Weekly Email 11-30-21
Sitting in the Dark
Solstice: In just a few short weeks, the night will be the longest in the northern hemisphere. For most of us, when we get out of bed in the morning, it is still night outside. Before we know it, the sun begins to fade in the afternoon and we reflexively flick on the light. The light is what we want, we think. Light is associated with hope and freedom. The light helps us to carry on our daily activities. The light helps us to distinguish one thing from the other. The dark is what we avoid.
Even the very word for the Buddha’s Awakening is called en-lighten-ment. But a sure release and freedom of our heart is beyond light and dark. Siddhartha Gautama sat through the dark nights to awaken and became the Buddha, the Enlightened.
One time the Buddha “was seated under the open sky, on a night of blinding darkness, while oil lamps were burning.” He observed a great number of winged insects drawn to the light only to be burned by it. Then he made this utterance: “So obsessed are some by what is seen and heard/They fly just like these moths—straight into the flames.” (Adhipataka Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame)
The dark has its own gift when we can go beyond our habitual preference to the light. This is the season we are blessed with an abundance of dark; why not receive its gift? For several years now I have had a practice of sitting in the pre-dawn dark, outside under the sky when the weather permits, and receiving teachings from it.
In the dark, senses other than seeing come alive. I hear a dog barking to the south. Sometimes the first birds begin to make their morning song. A car engine is started in the west. Far away I hear the din of the highway. The sound rises and disperses. I feel the breeze on my cheeks, the warmth of the blanket on my neck. Because the boundaries of the objects are obscured in the dark, and the mind is not distracted by bright colors that catch my attention, I experience the space around and above me as vast and enveloping. With my eyes open, I settle into an open awareness in the dark. The sense of a distinct, separate self diffuses and I am part of the land and the sky, and all interdependent beings though I cannot see—not only the two-legged, but the four-legged, the winged, the finned, the scaly, the rooted…
In this season toward the darkest night, I invite you to experiment with sitting in the dark with your eyes open. What senses might come alive for you? What might you discover about the dark that you didn’t know before?
CG Dharma Teacher
Upcoming Programs: In Person at Common Ground
*As a reminder, vaccination, masking, and social distancing are required for in-person programs.*
Silent Open Meditation
Tuesdays from 7:30-9:00pm, &
- Autumn and Steve Compton alternate offering In-Person Qigong from 9:30-10:30 on Wednesdays.
- Nancy Boler offers In-Person Mindful Yoga Class on Wednesdays, from 12:05-1:05pm.
- Nancy Boler offers a hybrid In-Person/Zoom Mindful Yoga Class on Fridays from 9:30-10:45am.
- In-Person/Zoom Mindfulness and Recovery Retreat with Mary G. and Charlie B., 9:00am-12:00pm. More info and registration here.
Sunday, December 5th
- Livestream of Weekly Practice Group with Mark Nunberg, 10:30-11:45am. The meditation hall is open on Sunday mornings for community members to gather to watch the Weekly Practice Group livestream together on a screen. There will be a program host there to facilitate conversation for those who wish to stay afterwards. Shelly will be teaching online from the office.
- In-Person Weekly Practice Group with Gabe Keller Flores, 7:00-8:30pm.
- Year-End Retreat with Shelly Graf and Yong Oh. Offered in person at Common Ground (non-residential) or on Zoom. More info and registration here. Register before Monday, December 6th to be included in the lottery for in-person spots.
- Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation Course with Mark Nunberg. 6 Tuesdays, January 11th – February 15th, 7:30-9:00pm. In person and on Zoom. Register here.
Upcoming Programs In Person at Common Ground’s Retreat Center at Prairie Farm
- WAITLIST ONLY: Practice Period with Matthew King and Tracey Ghilardi
Thursday evening, December 16th – Sunday mid-day December 19th. Registration here.
Upcoming Programs: Online
Wednesday, December 1st
- Shelly Graf will lead the Weekly Practice Group; a cornerstone for one’s practice by providing ongoing instruction and teachings that will help illuminate the simple but challenging practice of mindfulness. 7:30pm-9:00pm on Zoom.
