heron Sangha is incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) religious organization in a manner that places all financial and governance decisions with its Board of Directors.

The Board is comprised of a maximum of 15 Directors whose terms are for three years, generally beginning in January. One third of the Board terms expire each year, and there is no limit to the number of terms a member can serve, assuming they are re-elected to another term. Vacancies occur when Board members decide to go off the Board, usually at the end of their terms. Vacancies are filled as new people are considered, nominated and elected by the currently serving Board.

Officers (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer) are nominated from among serving Board members and elected by those members. Each officer is elected for a one-year term and must be re-nominated/re-elected each year (January) to continue serving.

The Board of Directors meets on the third Sunday of each calendar quarter: January, April, July and October. In addition to these quarterly meetings, the President may call special or emergency meetings. Minutes are kept for all Board meetings. Sangha decisions are made collectively through discussion and group consensus as much as possible.

The Finance Committee, is comprised of both Board and non-Board members. This committee meets annually or more often, as necessary, to review and recommend any changes in how the finances of White Heron Sangha are being managed. All recommendations of the Finance Committee are presented to and considered for implementation by the full Board.

Day-to-day operational issues are generally handled by the Executive Committee, which is comprised of the President, the just-past-President (for continuity), Vice President, Retreat Committee Chair, Education and Practice Committee Chair, and the Volunteer Coordinator. The Executive Committee has responsibility for such things as handling the Meditation Center scheduling conflicts/decisions, arranging for facility maintenance, figuring out how to best provide for safety during COVID, overseeing the hybrid-meeting offering, brainstorming having enough volunteers for a specific event, etc. The Executive Committee meets once a quarter or more often, as needed, and provides a report on their activities at each Board meeting. Any issues or questions concerning the daily operation of the Sangha will first be fielded by the Executive Committee before being passed to the full Board of Directors.

White Heron Sangha has no employees or paid staff; the Sangha relies on volunteers to manage all program functions and maintain the facility. Income is in the form of donations from the community and retreat fees. The largest expenditures are rent and utilities, transportation and lodging for visiting teachers for retreats and special events, website maintenance fees, and administration costs for bookkeeping and credit card merchant processing fees.

The Treasurer monitors the entries into the accounting system, provides quarterly reports to the Board, and files the mandatory year-end financial reports to the IRS and State of California. Annually, another member of the Board of Directors reviews the financial records and insures compliance with the financial control policies of the organization. If anyone wishes to view the financial details of White Heron Sangha, please contact the Treasurer.

Committee chairs welcome your questions and comments and may be reached through the link below.
>> Click to view and contact the Board of Directors and Committee Members
     (members, log in first to view all of the committees)

Ethics and Reconciliation Council

Buddhist ethics provides a foundation for the practice and community life of White Heron Sangha. As a lay community, we are guided by the five training precepts of avoiding killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication. An important part of ethics is a commitment to finding wise ways to work with conflict.

Conflicts will inevitably arise within the White Heron Sangha community. The health of our community is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict as much as by our willingness to find effective, responsible, and compassionate means of resolving interpersonal tensions. The intention to attend to and learn from conflict is a clear application of Buddhist practice into our daily lives; without this intention, practice can too easily be a comfort rather than a deep transformative vehicle for our lives.

Buddhist conflict resolution is not based on good or bad, blame or guilt, winning or losing, offenders or victims. Rather it is based on fully addressing the suffering of all concerned. Hurt, fear, and anger are taken seriously through forums in which everyone may speak honestly, safely, and completely about their own direct experiences and feelings. In looking for resolution, Buddhist practice values dialogue over silence, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, confession over accusation, and atonement over punishment. Because the process of reaching such resolution can be difficult, the White Hereon Sangha’s Ethics and Reconciliation Council (EAR Council) offers support.

The EAR Council is a group of White Heron Sangha practitioners, widely respected for their integrity, who are available to any community member who wants help in dealing with conflicts and grievances within the White Heron Sangha community. The members of the Council are appointed by the White Heron Sangha Board.

The primary role of the EAR Council is to provide initial confidential consultation to anyone with ethical concerns and help the parties involved move towards resolution.
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Code of Ethics
Code of Ethics

We recognize that the foundation of spiritual life rests upon our mindful and caring relationship to the life around us. In keeping with this understanding and for the long-term benefit of our Sangha and the community at large, all those who play a role in leading Sangha sponsored activities, hold official Sangha positions, or act on behalf of the Sangha should strive to embody these precepts.


1) We undertake the precept of refraining from killing.


We acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life, and strive wherever possible to avoid taking life or harming other beings.


2) We undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.


We will not take that which does not belong to us and will respect the property of others. We will strive to use the earth’s resources in a respectful and ecological way, and to refrain from heedless and wasteful consumption.


