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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.

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Newsette March 20, 2023

I’m writing on the eve of the Spring Equinox, looking forward to the ceremony tomorrow at which we share words of the season. We’re expecting more rain tomorrow and instead of singing “When the Red Red Red Robbin Keeps Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along” the song may be “Singing in the Rain.”

There will not be a Newsette next week, as I’ll be at Tassajara sitting sesshin with my teacher, Eijun Linda Cutts, who is leading the winter practice period there.

I recommend a just-published book by Alan Senauke, Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, Turning Words, Transformative Encounters with Buddhist Teachers.  Alan shares stories of moments in which someone’s words, actions, or presence opened his mind and heart in a new way. You can order the book from Shambhala, or from the SFZC Bookstore,

For those at a distance who would like to attend Layla Bockhorst’s memorial service virtually, on Saturday March 25 at approximately 4:00 p.m., here is the Zoom link. James Bockhorst says, “We will also be recording audio, so if anyone would like an MP3 file of the event, we will be happy to send that out. It is also possible that a zoom link may be made available for the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Funeral itself. Should that eventuate that link will be sent out as well.” You can contact James at

If you have news you’d like me to include in future Newsettes, please email me or send me your newsletters at Here are some dharma offerings coming up soon:

The Samish Island Sesshin, an annual retreat organized by Bellingham(WA) Zen Center, will be June 25 to July 1. General registration began on March 19. The site is a church camp on the water on Samish Island in the Skagit Valley. “The retreat includes dharma talks by Zoketsu Norman Fisher and Nomon Tim Burnett, dokusan and practice discussion, sitting and walking meditation, and delicious vegetarian meals.”

On Saturday April 1, Valley Stream Zen Group (Sacramento, CA) is offering a one-day retreat, “Riding in the Same Boat with All Beings,” with guest teacher Kokyo Henkel. The retreat will include alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation, punctuated by morning and afternoon Dharma talks and discussion. The theme of this retreat is Dogen’s essay Zenki.

Houston Zen Center is offering a three day in-person retreat, The Dharma of All Beings, April 14-16, led by Dharma Teacher Mary Carol Edwards and Sanran Maite Leal. “We will explore Zen writings about the dharma of all sentient (and so-called insentient) beings…In the serene rustic surroundings of Auspicious Cloud Retreat Center, we will sit and walk with the moon, stars, and beings of the night, the rising dawn, the dew, the grasses and wildflowers of the prairie, the shade of the forest and beings of the day.”

A four-week in person and online class on the Poetics of Zen Koans will be offered at Houston Zen Center beginning Tuesday March 28  from 6:30 to 8:30 Central Time. The class will be taught by Kishin Eric Arbiter, a member of HZC since 1994 who was ordained in 2008, and recently retired after 45 years of playing bassoon in the Houston Symphony.

May you enjoy the beginnings of Spring and the lengthening days.

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Newsette March 15, 2023

I found a word that was new to me in Eden Heffernan’s Richmond (VA) Zen newsletter: “Enbrightenment”It’s not just that our daylight hours are lengthening right now. There are bright lights shining from coast to coast.”

In this Newsette I’m highlighting some of the many ways of being interconnected and widening our circles – connecting with dharma friends and peers; refreshing a website; launching a new affinity group; growing a sangha’s membership base; renewing our connections with mountains and rivers; and strengthening ethical agreements.

Eden wrote, “I am very happy to share the news that several good Dharma friends are serving as Shuso for their respective home sanghas. Our own Ellen Hipppard is currently serving (remotely) for the Practice Period at Appamada, in Austin, TX, where she practiced before moving to Richmond. My Dharma cousin – and roomie at Tassajara in 2019) – Kanyu Neal Shorestein, is Shuso for the Everyday Zen Winter Practice Period in California. And our friends at All Beings Zen Sangha in DC are enjoying Dharma cousin Koryu Naomi Noble as Shuso for their Winter Practice Period. I feel so fortunate to experience their brightening of the Way before I plunge into the role of Shuso in April.”

Zen Center North Shore (north of Boston, MA) just launched their new website: “For the past few months, we have been working on redesigning the Zen Center North Shore website with the intention of making it more welcoming and intuitive for current and new members alike. We are excited to share with you that the new website was finally launched! We hope that the new design will delight your eyes and continue to support and encourage your practice.” Check it out here.

