2023-12-07-Gil-Gil's Story Pt 2 (4 of 5) Growing with IMC
4:24PM Dec 7, 2023
So. So then I continue with the story of my dharma life. And for this week, it's more of my life as a teacher. And they ended yesterday by talking about how we decided to become incorporated as a religious nonprofit. And that happened in 1997. And the purpose of that was to be able to purchase our own property to have our own center. And so that process began of seeing how we could do that. And early on, we had this idea that actually, we had the first and maybe the only fundraising committee meeting group of people who are interested in trying to fundraise for this purpose. And we met in someone's living room. And Terry lessor who's our yoga teacher here for many years, and IMC. She said, Money Follows the practice. And as soon as you said that, we stopped talking about how to raise money, and rather talked about how we could offer more practice opportunities. And we did a survey of the community see what kind of practice opportunities they wanted. And one of the things that was desired was to have a Sunday morning program and other was to have a yoga program and, and other things. And so we started a Sunday morning program in Portola Valley. And by now, we were using many different facilities around during through the week for all the different programs we had been developing. We had two programs a week at the Friends Meeting House, we had at the community center in Portola Valley, we had the Sunday morning program, we had day long retreats. And in a couple of other churches, Presbyterian Church and a Unitarian church that we did on often on Saturdays, we'd started dark, started doing retreats kind of weekend retreats at a Zen Center up in the mountains here called Jikoji, wonderful little Zen Center. And, and then a sangha kind of connection, offered me a room in her house that had its own door to the outdoors, that I could use as an office, where I could meet people, because before that, if I had to was going to meet one on one for practice discussions with people, when the weather was good on meeting parks, city parks, and when the weather wasn't good, I would meet that coffee shops. And that was kind of, you know, interesting to be having very deep, difficult conversations in a coffee shop. And sometimes people were crying telling me about their life or something. And, and but that was only if we didn't have any space because we had no place of our own. And so then we had this so that I had this office in this person's home. And so we had all these different places and became clear and clear that we were, we had enough programs through the week that we can consolidate them all just moving them all into our own center. It's kind of like, justified having our own place. But we just developed our practice is. And then we also in having deciding to have first, we had first Monday evening, then Thursday evening, and then Sunday evening, one of the clear decisions that I made was that I didn't want to be a teacher, teaching too many people at one time. And so when we had about 100 people coming Monday nights, we started the second program on Thursday nights, take the pressure off Monday. And then we started Sunday morning. And it would have been a lot easier for me to just give one dharma taco week to a big group of people. And maybe it would have been more efficient in some ways. But I felt that's the dynamics of being a teacher in the front of a very large group of people. There was a lot of there's a lot of projection, even if it's unconscious, just the fact that so many people are focused on one individual. And the way we do it in the inside world giving dharma talks. I think it creates kind of a skewed relationship and or projections or associations to all that. And I wanted to, I wasn't interested in that they wanted to keep things kind of simple and more basic. I didn't I didn't want to become like a big teacher somehow. And, and one of the aspects of that was that when we meeting at the Friends Meeting House, everywhere we met, I just sat on the floor on his Avataan on a meditation mat. But then slowly, people said we can't see you The big room we have to be up elevate a little bit. And I resisted that a lot to even to go up eight or 10 inches on the whole platform was I didn't want that, because I felt that associated with kind of becoming a little bit too special or something. And then at the IMC, we brought that platform with us here. And then they wanted to hire, and I resisted that. And, and, and we're gonna use it sometimes. But now that's what I'm sitting on. Now. It's probably 15 inches or so. And now it just seems like what we do, but I had this concern about, you know, the the elevation of projection, elevation of authority, power, all kinds of things that goes in being this role as a teacher. So we were started to look for a place. And we I think we were pretty naive, but how are we going to finance it? Now? You know, we didn't. But we were surprised that before we even started asking for money, when people learned that we were wanted to buy a place. People walked up to us with checks and said here, it wasn't like big checks, necessarily, but people just started offering us money. And, and, and then we started raising money with fundraising letter once a year. And then at some point, we heard about a minister a couple in Redwood City, were the ministers of this building here. And it had been a it had built by a small Christian denomination called First Christian assembly. And they were a little bit mystical Christians who sat in silence a lot. And the elderly couple, were ready to sell it. But they wanted to sell it to someone who also sat in silence. And we had a middle person between us a bridge to us, between them, who knew us and knew them and introduced us. And, and so I called them up, and they were certainly interested. But the message we got back is, don't call us we'll call you. So