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Newsette – January 12, 2022

As January unfolds, with the spike in Covid cases due to the omicron variant, more sanghas are returning to or continuing on Zoom and planning outdoor activities.

An example is an in-person winter walk offered by Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, MA. Here is their lovely invitation: “Join us for quiet contemplation and engagement with the natural world as we hike together at Lynn Woods. We’ll refrain from speaking in order to open wide the sense gates to the sights, smells and tangibles of this beautiful, protected space.”

Richmond Zen Center (in Virginia) offers a weekly Saturday morning “Boundless Meditation” at a local park: “Practice zazen together outside. Pines and clouds, eagles and riffles, breezes and crickets will illuminate your true nature. Following a 40 minute period of meditation, we enjoy walking meditation around the lake.” In addition, sangha leader Eden Kevin Heffernan is leading a walking meditation this week with Virginia Interfaith Power and Light. Virginia IPL works to engage faith communities in action on climate and environmental justice. Learn more about their efforts here >>.

In last week’s Newsette I mentioned a SFZC class on eco-activism, Finding Your Path to Eco-Activism, beginning January 11. In addition, Tassajara will be offering a retreat for environmental activists May 15-22. Dojin Sarah Emerson of Stone Creek Zen Center in Sebastopol Ca, one of the retreat leaders, wrote: “There are two spots open in the retreat. This retreat is sponsored by a generous foundation, so people can attend by donation, which we hope makes it accessible to a wider range of activists.” A flyer about the retreat, with contact information, is attached.

Some Online Classes and Book Discussions:

Houston Zen Center is offering Realizing Your Life, a five-week class on the Genjo Koan, from February 7 to March 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 CST. “Genjokoan distills many of Dōgen’s most important teachings into a single profound essay. This class will use Realizing Genjokoan, by a living Zen Master, Shohaku Okumura, as a gate to Master Dōgen’s unique and expansive vision of reality” and will be taught by Koun Matt Brownlie.

Richmond Zen Center’s Eden Kevin Heffernan is offering An Incomplete History of Zen Buddhism. The class begins Monday, January 10, and meets online every two weeks through March from 7 – 8:30 pm EST: “Eden will offer an introduction to histories, texts, and stories of Zen Ancestors and other vital figures important in the development of our tradition.” The primary text will be The Circle of the Way, by Barbara O’Brien.

Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Mountain View, CA offers a weekly book discussion of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. on Wednesdays from 7:55 to 9 p.m. PST: Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness Online Book DiscussionKannon Do.

May you stay healthy and find joy in the midst of winter.

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Newsette – January 4, 2022

In reading your newsletters I have seen that many of you welcomed the New Year on December 31st with outdoor fire ceremonies, zazen by Zoom, and/or ringing a bell 108 times. At City Center we greeted January 1st with a service in the Buddha Hall and a jundo to all the altars, offering light, fragrance and bows, ending on the roof where we chanted the refuges in Pali and toasted the New Year.

May this year bring us closer together as we continue to face the climate crisis, the Covid pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality, and so many other huge issues.

As we head into 2022 with the uncertainties we are facing, we are still planning to hold an in-person Branching Streams Conference sponsored by Austin Zen Center from April 25 to 28 at Ancient Yoga Center, half an hour from Austin. The theme is Healing Relationships (with ourselves, one another, in our sanghas, and with our planet). The program includes a morning with poet Naomi Shihab Nye and a day-long workshop with Stephanie Kaza on The Work that Reconnects. Please save the dates!

The schedule for this summer’s Tassajara Branching Streams Sangha Weeks is nearly full. There is one 3-night stay in June (June 3-5) that just opened up, and several 3 and 4-night openings: August 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, and September 9-11. Please let me know in the next two weeks if your sangha would like one of those spaces. Anna Malo, from Tassajara Reservations, will be sending a letter to the sanghas that have signed up. She and the Tassajara Reservations team will handle all Sangha Week questions from that point on.

In this Newsette I will focus only on two programs in response to the climate crisis. More news about classes, dharma talks, and other sangha offerings will appear in next week’s Newsette.

Brattleboro Zen Center (in Vermont) is planning weekly in-person meditations outdoors, as a way to engage as a sangha around the climate emergency. Founding teacher Hakusho Ostlund writes, “While meditation isn’t the solution to all the world’s problems and sitting for a specific cause should never be an excuse to abstain from more overt ways of social engagement, I believe there is great power in ritual action.”

San Francisco Zen center is offering a six-week class, beginning January 11,  Finding Your Path to Eco-Activism. “This class series is designed to educate, inspire, empower, and activate deeper and more effective Earth activism among its participants.” Each class will include presentations by Tim Ream, a longtime Zen student and eco-activist, and a guest presenter. “Love for the Earth is a prerequisite. No activist experience required.” As this new year begins, may you stay healthy, warm, and nourished by Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha

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Newsette 12-14-2021

The nights are still growing longer and the days shorter as we move toward the Winter Solstice. Many sanghas are planning gatherings to celebrate the return of the light and to welcome the new year. And poetry is in the air – several sanghas are offering poetry events, including readings, a haiku walk, and Zen Poetry classes.

