Kagyu Changchub Chuling seal     Newsletter — June 2015

Greetings, !

Welcome to our first summer issue.  We hope you will appreciate the varied offerings.  We strive to combine topical updates with background pieces and reflections on practice. In that vein, you will find information about a new KCC initiative, an article on KCC’s Young Adult Group and a reflection by one of our sangha members on her time in Nepal and how it has shaped her practice.

We begin with a note of thanks to the staff and volunteers who make the Three Year Retreat possible. I would like to take this opportunity to also thank the contributors to this e-newsletter, a number of whom make a regular commitment to writing stories of interest to our community. My special thanks to Barbara Miller, who lends her indispensable knowledge of on-line publishing to the production of this newsletter.

Thanks Abound In the First Three Months of Three Year Retreat

by Linda Besant

Close to three months into the long-awaited Three Year Retreat at SCOL, it is time to thank the staff at SCOL and the many volunteers who have helped to get retreatants settled in.

First, the staff—Peg Swift, Marie Maretska, and Chuck Murray. These are the people who care 24-7 for the eleven retreatants, the land and facilities at SCOL, and Lama Michael and Lama Tara when they are present. Peg, Chuck and Marie have been working full-tilt for much longer than three months. Preparation for the Sealing In Ceremony that launched Three Year Retreat was multilayered. The cloisters and all the retreat cabins had to be ready for occupancy, and all the retreatants given assistance with moving in their belongings; and the weekend of April 4th was packed with events and guests. Thanks especially to Peg for her unflagging efforts in getting it all done.

Three Year Retreatants and Teachers

Since April 4th, the staff has been face-to-face with their truth for Three Year Retreat—those eleven people must be fed three times a day, at 8:00, noon and 6:00 on the dot. And it is not like KCC’s winter retreat seasons or a Tonglen retreat, where the attendees help with prep and cleanup. The work in the kitchen is relentless. A steady stream of sangha volunteers has assisted in the kitchen. Linda Logan, Charlotte Kangas, Adele Hilsen, Zopa Heron, and Karen Marks have all done several tours of several days; and Barbara Bell, Tani Biale, Abby and Jake Cummings, Sophie Douglas, Jace Maretska, Sally Mead, Betta Ledbetter, Cathy Neumann, Carolyn Peck and Rachael Simmons have done a tour each. It would not have been possible to keep those retreatants fed without them.

News and Events

In This Issue

Thanks Abound In the First Three Months of Three Year Retreat

The Liberation of Stuff

KCC Young Adult Group

Reflections on Nepal

KCC Events

Upcoming Events

Young Adult Group
July 3

All-Day Sit
July 5

Seven Point Mind Training Study Group
July 9, July 23

Second Turning and the Four Immeasurables
July 11


Newcomer’s Night
July 16

Board of Directors Meeting
July 19

All-Day Sit
August 2

Tonglen Retreat
September 25-28





Linda Besant,
Ryan Fitz,
Deborah Brink Wöhrmann,
Barbara Miller, and
Rosemarie Sweet
contributed to the production of this newsletter.

Special thanks also go to Peter Wood for getting the wi-fi hooked up in the new staff residence, to the team that set up the beautiful shrine room in the staff residence, and to Adele Hilsen for all kinds of land stewardship work.

Throughout this three months, we’ve been searching for just the right person to work with Marie in the kitchen, and we think we have succeeded. Stay tuned for the next e-newsletter to hear about SCOL’s newest staff member.

The Liberation of Stuff

KCC’s board understands that our sangha now has larger responsibilities; in particular, caring for people in Three Year Retreat and searching for a new urban center. With growing responsibilities come increasing expenses, thus a need for more revenue.  The board thought carefully about new ways to increase revenue, and identified “the liberation of stuff” as a potential source, through eBay sales and a summer sangha yard sale.  We see this as an on-going effort for at least a few years.  The board’s revenue goal for this project is $20,000, all of which will be used to support general operating expenses.

We are thrilled that sangha member Ryan Fitz has agreed to take on this project. Below is his invitation to donate to KCC’s brand new eBay auction site.

Dream Big, Start Small
In order to develop a reputation as a reliable seller, we will begin by auctioning smaller items of modest value. To this end, we are requesting donations of items that fit in a shoebox (but need not fill a shoebox) and are worth $50 or less. eBay experts we have consulted with suggest donations such as jewelry, electronics, small statues, artwork, children’s toys and kitchen gadgets, among other items.

Once we achieve a seller rating that gives buyers confidence to spend more with us, I will send an announcement that we are ready to accept donations of larger and more expensive items. Eventually, an eBay store will be created.

For now, please do not donate shoes, clothes, books and items that are particularly well-suited to a yard sale

In time—but not yet—we will gladly accept your donations of dharma and other spirituality-related books. I will be working with the Bookstore committee to establish goals and a timeline for expansion of our book sales, a used book sale, and creation of an on-line bookstore. Until further notice, please hold onto your books for donation. Other bookstore items, such as malas and pecha covers, will eventually be sold online, as well.

