At the Young Urban Zen meeting on Monday, we took the opportunity to reflect as a goup on the past year. It was a big gathering, as it usually is these days, and not everyone had the chance to speak, but there were many expressions of gratitude, and people noted how heart-warming the meeting felt. One of the questions we posed was about how everyone would like to see the group in the future, and I was delighted that people hoped that there could be YUZ groups in other cities, so that we end up with the kind of network of affiliated sanghas that Zen Center has. Part of the idea of that question, for me at least, had been for us to explore what wasn't working and what we could do differently, and since the tone on Monday night was mostly all positive, this other side didn't really come out. Talking afterwards with the one person who had also encouraged us to look at this side, so that we don't get stuck in thinking that everything is just fine the way it is, it occurred to me that perhaps we weren't asking the right people: those who were there last night - the brand new people aside, of course - are the ones who have helped shape the group into what it is, and who keep coming because it is working for them. If we really wanted the answer to what didn't work, we should ask the hundred or more people on our email list who tried the group and then stopped coming, to see what they had to say about this.
While I was away in England, Blanche left on a trip to the East Coast, to see her grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter, and also to go and visit Joan in Marblehead, and I have been noticing how much I miss her around the building during the day. When I first lived here, and she was the Abbess, her presence and leadership were so palpable that I remember being a little disoriented at how different the building felt when she went to Tassajara to lead a practice period a few months later.
It is not just the Abbess though, however key her role is; we all make the community what it is by our presence and energy, just as the traffic and the birds contribute to our morning sitting.