Sometimes folks ask get me how Flowing Dharma came into being, what it's all about and where it is headed as an organization. I put together this brief history from it's early beginnings in 1991 through 2016. Thank you for your interest.
In 1991, after reading a good deal about Buddhism and meditation, I sat for a few days at a Zen center in upstate New York*. It was a pretty miserable time - lots of pain in the body, lots of noise in the mind, very little peace. Somewhere deep inside I realized there was something of value here. I just wasn't sure what it was. So I kept reading and struggling to learn to meditate. I attended several weekend retreats which introduced me to the power of a gifted teacher's presence to deepen one's practice. More than any book I ever read, it was sitting with Dharma teachers, basking in their calmness and hearing their words that kept my enthusiasm for meditation practice alive. *(this is the very same Zen center I came back to almost 25 years later after discovering Integral Mondo Zen - I felt like I had come back to my spiritual home!)
Around December of 1997, after sitting a number of retreats with Matt Flickstein and attending his first teacher training course, I began teaching weekly mindfulness meditation classes. Soon, in addition to growing my psychotherapy practice, I was leading two classes on opposite sides of the bay. I was also leading one- to-five-day residential retreats and becoming actively involved with supporting the larger Buddhist community around Tampa Bay. With little conscious intention, an organization began to form.
I was staying very busy and in 2001 it became apparent to me that my life was becoming unbalanced. My psychotherapy practice was growing significantly as was the interest in my Dharma offerings. I was beginning to use mindfulness training with my psychotherapy clients and beginning to frame up my MBSR program. There was a lot of energy moving out, lots of intensity with people and organizing but precious little recovery time. While I continued to spend 25 to 40 days a year in retreat, this was not enough to keep my life in balance. It became clear that I needed more unstructured time where I was free of all demands and responsibilities. Besides, my kayak, hiking boots, off-road bike and my life partner were all complaining of feeling abandoned. A change was in order.
In the supportive synchronicity of the Dharma, people came forward to take over leadership of the two sanghas I had started. I stopped leading retreats and focused more energy on bringing in respected Dharma teachers to lead residential retreats. I took a breath and got more organized.
In 2003 a few good friends and I founded Flowing Dharma, Inc. as a 501.c.3 organization to serve as a formal vehicle for our support of the Dharma. This allowed me to: (a) establish a separation between my Dharma activities and my psychotherapy practice, (b) to create an organization into which others could easily channel their support for the Dharma, and (c) offer the tax advantages of a 501.c.3 to the organization's financial supporters. I then directed more of my energy into establishing my MBSR programs, developing Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy and ultimately to teaching this method of therapy to other mental health professionals. We had also by this time discovered and dove into Vipassana as taught by S. N. Goenka - powerful stuff! However, once again, life had become too busy and was getting out of balance. Again, it was time for a major shift.
In September of 2008, I closed my psychotherapy practice, Jordan and I got rid of our stuff and headed to Peru to test our wings living and volunteering in the developing world. In April of 2009, we began our service with the US Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa (visit our blog for photos and stories). These experiences opened our eyes to aspects of life virtually unknown in the west and shifted our view of our place in the world. We engaged in a variety of educational and community development projects, wrote a few grants and learned about sustainability while facing the challenges of living in a rural third-world community. We also found opportunities to be of service to the Dharma, informally through discussions with anyone who was interested and formally through donating our time and a bit of FD's money to help make two donation-only, 10-day retreats possible in this small southern African country.
In September of 2011, I completed my service with PC and went to Cape Town, South Africa to sit and serve at a meditation center near there. In January, I headed to Thailand to do more of the same for five months. In September 2012, we were both back in the US, living in upstate SC while scouting out our next place to settle. In December of 2012, we re-discovered Louisville (Jordan's hometown), bought a small house here, found meaningful work, John ordained as an Integral Zen priest and we started building our community. It's been quite a party!
During our 4 years living and working in developing countries, Jordan and I learned a few things about making a dollar go further (see a a blog on this topic). We make every effort to stretch our donors' money as far as possible in service of the Dharma. Since settling here in Louisville, we've had the opportunity to supply some sitting cushions to the Earth & Spirit Center, purchase supplies needed for hosting retreats and provide financial support to a number of meditation organizations as well as to individual teachers in our community. In 2015 and 2016, we organized and hosted four 3-day Integral Zen meditation retreats and began getting some traction in building a sangha.
We would very much appreciate your support of our work through Flowing Dharma. If you would like to make a donation, simply click the "Donate" button below and enter your PayPal account or credit card information. As Flowing Dharma is a 501.c.3 non-profit organization, your donation will be tax deductible.
Many Blessings to you and yours,
John & Jordan
If you feel so inclined, we'd appreciate your support of our work in the Louisville community. This button will take you to a PayPal link - easy & simple :-)