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Community Gleanings

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  • 18 Feb 2018 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MONASTICS STRESS BUILDING COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

    AT EARTH HOLDERS RETREAT


    With gratitude to FCM member Carol Green for this sharing


    When we look into our own bodily formation, we see Mother Earth inside us, and so the whole universe is inside us, too. Once we have this insight of interbeing, it is possible to have real communication, real communion, with the Earth. This is the highest possible form of prayer.

    To express our reverence for the Earth is not to deify her or believe she is any more sacred than ourselves. It is to love her, to take care of her and to take refuge in her. When we suffer, the Earth embraces us, accepts us, and restores our energy, making us strong and stable again. The relief that we seek is right under our feet and all around us. Much of our suffering can be healed if we realize this. If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth, we will have enough love, strength, and awakening to look after ourselves and the Earth so that we both can thrive.     – Love Letter to Mother Earth (Thich Naht Hanh)

    A mindful approach in building a strong, loving collective consciousness is the best path to resilience and to effective action in addressing catastrophic climate change, Buddhist monastics at this past fall’s Earth Holders “In the Arms of Mother Earth” retreat in Abiquiu, NM told about 200 participants.



    Ten monks and nuns from several monasteries in the Plum Village tradition on their 2017 Awakening Together Monastic Tour spent four days at the Ghost Ranch Conference Center teaching Thich Naht Hanh’s approach to deepening love of Mother Earth and working together to strengthen collective consciousness of ecological vulnerability. The monastics sang, walked, played and radiated love and understanding as they offered guidance to attendees from across the country, most of whom expressed deep suffering because of concern about climate change and the U.S. political response to its threats.


    Practitioners were urged to first return to basics to deal with their emotional suffering and unconscious ways of living -- to stabilize themselves by returning to fundamental dharma teachings and by practicing mindfulness, then to turn inward and examine their own consumerism -- before trying to reform or challenge others.

    Looking inside leads to wise engagement, reduces the likelihood of becoming overwhelmed and reminds us to re-examine depth of our personal commitment, said Sister The Nghiem (True Vow), abbess of White Crane Hamlet at Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. As we do so, we can then step forward to encounter suffering with awareness, right intention and right action and use suffering as a magnifying glass to see what the suffering holds: Ignorance, craving, hatred and fear. As we see clearly and with equanimity and non-judgmentally, clarity arises as to what has to be done. This leads to openness, no fighting, just understanding.


    She told participants that as we look at ourselves, we realize that we can leave a smaller imprint on the Earth by consuming less, sharing our resources and de-cluttering. This is Grounded Radicalism, she said.


    The Five Mindfulness Trainings are instructive as guides. The “elephant in the room is how we consume.”  There is a need for a radical shift, especially among Americans, she said.  She urged us to question whether we need five TV sets, three cars and an overflowing closet. She said consumer boycotts have targeted some large corporations, showing that reduced demand for certain goods can lead to reduced output by manufacturers. Individual action, which becomes collective action, does count, she said. It is grass roots and has an immediate way of effecting change. 

    What are we consuming and how much? she asked. There is a wisdom in simplifying, de-cluttering and sharing our resources, and we should not be afraid to be radical in this way, she said.

    “Simplify your living,” she said.  “Enough is enough.” If you are too cluttered in material things, your mind is also cluttered, and you are stressed, and you can’t focus on your mind or body.  You can see more clearly what’s important if you de-clutter.  She suggested moderation, but not abstinence.

    Sister Man Ngheim (Sister Brightness), of Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA, stressed that individual mental formations contribute to collective consciousness.  She said if we adopt separateness, right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, in our views, we create war collectively.  When we create dualism, it builds to a collective level.  Teach the dharma through how you live, she urged.  Together we can do a lot.  That’s how all great change happens -- when the individual contributes to the collective.

    Brother Phap Luu (Brother Dharma Stream) of Dharma Cloud Monastery in Plum Village, described how he became so committed to environmentalism that he wrote a proposal to mandate that all practice centers fill out a form each year to evaluate their ecological practices. He nervously presented his plan to Thay and “got the hammer.” Thay asked: “What are you going to do with that? Have you learned to live together?  If not, what is the point?”

    And so, he learned from Thay, a master community builder, an important lesson – that imposing a restriction on a group causes suffering, while leading by example so that others commit of their own free will builds a strong and lasting following and community.

    He asked: In what ways can we honor our deep love and commitment to the planet that gives us life and amazes us and also have peace and harmony in the family? Do you know how to live together in harmony? It is the key to happiness and to our survival. Building a brother/sisterhood in a solid way is very important to take care of our pain, he said.

