I've been doing the sittings on the blog for awhile now, and this Community Forum has been cooking away. So, I think it is a good time to ask for comments and input on how to make it all as good a Sangha experience as possible.
Please write me publicly or privately with any pointers or advice (in public is best, as everything around here is out in the open).
My goal is to make all this as close as possible to an actual "Zen Group" in your local town, down the street, that you can just drop into at any time. I think the feeling of community that has built on this forum among members has been really great, and I would like to continue to build on that. A few ideas and comments of my own:
- I have the capability on the blog to do "group sittings" from time to time, where up to 6 people could simultaneously put a camera on the computer and video themselves sitting Zazen. It would be just like I do it, but with the camera switching back and forth among the six people. It would serve no other purpose than just another way we can all join in. Would it be worth doing from time to time, e.g., once every couple of weeks? Any volunteers?
- I could also do a "1 on 1" guest-sitter thing, where one of our members at a time will sit with me. The person can lead the talk or just introduce themselves, then sit with me. Any volunteers for that??
- Do you think the daily sittings on the blog are in a good format? Too much about me? Too much talking? Not enough sitting? Am I being "too cute" with the joking around every day? Should it be in a format that is more just a "Hello, and let's get right down to sitting for the full time"? Are the talks a help in their present format?
- Do you think I should request everyone on the forum to post as their avatar an actual photo of themselves (as opposed to Harry's hilarious beer guzzling, guitar playing cats ... but I assume that he does not look like that)? Or maybe we should set up a separate section where people can post photos? What we look like on the outside is not important at all ... or is it?
- Starting in a few months, I am planning to have on-line training in anticipation for Jukai. This would involve study of each of the Precepts over multiple weeks (much as we do the book club chapters, we would discuss each of the precepts one by one) plus sewing a Rakusu. I guess that it will lead to an on-line Jukai ceremony (the first in the world, as far as I know). What do you think? I am also thinking of having one person who is studying for Jukai to be in charge of a particular Precept each week, and that person would have to deliver a video talk (by posting a video like I do on the blog) or, if no camera, to at least writing an essay, in which they discuss the Precept. Something like that.
- I have not been too insistent on people doing "Samu" (work practice). In our case, that would involve community volunteer work (preferably, hands on actually helping people in need like the sick or elderly) or, for those already loaded with work and family obligations, an intentional commitment to non-do some of those activities as "Samu" practice. We could have a group in which people discuss Samu and support each other. (By the way, I do not accept any "Dana" financial contributions for Treeleaf, as we have sufficient resources for what we are doing. However, I do encourage people to make financial donations to charities that help folks, e.g., feeding the poor, finding a cure for a disease. Both donations and Samu work should be a bit beyond the point where it starts to hurt).
- Anything else?
I know I will think of more, but any guidance will be helpful. Please call it like you see it, and don't worry about my feelings (if you are a Zen teacher with thin skin, you should not be a Zen teacher). There is nobody to make this experiment work except for the people who have been participating. I really want to make this the best environment possible for everyone's Zazen.