Next week Brattleboro (VT) Zen Center will launch a weekly Meditation and Recovery group, led by a sangha member who has extensive lived experience with substance use disorder and Buddhism. Hakusho Ostlund, the guiding teacher, writes “It has always been my aspiration for the Brattleboro Zen Center to be able to offer a Meditation and Recovery group, something many other Branching Streams sanghas have been offering for many years.”

Brooklyn Zen Center is having a membership drive this month. Their March newsletter explores the meaning of membership, invites participants to reflect on how the sangha nourishes them, and  invites the sangha to several events: an in-person meeting on Membership, Engagement, and Stewarding a Tradition which occurred on March 11, and an online gathering on Practicing with Membership, “for members and non-members alike to share how we relate membership to the practice of dana and stewardship of Soto Zen Buddhism at a socially engaged temple in America. You can find more details here. The final event will be a movie night at the end of March.

Austin Zen Center will have its annual Membership Meeting and brunch on April 15th. At this gathering “current, lapsed, and prospective members will hear from the board and spiritual leaders about the spiritual and financial health of the temple and elect new board members.

Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham WA offers their annual Wilderness Dharma Program , “a series of mindful and ritual journeys throughout our local watersheds, and we warmly invite you to come out for a walk, a hike, or a full backpack. We offer a wide variety of experiences, suitable for a wide range of interests and abilities. We begin the season with our Receiving Water/HIlls and Streams Hike on Saturday, March 25th, timed to coincide closely with the Spring Equinox.”

The Shogaku Institute will partner with attorney Carol Merchasin to offer a no charge, five-class workshop on Preventing Sexual Misconduct: Recognizing, Responding and Recovering. Carol brings legal expertise to prevention through policy and organizational structure designed for Buddhist communities. The Shogaku Zen Institute instructors (Daishin McCabe, Steve Kanji Ruhl, Steven Koshin Tierney and Myoan Grace Schireson) will offer training on creating healthy sangha dynamics through council training, communication, accountability and a recovery/healing process. Workshop participants may ask for a legal review of their community’s ethics/grievance policy (at no charge) by Carol and her assistant. Buddhist teachers, board members, sangha leaders, assistant teachers, and interested students are welcome to attend.  For more information or to register, email .

May we all be nourished by our connections with one another.

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Newsette March 6, 2023

At City Center and Green Gulch Farm we are focusing our attention and energy on preparing for the Mountain Seat Ceremonies that will take place this coming weekend at both temples. All three abbatial seats will change. We will honor those leaving – Central Abbot Ed Sattizahn and Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder – and those stepping into new roles. David Zimmerman will be the Central Abbot, Mako Voelkel the City Center Abiding Abbot, and Jiryu Rutschman-Byler the Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbot. Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi and his son Shungo Suzuki will arrive tomorrow to assist with the many rehearsals, and Hoitsu Roshi will be giving the dharma talk on Saturday. All the ceremonies and the dharma talk will be live streamed.

Both Mako and Jiryu have led Branching Streams sanghas, Mako at Austin Zen Center and Jiryu the San Quentin BuddhaDharma Sangha and Montana de Silencio in Medellin, Colombia.

Dharma Eye, a publication of the Soto Zen headquarters, has just celebrated its 50th issue. This issue features the transcript of an interview with Houston Zen Center’s Abbot Konjin Gaelyn Godwin and Rev. Shundo Aoyama Roshi, the Abbot of Aichi Senmon Sodo, a women’s training monastery in Japan. The interview concerned the status of women in Zen and other topics.

Layla Bockhorst, guiding teacher of Mountain Source Sangha in the SF Bay Area and Open Circle in Montana, passed away on November 3, 2022. Her funeral and memorial celebration will be held on March 25, the funeral at 1:30 p.m. at Green Gulch Farm and the reception and memorial at 3:30 at Muir Beach Community Center. A flyer with details is attached.

News of sanghas: Many sanghas are celebrating Black History month and Women’s History month with special programming.

Black Women Zen Teachers will be honored by Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver BC on Wednesday March 25 and 29. Kate McCandless and Michael Newton write, “One of the noted characteristics of Buddhist and Zen sanghas in the West is the increased number of women as fully recognized teachers, and in the last twenty years of Back and other racialized women teachers. These two evenings, in recognition of February as Black History month and March as Women’s History month, will feature the voices and teachings of Black women Zen teachers as part of their regular Wednesday 7 to 9 p.m. PT practice schedule. CLICK HERE FOR ZOOM.

