ACI LA
OCTOBER 2008


ACI LA Newsletter

elcome to ACI-LA's October Newsletter. We hope that you thoroughly enjoyed your summer and have transitioned smoothly into the Fall season, which is now upon us.

In September, the Mahasukha Center was thriving and abuzz with activity! Cliff Spencer kicked off ACI Course 3 - "Applied Meditation." Rick Blue hosted Guided Meditations as well as a screening of "Kundun." Lauren Benjamin hosted a pot luck dinner with students who were fortunate to attend Lama Marut's teachings on Ganden Hla Gyama in LA, and a whole spate of teachings at the Windhover retreat in Cape Ann Massachusetts. Andrew LauGel led us in the beautiful service of giving TLC to the Center itself, several of the senior teachers held "Coffee, Donuts & Buddhist Debate" and our wonderful, new yoga teachers - Mira Kingsley, Sarah Canfield, Robin Ruth, Ersellia Ferron and Jessica Larsen taught "Worldview Yoga" three times a week!

There are many beautiful teachings and events coming in October - in particular, check out "Enlightened Heart Yoga: Bringing Love, Wisdom and Power to Your Practice" with Tibetan Heart Yoga teacher Sarah Class, and an Open ACI-LA Board Meeting, to which all students are welcome (see below announcement.) All the offerings are listed at the end of this newsletter, with details available on the ACI-LA website (www.aci-la.org).

For anyone who missed last month's newsletter, we'd like to mention that we are increasing efforts to raise money for a three year retreat, scheduled to begin in October of 2010. To see the full description, go to / and scroll to the bottom of the page. Under "How Can I Help?", click on "Great Retreat." As part of this effort, we've partnered with an internet service called Cafe Press and are selling distinctive items, imprinted with Lama Marut-isms and other quotes. Click the link to see all the items available. A percentage of every sale goes directly into the retreat fund: http://www.cafepress.com/lamamarut.

The Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles is dedicated to the serious study and personal practice of the original teachings of the Buddha, and for those wanting to learn more about this tradition.

We hope this month's newsletter supports your spiritual practice and provides you with the resources you need to be truly happy and make the most of your precious human life.
This Month
A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
Announcement: Open Board Meeting
Contributions
Dharma Book of the Month
Dharma Website of the Month
Dharma Flicks
Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
Upcoming ACI-LA Classes
How You Can Help
Thank You
ACI LA Home

ACI LA Newsletter

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

"The Greatest Sin Is Forgetting"

It often occurs to me as I am teaching - regardless of whether the audience is composed mostly of newcomers to Buddhism or of very advanced practitioners - that I cannot really be telling anyone anything they don't already know. "You cannot teach a man anything," claimed Galileo; "you can only help him find it within himself." If there's nothing already inside the listener, there will be nothing to reverberate with the words and the listener will fall asleep or walk out. And if it's there already, the words will simply rouse what is lying dormant.

As the modern writer Richard Bach has observed, "Learning is finding out what you already know." And, he continues, "Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you."

For those new to Buddhism, neither the reiteration of ethical principles ("Don't kill. Don't steal. Don't commit adultery. Don't lie.") nor the delineation of the law of karma ("What goes around, comes around." "You shall reap what you sow.") comes as a big surprise. Neither does the fact of suffering - especially when the listener is currently in a disaster, or was recently enough. Even the teachings on emptiness are not really that startling when it comes right down to it: "There are no essences to things because things change."

I already know this, I hear them thinking. Does he think I'm an idiot or something?

And what can I tell the advanced practitioners that they haven't heard countless times before? It's not like I personally am going to discover and impart some major fresh thing about the immutable truth of the Buddha's Dharma! The truth is not news. There's nothing really imaginative and cutting-edge about any authentic teaching. Teachers teach what has already been taught; students hear what they already know.

So what's the point? What's the purpose of going to a teaching? And why should teachers teach?

