White Heron Sangha

President's Message

 by Sharon Rippner

WHS President

Winter 2020-21

Dear Sangha,

While I try to live in the present moment, I must admit that I am looking forward to bidding good-bye to this “Year of COVID.” Of course, just because we will turn over the calendar does not mean that everything will immediately change. However, it does appear that science has succeeded in introducing some light into the end of this particularly dark 2020 tunnel.

And yet, even amidst the pain and losses of this year, there have been "pockets of positive" as well. For me, the pockets have included a daily connection with the Sangha at our Morning Sit, an opportunity (not always taken) to be less busy, an opportunity to enjoy my home more because I am not rushing around so much, an opportunity to read and study more, an opportunity to become reacquainted with old hobbies, an opportunity to spend significant periods of time with my grandchild as we merged bubbles with our son’s family over the summer. Where have you found pockets of positives during this year?

One major positive pocket for the Sangha over this year has been, of course, an online presence—something we had never considered before. While born out of necessity, it has grown into a positive presence for our Sangha community. It has allowed us to continue to grow our offerings, and we will certainly continue with online options even after we return to our Center. Recently we received a donation for equipment which will allow us to merge online and in-person audiences in a manner where both sets of attendees feel included in the event. That will be another positive pocket we can expect, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

We still do have the remainder of 2020 before us, however. One of the activities during this time is mailing out our annual year-end letter. The mailing includes a copy of your membership information, a dana contribution request card, and a returned/stamped envelope. You should have received this in the last week or so. I know first-hand about these letters because I, along with three other Sangha members, worked together at the Center (physically distanced and masked, of course!) and stuffed these envelopes. It was so wonderful to be back in our space, even for this limited task. 

With respect to your renewal letter, here is a personal plea from me—please: (1) check over the membership information, fill in any blanks, and/or make any necessary changes; (2) complete the orange card by considering (a) what is an appropriate amount of year-end dana to contribute and/or (b) whether or not you are able to join the WHS Stewardship Circle by committing (or recommitting) to a recurring gift. Then, after filling out the name and address portion of the dana card, please put it, along with your membership page, into the envelope that has been provided (stamps were contributed) and drop it in the mail. If you do this, you will be so very helpful to the Membership Committee and our Treasurer! 

Some changes to our website will be happening for the Sangha as we move forward . Our IT Committee is currently working on some exciting redesign ideas and you can read more about that here.  Another change is that we now have a new Engaged Buddhists Committee and you can read more about that here

I wish to close with a reminder—we do still have a Karuna Team. If you, or members you know, have needs arise for support/help with driving, shopping, meals, pet walking, etc., on a short term basis, please let me know. This has been a fraught time and for the most part it seems that neighbors, friends have stepped into the breach, and that is wonderful. However, if WHS Karuna Team can be helpful, please know we are still here and waiting for your call. You can reach me at SRippner@msn.com.

While the year of 2020 is drawing to a close, we all need to remember COVID-19 is still with us. The pain of this reality for our world and in our own lives is unavoidable. However, the Dharma teaches us that much of the suffering stemming from this, or anything else, is optional. One of my favorite interpretations of the causes of suffering is by Andrew Olendzki, from his Dharma Wheel series. Here he reflects on the causes of suffering as follows:

"These are the three flavors of craving: strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. Craving can take the form of 1) wanting more of the physical sensations and other sensory inputs that feel good, and wanting to avoid those that feel bad. It can also take the form of 2) aching for things that are not happening to happen or 3) yearning for things that are happening to stop. All three forms (or flavors) of craving inevitably give rise to suffering."  

May our practice keep our favorite flavor consumption to a minimum, especially during the coming holidays!

With Metta,

Next article - Winter 2020-21
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