2023 Branching Streams Gathering

September 18 – 21 

Hosted by Santa Cruz Zen Center at Villa Maria del Mar, a conference center overlooking the ocean in Santa Cruz.

This year’s theme is Transitions

Why are we meeting to explore Transitions?

As individuals, sanghas, and societies today, we are experiencing transitions in nearly every aspect of our lives.

Branching Streams sanghas across the country and San Francisco Zen Center are entering a phase of leadership and generational change. We are facing new financial realities and needs as our elders retire. Sanghas are exploring how to honor the past while keeping Buddhist teachings relevant in today’s world. We often feel the tension between those who think we are changing too fast, and those for whom change isn’t happening fast enough.

As we emerge from an unprecedented global pandemic, humankind is experiencing a paradigm shift in how we are living together on earth. As Buddhists/Bodhisattvas there is a heightened awareness and willingness to respond to political strife and division, income inequality, housing shortages, increased violence, systemic racism, our climate crisis, and an increase in refugees from war and disaster. Amidst these challenges, we are looking at new ways of creating more inclusive, diverse, and open communities. 

We also see a world of new beginnings, fresh visions, increased interest in Buddhist practice and requests to go out beyond our temples to participate in interfaith and interracial groups. This creates greater opportunity for deeper connections and wider impact. 

Participants in the 2022 Branching Streams Conference getting to work.

So maybe this isn’t just another conference? 

How can we create a gathering to help us find answers to these questions and work together to explore the opportunities inherent in transitions? 

This is not just another conference. Instead of using a traditional format, we will draw on the varied experiences and expertise of each of the participants. This type of gathering uses a meeting methodology based on principles of self-organizing. The sessions are planned together in the first hour of each day drawing from the ideas of participants. You are invited to think in advance about what transitions are alive for you personally and for your sangha. 

Jon Voss, board chair at Mid City Zen and Senior Strategist at Shift Collective will serve as facilitator. He has organized and facilitated similar meetings around the world for over a decade.

Participants at a 2016 Unconference (Cultural Heritage and Social Change Summit) propose session ideas and create the day’s schedule.

Who is this conference for? Will I fit in?

We are seeking both newer and longer term sangha members, teachers, and board members from across Branching Streams. Consider inviting those who bring forth diverse experiences, new voices from your community, those who are trying new things. Each sangha may bring up to three. Please plan to stay for the duration of the conference.

This is a dynamic meeting style. We will create an environment in which people are free to think about and explore issues in entirely different ways. We will be modeling community agreements to create a safe space to discuss what can sometimes be difficult topics and to do so in respectful and constructive ways.