Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Once more unto...

Yesterday's final group of returnees weren't as lucky as their earlier colleagues. They were turned back at the top of the hill after waiting an hour and spent the night here in Jamesburg. The zendo once more bcoming a dormitory.

They tried again early this morning and were again turned back. Told to try again later. This morning's MODIS image shows why (click on the image to enlarge). The fire has moved up one of the small creek beds in Miller Canyon and is now burning both sides of the road and now appears to be burning in the area of the observatory that has previously been back-burned.


Author: Maia Duerr said...

I've been thinking about writing a letter to SFZC about some thoughts and feelings that have been coming up for me around the whole idea to bring students back in quickly and re-open guest season by Aug. 3. Maybe I'll start here...

I am a distant participant in all this... but I have sat with the SFZC sangha quite a bit, and many people I care about were/are in Tassajara. I have to say from a distance, I sense an urgent push to get things going again. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but as practitioners, it seems a good thing to look deeper at our intentions... and to pay attention to concerns without falling into excessive fearfulness.

So here are some of my concerns and questions:
What IS the big rush toward re-opening guest season about?

What would be truly nourishing right now, for the students who put so much labor into making Tassajara run?

What would be truly nourishing now for the land, which has gone through so much trauma this past month between the fire and all the efforts to 'fight' the fire (water drops, fire retardant drops, dozer lines, etc.)

And some very pragmatic questions -- is it safe to go back into Tassajara? At various levels... For both guests and students. I realize the immediate danger of fire is over, but what about smoke and our bodies respiratory systems? What about the erosion to the land and the road into Tassajara?

And so many huge and deep issues were raised in the forum of this blog... relationships to neighbors along the Tassajara road, the welcoming and inclusiveness of SFZC (or lack of it), questions about judgments made during the saga of the last month, safety concerns.

There is so much there that could be fruitful to dive into, for everyone. Might there be a need for some more time and space to allow this process to unfold?

Again, the sense of urgency raises a red flag for me. I know when I feel it in my own life and march toward it fairly blindly, I usually feel the karmic results later on.

So I offer these questions without judgment, but with care and love for the greater sangha of which I am part.

in dhamma,
Maia Duerr

Anonymous said...

Hi Maia,

I understand your sense. On the other hand, when one hand is cut, the other naturally comes quickly to staunch the wound.

I'm going down to ZMC to help. One reason is that I'm going since I was scheduled to go down anyway this month as my retreat/vacation.

But, a second important reason is because all my worthy friends who are on SFZC stipend and health plans, plus just operation costs, have risk of losing some support.

The way SFZC has made an arrangement to have many people live full-time and work within the sangha is structurally built around the cash money of the guest season.

I was around in some of those discussions, years ago. Many of us wanted to work, and if we were working, we had preferred to work for the sangha, even at less pay than "outside". It was a better way for many of us, for many years of our practice, to express mindfulness in action. It also deepened the training possible, since more sangha members could participate.

Begging, traditionally the way monks were supported, just didn't feel appropriate in the States at the time.

We tried the hybrid businesses for a while - the grocery store, the stitchery, but the non-profit tax laws changed.

And we had committed to the neighbors around Tassajara that the springs would remain available when we acquired the property.

So, it may be a long-term goal to de-emphasize the guest season's contribution to the support of the three practice centers of SFZC. I imagine that would be a long conversation.

However, I am not sure, but I guess from knowing finances in other years that some 1/3 of the cash income of SFZC may have been lost.

Donations may make up some part, but I'm sure that other income streams may also be down. We are in an economic depression now....imho. Might you concur?

The last point I'd make is that to some extent this is just like Genjo-koan. Going back to a burnt hill to practice is just the same backward step to study the self as standing in line at the bank to make a deposit so you can pay bills, or getting the car to the shop the same day you see the red oil light come on.

It can be done rapidly and without rush.

So, thanks for the concern. I'll tuck your note into my thoughts as I pick up stray rocks or scrub soot, etc.


Author: Maia Duerr said...

Hi Kensho,

Thank you for responding. I wasn't really looking for answers -- rather offering questions for the whole sangha to reflect on. I am sure many people already are thinking about these questions. I hope that some kind of forum for sharing these reflections honestly with each other will come about.

I am very aware that a sizeable chunk of SFZC's revenue comes from the Tassajara guest season, and I have been one of the beneficiaries of the SFZC system, having lived and practiced inside City Center in 2001 and 2007. I am deeply grateful for all the SFZC has done to support practitioners.

And I know, as a former executive director of a nonprofit, how stressful it can be to raise enough money to keep things going, and how that pressure can sometimes lead to decisions that I regretted later down the line. It's easier for me to see that now that I am no longer in that position... I guess my big question is how can Zen Center be a truly sustainable community for everyone. It's a big question. And one I look at in my own life as well.