we drove by the place and saw it but and it was the kind of the further still limit of how the geographical area we thought we would maybe could move to. And, and so we didn't call them for I think I called them one more time. This was in January, I think. And something like that, April. And then the following January, we still hadn't been shown the church. And so I called them up and a little bit, honestly little bit as a kind of a way to see if we can get some contact going. I said, you know, we were looking for a place to be able to hold some kind of event we want to do could we use your church? And and the one minister I talked to on the phone basically said no, I think that we had an hour long conversation. And that was really nice. And then I was next day, I talked to the spouse another hour long conversation. And by that time, we were like best friends. And we talked a few more times on the phone just felt so much love so much warmth going on. And they just assumed that they were going to sell it to us, they hadn't been shown it to us. And they even said that they would carry the loan, which we didn't have really the money to do that with, you know, to buy it ourselves. And it was very strange to have all this going without actually having seen it. And, and so finally in September of 2021. The they showed it to us. And it was just kind of a wonderful connection with them. And they were so happy with our community and us with them. And we bought it and then in 20 January 2020 to 22,002. So it's September 2001. We saw it, bought it and then moved in January of 2002. In looking for it, we had we vision for it. And we did I had we had I had a bigger vision of just having a center. The dream I had was since I was going to be rooted here in this area now that it would be nice to be able to provide a Buddhist practice opportunities or support for people throughout their lifetimes from childhood to cradle to grave kind of thing. And so they were one of the visions we originally had was to find a property that was big enough to have a communal Meditation Center, a place for people to do long term self retreats, and a hospice. And those three would be kind of synergy of a certain kind of depth of spirituality and connection.
We had thoughts about children's programs. And when we finally moved here, we were kind of a little bit of pioneers for the mindfulness in schools movement. And the few of us here met, prepared radically and organized the first conference in the country on mindfulness in school systems. And people came from all over to, you know, because was the first one to have this conference. So there was just a bigger vision of what was possible that started with looking at the center like this. As I continue teaching, before we bought the place, I had my first my wife and I, we had our first child. And that was a real turning point for me, because we had a high spirited child. And parenting for me was quite demanding monastic life was easier for me than parenting, and often was very tired. And my wife and I were often very tired from the constant care of this child. And we had no support, we didn't have grandparents nearby, we didn't have, we didn't have any nanny and things like that. And one point, we might, we brought our child to the first kind of, kind of a preschool kind of thing. And, and, and it was a he kind of was expelled from preschool, within a few weeks, flung throughout our preschool. So that was a glorious beginning to his educational career, I think because he woke up either woke other kids up during the nap. And that was a no doubt for that place. And, but what happened for me as a teacher, I was I no longer had time to prepare for my talks. And I, and I was tired. So I would show up to teach. And I thought that my, the quality of my talks I thought was really dropping dramatically. But the odd thing that happened, people seem to appreciate my talks more and more. And I think what was happening was that I was becoming less intellectual about the dharma, and more talking from, from some, you know, from the state that I was in talking about how things were for me personally, and, and, and people resonated more than with the talks. And, and that also then was the beginning of, I felt really beginning of beginning of starting to be attuned to how being a teacher is its own practice. And an example of this would be, I'd be sitting like, I'm here now, in my meditation posture to give these talks. And as I taught, I would be paying careful attention to where if I was leaning forward, or being pulled back, or the tone of my voice, and there were so many little feedback loops inside of me, of where I got caught. I was concerned about what people were thinking about me or, you know, if one person in the in the hall walked out, I could feel like it like I got, oh, no, I'm failing or something. And I could feel, you know, sometimes it was subtle, but I could feel the shifts of attachment or fear sometimes if one person was sitting, looking down, shaking their head like this, I noticed that my eyes went to that person all the time as if that person was the arbitrator of how successful I was in teaching. And so I got to see a lot of the concede a lot of the attachment, a lot of the fears there was in this posture, or I could see the subtlest shifts and movements are presented, how I got caught. And so as I was teaching, I was kind of using this as a practice thing. And and that was really important for me, I learned so much about myself practicing pay attention as a teacher in this role. And that was a good thing because as we got the center here, then I started teaching even more and and that just steadily grown over time. So I think, oh, we'll do one more day on this Gil story. And, and then we'll see what's next after that. So thank you, and and I appreciate all of you and this chance to tell the stories and I hope that it's somehow instructive or helpful for you. Thank you