Weekly Email 12/21/21

Dear Sangha,

It is a difficult, exhausting, beautiful time to be alive.

The Omicron variant is gaining on the Delta, hospitals are again overcrowded and health care workers depleted, and we seem stuck in an ongoing cycle of vaccines, masks, social-distancing…and those who resist all measures for mitigating the pandemic.

And yet, it is always a difficult, exhausting, and beautiful time to be alive.

I am in the middle of reading Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s book The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender. In it, she writes, “The way of tenderness is an experiential, non-intellectual, heartfelt acknowledgement of all embodied difference, It is a flexibility of perception, rather than a settling into belief. It brings affirmation of life, rather than of suffering, center stage. It keeps alive the vow not to kill in a way that has nothing to do with being vegetarian or not. It is social action. It is a way to overcome what feels much stronger than us, and what seems to pull us apart so that we are not well…It is a natural, organic, innate medicine, or teaching within the body itself.”

Earthlyn Manuel encourages us to fully connect with all aspects of our body, heart, and mind — even the very difficult parts — in order to access this well of tenderness. To not conduct a spiritual bypass, and claim that we don’t see racial, sexual, gender, or other differences. That we do not feel rage, or sadness, or at times, despair. That we are somehow above the very sensitive experience of being human, in this particular time and place. That is our challenge with the dharma: week by week, day by day, minute by minute, breath by breath.

What does this look like, as we face year three of a devastating global pandemic that has proliferated race, class, gender, and other disparities?

What does this look like, as we gather with friends and family during the holidays?

What does this look like, as we take our seats on the meditation cushion?

Friends, the way of tenderness invites us to investigate.

With Metta,

Shannon Gibney
Shannon is one of the facilitators of the bimonthly Black, Indigenous, People of Color Community Group that meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month. To learn more about this group, click here.

Year-End Schedule

Visit our calendar for the most up-to-date info on which programs are happening and which are cancelled during this year-end season. Here are some highlights:

During the Year-End Retreat, which runs from 7pm Sunday, December 26th to noon on Friday, December 31st, most regular in-person programs (and some online programs) will be cancelled:

  • The in-person Sunday evening Weekly Practice Group on Sunday, December 26th will be cancelled.
  • The online Wednesday evening Weekly Practice Group with Shelly Graf will be cancelled on December 29th.
  • The Friday morning online practice check-in with Shelly will be cancelled December 31st.
  • In-Person and online Yoga and Qigong will be cancelled that week.
  • The morning in-person open meditation will still happen, but it will be shortened to just one half-hour from 7:30-8:00am.
  • In-Person Tuesday evening open meditation and Wednesday mid-day open meditation are cancelled.
The following online programs are still taking place during this holiday season:
  • December 24th (Christmas Eve): Lovingkindness with Stacy McClendon, Friday night Mindfulness, Recovery, & the Twelve Steps Group
  • Sunday morning December 26th Weekly Practice Group with Mark Nunberg
For the complete up-to-date schedule, as always, visit https://commongroundmeditation.org/calendar/

Weekly Programs

As a reminder, vaccination, masking, and social distancing are required for in-person programs.
To access Zoom links to participate in online programs, please visit the online calendar

Weekly Practice Groups
These programs, led by our Guiding Teachers Mark Nunberg and Shelly Graf, are a cornerstone for one’s practice by providing ongoing instruction and teachings that help illuminate the simple but challenging practice of mindfulness. Meeting times:

  • Sunday mornings, 10:30-11:45am on Zoom with Mark Nunberg (with an option to watch the livestream together in person in the meditation hall)
  • Sunday evenings, 7:00-8:30pm in person with Mark Nunberg:
December 26th: Evening in-person program Cancelled for Year-End Retreat

