A look back: Dharma School

I ran the Sunday Dharma School at the Rime Center for four years. It’s a Buddhist Sunday School for kids, not unlike the same kind of thing many churches have. There I taught kids how to meditate and shared many lessons about kindness, wisdom, and mindfulness. We usually had 10-15 children and we ran for 90 minutes while the Rime Center Sunday Service was going on. Parents could drop their kids off to meditate with me or they could stay with them. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, but also often exhausting. I never really got the amount of help I needed, which is probably true for anyone that runs a volunteer-based program. I have a whole lot of patience for kids and I’m pretty good at communicating with them, so I feel I was pretty effective in this role.

One day someone offered to take it over and I stepped away. That was nearly 7 years ago. Now I regret it. But I do think stepping away gave me the chance to get some perspective. For a while I wanted to contribute to the Buddhist Community in other ways. I wanted to lead meditations, I wanted to teach classes to adults (you know, REAL classes), I wanted to figure out how to do more outreach type things.

I somehow thought running the Dharma School was not *really* contributing, like meditating with kids is somehow not serious and important.

I was wrong.

All kinds of service have value and all kinds of service are important.

We want to carry these teachings and practices forward into the future. And part of the strength of the community is making sure families can participate. It shouldn’t be a situation where you have to go away from your family in order to practice your religion. But a lot of people feel like that’s exactly what they have to do.

And it’s good for the kids too. I think I would have been enormously helped by some meditation training back when I was an unhappy child. It would have brought great benefit to me to have all these teachings earlier in my life. And it can be a kind of refuge, a place for kids (and parents) to come together and just have a chance to feel like they belong somewhere. How many kids feel like they don’t belong anywhere? Many. Kids are the future and if we want these teachings to go into the future then they need to be included. And I think the benefits of meditation are well known these days. Meditation helps us improve many things that kids need to get through life: focus, emotional intelligence, empathy, communication skills, equanimity, even things like bravery. We need to cultivate these kinds of qualities and of course kids do too.

So it’s with all of this in mind that I’m really aching to get back to leading meditation and spiritual practice for the next generation. Because I can belong in Dharma School and you can too.

The temple the Rime Center is in right now doesn’t have enough space for a children’s program to be possible. They had to purchase a new space and it’s smaller than the old one. Once the new Meditation Hall is built there will be plenty of room. That’s the only way I can have a potential opportunity to lead Sunday Dharma School there again.

If what I have written is meaningful to you, please consider donating to help make this a reality.

A Chapter Ends

I am no longer going to run the Dharma School at the Rime Center.

I have enjoyed running the children’s program at the Rime Center very much. I have met wonderful Buddhist teachers of many traditions (Maezen was my favorite). My association with the Rime Center Dharma School has also helped me become friends with other Buddhist parents.

I’ve heard that if you want to learn something, try teaching it to someone else. That has been my experience. Teaching in Dharma School has forced me to learn a lot more about Buddhism than I might have otherwise. Planning lessons, reading stories, thinking of new and innovative ways to present teachings; I’ve had to do these things a great deal and it’s really given me a better grasp of Buddhist teachings than I had before I started.

For three years I’ve been teaching children how to meditate. People that ran this program before me didn’t put as much effort into the meditation part as I have. Children CAN sit still and meditate. And some of them actually want to.

I’ve also been teaching them values. The six perfections: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom, have been my road-map for teaching.

The kids have helped me develop those values in myself too. (especially patience). And a seventh one: Adaptability. I have had to learn to be so adaptable in this position because many things don’t go as planned.


I’m writing this because I am leaving this position.

I have been doing it for three years, which means I’ve been doing it longer than anyone else has.

It’s not because I don’t enjoy it. It’s not because my time is precious and I don’t want to volunteer anymore.

It’s because it feels like the right time. It’s because I need to get out on a high note, before I get burned out and start to be bad at this. It’s because my daughter Nissa has told me she’s had as much Buddhist education as she needs. And it’s because I’ve found a replacement that I think will do a better job than I have. I think that’s the goal of any leader or manager. To find someone better to take their place.

Her name is Leslie and I wish her the best of luck.

This has been a big part of my life.

What comes next for me?

I’ll let you know.


The first time I went to the Rime Center I had never met another Buddhist. I had been studying Buddhism on my own for several years. I knew some people with a slight interest in Buddhism, but no one that really wanted to engage the practice with me.


I found the Rime Center due to it’s location. In 2009 I started working at the IRS building downtown and I happened to notice where the Rime Center was because it’s between my work and the highway. I literally drove right by it every single day on my way to and from work.



Anyway, I had been practicing Buddhism for five years or so on my own, studying sutras and meditating for thirty minutes every day. I had learned about it through reading books on the subject, as I imagine many people do.


The philosophy really spoke to me on a personal level, along with the fundamental practices: nonviolence, compassion, cultivating insight and wisdom. And when I started practicing daily meditation I could clearly see the great benefits to my mental and emotional well being.


My devotion to Buddhism grew when my daughter Nissa was born, it grew some more when meditation practice helped me get through the end of my first marriage.


It was at this point that my solitary practice reached a critical mass. I wanted to practice with a Sangha. I wanted to meet other Buddhists.

I didn’t really want to go, however. I had been studying Buddhism for years and I knew about the different sects and I wasn’t all that interested in Vajrayana Buddhism. The worship-like devotion to Bodhisattvas, the empowerments, all the bowing and such really didn’t appeal to me. I thought it sounded silly. I wanted to experience either Zen or Insight Meditation.


