Tibetan Buddhist monks will construct colorful, sacred mandala

The University of Redlands will welcome a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery to campus from April 4-8, when they will be constructing a mandala sand painting.

To form an image of a mandala—a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram—millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. Of all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the Lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by chanting, music and mantra recitation and will take place on April 5 at 12 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel.

Visitors are welcome to view the creation of the mandala in the Memorial Chapel on Tuesday from 1- 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Traditionally, most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion to symbolize the impermanence of existence. The closing ceremony will be held on Friday, April 8 at noon in the Memorial Chapel.

The monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.

At Redlands, the monks of Drepung Loseling will also present two special events:

“Meditation: A Tool for Conscious Living,” a meditation session that will guide participants through practices of meditation used by Buddhists for healing and mental well-being. The session will begin at 5:20 p.m. on April 6 in the Memorial Chapel.

“Opening the Heart: Arousing the Mind of Universal Kindness,” a lecture on Buddhist theories on love and kindness held at 6 p.m. on April 7 in the Memorial Chapel.

All events are free and open to the public.

The monks’ visit is co-sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Redlands Convocations & Lectures, the Banta Center for Business, Ethics and Society, the offices of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Chaplain, Campus Diversity and Inclusion and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Department of Religious Studies and the University’s Meditation Room.

In other University studies of Asian Religions, this May, Religious Studies professor Karen Derris will lead a group of students to India to visit and study with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The students will engage in three weeks of conversation with the Karmapa on their concerns for the world and their place in the world. These conversations on the applications of Buddhism are part of the Karmapa’s ongoing project to offer Buddhist teachings relevant for Western college-age students.

The events can be followed on Twitter at Look for the hashtag #monksredlands to search for related posts.

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Marin planners contemplate Spirit Rock proposal

Marin County officials continued to wrestle with proposed plans for the Spirit Rock Meditation Center — even though the county staff says doing nothing would be worse for the environment than approving the Buddhist retreat’s newest plan.

County planning commissioners decided Monday they need more time to reflect on a new master plan for the complex and told planning staff to outline specifics of regulations limiting attendance at special events. Another session will be scheduled later.

“I’m wondering if we are moving ahead with this before we have the program written out,” said Commissioner Randy Greenberg of attendance regulations. “We don’t know the magnitude of the issue,” added colleague Wade Holland. “What if they get 25,000 people out there?”

A handful of special events over the past 20 years has attracted crowds of up to 1,600.

Although county staffers indicated that moving ahead with a proposal to relocate structures away from creeks and minimize grading would have less impact on the environment than proceeding with development plans approved in 1988, commissioners worried about how to handle crowds.

Jack Kornfield, one of the founders of the 410-acre Woodacre retreat…

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for those who seek Buddhist wisdom, said the center will limit daily attendance to 791 people, as long as it can hold two special events a year exceeding the limit.Commissioners seemed to agree that up to 1,500 will be permitted to attend two

special events at the facility each year, and asked staff to develop specific regulations regarding resource restrictions, traffic, parking, public safety and related permit issues. The panel said each special event would be subject to a use permit requiring a public hearing.
The center wants to relocate structures approved in 1988 but never built, eliminate temporary buildings and add about 6,000 square feet of new construction. The plan would reduce the number of residential retreat and staff units by 21 to a new maximum of 177. In all, the complex would include 142 retreat units, and another 35 for teachers and staff. Some 88 are already built.

Currently, an attendance cap of 315 people is in place, but the limit never has been enforced. Officials noted an environmental review indicated that even if 791 people were brought in to simultaneously jam every unit, meeting room, meditation and dining hall structure, stretching the septic system to capacity, there would be no significant impact.

Commissioner Katie Crecelius indicated planners were making a mountain out of a mole hill. “I actually think this isn’t such a big deal,” she said. “There is a very competent list of mitigation measures. … It’s an exceptional negative declaration (of environmental impact) for a project that is going to improve the environment at Spirit Rock.”

Several neighbors, citing traffic and related concerns, begged to differ, including Jean Berensmeier, head of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group. She called the new plan “excessive” and contended the popular retreat is more than neighbors bargained for.