    He said Thay was in despair about what happened to his village in Vietnam.  As he watched it being destroyed during the Vietnam War, he turned to his monks and said, I have to work with American soldiers.  To do so, he had to manage his emotions. Thay discovered that walking meditation helped him deal with his pain. He walked slowly and mindfully, counting his steps with in and out breaths, and it led to a deep transformation and to his life-long love for Mother Earth.

    We are looking deeply at catastrophic climate change, Brother Stream said.  He invited attendees to look deeply at interbeing and to cultivate compassion for people, plants, animals and minerals.

    He said the mark of true practitioners is to cultivate joy wherever they are.  If you see a piece of trash being thrown on Mother Earth, you can transform the resulting anger into compassion. The act generates anger from seeds in the unconscious, but mindfulness teaches you to pause and transform the anger into compassion and understanding: “Yes, I was unskillful once and threw trash on the road.”  Before you allow it to overwhelm your consciousness, you move it aside while it is still an acorn, before it becomes full-blown anger. Compassion is soft, but strong. It allows you to approach the person who threw the trash and build a relationship with him, opening the door to change.

    Can we have compassion when the Environmental Protection Agency is being dismantled?  Can we look at President Trump through the eyes of practice?  We have to be careful not to fall into despair (and give up), he said.

    He said Trump is a manifestation of the collective consciousness as it stood in 2016, and we don’t yet have enough understanding with our brothers and sisters to have built a stronger collective consciousness (than the one that elected Trump).  We have to go into places where there is poverty, opioid addiction and other problems and help suffering people transform their minds, not seek to transform only their political platforms, he said.  As their minds transform, Americans have the possibility to wake up and see the beauty and healing power of nature, and we can help them do that, he said.

    Brother Phap Ho (Brother Dharma Protector) of Deer Park Monastery, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, urged using time, presence and the support of sangha to create collective consciousness. Our presence is the greatest gift we can give someone, he said.  How do we cultivate the capacity to be there for someone?  Where are we spending our time and energy?  Is it coming from our intention or from our habit energy?  What do we prioritize?

    When we are challenged, isn’t that the time to go to sangha?  We can recharge, put our burdens down.  If you are hesitating, that means you should not think about it.  Just go.

    Are we avoiding what needs to be done?  Are we talking to people?  Why or why not? What is most important?  Do we heal friction?  How do we reach people and heal?  Become calm and see what is really going on, he urged.

    How can we avoid confusion and despair in a world of too much news?  Watching the news brings emotions.  We’re taking it in without giving ourselves enough time to digest it.  Take the news in small bites, then spend the time to go inside yourself before you take in any more, he suggested. Deep looking is an art.  It’s different from figuring something out. Deep looking requires becoming calm, stopping and relaxing body and mind.

    Being born in this time gives us the responsibility to care for more people.  What we have is not mine; it belongs to everyone.  When we look into the idea of Self, we should think, What about other people? Humans have awareness and abstract thinking, plus they can collaborate.  How do we use our ability to collaborate in a responsible, loving way? 

    How can I organize my life and practice so I can grow so I can benefit many others?

    True virtues are understanding and love (Love is possible when you understand someone) and cutting off afflictions (which make us busy and use up our energy).

    We don’t come from nowhere.  We were a fetus.  We have parents.  We need oxygen, water, plants, animals.  Our ancestors continue in us.  We have some say over our actions that affect plants, animals and the Earth. He read from the Three Touchings of the Earth: 

    • Touching the Earth, I connect with ancestors and descendants of both my spiritual and my blood families.
    • Touching the Earth, I connect with all people and all species that are alive at this moment in this world with me.
    • Touching the Earth, I let go of my idea that I am this body and my life span is limited. 

    I am one with all.  I am present everywhere on this planet, in the past and in the future.

    How do we fall in love with Mother Earth and stay in love?  Hiking and other outdoor activities are not enough.  We need a space where we feel safe.  The Earth Holders group is trying to bring insight, understanding and love into the existing climate movement, not trying to create a separate movement.

               

    He suggested joining EcoSattva training with One Earth Sangha (whose training started recently; contact Andrew Rock in Tampa to enroll), Buddhist Climate Action Network, Buddhist Global Network, Arise for Social Justice or Wake Up! He urged listeners to use their experience to lift up others, including the next generation.  Bodhisattvas don’t discriminate between givers and receivers, he said.

    ________________


    Recommended reading:  Two books by Thich Naht Hanh: The World We Have and Love Letter to Mother Earth.

    EARTH HOLDER SANGHA NEW BEGINNINGS

    Begin with gratitude for the earth.  Without the Earth there would be nothing.

