HEARTH YEAR END REPORT
December 30, 2007
The Hearth Foundation is committed to the betterment of our homes, communities and world through the practices of positive mothering. We believe that mindfulness and spiritual mothering is a primary force for achieving inner and outer peace, and helping establish nurturing relationships with our families, our fellow human beings, our physical earthly home and ourselves.
The Hearth Foundation is dedicated to the spiritual growth and well being of mothers through study, practice and community building activities. While our core philosophy is very much shaped by Buddhist principles and practices, we are a non-sectarian organization, which draws on all wisdom traditions to further positive mothering experiences through spiritual awareness and enlightened actions.
INCEPTION-THE FIRST YEAR
It is with great pleasure that I share this first yearend report for the Hearth Foundation. Hearth officially began in June of 2007 at its incorporation by Irving Kramer. Unofficially the seeds of Hearth were sewn in 2003 after the release of Buddha Mom-the Path of Mindful Mothering. The growth of Hearth has followed a uniquely feminine path. Rather than starting with a concept and moving towards building from that concept, Hearth has been growing and developing from the ground up as the needs of moms have come forward and then been met.
After the release of Buddha Mom letters and emails began trickling in thanking Jacqueline Kramer for her book and asking if she is teaching anywhere or if there are any other ways to work with her. She thought that with the release of Buddha Mom her responsibility to support spiritual mothering was completed but life had different plans for her than she had for herself. One of the women who contacted her asked if she could take the refuges with Jacqueline. Taking refuge is a process in which one makes a commitment to Buddhism-to awakening, to the way and to the companions on the path. In Jacqueline’s interactions with this student she discovered that the woman also needed meditation instruction. Jacqueline offered to go through the refuges with her after the student had set up a home meditation practice. Since there were other moms asking for further contact Jacqueline opened up the same offer to them. This was the origin of the Shrine Room series.
The first lay Buddhist practice classes began with 10 students. The students came from Canada, Australia, England and the United States. The first set of classes was called the Shrine Room series. They were developed to help moms set up meditation practice in their homes while learning about basic Buddhist principles. The classes were also designed to create sangha, or community and to share spiritual principles with children. The first offering of this series took place on a message board set up on Jacqueline’s buddhamom.com website. All but two of the 10 students completed this 6-week series and wanted to continue on with lessons. The next series created for these students was the 3 refuges. Most of the class wanted to continue on with the studies so Jacqueline created the 5 precepts series and then the relationship series based on the Sigolavada Sutta.
The message board we were using was becoming too primitive for our needs. Greg Kramer, offered space on his message board at metta.org. This was a great step forward as his board was more user friendly than the one created at buddhamom.com and better established. We stayed on that board until moving into our own classroom message board at the development of the Hearth Foundation website. Most of the original 8 students stayed through the 4 series and three of them went on to volunteer to help support future classes. One student, Wendy Meyers, created a website for Hearth. She is responsible for the beautiful and user friendly website we have today. Heather Thorton offered to be the registrar for classes. She is now the gatekeeper. All perspective students go through her. This is an extremely important job as the classes are growing in numbers. Getting everyone settled in their class takes time, skill and kindness, all of which Heather possesses in abundance. Heidi Howes became a teaching assistant and helped support students through their process of opening up to new ways of thinking and being. Her passion and support have been much appreciated.
The beautiful thing about the growth and development of Hearth is how it grew organically with very little revenue or marketing. There was a need for the teachings so Jacqueline took the time to research and develop them. The classes are offered at no cost, in keeping with the Buddhist tradition of offering the teachings freely. The fundamental design of the classes has been centered on this principle. Our classroom has no overhead since it is an online, virtual community. The books and teaching materials are found online as well, thanks to websites such as buddhanet.net and accesstoinsight.org. The lessons are gifted to the students out of love for both the teachings and for anyone who wants to develop themselves and their families within the context of mothering and homemaking.