The point is to be reminded. The purpose is to remember. Teachers teach in order to bring the student's mind back to what they may have forgotten; to wake them up from their recurrent and recidivist somnolence and confront them - again and again and again - with what they already know.

One of my professors in graduate school, the extraordinary historian of religions Mircea Eliade, used to say that the greatest sin for a religious practitioner was forgetting. Religious people in every tradition utilize many methods - memorization of texts, worship services, prayers, meditation, rituals, recounting of myths, initiations - so that they will not forget.

In Christianity, this religious remembering is called "anamnesis" and is applied especially to the Eucharist, where the officiant quotes Christ's words as communion is served to those participating in the ritual: "Do this in remembrance of me." Rituals like communion are acts that have been done before. They are just to remember. They are reenactments; rituals reiterate and repeat.

From the spiritual point of view, innovation is deviation. When we just make things up on our own - when we exercise our "creativity" and "individuality" - we are in great danger. When, conversely, we follow the patterns, structures, and models that have been set down for us by our tradition, we can rest at ease, for we are repeating the paradigmatic acts of the Enlightened Ones, the Ones Who Know.

In Buddhism and other religions of India, this virtue of anamnesis or recollection is called "mindfulness" or smirti. It serves the same function - to bring to mind over and over again what we have learned, what we already know, and what we are constantly forgetting and continually deviating from in our perverse quest to be "free" (without discipline), "spontaneous" (without training) and "individualistic" (without guidance).

The "practice" part of a spiritual life is constantly rehearsing - going through "our lines" over and over through studying, contemplating, and meditating - so that when "show time" comes we won't forget. "Show time," of course, is when things are hard. It's relatively easy to recall what we know about ethics, about karma, about the importance and value of compassion and kindness, when things are going well. It's when they're not that we tend to immediately jettison all that we have learned - if we haven't practiced well and often.

"The true art of memory," wrote Samuel Johnson, "is the art of attention." We must learn how to remember to remember. We are lucky in our lineage to have been given a very powerful practice designed to do just that very thing: the six-times-a-day book. (If, by some fluke, you have yet to be turned on to this practice, go to http://www.acidharma.org/aci/online/thebook.pdf). Stop every two and a half hours and remember - remember your vows, remember your morality, remember karma and emptiness and how things are really working. If you're not keeping a book, you're not remembering.

And if you're not studying and meditating daily, regularly doing the two-part morning loll (where you're reflecting on the miracle of your life and the fact that it cannot last), consciously doing acts of kindness for others, and other essential components of a real spiritual practice - well, you're just spacing out and hoping for the best. You're not really recalling what you know to be of real importance. You're not really practicing at all.

So try to remember. Try to stay present with what you know to be true. Live what you already know. Be the person you already are, and you'll be closer to being the person you really want to be.

Don't forget.

With all good wishes,

Marut

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Dnnouncement: Open Board Meeting

Help shape ACI-LA and the Mahasukha Center's direction and plans, and join in on strategizing for Lama Marut's exciting and action-packed visit to LA in December! The Board of Directors invites all students to our next board meeting, to be held Thursday October 16 at 7pm at Mahasukha Center. For details or if you're interested in coming, please contact Lauren Benjamin at Lauren.benjamin@aci-la.org.

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ACI LA Newsletter

ontributions

The Vows at Windhover

"Fall on your knees, come hear the Angel voices."

It happens every Christmas. I burst into tears, whenever I hear this line from, O Holy Night. When those words hit, I am illogically compelled to stop whatever I am doing and longingly sing out in full voice. Since my aunt keeps the same Christmas CD on repeat all day long, this little devotional scene plays itself out somewhere between 8-10 times a day over the holidays. However, for all my attraction to this particular lyric, I had no depth to my understanding of those words. That is, not until I had an encounter with the heavenly voices at the Windhover retreat. Towards the end of that blessed week, we had a massive vow ceremony. I had the honor of witnessing over 25 brave souls lay the causes for suffering at the feet of our Holy guide Lama Marut. As the refuge vows were being recited I closed my eyes, set my soul on wishing them the best, and let the vows cover me. First I heard words spoken by human voices but soon these voices transformed into a mass of symphonic sound. Then only a chorus of light could I hear.