    Exercises:

    1. Discuss your points of gratitude for the Earth.
    2. Discuss your beneficial regrets, without judgment or self-blame.  What acts have you done that you would do differently in the future?
    3. Make amends and re-commit.

    The six commitments of the Earth Holder Sangha:

    Study, observe and practice the 5 or 14 Mindfulness Trainings.
    1. Move in the direction of more simple and compassionate living by signing onto the Earth Peace Treaty and committing to transform three unwholesome habits.
    2. Eat a plant-based diet at least one day per week.
    3. Participate in at least one Earth Holder “Global Call to Action” per year.
    4. Introduce at least one “Earth Holder Guideline” to my individual or local sangha practice.
    5. Attend semi-annual Earth Holder conference calls and participate in sangha decision-making.


  • 12 Feb 2018 5:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Jaima Shore, Source of True Tranformation, for sharing her journey

    Last week I took part in the transmission ceremony; Little did I know that over 5 years ago my journey towards this day began. When Angie asked me to share my experience I began reflecting and couldn’t help but reflect on what led up to the day as well as the actual day. A bit over 5 years ago I was pregnant with my first child; my childbirth instructor asked us to find some soothing music or a guided meditation to begin using to help us become more in touch with our bodies and the changes that were occurring. I stumbled onto the Great Bell Chant. I remember vividly the first time I heard it (I had no idea who Thich Nhat Hanh was), the tears fell down my face like a waterfall and a sense of safety and calmness penetrated my heart. When Thay said, “Following the sound of the bell my breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness,” it was my first taste of refuge.

    Fast Forward 3 years and I found myself in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class with Angie and Stephanie seeking more of what I found in that short meditation. And again, I found a bit more of that refuge. I then started attending sangha regularly and it felt like home. It felt like a place I could find the true home inside myself, another place of refuge. When the opportunity to take part in the transmission ceremony arose, I felt a tug, a pull, a wisdom speaking to me from inside myself to do it. For me it was a chance to publicly express what inwardly I had been discovering. I’ve always been someone who loved the ceremony, the ritual, and the tradition of special moments like this, as it helps clarify my intention and helps with a sort of accountability that this is indeed my path.

    During the class and live stream meetings leading up to the ceremony, I found myself being most struck by that idea of refuge again. It was a word that I thought I knew, but I didn’t. For me The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha are the first place in my life where I have discovered true refuge. The actual ceremony was so beautiful and moving for me. I was incredibly serious and devoted to my aspiration and took in each moment, from the opening sutra verse, to doing prostrations with my fellow Dharma sisters and brothers, to receiving my Dharma name, to bowing to the community who has welcomed me with open arms. I am enormously thankful for the opportunity to take refuge, to be part of a community, to have a teacher, and a place inside myself where this is possible. It is with great humility and appreciation that I share that Fred gave me the name Source of True Transformation. For the first time in my life I know that this true transformation is possible in the Three Jewels.


  • 30 Jan 2018 2:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Bill Mac Millen for this sharing.


    I first became a student of the dharma in 2013 after attending a six-week class, held at the Center and taught by Fred, titled “The Basics of Buddhism.”  Up until that time I had no background in Buddhism, mindfulness, or meditation.  Although my exterior life was unfolding quite well by appearances - work, family, friendships, comfortable living conditions – it felt as though something important was missing, which led me to this class.  At the time I didn’t know what that missing “thing” was, but I’ve come to realize that it was a dis-connection with my fellow beings, a sense of separateness.


    I came to the class as a skeptic; prepared to dismiss the teachings and the teacher as, at best, well-meaning but out of touch with “reality,” or worse, another version of “self help” lacking in real substance and/or with ulterior motives to “convert” me to a dogmatic way of thinking.  However, by the end of the second class I was convinced there was something significant to be found in the teachings and Fred appeared to be not only wise and knowledgeable, but more importantly for me, authentic in his belief that the dharma was true and beneficial to all.


    I began attending Sunday Sangha at the conclusion of the classes and have not missed one Sunday since unless I was out of town or sick, such has been its effect on me.  Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I entered the practice with an aversion to dogma and the clear thought that I would never say I believed any teaching unless I personally found it to be true, and I would never say I understood a teaching when I did not.  While I don’t claim to have understood all dharma, I have never found it to be dissonant with my experience, and have always found it to be beneficial in leading to happiness and peace.


    During these past 4+ years of exposure to the teachings, the teacher, and the community, I’ve become a significantly more present and aware person.  In a very practical fashion I’ve learned, and continue to learn, of the conditioned nature of my views and how my false sense of self leads to a myriad of suffering and feelings of dis-ease in my life.  This has led to a much calmer and present mind-state and the coincident generation of healthy and beneficial behaviors, leading to much happier relationships and life.