The internet creates the perfect infrastructure to teach mothers. Not only is it free, it has no time or space restraints allowing moms to come to the classroom as suits their schedules and from whatever time zone they are in without having to juggle time with their families. Our students can come to learn more about Buddhism, develop their daily practice and connect with like minded people all without having to employ a baby sitter, leave their home, drive or fit into someone else’s schedule. I was not certain if a supportive sangha would develop or not given that the mom’s never actually meet one another in person. I was happily surprised to discover that friendships are forming and the moms are coming for refuge to their new sangha in and out of the space we have created. In the course of classes we have had students give birth, loose children, move through post-partum depression, go through divorce and heal deep-seated problems. Through it all moms have supported one another with kind words, listening and wisdom.
The classes began even before Hearth was formed as a non-profit corporation. The structure of a corporation had its inception as Jacqueline’s father was dying in her home. During his last 8 months of life Jacqueline’s father asked if there was anything he could leave her. She said that she would like to become director of her mother’s non-profit, the Foundation for Human Development, since the work she does with Hearth is a continuation of her mother’s work. The sensibilities of Jacqueline’s mother inform the heart of everything she teaches. The Foundation for Human Development had been dissolved so Irving Kramer offered to create a new foundation for Jacqueline. Brilliant attorney that he was, he could create a foundation with both hands tied behind his back. In the midst of his pain and dying he guided Jacqueline through the creation of the Hearth Foundation and endowed it with seed money. In order to obtain immediate non-profit status he made it an integrated auxiliary of the already established church, the Metta Foundation.
The Hearth Foundation exists due to the talents and support of both of Jacqueline’s parents. Her mother has always been her spiritual teacher and her father taught her about power, boldness and how to look at the details in order to create a firm structure. It is because of Irving’s generosity that she is able to take the time to write the lessons and support mothers without charge. It is a huge gift that Jacqueline’s parents have given her and the world. She would like to thank them for this gift.
Since it’s inception Hearth has served hundreds of mothers. It has had 97 students and 235 members on its growing listserve. The shrine room series has been offered 20 times over the past two years with 8 to 10 students per class. The 3 refuges have been offered 11 times and the 5 precepts have been offered 10 times. In March of 2007 Mothering Magazine did and e-article on the classes. That month we filled up 7 shrine room classes along with the classes that were already in process. One of our students connected us with HERD, a home schooling resource center. Many students found us through this resource. A good number of our students home school their children and there are also a number of doulas, birthing coaches and midwives in our sangha.
At times father’s have asked to join our classes and a few brave men have ventured into the classrooms. None have completed a series to date. After much reflection on this point Jacqueline has decided that since a mother’s journey is different than a father’s journey, involving pregnancy, birthing, breast-feeding and many other organic and cultural differences, it is her wish to serve this much-underserved population of mothers. This is a time for women to join together and support one another. Still, many of the students have wonderful supportive husbands who are also interested in Buddhism. At this point Hearth serves families by supporting the mothers. Perhaps someday Hearth can also serve fathers.
This September Hearth partnered with Baldface resort in Nelson, Canada to offer its first 3 day retreat for mothers. The setting, in the Cootneys, was wild and beautiful, the accommodations were excellent and the mothers attending were thrilled to be with a group of women exploring nature art and spirituality. Some of them were away from their children for the first time as the dad’s took over those responsibilities for the weekend. It was an opportunity for Jacqueline to see how important it is for women to gather and share their stories.
Out of the Baldface weekend emerged two monthly meditation groups, one in Sonoma and one in Los Angeles. These groups each follow a monthly theme such as gratitude for November and generosity for December. Jacqueline supplies a list of resources on each subject including children’s books, books for adults and daily practices. There is a period of guided meditation, dyad discussion, a talk and group discussion. The Sonoma group has been well attended, about 15 to 20 moms and the Los Angeles group is slated to begin in January.
Besides classes and workshops Hearth also offers a monthly newsletter, emailed through its listserve and posted on the website. Hearth is also offering workshops, talks, retreats, a chat room, special online gathering spaces, such as our holiday support space, and a list of mindful mothering and homemaking resources.
