Sangha -

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annual-report-2020-sangha.pdfii
2020 has been the most difficult, confounding, enraging, hopeless, hopeful, terrifying, and, at times, oddly peaceful year.  
Pema Khandro Rinpoche said, “the pandemic showed us our own mind”, and I find that to be so. If there was ever any doubt in
the truth of interdependence, Covid, in particular, showed us there is no way around it: my exhale is your inhale. This is a truth. If I
fool myself into thinking that what I do has no impact on you, I am a danger to you and thus, to myself. In 2020, we discovered
yet again that there is no us and them—there is only us. No matter where we looked, we could not escape our responsibility to
each other, this world, the truth of what lies in our hearts, and how it impacts the world we live in.
Pandemic. Racial injustice. Lockdowns. Fires. Political rage. Distrust in institutions. Loss of loved ones. Loss of livelihood. New
livelihood options. Children at home. Massive uncertainty. Glimpses into a new way of living. A new appreciation of home,
perhaps. A paring away of what is non-essential. More distress and more quiet. We learned things about ourselves, our
relationships, our leaders, our countries, and the world. Some of it has been horrific. Some, quite touching. The world seemed to
come together and fall apart over and over. 
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Some of us were fortunate enough to have a steady place to live and the possibility of working from home, and saw that much of
our former busy-ness was just that, busy-ness. Others, while also fortunate to have home and work, turned out to be busier than
ever with children at home, unpredictable school schedules, and fewer visits from relatives who could offer support. Some of us lost
jobs. Some discovered new sources of income. Some recommitted to our highest aspirations. Some slowed down and sloughed off
reflexive efforting. Some of us realized we had relationship problems we could no longer ignore and/or spent so much time together
that new stresses were created. Some fell in love. Some started college. Some decided to retire. Some of us lost homes in fires.
Some moved to a completely new place and a new life. Babies were born. Loved ones died.
Many of us experienced it all largely from our homes, in a strange combination of interconnection and isolation. Throughout, we had
each other. I watched as you reached out to help and care for one another. You offered endless kindnesses. We created new ways
to get together in real time, from twice daily live meditations to a weekly gathering with me (and my mom!!), and small-group circles
to get to know each other better. Channels of communication and connection opened wider and wider. Our sangha was
strengthened in 2020.
Personally, I have never felt closer to you. Whether we interact directly or not, I know you’re there, trying to make sense of it all, still
committed to your practice and unique spiritual journey, digging deep to find the resources to navigate through this day, and this
one, and this one. It has been an honor to walk with you and I’m very grateful to know you better. Thank you. 
To follow, please find a summary of what we did together in 2020 and where we are headed in 2021. 
May all the doors and windows open to a new day.
All my love, Susan
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2020: Seriously?! It seemed like a normal year at first. Then the pandemic that began in
the Far East took hold in Italy and other parts of Western Europe before
it reached North America by March. 
By April, the US took a deep collective dive into the reality of systemic
racism brought on by the violent and unpunished murders in early 2020
of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others. 
By May, in the US, we knew our government was in disarray and was
not going to provide leadership and protection when we needed it
most.
For those outside the US, I could never describe what this has meant to
us, to see our society break so completely in two. Other countries have
much worse situations, but this has been traumatic, and not just for US
citizens. People outside of the US have been (rightfully) shocked and
frightened by our failures.
distrust in authority, and a much needed racial reckoning made
powerfully clear the necessity for sangha. Just as the whole world was
reaching out for new ways to feel connected, we found that we already
had what so many were searching for. Thank you for making it so.
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Daily Live Meditations
As trauma after travail piled up, it seemed obvious that we needed
more togetherness. Luckily, the full infrastructure was already in place.
In March, we began offering multiple live meditation gatherings per day,
open to anyone, anywhere, completely free of charge. So many
generous and skilled teachers volunteered to lead practices! We began
with four sits per day, Monday-Friday. I thought this would last for the
duration of our lockdowns, but it quickly became apparent that the
opportunity to gather in real time would continue to be valuable. I
couldn’t keep asking teachers to show up for free, so in August, the
OHP began to offer a stipend and we reduced the sessions from 20
times per week to 10 times. We will keep going with them as long as
you keep showing up!