Yard Sale
An end-of-summer yard sale will be held on August 22, and certain donated items—appliances, patio furniture, for example—will be better suited to the yard sale than the on-line store. I will send a separate announcement about the yard sale.

Please Deliver
You can leave donations on the table in the KCC basement.  Please leave detailed information about the items, such as whether they are used, new, what materials they are made of and their age.  I will need your contact information in case I have questions about the items. There are donation receipts on the basement table for those wishing to claim tax credits for their donation. Donors should fill out the entire form and I will sign it for you.

I will also welcome deliveries when I am at KCC, on many Sundays, at least as many Wednesdays, and even more frequently in between, by appointment.

Ready, Set...
If you have questions related to donations or sales, please contact me. I often prefer to handle complex or lengthy discussions over the phone and can be reached at 503.830.6245, which may also be the most efficient means of getting questions answered.

Thank you all for your contributions to this and other efforts to support KCC. I feel excited and privileged to have the opportunity to work more directly to benefit the center which has supported me so thoroughly. I also appreciate the patience and understanding of the community during this foray into a new form of fundraising.

With gratitude,
Ryan Fitz

KCC's Young Adult Group

by Deborah Brink Wöhrmann

When Holly Hashimoto, now 30, attended Newcomer’s Night at KCC, in the fall of 2013, she asked Bill Spangle if there was any group for young adults in the sangha. This question sprouted what is now a thriving, supportive community of peers that meets on the first Friday of every month. With Bill’s support, Holly and a few others began meeting and planning. They decided to choose a theme for each month and created Group Guidelines to uphold a consistent set of precepts for conversation. That was the beginning of what has become the KCC Young Adult Group.

“There is unique value in sharing experiences on a spiritual path with those in a similar life stage. It’s not better, only unique,” says Holly. “There are questions, social pressures, patterns of education or behavior that we share in a heightened way.”

Each month a different member agrees to facilitate the circle and brings a theme. Attendance has ranged from five to fourteen, though the list-serve and several group emails announcing events each month are distributed to 27 members who range in age between 19 and the early 40s.

“Themes are based on questions, struggles and observations from our lives,” says Holly. Some of her favorites have included “Resistance is fertile,” “The tyranny of the search for the optimal life,” and “The universe is a verb.” In the beginning, Bill Spangle, who has served as the group’s Program Council mentor, helped generate the theme, but now members draw from current issues in their practice lives.

“It’s a kind of crucible of dharma ideas, where we wrestle with things together that we’re not yet sure how to bring to a more formal dharma conversation,” says member Sam Snoek-Brown.  “I recall several months ago a particularly interesting conversation where we were addressing some of the racial tensions that had become front-page news. The minute someone brought it up, the rest of the group expressed relief at having broached the subject and we all talked about how to even ask questions about those social tensions in a dharma context.”

He says no one is teacher in the group “because none of us is qualified to do that.” “We spend plenty of time wrestling with those smaller, personal emotions, too—discussing our workdays and our relationships and our days spent dodging traffic or stuck in it, and then trying to figure out how the dharma might speak to all that and what we might ask of our teachers later.”

Member Jordan Hamilton says, “For me, the KCC Young Adults group has become a comfortable space where I can converse with like-minded individuals.  I moved to Portland two years ago and hardly knew anyone. It was another ‘young adult’ that introduced me to the greater KCC community.” Jordan does not think she would have stuck around if it was not for his encouragement to give meditation a try in dealing with her daily mental struggles.

She began attending Sunday night Shamata. “My favorite part of sitting on Sunday nights is the Q&A that follows. However, I was quickly made aware that—at 25 years old—most people my age don’t match my curiosity when it comes to exploring a spiritual path or discussing the dharma. “There are lots of grey areas that are intimidating at first, and I think that can scare people away from beginning even a basic relationship with meditation.”

“When meeting with KCC Young Adults, I am met with open minds and true hearts without the typical social pressures, obligations or agendas. Even when we aren’t meeting formally on first Fridays, it is my experience that the relational qualities we’ve developed in the group are carried with us beyond the KCC setting.”

According to Holly, who planted that first seed two years ago, consistency is a challenge for the group. “Many members work or attend school full time and don’t have regular schedules. Often different people attend each meeting; so it can be challenging to make decisions, carry forward a conversation from month to month, or follow through on projects.”

Because she lives and works near KCC, Holly has committed to attending each meeting to greet newcomers and provide regularity.

“When I think of the three prajnas, I consider this group to fit into the ‘contemplation’ aspect of my practice. I receive or ‘hear’ teachings from the Program Council teachers, and I ‘meditate’ with the teachings at KCC on Sundays or privately. The YA Group helps me deeply consider, wrestle with and reflect on the experiences generated by the other activities of KCC. I find that very enriching.”