In the summer of 2007 Brian Pollick came on board as an advisor and business guide for Hearth. Brian, a Canadian attorney recently retired, having sold the foundation he created and developed. By the time Brian had sold his foundation it was a highly successful venture with over 500 employees. Having achieved his goals he felt moved to help other fledgling foundations. Jacqueline Kramer met Brian and, upon hearing of Hearth, Brian offered to help get the foundation established. He guided Jacqueline as to how a foundation is set up and continues to be the guiding force behind Hearth’s development as a growing foundation.
WHERE WE ARE GOING
Hearth has recently employed Mark Dowling of Dowling and Yeager to handle its portfolio. The direction decided upon is one of not touching the principle unless necessary and investing the principle in investments which pay dividends. These dividends will fund Hearth projects, pay a stipend to Jacqueline and cover Hearth expenses. It is essential to the vision of Hearth to continue to offer classes at no cost to its students. We are able to continue doing this because of the low, almost non-existent, overhead, our volunteer workforce and the ability of Jacqueline Kramer to gift her time and energy to teach, research and develop curriculum, create the monthly newsletter and administer the fiscal and operational aspects of Hearth. In order to be able to continue with these responsibilities Jacqueline will be receiving a stipend as soon as Hearth is in a position to pay one.
Hearth will continue to offer its classes, and as many services as possible, freely. In order to grow and develop financially as an organization without charging for its services, Hearth is planning to develop a publishing enterprise. One of the main ways Hearth supports spiritual mothering is through the written word. There is a very real need for more literature on mothering as a spiritual practice and for resources that can be used by families to teach spiritual principle to their children. Hearth publishing is being created to meet these needs. In process are books on the home as an eco-system, an anthology of mothers, who are spiritual teachers in various wisdom traditions, writing about how mothering informs their spiritual practice and how their spiritual practice impacts their mothering. We are also working with a writer of children’s books on development of books supporting the spiritual development of children.
At this point we have four series of classes we offer; the Shrine Room series, The 3 refuges, The 5 Precepts and Relationships-the Buddha’s advise to householders. We are beginning a new series on Death, Dying and Illness for Families, to start January 13. Also in development are classes on everyday spiritual practices, divorce, and the paramitas. The vision is that these classes will be developed and run by Jacqueline and eventually passed on to other teachers trained by her. These teachers will be meditators who are well versed in Buddhist principle. Jacqueline will move into a support position for these teachers.
Seeing how live instruction also has value we are planning on setting up another 3 day 2 night mother’s retreat, this time in Victoria, Canada. Included in this retreat will be art, yoga, excellent dining and time for walks and connection. We are also planning to expand our monthly meditation evening for moms to San Francisco and another Los Angeles location.
We are developing and expanding our newsletter this year. Jacqueline has been putting out a monthly newsletter since May of 2005. It has been a way for Jacqueline to connect with her students and others wanting to explore topics related to spiritual mothering and homemaking. The format has been simply a sharing of insights and thoughts on these subjects. We are now preparing to expand this to include articles on a monthly subject, written by students and others, an upcoming events schedule, a section on spiritual practices related to the monthly article and a continuation of Jacqueline’s monthly insights. One of our students, Destiny Masters, has volunteered to help with this effort. The monthly topics will be:
January: Beginners mind
April: Karma and Rebirth
May: Fundamental Buddhism-4 noble truths and other teachings
June: Energy, Zeal, Effort and Patience
August: Acceptance, Letting go, Contentment
THE BUSINESS OF HEARTH
At this time Hearth does not have a board of directors or any insurance. Jacqueline Kramer has not yet taken a salary from Hearth. The only use of funds at this time is for operating expenses.
We wish to express our heartfelt thanks for everyone who has helped grow Hearth and make it possible for us to offer our support and inspiration to mothers around the world. A special thanks to:
Hearth grows through your donations making it possible to retain our ability to offer our services freely to whoever can benefit by them. We thank you for your support.
2007 Year End Report