Tag Archives: community

Letting My Hair Down

I began this blog with a somewhat narrow ambition: create a space to share the joy that arises from my activities with the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. As the Buddhist center grows I’m finding my involvement and responsibilities appropriately shifting and surprise, surprise, the changes do not always lead to the arising of joy, heh, heh, heh. Hmmmmm . . . My focus for this blog is no longer quite so lofty. Rather, it now expands to a broader purpose of sharing my practice via the challenges and rewards that arise while aiming toward noble and skilfull balance. Kind of like letting go of blissful expectations; let the hair down, the wind blow and the tangles be known. So, in the spirit of sharing “This Upasika Life”, let the blogging proceed.

Notice the top knot of the Buddh’as hair in his lap

A bit of history: Portland Friends of the Dhamma sprung out of a desire to establish and nourish a sense of contact with the Abhayagiri community. As this contact grew I began to seek out others who also found the Ajahn Chah lineage inspiring and began to invite a person here and there, to gather together in the style of the Abhayagiri Monastery.

Within a few months I met Barbara Backstrand and Chris Robson, it was clear we shared a deep appreciation for our meditation styles and decided to anchor our connection with Abhayagiri. We wrote a mission statement, signed a lease on a lovely space and founded the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. That was nearly eight years ago. Barbara and Chris have both moved on, the community has grown and my role as founder is now changing.

The morphing of a founder’s responsibilities is not always an easy or pleasant undertaking. Still I believe it is a necessary step for any expanding community that intends to remain healthy and available to all it draws toward its purpose. I hope to write about the process of morphing, how to approach this as a follower of the Buddha’s example and as one living well “This Upasika Life”.


Thank You Mike

Mike Nowak has just finished his Stewardship responsibilities for the Summer Hermitage and heads North. Thank you Mike for getting us through this initial phase of Vassa retreat. Your hard work is evident, your gentle nature is appreciated and your friendship is valued!

Mike sat with Portland Friends of the Dhamma for several years while attending Reed College. Two years ago he opted to take a break from school and headed off to Thailand. Once there he explored life as an Anagarika, eventually landing at Birken Monastery where he remained for an entire year. His return to university resumes after a two year exploration of the Thai Forest tradition. It’s been lovely to see one of our members explore this tradition so deeply and then postpone his return to lay life so as to support the Summer Hermitage.

Please come and visit us again Mike, when ever you are in town!

Mark Gosnell now joins us for one month as the Vassa lay Steward. Welcome Mark.

Taking Root

This past Wednesday Joan and I drove out to the Hermitage to get the tents ready for the monks. We aimed to get ourselves off the land before they showed up for their first night of Vassa and though we arrived a full two hours later than originally intending, our mission was accomplished. Still, upon arriving I was feeling a bit of pressure to hurry up and finish which made for a mindfully unpleasant few moments, heh, heh, heh. Sweat poured and ankles bent as we trecked up and down the hillside till finally the tents were in good order. Joan headed back up the hill to prepare our lunch while I shot a few photos. If you ever do anything with Joan and she offers to make you lunch? . . . you really want to take her up on it!

It was nice to share the meal offering with Ashleigh today; walking in with bags full of food and seeing the monks conversing near a shrine was like entering an honest to goodness monastery.

Yesterday Greg and Adrienne brought their children to the Hermitage and offered the monks their first Vassa meal. They also made an offering to the Sanghata Foundation; a beautiful marble Buddha rupa. You can see it below just to the right of Ajahn Sudanto (left side of photo). A beautiful expression. I feel fortunate to be part of such a community as this.

This ‘practice-run’ for a possible monastery taking root near the Portland area certainly has its challenges, as any large scale project must. Still the foundation so far laid is also bearing some tasty fruits: witnessng amazing generosity, meeting well with challenging deadlines and sharing aspirations with others; all the while strengthening old and new friendships.

Ajahn Sudanto’s mother summed up this Hermitage adventure in a charming if not ‘mortherly’ way; “it’s a dream come true isn’t it?”
Yes, it certainly is, and a good one at that!

The Doors Are Open

My grandson Maxwell will soon have my attention in full check, till then I’ll scribble down a very quick update . . .

Four of us were back out in Mosier yesterday. Mimi and I worked on putting order to the cookhouse while the remaining crew of four continued to dig, pound and level. A strong and pleasant breeze made known the benefits of sweat while keeping the bees at a distance.

Having finally finished the platforms, Alistair set up one of the tents. It was fun to add a sense of accomplishment to all the dirty and difficult work so many have put in thus far. When Mimi and I saw the finished tent and platform for the first time we immediatelly indulged in an imaginary design competition for ‘Best’ interior. She won hands down with the addition of small Tibetan throw rugs, which was a pleasure to bow to.

Ajahn Sudanto saw this photo and sent it back to me after he PhotoShopped himself sitting inside. He titled (what I refer to as his masterpiece) “Imagine” and said it was fun to think of himself sitting there for the summer months . . . nice work don’t you agree?

Cool Breezes, Hot Coffee and Spirtual Friends

Woke up this morning to a cool breeze and smiling companion wispering “let’s make some coffee and head down to the center so we can say goodmorning to Scott before he heads out to land.”

It is pleasant to live with a generous spirit whose first words encourage the mind toward the efforts of Alms. We dress and head downstairs, Alistair veers to the right to make coffee while I veer to left to check my new blog site. With his encouragement I walk pass the computer and water the potted plants instead.

We meander up the PFoD stairwell where Had, Jennifer and Scott are just gathering themselves together to head off for what will surely be a very hot day of digging and hammering. Scott the decisioner, Had the go-lucky, and Jennifer the toilet hole maker jump into the S.U.V. with big smiles and waving hands while we return home where I open this blog and sip the hot coffee Alistair is now pouring. Community, meditation groups, kalyanamitta, all have their challenges (of which I’m sure to write of from time to time;) thank goodness they also have their blessings.