Posted on Leave a comment

March 29, 2021 Newsette

As we move into spring and more people are receiving vaccinations, this Newsette features several offerings that address the challenges and opportunities of this time. These include a half-day Branching Streams gathering, our Zoom clinic focusing on hybrid zendos and ceremonies, and a class in psychological first aid. In addition, there’s a book published by Milwaukee Zen Center that may interest you.

Branching Streams Flow On

You and members of your sangha are invited to a Branching Streams Online Gathering 

Saturday May 22 from 9a.m. to 12 noon  PT

In this time of many transitions in our lives, our sanghas, our country, and our world, we will gather to reconnect, explore shared concerns, participate in a ceremony, and be inspired by music, poetry and one another. 

Please save the date. More details to follow.

At our next Zoom clinic with Jon Voss on Wednesday March 31st at 11 a.m. PST we will focus on the topic of hybrid zendos. Many sanghas are learning ways to combine live and online offerings. Please come if you have questions or would like to share your sangha’s experiences.

Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

The Shogaku Zen Institute announces its Spring 2021 online class: Psychological First Aid – Creating Safety in the Present Moment taught by Rev. Koshin Steven Tierney, EdD, LPCC
April 22 through June 23,10 Wednesday evenings, 5:00 to 6:30 pm PDT (6:00 – 7:30 MT, 7:00 to 8:30 CT, 8:00 to 9:30 ET)

 This course will identify tools of psychological first aid which we can use in our lives, in our work as pastoral counselors, and in our teaching – to assist those with whom we live and practice to meet both the challenges and the joys of living life fully. Here’s the Full course syllabus. The course costs $600 and earns 3 credits toward a Master’s Degree in Divinity. For more information or to register send an email to Payment can be made on the Shogaku Zen Institute’s payments page.

The Milwaukee Zen Center recently published a book with vibrant art work by a member of a prison sangha and essays by ten contemporary Soto Zen teachers. Royalties from book sales are collected for the artist, MC Winston. It’s available through Amazon for $19.50. Here is the link.

May you, your sanghas, and all beings be healthy and safe in this transition-full time.

Posted on Leave a comment

March 23, 2021 Newsette

As we celebrate the coming of spring, I am reminded of a song about Sister Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic. The words of the chorus are “Ring out, bells of Norwich and let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know.” As many of us receive vaccinations we may be feeling some relief and hope that the isolation of the past year will be lifted in the coming months.

At the same time, in recent weeks in the U.S. there has been rising awareness of and concern about violence directed at people of Asian descent, heightened after last week’s killing of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. San Francisco Zen Center’s leadership wrote a statement which offers some resources for further learning and ways of intervening when we hear or see acts of anti-Asian hatred. Here is the link:  Speaking Out About Anti- Asian Violence.

This is short notice – nevertheless, you may be interested in hearing Mushim Ikeda, a founding teacher at East Bay Meditation Center, and Greg Snyder, co-guiding teacher of Brooklyn Zen Center, in conversation on Tuesday March 23 at 4 p.m. PST. Mushim’s topic is “I Vow Not to Burn Out.” Here is the link.

As spring brings new life, Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento CA will be welcoming the birth of a child to a family in their sangha with a Jizo Ceremony. This ceremony may be of interest to those who are offering baby blessings or supporting sangha members who have lost babies or children. Their Jizo ceremony will follow a half-day sitting on Saturday April 3. Rev. Doralee Grindler Katonah will give the Dharma talk and lead the ceremony. Here is how she describes the ceremony:

Jizo is the Great Bodhissattva who protects the baby and mother during pregnancy and birthing. Jizo is known as the ‘Earth Store’ or ‘Earth Womb’ Bodhisattva who embodies and transmits the qualities of fearlessness, tenderness, and open heartedness – qualities that protect the mother and cradle the child. Participants are invited to offer blessings and good wishes through a spoken prayer to Jizo, which will then be typed in the chat and made into prayer flags for the family to hang. This will be a sacred time to come together to celebrate new life. For more information, email

Many sanghas are including more ceremonies in their offerings. This week and next there will be Full Moon Ceremonies offered by Zen Centers in many time zones across the U.S. including Austin Zen Center Read more & register, Seattle Soto Zen Read more, and Brooklyn Zen Center Read more.

Guiding teacher Peter van der Sterre invites you to join the Oak Street Zendo in San Francisco, and the 7th Street Zendo in Boise, Idaho for their 2nd annual spring practice period from March 27th to May 29th on Zoom, featuring Jennifer Block as Shuso.

The theme for the Practice Period is Way Seeking Mind: the Path to Our Original Self.  Both beginners and those who have practiced for many years are welcome. You will find more information on the Oak Street Zendo website.

The Soto Zen Buddhist Association is offering Spring and Summer classes and requests your input. Here is a message from Anna Breckenridge, the SZBA Operations Coordinator:

”This year the SZBA will be opening its courses to members of other organizations and communities, including additional courses coming in the fall. We hope you’ll join us, and we have created a survey to gauge availability and interest in these offerings. Please click this link to take our survey. We look forward to hearing from you! The classes are:
Unpacking Whiteness: Exploring the Delusion of Race from a Buddhist Perspective and Building the Joy and Energy of Diverse Community: Living the Bodhisattva Vow

 I hope you are all in good health. As spring unfolds, may you find ways to meet this tender time of both sorrow and opening.