Richmond Zen Center (VA) and Chapel Hill Zen Center (NC) will host an online dharma talk by Rev. Chimyo Atkinson on Thursday March 9 at 7 p.m. ET. Chimyo was ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition in 2007. She received her monastic training at Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple in North Carolina where she served as Head of Practice until 2020. Here is the Zoom link: Via computer:, Via phone: (646) 558-8656
Meeting ID: 821 378 615

Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) is continuing the work of Undoing Whiteness through the Bodhisattva Path of Liberation BPOL). BZC has developed an ongoing curriculum to support practitioners identified as white in healing and transforming the social and ancestral causes of racial harm through Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Learn more about the BPOL Program and other related offerings here.

On April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. CT Houston Zen Center (HZC) will offer Do the Work, a two-hour online event for everyone committed to beginning or continuing the work of undoing racism. The event will be facilitated by members of the Antiracism Working Group from four Buddhist temples, HZC, Dawn Mountain, Austin Zen Center, and Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas. Their event is based on Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz.

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate is offering a workshop on The Work That Reconnects on Saturday March 18 from 1 to 4:30 CT, conducted online by their sangha member Matt Streit. Everyone is welcome. The Work that Reconnects was developed by Buddhist scholar and activist Joanna Macy.  Guiding teacher Taigen Leighton notes: “Joanna Macy’s work is so important in our world now.”

There’s more good news to share and it will have to wait for my next Newsette!

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Branching Streams Newsette 2-1-2023

I flew to New York last week to visit a friend who is in hospice care in Brooklyn. While there, I was fortunate to be able to participate in Brooklyn Zen Center’s Saturday program, including a talk by Dojin Sarah Emerson. Sarah shared her responses to the many recent gun deaths in California and several other states. She articulated the grief many of us are feeling, and suggested ways we can acknowledge the pain, find resilience, and reach out to others.

The Brooklyn Zen Center felt like a place of refuge for me that morning, and likely was for the many sangha members who attended. I want to thank Sarah and co-guiding teacher Charlie Pokorny, and Director Ryan Wong for meeting with me while I was in Brooklyn and introducing me to their neighborhoods.

Some things to celebrate:

Welcome to a new Branching Streams affiliate, Forest City Zen Group in London, Ontario, Canada. Here’s the link to their website. Their teacher, Kuden Paul Boyle, recently received dharma transmission from Josho Pat Phelan, the guiding teacher of Chapel Hill (NC) Zen Center.

Sonoma Valley Zen recently had a lay entrustment ceremony for Silver John Hall, Ginzan Shoho  (Silver Mountain/Shining Practice). Silver, who received entrustment from his teacher Shosan Victoria Austin, has been assisting Kathryn Stark, the guiding teacher of SNZ, in leading the sangha.

Bernd Bender, guiding teacher of Akazienzendo in Berlin, wrote, “After seven years of practicing in Akazien Street in Berlin, we said goodbye to that space with a closing ceremony on January 26th.  We opened our new zendo on Tempelhhofer Ufer on January 29th with a small ceremony followed by tea and champagne.”  

Brattleboro Zen Center has moved to a dedicated space which allows them to expand their offerings.  Guiding teacher Hakusho Ostlund notes: “Having crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on our new lease and the required insurance, we are overjoyed to share that we have just moved into the Centre Congregational Church… Papers were signed Friday morning and the move completed the same afternoon, so that we were able to hold yesterday’s half-day sitting in the new zendo, getting more intimate with the space through sitting in it.”

On another note, the Branching Streams Website has been updated to receive your annual contribution for 2023. Your contribution can be made at any time during this calendar year. You can contribute electronically on the Branching Streams website, or with a check to San Francisco Zen Center with your sangha’s name on the memo line. Please send your check to 300 Page Street, San Francisco CA 94102, attention Tova Green. The suggested contribution is $100 for sanghas with fewer than 25 members and $250 for those with 25 or more members.

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Newsette January 18, 2023

It’s been two weeks since my New Year’s Newsette. The atmospheric river that has been drenching the West Coast with rain and snow has finally left, leaving much damage in its wake in California and other West Coast states as well as in British Columbia in Canada.