    I continue to feel that the teachings remind me of what I’ve always known, but had forgotten, and that it is essential that I am continually reminded to remember; otherwise I forget.  The constant support from being with people who believe there is a way to be in the world that is not based on hatred, greed, and anger, but on loving kindness, generosity, and patience has re-established my connection to life.


    With gratitude,

    Bill Mac Millen


  • 09 Jan 2018 8:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Selfless service is a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for the person performing it.  Maria Sgambati is the Coordinator of Selfless Service and under her leadership we have begun devoting one Saturday morning a month where we collectively gather for selfless service.  That effort has been so successful in deepening our practice of mindfulness, building our community and maintaining our facility that we have decided to expand it to a weekly Friday mornings (except for the first Friday because we will have the monthly meeting on that Saturday).  On the other Friday mornings we will complete the tasks that need to happen weekly (e.g., cleaning the kitchen and the education building).  There is no expectation of result or award in selfless service but many of us have found that it is always a joyful effort. 


    We will begin Friday morning selfless service on January 12th and the general schedule will be:

    7:00 – 8:00 am

    Sitting at Sunrise Meditation

    8:00 – 8:30

    Light Breakfast

    8:30 – 8:50

    Short sitting to resettle everyone and guidance on tasks

    8:50 – 10:15

    Work meditation

    10:15 – 10:30

    Closing Circle









    You can attend all or any part of the morning.  You might not be an early riser and would rather come in time for breakfast at 8:00 and work meditation at 8:50 or you might want to leave earlier than 10:30.  You can come for sitting meditation for the full hour or 30 minutes or 15 minutes.  No registration is necessary.  We want this to work for your schedule so you are free to make any necessary adjustments.


    This is an opportunity for the maintenance and care of our practice center so that all who come might find peace and beauty there.  However, we are not in such a hurry to get the work done that we forget to maintain our practice of mindfulness.  In fact, most of us have found that the more we concentrate on mindfulness, the more energized and happy we are in the work.    I was surprised the first time we did Saturday morning selfless service that when I went home I still had plenty of energy to spend the afternoon doing yard work. 


    The Plum Village website says, “Working meditation links us to our everyday life, both here and when we return home.  As we are working at out computer or preparing dinner for our family or teaching a class, we can practice stopping, calming and refreshing ourselves with our conscious breathing.  We can relax and smile at our co-workers and pace ourselves to maintain a light and serene state of being.”


    Selfless service is also an opportunity to connect with others in the FCM community.  It is wonderful to be part of this community and to be on the path with other Sangha brothers and sisters.  We recognize our interdependence with them and it is with gratitude that we serve each other in this important way.  It opens our hearts to practice the Buddhist teachings on compassion and being of benefit to all human beings.


    Some of the comments made during closing circle on the first monthly selfless service morning of 2018 were:

    • Rich Brown – “I am grateful to the 27 people who got out of bed when it was 40 degrees to ensure that this work gets done.  We need people’s help.”
    • Liz Stepp – “I am deeply grateful to work with people to take care of this place we love.”
    • Maria Sgambati – “Many hands make light work.”
    • Pat Lucas – “By far, the most peaceful and nurturing time I’ve had this week.”
    • Diane Powell – “This embodied a community practicing together in harmony and awareness.”
    • Brian Stepp – “[Quoting Woody Allen] “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.  Selfless Service is like that and it is nice to see so many people just showing up.”


  • 11 Dec 2017 2:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Maria Teresa Jaureguizar for this sharing about her practice


    I, like others, was asked to share a personal experience with transformation.   I put this email aside with the idea that if something came to mind, I would jot it down; then one day at tea the topic of chanting came up and I spoke of my experience in a natural and unscripted manner.  A sangha sister said, “you know, you should write about that and send that in to Mindfulness Matters.”  So here it is, thank you sister.

    Chanting is defined as rhythmic speaking and that is why at first, I accepted that even I could do it.  Singing is freeing, and music is transcending, I have no training, just an ear for beauty and an open heart. I believe I knew that through chanting I may begin to touch a voice in me that I had buried out of fear, a voice of living freely, expressing myself freely, and loving freely.
     

    I began to practice the morning chant, over and over until it was memorized. I learned it like you do a favorite song, listening to it and reading the words until you hear it in your sleep.  I only shared my aspiration of chanting with a few, but apparently, word got out, and one Sunday at sangha, we were without a chanter. 