3) We undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.


We will strive to avoid any form of sexual behavior that causes harm to ourselves or others, and will refrain from all forms of sexual exploitation.


4) We undertake the precept of refraining from false speech.


We will endeavor to speak what is true and useful and refrain from harmful gossip. We will hold in confidence what is explicitly told to us in confidence. We will attempt to cultivate clear communication and the quality of loving-kindness and honesty as the basis of our speech.


5) We undertake the precept of refraining from the use of intoxicants in a way that may cause harm to ourselves or others.


* This wording was modified from those found at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Center. We are grateful to them.




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Complaints Procedure
Complaints Procedure

Email or call any of the council members to discuss an appropriate process for dealing with your concern.



If you are not comfortable meeting on your own, you can bring another person along with you, maybe someone who understands the issue, someone you trust, who may have a similar concern, or is a neutral party.


Contact information:

  • Jerry Breakstone: (314) 398-0453, jerrybreakstone@gmail.com
  • Michael Moran: (805) 550-9683, mjmoran@charter.net
  • Rosemary Donnell: (805) 772-4580, rtdonnell@sbcglobal.net
  • Steele Bennett: (805) 235-6023, steelebennett@me.com




History

The history of White Heron Sangha is a story of friendship, community, and appreciation of the dharma. Since White Heron Sangha is an all-volunteer organization, what follows fails to mention literally hundreds of Sangha attendees who, over decades, have helped to make the Sangha what it is today. Thus, a deep bow of gratitude and heart-felt apologies go to all who contributed time, effort and financial support but are not specifically named.

Early Days

In the spring of 1991, Audrey Furey, who now lives in Boulder, CO, and Rosemary Donnell each attended a different retreat with the Vietnamese Zen master, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings frequently emphasized the value of having a Sangha to help support a Buddhist practice and encouraged people to start one if there wasn’t a Sangha available nearby.

That fall Audrey and Rosemary met through a mutual acquaintance, Joan Carter, and the three of them decided to get together to meditate on a trial basis. On a Sunday evening in mid-October 1991, they had their first meeting in the beautiful, dedicated shrine room in Audrey’s condo on Oceanaire Blvd in San Luis Obispo. It was an auspicious beginning. With its idyllic location, beautiful hardwood floor, and tasteful, open decor, it generated an immediate feeling of serenity, conducive to meditating. In those early days, the meetings did not occur on a regular schedule, but they always occurred on a Sunday evening.
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More
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A short time later, James Coleman (a Sociology professor at Cal Poly, and Rosemary had been his student) joined the group. Within a few months they were joined by Barbara Mori, Berda Armentrout, Bob Blackstone and Bob McQuade (all now deceased), and a few others. The meetings continued to meet at Audrey’s condo until January 3, 1993. By then the meetings consisted of a ½ hour meditation in the formal shrine room followed by a dharma talk on cassette tape.


December 6, 1992, was a milestone night. The attendees decided to begin meeting regularly each month on the 1st and 3rd Sunday evenings and they came up with a name for their meditation group. James pointed out that the name should be something thematic to our specific area, like, “What about those white birds we see beside the road?” And although technically these birds are called great egrets in this country, “White Heron Sangha” sounded better and the sangha had a name. Several years later, Jim Donnell created the Asian-inspired White Heron Sangha logo.


The Sangha grows


For two months, with donations from the 12-15 attendees, White Heron Sangha rented space two Sunday evenings per month at The Healing Arts Center on Santa Barbara Street (the building is no longer there). When the group was forced to move, Bobbe Scott (died 2018), who had recently joined the group, suggested they meet rent-free at her office in downtown San Luis Obispo. This allowed the Sangha to start meeting every Sunday in the large carpeted hallway outside her office. To avoid sitting directly under a huge glass skylight in the unreinforced masonry building, the group started sitting in a circle or oval. This circle became a tradition they continued to practice in multiple other locations.


Periodically anyone who attended the Sangha meeting was invited to a planning session at Rosemary’s house, gathered around a large living room table. In March 1994, with about 20-25 people now attending every Sunday, the decision was made to establish a bank account and Rochelle Becker volunteered to be the first treasurer.


At another of these meetings, Bob Banner volunteered to do a newsletter for the Sangha. The first edition was published in August 1995. Members of the growing Sangha wanted to stay in touch with each other, so Bob also published the first Sangha directory, with about 60 entries. 


Barbara Scott decided to move her counseling practice to her home, so the Sangha was on the move again. They temporarily met in Bob McQuade’s office and then the Sangha found a home at The Yoga Centre on Monterey Street, where they stayed for 4½ years. A generous, anonymous donor paid the rent for the entire first year.




