MESSAGE FROM CARLA BRENNAN:

Dear Bloom of the Present Sangha,

As we begin a new year, we are also beginning to create a new vision for Bloom of the Present Insight Meditation Sangha (BOTP). Since returning from my year-long sabbatical I have been teaching again and meeting with many people to discuss the future of BOTP. Prior to my break, the teaching and organizational load for BOTP had become too great; I needed to restore myself and revision a new structure for BOTP.

A group of interested sangha members met on December 7th to discuss ways to address these issues. The primary topic was teacher support. Carol Van Den Bos shared her findings garnered from insight meditation centers around the country. She asked key people at these centers what they believed created healthy, happy and sustainable dharma communities. A summary of her presentation is below. Isabelle Rosenlund, who was instrumental in initiating this gathering, also adds a few words about the outcome of the 12/7/13 meeting.

The people present at that meeting are listed below. Please feel free to contact anyone if you have questions or suggestions. We want everyone to feel included in this process. I am excited by the vision we are creating; I hope you will be too!

HIGHLIGHTS OF MY VISION
• Create an organizational and financial structure so that I can devote myself to being the full-time guiding teacher with BOTP (leaving administrative and logistical tasks to others).
• Create a governance committee to wisely steer the vision and mission of BOTP.
• Look into applying for non-profit status.
• Create an annual schedule of programs.
• Offer both teacher-led and peer-led programming.
• Develop the “Noble Path Program for Dedicated Practitioners”. This will be for those who want to study Buddha-dharma in more depth. It will include retreats, group sessions and individual meetings. More details will be forthcoming.

Sangha – with its challenges and rewards – provides the best container for sharing the ancient lineage of dharma teachings. As Sangha, we hold and support each other as well as expand our deepest understanding and unleash our capacity for love, kindness and compassion. Together, we can support one another in the often poignant task of facing both the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. What a mystery it is! Let us connect by taking refuge in each other and in the liberating potential of awareness.

Thank you to everyone for your wisdom, support and participation over the years.
With respect and gratitude,
Carla Brennan


MESSAGE FROM CAROL VAN DEN BOS:

I have been a part of BOTP since it’s inception through my association with Carla, who has been my beloved teacher for many years. After chairing a committee to research Buddhist communities it became clear to me that the reciprocity between teacher and practitioners was crucial to the health of any sangha. My vision is to promote this reciprocity, provide for the needs of our guiding teacher, establish financial sustainability, and create a spiritual home where each of us can flourish and grow as we are meant to.

Sangha Health and Sustainability
These conclusions were drawn from extensive research and interviews of many sanghas and their inner workings over a period of several months. The goal was to learn what elements constitute a healthy, sustainable sangha.

Sangha Health
Healthy Buddhist communities had two things in common:
1. A full-time guiding teacher who leads, teaches the dharma, and guides each participant.
2. The practitioners supported their guiding teacher financially and personally (personal retreat time, family, etc). They assumed responsibility for the wellness of the community and provided the organization, management, time, energy and financial support necessary. Reciprocal caring.

Financial Efforts That Worked
Pledges were the core sustainable piece. Pledges are promises or commitments of financial support within a time frame (monthly, weekly, biannually, etc.). Pledge drives and pledge education were essential (so that everyone is fully informed). This allows budgeting (planning), remuneration ease for the teacher, timely payment of bills and obligations as well as visioning for the future.

Suggested Donations: Most felt that this was needed as for it guides participants and establishes a range. It brought relief from most new and existing members. The addition of ‘no one will be turned away for lack of funds’ was usually stated.

Charging for Classes: Some had a basic non-negotiable charge and some had a range within the suggested donations. And of course ‘no one will be turned away for lack of funds’.

Fundraising: Some were annual events. Some connected to a celebration. They all raised money for various specific things like buying a space to house the community, furniture,  meeting obligations, etc.

Overall Organization and Management
A governing body is required to make necessary decisions and seek suggestions and feedback from everyone within the sangha. A calendar year was established (for classes, available times to sit, breaks, teacher personal retreat time away, etc.). This provides routines for events, which creates ease in attendance, planning and continuity.

Transparency Essential
Every participant is given the chance to know: What is offered and needed: What the financial status is at any time: What is needed and required for community sustainability and health at any time: An idea of how to accomplish that. Transparency was one of THE most important factors for a healthy Sangha.

MESSAGE FROM ISABELLE ROSENLUND:

As a member of one of the leadership committees that were formed during Carla’s absence, I’d like to join my voice to Carla’s on behalf of the other 10 participants that met with her a couple of weeks ago. The purpose of our meeting was to hear what Carla’s vision was for the future of BOTP and how we could help facilitate that vision while, at the same time, honoring our own.

Both, Carla’s discussion on the history of dana and its cultural implications AND Carol’s very clear and explicit presentation on what is a “healthy sangha”, really helped us to envision our possibilities and showed us specific tools that could be used to implement our goals.

It looks like, at this time, the concept of voluntary, optional “pledges” is the main focus of the group. However, because of time limits, we weren’t able to have a full discussion, involving all participants. This matter will be picked up by the group at our next meeting, January 5th.

For our vision to be successful, it is majorly important that as many sangha members as possible get involved and give us feedback. If you have any questions or would like to relay an idea or suggestion, please contact any of the meeting participants listed below before Jan. 5th.

Let us know what your thoughts are. We are quite excited about this new journey!

With Metta,
Isabelle Rosenlund

Bruce Abt,
Carla Brennan,
Isabelle Rosenlund,
Joyce Nicholson,
Phyllis Levin ,
Jim Memmott,
Betsy Blessing,
Ann Russell,
Carol Van Den Bos,
Margaret Seidler,
Shealagh Devlin,
Val Nelson