August 27, 2020
New Online Engaged Family Practice Program

Starting on Sunday September 6, the Youth & Family Program that was usually held on Sundays at GGF (and online since May) will be put on pause and a new 10-month online program will take its place. Called Engaged Family Practice, the group will meet online each month to explore a theme based on social, racial, or climate justice, and then engage in a project based in their own communities related to that theme. 

Meikyo Chelsea True has been running the Youth & Family Program for several years now and is looking forward to coordinating this new program. Jeffrey Schneider recently spoke with her about her involvement in Buddhism, Green Gulch Farm, and the new Engaged Family Practice program.

Sangha News: Meikyo, before we talk about the program, perhaps you could share something about yourself. How long have you been involved in the Green Gulch Farm program for families and what brought you to it?

Thank you, Jeffery. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. My involvement in the family program began about twelve years ago when I came with my daughter — she was four then. She just turned sixteen last week!

SN: What about your personal and professional background?

I think I’m fortunate to say that the personal and professional overlap for me. I’ve been offering mindfulness-based supports and services in both secular and nonsecular environments for just over a decade, starting in my own living room with neighborhood families.

This grew into a small, grassroots nonprofit that now serves the San Francisco Bay Area. For the last three years, while I’ve been working on a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology, our work has been focused at the intersection of mindfulness, mental health, and social and racial justice at a school in Marin City. I’ve also just begun working on a team with the Marin County Office of Education, creating Social Justice standards for our schools.

SN: What is your involvement with Buddhism?

I came to Buddhism in the late 1980s with an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies.  Becoming a mother completely changed my orientation to practice, though — opening and tenderizing my heart. It wasn’t until the death of my son, about ten years ago, that I sought out a teacher in our lineage, Hoka Chris Fortin, who I’d met at Green Gulch Farm during a daylong retreat for women. I received lay ordination in August 2015, so five years ago this month, and served as shuso for my local sangha during our Fall 2018 practice period.

SN: And how long has the program been in place? What was it like before sheltering-in-place?  How many children and parents were involved on a regular basis?

Our program began in the late 1980s under Wendy Johnson and has been in the care of many amazing friends and teachers since then. I started volunteering while Nancy Petrin, City Center’s current Tanto, was guiding the program. It feels very humbling, and is truly an honor, to steward this program. 

We shifted from a children’s program to a family program about six years ago. We meet monthly and often have groups upwards of a hundred people joining us to practice out on the farm where we turn towards the land as a great Dharma teacher.

SN: Obviously things have had to change a lot for the program recently, but it is still being offered as an online event. Can you say something about how that is working and how it is being received by the families?

Yes, our program has taken a quick turn and we’ve been using this time to re-imagine it while continuing to meet virtually. We are ready to announce that, in response to the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and systemic racism, we are now launching a new, ten-month-long Engaged Family Practice program next month, focused at the intersection of Bodhisattva vows and social, racial, and climate justice. 

Starting in September, we’ll explore a new Dharma practice each month via Zoom. Families will have the chance to co-create related projects that they then engage on their own during the month, such as removing trash from a creekside, writing letters, making signs, attending a march, or working at a food bank. We’ll learn to support our work with practice so that our activism can feel nourishing and sustainable. We’ll turn to texts and teachers doing this important work for guidance.

We presently have an amazing Family Program Team signed on for the school year, with student-workers from California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) bringing their experience in expressive arts, somatic psychology, and community mental health and our long-term volunteers will continue to bring their years of Zen practice. While we miss being out on the land with everyone at Green Gulch Farm, we are really excited to offer this new Engaged Family Practice program and to have this chance to strengthen our family sangha.

Dates: September 6, 2020 – June 6, 2021 (ten sessions)

When: First Sunday of each month

Time:  10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Where: Zoom, then in your own communities!

Primary Text: Peace, Love, Action! Everyday Acts of Goodness by Tanya Zabinski 

Ages: 5-15 years, with parents or caregivers

Cost:  $300 — $180 per family, sliding scale. No one turned away for lack of funds.

To register: Engaged Family Program

Contact: Meikyo Chelsea True