A Place of Refuge in Ojai

Practicing meditation together as a sangha, or community, is a transformative experience that can help you deepen your practice and nourish happiness and joy in your daily life. The sangha can be a place of refuge for all who attend.

My intention as a dharma teacher is to provide a place of refuge and to teach mindfulness, meditation, and the Buddhadharma in Ojai. A fellow teacher, Gael Belden, and I have been offering a monthly Morning of Mindfulness and a weekly sitting at the Being Peace Zendo for several years now. We have a supportive and stable community. Our home-based practice center has served us very well but now is the time to allow it to grow in a new direction.

Prior to offering regular practice in Ojai, I founded and led the Olive Branch Sangha in Fresno from 2002-2005. In early 2012, I was selected to teach by the Plum Village community and given the Lamp of Wisdom by Thich Nhat Hanh. With this gift comes a responsibility to offer meditation and mindfulness to others. Ojai has many skilled teachers and wonderful places to explore the dharma such as The Ojai Foundation, Meditation Mount, Krotona Institute, The Well, to name a few. We are truly blessed in our little Nest. And I’d like to sweeten it more by creating a public space for our mindfulness meditation practice.

The purpose of this post is to set an intention and seek support. I’m looking for a person, a group of people, or an organization that has the capacity to support building the mindfulness community in Ojai. Specifically, I am looking for a location that can be used exclusively by myself and other local teachers (Gael) and facilitators OR a location that can be used weekly or twice-weekly for meditation and teaching.

If you have a location that would be suitable for a regular meditation practice that can be open to the public then I am very interested in speaking with you further. Ideally the location would have a space for silent sitting, a space for teaching and workshops, and outdoor space nearby for walking meditation. It could also be an unconventional location such as a storefront, an office, or a small house.

Keeping an open mind to the possibilities.

Support Local Businesses, No Chains in Ojai

no_chainsBack in mid-2006 I created a wiki to document a community effort to restrict formula businesses (aka-chains) in Ojai, California. We were ultimately successful on November 27, 2007 with the passage of Ordinance #798. A few years later I shut down the wiki because it was requiring too much effort on my part to maintain and I felt like we had enough years with the ordinance regulating formula businesses. Now with a potential revision to the ordinance before the City Council again, I’m finding myself wanting to review the background. The purpose of this post is to simply document the work we did along with a timeline. It will be cross-posted on the Ojai Post.

This type of ordinance has been passed in many cities and towns (must read!) and been upheld in court. See the June 2003 California Appeals Court decision upholding Coronado’s formula business ordinance. Ojai community members began working on an ordinance in December 2006. The final document was called Formula Retail and Restaurant Establishments and it was submitted to the City of Ojai on April 9, 2007 and signatures have been collected from approximately 700 Ojai voters; enough to be placed on the ballot.

Time Line (2006-present) : Continue reading “Support Local Businesses, No Chains in Ojai”

Google Apps and Nonprofits

I recently came across the Google for Nonprofits program and thought it might fit the need for a local nonprofit called Ojai Valley Green Coalition. At my 7pm appointment with their Executive Director and another volunteer, we had a great time talking about utilizing Google Apps for the organization. Originally, they came to me with a need to integrate document sharing, conversation, and calendaring. One of their biggest challenges as an organization is communication – making it sophisticated enough to be practical and easy enough for most people to use. Many things have been tried over the years. With the Google Apps option, this organization can integrate it all under their domain name and provide organization accounts to the key players. The added components for nonprofits are a bonus.

Based on past experience with Apps, I thought setting up the Google for Nonprofits would be a breeze. Though it was very simple to complete the application (contact information needed only), we then discovered we’d have to wait up to 30-days before it was reviewed and approved. This was only 5-minutes into our scheduled meeting! Fortunately, not all was lost, we discovered we could move forward by setting up a regular Google Apps account and later link it with the nonprofit component.

It took about an hour, but we setup and configured our domain to be hosted on Google Apps with a handful of users. Explaining as we went along, the two members seemed to understand the options provided by Google. Possibly the most challenging piece we’ve yet to resolve is that they are using .com for email right now but everything else is on .org – I think they should transition the email to .org to keep it all consistent (and then redirect).

Two key steps remain:

  1. Editing the CNAME and MX records for the custom URLs and the mail.
  2. Explore the Sites component to build an integrated environment for the organization’s committees – this is what they asked! Here’s an example of what it might look like. I’ve actually never used Sites, but I’m optimistic about this type of solution.

I had a great time teaching and learning more about these free tools. We have a month to tinker while we have Google review our nonprofit status. A fun Friday evening.

 

Religious Freedom in Vietnam – Help Bat Nha

Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley
Image by kenleyneufeld via Flickr

Do you believe in religious freedom? It is something we almost take for granted in our nation and in our world. However, there are places where religious freedom is a precious gift that must be struggled for to make a reality. This is the case in Vietnam.

For 39 years Nobel Prize Nominee and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has lived in exile in France because he challenged the status quo of violence in his Motherland. Even after the “American War” ended, Thay was not allowed to return. That all changed in 2005 when he returned home to tour the country and give talks and share the dharma. He returned again in 2007 and 2008. I was honored to be a part of the initial delegation in 2005 and experienced the elation and joy of the Vietnamese people and the apparent opening up of the nation to new ideas and newfound religious freedom.

The trip also coincided with Vietnam’s desire to join the World Trade Organization, which has since happened. On a related note, the President of Vietnam just assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
Continue reading “Religious Freedom in Vietnam – Help Bat Nha”

Discoveries in Fasting

It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.

Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.

Continue reading “Discoveries in Fasting”

Twitter Dominated ALA Midwinter

The predominant player at ALA Midwinter Meeting, at least from my personal angle, was Twitter. Though I have been using Twitter for two years, I continue to find more useful applications for this free tool. It does seem that Twitter is reaching a more critical mass, based on the meeting tag (#alamw09) activity, and so there is more conversation on the feed. In fact, I picked up about 50 new followers just over the weekend. I see two positive outcomes from the heavy usage of Twitter at ALA.

First, it made for a more inclusive and broad environment for discussions to occur. On more than one occasion, meetings being held in person were enriched by tweets from afar. Bringing in those voices make ALA more open and accessible – especially for those who cannot attend. Secondly, since there are so many overlapping meetings The Twitter helped attendees to be at more than one meeting at once. So yes, you can be in two places at once. In the LITA Town Hall meeting I sat at a physical table with eight other folks. We decided to hold our conversation on Twitter so we could easily log the conversation. Two things happened: more people joined virtually and, when I had to leave, I could continue participating from the next location. This provided for rich content and open participation. Also, see LITA’s well known Top Technology Trends program as it unfolded on Twitter.  Continue reading “Twitter Dominated ALA Midwinter”

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 and our focus this year is on poverty. It is a day when bloggers around the world can unite together to highlight an issue. I’m happy to participate and hope that it contributes to global awareness around poverty. Despite the fiscal crisis taking place in the United States, we still have one of the highest standards of living in the world. It is easy for us to grow distraught about our own personal finances, but most of us probably have clean running water, employment, housing, clothing. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes to wear, a roof on your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than the 75% of the people who live on this Earth. If you have money in your bank account and your wallet and some loose change in some little box, you are one of the world’s 8% well-to-do population. And yet, even here in the United States we have many that live in poverty. Here in Ojai, I typically spend time in the winter staying at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter once a week with the two dozen people who choose to stay in the shelter. Check out some of the other resources put together on the Blog Action Day Web Resources page. Or, you can watch the following video if you haven’t seen it already:

What are you doing for those with less? What is your experience with poverty?