2023 Branching Streams Gathering

Hosted by Santa Cruz Zen Center with the support of Ocean Gate Zen Center and Monterey Bay Zen Center

at Villa Maria del Mar, a conference center overlooking the ocean in Santa Cruz

September 18 – 21 

This year’s theme was 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 and San Francisco Zen Center are entering a phase of leadership and generational change. Sanghas are exploring how to honor the wisdom of our senior teachers and building on our collective 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.

How is this gathering different from other conferences? 

How can we create a gathering to delve into these questions and work together to explore the opportunities inherent in transitions?

Instead of using a traditional format, we will empower one another to share our experiences and expertise. This type of gathering uses a proven meeting methodology based on principles of self-organizing. We will plan the sessions 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, as well as what you might like to offer during the gathering. 

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 gathering 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, and those who are trying new things. We have a capacity of 70 participants for this gathering. At this time, each sangha may bring up to three participants, though that may be expanded based on registrations and capacity. Please plan to stay for the duration of the conference.

This dynamic meeting style 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.

What does it cost?

A sliding scale registration contribution from $200 – $600 is requested to help support the Gathering and to cover all of the costs. Your registration contribution is inclusive of lodging, all meals, and transportation to and from San Jose airport if needed. Payment can be made by check or processed online by credit card, and these options will be available on the registration form.

We are also offering a limited number of full scholarships, based on need. If you would like to request a full scholarship, please contact Tova Green at branchingstreams@sfzc.org.

When should I plan to be there?

You can check in from 4 p.m. on Monday September 18.  Dinner will be at 6 and the program will begin at 7:15pm.  The Gathering will end with lunch from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. on Thursday September 21. Two local Zen Centers will host receptions on Thursday afternoon after lunch. You are invited to attend either or both. Daijaku Kinst and Shinshu Roberts will host a reception from 1:30 to 4 at Ocean Gate Zen Center, close to Villa Maria del Mar.  Santa Cruz Zen Center’s reception will be from 2 to 4 p.m.  We will assist with transportation to the receptions.

There will be additional options for housing on Sunday night Sept 17 and Thursday night Sept 21, which you can sign up for on the registration form.

How do I get there?

Aside from driving yourself, we are offering transportation from and to San Jose Airport, and there will also be car pool options from the San Francisco Bay Area. If you need other arrangements, please contact Tova Green at branchingstreams@sfzc.org.

2023 Organizing Committee

  • Tova Green, Branching Streams liaison, San Francisco Zen Center
  • Choro Antonaccio, Austin Zen Center, TX
  • Teresa Bouza, Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center, Mountain View, CA
  • Jaune Evans, Everyday Zen and Heart of Compassion, Pt. Reyes, CA
  • Douglas Floyd, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago, IL
  • Reirin Gumbel, Milwaukee Zen Center, WI
  • Michael Newton, Mountain Rain Zen Community, Vancouver, BC
  • Inryu Ponce-Barger, All Beings Zen Sangha, Washington, DC
  • Patrick Teverbaugh, Santa Cruz Zen Center, CA
  • Jon Voss, Mid-City Zen, New Orleans, LA