2023-12-16-Gil-Gils's Story pt 2 (3 of 5) Visioning Sangha
4:23PM Dec 7, 2023
Hello, and continue with this story of my life. Now, I said, coming into becoming a teacher. And I guess I am enjoying talking about this. Sometimes I've become bored telling my story a few times I have and it's kind of made, maybe gives me a chance for reconsider it and look at it in new ways from this perspective for today, this age. So in 1990, I came to graduate school at Stanford University, I moved back into San Francisco Zen Center, I started teacher training with Jack Kornfield. And within a year or so I started kind of training to be a Zen teacher and get to the Zen dhamma transmission. By 1992, I was married. And it was kind of a wonderful time looking back at it. And, and my scholarship, my was a three year scholarship. At at Stanford, they gave me living expenses. I was able to spread it out over four years. So I went to school, two quarters a year rather than three. And, and that allowed me to go and do the teacher training to go on retreats and start teaching retreats. And I've quit very quickly understood that the kind of courses graduate courses that I took the primary way in which we were graded, was by turning in a final paper. And because I was doing other things as well, the dharma things and retreat things. At least one summer, I wrote my final paper before the class began, I kind of understood how the topics were what the subject was, I do a subject I signed up for for the course. And I kind of knew how this went. So I knew I would be busy. And what I think is I was busy worth or engaged in was it every fall i for pretty much the whole 1990s beyond the time I was at. In graduate school, I taught at 10 day experience students retreat in just north of San Francisco. And so that was right near the end of the quarter, you know, we've talked before everything was due. And so you know, so I had to really plan ahead to be ahead of the game in order to be able to get the coursework done. But that seemed to always work out. And in fact, when it was time for me to defend my dissertation, I happened to be in the middle of that 10 day retreat. And, and looking back now I kind of marvel at that it worked out this way. But that was kind of a matter of fact about things back then. And just kind of like, okay, I just did it. So it was in the middle of that retreat. So I was at the retreat, teaching it and one morning, I got up and put on a jacket, nice, nice jacket to someone had given me and drove down to Stanford and did the defense and then drove back to the retreat and just continued the teaching there. So this integration is going back and forth worked very well, I feel very fortunate the way it worked for me at graduate school that way. And, and then also I was teaching and the sitting group in Palo Alto, that I joined to start teaching for in August of 1990. And that group began to grow. And I very quickly had some sense that there was a vision night a vision, or knowledge of what was possible for people when they enter into the world of Buddhist practice. And I knew that there was much more to be done in practice than just coming to a Monday evening sitting group. And I knew that volunteering, you know, caring for the place you practice in, is really valuable for one's own practice. So there wasn't much to be done. There was just a key to get into the room in the church. And there was taking home every day, every Monday the flyers from Spirit Rock for programs up there, and then putting them out the next day when we come in next Monday. We came back. And so I immediately early on, ask for volunteers for that. And and the people We're sitting there who I gave the key to, I kind of said, you're now the president of our sitting group and kind of wanted to really promote people to have some sense of ownership involvement and responsibility for what was going on. And, and I taught happily for about six months without any thoughts and concerns about any compensation for teaching. It was like having kind of grown up for these 10 years in the Buddhist world where I practiced at Zen Center and in Asia, being paid and getting money and being compensated, was completely out to out of the picture, the idea was just to engage in the practice. And if you were invited to teach, then you would teach. And now I had been invited to teach for this group, and I had no thoughts about any, any compensation at all. And then after six months, they had a little basket to collect money to pay rent for the church. And after six months, there was $100, in extra. And what do we do with this, and someone's gonna, let's give it to Gil. And, and then maybe another six months, there was another $100. And so that was the beginning of kind of living, you know, being supported to live and teach the dharma. And as that group began to grow, I started to have vision. And I realized later it was a vision. And it began realizing later that part of the responsibility of caring for meditation group was to have a vision of what was possible for them, that people were doing practice. And, and that was wonderful. And now there was a vision, they could do more would be helpful. So I remember we decided to, you know, we quit, this group can probably now ready to do a half day retreat. And so someone had access to a small conference room, I guess it's kind of small. At the third floor, fourth floor, they aerodynamics department at Stanford. And we went there on a Saturday or Sunday when the building was closed, and, and there was a deck and there was hallways there. And that's where we did our first half day sitting. And, and so then we did more of those, and they had vision. Now these people are ready for a whole day retreat. At some point, I said, I said, there are people who come here don't know about meditation. So I think we should, it's time for us to offer an intro class. And so I'd offered an intro class before and I write in the next IMC newsletter, I write about the beginnings of this intro class. And, and then, and so I started having, you know, my job, my responsibility, I felt or my, my caretaking was to have this vision of what was possible. And then at some point, someone suggested we move to the Quaker Meeting House, which had a bigger room. And that turned out to be really wonderful. And I love the Quakers I love the kind of the ethos the atmosphere there, I felt like there was something we I took in deeply from being among not so much among the Quakers, but sharing their space with them. And, and there, we decided these, we're ready now to take a deep dive into the Buddhist precepts. And we did a class on the precepts and and, and then did it now use the ready for loving kindness. And we did a class on loving kindness. And now we're kind of full on Monday nights. And so let's start Thursday nights. And so we Quaker place was available for us. And so then we started Thursday nights, and I will different vision for what Thursday nights was about that. There Monday nights was more about Buddhism, Buddhist practice and Thursday nights evenings was most about coping, how to cope in this difficult life of ours. And, and, in fact that people who came Thursday night were in fact, people who are much more on the edge of just managing and cope and wanting some kind of basic support. And I loved having both those possibilities. And then at some point we we used to coach through who kept kind of wondering what to do, and at some point, well, I had a vision of of my involvement with a group at some point, and the vision was not about staying with the group. The vision for myself was that I was so inspired by the people who are coming and how serious they were about practice and, and I felt the responsibility to caretake and support these people. And so I had this idea that what we're going to do is to grow this group to be big enough that we can invite an other teacher to come to take over so I can leave. And the idea is I wanted to live in the country. I had this vision, this idea of living there a point raise up the coast, north of San Francis scope in a place that's kind of halfway between the green Gulch and center where I'd practiced, and Spirit Rock where I'd also practice, I had a strong connection to both. And I thought my vision, I would have lived up there halfway and, and be involved in both worlds.
