New Beginnings Blog

New Beginnings Blog


March 20, 2024

No doubt the biggest news for many of us in this practice is the beginning of the Yearlong Retreat. The end of the last Yearlong in December seems long ago and far away, given all we’ve done since—not counting holidays! The New Year’s Retreat, the annual Kickoff, an email class on Aging, Sickness, Pain, and Death. In December it seemed as if March were eons away. We managed to bring a great deal of looking during those months and here we are, launched full-tilt into another year of the deepening of our understanding of the Dharma. 

During this hiatus from weekly assignments and daily conversation, we’ve made our way through the responses to our invitation to ask those niggling questions for which there never seems an appropriate time to ask. Now we’re in the “how do we make all this available to Sangha” phase of the operation. Currently, it seems as if a rather sprawling sort of ebook or an app along the lines of Project Joy will be the direction. I found the whole process to be fascinating and good fun. The pared down, consolidated book that will eventually come from the material will happen over the next few months. We’ll keep you posted on all of it. 

Speaking of ebooks, The Key and Suffering Is Optional are now available as ebooks. A Gift of Dharma, curated by Jen to celebrate my 80th birthday, is also available as an ebook. If you enjoy the History Postcards Jen produces, you’ll love this little tome. If you were here last year for SOS, you had a chance to see it. Now you can download it. Living in an area where logging is a main industry, I am grateful every day for the technology that reduces the use of paper. 

While the economy in the U.S. roars along, much of the rest of the world is experiencing varying degrees of “not that.” Zambia, always among the poorest of countries, is struggling mightily. Prices go up and up while the opportunities to earn money remain hovering around 0%. However, in Living Compassion Kantolomba people are having a very different experience. To be clear, it’s not that they are better, harder-working people. Most of the population of Zambia, as in other poor countries, would jump at the possibility of employment. There just aren’t any jobs. Our young women worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get through nursing school only to join the ranks of thousands of other women who are waiting for a job opening. 

If you’ve been following along with news from Living Compassion Kantolomba, you know that those intrepid folk are no longer waiting for the economy to change or the government to work some sort of miracle. They’re setting about creating a local economy that will enable them to work every day and support themselves and the rest of their community. They can bake cookies or biscuits, make popsicles, brew a cup of tea and have these available to the people passing nearby on their way to the cemetery. (There are only bars in the area—a temptation for escape from the misery of poverty that many young people have been pulled into.) Now there are other possibilities: cooking, sewing apparel, and household items for sale in a tiny “tuck shop”; getting your hair braided, getting some much-needed medical/health assistance and information from a qualitied nurse; arranging tutoring for your kids; having someone look something up on the internet for you. (The only reliable internet for miles around is now in Kantolomba.)

Learning to Love Learning that I’d been asking someone to write for years. It’s now in print and available and marvelous. It’s the “this is the one that looks like a children’s book and will be life-changing reading for kids of all ages” we’ve been talking about for nearly a year. We also have a supply of the Inner Peace World Peace license plate holders. I suppose it’s always a good time for that message, but given where we are in this country currently it doesn’t seem we can have too many of those sentiments out and visible! Along those lines, we found a few of the Make America Kind Again hats that had been misplaced in the move from the Monastery and some Zen Monastery Peace Center Hats!  

What Universe Are You Creating?. We have some left on the shelf and they’re just too good to languish. I picture them going as gifts to people who want a daily reminder to direct the attention where they want it to be but aren’t really interested in anything too heavy-duty Awareness Practice-y. Pull a card every day, get a focus as one heads out into the world, and don’t set off a storm of ego resistance. To this end they’re being offered as a fundraiser at a bargain basement price!   

This fundraiser also includes some exquisitely hand-crafted cards made by a Sangha artist.

All of these items will be available through and all proceeds from the sale of these products between now and April 30 will support the micro-economy project in Kantolomba. Please note, we have a limited supply of each of these products.

For those of us here, engaged in preparing for our second Summer of Sangha retreats, the big news is the gazebo that will replace the much-loved-though-high-maintenance Meditation Tent from last summer. Even though it’s a gazebo, because of its size it needs city approval. Laws are changing; it’s spring and drying out enough for projects to get into high gear; builders are getting busy…. Our guy, a true gift, has promised he will get it done for us. We may not be as ready as we might wish we were, but, hey, we’ll be together and that’s what matters. It has always been my experience that when Sangha has something to accomplish, it’s gonna get done. Heck, we have three months to build a building, create a new Mash Tent in the former tool shed, move the tiny buildings into their new location, mow, and set up the “spots to sit” and “places to rest.” Three months. As my old friend Ralph would always say in what looked like impossible circumstances, “No step for a stepper.” And we Sangha are steppers!


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