    The bell master said “hey, I heard you have been practicing, we need a chanter today, will you please do it?” These words cut right to the fear inside but then I remembered Fred’s teaching on being a big fool and what’s the worst that could happen?  You see, at this point, it was still all about me.   So, thanks to my dharma brother, public chanting was born. (smiling)

    Through time, I have learned all the chants in the FCM chanting book, except Trust in Mind, still learning that one, and Thay’s 2014 version of the Heart Sutra.  The chants are practice, study, and reflection not just words to “sing”. 

    I remember Fred saying once that the words should become us, when we speak them we speak them wholeheartedly.  I’m not sure when this happened, but today when I chant, it’s not about me, it’s about all of us.  My intention is not that I don’t flub it, it’s twofold, one is to offer instruction in whatever we are about to do, i.e. begin meditation practice, touching the earth practice, and the greater is the desire that one of us and all of us awaken at the this very moment and be free of all suffering. 

    Chanting is practice, study and reflection. 

    In gratitude,

    Maria Teresa

  • 31 Oct 2017 5:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Katy Shields for sharing about her recent experience at the Magnolia Grove Monastery, where she and her fellow FCM member Carol Meyer were ordained into Thich Nhat Hanh's Order of Interbeing.


    Being an aspirant in Thich Naht Hahn's Order of Interbeing, I knew that ordination at Magnolia Grove Monastery retreat would be very moving. I just didn't know in what way.

     

    Leading up to the retreat I felt a strong connection to my teacher and the line carried down from our Bodhisattva ancestors including Master Linji and Thay.  Thay's continuation day marked the beginning of the retreat which made his connection and presents very real. During our daily OI family small groups sister Dang Nghiem helped prepare us for ordination spiritually and logistically. Each day I felt more and more the embodiment of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings and the OI family collective. Sister "D" made it clear that Ordination and our vows were not an end result but just a beginning.

     

    The beauty of Magnolia Grove, the wonderful vegan meals, deep relaxation, walking meditation and practicing joyfully together, nourished deeply. Through the daily Dharma talks and panels given by the monks and nuns, it was made very clear that the Dharma, Thays lineage, his teachings as well as his wisdom and compassion are in good hands and will continue beautifully.

     

    I experienced most of the monks and nuns as being very present, wise and compassionate. They embody Thay in their action of body speech and mind. Someone in our group called it "Thayhood".

     

    The Ordination Ceremony began at predawn on the 4th day of retreat. The dimly lit meditation hall was filled with retreatants, family members, monks and nuns.  The monks and nuns sat nobly, clothed in there very best ceremonial attire. This moved me so much. This was a sacred day for them also. 

     

    When my legs were shaking nervously as I got up to receive my transmission certificate, I looked at them sitting so solidly holding space for us that I was able to continue walking peacefully.

     

    Some final words of the ceremony were given by sister Anabelle Laity. "Do not think you know all there is to know about the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. It takes many lifetimes to understand these trainings".  

     

    Everyone says that something happens to you at ordination. It's true and very hard to explain so I won’t. But if in any way you are called to this path, all I can say is that I highly recommend it. This is the most meaningful thing I have ever done by far.

     

    I believe what Sister Annebelle says about the many lifetimes.   May I not waist a moment. May I transform unwholesome seeds, see things as they are and may I be of benefit.

     

  • 07 Aug 2017 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you FCM for developing and continuing to teach ATTUNE: The Practice of Mindful Dialogue workshop.


    Like many, I was introduced to theories and practice of communication skills through academic courses, work related experiences and personal and couples counseling. Having retained bits and pieces of these skills over the years, attending Angie's workshop woke me up to how Buddhist practice can really inform communication skills. Mindfulness, practiced during daily interactions, enhances our communications with all people.

    Although this workshop covered many areas, I would like to share a few that were particularly meaningful to me:

    • Use of mindfulness in dialogue enhances deep listening and speaking. Pausing and being in the present helps us stay non-reactive and brings up feelings of empathy and compassion. The practice of mindfulness nourishes greater calm, clarity and awareness so that everyone involved benefits.
    • Using mindfulness when our old nemesis of “dealing with difficult relationships” crops up is a powerful teaching. Through practice we can learn to recognize that all beings want to be happy and take the time to understand the suffering of the other. Having an open heart for all and not judging or comparing helps our mind stay open and spacious.
    • And finally, when we need to speak to someone about a difficult situation, being mindful and present is particularly important. First, consider if this is the right time and place. When speaking be honest and do so with affection. Be aware and consider if what I have to say is a benefit to all.

