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July 7th, 2020

Dear Common Ground Friends,

Isn’t it interesting how very long ago it seems when we were able to gather together in the meditation hall at Common Ground? Much has happened since mid-March and Shelly, Gabe, and I are concerned about how everyone is doing with all the change and uncertainty. At this point we have no immediate plans to reopen the center for large group programs. It has been nice to see some of our smaller community groups using the garden space for gatherings. Please connect with Gabe if you have any questions about the availability of the garden space for meetings. Of course, stay tuned as things unfold. We will announce changes in this weekly email.

The staff has been fortunate to meet regularly with three longtime community members with medical expertise to help us assess our ongoing response to the pandemic: Ramesh Sairam, one of Common Ground’s Dharma teachers and Vice-Chair of our Board of Directors, as well as Medical Director and Psychiatrist at United Hospital in St. Paul; Steve Hillson, recently retired from the practice of internal medicine at Hennepin Healthcare; and Megan Brandeland, who has led programs at the center and at our retreat property in Wisconsin and is also a 2nd-year critical care medicine fellow physician at Hennepin County Medical Center.  Megan has spent the last 10 weeks working in intensive care units around the Twin Cities taking care of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Fortunately, we have been able to offer most of our programs online. Please, don’t be shy in reaching out to Gabe if you need help navigating this online world. We understand that it doesn’t replace being able to gather together in person, but at this time it seems like the most wise and compassionate response.

Wishing us all together the deepest healing,

Mark Nunberg

Upcoming Program Highlights

Visit our online calendar for complete program information and registration. At this time, all our programs are offered online via Zoom or Youtube.

Program highlights this week:.

  • Thanks to Brenda, Matt, and Jennifer for offering extra open meditation times for the community. Brenda and Matt are leading a 7:30-8:30am sit over Zoom, Monday through Friday (Zoom link here), and Jennifer is offering a Tuesday night sit, 9:15-9:45pm (Zoom link here).
  • Dharma Among Us tonight is with Shelly Graf, Yong Oh, and Tara Mulay! Zoom link here. Please note the new earlier time for this week and going forward: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Patrice Koelsch’s Practicing the Paramis class on this traditional Buddhist list of 10 beautiful qualities of heart that support us in life is nearing its end, but Patrice is happy for newcomers to join in for the last two weeks, on Lovingkindness and Equanimity. This Wednesday and next, 6-7pm, zoom link here. You can watch a recording of Week 1, on Generosity, here.
  • Shelly will offer the Wednesday evening Weekly Practice Group as usual, over Zoom, at 7:30pm. Link here.
  • Shelly will offer a Community Practice Check-In this Thursday at 9am and every Thursday going forward. Every other session will focus specifically on the intersection of Dharma and race, beginning with this Thursday’s meeting. Zoom link here.
  • Merra Young will be leading the Lovingkindness group on Friday evening, 7:00-8:30pm, via Zoom. Some form of Lovingkindness program is scheduled every Friday night going forward.
  • Mark will offer an additional Community Practice Check-In on Saturday morning from 8-9am. Zoom link here.
  • Mark Nunberg will offer a Half-Day online retreat this Saturday over Zoom, 1-5pm. More info and registration here.
  • Mark Nunberg will lead the Sunday morning Weekly Practice Group on Sunday morning, as usual, over Youtube.

Looking ahead:

For details on these programs and more, visit the online calendar. I recommend you bookmark it for easy access during the week. You might also want to bookmark our Youtube channel.

Gabe Keller Flores, Office Manager


The Practice of Generosity

Continuing in the tradition of Buddhist monasteries in Southeast Asia, all programs at Common Ground, including these online programs, 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.


Other News and Resources


Volunteer Needs

We could use some volunteers who would like to clean the center on a regular basis, once a week or so. We could also always use more tech volunteers, particularly people skilled with WordPress. Please contact Gabe if interested, thanks!