A song beyond sound. These were the Angel voices.

For a few exquisite moments, I was in Truth. What else would the angel voices sound like than this, the sound of a group of devoted souls praying with all their might for the power to end the suffering of all beings, the song of great compassion.

Too soon the sound was gone, leaving an irreparable wound of joy in my suffering self.

I am still bleeding light.

"Fall on your knees. Come hear the angel voices."

There is a reason why "fall on your knees" is the first action requested in the call to hear the sound of heaven.

We must bow. Seek shelter in nothing but the three jewels. Undo all our defenses to the Truth. Hurl our humble selves with unrelenting force against the feet of our holy teachers again and again and uncountable agains, unfathomable agains, boundless agains, agains that put our past agains to shame, agains that sacrifice themselves joyously for more agains, agains that inspire countless future generations of agains to rise up again and fight and conquer all agains, agains that build fantastical ships full of agains and launch off this planet again and again to construct new colonies of agains that spread again across every universe and

All Again...

Until, utterly dissolved of self, unable to rise again by any method of muscle or bone, or tendon of thought...

we fall. Fall not at the feet of our teachers but into their very hearts.

This is to say, we fall into our own hearts.

And then, in the silent center of the beat, like a master musician, we will draw the bow of our great compassion across the endless cacophonic strings of Samsara, turning the many dissonant cries into one singular sound of bliss. The sound of heaven.

This is the action of our lifetime,

One complete exquisite shining bow.

I offer my agains to my Holy teacher Lama Marut through whom everything becomes possible, to the Holy vow takers, to all who made the retreat possible and to Jason Rosenfield, whose bow renewed my hope.

Mira Kingsley

 

TLC for the Mahasukha Center

We, the fortunate,find Refuge at The Mahasukha Center.

Growing in wisdom, we rejoice in the ample merit our Lamas collect, and which ACI-LA dedicates to us. Moved by the resolute faith that leads our teachers to sustain, each day of their lives, the lovely Mahasukha Center, we are happy to share their dreams, fulfill their ambitions, multiply their noble efforts, and to lighten their labor.

A group of us gathered then,at the conclusion of a recent session of Worldview Yoga (10AM-Noon, Saturdays) ,to make The Mahasukha Center the Paradise of A Buddha. We offered our sweet lamas a timely gift: a few hours of focused action scrubbing, dusting, polishing, placing, and packing ... all this whilesharing our ideas, anecdotes and observations about how we may continue the karma to keep The Mahasukha Center bright, beautiful, and beneficial to many. Jewels of salt from our shining brows fell onto the glowing floorboards of our beloved Center.

Jason scrubbed floors and yoga mats, Alicia polished windows and doors, Ersellia sweetly tended to the snacks area, Lama Lauren purified the Lama Room, Michelle claimed the bathroom as her task, Brian mopped up the mopping, and Andrew straightened the lobby. And as the week's teachings and yoga sessions progressed, our teachers smiled brightly as they entered the Center, happy with us, happy to be sharing the Dharma yet again, each new day.

As an enthusiastic Mahasukha "tidiness engineer," I assure you that the high energy and good company we initiated that recent Saturday will continue on a monthly basis, and the arrival of new faces and old friends will be very much appreciated, as we purify and prepare The Mahasukha Center for a very busy season of Dharma, Yoga, and Happiness. Please feel free, most welcome, to bring your love and light, your good intentions and elbow grease too, to next month's day of TLC for the lovely Mahasukha Center... date TBA.

