Weekly Email 2-14-24

Greetings Friends,

It takes devotion and persistence to wisely raise and train a puppy, let alone a child. As we can imagine, it doesn’t turn out so well if this is ignored. What happens if we relate to our own mind and heart in a similar way? Hopefully most of us sense some good qualities and potential, and I am guessing that we can also recognize a need for training. The Buddha did not teach, “Let things be!” He taught skillful means for training the mind and developing the heart. If we let things be, we simply get more of the same – human activity arising primarily out of greed, hatred, and delusion. As we acknowledge and feel the unavoidable spiritual weight of the unwholesome tendencies of our habit-bound mind and how this lack of skill contributes to the wider injustices and suffering in our world, we become more willing to commit to developing the heart. This commitment depends on and is guided by our deepening ability to intuit what is in a wholesome direction leading toward greater freedom from the spiritual heaviness of greed, hatred, and delusion.

I have found daily spiritual practice to be an inherently messy, ambiguous process that requires a reservoir of patience and faith, keeping us from giving up. One common habit might be to look somewhere outside for the answers. Despite our need for good teachers and teachings, in my experience, real spiritual deepening happens through our moment-to-moment, heartfelt investigation into our own heart, mind, and body. This involves a lot of trial and error as we learn to see and feel into the activity of both our internal and external experiences. When there is enough momentum, wisdom-awareness naturally comprehends the lawfulness of our habits. These are real, incremental insights, “Oh, so this is how it works!” Wisdom connects the dots; it understands what is skillful and leads onward to greater freedom in life, and what isn’t skillful, setting in motion more harm. We can take refuge in this lawfulness and use it to develop more faith, clarify aspiration, and refine how best to practice in each moment. This is how we walk the Buddha’s path of awakening.

“Training this mind… actually there’s nothing much to this mind. It’s simply radiant in and of itself. It’s naturally peaceful. Why the mind doesn’t feel peaceful right now is because it gets lost in its own moods. There’s nothing to mind itself. It simply abides in its natural state, that’s all. That sometimes the mind feels peaceful and other times not peaceful is because it has been tricked by these moods. The untrained mind lacks wisdom. It’s foolish. Moods come and trick it into feeling pleasure one minute and suffering the next. Happiness then sadness. But the natural state of a person’s mind isn’t one of happiness or sadness. This experience of happiness and sadness is not the actual mind itself, but just these moods which have tricked it. The mind gets lost, carried away by these moods with no idea what’s happening. And as a result, we experience pleasure and pain accordingly, because the mind has not been trained yet. It still isn’t very clever. And we go on thinking that it’s our mind which is suffering or our mind which is happy, when actually it’s just lost in its various moods….The mind is naturally peaceful. It’s in order to understand just this much that we have come together to do this difficult practice of meditation.” -Ajahn Chah

Best Wishes,
Mark Nunberg
Co-Guiding Teacher

COVID Update:
We would like to remind our in-person community about the recent increase in the circulation of Covid and other respiratory viruses in the Twin CIties. The risk of acquiring COVID is higher now, and it still can be a deadly disease. At Common Ground we cultivate a shared commitment to minimizing harm. That means refraining from attending in-person programs if you have any symptoms, and taking appropriate steps to protect yourself given your personal health or home situation. We encourage everyone to follow CDC guidelines for isolation and testing when you have COVID, suspect you have it, or have been exposed to it.

Programs with our Co-Guiding Teachers

With Shelly Graf

Weekly Practice Groups with Shelly

Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9:00 p.m., in-person and on Zoom

Sundays mornings, 10:30-11:45 a.m., in-person, on Zoom, and live-streamed to YouTube

  • with Patrice Koelsch on Feb 25th
Sundays, 7:00-8:30 p.m., in-person only
  • with Guest Teacher Chas DiCapua on Feb 25th: Making A Suitable Home For The Heart
  • with Jean Haley on March 10th and April 7th
Half-Day and Daylong Retreats with Shelly Graf
In person and on Zoom
  • Half-Day with Shelly & Cecilia Ramon: Saturday, March 2nd, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Register here.
Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation with Shelly Graf & Meski Mebatsion
Six Tuesdays, March 5th – April 9th, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
In person and on Zoom
More info and registration here

Community Practice Check-ins with Shelly Graf
Every Wednesday, 8:30-9:30 a.m. in-person
Every Friday, 9:00-10:00 a.m. on Zoom

With Mark Nunberg

Update on Mark’s Teaching Schedule
Beginning in February, I will be taking ten weeks of personal leave to stabilize my health and rebuild my strength. I will return to teaching in mid- April. I am deeply grateful to the Board of Directors who have recently established sabbatical and personal leave policies. These new policies to support paid staff are available for me at this time because of the great generosity of our Common Ground Community. For over 30 years, the community has practiced ‘Dana’, an open invitation to freely give and receive. This is especially moving for me during this health challenge. It has also been deeply inspiring to see how so many leaders and volunteers continue to show up and support our community. May this goodness continue, increase and never end.

Click here to read Mark’s latest CaringBridge post.

Upcoming Teacher-led Programs

Recovery & Twelve Steps Half-Day Retreat with Mark M & Mary G
Saturday, February 17th, 1:00–5:00 p.m.
In person only. Registration here.

