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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 23 Stress Reduction (MBSR) and similar programs. Meditation is no longer looked upon as a fringe or foreign practice; in fact, in many wellness pro- grams it’s viewed as the psychological comple- ment to hatha yoga. Students of these programs are seeking ways to continue their practice, and a great many of them have families. As these families seek out local support, dharma centers find they have a pressing need to develop family- friendly programming, and in areas of the coun- try in which no local center is nearby, plucky parents are starting their own. Yet, taken as a whole, Western Buddhist dharma groups and centers are not prepared to handle this potential influx. Many have begun thinking about forming family programs but are uncertain where to begin. Others have started programs, but these may wax and wane depend- ing on the time and energy of the volunteer par- ent who typically heads it. Moreover, we Western Buddhists are simply so new to family program- ming that we have yet to create enduring educa- tional structures and curricula. To figure out what a robust and sustainable program for families would look like, we need to turn the tables. Rather than appending a fam- ily program to a preexisting dharma group, we could ask, what would a community that serves only families look like? For the past three years, I have been experimenting with developing a family-centered Buddhist community in Dur- ham, North Carolina. Through trial and error, an organizational framework has emerged that can help both inform the establishment of other family-centered Buddhist communities and pro- vide ideas for existing dharma centers consider- ing family programs of their own. The Buddhist Families of Durham (BFD) con- sists of 21 families composed of 22 women, 18 men, and 37 children, with 77 members total. Notably, in 95 percent of the families with two parents, both attend regularly. The BFD rents space from a local Jewish center, and a Mus- lim center just up the street provides additional classroom space when needed. Meetings take place Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to noon, the one time during the week when families have Ed Gensho Welsh, a longtime member of the Zen Community of Oregon, posted the fol- lowing on BuddhistGeeks.com: In the USA, many couples start attend- ing church after having a baby. And most churches have the resources to support them. In American Buddhism, the pattern appears to be the opposite: have a baby and disappear. But then, do most sanghas offer the support that churches do? The answer to Ed’s question is no—most Bud- dhist communities whose membership consists primarily of American Buddhist converts have not created ongoing ways for the whole family to participate. However, those of us teaching in the Bud- dhist world have noticed a marked increase in the number of parents searching for a community to support both their personal practice and their children’s spiritual development. One reason for this uptick is that thousands of individuals have learned to meditate through Mindfulness-Based A FAMILY AFFAIR Sumi Loundon Kim presents a new model for family-centered dharma communities. LET’S TALK REV. SUMI LOUNDON KIM is minister to the Buddhist Families of Durham, North Carolina, and Buddhist chaplain at Duke University. She is currently working on a new book that presents a dharma curriculum for use in family programs and at home. SUNSHINESCOVILLEKIMWINTON Parents meditate while their children participate in Sati School during a weekly gathering of the Buddhist Families of Durham