OM Shanti,

Andrew LauGel, Mahasukha Facilities and Hospitality Committee

 

Yama Satya: Truthfulness
This is the third article in an ongoing series by Rene Miranda

The second yama is satya or truthfulness. In ancient teachings, telling the truth is defined as never giving another person an impression with your speech that is different from what you, yourself, believe to be true. This is quite a challenge, actually. We must say what we believe to be true rather than what we think others would like to hear.

Another subtle aspect of truth is saying only what we believe with all our heart and every cell of our being even when talking to ourselves. For example, if I tell myself I will never have another cup of coffee again, but in the back of my mind I am already making exceptions - that is not truthfulness. It is better to set a certain time limit that is completely doable; one you can confidently follow through with successfully.

The word satya comes from the Sanskrit root as, meaning "to be." Related English words are is and essence. Makes sense, yes? The truth is what is! In conventional reality, this means speaking the truth. Ultimately, the truth is the emptiness of all things: the fact that no thing has any nature of being a certain object, with certain characteristics, that are not dependent upon the way I perceive it. That is the truth that will set us free.

According to M. K. Gandhi, truthfulness is inextricably tied to non-violence. Speaking only what will not harm while telling the truth is key. Gandhi said: "Ahimsa (non-violence) is not the goal. Truth is the goal. But we have no means of realizing truth in human relationships except through the practice of ahimsa. A steadfast pursuit of ahimsa is inevitably bound to truth." (www.mkgandhi.org/nonviolence)

Master Patanjali says in The Yoga Sutra (chapter two, verse 36), "satya pratishthayam kriya phala shrayatvam." Translated in The Essential Yoga Sutras, by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally as, "If you make it a way of life always to tell the truth, then anything you undertake will have a successful result."

Truthful speech plants the seeds to see success in all projects. The more we understand seeds, the more clear it becomes that doing good things is the only way to see changes in our world. We get what we want and so does everybody else. Keep in mind there is a karmic time gap, of course. Understanding the mechanism, however, shortens that gap significantly.

The "immediate" result of being totally honest is that we will be surrounded by others who only tell the truth. We receive good, true teachings. We are enabled to teach as well in an honest and accurate way. Ultimately, truth leads to achieving the emanation body of an enlightened being. We will emanate countless forms to help all beings in all worlds.

I recommend checking in with yourself often to notice when your words are completely in sync with your beliefs. Then be happy about the efforts you are making by noticing and looking for higher levels of truth in those around you over the next few months. You can create miracles!

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Dharma Book of the Month

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
by Thich Naht Hanh

What if you could find peace in the most unpleasant things? Like doing the dishes for example? OK, for some doing the dishes is not that difficult, but for others, doing the dishes could be laden with mental afflictions. In Peace is Every Step, Thich Naht Hanh explains to us with joy and humor, how doing the dishes can become an opportunity for self-awareness. By turning to one's breath, mindfulness can be obtained, and the mundane becomes sacred. Thich Nhat Hanhn then extends this mindfulness training to all kinds of daily activities including, driving, eating, and answering the phone.

Thich Naht Hanh has been referred to as "a cross between a cloud, a snail, and a piece of heavy machinery." When looking at his life, his choices, you see a man dedicated to creating change, living by example, in a subtle and powerful way. This book is the very example of his life, a way to see the power of his mind, how to perceive the most mundane and annoying of tasks, like doing the dishes, as a perfect occasion to step onto the path of mindfulness. And most importantly, to use this mindfulness for helping others. Yes, like the bull in the china shop, he is dancing around and taming the china.

"We must be aware of the real problems of this world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help. If we maintain awareness of our breathing and continue to practice smiling, even in difficult situations, many people and animals and plants benefit from our way of doing things. Are you massaging Mother Earth every time your foot touches her? Are you planting seeds of joy and peace? I try to do that with every step, and I know that our Mother Earth is most appreciative. Peace is every step."

- Submitted by an ACI-LA student.

