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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 09 58 transform their lives, to sustain their health and well-being, and connect to community. So we want to foster smaller groups, whether they revolve around a location, a shared interest, or a topic. Once people begin to deepen in sangha, what started out as an exploration transforms their life, and their practice can go on forever. The deepening has no end. evan Kavanagh: We have a similar philosophy of offering both the broad and the deep. What we’re focusing on a lot now is connectedness. We’ve been talking a lot about how to make our practices relational in ways that they haven’t been before. We’ve had to change the nature of our building plans to accom- modate the possibility of doing smaller groups, because we’ve been lacking the infrastructure for building community and connectedness. We have a great deal of work to do to redefine ourselves as a temple or a congregation, in addition to being the retreat center we’ve been so successfully for so long. BOB agOglia: My response may be completely the opposite of what everybody else has said. When we did our visioning process we deepened our commitment to doing what we do best, which is offering meditation retreats rooted in the Theravada Buddhist teachings of ethics, con- centration, and wisdom. That’s what we have to offer to the world. While various forms like yoga and movement have been brought into our retreats as a complement to practice, we are deciding to stick to our knitting. We are reaching out to people from many different walks of life or different identities, but what we’re going to offer them is Theravada meditation retreats. evan Kavanagh: Spirit Rock is also focusing more on our Theravada roots in our retreat center programs and, over all, we are offering less programming from other traditions. The demand for our teachings is growing faster than we can keep up with, so we’re committed to offering what we know best, because we know it makes a difference in people’s lives. Buddhadharma: The practice center as we know it is a new model in Buddhism. How do you think it will evolve to meet changing circumstances? SuSan O’COnnell: When Zen Center started there weren’t many Buddhists around, so we ended up developing a kind of Amer- ican entrepreneurial spirit. We started a lot of businesses and didn’t put much emphasis on relying on donations. The pool of people who understood what we were trying to do wasn’t There are a lot of people who want to explore this practice of Zen, and we want to provide them with an easy way in. Often for us it’s through food, given the reputation of the Tassajara Cookbook and Greens Restaurant. So we have bak- ing classes and other food-related training. We have an out- reach department that incubates innovative programs, because people really expect that we compassionate Buddhists are going to do something other than sit. The returning veterans program has already held some retreats at Green Gulch. We have a program for feeding the homeless and are developing a roof garden in the Tenderloin district, an underprivileged area of San Francisco’s inner city. We have a very popular medita- tion and recovery program. If we hear a cry for help, we try to find a way to offer the medicine that we have available. These applied dharma programs represent an exploration phase for people. Then there’s the deepening phase. Once people come in one of those doors, there are longer programs where they can make deeper commitments. We think people want that deepening, because they tell us that they want to The notion of coming to a retreat center to refresh one’s connection to practice is not going to diminish in importance, despite people’s lack of time and money. Offering that reconnection will always be at the heart of what we do. —Jon Barbieri (Above) Outside the meditation hall at the IMS Retreat Center. (topleft)marchamel;(centerpage)elizabethvigeon(top)jenniferyee;(bottom)jodeneeikenberry