Our first Appamada Potluck and Zen Conversation Cafe was a great success! Many thanks to Lila for coordinating the event. Twenty-six people brought an incredible range of delicious dishes, salads, soups, breads, casseroles, noodles, and desserts. There were three tables set up in the Zendo with about 8 people at each table. We enjoyed our meal together, then began the Conversation Cafe.
First I asked folks to think of a topic related to Zen or Buddhism that they would love to hear discussed. We made a list and then voted on the topic we would tackle. Last night's topic was "Detachment in a material world."
Conversation Cafe has an interesting process.
First we make sure everyone understands how we are defining the topic. Then at each table, each person in turn has one minute to respond to that topic. I asked people not to be thinking about what they would say, but to practice listening deeply, and then just speak whatever comes up for them when it is their turn, whatever is in their heart and mind. So the first round allows one minute per person, and that person may use that time to speak, to be silent, or some combination of the two. They may not pass. There is no cross-talk or questions from listeners. At the end of this first, one-minute round, we observe one minute of silence.
For round two, we repeat this process, but each person has two minutes. Now, having heard every other person at the table speak, we have a chance for a bit more reflection on the topic. This round is then followed by one minute of silence.
The third phase of Conversation Cafe is open discussion for a bounded time, in our case, 15 minutes. People then speak freely, ask each other questions, and discuss the topic together. At the end of that time, we check to see whether people feel complete, or need more time. Last night, it seemed like just about the right amount of time.
Because this was our first Conversation Cafe, we took some time to debrief about the process and to see whether folks thought it was something we might continue. There were a lot of positive comments and appreciation for the whole event, so we are encouraged to continue this once a month offering. Typically it will be on the first Friday of the month, unless we have a competing event, in which case we will move it to the second Friday. This will happen next month, because of the Writing Intensive.
Again, I want to express my appreciation for Lila's work coordinating the event, for all of the folks who brought such wonderful food, and for the bodhisattvas who helped to set up and to clean up afterwards. This help is what makes it possible to offer a successful event!
So the next Appamada Potluck and Zen Conversation Cafe will be November 13. We'll send out a link for folks to sign up so that we can plan seating.