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Newsette 11-18-2021

Yesterday I hosted a second online gathering of European Branching Streams leaders, with participants from England, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy, and Germany. The conversation focused on how European sanghas are meeting the complexities and uncertainties of the Covid pandemic, and in particular the tensions around reopening and vaccinations. The group will meet again in February, 2022.

In the light of the recent climate summit in Glasgow, several sanghas are focusing on the climate crisis.

Brattleboro Zen Center (Vermont) members are engaging in their first climate change action with a table outside the Brattleboro Co-op. They are sharing information and asking people to sign postcards calling on the Vermont Climate Council and legislators to bring about transition from fossil fuels to a just and climate-resilient Vermont, working with 350 VT. Founding teacher Hakusho Ostlund writes: “This is the first step in an exploration of how we as a Sangha may bring the ethics, concentration, and wisdom of our tradition into concrete beneficial action in the world.”

Ava Stanton, guiding teacher of Just Show Up Zen Sangha in Santa Monica CA, invites other Branching Streams leaders to sign a letter drafted by Green Faith, a global faith community organization working for climate justice:

Good news from Brooklyn Zen Center (New York): “We are very pleased to announce that starting in January 2022, we will have an ongoing place to practice in person together in Brooklyn. We will be renting the Parish house at Christ Church in Cobble Hill every Saturday from 8am to 6pm. We are excited to be partnering with Father Mark and his community who share our commitment to justice and love. This auspicious turn of events affords us the opportunity to be together for our Rohatsu retreat this year.

More good news from Chicago’s Ancient Dragon Zen Gate: Guiding Dharma Teacher Taigen Leighton writes, “Due to Covid, at the end of last year our Ancient Dragon Zen Gate sangha sadly had to abandon our Irving Park Road temple after twelve years. We have sustained a robust program on Zoom, with a great many fine participants joining our sangha from more than a dozen states and several countries overseas. Many of our former regular participants have yearned for opportunities to again practice together in person. I am delighted to announce that starting Sunday November 21st, our Sunday morning and Monday evening events will be in-person at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Northside Chicago at 1650 W Foster Avenue.” Their events will be available on Zoom as well.

Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham, Washington shared a haiku by Jack Kerouac in their recent newsletter with an invitation to sangha members to submit haiku poems on the theme of “Awakening.” Some of the poems will be included in their next newsletter, which will be published during Rohatsu week. Here is Kerouac’s haiku:

The taste/of rain/why kneel? – Jack Kerouac –

As we head into the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share Taigen Leighton’s words, from his Ancient Dragon Zen Gate newsletter: Thanksgiving “derives from the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, which I visited as a child. But that event is a tragedy heralding a holocaust for Native Americans, starting with those same pilgrims who repaid the generosity of nearby native peoples with brutal violence. Nevertheless, separate from that history I have celebrated Thanksgiving as an American Buddhist holiday, honoring the practices of gratitude and generosity…Gratitude naturally inspires generosity, the first transcendent bodhisattva practice of offering support to those around us.”

I wish you a nourishing Season of Gratitude and Generosity.

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Newsette 11-8-2021

Many of us in the U.S. experienced the end of Daylights Savings Time this weekend. This can be disorienting as our bodies get accustomed to lighter mornings and darker late afternoons. In her message to the Bozeman (Montana) Zen Group, guiding teacher Karen DeCotis quoted Dōgen Zenji’s Uji: The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world. See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time….

I’m in the process of coordinating meetings for Branching Streams European leaders and priests and am keenly aware of the differences in time zones between California, the U.K., central Europe, and Greece.

Here’s a reminder to save the dates, April 25—28, 2022, for the Branching Streams in-person Conference hosted by Austin Zen Center at Ancient Yoga Center. The theme is Healing Relationships – with Ourselves, One Another, Our Communities, Our Planet

Many sanghas held Sejiki ceremonies last week, although Houston Zen Center will be holding their ceremony on November 21st. This is an excerpt from their description of the ceremony: “This yearly ceremony honors everyone who has passed away, all our friends and loved ones, and all those who are forgotten by others.” To remember those who died of COVID, Ashland (Oregon) Zen Center undertook a Covid Memorial Flag project over the last year which culminated at Sejiki. Kigetsu Ramana Waymire and Tendo Stacy Waymire, sent a description of the project with photos,in case your sangha would like to embark on a similar project.

