White Heron Sangha

From the President

 by Carole Maurer

WHS President

Practice on the Sea

My husband, John Dilworth, and I just returned from sailing down the coast from the Bay Area to Morro Bay in our 35 ft. sailboat, Sukha. The experience was not always a pleasant one for me – lots of wind, confused seas, cool temperatures, and uncomfortable motion. At first, I just  kept telling myself, “I don’t like this very much.” But, fortunately, my years of meditation and mindfulness training won over and I took advantage of the fact that this trip was affording me plenty of opportunity for practice. Being aware of the varying winds, seas, temperature, and movement of my body allowed me to really experience and understand the power of mindfulness meditation.  

I found that focusing on the second foundation of mindfulness, vedana in Pali, was most useful for me in this situation. Using the senses and a body scan, I was able to  examine the impulse or feeling tone of each moment as pleasurable, unpleasurable, or neutral. Amazingly, I found that not every moment was unpleasurable – I began to see the glistening of light on the waves, the sound of the water rushing by, the feel of the wind on my skin, the calming of the breath as I relaxed a bit more with the motion. Staying present with the feeling tone of the moment rather than allowing the mind chatter to take hold kept me from complaining and making myself (and John) miserable.  

Importance of Sangha

During this time on the boat, I realized how fortunate I am to be a part of White Heron Sangha, where I have participated in the many opportunities to practice and learn about Buddhism that our sangha has offered throughout the past 20 years. I’ve attended nearly all the weekend retreats our sangha has sponsored and learned so much that I have taken into my daily life, including the lessons I put to use during the past 10 days.

I’m so thankful that White Heron Sangha really is a community of friends practicing the dharma together.  Zen teacher Norman Fischer reminds us that, although meditation itself is a solitary practice, Buddhism is not a solitary path. There is beauty and benefit in spiritual friendship. Once, the Buddha’s disciple Ananda asked him about friendship. Ananda knew that having good and encouraging friends was very important for the path. He even wondered whether having good friends is half the path.

“No, Ananda,” the Buddha told him, “having good friends isn’t half of the Holy Life. Having good friends is the whole of the Holy Life.” Upaddha Sutta, SN 45.2

And Thich Nhat Hahn tells us that practicing the dharma is easier with a sangha. The sangha supports and nourishes us and, in return, we have the duty to participate in the sangha and support its ongoing offerings. Together we help create the energy of the sangha. When we sit together, we nourish and feed our sangha, and then we benefit from it.

White Heron Sangha provides a setting where we’re held compassionately and without any expectations or demands on us; a place where we can open ourselves to others, support others, and be supported by others. So, I encourage all of you to take advantage of all our meditation sittings and programs, classes, mindful movement periods, retreats, and small groups, and to volunteer in the running of the sangha in any way possible, for your own benefit and the benefit of all of us.

Board of Directors Actions - What’s New

This is a busy time for our Sangha -- we're growing rapidly and are constantly making changes to take advantage of new needs and opportunities. Here are some of the things we've been working on:

    • Something that has been on the minds of several WHS board members for a while is the formation of a compassion committee made up of volunteers who provide help to White Heron Sangha participants in their times of need. Our karuna (Pali for compassion) team is now forming, and Sharon Rippner has written an article for this newsletter Karuna Team that explains how it will work. Another way to open our hearts for both giving and receiving graciously.
    • Kathy Headtke is forming a new LGBTIQ+ affinity sitting group that will meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday evenings from 7:30-8:30 PM, beginning in July. You can read more about this in her article LGBTIQ+ Affinity Group.
    • Another new sitting group called Conscious Parenting, proposed by Laura & Bob Liss, will be forming in the near future. It will most likely begin with a 2 to 3-hour workshop run by Laura and Bob in cooperation with the Sangha’s Education & Practice Committee. The time and starting date for these have not yet been determined. 
    • The Board has approved the concept of creating a Sangha Leadership Program in order to develop future Sangha leaders from within the current participants. Details about this new program will be coming in the near future.
    • In order to support White Heron Sangha participants who are sensitive to certain odors or chemicals, we’re now asking that all participants in Sangha activities refrain from applying colognes, hairsprays or strongly scented deodorants before coming to the meditation center. In addition, we will avoid air fresheners and scented or allergenic flowers in our facility. The use of such products may trigger allergic reactions and create health problems. Symptoms of fragrance sensitivity can include headaches, nausea, and a skin allergy like contact dermatitis. Watery, itching, burning, and red eyes, sneezing, runny nose, congestion and asthma symptoms are also common. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

White Heron Sangha is a nonprofit non-membership corporation and, as such, does not have official members. Anyone can attend and participate in our programs and activities and there are no dues. There has been some confusion about this term “member” because we call people “members” who have signed up for our official emails and who can appear in the online directory, and the term “membership” appears as a link on the top of our webpages. Please see the article in this newsletter About WHS "Membership" that, hopefully, will explain what we mean by “member” and why it is a good thing to sign up for this designation.

In Closing

Come join us for a Sangha picnic again this year, tentatively set for Sunday September 29. Look for more information about this fun event soon.

And don't forget our next two-day non-residential meditation retreat at our center with Wes Nisker, Buddhist meditation teacher, author, and performer, on August 10-11. More about the Wes Nisker retreat.

Being in White Heron Sangha and practicing meditation and mindfulness together in all our activities allows us to find ways to live in harmony with one another, even with those who might be difficult. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, if we can’t succeed in the sangha, how can we succeed outside of it?

So let’s meditate together and really sense the support of the others who gather with us here at White Heron Sangha.

I wish you all a safe, peaceful, and enjoyable summer.

With metta

We reverence the Sangha, and aspire to follow it: the fellowship of those who tread the way. As, one by one, we make our own commitment, an ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows.

- From the White heron Sangha Refuge Ceremony

Next article - Summer 2019

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