The Tassajara road was affected, though it has reopened, and Green Gulch experienced days without power. City Center had flooding in the basement and some floors need to be replaced. Despite this, the Winter practice period at Tassajara began last week and the City Center practice period will start next week.

This Newsette offers news of recent Lay Entrustments and Dharma Transmissions. I invite you to let me know when these ceremonies occur in your sanghas and will include them in the future.

At Berkeley Zen Center, on the morning of January 9, Abbot Hozan Alan Senauke offered Mary Duryee – Hokyo Josu/Original Home, Calm Center – a green rakusu and entrustment as a lay teacher in Berkeley Zen Center’s Soto lineage. After the ceremony Mary gave a short talk and took dharma questions from sangha members who attended both in person and online.

Santa Cruz Zen Center Practice Leader Gene Bush gave lay entrustment to Patrice Monsour, Eto Tetsudo/Wisdom Lamp, Penetrating Way, on January 14. Patrice gave a dharma talk on freedom of the heart and mind in the midst of suffering. She also spoke of the non-separation of her Zen and contemplative Catholic practices. Zooming in was one of her spiritual mentors, Br. David Steindl-Rast.

Josho Pat Phelan, guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center noted, “With deep joy, I announce that Jakuko Mo Ferrell, Zenki Kathleen Batson, and Kuden Paul Boyle have completed Dharma Transmission over the Winter Holidays at the Chapel Hill Zen Center.” Jakuko and Zenki practice at Chapel Hill Zen Center. Kuden lives in London, Ontario and leads Forest City Zen Group.

Milwaukee Zen Center’s resident priest, Reirin Gumbel, invites us to a Zoom presentation on Meditation for Healing and Transformation by her friend in China, Dr. Zhenbao Jin on February 7 at 6 p.m. CT. His life goal has focused on supporting others in their physical and mental healing. Reirin writes, “He has had amazing success with his own healing and is excited now to share his wisdom with us.” Here is The Zoom Link.

I will be visiting Brooklyn next week to visit a high school friend who is in hospice care there and hope to attend the Saturday morning program at Brooklyn Zen Center.

May our practice and sangha relationships keep us warm in the middle of winter.

Taigen Leighton, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s guiding teacher, highly recommends reading a “very sensible” article by Rebecca Solnit, ‘If you win the popular imagination, you change the game’: why we need new stories on climate. Taigen says the article “presents real potentials and dispels unrealistic apocalyptic de

I will be visiting Brooklyn next week to visit a high school friend who is in hospice care there and hope to attend the Saturday morning program at Brooklyn Zen Center.

May our practice and sangha relationships keep us warm in the middle of winter.

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Newsette 1-5-2023

I’m writing as wind is gusting and rain is splashing against my windows. We’ve had a lot of rain in the past ten days. Despite flooding in the basement of 340 Page Street, and a rainy night, we had daisoji, longevity noodles, zazen, bellringing and a bonfire on New Year’s eve – as did many branching streams sanghas.

I wish all of you, and your sanghas, well-being in 2023, including good health, prosperity, and nourishing connections internally and with your wider communities.

This Newsette contains news from three Zen Centers and from San Francisco Zen Center.

Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, CA posted an encouraging story in their December newsletter: “Many of us have been caring for and supporting the Afghan family who came to Sacramento as refugees about 6 months ago. We have contributed to their resettlement in many ways (donations, gifts of needed items like pots and pans, shoes, a TV, bedding, etc.), prayers, and well-being ceremonies. Some of us met Mohammad and his brother at the Potluck gathering to welcome this family to our city. The family has been very grateful for all of the help they received.  Through the GoFundMe account we raised $10,000, primarily to cover their rent.   Last week they bravely participated in interviews as the last step in their applications for asylum.   Their lawyer felt the interviews went extremely well; however, it will be several months before they know the results.  

“The important update is that Mohammad has been offered a good job in Chicago with benefits and the potential for educational opportunities.  So, they are now moving to Chicago, leaving next week.  They express their gratitude over and over again for all of the support and love they have experienced from our community.   This base we provided for them has offered them a foundation, perhaps enabling them to take this next brave step in crafting their lives here in the USA. Please continue to keep their wellbeing and safety in your hearts.”

