Posted in zen

Zen Center?

Once in a while I get this wild idea.

I start to think I should start a Zen Center.

Well, that’s not the start of it. The start of it is wishing Kansas City had a Zen Center. Then that goes into wondering why Kansas City doesn’t have one. Then, that goes into wondering if I could do something about it.

I don’t think about this because I have an abundance of free time that I want to commit to it. I don’t think about this because I think I’m enormously qualified to run a spiritual community. That level of responsibility would be scary to me.

The main reason I start to get that idea is because Kansas City doesn’t have one and I think that’s weird.

Smaller cities have Zen Centers.

St. Louis, Columbia, Lawrence, Omaha, and Des Moines all have Zen Centers. I’ve been to some of them and they’re nice.

But why in these smaller cities and not here?

There are a handful of (really small) zen groups here, but there’s no center.

(I’m not talking about a temple. The difference between a Zen temple and a Zen center is that a temple is designed to primarily serve monks and nuns and a center is designed to serve regular people like you and me.)

And I wonder why we don’t have one?

We’re a growing city with a (surprisingly) spiritually diverse population.

 

Kansas City deserves a Zen Center.

That’s what I’m trying to say.

Can someone start one please?

 

 

 

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Posted in fountain city meditation, podcast

On Community

I didn’t intend to start a community and I’m not sure if I have.

I created Fountain City Meditation as a project because I was inspired to serve others by providing meditation instruction and encouragement. People need a lot of encouragement in meditation practice, I think. And if I can reach people that aren’t being reached right now, that’s even better. I think many meditation communities might not be as focused on encouragement as they could be. People need a support system for their practice and to me THAT is the central role of a meditation/spiritual community.

I was teaching in a Buddhist community here in Kansas City for a while and then one day I wasn’t anymore. That’s not something to get into here except to say that my inspiration to help and encourage others didn’t just go away, so I spent time thinking about what I can do.

I have considered asking some of the other wonderful communities here in town if they’d be willing to bring me on as a teacher, to work together. But so far I haven’t asked. I have a fear of rejection, I think. Teaching in an established community would be pretty great though. Insecurity is a weird thing.

I recorded an episode of my podcast Scharpening the Mind with my friend Daniel Symes on the subject of community because I think it’s an interesting subject. You can listen to that podcast here:

Spiritual Community, with guest Daniel Symes

Is Fountain City Meditation a community?

I tried to create a situation where people come meditate with a minimum of baggage. We’re outside, so some of the intimidation of entering a new place isn’t there. Some people just come once, and some people come over and over. Some people come alone and some people bring friends. Many of the people that come just do the sitting practice and leave, without talking to anyone. I think that’s really great because I’m happy to welcome the most introverted among us. I think a lot of really shy people stay away from spiritual communities because they’re nervous about meeting new people. I know that when I first became interested in meditation practice, I had some issues around being reluctant to go meet people.

You don’t have to meet anyone to come to Fountain City Meditation.

Also, there’s no religion or ritual attached to what we’re doing.

I call it meditation without baggage. My hope is that people who are devoutly religious (of whatever kind) and people who don’t like religion could be equally comfortable coming to one of these events. I’m hoping that by doing outdoor events I can attract people who, for various reasons, don’t really want to go to temples or yoga studios or other traditional settings. Going inside an unfamiliar place can intimidate people too.

There’s no membership, I’m not trying to sell anything and I don’t even ask for donations. The great thing about meeting in a public outdoor space is that it doesn’t cost me anything (there are downsides too, of course) so I don’t need to take donations. All I’m spending is my time.

That might not seem like a big deal, but I know some people stay away from communities because they feel guilty when donations are being accepted. I want to reach people that feel weird when they hear the word “donation”.

I wanted to create a situation where all the things that scare people off or make people reluctant aren’t present.

I’m not sure if I’m achieving that, but I do think there are people that are interested in meditation that aren’t being reached by traditional efforts.

 

If we’re a community, we’re a community full of non-joiners.

Non-joiners could use some encouragement too.

Is Fountain City Meditation a community? I think that’s not up to me.

It’s up to you. What do you think?

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want to come meditate with me? You can here:

Upcoming Events

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A while back I wrote an article for Patheos on the subject of Buddhist communities. You can see it here:

Close Knit Sanghas? | Patheos.com

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I created an all new website for Fountain City Meditation.

If it’s going to grow and be a community, it deserves it’s own website. This is still very much a work in progress, but have a look:

https://fountaincitymeditation.com/

and click here for my newsletter:

Newsletter

Posted in meditation

What Are We Doing Here? |FCM

My girlfriend told me a story about her grandmother.