But Taylor Hamblett, head of the San Geronimo Valley Stewards, another valley group, called the plan a big improvment. “This is asking to do what already has been approved, better,” he said.

Contact Nels Johnson via e-mail at

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151 comment letters, petition received on Buddhist temple

The public comment period on the re-circulated draft environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration for the proposed Buddhist temple in Bonsall [California] closed Feb. 11, and the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) received 151 comment letters and one petition.

DPLU received 45 public comment letters critical of the project, 106 letters supportive of the project, and a supportive petition with 804 signatures. DPLU staff will review and respond to all comments, although the response to any comments not related to California Environmental Quality Act issues will be that the comments are outside the purview of the environmental statement.

DPLU staff does not currently have an estimate when the potential Major Use Permit would go to the county’s Planning Commission for a decision. Although the Planning Commission has the authority to issue or deny a Major Use Permit, the decision can be appealed by either side to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The Major Use Permit would legalize the existing religious assembly and group residential uses on the 8.94-acre site with A70 (limited agriculture) agricultural zoning while also approving the future addition of 22,796 square feet of building area to bring the total amount of building area to approximately 33,475 square feet. The conditions of the Major Use Permit would restrict hours of operation, the number of large events, and the maximum number of visitors.

The property in the 6300 block of Camino Del Rey was purchased by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation in 2001. Previous uses on the property included…

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horse keeping and horticulture, and the native vegetation has been removed due to the past residential and agricultural activity. Eucalyptus is grown on-site for sale to plant and flower businesses.

An existing one-story house with 2,840 square feet of living space and a three-car garage is currently being used as a rectory, and the proposed Major Use Permit plans to convert that building into a library and study rooms. A converted horse stable measuring approximately 5,151 square feet is approximately 50 feet north of the house and would be converted to a storage facility.

A feed and equipment storage building totaling 2,164 square feet is approximately 30 feet from the converted stables but would be removed to provide parking on the site. A 573 square foot two-bedroom trailer which was once used as a caretaker’s residence is planned to remain in that use. A groundwater well at the southwest corner of the property is used for irrigation of the plants grown on the property, and the conditions of the Major Use Permit include the destruction of that well.

The site’s current uses include quiet meditation during the weekdays and religious assembly on the weekends during which between 100 and 300 people visit the facility. There are no formal parking facilities other than those which were provided for the existing single-family residence, and access to the site is provided by an existing driveway off of Camino Del Rey.

The 22,796 square feet of new building facilities would consist of a 6,196 square foot main worship hall, a 7,664 square foot meditation hall, and an 8,936 square foot monk residence hall. The two-story residence hall would include 12 double-occupancy bedrooms, a communal bathroom on each story, a laundry room, a locker room, three multi-purpose rooms totaling approximately 900 square feet, an isolation bedroom with a private bathroom, a library, a 325 square foot kitchen connected to a 1,055 square foot dining room, and a 450 square foot office and reception area.

The accommodations would provide for approximately 30 monks at any time. The residence hall would have a maximum height of 33 feet, 2 inches.

The meditation hall would be a partial two-story building with architectural features creating a height of up to 29 feet. A large main room would have an altar at the east end for congregational assembly and meditation, and approximately 1,725 square feet would be used for a multi-purpose room which would also serve as a weekend food warming kitchen and weekend dining hall. The second floor would include a conference room measuring approximately 2,430 square feet. Both stories would have restrooms.

The main worship hall building would be 35 feet in height, and a steeple over the altar area would extend the height to 40 feet. In addition to a large room for congregational assemblies, the main worship hall would include daily administrative use office space and restrooms on both stories, and the second story would have approximately 1,440 square feet of study and private meditation area.

The grading of 14,400 cubic yards of cut and 13,400 cubic yards of fill would create an export of 1,000 cubic yards, and the relocation of the driveway to meet County of San Diego sight distance requirements would involve movement of 3,400 cubic yards of cut and 4,900 cubic yards of fill.

A 24-foot-wide paved driveway from Camino del Rey would serve as the main access while emergency access would be provided from Wrightwood Way at the site’s northern boundary. The 81 parking spaces would include six handicapped spaces, and a permanent overflow parking area would have a capacity of an additional 41 parking spaces.

