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Newsette – January 12, 2022

As January unfolds, with the spike in Covid cases due to the omicron variant, more sanghas are returning to or continuing on Zoom and planning outdoor activities.

An example is an in-person winter walk offered by Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, MA. Here is their lovely invitation: “Join us for quiet contemplation and engagement with the natural world as we hike together at Lynn Woods. We’ll refrain from speaking in order to open wide the sense gates to the sights, smells and tangibles of this beautiful, protected space.”

Richmond Zen Center (in Virginia) offers a weekly Saturday morning “Boundless Meditation” at a local park: “Practice zazen together outside. Pines and clouds, eagles and riffles, breezes and crickets will illuminate your true nature. Following a 40 minute period of meditation, we enjoy walking meditation around the lake.” In addition, sangha leader Eden Kevin Heffernan is leading a walking meditation this week with Virginia Interfaith Power and Light. Virginia IPL works to engage faith communities in action on climate and environmental justice. Learn more about their efforts here >>.

In last week’s Newsette I mentioned a SFZC class on eco-activism, Finding Your Path to Eco-Activism, beginning January 11. In addition, Tassajara will be offering a retreat for environmental activists May 15-22. Dojin Sarah Emerson of Stone Creek Zen Center in Sebastopol Ca, one of the retreat leaders, wrote: “There are two spots open in the retreat. This retreat is sponsored by a generous foundation, so people can attend by donation, which we hope makes it accessible to a wider range of activists.” A flyer about the retreat, with contact information, is attached.

Some Online Classes and Book Discussions:

Houston Zen Center is offering Realizing Your Life, a five-week class on the Genjo Koan, from February 7 to March 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 CST. “Genjokoan distills many of Dōgen’s most important teachings into a single profound essay. This class will use Realizing Genjokoan, by a living Zen Master, Shohaku Okumura, as a gate to Master Dōgen’s unique and expansive vision of reality” and will be taught by Koun Matt Brownlie.

Richmond Zen Center’s Eden Kevin Heffernan is offering An Incomplete History of Zen Buddhism. The class begins Monday, January 10, and meets online every two weeks through March from 7 – 8:30 pm EST: “Eden will offer an introduction to histories, texts, and stories of Zen Ancestors and other vital figures important in the development of our tradition.” The primary text will be The Circle of the Way, by Barbara O’Brien.

Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Mountain View, CA offers a weekly book discussion of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. on Wednesdays from 7:55 to 9 p.m. PST: Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness Online Book DiscussionKannon Do.

May you stay healthy and find joy in the midst of winter.

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Newsette – January 4, 2022

In reading your newsletters I have seen that many of you welcomed the New Year on December 31st with outdoor fire ceremonies, zazen by Zoom, and/or ringing a bell 108 times. At City Center we greeted January 1st with a service in the Buddha Hall and a jundo to all the altars, offering light, fragrance and bows, ending on the roof where we chanted the refuges in Pali and toasted the New Year.

May this year bring us closer together as we continue to face the climate crisis, the Covid pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality, and so many other huge issues.

As we head into 2022 with the uncertainties we are facing, we are still planning to hold an in-person Branching Streams Conference sponsored by Austin Zen Center from April 25 to 28 at Ancient Yoga Center, half an hour from Austin. The theme is Healing Relationships (with ourselves, one another, in our sanghas, and with our planet). The program includes a morning with poet Naomi Shihab Nye and a day-long workshop with Stephanie Kaza on The Work that Reconnects. Please save the dates!

The schedule for this summer’s Tassajara Branching Streams Sangha Weeks is nearly full. There is one 3-night stay in June (June 3-5) that just opened up, and several 3 and 4-night openings: August 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, and September 9-11. Please let me know in the next two weeks if your sangha would like one of those spaces. Anna Malo, from Tassajara Reservations, will be sending a letter to the sanghas that have signed up. She and the Tassajara Reservations team will handle all Sangha Week questions from that point on.

In this Newsette I will focus only on two programs in response to the climate crisis. More news about classes, dharma talks, and other sangha offerings will appear in next week’s Newsette.

Brattleboro Zen Center (in Vermont) is planning weekly in-person meditations outdoors, as a way to engage as a sangha around the climate emergency. Founding teacher Hakusho Ostlund writes, “While meditation isn’t the solution to all the world’s problems and sitting for a specific cause should never be an excuse to abstain from more overt ways of social engagement, I believe there is great power in ritual action.”

San Francisco Zen center is offering a six-week class, beginning January 11,  Finding Your Path to Eco-Activism. “This class series is designed to educate, inspire, empower, and activate deeper and more effective Earth activism among its participants.” Each class will include presentations by Tim Ream, a longtime Zen student and eco-activist, and a guest presenter. “Love for the Earth is a prerequisite. No activist experience required.” As this new year begins, may you stay healthy, warm, and nourished by Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha