The Pine Gate Mindfulness Community has a major commitment to peace and environmental crises, quality of life issues, mindfulness practice in schools as well as supporting charities locally and internationally. The mindfulness community is part of two Citizen Coalitions to protect the environment and to promote peace. The engaged nature of mindfulness practice is an essential defining feature of the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community. It exists as a community of resistance in order to transform a cruel and exploitative world where Love, Compassion and Understanding are not in abundant supply. The foundation of practice is to bring these qualities to the forefront of expression through individual and collective example.
The resident mindfulness teacher is Ian Prattis - True Body of Wisdom. Ian is a poet, scholar, peace and environmental activist. As a professor at Carleton University he taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Globalization and Consciousness – reflected in his 2002 book "The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11," published by University Press of America. As an ordained meditation teacher he encourages people to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. He has trained with masters in Buddhist, Vedic and Shamanic traditions. Ian Prattis writes "Our engagement with society and the environment rests on our quality of being. When that quality is rooted in stillness there is a different ground for subsequent actions and so events take a different course. We simply go home to ourselves, to our true nature. We are very active in this way and bring harmony to those we interact with. The most significant interaction is with our true nature. To connect to its boundless quality in daily life and then connect to others and the world in the same way is surely the ticket to ride!"
The mindfulness community, located in the west end of Ottawa, had very modest beginnings. Inaugurated in 1997 following Ian's return from teaching meditation in India, early gatherings featured Ian, his wife Carolyn, and their pets – Nikki the dog and Lady the cat. Since then the sangha has grown in numbers and depth. In the summer of 2001 major renovations took place to the lower level of Ian and Carolyn's home. A new meditation hall emerged from the dust and knocked down walls - the Pine Gate Meditation Hall - named after Thich Nhat Hanh's story in the book "The Stone Boy and Other Stories." The Pine Gate story is about a young swordsman who leaves his master's mountain retreat to go into the world and vanquish monsters and demons, not realizing that the biggest monsters were his own. After many years he wearily returns to his master's mountain retreat, yet is unable to open the Pine Gate. He does not realize that his heart could no longer open it. It was impassable to all his strength, sword and anger. Next morning a younger brother, pure in heart, fetching water from the river opened the Pine Gate easily and found his older brother on the other side. After their initial joy at discovering one another, they both came to realize with a terrible shock the monster that the swordsman had allowed to manifest within himself. The younger brother helped his older brother along the path, easily opening the Pine Gate for their passage up the mountain.
The homily from this story is that no matter what demons we struggle with, externally or internally, there is always a friend there to open the Pine Gate and provide sanctuary when we are overwhelmed and heavy burdened. The naming of the meditation hall is in keeping with "Taking Refuge in the Sangha," which is where the Buddha and Dharma most strongly manifest. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh provided a gift of calligraphy, naming the Pine Gate Meditation Hall. This now hangs on the wall for all to see. The new meditation hall has become a source of sanctuary for many friends.
There are regular meetings for meditation and study every Thursday evening from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Qi-Gong classes are presented periodically. On the first Saturday of each month the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community offers a mindfulness gathering with meditation at 5:00pm, then a dharma talk, followed by a potluck vegetarian supper. Hikes, Sweat Lodges, Pilgrimages, Days of Mindfulness, and Meditation Retreats are organized on a regular basis. The voice of the sangha can be heard through the Pine Gate Newsletter.
The Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Friends For Peace are a coalition of meditation, environmental and peace groups, which has created inclusive multi-ethnic, inter-faith events. The annual Friends for Peace Day Celebration in our northern city brings together a wide community, to acknowledge the value of local social activism, and to promote peace in a non-dualistic and peaceful way. This coalition (formed in December 2002) organized silent peace vigils across the National Capital Region before the Iraq war and the Peace Song Circle on Parliament Hill after war had broken out. The intent is to create a different form of peaceful expression, non-dualistic in tone in order to appeal to a broader cross section of Canadian citizens who support a major role for Canada as a peacekeeping nation.
It is hoped that these events in Ottawa will generate further impetus for the peace movement and lead to the development of a broad network of spiritual leaders committed to transforming our country's current decision making process and to leading with compassion and wisdom. This is what the Council of Sages is all about for us. The emergence of a Council of Sages from our present work for peace is to acknowledge that our present leaders rarely have the skills to listen deeply to the suffering within the nation and the world. Friends with training and discipline in meditation are the ones to listen deeply, to look deeply and examine issues without a partisan flavor. The ability to reflect deeply and touch the core of wisdom and compassion that rests within all, is the usefulness of such a council. As they listen, reflect and look deeply, a Council of Sages can present the fruits of these skills to hard pressed politicians, bureaucrats, CEO's and other leaders. In this way there is a basis for transforming how decision making is effected in our nation. The alternative for peace can be articulated through such a council and provide a training for leaders who aspire to do the same. Check the blog for more Community Activism in Ottawa!