The monks do not drive cars, and no visitors would be allowed after 5 p.m. The center would operate between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and Buddhist holidays; normal weekend meditation activity would occur approximately 45 times a year and would attract up to 300 people. Four special religious events each year, based on Buddhist holidays, are expected to attract between 300 and 600 people, and three annual events associated with Buddhist holidays or a visit from the Headmaster would attract up to 1,000 people.

Amplified sound would be used in the interior of the buildings, but not in any exterior areas, during special events. In order to monitor and control the number of visitors and parking spaces, the Dai Dang Meditation Center would set up a Website and require that all who attend the special events pre-register on-line.

The Website would not only register the total number of people for each event but would also assign parking spaces to the visitors. All guests would be required to print out a parking pass or permit prior to arriving at the site, and no visitors would be allowed to enter the site by automobile without such a pass or permit.

If the number of guests is projected to exceed 300 people, privately-contracted passenger busses would be utilized and staged at the parking lot of the Bonsall Union School District, which is approximately 1.75 miles west of the site. The facility would not have a gift shop or other retail sales.

The existing on-site septic system would be upgraded to 7,000 gallons to support 100 guests, 30 full-time residents, and four volunteers. The Major Use Permit would require portable toilets for any event attended by more than 100 people. The new construction would also include two stormwater detention basins.

The original application for the Dai Dang Meditation Center was submitted on April 2, 2004. Three drafts of initial studies preceded the first draft environmental Negative Declaration, which was advertised for public review in October 2007. The response to public comments on that draft Negative Declaration was completed in May 2008, and the public review was followed by submittal of a visual study and submittal of the first draft of extended initial studies following the public review. The first draft of initial studies following the public review was submitted in November 2009, and subsequent draft initial studies led to the recirculation of the draft Mitigated Negative Declaration.

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Buddhist mobile clinic serves East San Jose

Fewer patients than expected turned out, but that just meant the waiting lines were short for the doctors, dentists, acupuncturists and chiropractors who filled teeth and adjusted backs Sunday at a free clinic in East San Jose.

The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist organization with roots in Taiwan, offered its health clinic in keeping with its goals to help the poor, educate the rich and inspire love and humanity in both.

The foundation, with 10 million followers globally, has a strong presence in the South Bay. The 58 patients who showed up at Slonaker Elementary School on Sunday were matched in number by Tzu Chi’s volunteers, including medical professionals and others. The group, which has a partnership with Slonaker and two other schools in the Alum Rock Union School District, chose the school because of its high poverty index.

The group, which also runs clinics in the Central Valley, targets the areas of greatest need.

But while the medical need in the neighborhood near Lake Cunningham is clearly high, a recent increase in immigration raids may have dampened the turnout, said Brenda Hernandez, a Slonaker teacher volunteering Sunday. After fliers about the clinic were distributed, several families said they were afraid that attending might draw attention from the authorities.

Those who did visit the clinic, which also included a fully equipped…

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dental van, made good use of the services, Tzu Chi representative Eric Chen said.

Among them was Juan Martínez, who got a tooth capped, while his wife, Alejandra Leyva, also received care.

“It’s pretty difficult to get an appointment at the hospital,” said Martínez, of San Jose. Disabled last year in an auto crash, the uninsured man said the typical wait is three to five hours in emergency rooms and up to 12 hours for nonemergency care at Valley Medical Center.

At the Tzu Chi clinic, he said, paperwork was minimal, compared with the multiple applications required at most clinics and hospitals.

From a doctor’s viewpoint, clinics present at least one challenge — ongoing treatment of patients with chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. “When you write a prescription, you feel they should get follow-up care,” said Richard Chiang, a cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center, who has volunteered with Tzu Chi for about six years.
On Sunday Chiang mostly did consultations, emphasizing lifestyle. “I’ve been reinforcing the importance of people taking care of themselves with diet, watching their weight and getting regular physical activity,” he said.

But while the doctors themselves couldn’t follow up on their walk-through patients, they handed out information on community clinics for low-income residents and low-cost prescriptions available at drugstores. And the Health Trust of Santa Clara County distributed information about medical insurance available to children.