Tenshin Reb Anderson, Senior Dharma Teacher of San Francisco Zen Center, and the honorary founder of Houston Zen Center, leads a 5-day residential retreat at Houston Zen Center’s Auspicious Cloud Retreat Center from Tuesday, February 21 toSunday afternoon on February 26, 2023. The theme is “The Bodhisattva’s Joyful Practice in the World of Suffering.”

Zen Center North Shore (MA) has launched a podcast. In a recent episode, Guiding Teacher Joan Amaral talks about how we go beyond categories, not to “bypass difference and contrast” but to experience something deeper. The podcast can be found on Anchor at

Some news from San Francisco Zen Center:

Tassajara will be open this summer for Sangha Weeks led by Branching Streams teachers and SFZC’s Abbots and Senior Dharma Teachers. Invitations have been sent to the Branching Streams groups that signed up in 2022, when the guest season was cancelled. If you are interested in going to Tassajara with your sangha this summer and did not sign up in 2022, please let me know, as there may be some openings.

Enso Village, the Zen-inspired Senior Living Community which will open in autumn 2023, has a job opening for the full-time position Head of Spiritual Life. The job description is on Linked In:    Job Posting – Head of Spiritual Life

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Newsette 12-12-2022

This will be my last Newsette of 2022. It has been a year of reopening, joyfully, though slowly and cautiously, for many Branching Streams Zen Centers.  Some highlights for me were the Branching Streams Conference in April, hosted by Austin Zen Center, and my road trip to visit sanghas in Arcata, Ashland, Bellingham, and Vancouver in late September and early October.

We celebrated Buddha’s Enlightenment at City Center on Saturday morning, December 12th as did with many Branching Streams sanghas. The leadership of Zen Center North Shore (MA) offered this description in their newsletter:

“On this Rohatsu, we commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s attainment of anuttara samyaksambodhi — supreme perfect enlightenment. Across the world, Zen practitioners will be united in practice and joined by our collective aspiration toward awakening. What a beautiful and powerful expression of love and compassion. May you also find deep peace and equanimity at this most precious time.”

We will soon be celebrating the solstice and other holidays involving light, leading up to New Year’s Eve and morning. From Massachusetts to British Columbia, Branching Streams groups will be transitioning from the old year to the new with traditional Zen practices and unique adaptations.

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B.C. is Sitting and Chanting for Peace on New Year’s Eve from 8 p.m. to midnight. “Join Mountain Rain and friends from other sanghas in our annual New Year’s Eve retreat to cultivate peace in our hearts, our families, our communities, and in our world.” Please register for in-person attendance; you can also join on zoom.

Zen Center North Shore will usher in the new year on the morning of January 1 with two periods of zazen, a brief ceremony to welcome 2023, and a courageous, purifying dip in the [Atlantic] ocean!

On another note, Colin Gipson, guiding teacher of San Antonio Zen Center, who will retire in 2023, asked me to share the attached announcement, the result of several meetings with the transition committee and the Board.

If you read stories to children, you may enjoy Laura Burges’s Buddhist Stories for Kids: Jataka Tales of Kindness, Friendship, and Forgiveness, published by Shambhala on December 6. Laura is a seasoned storyteller, children’s educator, and SFZC teacher who received lay entrustment from Eijun Linda Cutts. Laura says, “My wish is for the book to reach as many children and their parents as possible. I wish I could have read this book to my daughter Nova when she was little!” I interviewed Laura for this week’s SFZC Sangha News if you’d like to know more.

I hope to visit Branching Streams groups on the East Coast in 2023. And I look forward to seeing more of you in person at the conference we’re planning in Santa Cruz, September 11 to 14.

I wish you good health and joy in your practice and sangha life.

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Newsette 12-1-2022

I am writing this Newsette on the first day of December. It is raining this morning in the San Francisco Bay Area, the rain greatly welcomed, as our umbrellas and raincoats have not been used in many months. In a few days we’ll begin Rohatsu sesshin at City Center and offer our annual memorial service to Suzuki Roshi.

At this time of year, many Branching Streams groups are fundraising while they are preparing for Rohatsu Sesshin and Buddha’s enlightenment ceremonies. I am including excerpts from several fundraising appeals to illustrate a range of ways in which Branching Streams centers, small and large, are raising funds to support their teachers and care for their meeting spaces.