    Dialogue permeates our daily lives. Through our Buddhist practice we learn to enhance these skills in a way that becomes a part of who we are and how we behave. This workshop helped me be more awake to that. I am grateful for FCM’s continual teachings on mindfulness and mindful dialogue. We certainly need it during these tumultuous times.


  • 10 Jul 2017 4:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM's Prison Dharma Program Facilitator Chris Gahles for his service and for contributing this article


    A few nights ago I was leisurely leafing through books in the prison library.  I was happy to see they had a copy of “Old Path, White Clouds” one of my long time favorites by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I thought that our small sangha, which would be practicing in a few minutes, might enjoy hearing and conversing about one of the chapters that Thay had so mindfully written.  

    After our meditation and recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings I read the chapter titled “Angulimala”.  This story is about the most feared serial killer during the Buddha’s time, Agulimala, which translates as finger-neckless.  Every time Agulimala would murder someone he would take one of their fingers and add it to the mala he wore around his neck.  In the climax of the story Angulimala chases down the Buddha and orders him to, “Stop monk! Stop!”  Even though the Buddha hears the bandit he continued to walk.  It seemed like it took a very long time for the bandit to catch up to the Buddha even though he was running and the Blessed One was walking.  But finally he stepped in front of the Buddha and shouted, “Monk, I told you to stop.  Why did you not stop?”  The Buddha replied, “Angulimala, I stopped a long time ago.  You are the one that continues (down the path of unwholesomeness)”.  

    The Buddha’s gaze was filled with such compassion and wisdom that the remorseful bandit was overcome. Angulimala broke free of his misperception that it was too late to lead a wholesome life.  He asked the Buddha to be accepted into the sangha and was immediately ordained.  He was given the monastic name Ahimsaka, which coincidently was the birth name his father gave him.  It means, “The harmless one”.  Ahimsaka become one of the most respected monks in the sangha due to his self-transformative efforts.

    After the story we talked about its teaching… no matter how messed up we can get, there is always a path to forgiveness, compassion and understanding.  Our small sangha in the prison chapel was energized by this topic.  The discussion was filled with mindful participation.  Someone asked the reflective question, “Why is this story known as the story of Angulimala and not the story of Ahimsaka?  The room was filled with joyfulness and hope which streamed through the barred windows and doors of the chapel.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, just as unwholesome thoughts cannot exist in the presence of wholesome thoughts.  


  • 02 May 2017 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM Member Andrew Rock for this Sharing.


    Several members of FCM were among the estimated 200,000 marchers in Washington DC on Saturday, April 29th for the Peoples Climate Mobilization. So were six monastics from Blue Cliff monastery and many others in Thay’s Plum Village traditions, together with hundreds of other Buddhists from various lineages and traditions.


    Fittingly, April 29th set new seasonal heat records for Washington DC: 92 degrees and high humidity. But the marchers remained cheerful, peaceful, exuberant and determined as we gathered on the Mall, marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to surround the White House and then rested on the grass around the Washington Monument.


    Earlier in the morning about 250 Buddhists gathered in a park near the Capitol to practice together before joining the march. Organized by One Earth Sangha, the group included teachers and practitioners from many lineages and traditions. A Tibetan nun, Sister Ani Losang Tendrol, read us a poem about our connectedness with the earth and our responsibility for how we relate with all living beings, written by the Dalai Lama. Then Adam Lobel, a senior acharya (teacher) with Shambhala International, led us in a practice to raise windhorse, the power and energy of the sacred warriors who rise up in times of great need. Next Sister Ocean, from Blue Cliff Monastery, called on all her Plum Village sangha to join her, and together we led the entire group in singing “We are all the leaves of one tree.” We closed the morning program with a metta meditation led by Amy Smith, a teacher in the Washington insight Meditation community.


    From Upper Senate Park, the monastics led us on a silent, mindful, joyful walk to the Capitol end of the Mall, where the faith contingent was gathering to line up for the march. Organized by the multifaith climate action group Greenfaith, there were Catholics from the Franciscan Climate Network, Muslims, Hindus, Episcopalians, Jews, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and many other faiths, all united by the perception that our crises of climate change, inequality and injustice at root are spiritual and ethical problems, and therefore require spiritual and ethical reformation and leadership.


    Then an hour of sweltering heat and close packed (but high-spirited) crowds, as people gathered and waited for the step-off of the march, sharing signs, banners, music and enthusiasm. Once we started moving, around 12:45 pm, the crowd spread out and our FCM group kept together (Diane Powell, Patrick Bendure and his daughter, Dan Tisch, Patty Meyers, Nancy Natilson and me, and also Sue Brandon and her friend Sandy from Shambhala St. Petersburg and the Florida EcoSattva Group). We held our signs and banners high as we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Soon after, we came to the White House, and the march spread out to surround it.