Weekly Sangha Gatherings
Also in March, I introduced a Friday sangha gathering so we could have
a set time to check in with each other, share about our lives, discuss our
practice, and just be together. Thank you so much for embracing this
opportunity. I have been so moved by your willingness to be vulnerable
with each other. It is a clear sign of your warriorship. Thank you.
As with the daily sits, this has turned out to be so useful that we will
keep it going indefinitely. 
Circles
Many of us have grown distrustful of Facebook (myself included). In the
latter part of the year, we migrated our Facebook page to a platform
called Circle. It enables us to have a Facebook-like platform but without
fear that our data will be used to sell cars, sow conspiracy theories, or
otherwise leave us vulnerable to invasions of privacy. (If you haven’t
discovered how to access this Facebook substitute yet, please look for
the icon in the Community tab to join.)
In addition to the larger Circle platform, we decided to create
inter-sangha circles for sangha members to be able to spend time in
small, peer-led groups to sit together and discuss life. We offered the
chance to sign up for a convenient time slot and, once a time slot had 9
or more people, sent the group a Zoom link and some rules of
engagement. These “rules” are very important. They give each
gathering a sense of containment and form. The hope is that the same
9 people will gather each week and really get to know each other. We
now have 11 active sangha circles and more are filling up as I type this.
(If you’d like to sign up for a small group Circle, please click on the
Sangha Circles tab to sign up.) I’ve heard such wonderful feedback on
these gatherings! Thank you so much for your generosity toward each
other. And don’t forget: please follow the format. This isn’t because I
want everyone to be militaristic, but because the form allows the
conversation to flow, gain traction, and remain focused on wisdom and
safe in the discussion.
2020 Themes Were Timely
In 2020, we committed to studying the 59 Lojong mind training slogans.
Crystal and I knew they would be potent, but I don’t think either of us
guessed just how amazing they would be as we traversed this year of
vast uncertainty. Week after week, whether the slogan was “Regard All
Dharmas as Dreams,” “Whichever of the Two Occurs, Be Patient,” or
“Don’t Be Frivolous,” each slogan seemed to offer the wisdom we
needed at that exact moment. Thanks, slogans! Thanks, Atisa! I’m not
sure how you knew a thousand years ago just what we’d need in 2020,
but well played, my friend. And thanks go especially to you, Sangha, for
the way you brought your intelligence, curiosity, and vulnerability to the
investigation. It has been a joy. (PS All 59 videos are on the Circle page
as well as in the video archive.)
Our Newsletter Expanded
Beginning in September, we changed the look and content direction of
our regular weekly newsletter. In addition to a new video talk on one of
the slogans (from me or the brilliant Crystal Gandrud) and a meditation
practice, we started a sidebar called “Guru Guide” to introduce you to a
great sage of the past or present and a second sidebar called “Art for
Contemplation” to offer you a non-verbal, less conceptual way to
contemplate the meaning of that particular week’s essay via an image
or a piece of music. 
In 2021, we’re adding yet another feature to the newsletter...but more
about that below.
