If you are like me, perhaps a wellspring of gladness arises when you begin to imagine what is possible in 2021. While 2020 has challenged everyone, it has also made us think about what we cherish most about our lives, the world we live in, and our connections to one another and our communities. For sure, the difficulties of 2020 will not magically end in January. Transformation will take time. But I trust that it will happen if we continuously encourage each other in the simple ways of wise compassion and steady effort to end suffering. This is why sustaining our practice life together is so important. It is taught that even just the simple act of offering someone food represents a tremendous proportion of the entire spiritual path and opens the giver and the receiver to the divine abodes of love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
I am writing to ask you to make a generous end of year donation to allow us to sustain the practice community and the social justice work of Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community. It is a simple way to make a big difference. Giving is easy. Click HERE to give online and to find our mailing address.
“Turn all difficulties into the path,” states one of the slogans in the Tibetan-based Training in Compassion. In Zen we would say, “Fold everything into your practice.” We have plenty to work with. Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy calls this, “the work that reconnects.” It’s the essential practice of our times – to reconnect with our naturally creative, resourceful and whole true selves, to our neighbors, and to our communities. The world is vast and wide, and wonderfully diverse, and it awaits our clear minds and loving hearts, our working hands and readiness to serve. Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community is a home base for the work ahead.
Because we have chosen to depend completely on the gift economy and not participate in the common marketplace, we rely solely on your support to continue.
Your generosity over the past year has opened the divine abodes for many people who have felt alienated, and has reconnected them to caring community.
- When Covid-19 closed our Rutland Free Café, we started StreetGreens, a mobile free meal truck. Now, about 150 homemade and nutritious meals are given each week to people who need a little help from their friends to keep going. In August and September StreetGreens doubled as a mobile free grocery store when the school meal program was interrupted. The sangha provided groceries to supply 8,100 meals to food insecure kids and families. During October, StreetGreens brought hot lunches and fresh pressed apple cider from our own orchard to those who have been given shelter in local hotels.
- The local Bread Loaf Mountain Sangha responds regularly to the need for ongoing food assistance at the local Charter House shelter in Middlebury.
- We launched the Infinite Circle – a year-long practice and study group for people interested in serving people living in the economic margins of their own neighborhoods – and we graduated our first class of 30 Community Engaged Practitioners.
- We held our first month-long Practice Intensive based on Dogen’s Instructions to the Cook with 75 online participants from around the world! While Covid-19 forced us to cancel several street retreats and our plunge in Montgomery, Alabama, to bear witness to the economy built on slavery, the practice period did allow participants to bear witness to food sourcing and local agriculture, food access, and to the experiences of front-line restaurant workers close to home.
- We initiated our Zen Peacemaker Internship, attracting values-driven resident practitioners to Bread Loaf Mountain for four months of training in Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action. It has been inspiring to live and work with these budding Bodhisattvas who are also doing the work that reconnects. Thanks to them, we have been able to sustain StreetGreens and our other social action work in Vermont.
- Our senior residents continue to do their work in dharma-based addiction recovery and mindfulness training for end-of-life care volunteers.
- Program attendance has increased substantially this year. Hundreds of people are joining us online for practice periods, silent retreats, Dharma talks, Householder Koan study, and numerous other ways of gathering our hearts and minds together. As always, our programs remain donation-based and open to all.
Continuing to respond to emergent needs, in the coming year we would like to explore three potential endeavors that will require funding:
- Create a Zen House in Rutland, the city where we have been serving food for the past two years. We will investigate the possibility of starting a small welcoming home in a challenged neighborhood where Zen Peacemakers would live, engage, and deepen the practice of hospitality in parts of the community that have been left behind.
- Pilot Cathedral on the Green, an outdoor and open-door inter-spiritual weekly prayer, reflection, ritual and worship gathering on the town greens in Middlebury and in Rutland, for people who are without homes or do not feel at home in mainstream religious settings for whatever reason, but who seek a spiritual life and religious ceremonies.
- Explore the possibility of creating a small-scale and no-cost Zen Hospice Room at Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community. We will determine how we could offer care on site to someone who is at the end of life but who lacks the resources or support system that can provide them with family-style and skilled comfort, care, and connection.
I know that this letter will arrive with many other requests from worthy and important organizations needing support. I hope you will view Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community as the stable foundation that supports your passionate engagement with the causes that move you to action. Whether your gift is $10, $100, $1,000, $10,000, or somewhere in between or beyond, please know that our work is to resource you and others so that your lives, and the lives of all those you touch may be fulfilled.
You can go to our website to give by clicking HERE .
The gratitude I feel in my heart for all that you have done to support the work that reconnects overflows in my practice and enriches it immensely. I send the warmest bows and sincere wishes for health, safety, and happiness to all of you in the ten directions.
In loving kindness,