On February 10th, Dharma Sangha Boulder (the Boulder Zen Center) kicked off its third annual Winter Practice Program (WPP). Modeled on a long-running program at our Dharma Sangha center in Vienna, Austria, the Boulder WPP runs in parallel with the annual monastic Practice Period at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center and is a way for laypeople to make a commitment to intensify their practice for a period of 10 weeks.
Participants write down their individual practice commitments, which are offered at the Zendo altar during the Opening Ceremony and remain on the altar throughout the program. It’s up to each person whether to keep their commitments private it or to share them with others. The nature of their content—whether concrete commitments such as sitting Zazen more often or attending a certain number of formal practice events, or more energetic commitments regarding areas of one’s life and practice—are likewise up to each individual. Basing the program around these voluntary, individual commitments allows for people to customize a practice program that fits within the unique constraints of their work and home lives.
In addition to the voluntary individual commitments, the program includes a number of practice events and forms of support for the participants. At the Opening Ceremony, each person is assigned a “practice buddy” with whom they check in regularly about their commitments and how the program is going for them. The practice buddy relationship is intended, above all, as a chance to practice listening, sharing, and fostering Sangha connection.
The program takes place under the direction of Zenki Dillo Roshi, and each year a local Practice Leader also helps to facilitate the practice for the participants. This year, Sei Ren Laurie Nusbaum was invited by the Dharma Sangha Boulder Practice Council to fill that role. Laurie is giving three “Way-Seeking Mind” Dharma talks during the program, as well as offering informal teas and open sittings, and being generally available to support program participants.
After each of the past two iterations of the WPP, feedback has been sought from the participants and integrated into the plan for the following year. The hope is that, with each passing year, we are able to better refine a program that makes it possible for practitioners, individually and together, to deepen their practices in the midst of daily life.