Monday, September 15, 2003

A Community of Attention - Green Gulch Farm, a Zen Buddhist community and retreat center, embodies a deeply ecological and humane way of life.

"Communitas, communis - the Latin root for "community" means common or what is held in common, shared by many. At Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center, where I lived for three years, what is held in common is the place, the time together, and the teachings of Zen Buddhism. The community is mutually created by those who stay in this place for a period of time, whether for a few hundred years (as a redwood might) or a single day.
The focus of Zen practice is to develop attention or mindfulness in relation to all beings and all activity. Over and over again we ask: Where am I? What am I doing right now? What is guiding my actions? Most of our decisions reflect personal preferences and an orientation to ourselves as enduring entities. Buddhist practice, however, is the constant stripping away of false references to the self to reveal the larger patterns of interconnection and interdependence. One finds one's bearings through temporal and spatial reference points beyond the false sense of self. Thus the schedule and the landscape provide the structure of both community and practice.
A Zen practice center is distinct from other country retreat spots because of the shared intention to practice certain guidelines and teachings. Here community is sustained not just by external spatial and temporal reference points, but by cultivation of internal reference points for choices of action. The central Buddhist teachings naturally encourage an ecological awareness and thus serve as ethical criteria for community practices. "An ethical life is one that is mindful, mannerly, and has style." In Soto Zen tradition, the emphasis is very much on ethical or mindful acts in everyday practice. The simple, repetitive acts of eating, breathing, walking, and greeting others become opportunities for deepening a sense of interdependence and community. Each moment in place reflects myriad causes and conditions that all contribute to the particular experience of community at that instant for that person.
This being, that becomes;
   from the arising of this, that arises;
This not being, that becomes not;
   from the ceasing of this, that ceases.
see also The Joy of Community; an interview with M. Scott Peck - "Do organizations ever need to be ''exorcised''? The author of The Different Drum and The Road Less Traveled says yes - and that a ''technology of community'' could become the heart of a new global culture." From In Context Quarterly #29.
(Back issues and "Guides to global trends, challenges, and opportunities")

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