But, the Rime Center was there, so I went. It was in April of 2009


So, I walked up a long stone staircase and entered the building, which is an old hundred year old church. I went alone. I had tried to get a friend to go with me, but several attempts to coordinate our schedules had failed, so I went alone. Later, I would take my daughter, but not that first visit.


There was a strong smell of incense, a smell that I enjoy very much. I wondered if I would smell like incense all day.


There was bowing and chanting and bells and it was wonderful. I fell in love with the Rime Center that day.


I wasn’t a regular yet, however. I only went occasionally that year. But I did take Refuge Vows.


When I took these Vows, it did actually change my life. I was inspired by my Refuge Vows to work harder in my Buddhist practice. Later I would take Bodhisattva Vows and become inspired to improve myself beyond anything I thought possible. Vows do help. I don’t they have a supernatural meaning, but they do give us strength and inspiration. If it wasn’t for taking these vows at the Rime Center, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.


After my daughter turned 4 I took her to Dharma School for the first time.


She loved it. We started going together.

I would later learn that there aren’t a whole lot of Buddhist children’s programs in the country. At most Buddhist temples there aren’t really opportunities to take your children with you. I like having the opportunity to share Buddhism with my children.

After my son was born in 2010 we became regulars. I started volunteering in Dharma School a few months later.


After a few years I ended up leading Dharma School, it wasn’t really because of anything special about me, it was only because those ahead of me had gone away. I happily accepted the position.


I’ve been practicing with children for several years now and it’s been very rewarding to me spiritually.

Buddhism teaches the interconnectedness of all things. Kids seem to understand that intuitively. Maybe as we get older we accumulate more delusion. I’m not sure. But children seem to take to learning about some of the deepest Buddhist concepts very well.



I’m glad to say that in spite of their age differences, the children tend to get along very well.


There are very few arguments, and there is no fighting. They act like a community. That could be because of the very positive atmosphere of the Rime Center, or I suppose it could be because they are being raised by their parents with Buddhist values. Either way it’s a great thing to see.

The years before I joined the Rime Center I really didn’t think it was that important to be in a Sangha. I enjoyed practicing Buddhism by myself. But when I joined the Rime Center I learned why community is important. Being in a Buddhist community make me want to be a better Buddhist. Knowing that I’m not alone motivates me on the path.


Dharma I’ve Learned From Children.

This is an article I wrote that was featured in the Rime Center Newsletter a couple of years ago. I really like it. Here it is:


“AH RAH PAT SA NA DI DI!” – my daughter Nissa, shouting the mantra of Manjushri, Bodhisattva of Wisdom


 I can’t believe how interested my daughter is in Buddhist practice. She seems more interested in learning about Buddhism than she is in learning about almost anything else. Taking her to the Sunday Dharma School at the Rime Center makes her very happy. She is thrilled that I teach her and the other children about Buddhism. However, like any young child, she does get distracted once in a while.


There are usually ten to fifteen kids, between the ages of 3 and 12. It’s hard to have lessons that can interest the very young kids and the oldest ones, but we do pretty well. I feel like I’ve learned as much from the kids as they have learned from me and the other teachers. I am in charge of Dharma School, but I have to admit it’s more something I fell into than something I earned.

 We chant mantras at the Rime Center. We chant them in a nice and relaxing way. When the children chant the mantras, they get excited. Nissa shouts the mantras and the other kids sometimes giggle. But it makes me wonder, why shouldn’t we be excited about chanting a mantra for greater wisdom or compassion? It is exciting, isn’t it?

 Buddhism teaches the interconnectedness of all things. Kids seem to understand that intuitively. Maybe as we get older, we accumulate more delusion. I’m not sure. And they are compassionate too, most of the time. Nissa saw some kids squishing bugs on the sidewalk one time and asked them to stop. I asked her why and she told me that she felt compassion for the bugs. They weren’t doing anything wrong. They were just outside living their bug lives.


With only a few exceptions once in a while, all of the kids in the Dharma School want to be there. But, some of them do have trouble focusing sometimes. They are excited about participating. They get to make offerings to the shrine and lead mantras. We all do prostrations together, with a child leading us. Letting them participate is important and they certainly learn more through participation.


But, it’s not all reciting mantras. We also do activities. Sometimes we do crafts and sometimes we read stories to the children. The kids usually enjoy crafts the most. My daughter has had the opportunity to make her own Tibetan Prayer Flag and her own Thangka. She was very proud of them and I have put them on the wall in her bedroom. I don’t know if the other children are as proud of their crafts as my child, but I suspect they are.


Then, we let all the kids play. There are a few games and toys in the Dharma School. I am very glad to say that in spite of their diverse age differences, all of the kids seem to play together very well. There are very few arguments and there is no fighting. They act like a community. That could be because of the very positive atmosphere of the Rime Center or I suppose it could be because they are being raised by their parents with Buddhist values. I don’t know, but it is a great thing to see.

I would like to see more parents get involved in the Dharma School. Very few of them come up to see what we do. Most of them are in a rush to go downstairs and participate in the Buddhist Service. Which is fine, but I think they would benefit from seeing how the kids do it once in a while. I think that practicing Buddhism with children is just as moving as practicing Buddhism with other adults, maybe moreso. Helping them learn is a very rewarding spiritual experience.