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ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Website of the Month

Unfettered Mind

Unfettered Mind is a Buddhist service organization that provides instruction, training programs, and guidance in Buddhist methods for being awake and present in your life. This content-rich website is the brainchild of Ken McLeod who began his Buddhist studies in 1970 with the Tibetan meditation master, Ven. Kalu Rinpoche. After receiving training in the Kagyu, Shangpa, and Nyingma traditions of Buddhism in Tibet, Ken was authorized to teach and guide others in their practice and established Unfettered Mind in 1990.

The Unfettered Mind organization offers classes, study groups and retreats among other activities. While I have not participated in any of these, I have made good use of the many wonderful resources offered for free on their website. These include numerous articles, translations, Podcasts and audio files, as well as a section called "Buddhism in a Nutshell" which outlines the life of Shakyamuni Buddha and a terrific hyperlink tutorial on "Mind Training in Seven Points."

You can easily spend hours getting lost in this website. I recommend that you do, as every section is filled with useful and stimulating content, all of which is inspired by the dharma itself.

http://www.unfetteredmind.org/

If you come across a site that you'd like others to know about, please notify Catherine at eatoncat@verizon.net and contribute to this part of the newsletter.

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ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma: The Dark Knight

Amidst the throng of summer blockbusters, The Dark Knight stands alone. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed by director Christopher Nolan and his collaborators, the film manages to be bombastic and subtle at the same time. At the heart of the film is the conflict between the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Batman (Christian Bale). For many the rivalry is familiar, but for the intrepid dharma student, the battle between these rivals takes on a more interesting twist. In this installment of the Batman franchise, the Joker takes on the darkest incarnation we have yet seen. Thanks to what will certainly be an Oscar winning performance by Heath Ledger, Batman is confronted for the first time by a true nihilist. An enemy that seems to destroy for nothing but the sake of destruction proves to be the most difficult to battle. It is in this difficulty that Batman is pushed to his limits and for the first time, questions the value of his own efforts. Although loath to descend to his opponents base methods, Batman must find a way to defeat a rival who seems untouchable. For those of us interested in the spiritual life, the struggle that Batman faces in his confrontation of the Joker is a telling tale. As we know, to truly and selflessly battle our mental afflictions (and the forces of nothingness) there can be nothing that we are not willing to give up. In the film, Batman and his public incarnation, Bruce Wayne, are forced for the first time to stare directly at the extent of their sacrifices and decide that there is nothing that is worth not stopping the evils of the Joker. A true Bodhisattva, Batman here in the form of a summer blockbuster inspires us to give all of ourselves in our efforts to rid ourselves of mental afflictions, even if that mental affliction seems like an unbeatable foe.

Explicit Dharma: Dalai Lama - Discourse On The Heart Sutra

What more is to be said? In this very simple DVD, director Zazuo Kikuchi, asks the Dalai Lama about the Heart Sutra. His Holiness responds with explanations that will help the new Dharma student and the experienced practitioner alike.

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Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads

Dharma podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular and convenient way to get exposure to enlightening Dharma teachings at the touch of a computer key. Don't miss Lama Marut's weekly podcasts at www.aci-la.org.

This Month's Dharma Podcasts

Our weekly videocasts last month included "Waking Up to Reality," "Recognizing Suffering in Order to Be Happy," "Overcoming the Blokage to Pride," and "The Emptiness of the Cup, Parts One and Two." /mg-video.html

Audio podcasts posted recently include the conclusion of a series of podcasts on Christianty "(Reading Jesus") and a two-part interview regarding the need to "morph" Buddhism as it comes to the West without losing the "core" by dumbing it down in the attempt to popularize it. We've also upt up a podcast on "Cleaning Past Bad karma" which details how to use the "four forced" to purify negativities." /mg-podcsts.html

Audio Downloads

The "Recent Teachings" section on www.aci-la.org is replete with new public talks on yoga, Guru yoga and meditation given in Michigan, Reno, Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe; and extensive teachings form a retreat on "How Yoga Works" sponsored by Zuda Yoga and held at Lake Tahoe last month.