Posted on Leave a comment

March 16, 2021 Newsette

Houston Zen Center’s newsletter noted that the temple made it through last month’s ice storm in good order, losing electricity only for a short while and not losing water at all. However, their garden and temple grounds have taken a blow from the storm. They are planning a Garden Samu Day to work together physically in a safe way. “We will see the rejuvenation of spring before we know it.”

I find this expression of resilience encouraging, as is a report from Centro Budista Zen Soto in San Juan Puerto Rico. Sandra Laureano writes: “We have had continuous practice during the pandemic period. Initially, we met by phone. We later moved to virtual participation through a variety of electronic apps, until we decided to use zoom. For 8 months we met on a nightly schedule. When the holidays began, we adjusted to the changing conditions and now meet three nights a week for a well-being service, sutra chanting, zazen, and teachings.

“Prior to the pandemic, we celebrated a monthly Zazenkai, that we decided to renew starting January 2021. We meet at the center, which is an open, well-ventilated space and accommodate up to 8 people (half its capacity), with the required distancing. Students can also do the Zazenkai virtually. “Overall, we feel this arrangement has worked well. We are pleased to have taken this decision. It has given us the sense that slowly we are returning to our regular practices and are able to once again experience the richness of being physically present.”

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC is planning a Spring Equinox Celebration
Sunday, March 21, 10:00-12:15, “to celebrate the coming of spring and the resiliency of our sangha one year after we closed the Wall St. zendo early in the pandemic. Please bring a poem or reading for the occasion! Everyone welcome!” 

In last week’s Newsette I mentioned that we are planning an online gathering of Branching Streams leaders and members and gave an incorrect date. Please save the date, Saturday May 22 from 9 a.m. to noon PST. We will have details about the program soon.

And here is the link for the March 21 at noon Central time Stepping Down Ceremony for Michaela Bono who has served as guiding teacher for Mid-City Zen in New Orleans for nearly a decade.

In a recent Zoom Clinic with Jon Voss we explored closed captioning and live transcription through Zoom. If you need Zoom support or want to expand your skills please join us on Wednesday March 17 at 11 a.m. PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

May you be noticing signs of spring, internally and externally.

Posted on Leave a comment

March 9, 2021 Newsette

Last March when I was visiting Austin Zen Center, we discussed plans to hold the 2021 Branching Streams Conference at a nearby retreat center in October of 2021. Now, due to Covid-19, conditions are too uncertain to plan an in-person conference this year. However, getting together can lift our spirits and provide connection – so the Branching Streams Advisory Committee is planning an online gathering for Branching Streams leaders and members. Please save the date, Saturday May 24th from 9 a.m. to noon PST. We will have details about the program soon.

This Newsette will highlight a few ways sanghas are meeting the ongoing challenges of the pandemic with creative programming, including ceremonies. It will also feature two ways in which sanghas that participated in last year’s Unpacking Whiteness class with Crystal Johnson have continued the work explored in that course, and a related event offered by SF Zen Center. This Newsette also includes a letter from the Board of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans about a significant change in their sangha.

The Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B. C., Canada has found, despite “tedium, fatigue, impatience, inertia… also gratitude for small mercies and joys, friendships, Zoom connections. One of the sustaining joys has been seeing the home altars of sangha member in their Zoom squares, candles lighting our way through the pandemic, connecting us in the dharma. Please enjoy the home altar album slide show now available on the Mountain Rain website homepage!”

Richmond Zen Center will offer a Spring Equinox Ceremony and Gathering March 20 7:30 – 8:40 a.m. outdoors at Shields Lake, Byrd Park . “The spring equinox closely coincides with the one-year mark of our weekly outdoor Boundless Zendo meetings that began in response to the pandemic. Following our usual zazen and kinhin, we’ll have a spring equinox ceremony, which includes chanting the Heart Sutra and poems read by anyone who would like to share a reading. Live music and other surprises might happen, too. Remember: mask, distance, and connect.”

Austin Zen Center offers a Waking Up to Racism and White Supremacy Group.“All are invited to join this continuing group, a peer-led study of personal & structural racism and bias through the lens of Dharma. J oin us for the new module beginning March 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. (other meetings March 28, April 11, and April 25) which will focus on Resmaa Menakem’s 2017 book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies . ALL are WELCOME!”Read more and register… 

Awakening to Difference + Unity: Richmond’s Unhealed History Tour and Discussion is being offered by Richmond Zen Center, five Saturday Mornings: March 13, April 10, 24, May 8, 22 
We will be reading local author, pastor, and activist Ben Campbell’s Richmond’s Unhealed History over these five weeks and each week we will meet at a different site in Richmond relevant to our reading. Possible sites include the Powhatan Stone at Chimborazo Park, the slave auction and burial sites around the 15th St. + Broad St. corridor, the Maggie Walker Plaza, and the Lee Monument. Please contact Blythe if you want to join us on this journey.