Reflections on Nepal

by Linda Besant

Linda Besant is a KCC sangha member who trekked in Nepal last December to raise funds for Nepal SEEDS, which works with villagers to provide water systems, biogas composting toilets and cooking systems, assistance with schools, and scholarships.

On the bright, cold morning of December 12, 2014, in Kyanjin village at 12,000 feet in Nepal, I stood in the upstairs window of Hotel Yala Peak looking down on the village square. Three Tibetan toddlers romped around their mother as she scrubbed laundry in a tin washbasin. Gradually I grew aware of the sound of chanting—“ka, k’a, ga, nga; cha, ch’a, ja, nya...” Someone was practicing the Tibetan alphabet, as I had aspired to do regularly since taking the Tibetan language courses that KCC sponsored last summer.

Just below my window, a grandmother sat on a low stool with an exercise book, reciting her letters. I learned that this was Jangbo Lopchen, who lives up the hillside at Kyanjin Gompa where the villages of the upper Langtang valley have pooled their resources to construct buildings for their elders to live together; and that the lama is teaching the women to read Tibetan, and that the women are thrilled to have this opportunity. Jangbo Lopchen and I sounded out pairs of letters from her exercise book...“ra-na—rang,” “da-ra—dar.”

We were invited to the Gompa. As we arrived, four of the elders were headed down to the forest to gather firewood and haul it 1,000 feet back uphill. This was clearly not an assisted living center.

We visited the room where the elders practice and study, with a simple shrine, the seat where the lama teaches, a pile of exercise books where the students had written the Tibetan alphabet over and over, and materials for mandala offering identical to those we use in KCC’s Mahamudra program. I was flooded with gratitude for the Dharma, for KCC and the authentic teachings we receive, and for the interconnectedness that brings us all together across such vast geographic and cultural distances.

Kyanjin VillageVillage of Kyanjin

Jango and grandson
Jangbo and her grandson

On April 25th, when the 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, the Langtang valley with its steep walls and glaciated peaks was terrifyingly vulnerable. Kyanjin was hit hard. In a double-whammy of earthquake tremors followed by avalanche debris and shock waves, the Tibetan stacked-stone buildings crumbled. The village of Langtang, where we had also made trekking friends, was completely buried under rock, snow and ice. Only a few people survived out of three or four hundred.

Kyanjin after earthquake
Kyanjin village after the earthquake. Photo by Colin Haley.

I wanted to drop everything in my life and go to Nepal to help. A very unwise compulsion, but nothing else felt worthwhile in the face of such suffering and loss. All right then, get to work raising funds for relief and rebuilding, which I’ve been doing, but...

In my practice, it’s been impressive to observe how much difference it makes when I know the people who are suffering. So much fuel to practice Tonglen, and the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind just plain vibrate. Precious Human Existence—I keep feeling grateful for mine in a way that’s downright embarrassing, with gratitude that I wasn’t there during the earthquake, followed by renewed commitment to the Bodhisattva vow. Impermanence—a village of people who cared for me and my friends is GONE. Could the Faults of Samsara be more evident? Karma—why, oh why, did this happen? What complexity of causes and conditions came together here? Yet already, who could have imagined, glimmers of some good outcomes appear. Nepali young people are side-stepping their mired government and planning for better building techniques in the recovery efforts.

So many of us at KCC know and love people in Nepal. Since the earthquake, Sunday Q and A discussions have been helpful to me, with sangha members offering the wisdom that in my practice, feeling close to the suffering of Jangbo Lopchen and all the people of Nepal can be a gateway to feeling compassion for all beings.

KCC Events

Summer has arrived, and the KCC community continues to support its members as many members support the community. Below you will find upcoming events listed.  But here are a few highlights:

Consider attending the Second Turning and the Four Immeasurables day-long retreat on July 11. Bill Spangle leads this opportunity to either review or learn anew more about Tibetan Buddhism.

The Seven Point Mind Training Study Group continues to meet every other Thursday, and all are welcome. No need to arrive well-read: Come join the conversation, and you might find yourself inspired.

The KCC Young Adult Group also continues with monthly, first-Friday meetings. This peer-led community welcomes all ages, though its current members range between the ages of 19 and the early 40s. (see this month's feature article for more on this group).

Young Adult Group
Friday, July 3, 2015 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

All-Day Sit: Zhinay
Sunday, July 5, 2015 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Seven Point Mind Training Study Group
Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Second Turning and the Four Immeasurables
Saturday, July 11, 2015 - 9:00am to 4:00pm


Newcomer’s Night
Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Board of Directors Meeting
Sunday, July 19, 2015 - 1:30pm to 4:30pm

All-Day Sit: Chenrezig
Sunday, August 2, 2015 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Tonglen Retreat — Taking and Sending
Friday, September 25, 2015 - 4:00pm to
Monday, September 28, 2015 - 1:30pm at Cloud Mountain


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