January 2nd: Mark Nunberg (teaching remotely to an in-person audience)
  • Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9:00pm on Zoom with Shelly Graf
December 22nd: Patrice Koelsch will lead
December 29th: Cancelled for Year-End Retreat
February 2nd: Rebecca Bradshaw will lead, at an earlier time: 6:30-8:00pm
Community Practice Check-Ins
Every week we offer several opportunities to practice with and ask questions of Common Ground Dharma teachers. It’s also a time to share reflections from your own practice with the group.
  • Sundays, 4:30-5:30pm with Mark Nunberg and Wynn Fricke, on Zoom (this Sunday the 26th Gabe Keller Flores will fill in for Wynn)
  • Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00pm with Stacy McClendon and Mark Nunberg, on Zoom (Mark away until January)
  • Fridays, 9:00-10:00am with Shelly Graf, on Zoom
  • Every other Saturday, 10:30am-12:00pm with Ramesh Sairam, on Zoom

Upcoming Programs: In Person/Hybrid at Common Ground

New Year’s Day Yoga with Nancy Boler
Saturday, January 1st, 10:30am-1:00pm
In person and on Zoom. More info and registration here. WAITLIST ONLY for in-person slots.

Buddhist Studies Course with Mark Nunberg: Liberating the Heart with Goodwill, Compassion, Appreciative Joy, and Equanimity  
8 Mondays, January 10th-February 28th, 7:30-9:00pm. In person and on Zoom. More info and registration here.

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation Course with Mark Nunberg
6 Tuesdays, January 11th – February 15th, 7:30-9:00pm.
In person and on Zoom. More info and registration here.

Living the Practice Workshop: Freedom with Dukkha: Skillfully Applying the Buddha’s Teachings in our Unsatisfactory, Broken World
with Mark Nunberg, Shelly Graf, and Meski Mebatsion
Saturday, January 22nd, 9:30am-4:00pm
In Person or on Zoom. More info and registration here.

Upcoming Programs at Common Ground Retreat Center

Common Ground Retreat Center is located in Wisconsin, about an hour-and-fifteen-minute drive from Minneapolis. Registration is now open for the following programs there.

  • Practice Period with Joan Ursa Borchert & Robb Reed
    5:30pm Thursday, January 6th – 2:00pm Sunday, January 9th.
  • Practice Period with Danielle Sewell & Matthew King
    5:30pm Thursday, January 13th – 2:00pm Sunday, January 16th.
  • Practice Period with Mary Clark & Roger Klisch
    5:30pm Thursday, January 27th – 2:00pm Sunday, January 30th.
  • Practice Period with Mary Clark, assisted by Pietro Ferrero
    5:30pm Thursday, February 3rd – 2:00pm Sunday, February 6th.
More info and registration for these programs can be found here.

Upcoming Programs: Online

Lovingkindness Practice Group with Stacy McClendon
Friday, December 24th, 7:00-8:30pm

New Year’s Eve Celebration: Cultivating a Wise and Loving Relationship to Life Within and Around Us
Friday, December 31st, 7:00-9:00pm
Let’s come together to imagine the possibilities and set skillful intentions for how our participation might be a force for good in 2022. The evening will include a guided metta Meditation with Mark Nunberg, reflections from Mark, Stacy McClendon, Shelly Graf, and Wynn Fricke, an opportunity to share in small groups, and music by Ellis Delaney and Gabe Keller Flores.

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 

  • 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 gabe@commongroundmeditation.org if interested.
  • 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. No RSVP needed.


Community News

Community Group in Portland, OR?
Greetings from Portland Oregon. Would you like to connect in person with other CG practitioners on Sunday mornings, who also live in this geographic area? Looking to form in-person CG sangha to sit together at 8:30 AM Pacific, to include small group sharing as done in the brick and mortar building in Minneapolis, followed by some time for fellowship. Please contact me at nancy@mindbodymindfulness.com or reach out to Gabe Keller Flores if you have interest. If there is interest, I will find a place where we can gather. Hope to hear from you!

Arrow River Forest Hermitage Looking for Steward
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 abbot@arrowriver.ca.

Weekly Tejaniya
What exactly does it
mean to be relaxed?

Feeling relaxed is really about being
free of expectation and anxiety. You can
only be totally relaxed when the mind is
free of craving or aversion. Wanting to be
relaxed or trying to become relaxed will
only make you even more tense.

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