Taigen Leighton, the guiding teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago writes: “As we approach year’s end, Ancient Dragon is in transition. The next Sunday, December 4th, we will hold a Rohatsu all-day sitting and a temple dedication ceremony for our lovely new Lincoln Square interim zendo. However, the sitting is already full to capacity. Numbers of regular ADZG participants will not be able to attend….The great interest in our all-day sittings is heartening, and we will hold more all-day sittings early next year. This highlights our need for a larger full-time space. We are actively working to locate and finance a building for a long-term Chicago temple. We also are working to develop and enhance our hybrid zoom/ in-person technology to integrate our in-person sangha and our many fine remote practitioners.

Please consider giving to Ancient Dragon Zen Gate so that we may continue to provide our practice and teaching offerings. Your gift will help us in the search for a new practice location while continuing to make the Dharma available online.

Brooklyn Zen Center’s director, Ryan Wong, wrote in their December newsletter: “We are entering the final days of our Fall Practice Period, themed “Repose and Bliss, Engagement and Liberation.” We face the monumental challenges of racial and patriarchal violence, ecological catastrophe, eroding political systems, the global pandemic, and more. “Repose,” in this context, is no indulgent or self-interested activity. The Ancient Greek paúō means “cease, stop, hinder, halt”: repose is not passivity, but interrupting harmful systems.

“This requires us to move against the stream and can create a space for repose—to build sangha (community) in a society that makes us individuals, to offer practices based not in profit but in vow. In a capitalist system, robust finances are considered their own measure of organizational health. For us, they are only an outward manifestation of our deeper practice intentions. This flow of resources between the sangha and temple enables us to deliver our offerings to the entire community.

“Our End of Year fundraising goal is $100,000. We raised $88,074 last year and we are increasing our goal to build our new Equity-Based Model making our programs more accessible, stipend our teachers and hire staff, and meet the expanded activity at our two temples.”

Austin Zen Center’s Membership Committee member Todd Cornett writes: “I look forward to the season, but with a bit of unease from the demanding social rules of exchange. So I am thankful for our Rohatsu sesshin winter retreat, Dec.2nd – Dec.9th. During this time, before serving each meal, we say “…now we set out Buddha’s bowls. May we, with all beings, realize the emptiness of the three wheels: giver, receiver, and gift.” That is, as Zen practitioners we remember at each meal that giving is life—that everything is giving, everything is given. There are no separate givers, receivers, or gifts. All of life is always giving and receiving at the same time. The three wheels empty into just the act of giving.”

Stacy Waymire, Co-Guiding Teacher and Board President of Ashland Zen Center (OR), penned a letter which ends with these words: “As we look around our world, it is clear that to live a life of value is difficult…It is only in this one moment, with this one life, that we have been given the opportunity to help bend the arch of existence toward loving kindness…To help and encourage us, spiritual communities come together and places of practice are established where we cultivate wisdom and compassion. A great bow of thanks to everyone who generously shared your financial, material, and physical donations that have maintained Ashland Zen Center this year. If Ashland Zen Center is important to you, please take the time now to renew your pledge, begin your pledge, or make a donation to sustain Soto Zen Buddhist practice and programs in the future.”

“This weekend marked my ten-year anniversary as a Zen priest,” writes Hakusho Ostlund, guiding teacher of Brattleboro Zen Center (VT). “I’ve been celebrating it by reflecting on the marvelous accompaniment I’ve enjoyed on this path…And, in the last 20 months, the members and supporters of Brattleboro Zen Center, contributing to the establishment of a thriving Zen community in our quaint little Vermont town. Your practice and generosity support me to engage in the most meaningful kind of work: to guide the practice and Sangha growth of a Zen community.

“Having grown beyond this beginning, I’m now thrilled to report that the BZC is seriously considering renting our own dedicated zendo space. Due to the generous support from local Sangha members, whose financial contributions have surpassed expectations set by our Board, renting our own space is, though a significant leap, imaginable! …Whether we’ll rent our own space or a shared space that will better meet our current and near future needs, we’re going to need to grow our current budget of $10,000 significantly. Your generosity now will help shape the direction of Brattleboro Zen Center in the new year.”

I find these words encouraging and inspiring and hope you will as well.

May the coming month and the celebrations from Buddha’s Enlightenment to solstice and to New Year’s be sustaining and enlivening for you.