Kagyu Changchub Chuling seal     Newsletter — August 2016
Greetings, !

Welcome to KCC's August Newsletter. This month, we focus on the value of going on retreat. Teacher Zopa Herron shares her insights and sangha member, Cynthia Irvine, offers her perspective on her recent retreat. We are also proud to continue featuring beautiful thankgas from Sanje Elliott's collection and to remind you of KCC's main fundraising event for the year—a sit-a-thon coming up on September 3.  

We hope you benefit from this issue, and continue to suggest story ideas and ways we can improve this offering.

With Gratitude

By Jennifer Cox

This month KCC wants to acknowledge the Tech Team also known as the Fabulous Five: Margaret Jansen, Peter Wood, Luisa Zini, Barbara Miller, Jacob Skye as well as Sandy Pollock, who has taken a big role on the team.

Since last July, the Tech Team has been studying which technology systems would help KCC to bring our programs in line with our growth. They have done a fabulous job, brainstorming, comparing and alas! we have landed on a plan AND new software to upgrade KCC’s backend systems. Thanks to all of you for sticking with it until a solution was found.

In This Issue

With Gratitude

Retreat: Zopa Shares

Cynthia Irvine On the June Chenrezig Retreat

Featured Thankga

Sit For Mindfulness

Cleaning Day

Events Update




Deborah Brink Wöhrmann,
Sanje Elliott,
Jennifer Cox,
Zopa Herron,
Cynthia Irvine,
Linda Besant,
Rosemarie Sweet, and

Ryan Fitz contributed to the production of this newsletter.

Why Go On Retreat: Zopa Shares Some Thoughts

By Deborah Brink Wöhrmann

Why is it worth the time and effort to go on retreat?

"Retreat accelerates the opportunity to wake up completely," says Zopa Herron, one of KCC's assistant teachers.  "On retreat we step out of our habits, daily routine and rituals of our home—even those we're not aware of. " There is a different schedule, food is provided, "and silence if you're lucky," she says. "You meet your own self in a new way. Retreat makes this possible."

"Retreat allows you to leave problems at home, though we can learn a lot about ourselves when we obsess on what we've left behind. We can see what is our work."

"At every retreat I've been to I've found some gem, some insight into how my mind works. We're not retreating from the world, but from our mental and emotional habit-patterns. As we make some space, we get to see them clearly with compassion. That's where the gems are."

Zopa emphasizes that the texts say we must seek seclusion at least some part of our lives in order to awaken. This alone time can be an hour, a weekend or years. She has had the opportunity to sit the One Year Retreat at SCOL, after having lived for six years at the Sravasti Abbey in Northeast Washington. Altogether, she has lived three years in retreat.

How can one prepare for a successful retreat?

Zopa offers three guiding suggestions for preparing for a successful retreat:

1.  Choose with awareness. Consider your own experiences, and check out the teacher to be sure he or she is "authentic"—meaning that you can know who their teachers are and can trace them back to the Buddha.

2. Be kind to those you are leaving behind. Begin early (six months in advance) to prepare them for your departure. Involve them in your plans, answering any questions they might have, and leave clear contact information so they know how to find you in case of an emergency. "Then your mind is more at peace."

3. Take it seriously. Cherish the opportunity. Use time well, yet be relaxed. "The effects of retreat will last. You don't know how or what: Let it unfold," she says.

And, "don't bring your consumer mind to retreat. Don't ask what you're going to get."

How important is the "content" of a retreat? What about a personal retreat?

"Look at your own practice, and look at how you like to encourage yourself in your practice," Zopa says. "Be aware of your experiences. A personal retreat is a higher level of practice and can be of great benefit to someone who has already sat other retreats and has benefited from the guidance of teachers and sanghas." A group retreat provides a teacher's guidance along with a sangha's support.

"The other retreatants are helping you - getting up at 5:00 in the morning is much easier when others are doing it too." She reminds us, "Whoever we hang around we tend to become. We're social beings and copy what people around us are doing."

"When good conditions are set up—schedule, silence—our demons can show up. In group retreat, we get guidance from a teacher and then often can meet with a teacher one-on-one. The beauty of a teacher is that you have a guide and someone who can help you to turn a corner when stuck or confused."

What about cost?

KCC offers scholarships to those unable to pay the full cost of a retreat. Zopa says that, when she could not afford the cost of retreat, she would sometimes send letters to friends, asking for support. In these letters she would explain the benefits of retreat and her reasons for wanting to go. "Most of the people who supported me weren't Buddhist," she recalls.

She encourages people to ask for generosity from friends and family. "Don't think 'I can't go.’ ”

Reminder: KCC is also seeking donations to support the scholarship fund that allows all people interested to attend retreat.


How One Sangha Member Benefited from the Recent Chenrezig Retreat:  An Interview with Cynthia Irvine

By Deborah Brink Wöhrmann

Cynthia Irvine was one of the lucky ones who attended the week-long Chenrezig Retreat in late June—and she did not regret her time at the Ananda Center at Laurelwood. She was not sure what she would learn, "but I hoped to become wiser and better able to remember my true nature."

"I chose this retreat because Chenrezig practice sometimes feels mechanical to me and at other times it opens me to a deep sense of compassion both within myself and from the world. Having previously experienced Bill's teaching, I trusted that he would help me connect to this practice more fully."

Cynthia, a longtime KCC member, says the retreat was both helpful and delightful. "Delightful because it was in a beautiful location with yummy food (I didn't have to cook) and I had hours every day to devote to meditation. Helpful because Bill and Dora both are so experienced and wise."

Though nothing "surprised" her, she was struck by how much time was devoted to shamatha practice. "I think all of us on the retreat felt the strong connection between practicing calm abiding without an object and the ability to visualize and feel the presence of Chenrezig."