The accomplishment is hard to measure, but on Sunday, Tzu Chi — which means “compassion and relief” — made a bit of progress in its mission, Chen said, to help the most needy and less fortunate in society.

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A rolling cube adds living and meditation space to a loft

There was a time when Liu Ming, a teacher of Chinese traditional medicine and feng shui in Oakland, Calif., did a few hundred prostrations a day as part of his practice of Tibetan Buddhism — full prostrations, that is, in which you begin standing and end with your head on the floor. That wouldn’t work these days, as Liu’s meditation area is on top of an 8-foot cube in his loft. Were he to stand up, Liu would hit his head on the ceiling.

To move about the meditation area, which also serves as a tearoom, Liu has to slouch or crawl. That’s fine with him: In a traditional Japanese tearoom, the ceilings are so low you have to crawl in, he says; you were meant to feel humble. Also, says Liu, who routinely goes into teaching mode, the doors of a Japanese tearoom were designed to be small, to prevent samurai warriors from entering with their swords, or at least to prevent them from drawing their swords.

All very interesting, but in a large, open loft, why would anyone want to build a cube that contains a sleeping area and a study as well as a meditation room?

“Having lived in a loft for five or six years,” Liu says, “I absolutely love it.”

When he visits friends who live in large apartments, he says, or “I get back pain, I think, ‘Why do you have such low ceilings?’ ”

But roomier spaces have one drawback…

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, he continues: “There is no cozy.”

Since when is “cozy” a feng shui concept?

“In feng shui, we talk about the harmony in the place that you live in,” Liu says. “The cube evolved out of wanting cozy with the option of keeping a big, open space at the same time. And we added wheels for feng shui purposes. Now that it is portable, I can spin it on an axis, I can point my head and point my desk in different compass directions for different projects. If I am writing something and feel blocked, I can get up and move the room.”

Now he’s got the writer’s attention. Does it help?

“Yeah, it does,” Liu says. “And it’s playful.”

Do not underestimate the importance of playful when talking to Liu, who is not of the deadly earnest school of Eastern teacher.

Can you really make a living by teaching Chinese medicine and feng shui? he is asked.

“Yeah,” he says, “Of course, you have to live in Berkeley.”

Liu is 63 and has studied Tibetan Buddhism and other Eastern religions since he was an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (which he dropped out of, in keeping with the spirit of the ’60s).

When you see him, it is immediately evident that, despite his name, he is not Chinese. His given name is Charles Belyea, and he was born in Boston, of French-Canadian parents. His father was a businessman, and his parents spent so much time competing as ballroom dancers that Liu tells people he was raised by Fred and Ginger. The name Liu Ming was given to him by a Daoist teacher who “adopted” him when he was 31. (In keeping with the Chinese custom, his last name, Liu, comes first.)

But back to the cube: Liu and his architect, Toshi Kasai, have come to regard it as a living thing and, indeed, it has an umbilical cord: a broad, red cable connecting it to an electrical source.

“The extension is the cube’s lifeline,” Kasai says. “We wanted that cable to look like a little tail. We wanted to make sure the cube looked alive, charged by something.”

Liu first became interested in the idea of using a cube to organize his living space a number of years ago, when he saw an article about a couple in Europe who had bought a barn because they needed space for a workshop, but who wanted a separate area for themselves and their children.

“They’d built a plywood cube,” he said. “There were touch doors you could open up, and a kitchen and a staircase that went to a second level, where the kids had their space. I thought it was brilliant, and it was so flexible, I tore it out and stuck it in a notebook.”

Liu moved into his apartment, an 1,100-square-foot loft in a former factory, for which he pays around $1,650 a month, about seven years ago.

Since the loft is used for living and teaching, he put up a shoji screen to separate his bedroom and private meditation space from his teaching area. But visitors, he says, were always poking their heads in, and he wanted something that would give him more privacy. Also, when classes were large, there was no way to increase the floor space.

“And there was that thing about being flexible,” says Liu, who also does translation work. “I couldn’t move the meditation tearoom. I wanted to design the work space so that it could also turn — turn it toward the light on a sunny day or in a different mood, turn it to the wall and meet a deadline.”

