Posted on Leave a comment

Newsette 2-28-2022

Registration for the Branching Streams Conference hosted by Austin Zen Center from April 25 to 28 is open. For more information, please use this link to the registration form. Please register by March 15.

Teresa Bouza, from Kannon Do Zen Center, is producing a video for the Conference. She invites  sangha members to share stories about practicing during the pandemic. “We would like to know how you kept practice alive and in what ways practice was supportive during this challenging time. We invite you to record a short video or audio clip with your cellphone and share it with me ( ) by March 10. You can share your videos via Google Drive, Dropbox or another method. If you send audio please also share some pictures to illustrate what you are saying. You can tell us stories about sitting at home and how that felt, your altars, your virtual sanghas… anything that sustained you during the pandemic.”

Many of us are experiencing great concern about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Taigen Leighton wrote in the Ancient Dragon Zen Gate newsletter, “As I write, we have a dangerous war in the Ukraine, including threats to nuclear facilities and from nuclear weapons. Many are suffering from violence and dislocation. May all peoples support peace, sanity, and diplomacy.” Please let me know how you or your sangha members are responding to this crisis if there is anything you would like to share in a Newsette.

News from Branching Streams sanghas:

Ancient Dragon Priest Gyoshin Laurel Ross will speak about Climate Change from a Buddhist perspective at an Interfaith Climate Summit at 3pm CST on Sunday, March 13, with representatives from Baha’i, Sikh, Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic faith traditions. If you are in Chicago, you can attend in person at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, 600 W. Fullerton Parkway, or view the livestream. For more details, here is the link.

On Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m. CST, Austin Zen Center will hold a Lay Entrustment Ceremony for Shion Pat Yingst. “All are invited for this auspicious and celebratory ceremony in recognition of AZC’s long-time practitioner who has chosen to practice and teach, not as a priest but as a layperson. In this ceremony she will be formally entrusted to teach in the Soto Zen lineage of Suzuki Roshi. May her deep commitment and understanding of the Dharma be of great ongoing benefit to us allIt is possible to participate online as well as in-person.  READ MORE & REGISTER

Zenshuji in Los Angeles, founded in 1922 as the first official branch of Soto Zen in North America, is commemorating it’s 100th anniversary this year with a monthly series of lectures and conversations. The most recent, was titled, “The Zen Boom in San Francisco.” Josho Phelan, the guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center, provided links to the program in her recent newsletter. The first link below goes to an 8 minute YouTube video about and by Wako Kato. It shows photos of Maezumi, Katagiri, and Suzuki Roshi, Alan Watts, and others, as well as the SFZC City Center, from the 1950’s and 60’s.

The video below is a portion of the longer presentation and talk given by Dana Takagi and Jakusho Kwong Roshi:
Events in the series explore the diverse and emerging story of American Zen, and Zenshuji’s contribution to it. You can learn more at

A Book Recommendation

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s just-published book, The Shamanic Bones of Zen, Revealing the Ancestral Spirit and Mystical Heart of a Sacred Tradition,” illuminates the essence of the Zen rituals and ceremonies we engage with every day, and how they expand our hearts and minds. Anything I could say in a sentence or two about this book would be inadequate. After reading the first chapter I thought, “this is a book I would like all my teachers and students to read.”

Posted on Leave a comment

Newsette 2-22-2022

I booked a flight yesterday for the first time in over two years! I will be flying to Austin, Texas for the Branching Streams Conference in April. Please consider joining me and sangha leaders and members from many parts of the U.S. and Canada from April 25 to 28. Austin Zen Center will host the conference at nearby Ancient Yoga Center. The theme is Healing Relationships, from our relationships with ourselves to our relationships with our beloved planet Earth. The program includes a workshop with poet Naomi Shihab Nye, a day devoted to The Work that Reconnects with Stephanie Kaza, and Healing Circles. Here is the link to the registration form. Please register by March 15.

Upcoming Dharma offerings include Houston Zen Center’s Intensive Practice Period of Great Peace and Awareness from April 3 to June 16, led by Abbot Gaelyn Godwin and Shuso Sengetsu Tricia McFarlin, and classes in Quigong and Tai Chi, An Introduction to the Zen Koan and Koan Practice, and How to Be a Buddhist. All of these events will be in-person.

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver B.C. has two class series beginning in March, What’s Love Got to Do with Zen led by co-guiding teacher Myoshin Kate McCandless (meeting in-person) and Embodied Practice with Kakuko Kaye Simard (on Zoom).