Two years ago, Cynthia remembers going backpacking and bringing her scribbled Chenrezig notes with her in order to practice. "After this retreat, I can practice without the text." In fact, she recently did an entire practice while waiting in a parking lot at a strip mall off Interstate-5.

"Bill had a way of weaving Chenrezig into all the meditations we did, and he encouraged us to memorize it so it is portable. Previously I had worried about having all the words perfect, but after the retreat I felt freed up to focus more on the meaning of the text (and doing so, paradoxically, I have now memorized it)," she shares.

The practice of Chenrezig can encompass all senses and the imagination. It is an invitation toward more compassionate being. "Viewing the sounds we hear as Chenrezig's mantra; seeing others as Chenrezig; remembering that I am Chenrezig; all this brings me solace and makes me better able to endure discomforts and be kinder with my actions and words towards others. I am happier, and I hope, those I encounter are too.”

For Cynthia, the practice became immediately beneficial in a very real way. "It was incredibly powerful to do the Chenrezig retreat and to have two friends pass away in the next week... I could see clearly how visualizing Chenrezig and later dissolving that visualization mirrors the process of human birth and death. And having practiced Chenrezig, it made the loss less jarring."

Featured Thankga: Vajradhara

By Sanje Elliott

Tilopa was the first human in the Kagyu lineage. He lived 988- 1069 in Bengal, India. His parents were Brahmins, and thus he started out as a Hindu. But after practicing and wandering for several years, he found a group of Buddhist monks who were renunciates and took up their practice. 

Although he received teachings from many great masters of the period, it is said that his inner vision allowed him to receive teachings directly from the Adi Buddha, Vajradhara and, specifically the teachings of Mahamudra, which was to become one of the pillars of Kagyu practice.  He also received many transmissions from visionary beings called dakinis.  

In order to sustain himself, Tilopa became a sesame seed pounder, one who pounds sesame seeds to make oil. The word for that is Tillipa. His guru, Matangi, instructed him to work in a brothel for Dharima, a prostitute in Bengal, and he consequently received great mahamudra realization from that experience.

He was also known for living along a riverbank, eating primarily fish.  One story tells of devout Buddhist monks who chastised him for eating fish since they were vegetarian. To prove that he had not created bad karma by killing the fish, he took the bones from his supper and threw them into the river, and as they landed, they resumed their life and former bodies, and swam away freely to the astonishment of his detractors.

Among his many students were Lalitavajra and Naropa, who was to become the next in the lineage of Kagyu masters.  The thangka of Tilopa was painted by Taja, the master painter from Rumtek Monastery, sometime in the 20th century.

Sit For Mindfulness

By Jennifer Cox

When I first thought about this idea, my image was of hundreds of people sitting in a public place together meditating in a giant circle.  The image itself felt so powerful to me that I wanted to see if KCC could make that happen.  

And here we are with the event just weeks away!  It seems so pertinent, with all of the tragedies, violence, politics and upheaval going on in the world right now.  I cannot think of a better way to bring peace into action or for a Buddhist center to be a part of social action. The most powerful expression comes from a place of compassion.  It starts with ourselves. It starts with coming together as a large community, being inclusive and mindful.  

This is also KCC’s biggest fundraiser of the year!  
August is the time to gather donations and build excitement!

On September 3rd, we will sit together in Grant Park surrounded by a circle of trees. When we found the place, it was clear that this was meant to be.

See you on Saturday, September 3rd—a wonderful day to come together for mindfulness practice and to show our love for KCC.

If you want info on sitting for donations or wish to volunteer, please contact: Jennifer at jcox@gmail.com

Cleaning Day - Thank You Everyone!

KCC’s urban center sparkles these days, following a frenzy of dusting, scrubbing and mopping every nook and cranny on July 16th. Phuntsok and Zopa organized everything and provided yummy snacks. Many thanks to Ales Pokorny, Susan Giese, Ryan Fitz, Sally Mead, Bob Wilson, Denis DeCourcey, Diane Lucas, Makiko Oki, Linda Besant and Pat Parker for pitching in.

August Events

Upcoming events at KCC include some new and some continuing opportunities, but please note the Thursday evening Mind Training Study Group is taking a break. Keep a watch on the website, www.kcc.org, for updates. For now, here is what is happening:

All events are at KCC Urban Center unless otherwise noted.

Young Adult Group

This monthly meeting welcomes the under-40 set to gather and talk about the dharma as it relates to daily life.

Friday, August 5, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Friday, September 2, 2016 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Painting at the Land of Retreat

The second and third summer painting classes hosted by KCC at SCOL, where participants will spend the day painting high desert prairie, arid brushland, and pine and oak savannah landscapes under the guidance of highly-reputed plein air artists and instructors.

Jef Gunn will lead this class. Visit the painting series website for dates and details about subsequent classes.

Saturday, August 6, 2016
Ser Chö Ösel Ling


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, August 7, 2016 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Newcomers’ Night

This is a great opportunity to stop by KCC, ask questions, and get acquainted with the community, as well as the ways of Tibetan Buddhism as practiced at KCC. If you are new or sort of new or just want the chance to be reintroduced to KCC, please stop by.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Discovering Awareness—Relaxing in the Solace of the Three Solitudes

This retreat will focus on honing calm-abiding practice by observing the three solitudes of body, speech and mind. The emphasis will be on meditation and contemplation with daily opportunities to address questions. Participants will have the option of having several brief, practice-oriented interviews with the retreat leader.

Saturday, August 20 - 4:00pm — Sunday, August 28 - 11:00am
Led by Lama Eric Triebelhorn

Ananda at Laurelwood Retreat Center


Board of Directors Meeting

Sunday, August 21, 2016 - 1:30pm to 4:30pm

For more events, view the KCC calendar.


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