So Liu hired Kasai, who is 38 and owns SPACEFLAVOR (, an architecture and design firm, with his wife, Annette Jannotta. Kasai also happens to be one of Liu’s feng shui students.

Liu originally wanted to have shoji screens on the exterior walls of the cube, but Kasai told him that it would add nearly $10,000 to his $20,000 budget, and considerable bulk to the cube. Instead, he persuaded Liu to use simple roller shades, which cost only about $630. The open-wall design required a steel frame, which was the costliest element in the cube, at $12,000; the plywood and Plexiglas for the walls. and the woodwork, including the hidden cabinetry, cost $6,600, and the electrical work was $1,400.

For his design work, Kasai charged Liu only a token fee. “Ming is my feng shui teacher, and he retaught me how to design our physical environment,” he said. “And we loved the concept of the cube. How often does an architect get to design something so outrageous?”

Lighting was important in the little cube. Kasai and Liu wanted a design that would allow light to shine through, so that the cube would not appear too opaque or solid. In addition to the roller shades, a small shoji screen was added in the wall between the sleeping area and the office.

“It’s like a little eye,” Kasai says. “Basically it’s the heart of the cube.”

There are electrical outlets for lamps in the sleeping compartment, an overhead light in the study area, and outlets for plugging in an electric teakettle in the meditation space and tearoom on top of the cube. When Liu ascends the staircase, he can stash his shoes in a hidden compartment in the stairs.

One aspect of the design that the pair consider particularly important is its portability: If Liu moves, the cube can be taken apart and reassembled. And when it is broken down, no part of the cube is wider than 3 feet, so it can fit through a standard door.

For now, however, Liu seems most taken with the cube’s ability to turn in response to his moods, as well as the way it creates opportunities to appreciate beauty.

Before he had the cube, he says, he couldn’t see anything but downtown Oakland from his loft windows. Now, sitting on top, he can see the hills and the sunrise. And at night, when the lights in the cube are on and the shades are drawn, it becomes a lantern.

“I had a dinner party where it was glowing at the other end of the room,” Liu says. “Everybody was mesmerized.”

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From time-out to quiet time: meditation comes to SF schools

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Natalie Jones, KALW News: Innovative ideas are often born in California. This is the home of Silicon Valley, after all. But, that spirit of innovation isn’t limited to finding more ways to plug in to the world of high tech. Innovation also means finding ways to disconnect from it all. This kind of innovation is taking place in three San Francisco public schools that have started school-wide meditation programs. The hope is that a little quiet time and mindfulness will help facilitate learning.

It’s all paid for with private money, and one school says it’s seeing results. Natalie Jones reports on how it works.

* * *

NATALIE JONES: Middle schools do not tend to be quiet places. For many people, middle school is hard enough in the best of circumstances. For students growing up in rough neighborhoods or dealing with difficult family issues, it can be especially stressful.

That’s why four years ago, James Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, decided to implement a meditation program for the entire school to see if it would help students and teachers deal with stress and focus on schoolwork.

JAMES DIERKE: There’s individual stresses of just being a teenager, there’s family stress, there’s community stress, and all those things multiply within a person. So this is something that everyone can do and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort on their part but has great results.

The program is called Quiet Time, and it teachers students the practice of Transcendental Meditation.

PA SYSTEM ANNOUNCEMENT: Please excuse this interruption, teachers and students, please prepare for Quiet Time, please prepare for Quiet Time.

Mr. Tagaloa’s homeroom is getting ready for the morning meditation session – they do fifteen minutes at the beginning of their school day, and fifteen minutes at the end.

VAO TAGALOA: Going to start our Quiet Time, let’s start by sitting up straight…close the eyes….let’s enjoy.

The dozen or so 8th graders in the room turn to face front, shut their eyes, and stay that way for a full fifteen minutes, without breaking the silence or fidgeting.

Visitacion Valley is one of the more challenged schools in the district – about two thirds of its students were getting free or reduced lunch last year, and the percentage of students proficient in basic subjects is lower than both the district-wide and the state-wide percentage.

