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Branching Streams Flow Together

Branching Streams group

Branching Streams 2022 participants

By Tova Green

Branching Streams, a network of over seventy Zen Centers and sanghas in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage, hosted biannual conferences prior to the Covid pandemic. The last conference was hosted by Milwaukee Zen Center in 2019. During the last two years the group had several “mini-conferences” via Zoom to maintain connections. It was very joyful to meet again in person April 25 – 29 at spacious Ancient Yoga Center near Austin, Texas.

The conference was hosted by Austin Zen Center. There were 40 participants from 20 Branching Streams sanghas from all corners of the U.S., Vancouver, and Berlin. The Conference theme, Healing Relationships, was intended to provide opportunities to connect with ourselves, one another, and our planet after two challenging years. A program committee of seven sangha leaders met monthly for nearly a year to plan the program, and a local committee of Austin Zen Center staff and members worked on the logistics.

Several attendees wrote about the conference in their recent sangha newsletters.

Eden Kevin Heffernan, leader of the Richmond, VA Zen Group, noted, “In addition to spending time with old and new friends from other Zen sanghas in our Suzuki Roshi lineage, the program included three powerful workshops: Healing Circles, introduced by Jaune Evans, The Work That Reconnects led by Stephanie Kaza, and From Deep Places, a writing workshop with Naomi Shihab Nye. We learned a lot and were vivified by everyone who attended.”

Hakusho Ostlund and Reirin Gumbel

Upon returning to Brattleboro, Vermont, Hakusho Ostlund wrote: “Other than the heart-to-heart connections, what was moving to me was to get to experience how many others are making efforts such as ours, establishing and caring for a community of Zen practitioners, training in forms and ceremonies, and extending practice and care beyond the realms of the temple. Though all Sanghas faced unique challenges during the pandemic (several lost their physical meeting spaces), my sense was of a vitality of practice as new and creative ways for practicing together have emerged.”

Reirin Gumbel, guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, wrote: “This year’s theme, Healing Relationships, seemed to be poignant for our time of enforced separation and estrangement on many levels. The Branching Streams program committee and the Austin Zen Center local logistics committee had been spending many hours over the last two years to finally come together again in person and enjoy live workshops that were heartwarming, enlightening and fun, and to experience the intimacy of sangha again every morning and evening during zazen and service.”

Inryu Ponce-Barger, guiding teacher of All Beings Zen Center in Washington, DC compiled a Gatha from words of participants, which she read during the closing portion of the conference.

May we together with All Beings
Cultivate broad view
Reaffirm connection
Remember the beauty of the sound we make together
Look after our new friends and old friends
Keep the vitality we feel
and be encouraged for the benefit of All Beings in the Ten Directions.

Affiliated Sanghas who attended the Conference: All Beings Zen (Washington, DC), Ancient Dragon Zen Gate (Chicago, IL), Austin Zen Center (Austin, TX), Akazienzendo (Berlin, Germany), Berkeley Zen Center (Berkeley, CA), Brattleboro Zen Center (Brattleboro, VT), Brooklyn Zen Center (Brooklyn, NY), Everyday Zen Foundation (SF Bay Area and beyond), Heart of Compassion (Pt. Reyes, CA), Houston Zen Center (Houston, TX), Mid-City Zen (New Orleans, LA), Middle Way Zen (San Jose, CA), Milwaukee Zen Center (Milwaukee, WI), Mountain Rain Zen Community (Vancouver, B.C.), Richmond Zen (Richmond, VA), San Antonio Zen Center (San Antonio, TX), San Francisco Zen Center (San Francisco, CA), Santa Cruz Zen Center (Santa Cruz, CA), Tuscaloosa Zen (Tuscaloosa, AL), Zen Center North Shore (Beverly, MA).

Program Committee Members: Choro Antonaccio (Austin Zen Center), Teresa Bouza (Kannon Do Zen Center), Jaune Evans (Heart of Compassion and Everyday Zen), Douglas Floyd (Ancient Dragon Zen Center), Reirin Gumbel (Milwaukee Zen Center), Michael Newton (Mountain Rain Zen Center), Inryu Ponce-Barger (All Beings Zen), and Tova Green, Branching Streams Liaison.

Austin Zen Center Logistics Committee (LOCO): Choro Antonaccio, Karen Laing, Wendy Salome, Pat Yingst, with support from Head Teacher Mako Voelkel and staff members Jess Engle and Maida Barbour.David Z, Tova G, Sozan M

David Zimmerman, Tova Green, and Sozan Miglioli attended from SFZC

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Newsette 5-16-2022

I rewrote my brief report on the Branching Streams Conference for SFZC’s Sangha News. It was published today with a few photos. It also includes a list of participating sanghas, the members of the Conference Program Committee and the local Austin Logistics Committee and staff who wonderfully supported the conference. We have already begun to discuss the timing and location of our next Conference! Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

I am making my first request of 2022 for your annual contribution to Branching Streams. Here’s the link to the Branching Streams website membership page. You can make an electronic payment on that page (the amount depends on the size of your sangha) or send a check payable to San Francisco Zen Center, with your sangha’s name on the memo line, 300 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Some offerings and news that may be of interest to you:

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago is offering an online seminar by Taigen Leighton, their guiding teacher, on Dogen’s Extensive Record, Eihei Koroku on Saturday, May 21 from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. CDT. Taigen will introduce the text and will discuss selected excerpts from it. For more information, contact info@ancientdragon.org.

