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Reviewing the Results of Our Member Survey

On behalf of the Bright Way Board

I would like to share with you a discussion that took place at our last Board meeting.  We were discussing the results of the most recent survey that was taken this past spring.

In reviewing the results, overall, they were very positive.  Most members feel acknowledged and appreciated as individuals and connected to the Sangha.  This was great news!  As a Board, we strive to be responsive to the Sangha’s needs in a way that addresses the Strategic Plan and Bright Way’s Mission.  That Mission, in a nutshell, is to help people find spiritual peace, deepen their wisdom and manifest compassion. 

In the survey, there was the option to write in comments about what is working well, what concerns members have or what other ways Bright Way can fulfill it’s Mission.  For example, some of the comments mentioned beginner’s classes, social activities targeted toward particular cohorts within the Sangha (such as young folks) and sensitivity about people’s different socioeconomic circumstances.

In discussing the comments, it became clear that in order to understand more fully and be more responsive to your comments, we need your help.  If you submitted comments on the survey and would like to discuss those further, the Board would like to hear from you.  Please contact me at

Palms together,

Joan Maurer, Bright Way Zen Board Member  

Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at BWZ

Article by Shoketsu Ellen Carlin

The Buddha said to his students, “Go forth for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world.”

One of the goals in the Bright Way Zen Strategic Plan is to share the Dharma with more people.  We live in a diverse, dynamic community in Washington County, just west of Portland. Forty percent of the population here is Hispanic, Asian, Black, Native American or other non-white. In addition, the area is having a growth explosion with people moving here in a steady stream.  We frequently have new visitors in search of a spiritual community.  We do our best to warmly welcome them and get to know them.  BWZ feels it’s important for us to increase our diversity, equity and inclusion. We are approaching this in a number of ways now.                                                                                     

  • We offer “Awakening to Whiteness” educational series at least every 18 months. The first offering at our sangha was well attended and lasted 6 months. It includes a selection of readings written by people of color that inform in ways not done before. We meet once a month to discuss our reactions to the readings and key learnings in small groups. As one who recently participated, I can tell you the program is powerful and altered many assumptions I’ve long held. The next series will start sometime in 2020.
  • We want to attract to people of color who have an interest in meditation, mindfulness, and contemplative traditions. We would love to get some ideas on ways to effectively do this.
  • We plan to develop partnerships with at least one culturally-specific organization/group each year. There are several groups we can partner with including Unite Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, and Center for Diversity and the Environment.

We are in the process of developing our program to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion and encourage anyone at Bright Way who is interested in helping to let us know. Contact Domyo or Shoketsu.



Multiple Ways to Practice Dana Paramita

Article by Jinryu Janna Allgood

Mahayana Buddhism has six paramitas, or expressions of perfection or completeness. Dana Paramita is often associated with charity and includes the giving of alms.

According to our new Strategic Plan, there are two areas of focus where your alms will be applied: the continued support of our teachers and the need for stability in our location. These two focus areas ensure a sustainable future for our community, something members told us they wanted in the 2017 member survey.

In the unfortunate event that we needed to recruit a new teacher, it would be impossible to do so today considering Domyo’s stipend and the hours she devotes Bright Way Zen.

Plus we continue to grow as Washington County grows and as we are able to fill the spiritual needs of the communities west of Portland. There will come a time when our comfortable little zendo will no longer hold us all.

Until last year there was only one way, besides the cash box, to give and that was through becoming a member and making a financial commitment. Your financial commitments, be they monthly, quarterly or annually, will always be tremendously helpful to running Bright Way Zen as a business because they allow us to plan ahead.

In 2018 we added a very successful Fun-raiser thanks to Frankie Borison’s leadership. That event came out of discussion the Board had as we continued the process of building our strategic plan. Being generous with our resources as we sipped wine and listened to the wonderful blues offered by So’on Lisa Mann made it easier and fun to give.

This year we hope to give you two more ways to give: (1) by making it easy to include Bright Way Zen in your estate planning, and (2) by facilitating the donation of large ticket items you may no longer have use for such as a used car, a boat or your grandmother’s diamond earrings.

Bright Way Zen depends almost entirely on your donations. Please give only what you are able to. And remember that your participation in our community and your presence next to us on your cushion is also a tremendous gift and sincerely appreciated.



Exploring and Polishing the Sangha Jewel

Article by Myoju Bella Jhunjhunwala

Zen practice is often perceived as a solitary endeavor, picture the dark robed practitioner sitting still in zazen practice, delving deep into herself to find her Buddha Nature. While it is true that the practice takes personal discipline and commitment, remember that only a ‘Buddha together with a Buddha’ can actualize the truths that we set out to discover in the first place.

The community of practitioners provides us with an opportunity to deepen our zazen and fertile ground to test our practice of the Precepts. We can all attest to the intangible strength and support our sitting gains when we practice as a group rather than by ourselves. In fact, we can then carry this strength back to our solitary cushions at home. The spirit of the sangha buoys and sustains what can sometimes feel like a repetitive and bewildering practice. The sangha can also be a mirror for all the ways we fail to keep our precepts. Domyo once likened the sangha to a rock tumbler, we polish and smooth each other’s blind spots and rough edges!

There are a few concrete steps we have taken to ensure cohesiveness and communication in the sangha.

– Develop and maintain an online membership directory
– Hold at least one sangha social event per quarter
– Send welcome packets to new members
– Pair new members with active members of at least one year.

Please feel free to share any other ideas you may have to enhance this strategic goal. Sangha connection like our practice, is a work in progress and with your help will deepen and develop over time.



Our Growing Children’s Program

Article by Marcia Kahn

Bright Way Zen’s Strategic Plan aims not only to deepen the engagement of current members (Goal One) but also to share the Dharma with more people (Goal Two) and our Children’s Program hits both of these targets. Plus it’s fun and rewarding for kids and adults alike.

The Children’s Program has been growing ever since it’s first Sunday morning class last September. Because it is so engaging, the program almost grows by itself — all it needs is the care of some dedicated and generous volunteers.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Zack Bartel is at the zendo to meet parents who want to introduce their kids to Buddhist practice. He is available to answer any of the parents’ questions.

On Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11, parents from around the neighboring community as well as Bright Way Zen bring their kids to Mindfulness for Preschoolers. They learn about integrating meditation and mindfulness practices into family life. As co-teacher, Shoketsu Ellen Carlin helps make the classes fun, flexible, and adapted to the children who attend that day.

Returning on Sunday, September 8 from 10:20 to 11:00, the Second Sunday classes for children rounds out the Children’s Program. Music, singing, and storytelling entertain the kids and offer them a child sized portion of the Dharma plus a cookie.

This program wouldn’t work at all without the help of many volunteers. Beyond those already mentioned are Domyo Burk, Sabrina Eveland, Marta Farris, Cameron Kidd, Jill Otermat, Janelle Schaffner, and Stephanie Valenti.

And then there’s you! As with all aspects of our Strategic Plan, the Children’s Program is always open to your ideas and your support.



Building a Culture of Gratitude

Article by Jinryu Janna Allgood

Remember the last time you received a hand written Thank You note in the mail? Maybe it was from a friend or relative, or possibly a four-year old, learning to write but thanking you nonetheless for a birthday gift. How did that expression of appreciation and gratitude feel?

That feeling strikes at the heart of the first strategy of Bright Way Zen’s new Strategic Plan. It’s a spirit of love and appreciation for each other that can be conveyed in so many ways: a quick announcement on Sunday morning, a short “Thank You” in the weekly newsletter, a social event centered on gratitude, or a Dharma talk investigating the meaning of danaparamita, the perfection of generosity.

Generosity isn’t strictly financial donations. Time freely given, work performed with love in the spirit of helping, and even presence – all of these can be received with gratitude and appreciation.

Building this kind of culture opens up our sangha to welcoming and appreciating attendees from all walks of life even if they don’t look like us or think like us. People who feel seen, welcomed and appreciated ultimately become members. They may bring their children some day. People who feel cared for in this way make pledges and donations. Notice how the first strategy links to everything else Bright Way Zen intends to do as outlined in the Strategic Plan.

Over the next few months I will be thinking of ways we can execute this strategy. But I can’t do this by myself. Success will involve the whole sangha. I am open to any ideas and suggestions you may have as well as your offers of help to follow through on them.