    At 2 pm, we all sat down where we were on the streets around the White House, for a few minutes of silence, and then we began a powerful heartbeat rhythm as we all gently tapped our chests in unison. And then we all stood as one, in our tens of thousands, and we roared, yelled, and cried out, with determination and intensity, to demand a sensible climate policy in cooperation with the rest of the planet.


    April 29th was chosen for the march precisely because it was the 100th day of the climate-denying Trump presidency. The EPA’s environmental programs had already been gutted, scientific research on climate change defunded, dismantled and ignored, permits hastily issued for new oil and gas pipelines and offshore oil wells. A decision is expected from the Administration within days whether to withdraw the US from its commitments under the Paris accord to roll back carbon emissions and accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources. We know Trump and his fossil fuel friends would like to scrap the Paris agreement, but he fears the reaction from the public and the more progressive elements of the business community. Trump himself had fled from Washington for the day, to rally with some 7,000 of his remaining supporters in Harrisburg, PA, and the streets of Washington belonged to the people.


    From the White House it was a short distance to the very welcome green space around the Washington Monument, where we lay in the shade of the big trees, rehydrated our sweaty bodies, and rested. Tired, happy marchers were everywhere, some heading for the Metro system and home – how wonderful to be in a city with an efficient light rail system! – and some staying around for a few more hours of music, speeches and movement building activities around the Washington Monument.


    The organizers intentionally called the April 29th gathering a people’s mobilization, not just a march, because this is not a one day event, it is a movement that must continue to grow in strength, wisdom and impact. It is particularly important that practitioners of mindfulness and the Dharma bring to this mobilization our practices of understanding, compassion, non-attachment and love. As our root teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote many years ago: “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what's the use of seeing?”


    It was our group’s privilege through the day to carry three of One Earth Sangha’s beautiful banners, emblazoned with the image of the bodhisattva Kuan Yin and the words “Embody Fierce Compassion.” We are happy to report that Fierce Compassion was indeed embodied in our nation’s capital on April 29th and held high for the Peoples Climate Mobilization.


  • 11 Apr 2017 5:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The 2017 FCM Mahasangha Member Gathering was held in Tampa the weekend of March 24th to celebrate and deepen our connection as a sangha body. During the  weekend we explored "American Buddhism," and in particular how our greater "Maha" sangha manifests our Buddhist values in community and in the world. We also celebrated our lineage together through both beautiful formal ceremonies and many casual and joyful moments of connection. We asked a diverse group of members, from "long-timers" to brand new, from early 30s to more "mature",  to share their reflections of what the weekend meant to them. With much gratitude to our members, below, for these sharings.


    Betsy Arizu, Tampa (FCM Board President)

    As we chanted the Evening Chant together on the first night of the Mahasangha I was filled with awe and inspiration, hearing our voices joined so beautifully together as we honored the Buddha. I could feel an energy and power in the Dharma Hall filled with old friends, new friends, local friends, friends from afar, all brothers and sisters acknowledging our capacity and commitment to awaken, individually and collectively. What a joy and honor to experience being part of a sangha, especially a mahasangha.

    I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend discussions on Buddhism in America. I find it fascinating how Buddhism spread from India throughout Asia in such a peaceful and organic way while taking on unique and distinctive flavors and forms in each region and culture it traveled to. And now as Buddhism takes root in America I see how profound and relevant the teachings are to this time and place in history and how it is unfolding in its own rich and unique way in our culture. As we discussed with Fred FCM’s vision, mission, and core values, he told the story of FCM and how it started in his living room in Naples. Later came the purchase of property on Nebraska Avenue and now the next step is to build a retreat center of our own to bring more and affordable retreat opportunities to our sangha. We are so fortunate to be part of the Florida Community of Mindfulness on this path of awakening.

    Other highlights of the Mahasangha were the small group discussions, the mindful work groups, the neighborhood clean up, the delicious meals, and the uplifting and meaningful ceremonies. I thank Fred for his vision and leadership during the Mahasangha and for recognizing how valuable and renewing it is for our community to come together yearly in this fashion.

    Carly Johnston, Tampa (New Member)

    My immediate refection about the Mahasangha Gathering was of special moments where I felt part of a community of loving and kind people. Although I knew very few, I felt the welcoming energy of all of those around me. I watched people from afar at times and rejoiced in their closeness while other times I saw many who wandered through the weekend with an openness of invitation for meeting others. I think what felt most comfortable for me was the genuine positive attitude that I experienced. People were willing to share and express their feelings on various topics that were being discussed and invited others to their circle of conversation. This provided me with good resources and opened up opportunity for questions which encouraged more communication. I felt a warm and caring nature from the group.