On May 28 Austin Zen Center will have a ceremony for Unzan Doshin, Mako Voelkel, upon the occasion of her stepping down as Head Teacher. A reception will follow the ceremony, “an opportunity to express our profound gratitude and well wishes to Mako for her many years of guiding the AZC sangha and strongly supporting practice in the lineage of Suzuki Roshi.”Read  More & Register.

There will be an online Jizo Ceremony for Those Who Have Died on June 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. PDT led by Chris Fortin, Founding and guiding teacher of Dharma Heart Zen in Sonoma County CA and Jennifer Block, Interfaith Minister and Buddhist Chaplain. “Jizo fearlessly shepherds those who are crossing realms: from life into death, from birth into life, from a place of the known into the unknown.  In this ceremony, we will draw upon the power of Jizo as we turn fully towards the deep process of grieving and letting go of loved ones who have died.”

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver will hold an in-person Mountains and Waters Sesshin July 22 -`29, led by their guiding teachers Michael Newton and Kate McCandless. “After two pandemic year of being unable to practice together in this way, we are happy to offer this retreat again in the beautiful setting of Sea to Sky Retreat Centre, on the shores of Daisy Lake.” Registration details online.

Inryu Ponce-Barger, guiding teacher of All Beings Zen Sangha in Washington, DC, was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal in a review of an exhibit called “Mind over Matter: Zen in Medieval Japan” at the Freer Gallery of Art. Inryu was invited to write commentaries from her perspective as a Zen priest, on some of the works of art displayed in the exhibit.

May you be supported by our shared practice and by the colors of leafing trees and blossoming buds.

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Newsette – 5-9-2022

I returned from the Branching Streams Conference over a week ago, and it has been difficult to write this Newsette, to convey the richness of the experience of being together with forty of you in person at a spacious retreat center near Austin, Texas. Several people who attended the Conference did write about it in their sangha newsletters and I will quote several of them.

I want to thank Austin Zen Center for hosting the conference, and for the generous and warm-hearted support of spiritual leaders Mako Voelkel and Choro Antonaccio, the AZC staff, residents, board members,  and wider sangha for attending to the myriad details and hosting a reception at Austin Zen Center after the Conference.

During the Conference, SFZC’s City Center Abiding Abbot announced that Mako will become the next City Center Abiding Abbot in spring of 2023. All three of SFZC’s Abbatial leaders will change at that time, as David will move to the position of Central Abbot, Jiryu Rutschman-Byler will become the Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbot, and Ed Sattizahn and Fu Schroeder will step down after many years of service.

The basic facts: there were 40 participants from 20 Branching Streams sanghas from all corners of the U.S., Vancouver, and Berlin. The Conference theme, Healing Relationships, was intended to provide opportunities to connect with ourselves, one another, and our planet after two challenging years.

Quoting Eden Kevin Heffernan, leader of the Richmond VA Zen Group, “In addition to spending time with old and new friends from other Zen sanghas in our Suzuki Roshi lineage, the program included three powerful workshops: Healing Circles, introduced by Jaune Evans, The Work That Reconnects led by Stephanie Kaza, and From Deep Places, a writing with Naomi Shihab Nye. We learned a lot and were vivified by everyone who attended.”

Upon returning to Brattleboro, Vermont, Hakusho Ostlund wrote: “With the Brattleboro Zen Center the newest Sangha represented at the conference, I was eager to learn more about how other Zen centers have established themselves in their communities, how they handle administrative responsibilities and leadership structures, what their physical zendos are like, how they’ve navigated the pandemic, etc, etc. Though the program for the conference had been well crafted by the planning committee, it was always the relationships and strengthening of supportive networks that attracted me to attend. I have to confess that the joy I experienced of practicing with old Dharma friends and meeting new ones (especially after two years of limited physical contact with other practitioners) was such that I neglected to seek answers to many of the questions that I arrived with. What is the best place to buy a mokugyo (wooden drum) from? I’ll be connecting with the people I was with in the weeks and months ahead to try to find the answer to my questions.

“Other than the heart-to-heart connections, what was moving to me was to get to experience how many others are making efforts such as ours, establishing and caring for a community of Zen practitioners, training in forms and ceremonies, and extending the realm of practice and care beyond the realms of the temple. Though all Sanghas faced unique challenges during the pandemic (several lost their physical spaces of practice), my sense was of a vitality of practice as new and creative ways for practicing together have emerged.”

Reirin Gumbel, guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, wrote: “This year’s theme, Healing Relationships, seemed to be poignant for our time of enforced separation and estrangement on many levels. The Branching Streams  program committee and the Austin Zen Center local logistics committee had been spending many hours over the last two years to finally come together again in person and enjoy live workshops that were heartwarming,  enlightening and fun, and to experience the intimacy of sangha again every morning and evening during zazen and service.”

Inryu Ponce-Barger, guiding teacher of All Beings Zen Center in Washington, DC compiled a Gatha from words of participants, which she read during  the closing portion of the conference.

May we together with All Beings

Cultivate broad view

Reaffirm connection

Remember the beauty of the sound we make together

Look after our new friends and old friends

Keep the vitality we feel

and be encouraged for the benefit of All Beings in the Ten Directions.