/teach_marut_recent.html

Be sure to subscribe so that you can receive all the latest digital downloads automatically. Click on the subscription button at www.aci-la.org and/or www.lamamarut.org and enter your email address to receive podcast updates. You'll receive an email announcement when new podcasts of teachings are uploaded to either site.

If you enjoy having access to these wonderful Dharma podcasts, please make sure to comment in the comments section on iTunes.

To subscribe to Lama Marut's video podcasts please go to: /mg-video.html

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ACI LA Newsletter

Current and Upcoming ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are donation-based and open to the public.
(Please see the calendar for full descriptions.)

Oct 1st, 2008 (ad every Wednesday, check for substitutions)
Worldview Yoga with Mira Kingsley
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 per class. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson (Clairity.MT@gmail.com)

Oct 4th, 2008 (Sat) - Oct 5th, 2008 (Sun)
Enlightened Heart Yoga: Bringing Love, Wisdom and Power to Your Practice, with Sarah Class
Date: October 4, 10a-1p; 3p-5:30p // October 5, 10-1p. Each session will begin with a talk on the four attitudes, followed by an asana class which integrates them.
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: By donation. Suggested donation: $50 for whole workshop, $20 per session. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds
Contact: Lauren Benjamin (lauren.benjamin@aci-la.org)

Oct 5th, 2008 (and every other Sun morning)
Coffee, Donuts & Buddhist Debate with ACI-LA Senior Teachers
Time: 10:00am to 12:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public
Contact: info@aci-la.org

Oct 6th, 2008 (every Monday night, check for substitutions)
Worldview Yoga with Jessica Larsen and Ersellia Ferron
Time: 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only.
Contact: Claire Thompson (Clairity.MT@gmail.com)

Oct 6th, 2008 (Monday)
ACI Formal Study Course 3: Applied Meditation, with Cliff Spencer
Date: Ten Monday nights, Beginning September 1st
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Cliff Spencer (cliff.spencer@aci-la.org)

Oct 7th, 2008 (and every Tuesday)
Guided meditation class with Rick Blue
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Rick Blue (rick.blue@aci-la.org or call 310-454-6168)

Oct 12th, 2008 (and every Sun, check for substitutions)
Worldview Yoga with Vanessa Hopkins
Time: 2:00-3:30p
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 per class. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson (Clairity.MT@gmail.com)

Oct 15th, 2008 (Wednesday)
ACI 7 Vows of the Bodhisattva with Lauren Benjamin
Date: Wednesday afternoons, for five weeks
Time: 4:00pm to 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Lauren Benjamin (lauren.benjamin@aci-la.org)

Oct 25th, 2008 (Sat)
Potluck Dinner and Dharma Flick - In Search of Kundun: A Martin Scorsese Film, with film editor Rick Blue
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Bring Potluck
Contact: info@aci-la.org

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ow You Can Help

Thank you to all of the ACI-LA volunteers who help with our various Dharma projects! We are currently looking for people who have specific skills in certain areas so please email us at lauren.benjamin@aci-la.org if you:

* Would like to help transcribe full length audio teachings
* Have document formatting / layout skills to help format our Dharma Essentials handouts
* If you have some time to look through aci-la.org and find broken weblinks and audio that doesn't download.
* Have accounting skills and/or are familiar with Quik-Books

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ACI LA Newsletter

Thank You

Thank you to Venerable Marut for his kindness in coming to teach the Dharma here in Los Angeles and around the world. Thank you to Lauren Benjamin, Cliff Spencer, Rick Blue, Lindsay Crouse and Sal Gallina for their kindness in teaching here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Stephane Dreyfus for maintaining the ACI-LA website, and to all our marvelous students who help make it possible to spread the Dharma.

All suggestions and updates for the website can be sent to Stephane at floatingrock@gmail.com. Catherine Eaton produces the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine at eatoncat@verizon.net by the 20th of the month.

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