Video from Steve and Kamala’s Guest Teacher Talk
A few weeks ago, Steve Armstrong and Kamala Masters offered a Guest Teacher Talk and Q&A time. If you missed it, it’s been uploaded to out Youtube channel and you can watch it here.

10% Happier Podcast with Shelly Graf
In case you missed it, Common Ground’s Associate Director, Shelly Graf was recently interviewed by Dan Harris, for the Ten Percent Happier Podcast. This episode was titled: White People, Drop the Shame and Get Curious  and was an illuminating conversation about the intersection of Dharma practice and race especially for white people.

Crowdsourced List of Opportunities for Compassionate Engagement Right Now
Mark, Shelly, and I decided to make this post as a way for the Common Ground community to share ways that you are engaging right now to respond to the murder of George Floyd, and to racial injustice more broadly. In the comments section, feel free to share places you’ve been donating, upcoming protests or other events, resources you’re finding useful in learning about racial injustice, and more.

We Can’t Breathe: A Conversation Series on Systemic Racism
Our friends over at Antiracism Study and Dialogue Circle are putting on a Zoom workshop series:

  • There are two more sessions in July (12 & 19), Sundays, 2pm to 3:30. Go to the website for details on each workshop. Each has a specific topic. FREE.
  • General Description: The ASDIC and FREC community responds to this historical moment of reassessment in light of the killing of George Floyd and the many other lives taken through the violence of police. We wish to look at what this moment is about, how it connects to US historic systemic racism, and the forces that continue to sustain racism in Minnesota and the nation.
  • With the support of Professor Joe R Feagin and Minnesota antiracist academics and activists we are offering four 90-minute interactive workshops. The workshops will be on Zoom with breakout rooms dialogues and Q&A with presenters. Free and open to the public. Go to to register.
  • Donations in support of this programming will be gratefully accepted. See the donation button on the website.

Meals Needed for Retreatants at Prairie Farm

We’ll be having independent retreatants out at Prairie Farm, our retreat property, in July, meditating and doing some work. If you’re interested in cooking meals for the volunteers and freezing them, please contact You can see a list of recipes here.


Troubled Waters Poem by Sam King


For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatever disease he had.
John 5:4

As I sit on the couch exhausted
trying for rest, trying for peace,
I’m besieged with fears
about my health, my husband’s health,
the return of our cancers,
worried about my son-in-law’s job loss,
my grandson’s allergies, about why
our smart, beautiful, loving daughter
has not yet found the right mate,
about my failed proposals and the bills,
how, in God’s name, at times,
they’ll be paid, about friends
with intractable challenges and those
precious irreplaceable ones
now forever out of reach.
I’m heartsick and outraged
about the inaction of Congress (What?
Not raise the minimum wage? What?
Not lower interest on student loans,
not vote for universal health care,
not insist on gun control,
not be more lenient with refugees?),
about people on lounge chairs
with popcorn and drinks cheering missiles
aimed at housefuls of children,
about fathers who pimp their daughters
for gambling money, about whole
neighborhoods annihilated
by tornadoes, about the disappearance
of butterflies, bats and bees.

How powerless I am against all this pain.
I want to scream! I want to escape,
make it go away!  Is it never possible
to be truly at ease? To struggle loose
from the fray? Maybe – it occurs to me – only
if I consent to turbulence, if I allow
my barricades against it to disintegrate
and stop craving still waters
that so quickly become rank.
If only I could let those little temples
to stasis and safety I try so hard
and so unsuccessfully to raise and hide out in,
collapse, dissolve and float downstream.
If only I could, in the way of healing waters,
let myself BE troubled, be like the sea,
wide enough, always writhing, wildly alive
and so quick to the wind that, when light strikes,
it shatters into hammered gold, into glorious
smithereens magnified by the sky
in which the whole broken world
could immerse itself.  How, then,
could it not help but be changed?
I can dream.