Guest Teacher Talk with Chas DiCapua: Making A Suitable Home For The Heart
Sunday, February 25th, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Befriending Illness Workshop with Meg Brandeland & Shelly Graf
Saturday, March 9th, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
In person and on Zoom. More info and registration here.

Movement in Four Postures Workshop with Kei Tsuruharatani
Sunday, March 10th, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
In person only. More info and registration here.

Guest Teacher Talk with Bhikkhu Sambodhi: How Has the Idea of Gradual Training Gone Out the Window?
Tuesday, April 16th, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
In person and on Zoom

Ongoing Teacher-Led Programs

As always, our online calendar is the best way to find the most up-to-date information and Zoom links. 

Mindful Self-Compassion with Jean Haley and Jane Rauenhorst 
On Zoom Only. Third Fridays of the month, 7:00-8:30 p.m., next session is Friday, February 16th. The March 15th session is cancelled.

Developing the Art of Spiritual Inquiry with Ramesh Sairam
On Zoom only.
First Thursdays of the month, 7:00-8:30 p.m., next session is March 7th.

Lovingkindness Practice Group
In-person and on Zoom. First Fridays of the month, 7:00-8:30 p.m., next session is March 1st. Shelly Graf teaching this month.

Community Practice Check-Ins
  • Sundays, 4:30-5:30 p.m., on Zoom with Wynn Fricke and Sarah Wilson
  • Every other Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., on Zoom with Ramesh Sairam
  • Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00 p.m., on Zoom with Stacy McClendon
Mindfulness, Recovery, and the Twelve Steps
Weekly group meets every Friday, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
In-person and on Zoom

Youth Programs 

  • Children’s Program: Kindergarten- 3rd grade, every other Sunday 10:30-11:45 a.m.
  • Preteen Program: 4th grade- 7th grade, every other Sunday 10:30-11:45 a.m.
  • Teen Practice Group: Every other Sunday 10:30-11:30 a.m.
View the calendar page for the exact schedule. (The teen group alternates with the children and preteen groups.)

Programs at Our Retreat Center
Common Ground Retreat Center is located in Wisconsin, about an hour-and-fifteen-minute drive from Minneapolis.

Introduction to Buddhist Retreat Practice with Stacy McClendon & Gail Iverson
Thursday, March 7th, 4:00 p.m. – Sunday, March 10th, 1:00 p.m.
In-person only. More info and registration here. (Short waitlist.)

Practice Period with Louise Delagran & Matthew King
Thursday, April 18 – Sunday, April 21st
More info and registration here.

For background on our retreat center, click here.

Community News 

Openings in CG Sutta Study Groups
Common Ground has three Sutta Study Groups that meet on the first Saturday morning of each month to study the teachings of the Buddha and to strengthen relationships among committed practitioners and leaders. The groups are now accepting applications for new members, who will join the groups starting in April. Apply before March 6th to be included in the lottery. For more info and to apply, click here.

Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence
We thought we’d share a recent talk on Buddhism and A.I. by Randy Fernando, who is a Spirit Rock Board Member, former Buddhist Insight Network board member, and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. Mark and Gabe have both listened to it and recommend it.

Volunteer in Prison
We are in need of several volunteers for Buddhist groups at the Moose Lake Minnesota DOC and Sandstone Federal corrections facilities.  If you have experience with meditation and an interest or knowledge in the Buddha’s teaching according to the Pali canon, along with a desire to share these benefits with those who are suffering incarceration, you likely are qualified.  Extensive knowledge is not necessary.  Contact Jeff: jeffroehl@outlook.com, 763-360-7900.

Upcoming Community Group Meetings
As always, our online calendar is the best way to find the correct times and Zoom links. 

  • Refirement Group, Thursday, February 15th, 12:00-2:00 p.m.
  • Black, Indigenous, People of Color Community Group, First and Third Thursdays, next meeting is February 15th, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
  • Mindfulness & Depression, First and Third Sundays, next meeting is February 18th, 4:00-5:30 p.m.
  • Be Queer Now: First Wednesdays of the month, next meeting is March 6th, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
  • Zoom: Buddhism and Other Religions Book Group, Saturday, March 9th, 9:00-10:30 a.m.
  • To see the complete list of community groups, click here.

Steward Needed at Arrow River near Thunder Bay, Canada
As a small hermitage in a non-Buddhist country, Arrow River operates by dependence on a lay steward who lives here and takes care of the duties which monks cannot. This is an opportunity to live at the center for an extended period of time and to serve the Triple Gem. The duties are not time consuming and leave ample time for study and meditation. There is an opening beginning February 26th. More information about stewardship at Arrow River.

Freely Giving and Receiving

Common Ground offers all programs freely in the spirit of generosity. If you’d like to donate to support the teachers and the center, click the link below.


Volunteer Opportunities

Please contact Gabe Keller Flores, at gabe@commongroundmeditation.org if you are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities:

  • Program Hosting: We are looking for a few more program hosts to help greet people and set up the meditation hall on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. If you enjoy making people feel welcome, have good attention to detail, and have been coming to the center for at least a year, feel free to reach out to Gabe.
Wishlists: If you want to donate a specific item, check out the Retreat Center Wishlist and the City Center Wishlist.


 Things Don’t Happen Because You Want Them to Happen

Things don’t happen because
you want them to happen but
because conditions are right.

 Thanks to The Daily Tejaniya for this quote

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