These are my notes on a talk I gave Sunday March 23rd
at Clouds in Water Zen Center on my announcement of stepping down from the
Guiding Teacher position and to propose that Sosan Theresa Flynn step up to
that lead role.
I’m writing to let you know about some changes
that the teacher ryo (the teaching group) and the board of
directors would like to implement.
It’s what we would like to do,
but we need the blessing and support of the sangha to move
With much tenderness and an open heart,
I would like to change my job at Clouds in Water.
I would like to step down as the Guiding Teacher and to move
to being a
Senior Dharma Teacher and continue to be a member of the
And I would like to allow Sosan Flynn to step up as the
This means that I would continue to teach at Clouds as a
member of the teacher ryo
But the duties of the Guiding teacher would move to Sosan.
The teacher ryo has been discussing this for some time.
Recently, we made a formal proposal to the board.
The board voted unanimously to accept our proposal.
Our organization’s by-laws state that a new guiding teacher
must also be confirmed “by a two-thirds vote of
voting members present at a meeting held for such purpose.”
Our voting meeting is scheduled for April 13, 10:45 am.
During my dharma talk on March 23, we had a discussion about
And we will have another council to digest and discuss this
On Sunday March 30th at 10:45am – 12:15pm.
The blooming of the karma of Clouds:
There are many major changes happening right now
staffing, Change of the Guiding Teacher role and if Sosan takes that job
then the Executive Director’s job needs to be filled.
Amy Horne moving into full-time acupuncture practice
and leaving her position as our program director
These changes have come from a confluence of factors and
change that are happening as a result of our growth as a community, outside
circumstances, and a shifting in the systemic interdependency of all the parts
that make up Clouds.
They are happening organically as a tectonic shifting of plates of Clouds in Water’s karma.
1. maturation as a sangha,
2. our role in developing new teachers
3. and the maturation of our practice – to take personal
responsibility for our spiritual life.
I think it’s important to understand the history of Clouds in Water as
background for these changes. In
some ways, I view my time as Clouds in Water’s Guiding Teacher as a “healing
transition” from a deeply wounded community coming after the heels of the
breech with the founding teacher.
A lot has happened in the last 7 ½ years. I think this tectonic shift is happening because that healing has transpired and
the entire community is birthing something new. Who are we now after all that has happened and been healed? Who are we now in the 21st
century and as an innovator of lay practice in America? Moving geographically gives us a great opportunity
to change and grow and start something fresh and new.
And we are ready to do this now because of our healing and
We have already started many of these changes:
the multiple teacher model
changing practice period to “core and more”, which is more accessible to most
Doing programming designed primarily for
householders; for example center-based intensives and ½ day meditation days.
Integrating Youth Practice and family life into
the over-all life of practice in this community.
Clouds in Water has had, since its founding, a 2-pronged
approach. That of being a Temple
for lay practitioners and also being a teaching institution producing priests
and teachers. I believe that the
new teaching model of the teacher ryo is really providing the opportunity for
actually being a teaching institution.
We are allowing teachers to learn in community and to raise up the next
generation of teachers both lay and priest. We have also been giving opportunities to teach to the next
layer of students in Lay Training Group.
This is the outward manifestation of the ideal of transmission.
When I started 7 ½ years ago, one of my primary objectives
was to support Clouds in Water to be sustainable. Even though it seems somewhat unusual to have a multiple
teacher model and a rotating position of Guiding Teacher, I think this is a
worthy experiment in the world of sustainability of leadership. We have also been extending this investigation to having
Ryo’s or “groups” for the Ino position and the Tenzo position in an effort to
curb “burn out”.
I am profoundly grateful, deeply grateful for my time as Guiding
Teacher. I could say that it has
deeply transformed me. Meeting the
challenges of this position has transformed my character and my ideas of
practice. The amount of study and
teaching has matured my understanding.
I wish this depth of growth to be available for my fellow
teachers at Clouds. I want them to
experience the maturation that occurs in the role of Guiding Teacher. I hope that as a community we can allow
the Guiding Teacher position to be seen as a maturation process for our
teachers and that we have the acceptance, tolerance and generosity to allow
people to find themselves and learn about teaching by taking this role. This is certainly what I did. I started the job not knowing if I
could fulfill the role, and I grew into the responsibilities and the skill that
is needed to take the lead position.
Sosan has been at Clouds in Water since its inception in the
early 90’s. She has played a
primary role all along our history.
She was one of the first priests to be ordained. She held the primary Temple Priest
position during the transition in leadership and has been the Executive
Director since then. She had a
very intensive training period with Dosho Port in the early years of Clouds in
Water. She has participated in
three of Thich Nhat Hanh’s American retreats, did a month of monastic training
at both Zen Mountain Monastery and Ryumonji Monastery, and many retreats at
Hokyoji Monastery. She studied
intensively with Joen Snyder O’Neal and was transmitted by Joen in 2012,
completing her training and becoming a transmitted Zen Teacher.
In my opinion, allowing Sosan to continue her maturation
process by taking on this role is a wonderful expression of our community’s commitment
to transmission and our commitment to developing our teachers from within. Our
teachers will benefit from the deep personal growth and leadership training
that the Guiding Teacher role provides.
As for me, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to go
forward with some new and continue some old endeavors. I will have more time to study, to write
about the dharma and to make books.
I will continue to support students who want me as their teacher and to
finish the transmission of our senior teachers. I think this letting go and allowing something new to
happen is a very natural stepping stone for me as my teaching has matured.
It seems like these changes are a natural organic
progression of what Clouds is all about and is leading us to manifest true
transmission, generation to generation.
Thank you, in deep bows,
Labels: Clouds in Water staff changes, council dates, guiding teacher job change, Judith Ragir, Sosan Theresa Flynn