San Francisco Zen Center is offering Healing is the Revolution on March 13 th from 6 to 8 p.m.led by Denese Shervington Lisa Richardson and Dojin Sarah Emerson .

In this evening of conversation Dr. Shervington will bring her expertise in psychiatry, trauma, and community healing, paired with Dr. Richardson’s experience in Public Health and community resilience and Reverend Dojin’s deep understanding of Buddhist principles and practice engagement. For more information, click here and you can register here. 

A message from the Board of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans: “We will be moving from a priest-led to a lay-led sangha with the leaving of our Reverend Michaela O’Connor Bono, who has led our sangha since its inception with her fierce strength, humor and compassion. Michaela has dedicated nearly a decade to guiding MCZ. As a small token of our gratitude and recognition of her dedication to our sangha – a community that would not exist if not for her – we will be holding a Departing Teacher Ceremony on March 21, 2021 at noon via Zoom. (The link will be in next week’s Newsette). We hope that you can join us.”

Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in Clinic continues on Wednesday, March 10thrd, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

Posted on Leave a comment

March 2, 2021 Newsette

A year ago, in early March, I was beginning a two-week trip to Texas to visit San Antonio, Austin, and Houston Zen Centers. While I was on the road, Covid-19 was designated as a pandemic and the first cases were being reported in the cities I visited. I gave the last “live” talk in Austin before the Zendo closed and the first online talk in Houston before flying back to San Francisco on a nearly empty plane to enter two weeks of quarantine.

Today is also the beginning of Women’s History Month in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. International Women’s day is celebrated on March 8th in many countries around the world.

For International Women’s Day, Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC is “Honouring Mahapajapati, our first woman ancestor with a talk and a ceremony on March 7th. This talk is part of our regular Sunday morning practice schedule. Everyone welcome!”

Most sanghas are being cautious about reopening their zendos despite the increasing availability of vaccines. As spring nears and temperatures rise,  more outdoor programs may be possible.

Here is San Antonio Zen Center’s plan for an outdoor “hybrid” experience: On Saturdays March 6 and 27, we will attempt to have outdoor in-person zazen here at SAZC. This will be contingent upon weather and San Antonio’s Covid numbers. We will monitor this closely and there will be a go/no-go announcement before the event. If we can hold the Saturday program in person, it will also be broadcast on Zoom.

Taigen Leighton, guiding teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago writes: “We continue doing the mysterious, challenging work of sustaining our practice and our teaching tradition. Just to continue this dignified practice of upright sitting and life expression is a wonderful gift to our world, to each other, and to ourselves. We continue even through the current challenges of pandemic, climate breakdown, and our historical karma of slavery and now violent white supremacy. Just to sustain caring and attention provides possibilities for healing.  Though we are now a homeless sangha, we are beginning the process of locating a new permanent Chicago home where we can also include our new widespread zoom sangha folks.”

Sunday morning March 14th from 9:30 to 11 Ancient Dragon will host Pamela Ayo Yetunde in their series of Black women teachers. Ayo is a college professor who teaches pastoral care, counseling, and comparative religion, with connections to Vipassana and Soto Zen communities. To access the room, click here.

Emily Dashawetz, the Ino of Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, Massachusetts, writes in their newsletter, “We may feel the hope of the vaccine and an end in sight to the conditions of this pandemic – not because our hope is held elsewhere, in some other, unattainable place, but because we can expand ourselves wide enough to know all things must shift and change. We do not know the timetable, or the events to come, but change itself is unremitting.” ZCNS is offering several dharma talks by guest speakers this month:

Thursday, March 4, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Dharma Talk by Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel on The Shamanic Bones of Zen
Thursday, March 11, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Conversation with Chenxing Han on Be The Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists
Thursday, March 18, 6:30-8:30pm ET: Zazen and Conversation with Rev. Andre Bennett and Rev. Myozen Joan Amaral on The Sacred Work of Justice 
Thursday, March 25, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Guest Talk by Rev. Bernadette Hickman-Maynard on Liberation

Bernd Bender describes a project conceived by members of Akazienzendo in Berlin as a response to their longing, during this time of meeting in digital space, for physical contact and analog exchange. They are individually copying by hand one or more pages of Suzuki Roshi’s “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.” Sangha members are invited to add drawings, collages, photos or whatever arises from their own creativity and the desire for expression in connection with the book. At the end, the handwritten and designed book will be put together and made into a jointly developed whole.

 Fushin Susan Schoenbohm at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago sends “a very heartfelt thank you to all the folks who have responded to our request for information regarding how your sanghas have conceived and organized sangha care. It’s been very helpful as we have begun to formulate how we will proceed.”

Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in Clinic continues on Wednesday, March 3rd, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

I want to thank Hiro Ikushima in SFZC’s Communications department for formatting this Newsette.

May you be well, and may you be encouraged by the strength, persistence, and creativity of dharma friends around the world.