In the last three months alone, there have been two homicides and more than a hundred assaults within just a mile radius of the school. Principal Dierke compares growing up in the neighborhood to living a war zone.

DIERKE: A lot of our kids come down with post-traumatic stress, just like you would if you lived in Iraq. So it’s hard to turn that off when you come in the school building when you sit down and try to study.

Post-traumatic stress is a hard thing to combat, but there are signs that Quiet Time is effective. Since the program started, test scores have gone up a little bit, attendance rates have gone up a little bit, and suspension rates have gone down, although the changes are only by a few percentage points. Most of the evidence of the program is anecdotal. Students and teachers participate willingly and say it’s helpful for them, and surveys that school has done return positive feedback. Though not everyone was enthusiastic at the beginning.

TRISTAN: Well, when they first took me in to train, I wasn’t so sure about the program…

Tristan is an 8th-grader, and has been doing meditation at school since 6th grade.

TRISTAN: But when I started to get into it and started to do it every day I noticed that it really helped me because I was sort of a trouble child, and then when I started to meditate I started to become a leader, I got good grades, so it was really helpful.

Students do have the option of doing something else quiet, such as reading, but Principal Dierke says only a few have chosen to do that. He’s also had strong support from parents.

DIERKE: In the last four years that we’ve been involved in this, I haven’t had one negative parent complaint.

The program, which for this school year costs about $175,000, is funded almost exclusively by the David Lynch Foundation, an organization set up by the filmmaker David Lynch, who’s known for surreal films such as Mulholland Drive and the TV series Twin Peaks. The organization’s goal is to provide Transcendental Meditation in schools and communities that could benefit from stress reduction. The rest of the funds come from private donations, which pay for 3.5 full time staff members who are trained to teach meditation. They spend their time teaching new students, helping returning students remember how to use the method, and training the teachers.

Two other schools in San Francisco are also trying the program – Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. They haven’t been doing it as long as Visitacion Valley, but they’re all hoping that meditation can create a refuge for students who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

For Crosscurrents, I’m Natalie Jones.

Natalie Jones is a reporter with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Original article no longer available

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Community planners hear more comments on Buddhist monastery expansion

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Gary Warth, North County Times, California: Proponents of a Buddhist meditation center proposed for Bonsall made one final pitch to a community advisory group Tuesday, but the project still seemed a tough sell to the board members.

“You want to work with the community?” Bonsall Community Sponsor Group member Mark Litner said to Frank Hoang, who represents the project. “I’m not feeling the love here of you trying to work with the community whatsoever.”

The meeting Tuesday was the second time in two weeks that the Sponsor Group, an advisory board to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, listened to public comments about a proposed three-building meditation center planned by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation for the Dai Dang Monastery off of Camino del Rey.

The Sponsor Group did not vote on the project Tuesday, but comments from individual members will be submitted to a county-required mitigated negative declaration, a document that describes why a proposed project would not have a significant impact on the environment.

About 10 Buddhist monks live at the monastery, which has operated for 10 years at 6326 Camino del Rey in Bonsall. The congregation hopes to expand the property, increasing the number of monks living at the site to 30. The number of people attending services on Sundays is expected to increase from about 100 to 300, and the congregation could hold four events a year that would each attract up to 1,000 people.

Residents near the monastery have expressed concerns that the center will be too large for the site and will increase traffic through the rural community.

Neighbors on Wrightwood Road to the north of the monastery said they are concerned that their street will be used as a second entrance to the property and that construction trucks will roll past their homes while the center is being built.

Hoang told the Sponsor Group that Wrightwood Road would not be used as an entrance to the meditation center, but said construction crews would have an option to use the road if they are willing to put up a bond that would pay for any damages they cause.

“That’s not acceptable,” a resident in the audience responded.

“What about peoples’ lives?” another said.

Public comments to the mitigated negative declaration will be accepted by the county until Feb. 11. County staff members then have three weeks to prepare the report for a public hearing that will be scheduled before the county Planning Commission. Any decision by the commission can be appealed to the county Board of Supervisors.

Hoang said that if the project is approved by the county, construction could begin by the end of the year. Asked after the meeting if he thought the county would approve the plans, Hoang said, “Our project is spotless.”

