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Newsette 2-21-2024

I began writing this Newsette while visiting Austin Zen Center and planned to finish it and send it after I returned to City Center a week ago. The day after I returned, long-time resident Jeffrey Schneider died. This was a shock for many of us. Jeffrey’s network, particularly in the Recovery community, was wide, and some of you reading this may have known him and may be hearing this for the first time. If so, please be gentle with yourself. Here is a link to San Francisco Zen Center’s announcement on Sangha News.

I found it difficult to focus on writing last week and this Newsette is a week later than I intended it to be. The week I spent in Austin included the Lunar New Year and I want to share an offering from Two Streams Zen Sanctuary in Westhampton, MA, a teaching from Zen Master Dae Kwan. You will find the entire teaching here.

Dragon Needs Space

Happy New Year of the Dragon!

Dragons need space to move. This year is a great year for us to wake up to our original mind, which is like space and clear. Then, we can use this space to live our lives freely with wisdom and can support each other without any conflict or hindrances.

I was invited to visit Austin Zen Center by guiding teacher Choro Antonaccio. We planned ways that I could support her, as she is the only priest, and the sangha during my visit. I followed the daily schedule, offered practice discussions, met with several board members, led a one-day sitting and gave a dharma talk on “Finding Spaciousness in Challenging Times.” A sangha member and I convened a meeting for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, which was well-attended and joyful.

The incoming teacher for San Antonio Zen Center, Karen de Kotis, and long-time SAZC board member Heather Martin drove to Austin to meet with me. Choro and I drove to Houston Zen Center on the last day of my visit to attend their Sunday program and stopped at Auspicious Coud, their country retreat center, so that I could see it. I had last visited all three centers in March, 2020, at the start of the Covid pandemic. It was wonderful to see and hear that all three are thriving.

What follows is news from Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont and Zen Center North Shore in Massachusetts, an invitation to read three recently published books by Branching Streams authors, and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association’s March Voices of Women in Buddhism offering..

“I thought you might appreciate this article in our local newspaper,” writes Hakusho Ostlund, founding and guiding teacher of Brattleboro Zen Center, “about the early steps of transforming the Christian church where we have our zendo into a space that can hold multiple faiths. Here’s a link to the article, which I found inspiring.

Joan Amaral, guiding teacher of Zen Center North Shore, recently gave the precepts to Julia Lawrence, SekiShin KoYu/Red Heart, Nora Williams, BokuJin EiGen/ Pasture Benevolent, Eternal Source, Expansive Repose, and Jason Aylsworth, KoshuKu SeiKa/Tiger Dwelling, Authentic Home.

Catherine Gammon’s book of short stories, The Gunman and the Carnival, was recently released by Baobob books. She has published four novels and another book of short stories.  Catherine is the guiding teacher of Neighborhood Zen in Pittsburgh. Writer Laruen Acampora comments: “Her characters are recognizable in their striving for human connection in our time of despair and isolation—and in their struggle for footing upon a sinking landscape. Stylistically limber and by turns meditative, restless, and moving, these stories bravely attempt to channel what it means to be alive in this world now, and now, and now.”

Dr. Toni Pressley Sanon’s first Buddhist book, Lifting as they Climb, Black Women Buddhists and Collective Liberation, was published by Shambhala this month. Toni Pressley-Sanon is a long-time Buddhist practitioner and has written five books on other topics. She is a student of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, founder and guiding teacher of Still Breathing Zen Sangha. The book features profiles of six Black Buddhist women, including Zenju Earthlyn Manuel and angel Kyodo Williams.

On February 18 poet and writerMaura High, who practices at Chapel Hill Zen Center, gave a reading from her book, The Field Index, published in 2023. Maura trained as a wildland firefighter and volunteered with Nature Conservancy burn crews in North Carolina for many years. Her book celebrates what she learned about the ecology of the Piedmont in NC.

On Saturday, March 2, from 12:30 to 2 pm. PT the Soto Zen Buddhist Association’ yearlong series on the Voices of Women in Buddhism will offer a Zoom panel, Navigating Relationships in Buddhist Communities. The speakers are Reverend Byakuren Judith Ragir, Reverend Grace Shireson, and Pamela Weiss. They will “delve into the intricacies of cultivating healthy boundaries within the spiritual community.” Here is the link to register

The many rainy days we’re having in the Bay Area lend themselves to reading. I think of it as one of the gifts of winter.

May you experience spaciousness in your life as this Year of the Dragon unfolds.