She would have a Bible study group in her kitchen. People would come from around town and they’d just sit together and talk about their faith. This wasn’t the same as church, where people go to practice their religion in a specific and well defined way. This was more free. They were just relating to each other and talking about what they were trying to do.

I think that’s great.

It was having that in mind that inspired me.

I want Fountain City Meditation to be like that. Not a temple, not a place with strict rituals and forms. Some people don’t like strict rituals and forms. And some people are really afraid they’ll mess up and do it wrong.  There’s no wrong way here.

We just come together and practice meditation and encourage each other. And we do it in my living room.

There are lots of places you can go to for meditation in Kansas City. But I don’t think there’s anything quite like this.

If you don’t like the idea of going to temples or meditation centers, you should come.

If you do like those things but you’re just looking for a little more encouragement and people to talk to about your practice, you should come too.

You don’t have to be Buddhist, you don’t have to be spiritual. You’re allowed to think all that stuff is silly. This is just about training your mind to be more fully present.

When you’re more fully present, you can transform your life.

Encouragement. A chance to sit together. A welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

My wish, above all else, is to make sure no one feels like they don’t belong, like they aren’t good enough, like they aren’t part of the in crowd, like they aren’t doing it right.

If you’ve ever felt that way, you should come.

Fountain City Meditation

Meditation Gathering at the Scharpey House

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Posted in meditation, zen

Fountain City Meditation: Encourage Others

The world is a crazy place right now and I am scared.

Lots of people’s lives are turned upside down right now by current events and things are really hard to understand and hard to deal with.

This is a story I like to share.

A student went to Nakagawa Soen Roshi during a meditation retreat and said, “Master, I am feeling very discouraged. What should I do?”

And Roshi replied, “Encourage others.”

That story has meant a lot to me since I heard it. I think we’re best at encouraging others when we feel discouraged and it feels like there’s no hope.

I am discouraged. How can I encourage you?

Encouragement is central to this new project and I will not lose sight of that intent. I want to encourage you.

I teach online. I think if you’re reading this you know that. I reach people all over the world and it’s rewarding. I’m trying to figure out if I can serve my local community too.

Right now I’m envisioning “Fountain City Meditation” as a floating community, a group where we come together at different places and different times.

I want to provide opportunities for meditation practice and I want to encourage that practice. There are several meditation communities in town. I want to reach the people that aren’t feeling served by those communities. I know those people exist.

I used to belong to a Buddhist community as a very active member, I was around for years. I saw so many people come and go.  Some people would come once or twice and then go. But others would stay for months and years and then just be gone. I don’t know what the disappearing people needed. I just know they weren’t getting it. I want to reach people that feel like they don’t belong anywhere. I want to reach people that no one is reaching and I want to encourage them.

(if you want to know why I left, just ask. I want to share with others and I want others to feel comfortable sharing with me. There are real human issues in life and no one is perfect)

I also want to reach people that maybe don’t feel totally lost, but are interested in something a little different.

So, this is my invitation to you, if you’re in or around Kansas City. 

If you want a community where none of us pretend that we’re perfect or that we have it all together.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong in a Meditation Center or  Buddhist Temple.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only person in the meditation room who doesn’t know what’s going on.

If you really want a sense of community with your meditation group.

If you feel like you can’t meditate, or you’re not calm enough, or everyone will look at you like a fraud.

If you feel alone in a room full of people because no one in the community has reached out to you.

Come join. I want to encourage you.

Facebook Page

Fountain City Meditation

I don’t know how many events we’re going to have, or how often. A lot of that will depend on how much demand there is.

But I’m inspired to serve. I’m here to help.
What do you need?

 

How can I encourage you?

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Posted in zen

Dharma Winds

It feels like I’ve been an independent Dharma teacher for a long time.

I guess I haven’t really been independent because I’ve been teaching online at the Open Heart Project for a few years, but that feels like more of a guest teacher role to me.

Recently I was invited to join an international Buddhist community called the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha, which is a branch of the (not much) larger Order of Hsu Yun. This order is in the Chan (Chinese Zen) tradition and comes from the tradition of Hsu Yun and Han Shan, some of the same historical teachers that inspire me. I felt the need to mention that it’s international because I wanted to make it clear that they’re not here. I, at best, exist on the margins of the communities that are here in Kansas City.

And that’s okay.

I’m sort of a Zen hermit, largely practicing on my own and/or with the people in my household.

I’m still independent, really, but also part of something. I’m part of a tradition. It’s about recognition and connection. And although no one that practices in this tradition is close by, it’s still meaningful.

