Today, I opened the door to the dojo at 5am to get ready for the Morning Practice and saw an entire counter full of foods - canned and homemade, incense and other small gifts that had been left for the Zen Studies program. I had no idea they had been dropped off the night before, but there they were.
It took all of ten minutes for me to parcel them out for six people and still have enough left over to leave in the dojo fridge as emergency food for all. As I was doing this, I was sort of in a state of wonder about how we have gone from fudge to food.
If you haven't heard about the fudge, let me explain. One of my private students, in return for the sessions, provides plates of fudge each week. White fudge, espresso fudge, chocolate fudge and any other kind of fudge she can think of (or someone else requests) to make. These small plates of fall down fabulous fudge have become the calling card of the Zen Studies. I cut it up into tiny pieces and make little packets. Two layers of fudge turn into fudge for 40. There has been something magical about being able to give people this small delicacy for no good reason. It has led to people dropping off breads, pastries and teas. I pass those around as well - I did not have much self-control when the strawberry cake arrived - I ate it for breakfast.
All of this has been spontaneous and building, but it has arrived along with awareness of something else. The Morning Practice has a little bit of everything in it. We have people who earn six figures, those who are so deeply impoverished they are starving. We have the homeless, the barely housed and those with mansions. There are those with dual diagnosis, on disability (mental and/or physical) and the fully functioning. As we have developed the small tradition of providing food in the morning, it has made us more and more aware of those who do without. So our small food is beginning to grow to allow us to be able to provide for whoever comes to the door as well. I am deeply aware that food prices are rising and because of the drought in the mid-West food prices (especially any grains and meats) are expected to jump even higher this winter. The dojo, Main Street Martial Arts, has a community focus and many of the families and individuals there can study because they are on scholarship or paying a greatly reduced fee. Come this winter, they may have to choose between what has become such a positive part of their life and food. I am determined to build resources to help supplement what people have so that such choices do not need to be made. Communities need to not only support their members, but to be interdependent and supporting of other communities.
If you have never heard of MCHA/OASIS, you should look them up - they are our next door neighbors. They have been in existence since 1985 providing social and practical support to persons with mental health and dual diagnosis issues. Last week (if you are following me on twitter, ZenStudiesRI) then you know that because of the construction and the powerful rains there was a flood in the building we are all located in.
We lost the carpets in our bathroom, but MCHA/OASIS has had to close their doors for almost a month to try and recover. They have lost so much in supplies and resources it is amazing. Because their clients do not have many other places to go, the Zen Studies has opened their doors to them and encourage their participation. Since Oasis was providing breakfast and lunch, now we are doing that for those who come. Every bit of food we receive is used almost that day.
Once Oasis reopens, we are going to help out with food pantry collection, winter jackets and anything else we can think of. We will do this while also providing service and support to the Main Street Martial Arts Kaloma program, a non-profit program for children.
All of this has proven to be a means of our communities coming together and growing together. At their request, I have begun the Mid-Practice to provide for a middle of the day opportunity for meditative practice. It is not just for Oasis, but in response to several other inquiries I have had from people needing a time in the middle of the day that is consistent.
We are learning from the community that Oasis built, there is much to be discovered about how to create such a caring, supportive and effective community place. In our modern world, we only tend to make an effort to do such things when there is an identifiable group that has an issue such as a disability. What if the only issue someone had is that they are just trying to figure out how to live a life of value and meaning? Together, with Oasis, we are beginning to grow a community whose membership requirement is simply a desire to live better.
Now, here is the tag line that I will end every post with,
If you like what we do and would like to support us, please subscribe to the Zen Studies Program. If you live in Providence, come be a part of what we are growing. If you live elsewhere, subscribe and help us to continue growing. We will grow so far and so much we will eventually be able to be where you are.