    I was most surprised and awed with the professional approach for coordinating the entire weekend…from program to food preparation and delivery in a timely fashion. Watching how fluid everything seemed to flow was quite impressive. Having been a professional meeting planner, I appreciate the time, work and effort of many people coming together to make such an event look flawless and successful. I realized I was part of a group of dedicated and talented people who took pride in their work —- all coming together for the good of the Community. I’m very proud to be part of FCM and look to the future to contribute what I am able.

    And, not to be forgotten…… “thank you” for the generous opportunity to experience a very special weekend.


    Christopher Lee Nguyen (Naples, WakeUp Leader for Southwest Florida)

    Yesterday my friend and coworker died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was around my age, and had been supportive friend in my career training. He helped me get past many obstacles on the job, and my computer is full of notes I received from him. We often get busy in life and never take the time to be together and get to know each other deeply until it is too late.

    The Mahagathering is a great opportunity to insure we don’t have any regrets by being able to practice being together. It’s a chance for us to realize that we are not alone; never were alone; and never will be. That is a wonderful thing. I think Liễu Quán expresses it very beautifully in his gatha from the early 1700s, “The fruit of transcendent wisdom, can be realized by being wonderfully together.”

    Coming together in openness to practice deep sharing and deep listening is a very profound practice. It creates a space where my Buddha-nature can unfold and shine brightly. Being able to meet new people and be inspired by their aspirations and the resounding sound of the sangha echoing out “same, not different” is a precious jewel when you live far away from the center.

    Whether singing together, sitting together, or even picking up trash outside together, it is not a matter of what we are doing but that we are together as a living sangha creating a refuge and open space for all sangha members to be nourished by the collective energy of togetherness and actualize coming together “as a river”.

    I offer gratitude and thanks to all my sangha brothers and sister, near and far away, for everything they do and for helping to create a sangha where I have the opportunity to be nourished by the fruit of transcendent wisdom by being wonderfully together.


    Fran Reilly, Naples (Longtime Mindful Yoga Leader for FCM)

    Dear Tampa Sangha,

    I wanted to write a note of appreciation to all of you for your hospitality, sharing, teachings, feeding us on so many levels and opening our hearts and minds. The Mahasangha weekend was truly a gathering of spiritual friends and cultivated a deeper appreciation of our Sangha community for me and I’m sure for others as well.

    The food was amazing and nourishing; the opportunity to interact and support each other in work groups and small group interactions and the overall attitude of support and community was pervasive and nourishing as well. The planning and thoughtfulness of all of your hard work was evident and your welcoming attitude was heartwarming. I felt greeted as a dear friend and all of the hugs and smiles brought a smile to my own heart.


    The dharma talks were enriching and the ceremony on Saturday evening , with the beautiful cello, chanting, the readings, the fire, all under the stars in the beautiful garden setting was especially inspiring.


    The whole weekend opened my heart and inspired my practice.


    in gratitude,

    Fran Reilly


    Kerri Vantreese (Tampa, New Member)

    For me, the mahasangha weekend was filled with opportunity to take yummy bites to satiate not only the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual appetite... deepening the sense of what community actually IS and how vital its heartbeat is in support of FCM's commitment to flow like a gentle dharma river.


    The joy of exploring relationship in such a wide variety of ways was exceptional... from blissfully fun selfless service, shared meals at FCM, shared home space thanks to our B n B program, as well as multitudes of other fantabulous moments in small group discussions, the vibrant, palpable essence of the collective sangha and the special energy of sharing one-on-one time with old and new friends alike!

    bowing in deep gratitude,


    One Heart!

    Maria Sgambati, Tampa (Our Mahasangha Gathering Noble Coordinator)

    What a joy it was to practice together with the community during the MahaSangha gathering. Although I’ve been an FCM member at a distance for 4 years, I began practicing in the Plum Village tradition about 12 years ago. I was happy to have been asked to be gathering coordinator, since having moved to Tampa in February, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to both support the sangha through self-less service and get to know my dharma brothers and sisters more deeply.

    For me, every moment of the gathering became a moment of practice, in which I asked, what is needed right now? I always tried to return to my breathing, to keep my steps and voice calm and compassionate, to really slow down and take my time to listen and be with what was, even when toilets overflowed! The whole weekend was such a rich experience, but in particular the series of talks on Buddhism gave me a deeper sense of the historical foundation of the practice path. I am grateful to all who made this weekend possible.


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