The first regional chapter of the New York City-based InterDependence Project formally opened in Portland this past September. Offering regular classes and meditation instruction as well as other special events, the Portland InterDependence Project (ID PDX) is a place to explore Buddhist/environmentalist-inspired ideas along the lines of “right livelihood”, “right consumption” and “right activism”.
Ethan Nichtern, founder of the parent InterDependence Project, is the author of One City: A Declaration of InterDependence. A second-generation Western Buddhist nurtured in the Shambhala tradition, his interpretation of Dharma as an ethical and political guidepost has earned him a following among 20- and 30-something “spiritual revolutionaries”, as well as fans from older and younger generations.
The ID Project’s weekly podcasts, hosted by Nichtern, offer lectures and discussions by a wide range of Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachers and thinkers, among them Sharon Salzberg, Brad Warner, Reverend Billy, and Daniel Pinchbeck. The New York group also sponsors monthly “Integral Activism” workshops, beginning and “hardcore” meditation classes, several arts-related activities, a mindful business group, an online magazine and daily blog, and more. The ID Project regards itself as “Buddhist-inspired” rather than exclusively Buddhist and is incorporated as an educational rather than religious non-profit.
Laura Ross, director of the new Portland chapter, first became interested in the ID Project as a podcast listener. A yoga instructor with an M.A. from Reed College, Ross had been studying and practicing Dharma without a sense of deep involvement. Encountering the ID Project, she felt it was “where I belonged.”
Not long after reading One City, Ross stumbled across Ethan Nichtern through Facebook connections and, not too seriously, proposed starting a Portland ID group. Phone calls followed and the idea began to grow. Joined by meditation instructor Davee Evans, a Portland group started meeting in spring 2008. Evans, another “cradle” Buddhist in the Shambhala tradition, teaches at both ID PDX and the Portland Shambhala Center. Portland ID’s official launch, keynoted by Nichtern, took place in mid-September.
The center now offers weekly meditation classes and periodic guest lectures. Mindful consumption and mindfulness in therapeutic practice have been recent topics.
“Interdependence—connection—is so important but so easy to forget,” says Ross. “We’re so far removed from the source of our food, our stuff. How we live, spend, throw away garbage all matter very much. There’s a seamless tie-in.”
As practiced by ID PDX and its sibling, meditation supports the mindful observation of connectedness in every aspect of life while reciprocally, the recognition of interdependence informs and brings special value to meditation. Of its meditation practice the ID Project says, “In each class we explore the overarching theme of interdependence—that nothing exists in a vacuum—in 21st century life.”
The Portland ID Project is strongly connected to and influenced by its east coast progenitor “but it’s not a copy of New York,” according to Ross. “We have a different home base.” The New York group, for instance, has been trying to generate enough support to call for a ban on plastic bags in their city. In Portland, this issue was already on City Hall’s agenda. Thanks to this home base ID PDX is already gaining momentum.
You can learn more about the Portland InterDependence Project at the Northwest Dharma Association Annual Meeting on February 14 in Portland. Please visit www.northwestdharma.org for details.