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I was welcomed into this international order and ordained as a Zen Priest. I’ll have to think long and hard about what it means to be a Zen Priest before I try to explain it in detail. This doesn’t really change anything other than making my relationship to Zen, as a practice and philosophy, more clear. To me it essentially means I’m committed to the path and I’m obligated to share teachings with anyone that asks. I have to meet the world with an open heart and to be as genuine as I can. Maybe we should all be trying to do that anyway. We say “priest” and not “monk” because I am in the world with everyone else living an ordinary life and that is not going to change. I’m not a monastic teacher, I’m a householder teacher. I have a family and a career. And I’m also trying to carry the teachings forward and pass them on whenever I can.

I was given the ordination name QianMing. This translates to “Supreme Clarity”. I’m not sure if I have great clarity. The clearest things to me are usually my own shortcomings. But maybe facing our imperfections honestly is the greatest clarity there is. I’m dedicated seeing myself clearly and sharing what I see with honesty and sincerity.

I believe in a Zen practice that includes all things. All beings that I meet are part of the path. So are the wind and the rain. We’re part of a connected whole. And this path isn’t about going away from the world. It’s not about retreating. It’s about being in the world fully and completely, manifesting authenticity and compassion.

So that’s what I’m trying to do.

I’m not going to try to build my own temple or anything like that.

But I am going to share the teachings with anyone that asks.

 

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Posted in tattooed buddha

Buddhism: Doing it Alone or Doing it with Others.

We all know that Buddhist practice is something Buddhists do.

And when the Buddha attained enlightenment he was alone. We can have teachers and we can practice with others, but ultimately it’s our own commitment and determination that brings us to awakening.

But, at the same time, the Buddha did describe community as something very important. The three jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are what we take refuge in. That is: the example set by the teacher, the teachings, and the spiritual community. Or, put another way, the lineage, the philosophy, and the community of Buddhism.

So, what does it mean to take refuge?

Taking refuge is the act of officially becoming a Buddhist. This is when we make a commitment to the three jewels.

When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are commiting to follow the Buddha’s example. The story of the Buddha tells us that we all have the potential for awakening. We all have Buddha nature, so we’re really taking refuge in our true selves. The Buddha represents our potential for awakening.

When we take refuge in the dharma we are putting forth the intention to walk the path as set out by the Buddha.

Different lineages might have different ideas about what commiting to the dharma means. In my lineage it means studying Buddhist texts and cultivating the six perfections as much as I can.

These are: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, wisdom and concentration. Refuge in the dharma represents our sincere devotion to follow the path that was laid out for us by the Buddha.

When we take refuge in the Sangha, this can be understood on a few different levels.

On one level, we are taking refuge in the community of all Buddhists that have come before. We can learn a lot by studying Buddhist history. On another level, we are taking refuge in the people that are here with us now.

Practicing with others helps us in a fundamental way. In the same way that having a workout buddy helps people go to the gym, having a Buddha buddy helps. It’s easier for us to stay on track when we’re doing it together, even if we don’t really talk about it.

The fact of the matter is that we are, for the most part, social beings. Being in a spiritual community serves as a source of encouragement and check against our own ignorance. And practicing with a Sangha is also helpful because it’s easier to practice our Buddhist values of compassion and sympathetic joy with others who are trying to do the same.

The Sangha is also a way to preserve teachings and lineages. Sanghas literally provide a place to practice, meditate, and hear teachings. Sanghas also provide people to talk to. Especially when some parts of the path seem difficult, it can help to ask others on the path questions.

Without a Sangha, that might not be possible.

But, can we practice alone?

The Buddha walked away from his community of ascetics before he attained enlightenment.

I don’t want to say someone can’t practice on their own and be a Buddhist. I only want to say that having a Sangha (or more than one) helps. It helps to see and interact with others on the path, to spend time with like-minded individuals. When I started practicing with a Sangha, I found that it did a lot to increase my determination.

That being said, do you have to? No.

That’s the thing about Buddhist teachings that people forget sometimes—these are suggestions. The Buddha listed these things as suggestions to help us on the path. They aren’t commandments and shouldn’t be looked at as such.

Is a community necessary? No. But it helps. It helps a lot.

It’s worth noting that our Buddha nature is our true nature. It’s beneath layers of delusion, but it’s there. Because it’s our true nature, people do awaken to it without having a Sangha.

I think of practicing without a Sangha as like teaching yourself how to drive a car. Could you teach yourself how to drive a car? Sure. You could. But it’s a whole lot easier if you have someone sitting next to you talking you through it. Or, at the very least, if you watch how other drivers do it before you get behind the wheel.

One more note:

In a sense, I would say the Pagans and Hindus and Shamans that I’ve meditated with are part of my Sangha too, even though they aren’t Buddhist. They have been active participants in my journey to enlightenment, just as other Buddhists have.

And in many cases they’re just as like-minded.

Buddha Mosaic

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/buddhism-doing-it-alone-or-doing-it-with-others/