Barbara (Bobbe) Scott


Incorporation


Primarily because it was becoming difficult to rent a meeting place without being a nonprofit, Carole Maurer, Treasurer since 1998, with help from James Coleman and Barbara Mori, undertook the task of preparing the paperwork required to become a California nonprofit religious corporation and applying for the IRS 501(c)(3) charity designation. White Heron Sangha officially received its IRS nonprofit charity status as of September 1, 2000, which allowed all donations to be tax-deductible and the Sangha to rent facilities at the nonprofit rate.


White Heron Sangha has been very fortunate to have such dedicated people to lead the organization. Rosemary Donnell was the first president of White Heron Sangha, with the initial Board of Directors consisting of 7 active members. The Board and has since grown to 15 members who have been meeting quarterly since 2000 to discuss the operations of the Sangha and provide financial direction and oversight. In 2007 Michael Moran took over as President and held that position for 8 years. Carole Maurer relinquished the Treasurer position in 2015 to become President of the Sangha for the next 5 years. Sharon Rippner took over the position in 2020.


Other meeting places


In order to have a handicapped accessible place, in 2000, Sunday meetings moved to the Community Room of the Laguna Lake Mobile Home Park, where a Sangha member Leona Fairchild lived and was able to reserve the room weekly. 

After just over a year at the mobile home park, its new owners refused to allow standing reservations and the Sangha was forced to move on short notice. The kind people at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship came to our rescue. They allowed the Sangha to meet for a month at their space on Foothill Blvd. 


The Sangha had four more moves between February 2001 and March 2007, ending with the sublet of Unity Church at Southwood and Johnson. The Sangha stayed with Unity Church through their move to Orcutt Rd in 2014. As the Sangha membership grew and more programs besides Sunday evening meetings were added, the space at Unity Church became too small. It was time to consider taking the leap from subletting a meeting place to renting our own space. See the Sangha meeting place history.


In April 2017, White Heron Sangha became the primary leaseholder on a property in Avila Village, moving into our own White Heron Sangha Meditation Center at the end of May.


Meditation Retreats and Practice


Gratitude for the teachings of the Buddha and the wish to share the dharma with others in San Luis Obispo County was always uppermost in the minds of the founders of White Heron Sangha. Since the Sangha was non-lineage, it was important to bring teachers from different traditions to the area whenever possible for retreats and Sunday evening dharma talks. In addition, Sangha members occasionally led Days of Mindfulness in various rented facilities, where participants could meditate together in silence and share songs and readings.


The first non-residential weekend retreat was held at the Morro Bay Community Center in June 1995 with visiting teacher, James Baraz from Spirit Rock. Fewer than five months later, November 1995, the Sangha held its first, and only, residential retreat at El Chorro Environmental Education Center, across Highway 1 from Cuesta College. The teachers for this retreat were Thich Nhat Hanh’s senior students, Therese Fitzgerald and Arnie Kottler.


In the early days, the Sangha sponsored 2-3 weekend non-residential retreats each year and that number grew to 4-5 weekend 2-day retreats a year. Most of these retreats were held at the Morro Bay Vet’s Hall. Teacher Jason Siff of the Skillful Meditation Project conducted several small weekend retreats, usually in the home of one of the attendees. Some of the teachers who led retreats over the years are pictured on the retreat webpage.


Website, Newsletters, Directory



In the beginning, the White Heron Sangha Newsletter was published each quarter and mailed to all persons on the newsletter mailing list (about 200 in the year 2000) and available as a PDF on the WHS website, which was hosted in the beginning by Janelle Younger. In October 1998, John Dilworth took over all the duties of the website, newsletters and directory. He facilitated the migration of the website to the Wild Apricot membership software and aided the group in the change from a printed newsletter to an entirely online, quarterly newsletter and a website-only member directory. The number of persons interested in the programs and activities of White Heron Sangha, called members, has nearly doubled since 2000. Recently, a newly formed IT committee has converted the White Heron Sangha website platform to the more modern, user-friendly ClubExpress membership system.






Satellite sanghas



Affiliated meditation groups meet both in North and South San Luis Obispo county. Click the links below for more information.

North County Sangha

South County Sangha

We are a part of the larger, worldwide Buddhist community and participate in an ongoing dialogue with Buddhist tradition and are committed to developing an understanding of the vast wisdom it contains. We maintain a list of links to Buddhist and mindfulness mediation centers both nearby and across the continent.


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South County Sangha Information
South County Sangha Information

South County Meditation Group

The South County Meditation Group meets in Oceano on Sunday mornings from 9:00am  ‑  10:15am for meditation and study in the Gudrun Hus Studio at Tierra Nueva Cohousing, adjacent to the town of Halcyon (see Maps) (see Brochure) (see YouTube Channel).

The weekly WHSSCMG schedule is suspended due to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

 

SLO County (Region 1, Southern CA) is currently in the Substantial / RedTier 2.