The Sponsor Group and several residents at the past two Bonsall meetings, however, had several objections to the project, including buses, possible ground contamination and portable toilets that would be placed within view of neighbors during large events.

Original article no longer available


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Neighbors wary of proposed new meditation center

The Bonsall [California] Community Sponsor Group delayed its recommendation on the Dai Dang Monastery‘s expansion plans after hearing more than two hours of testimony Tuesday night.

The group serves as an advisory body to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say on the Buddhist monastery’s proposal for a two-story meditation center. The Bonsall advisory group has unanimously opposed expansion plans for the monastery in the past.

Several residents spoke against the planned expansion. Wrightwood Road residents to the north of the monastery expressed concerns, for example, that their street would be used as a new entrance to the center.

The monastery opened at 6326 Camino del Rey in Bonsall in 2001 and has been planning to build a meditation center since 2006.

The center would feature three new, two-story buildings, a paved 81-space parking lot and an unpaved 41-space lot on about 9 acres. The center now has two buildings it uses for a meditation center and a residence for 10 monks.

While some residents said they are concerned the new 7,664-square-foot meditation hall and 6,196-square-foot worship hall would open the door for large events at the site, monk Joe Roissier said the buildings are designed for quiet activities.

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“It seems like a lot of square footage,and I think people are concerned about that,” he said. “But we’re only there two times a day, and we’re sitting quietly, meditating.”

Monastery leaders said the expanded project would provide living quarters for about 20 more monks and that visitors on Sunday would increase from about 120 to 300.

Frank Hoang, spokesman for the monastery, said the center each year also may hold up to four events that attract 1,000 people.

The county requires a major use permit to build the project. As part of the process, the monastery also must acquire a mitigated negative declaration, a document that describes why it would not have a significant environmental impact in the area.

Public comments about the mitigated negative declaration will be accepted by the county until Feb. 11. The sponsor group held its meeting Tuesday to hear from the community before submitting its commits about the document. It will take up the issue again at its regular meeting 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Bonsall Community Center, 31505 Old River Road.

Chairwoman Margarette Morgan said she found many faults with the document, including a reference to the Borrego Springs Fire Department rather than the local fire department.

“There are so many errors, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “I am most displeased with the county.”

Morgan grilled Alex Jewell of project designer RBF Consulting about several aspects of the plan, including a proposed unlocked gate at Wrightwood Road, a concern to residents on that street. Jewell said fire officials said the gate should be unlocked for safety reasons. Morgan said that was unusual because emergency crews have keys to gated streets.

Other board members faulted the plan for having an unpaved parking lot, which they said could contaminate the ground, and questioned how a septic system could handle 300 guests on Sundays and up to 1,000 during special events.

Tan Nguyen, who said he is a consultant to the monastery monks, told the board that the congregation has operated peacefully throughout its 10-year history in the community.

“This project is for all of the Bonsall community, not just for us,” he said. “You are welcome to come here. We are here to share. We are here not to make any noise or any problems. You haven’t seen any traffic accidents or complaints. We don’t understand why you are opposing this thing, This is for everybody.”

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Actress Lindsay Wagner takes a holistic path

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Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA: You may know Lindsay Wagner as the patched-together heroine of TV’s “Bionic Woman.” But even before that 1970s series, she was an ardent advocate of holistic health.

Wagner, 61, will speak Saturday at a Palm Springs Women in Film & Television luncheon in La Quinta, where she’s had a home for more than a year.

But she wasn’t sure what to talk about because she’s been more devoted to her holistic health studies for the past decade than her film and television career.

Wagner has devoted much of her time to working with convicted assailants in Los Angeles jails and conducting workshops with their families on how to awaken their human potential and heal emotional scars.

For her, finding ways to integrate body, mind and spirit can help anyone with their personal growth.

“That is what was going to keep me in balance while going through this strange and unnatural process of being a star and an icon,” Wagner said while eating a vegetarian meal at an El Paseo restaurant.