- Shelly Graf will lead the weekly Community Practice Check-In. Today’s meeting and every other session we will explore racism through an inquiry into whiteness and domination. All are welcome. 9:00-10:00am on Zoom.
- Mark Nunberg will offer the bimonthly Lovingkindness Practice Group, 7:00-8:30pm.
- The weekly Mindfulness, Recovery, and the Twelve Steps group meets every Friday, 7:00-8:30pm on Zoom.
- Dharma Practice Reflections with Ramesh Sairam, 10:30am-12:00pm on Zoom.
- Mark Nunberg will lead the Weekly Practice Group, 10:30-11:45am on Zoom.
- Wynn Fricke and Gabe Keller Flores will lead the weekly Community Practice Check-In, 4:30-5:30pm on Zoom.
Tuesday, December 7th
- Stacy McClendon will lead the weekly Community Practice Check-In, 12:00pm-1:00pm on Zoom.
- Half-Day Retreat with Shelly Graf, 9:00am-1:00pm. More info and registration here.
- Couples’ Workshop with Jane Rauenhorst & Jean Haley, 9:00am-12:00pm. More info and registration here.
- Community Gathering celebrating Shelly Graf’s hiring as one of Common Ground’s Guiding Teachers, 1:00-3:00pm, on Zoom.
The Practice of Generosity
Continuing in the tradition of Buddhist monasteries in Southeast Asia, all programs at Common Ground are offered free of charge in the spirit of generosity. This offering is possible because of the generosity of people like you—from the Buddha on down to all the people in our community—who contribute their practice, time, and financial resources to support the continuation of the center.
To learn how to support the center and our teachers, visit this page. Let us know if you have any questions.
Current Volunteer Needs
- Snowblowing Team: We’re still looking for a few more snow removal volunteers! If you’re interested email firstname.lastname@example.org. The way we do it is you sign up for times when you’re on call to respond if there’s a snowfall. We need both shovelers and people to operate the snowblower. Snowblowing training provided :)
- Weekly Sunday Evening Cleaning: Every Sunday evening there is a drop-in Community Cleaning time from 6-7pm, led by community leaders Brad Dupre and Dave Redelman.
- Tuesday evening bellringer: We’re looking for someone interested in ringing the bell for the evening sit on Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00pm, once or twice a month. Email email@example.com if interested.
- Flower arrangers: Do you like flowers? We are looking for a couple flower-arranging volunteers at Common Ground. Training provided! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
- Cooking for Practice Periods at Prairie Farm: There is a tradition in Buddhism of supporting people doing intensive retreat practice. We are always looking for volunteers interested in cooking and freezing meals ahead of time for retreatants at Prairie Farm. You can see a list of recipes here. Common Ground has pots and tupperware you can borrow for cooking and freezing. Contact email@example.com if you wish to offer a meal. Or to donate in support of groceries for the retreatants, you can designate a gift for “CG Retreat Center” here.
Upcoming Community Group Meetings
- Be Queer Now Meditation Sangha, Wed. Dec 1st, 7:30-9:00pm on Zoom.
- Mindfulness & Depression Community Group, Sun. Dec 5th, 4:00-5:30pm on Zoom.
- Tea and Dharma Community Group, Tue. Nov. 30th. In Person, 8:00-9:00am.
Our friends at ASDIC (Antiracism Study and Dialogue Circle) have some online programs coming up, open to all:
- Third Sunday Forums: Conversations on Race, Dec 19, 12:30 PM. More info here.
Some of you will be familiar with Arrow River Forest Hermitage, where one of CG’s longtime visiting teachers, Ajahn Punnadhammo is the resident Buddhist monk. The hermitage will be needing someone to act as steward starting mid-December. The steward is a volunteer position and is responsible for cooking the one meal a day, managing the kitchen and doing the shopping. It is strongly preferred if you have a driver’s license. For more information check out the Visitor’s Pages on their website. Please send all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Facing Overwhelm, Take Strength From Tiny Moments
At these times we need
to take strength from tiny
moments. Take a moment to
go within yourself. Meditate,
don’t think. Don’t think of any-
thing. Take the moment to just
drop into the present moment
and gather your mind. This is
where concentration prac-
tice is very helpful.