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Newsette – April 24, 2023

As May approaches, I am looking forward to visiting several Branching Streams groups on the East Coast. Inryu Ponce-Barger, guiding teacher of All Beings Zen Sangha in Washington, DC invited me to give a talk on May 11 and assist her with preparations for a Shuso Ceremony May 13. From DC I will go to Boston to join Joan Amaral and Zen Center North Shore in a one day sitting on May 14th, and then visit Hakusho Ostlund at Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont, giving a talk on May 16th.  I will end my trip back in Boston, to meet with John Bailes, who leads One Heart Zen in Somerville.

Today’s Newsette highlights news from two European teachers, and a request from Vancouver.

Dario Girolami, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome, is organizing the first conference on European Buddhist Chaplaincy in Rome on June 24 and 25, both at Sapienza University and online. There will be pre-conference workshops on June 23. The conference is sponsored by the Italian Buddhist Union (UBI) and by the European Buddhist Union (EBU). “The purpose of the conference is to develop, organize and support Buddhist chaplaincy in Europe to provide support, training opportunities and materials for those engaged in Buddhist chaplaincy, to identify spiritual and pastoral needs within Buddhist communities and to encourage broader community cohesion and social integration.”

Bernd Bender writes that Akazienzendo in Berlin’s summer sesshin is scheduled from July 12-16. The sesshin will take place in a small village close to the Polish border, about 90 minutes east of Berlin. Bernd is also organizing a retreat this fall in Greece, in the tradition of Suzuki Roshi, where English will be the spoken language. Here is a link to the retreat.

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver BC is looking for “an experienced Administrative Director to provide administrative support in managing our growing organization. This is a one-year contract position, renewable after 12 months depending on funding. Click here for a job description and contact details. Please share this information widely.”

We are nearing the end of National Poetry Month in the U.S. Thursday April 27 is Poem in Your Pocket Day – a day to share poems with family members, friends, storekeepers, etc.I will close with a poem:

“Small Kindnesses” by Santa Cruz poet Danusha Laméris, from her book Bonfire Opera:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

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Newsette April 4, 2023

It’s a clear, sunny day in San Francisco, though cooler than usual in April. I returned from a week of sesshin at Tassajara on Saturday, in time for the City Center Shuso Ceremony.  Our Shuso was Dan Gudgel. Dan has practiced with Mountain Source Sangha in Marin County CA  since 2006 and was invited to lead the sangha by Layla Bockhorst before she died.

This Newsette features several new books and book-related events, two offerings in Europe (Sweden and Germany), and an online introductory meeting for the Sati Buddhist Chaplaincy Training.

New books and a book tour:

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, guiding teacher of Still Breathing Zen Sangha, recently published Being with Darkness: Eight Gateways for being with the Absence of Light in Troubling Times. “In darkness, we become devoted to clarity, courage, peace, and harmony. We discover the basic goodness of all humanity when we experience darkness together,” Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes. “Life itself is a dark experience—a magical experience.” She will be offering a three-part Dharma talk series based on these teachings at Upaya Zen Center.

The guiding teacher of Mill Valley Zen, Marc Lesser, is about to release his fifth book,
FINDING CLARITY: How Compassionate Accountability Builds Vibrant Relationships, Thriving Workplaces, and Meaningful Lives.
Marc writes: “I think we all want and need more clarity in our relationships, in our work, and in all parts of our lives. Finding Clarity explores the principles and practices of compassionate accountability – the skillful art of facing conflicts head-on and aligning with your personal aspirations of vitality, wellbeing, and success – to help you deepen your understanding, enhance your flexibility, and amplify your effectiveness.”

Chenxing Han, author of Be the Refuge, has a second book coming out on April 11, one long listening: a memoir of grief, friendship, and spiritual care. She writes, “I think of this memoir as a multilingual love letter to the patients, family, staff, and spiritual care team at the hospital where I served [as a Buddhist Chaplain] for a life-changing year.”

Ben Connelly, a teacher at Minnesota Zen Center, will be talking about his newest book, Vasubandu’s Three Natures, a Practitioner’s Guide to Liberation, at Zen Centers in Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and Montana, including many Branching Streams sanghas. Let your friends know he’s coming! Here’s the link to his itinerary.

Offerings in Europe:

Bernd Bender, resident teacher at Akazienzendo in Berlin, writes: “Allow me to draw your attention to an upcoming online event with Lama Rod Owens. On April 24th at 7:30 pm CET, Lama Rod will speak about ‘Love and Anger: The Path of Liberation through Anger.’ The event will be held in English with German translation available.” To learn more, please visit this link.

For those of you in Europe, or those who may travel to Europe this summer, Eijun Linda Cutts will be leading a seven-day retreat at Svartbäcksgården, Rimbo in Sweden from July 8 to 15. She writes, “A Zen Retreat is a time to enter silence and stillness in all our activities, sitting, walking, receiving and eating our meals, listening and voicing and sharing the Dharma. Together we will support each other to find our mountain seat, settle the body-mind, and practice compassion with all beings—”practicing suchness without delay”.”  For more information, or to apply, email

On April 22nd, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST, the Sati Center in Redwood City CA will be holding a half-day online Introduction to Buddhist Chaplaincy led by Jennifer Block and Vanessa Able. The Sati Center has provided annual in-person training for Buddhist Chaplains for many years. This year they are launching an online version of the training for remote participants. All are welcome. No pre-registration is necessary. Location: Virtual, by Zoom. Password: compassion

I am saving some other good news for next week’s Newsette.