Kosen Gregory Snyder, Brooklyn Zen Center’s dharma teacher, is inviting the sangha to take up a dana practice for Buddhist Global Relief’s annual fundraiser. Their mission is to “reduce the suffering of chronic hunger and poverty, educate children in need, support sustainable agriculture, and empower vulnerable women.” read more here about their food assistance work—emergency COVID relief, hot meal programs, and more.Brooklyn Zen Center created a fundraising page for their sangha. Berkeley Zen Center, Chapel Hill Zen Center and Houston Zen Center have also supported Buddhist Global Relief’s work.

In acknowledging National Native American History Month, Richmond (VA) Zen Center will have a movie night and show Songs My Brothers Taught Me, directed by Academy-award winning Chloe Zhao (Nomadland). Songs depicts the stark realities of contemporary Native American life. This film selection follows their Difference + Unity book discussion on Joy Harjo’s memoir, Crazy Brave. Discussion will follow.

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Sharing A Covid Memorial Flag Project

Ashland Zen Center undertook a Covid Memorial Flag project over the last year which culminated in late October at Segaki (also known as Sejiki). We sewed several thousand little flags made of plain white fabric, each flag honoring one person by name who died of COVID-19. Each flag shared a person’s age, where they died, and something unique about them. The Covid Memorial Flags were on display at Ashland Zen Center for several days in October and our memorial service during Segaki included these names. 

For the installation we strung flags at eye level between poles lining the path from our front gate to the Memorial Garden at the back of our land. Visitors were able to walk the length of the installation absorbing the names, and lives, and bearing witness to the unimaginable scale of the Pandemic, one life at a time. 

This project began when the United States passed the grim milestone of 100,000 dead. How could we become intimate with this unimaginably large number? We wanted to learn the names of people who had died of COVID-19. To do that our sangha combed through news reports, obituaries, social media and online memorials across the country. We found that learning about one person at a time was a deeply moving experience of connection. 

If any Branching Streams sanghas would like to make Covid Memorial Flags, our flag pattern is at We also have a limited number of flag-making kits to share. Each kit has white fabric, white cord, bells, names and instructions.  

Kigetsu Ramana Waymire and Tendo Stacy Waymire

More press coverage:

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Newsette 11-1-2021

It’s a rainy day (still a rare occurrence) in San Francisco. The leaves of the large Japanese maple in the City Center courtyard are turning red, and we’ve started heating the 300 Page Street building – all signs that we’re shifting from autumn towards winter.

Planning for the 2022 in-person Branching Streams Conference is well underway. The dates are April 25 to April 28 (Monday to Thursday). Austin Zen Center is hosting the conference at Ancient Yoga Center, about half an hour from Austin. The theme is Healing Relationships – with Ourselves, One Another, Our Communities, Our Planet. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye will join us, and Stephanie Kaza will return to lead The Work that Reconnects. There will be Healing Circles, zazen and service, opportunities to meet informally, network about shared concerns, share music and stories, rest and renew, after so many stressful months. More details about registration will be available in January. Meanwhile, please save the dates!

So many Branching Streams sanghas have signed up for Tassajara 2022 Sangha Weeks that very few spaces remain. Still available are these dates: July 15-17 (three nights), August 5-7 (three nights), 8-11 (four nights), 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, and September 9-11 (three nights). Please let me know if your sangha would like to reserve any of those dates.

When I welcomed Red Cedar Zen Community in last week’s Newsette, I mistakenly said that Zoketsu Norman Fischer is the guiding teacher. Norman is the Founding Teacher. The Guiding Teacher is Nomon Tim Burnett. Norman supported Tim in founding the group in 1971.

Please send me any news you’d like to share with the Branching Streams network.