So, but at some point, I think by 9090 96, I was so inspired and impressed by the growing community, I decided, you know, I'm, I guess I'm committed now, I'm going to commit myself to stay here and support this group, to stay here on the peninsula. And was it kind of a big deal for my wife, who she had, I don't, she didn't want to meet to live in an urban area. But so we that's what we did, made that I made that commitment. But I didn't require want anything from the community with that commitment, but except I wanted them to know that that was the case. And, and so I asked for a meeting, among I don't know, I forget who was invited to it. But I think there was maybe a dozen or 15 people who are, by this time, were kind of more central than everyone else may be or I don't remember. But we met at someone's home. And I explained to them that I just, you know, before was happening, and it was just felt like I needed to tell people about this commitment. And, you know, there was no expectation of anything as a result. But that stimulated a conversation. And in that conversation, then there was a vision that was evoked and I might have had certainly part of that vision, I forget who initiated it, that we should have our own home, we should have our own place to practice. And, and I had the full vision of that I had a really clear sense that there's so much more was possible. If we weren't, if we could really have our own place. And, and where we didn't have to move off who's and moving things in and out, where people felt like this was where are, you know, they come here, no, this is our place and it was open, it could be available 24/7 It can be be kind of people spiritual home, in a way couldn't be in a church room. And, and that as the as the community grew, and that depth of practice grew, maturity grew, that we were able to do more and more different kinds of programs and support people. And, and so then we decided to get incorporated, and as a nonprofit, religious nonprofit. And that took a little while. And back then coming out of the kind of maybe alternative culture that had grown up in United States, the idea of consensus and equality, and everyone in it together was kind of paramount. And so I had the idea that we would have all consensus based model for governance for this new center was kind of in the forefront of our minds. And, and, and so there was a group of people that came up with bylaws. But when they presented it to me, and we had this meeting, we were going to ratify them. I was kind of shocked at what was presented. Because it was very open. Everyone had a vote. And there was no membership. Exactly. So I guess anybody who came to a meeting or something, everyone had a vote, except one person. And that was me, the teacher. And you know, and in this consensus model, we were all supposed to have a vote and decide to gather. And to, you know, to not grant me just that one vote. I mean, that's just one that didn't seem right to me. And it was so complicated what was set up, I said, this is not going to work. And so I said to the committee that, well, I'm not ready to read that wait for us to ratify this. I liked us to put it on hold while I have some time to think about this. And, and so some people were angry with me, but that was the decision. And then about nine months later, I felt ready. And then I recently assembled some of the people from that committee to come up with new bylaws, which was warrants we have today. And, and and so then we were ready to to start thinking about a center and, and then and to keep growing and developing and, and in following the maturity of this community. And as I come to the end of this little talk, that at some point around that time, it was clear to me that I was also maturing, that there was something about the interrelationship the back and forth, connection to a community that was growing and developing and maturing and my teaching the community and And I'm asking questions and growing and that affected me. And in this role of being a teacher, that was a very important time to really understand myself much better. And, you know, being a teacher is not free of attachments, not free of certain shortcomings and oddities. So I had lots of opportunity to see parts of myself that I hadn't seen and years of meditation practice. And because it was elicited in that community dynamic, and so it was wonderful to watch the mutual maturing of the community and myself, the growing that was going on there. And that so it was a very important choice I made community made at that point and that incorporation then opened the door for much more to happen here at IMC. So, thank you very much, and I'll continue with this tomorrow.