|Victoria Zen Centre circa 2003-4|
At first I just posted transcripts of talks that were being recorded. As time passed, the quality of recordings improved so much that I started the Living Zen Podcast. A year and a half later, the podcast has surpassed 200,000 downloads...more than I could have imagined.
Over the years, the Victoria Zen Centre has developed from being a very basic sitting group into a very robust and healthy community. We have done this as a Sangha by combining the wisdom of the Dharma with the best of business practices, empowered by modern technology. It has proven to be a very potent combination.
Being involved in the development of a community which has as it's mission "To make Zen come alive", has been a very exciting and challenging experience. When people ask about how we have created and sustain this Centre and community, I often start explaining with great gusto. Often the person I am speaking to also gets excited, and suggests that I ought to write a book about it.
I figure that it would be more useful if I just wrote a blog about it. So that's what I'll do.
What will follow will be a combination of history, some talk about the business that is involved in running a stable and healthy Zen Centre, and I'll likely toss in a healthy mix of current events to keep things lively.
Some of you may be upset or offended by our approach, some of you may think it's fantastic. I invite comments from everyone, but I would ask that you keep them clean and aimed at respectful dialogue.
To start us off, I'll include a picture from circa 2003-4. I had been a monk for nearly five years. After working full-time in a receiving home for teenage boys in the care of the then "Ministry for Children and Families" for several years, the Provincial government changed, funding was cut, and I was out of a job. My pregnant wife Niki, my young son Kigen and I went from a 2.5 bedroom upper in which the main living/dining room was the Victoria Zen Centre's Zendo to a 2 bedroom basement suite. I picked up some work with the Vancouver Island Health Authority Mental Health and Addictions Services. It was mostly on-call, so the financial picture was dodgy for both myself, and the Zen Centre, because at the time I was the major financial resource and human resource at the Victoria Zen Centre.
Minutes from the AGM in 2003 indicate that exactly 3 people attended. Thus becoming the board.
The picture on this post is of the outside tent Zendo in the back yard of the basement suite. Several members and I did a major clean up job of the yard, leveled and laid a concrete slab patio. I built tans out of pressure treated lumber. We stored the cushions and accoutrements in rubbermaid containers outside as there was no room inside (pregnant lady, small child 100lb dog, and 6'4 me in a 2br basement). Until we figured out an anchor system, there were times when the tent actually lifted off and we had to catch it before it flew over the fence like some kind of monstrous white box tent. I got a call one day at work when it actually did. Fortunately it blew the right way, sheering off the awning over our door, and obstructing the entrance so that I had to come home to extract my family.
From May to about September, many people came to sit in the tent Zendo. Participation shrank in the winter. Most often I sat alone, just like in the picture. Some mornings I came back into the house for a cup of coffee and had to shake the snow and frozen rain off that had encrusted my entire right side (people who live in Victoria will be familiar with the snow and rain that falls sideways due to the wind.)
Ah...the good old days. I think that's enough of a sentimental walk down memory lane for now, and a great place to start...stay tuned.