 

Up-to-the-minute SLO County COVID‑19 information is available here.


(updated 04/06/2021)


Mental health professionals advise to be aware of the distinction between social distancing and physical distancing, and recommend reaching out online to reduce the effects of loneliness, anxiety, boredom and depression while sheltering at home. Here are some online resources in California, listed in alphabetical order:

Insight Meditation South Bay | Online Courses
https://www.imsb.org/programs/online-courses

InsightLA | Online
https://insightla.org/location/online

North County White Heron Buddhist Sangha | Virtual Community
https://sites.google.com/site/ncwhbs/ncwhs-virtual-community

San Francisco Zen Center | Online Programs
https://www.sfzc.org/online-programs

San Luis Obispo Zen Circle | Online Programs
https://sites.google.com/site/slozazengroup/calendar

Shambhala Los Angeles | Sunday Morning Public Sitting - Online Meetings
https://la.shambhala.org/program-details/?id=444855

Spirit Rock | Online Classes
https://www.spiritrock.org/online-classes

Additional USA online resources:

American Psychiatric Association | Coronavirus Resources
https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/covid-19-coronavirus

American Psychological Association | Telepsychology
https://www.apa.org/members/your-growth/practice-management/telepsychology

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies | Online Programs
https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/online-programs

The Chopra Center | Guided Meditations Online
https://chopra.com/articles/guided-meditations

DharmaSun | Online Tibetan Buddhist Teachings
https://dharmasun.org

glo | Meditation Online
https://www.glo.com/meditation-online

Harvard Online Learning | Buddhism Through Its Scriptures
https://online-learning.harvard.edu/course/buddhism-through-its-scriptures

Ligmincha Learning | Online Tibetan meditation instruction
https://ligminchalearning.com

Sahaja Yoga | Online Meditation
https://www.onlinemeditation.org

Self-Realization Fellowship | Online Meditation Center
https://srfonlinemeditation.org

Sounds True | Online Courses
https://www.soundstrue.com/store/online-courses.html

Tara Brach | Guided Meditations Online
https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations

Tricycle | Online Classes
https://learn.tricycle.org/catalog

YouTube | Online Meditation Channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN802J3Fgjs8gZxwzmGrzqQ

Additional International online resources:

Findhorn Foundation, Scotland | Online Programmes
https://www.findhorn.org/online-learning

(checked 11/04/2020)

Our meditation practice is informed by the wisdom tradition of Buddhism. All levels of meditation experience are welcome, and it is not necessary to be an active participant[1] of White Heron Sangha to attend. If someone is new to meditation, and new to the group, the facilitator, or one of our group members, may guide the meditation for the first 10 minutes or so.

We are a peer-led group, in the tradition of kalyanamittata ("admirable friendship", or "spiritual friends").

The usual meeting format is: start with reading the Beginning Practice, meditate for 30 minutes, read the Ending Practice, then announcements and discussion. On the first and third Sundays of each month, we extend the meditation period to 45 minutes.

When there is a White Heron Sangha weekend retreat, Gudrun Hus Studio will be available for meditating, but there will not be a Program.

Books that we have read include:

The book that we are currently reading is:

Date Opener Facilitator
Program



First sitting after the Shelter at Home order



Food for the Heart| Chapter 26 - THE MIDDLE WAY WITHIN



Extended Meditation(45 minutes)
Food for the Heart| Chapter27 - THE PEACE BEYOND



Food for the Heart| Chapter28 - CONVENTION AND LIBERATION



Extended Meditation(45 minutes)
How is your practice going?



Food for the Heart| Chapter29 - NO ABIDING



Extended Meditation(45 minutes)
Food for the Heart| Chapter30 - RIGHT VIEW - THE PLACE OF COOLNESS



Gudrun Hus Clipboard Sheet


The Book Queue  In anticipation of the end of Food for the Heart, this is the list of books that have been submitted for consideration to read next. WHSSCMG participants are invited to forward their suggestions (updated 7/25/2020)

The Google Group White Heron Sangha - South County Meditation Group [whsscmg] is at http://goo.gl/zxJXUD


[1]Clarification on WHS use of the term, "membership" -- This WHS website is powered by Wild Apricot membership management software; however, WHS itself is not membership-based organization, and WHS is not Buddhist churchWhite Heron Sangha is a California nonprofit religious corporation, without members (Bylaws, Item 7). Where the words "members" and "membership" appear on other pages of this WHS website, WHS intends for these terms to be interpreted as "active participants".

For further information on the South County Meditation Group, feel free to contact any of these WHSSCMG participants: Lois Richerson <thelois@gmail.com>, Kathy Headtke <kheadtke@sbcglobal.net>, Harry Hōetsu Heck <hoetsu@icloud.com>