Kagyu Changchub Chuling seal Newsletter — March 2016

Greetings, !

This month, we are focused on the critical work being done by KCC volunteers, both at the urban center and at SCOL. Volunteers make KCC the vibrant sangha that it is. And, with the start of spring, it seems appropriate to share the story of the bluebirds at SCOL.

Our thanks go to everyone who has shared a story idea or written an article for the e-newsletter.  We cannot do it without you!

Bluebird Conservation at
Ser Chö Ösel Ling

by John Jennings

Western Bluebird BoxWhen KCC purchased the SCOL land, it inherited the care of around 100 western bluebird boxes that were put up by prior owners. The boxes are part of a regional conservation effort to restore the bluebird population impacted by forestry and agriculture. Bickleton, a nearby town east of Goldendale, calls itself the Bluebird Capital of the World.

Since the land was first purchased, KCC members have volunteered their time to clean the boxes. Dora DeCoursey and Adele Hilsen oversaw this effort for many years. Most of the boxes that came with the property were rustic handmade affairs. They were placed mainly on oak trees, following recommendations to face south or east and be placed high enough to keep ground predators away but not too high to be a challenge for young birds learning to fly.

In This Issue

Bluebird Conservation at Ser Chö Ösel Ling

Volunteering as Practice

March-April Events





Zopa Herron,
John Jennings, Barbara Miller,
Rosemarie Sweet, and
Deborah Brink Wöhrmann contributed to the production of this newsletter.

I got involved in this effort about six years ago, inspired by the sight of the birds while walking the land during a Mahamudra retreat. The following year, I began a project to locate and map all the bird boxes. They are scattered in clusters all over the property. We also had ambitious goals to track and record what we found in each box at the end of the nesting season or into the winter when we went around to clean the boxes so they would be free of bacteria, germs, parasites and wasps for the next nesting season. But after a few years of tracking, I stopped recording the contents, given how laborious the task was.

Over the years, we have found nests made of twigs, some of grass, some of moss. Some had wasp nests inside and a few had unhatched eggs. A number have been chewed up by rodents trying to make a bigger hole for their own use. I even found a small flying squirrel sleeping in one. The tracking evidence showed that bluebirds were using some of the nests. The most common areas for bluebirds are the edges of meadows. Many of the bluebirds use boxes around the barn and pond area.

The biggest chore is repairing or replacing broken boxes. Every year, the weather and critters take their toll. Ones beyond repair are replaced with new boxes. We found a bird box maker in Bickleton and have procured close to twenty new ones over the years. Eventually, we will replace all of the older boxes. With the retirement of our box maker, SCOL staffer, Abby Cummings, has offered to make boxes, possibly as part of a Children’s program being planned by Adele Hilsen.

Bluebird NestIt takes about two full days for one person working diligently all day to clean and repair most of the boxes. There is a lot of walking over rough, uneven, often muddy or snowy terrain. The boxes are not always near a trail. I have enjoyed doing it as a kind of personal retreat, communing with the land. I know others, Adele and Dora in particular, have spent time on this work. We would like to know of others who have participated, and new people who might like to help out. This is a lower priority than the fire protection work underway, but it does need to be done once a year.

The work can be stretched over time, over a number of weeks or weekends. The ideal time is late fall or early winter. But even late winter is possible. In any case, the boxes must be cleaned by no later than early March when the male birds begin coming north looking for nest sites. Serious nest building begins in May after the females arrive and the cycle begins anew.

If you are interested in this project, contact John Jennings at jjennings@igc.org.

Volunteering as Practice
by Zopa Herron

“We are grateful for the opportunity to offer service to the Buddha, to the Dharma and to the Sangha.
While working with others differences in ideas and ways of doing things may arise.
These are natural and are a source of creative exchange, our minds don’t need to make them into conflicts.
We will endeavor to listen deeply and communicate wisely and kindly as we work together for our common goals.
By using our bodies and speech to support the values we deeply believe in: generosity, kindness, ethical discipline, love and compassion, we will create great merit, which we dedicate for the awakening of all beings.”

This prayer was composed by Venerable Thubten Chodron of Sravasti Abbey. The monastic and lay community there says it each day together before setting out to serve in the kitchen, offices, gardens, and forests.  Some committees at KCC have adopted the prayer also. It seems to get us on the right track for difficult discussions.

The other day, I was sweeping the floor in the kitchen at KCC. I was feeling pretty grumpy when I remembered this prayer. I noticed as I said it, a shift occurred in my mind as I worked. It had to do with the concept Lama Michael talks about frequently—interdependence.  As I recited the prayer, I felt more connected not only to what I was doing, but to why I was doing it; the simple act of sweeping became service to others, to KCC, Dharma practice. I understood it as an opportunity to be grateful to have the chance to serve and to help the Dharma grow in Portland.

Living at the KCC Center, I see so many volunteers quietly come and go throughout the week: Cynthia and Pat in the basement office; Rhonda, Susan G. and Adele in the yard, Steven putting up fire alarms, donated by the Red Cross; Julie H. going out to SCOL to help; Linda L, Diane and John Cusak setting up the bookstore displays, Bonnie McLean coming by to work on Dharma texts; Peter Wood working on the computers; Diane picking up worn cushions to repair, Phuntsok, cleaning the center day after day; Don stopping by to repair a leaking faucet; the KCC Board, Program Committee and other groups meeting regularly to keep KCC healthy and happy, Sally Mead tirelessly assisting Lama Michael, all the omzes who set up and lead the practices, the streamers who make them available to so many, Jeff and Sally volunteering to teach about ethics, Mary Woods leading the Childrens’ program, Linda Grove heading up the Harmony Committee and organizing the Winter Retreat.  And there are so many others constantly and reliably working behind the scenes here and at SCOL. Writing this brings happiness to the mind and heart!  And I hope that reading it inspires you too.

Each volunteer, through helping, strengthens their Bodhisattva intention, understanding that service is Dharma practice and Dharma practice is service and each takes it upon her or himself to ensure that the Dharma continues in this world. Offering like this engages one in the Six Paramitas.  It is generosity and can lead to patience and increased joyous effort. Then, we can dedicate it all, sending that positive potential we have created out to turn the world around us toward more peace and happiness.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “We are visitors on this planet.  We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most.  During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives.  If you contribute to other peoples’ happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”

If you want to join in amazing, fun, world-changing activities with like-minded people, contact Jennifer Cox at jcox@kcc.org. Thank you.

March-April Event Update

All events are at KCC Urban Center unless otherwise noted.

Working with the Five Lay Vows and Building the Foundation for an Ethical Life

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm


Young Adult Group

Friday, April 1, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

The Six Far-Reaching Practices: Taking the Six Paramitas off the Cushion and into Your Life

Saturday, April 2, 2016 - 9:00am to 12:00noon
Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 9:00am to 12:00noon
Saturday, April 30, 2016 - 9:00am to 12:00noon



All-Day Sit: Chenrezig

Resident Lama Michael Conklin provides detailed instruction on the practice of Chenrezig on alternating first Sundays from 9:00am to noon. Following a potluck lunch, there is a question-and-answer session from 1:30pm to 2:45pm, and then a last session of meditation ending at 4:00pm.

Sunday, April 3, 2016 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Seven Point Mind Training Study Group

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Newcomers’ Night

Friday, April 21, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Invigorating Your Practice in the Mahamudra Program

Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 9:00am to 12:00noon


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