Offerings related to social and racial justice:

Hoka Chris Fortin, guiding teacher of Dharma Heart Zen in Sebastopol, CA and Doralee Grindler Katonah from Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento CA are partnering to lead  Racial and Social Justice as Dharma Practice, a monthly online group committed to study, intimate investigation and conversation, and embodied bodhisattva practice to actualize personal and collective freedom for all beings. The next meeting, on Thursday, March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. Pacific Time, will focus on Breeshia Wade’s Grieving While Black, An Antiracist Take On Oppression and Sorrow. To register, or for more information please email: or

 Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, MA is supporting a young woman, who was injured in the earthquake in Haiti, to get needed health care and emotional support. Guiding teacher Joan Amaral wrote, “the ZCNS, in partnership with Adaptively Abled, is raising funds for our lovely sister Jas, to help meet her core living and medical costs. Thank you for showing what love is about, and we encourage you to share this love-giving opportunity with others to help us reach our $5,000 fundraising goal. Here is the GoFundMe page where you can learn more about Jas’s story.”

Thank you all for the many ways in which you cherish life.

Posted on Leave a comment

Newsette 2-15-2022

Along with the good news that the registration form for our first in-person Branching Streams Conference is now live, it is with sadness that I share a message from Sergio Stern, the guiding teacher of Montaña Despierta, in Jalapa, Mexico:

“Dear friends of Montaña Despierta,

I have some very sad news to share with you. Montaña Despierta, our temple, our place of practice, has been desecrated. Thieves entered last Thursday night and took all the Buddhas, all the bells, as well as several pieces of art that were an essential part of our center. For years a place built with love for every detail; every stone in that space has had a sacred meaning for us. It is very painful that something like this could happen in our community, in our city, in our country, and although we understand the causes and conditions that give rise to this type of behavior, we can only feel immense anger, helplessness and regret. In my opinion, we should all enjoy the right to feel protected and I think it is inexcusable that there are no structures in our society that guarantee our safety. Montaña Despierta has been for many years a refuge for many people, a place of peace and tranquility, a space dedicated to selfless good in pursuit of harmony among human beings. I hope with all my heart that we can soon regain our sanity.

“I want to thank the entire sangha, all the people who immediately decided to take matters into their own hands to make our home a safer place, putting up fences, carrying out a count of the damages and putting everything back where it belonged. In other words, I want to offer a deep bow to every and all of those who are re-consecrating our temple at this very moment. The sangha and the purity of our intentions are the true temple—and those will always be indestructible. May all beings everywhere live in peace and out of harm’s way and may our hearts remain open and protected.”


Sergio sent a second message, in which he said “In difficult moments like the one our practice group has just experienced, when our space was intruded upon, the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh, who said that the next Buddha will be a Sangha, becomes even more powerful. Together, we are waking up. Together, we are One.”

I wrote to Sergio and asked him how Branching Streams could support Montaña Despierta at this time. He replied, “I think that what we need the most now is a message of support from Branching Streams to our sangha, which has responded in an amazing way. If you send me such a message, I can translate it into Spanish and I will post it on our mailing list. The artwork cannot be replaced but words of encouragement right now make all the difference.”

I will send a message on behalf of Branching Streams – and if you’d like to send a message from your sangha to the Montaña Despierta  sangha, you can write to Sergio Stern at

Posted on Leave a comment

Newsette 2-7-2022

Much work has been happening behind the scenes in preparation for the Branching Streams Conference April 25 – 28. Austin Zen Center is hosting the conference, which will be held at Ancient Yoga Center in the hill country near Austin. Registration materials for the conference will be available next week!

Several practice opportunities are coming up soon. One day sittings are offered online by both Seattle Soto Zen and Brooklyn Zen Center on Saturday, February 12.

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate is offering a half-day seminar with Taigen Leighton on February 19 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. CST on Chan/Zen Master Hongzhi (1091-1157) and his teachings.  We will study some of his teachings in Cultivating the Empty Field, translated by Taigen.” Click here to register.

Chapel Hill ZC and Richmond (VA) Zen are together offering a Winter Practice Intensive from February 13 to March 1. The intensive features a Tuesday night class on Katagiri Roshi’s teachings on the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts.

 Members of your sangha may be interested in ways we can offer practice support to wildland firefighters. Chris Fortin of Dharma Heart Sangha and Lee Klinger Lesser, with the help of the SFZC Communications department, have created the Wildland Firefighters Resources website to encourage connection among firefighters provide ongoing support. 

If you know of someone in your community who is dealing with grief and may benefit from a support group, this 6-week online class, Journeying through Grief and Change with Fearlessness, offered by San Francisco Zen Center, may be helpful. I will be co-leading the class with Chris Fortin.