We Laughed, We Cried, We Were Confounded, We Went on
Retreats Together, Practice Deepened
Here is a list of the programs we had in 2020 (all but Meditation
Instructor Training were free for sangha members):
•21-Day Meditation Challenge (January)
•4 Creative Rave Retreats: A Day of Creative Pursuits! (February,
May, September, December)
•Buddhism in Modern Life: The Noble Path of Wisdom and
Compassion with Michael Carroll (a 9-month immersive program)
•3 Weekend Meditation Retreats: To Explore the Path and Practice
of Meditation in Depth (March, July, September)
•Meditation Instructor Training Program: Learn to Teach
Meditation Responsibly (a 9-week program)
•6 Day-Long Meditation Retreats: A Day of Contemplation in the
Midst of Chaos (Every Saturday, April - May)
•The Refuge Vow Ceremony (May)
•Online Meditation and Writing Retreat Weekend (June)
•A Posture Workshop with Michele Sapanaro (October)
•Loving Kindness Retreat for the USA (in preparation for the US
elections) (October)
•Building a Mindful New Year (December)
•And 35 Weekly Sangha Gatherings (April-December)
Crystal Taught More
If you’ve had a chance to listen to Crystal Gandrud teach in one of our
newsletter videos, during a Creative Rave, or at a special event like the
recent Communication Symposium she hosted, you know how lucky we
are to be able to practice and study with her. I know how lucky I am to
co-create the OHP curriculum and voice with her. In all the world, there
is no one like Crystal. I am not saying that for effect but because it is
true. Her discernment, brilliance, insight, and intense commitment to the
deeper journey may only be matched by the skill with which she is able
to express it all to others. Seriously, y’all. Crystal is in the house. Pay
attention.
On Systemic Racism, Trauma, Patriarchy, and Other Facts of Life
The Buddha said that we are not here for our own benefit alone. We are
alive to do everything (and he did mean everything) we can to alleviate
suffering for all. A fundamental question was: What will really help? He
also taught extensively on the interdependent nature of reality: no one
is free until everyone is. Truly.
In 2020, all of western culture received a major teaching in the palpable
effects of systemic racism and, for some, the part we play in maintaining
it. How to meaningfully contribute to the important and necessary work
of dismantling privilege without resorting to performance or vitriolic
public displays? is a question we strive to work with as deeply as
possible in our programs, language, financial choices, awareness, and
heart intentions.
recognizing trauma, both societal and personal, continued to inform our
evolution as a meditation community. The cycle of trauma is personal
and ancestral, time-specific and continuous, particular and universal.
Meditation is not a way around trauma. Rather, it may be a way into it. It
is very hard to get this notion across in a world that looks at meditation
through the lens of, on one hand, incessant scientific proof that
meditation is awesome and, on the other, incessant advertising insisting
that meditation is a panacea, a bio hack, a problem-solving method.
Actually, it is a path of opening to what is, including...everything.
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2020 has shown us the reality and debilitating consequences of trying
to walk around trauma rather than through it. As students and as
teachers, we can bring trauma-awareness, whether societal or
individual, into our personal practice, our awareness of others, and the
language we use to discuss spiritual practice.
Finally, 2020 has shown us the vast limitations of patriarchy. This has
little to do with men v women and more to do with control v
collaboration, linear v intuitive, hierarchical v collective. It seems we
have gone as far as we can (and too far) with top-down models
of...everything: power, economics, and, certainly, spiritual practice
communities. As your teachers, Crystal and I are conscious of creating a
situation that neither bypasses the importance of holding the teacher’s
seat nor over inflates it as an egoic calling card. To walk this line is the
best practice I have ever encountered. It returns me over and over
again to my wisdom and lack thereof. What do I really know? Where do
I step in to correct misunderstandings and where do I step out to watch
what unfolds for the student? What is my wish to help and what is my
wish to be seen—and what happens when they coincide? What is
guided by love and what is guided by fear?
Very interesting questions that I know Crystal shares, too. Luckily, we
have been extremely well trained. The longer I teach, the more I
appreciate the wisdom I received early in my dharma life. 
Onward into 2021!
Authentic Presence:
A Year of Spiritual Warriorship
In the coming year, we are going to bring our practice off the cushion
and into our lives, out from between our ears and into our speech,
actions, decisions, and environment. 
You may have noticed (or will) that as your practice takes root, you
experience more moments of both gentleness and bravery. In fact,
there is no difference between these qualities.
Through our practice, we soften, first to ourselves, then to others, and
then to our world. To soften is to express courage. Normally, we
imagine we can arm ourselves with opinions, beliefs, preconceptions,
systems, strategies, judgments—and while some may be absolutely
accurate, none can protect you from the vulnerability of being human,
of being touched, disappointed, delighted, lost, uplifted, satisfied,
shattered. We see that we can’t actually predict or control our
experience, that all is vulnerable. This is where warriors are born.
How do we recognize a warrior? Their presence is surprising. Listening
to them, you feel like you just woke up. They are genuine and without
aggression. Something magnetizing is happening and at the same
time, nothing unusual is going on. You just know that you want to be
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around them. Have you been able to sense these qualities in yourself? I
have seen them in you.
A warrior has what is called authentic presence; that quality of being on
the spot, paying attention, mind and body fully synchronized—all of
which is cultivated quite directly through our practice.
When we sit, we are not trying to get someplace else.
We continually bring our attention back to right now.
Mind and body are synchronized on the wave of breath.
Thus, the path of warriorship unfolds.
In 2021, we will examine more closely that sense of being born into
warriorship and how to apply the warrior’s gentleness, bravery, and
authentic presence in all the moments of our lives. 
2021 Themes
If there is one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it is the value of slowing
down, simplifying, and focusing. In 2021, we will continue with regular
themes, but instead of introducing a new one every week, we will
introduce a new theme every month to give ourselves more time and
space to consider it. 
On the first of the month (no matter what day of the week it falls on),
you will receive an expanded newsletter from us. Each newsletter will
contain the following:
•A video talk on our theme, followed by a meditation (from me or
Crystal)
•An expanded essay on the theme (written by me or Crystal)
•A new “Guru Guide” to introduce you to a great sage of the past
or present (written by me or Crystal)
•The “Art for Contemplation” feature to bring in another way of
relating to our theme (now to be written by the wonderful Kevin
Townley)
• A feature on an aspect of the enneagram (because we want to
continue to weave this exceptional wisdom into everything we do.
The Weekly Dharma Gathering will slow its roll, too, and become a
Monthly Dharma Gathering. Each gathering will extend to an hour in
length and still include a talk on our theme from a wonderful teacher, a
guided practice, and a chance for dialogue. 
So, each month you will have two opportunities to explore our theme.
This will enable us all (me too!) to take a more considered approach,
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spend more time in contemplation, and not get caught up in anything
too speedy or busy. 
Crystal and I spent a lot of time considering what our themes should be
for 2021. We wanted something that felt like a path, but that you could
drop in to and out of as your life allows, without feeling a need to catch
up. 
We wanted it to be genuine and rooted in the wisdom of Vajrayana
Buddhism while also being completely relevant to our everyday lives. 
We wanted the year to feel like a journey into truth and magic in such a
way that you feel even more connected to yourself, your unique
wisdom and sources of guidance, and, of course, to each other. 
Forthwith, here are the themes!
The year will be broken down into four quarters according to the
extraordinary teaching given by the Kagyu lineage master, Gampopa,
around nine centuries ago. “The Four Dharmas of Gampopa” lay out the
entire spiritual journey in four succinctly perfect lines:
Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with the dharma.
Grant your blessings so that dharma may progress along the path.
Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion.
Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.
From January to March, the umbrella theme will be My Mind is One With
the Dharma. We will explore and re-explore the steps one takes to get
on the path altogether. We will go back to basics and revisit
foundational concepts. Believe me, after 25+ years of practice, I can
personally certify that one cannot return to the foundations too many
times. “You can always go back to square one,” my meditation teacher
has often told me, and, indeed, you should always go back to square
one. Within this general framework of Dharma #1, we will explore the
following:
A chance to revisit the foundations of sitting meditation practice.
February: Establish Self-Trust
The most important teacher is your own mind. How can you discover a
way to hear that voice clearly and with confidence?
March: Not Afraid to See
From these important building blocks, doors and windows open, yet we
may still be stuck seeing only what we want to see (or dread seeing).
How can we cleanse the doors of perception, take back our projections,
actually see our own lives, and inhabit our experience fully?
From April to June, our umbrella theme will be Dharma…