“It’s a very strange life and I found that (while) working 12 to 18 hours a day, learning things like health and meditation and power naps and understanding those principles were very helpful to my health. On an emotional-psychological level, to have a spiritual path that was grounding and richening was so valuable to keep my sanity going.”

Wagner is of a protege of Dr. Gladys McGeary, one of the founders of the holistic health movement in the United States. McGeary ran the Edgar Cayce Outpatient Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and wrote “The Physician Within You.” Wagner once did promotion for McGeary and recently attended her 90th birthday celebration.

Wagner also is a student of the late William Hornaday, co-founder of the Church of Religious Science with the late Ernest Holmes. It was Hornaday who actually started Wagner on her holistic journey.

“I had a very bad case of ulcers when I was a kid, just before I turned 20,” she said. “UCLA was wanting to operate, but Dr. Hornaday and a colleague, who was a medical doctor (and) a practitioner of Science of Mind, came to me because Dr. Hornaday’s secretary was my boyfriend’s mother. They offered to help me if I wanted to possibly avoid the surgery. They taught me to meditate, they taught me self investigation, they put me on a severe fast (and) they taught me to do spiritual mind treatments, which is using the visualization of a healthy body with calling on the divine.”

After six weeks, her ulcers were gone, she said. She doesn’t recommend that regimen without professional supervision because she ingested nothing but skim milk for six weeks while meditating.

But Wagner said she learned so much about her human potential that she decided to begin a lifetime study of Hornaday’s philosophy of integrating the body, mind and spirit.

“By the time I started acting, I was already convinced,” she said. “I considered actually quitting the business at one point to become a homeopath.”

Listening to the body

Wagner actually practices several types of meditation. She sets aside at least an hour each morning for whatever technique she needs to balance herself — whether that means relaxing or re-energizing.

“When I’m talking about being balanced, I’m not talking about some horrible thing that happened to me yesterday,” she said. “(It’s) everything from the toxins in our food and the toxins in the air we breathe. To have the chakra system – the energy system of the body – balanced, it’s (about) going to the core. The core knows exactly what we need. In one moment we need more energy than we do at another. So to be connected to our core, that’s a lifestyle that helps me have more energy when I need it and be calm when I don’t need it all.”

Wagner, who has co-authored books on acupuncture and vegetarian food, supplements her diet and meditation with herbs and vitamins. She found primrose oil and Vitamin E helpful with the hot flashes associated with menopause. But she’d rather “listen to my body” than follow a strict regimen. She often discontinues using some supplements for a week or so.

The key to her holistic approach, she said, is “looking at the body and the mind and the spirit altogether. You can’t eliminate any one of them. You have to be balanced to have the total healing.”

Wagner says she’s more productive now than when she was younger because she can manage her energy better.

“I have learned through my life that the more grounded I am, the more energy I have to give to what I’m doing in the moment,” she said. “That’s way less tiring and way less draining of energy, so I outlast a lot of kids, so to speak, when I’m doing the same type of thing. I’m using my energy much more efficiently.

“I feel better than I used to feel ever. There are some times I wish I had some of that excess energy, but, when I look at it, I wouldn’t trade where I am today.”

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Lawyers who meditate

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The University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law recently hosted the first national conference on the legal profession and meditation. Yes, I really do mean “meditation,” not “mediation.” Called “The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar,” the three-day event brought together lawyers, judges, law faculty, students, and neuroscientists, according to The National Law Journal.

Conference organizer Charles Halpern, who teaches a seminar at Berkeley Law called “Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective,” said that the legal profession is becoming more open to the benefits of meditation.

“At one time it seemed very exotic, but interest in law and meditation has been growing for a decade,” said Halpern, founding dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Courses have been showing up in law schools across the country, there have been CLE courses on this and gathering of lawyers focusing on meditation.”

But this is not just some California hippie happening. It turns out that the sponsors of the event include law schools from around the country, including the University of Buffalo, University of Florida, and CUNY, according to the Web site of The Mindful Lawyer, which organized the event.

The sessions, which include yoga lessons, “contemplative methods for working with fear, anxiety, and nervousness,” and lots of similar seminars, are definitely New Age. But hey, if it gets you through the stress of law school and practice, why not?

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Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

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Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Explore the benefits of becoming a supporter.