Sanghas held Rohatsu sesshins at different times this year. On Sunday December 12, Brooklyn Zen Center finished their first in-person, in Brooklyn, Rohatsu retreat in two years with 50 people attending. Laura O’Laughlin, their co-guiding teacher writes: “It was powerful, joyful and poignant to be together again for Rohatsu. If all goes well, we will rent a large parish house space on Saturdays at Christ Church in Cobble Hill starting in January (if the variant doesn’t stop us again).  Father Mark, the pastor there, kindly let us use the space for our five-day sesshin. We included a long work period each day organizing and cleaning the parish house, which was needed care.  We were building the temple while sitting in the temple!”

December offerings

Zen Center North Shore (MA) is offering two poetry nights. Sangha members will be sharing their own or others’ poetry on December 16th and Norman Fischer will be reading his poetry on December 23rd from 7:15 to 8:30 EST. “When we invited Everyday Zen founder and spiritual director Norman Fischer to Zoom over to us, he told us that the last books he’s written are all poems. We asked him if he would share them with us and are so happy that he agreed. You can read more about Norman Fischer here in a piece written by one of his students. Here is the link to his reading:  ZenZoom Poetry with Norman Fischer 

In Chicago, Gyoshin Laurel Ross, a priest at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate will be offering a Haiku nature walk on December 16th.from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. CST. “We will walk in relative silence enjoying whatever Mother Nature has to offer that morning—possibly rain of course. We will carry note pads or sketch pads or cameras and not write poetry as we walk but make notes or sketches of our experiences.  Participants will be invited to write haiku afterwards and share them with the rest of us if they wish.”

Many sanghas, including Zen Center North Shore and Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B.C. are offering winter solstice celebrations. ZCNS will have an outdoor bonfire, hot cocoa, and a full moon ceremony. Mountain Rain sangha members are invited to bring poetry, visual art, or songs to share about the turning of the season, darkness and light

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate has invited one of their regular visiting teachers, Zenshin Florence Caplow, to give their year-end Sunday talk December 26th, as well as their inaugural 2022 Monday evening talk January 3rd. Florence is a Teacher in our Suzuki Roshi Zen lineage, as well as a Unitarian Universalist minister. She is a long-time environmental activist and the co-editor of The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Please see our website schedule for information on all our events.”

If you are looking for a way to be with others virtually on New Year’s Eve, you may want to join Mountain Rain’s inter-sangha gathering on Friday, December 31, from 8 a.m. to midnight: Sitting and Chanting for Peace. “Please join Mountain Rain and friends from other sanghas in a New Year’s Eve retreat to cultivate peace in our hearts, our families, our communities, and in our world. Each hour will consist of 40 minutes sitting meditation, ten minutes walking meditation and 10 minutes chanting. Usually we close by ringing the temple bell 108 times to dispel our many delusions.

On New Year’s Day in Milwaukee, the local Buddhist Peace Fellowship chapter offers a New Year’s Peace Gathering, Cultivating Joy in Uncertain Times at 10 a.m. CST. It will be both in-person and on Zoom (zoom link available at The morning consists of silent meditation, recitation, readings on Cultivating Joy, discussion, and a sock drive.

Offerings in 2022

For poetry lovers, Houston Zen Center is offering a six-week class in Zen Poetry, taught by Muso Constance Braden. It will be offered both in person and online on Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 CST beginning January 4, 2022.

Milwaukee Zen Center is also offering a six-week Zen Poetry class beginning January 17, 2021. “In this six-weeks class, we will become acquainted with ancient and contemporary Zen poets and also find a new approach to Dogen Zenji’s work.”I think this class will be in-person only. For more information, email

Please let me know if your center or sangha is offering New Years Eve or Day events. I will include them in next week’s Newsette.

Please cherish yourselves!

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Newsette 12-7-2021

I am back in touch after the weeks of Thanksgiving and Rohatsu Sesshin. City Center’s sesshin was in-person (truly wonderful!), with about 30 participants in the zendo and Buddha Hall. On December 3rd we held a special memorial service on the 50th anniversary of his death. The next day we celebrated Buddha’s enlightenment joyfully in the morning and had a Shuso ceremony for Roger Hillyard, who was a warm and energetic Shuso for the Fall practice period. Yesterday I attended Green Gulch Farm’s Shuso ceremony. Michael Gelfond from Presidio Hill Zen Group in San Francisco was Shuso. And Tassajara’s Shuso ceremony will be on December 10, with Tim Kroll, who practiced at Austin Zen Center for many years, as Shuso. All three centers have had in-person Fall practice periods.

Sanghas from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada – including Brooklyn Zen Center in New York, Austin Zen Center and San Antonio Zen Center in Texas, Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham WA, and Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B.C. – are still sitting Rohatsu sesshin. Ian Case writes in the Brooklyn Zen Center newsletter, “This week we celebrate and commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment and his awakening to the fundamental truth of our interconnectedness with all things. May we awaken together and realize spiritual friendship for the benefit of all beings.”

This is also, for many Zen Centers and sanghas, a time for year-end fundraising. Please consider giving generously to your own sangha or to others, as we come to the end of a year that has been financially challenging for many individuals, families and sanghas.

News from sanghas in England and Germany:

Recently Totnes sangha in Devon, England has been engaging deeply with the local parish church of Saint Mary’s in its “Unity in Diversity” programme, where different faiths have come together around the Climate Conference COP26 and the Covid pandemic. The church was built in the 13th Century; people have been worshipping here for well over 800 years!

A few months ago, we heard from Akazienzendo in Berlin about their plans to plant a long hedge in Obersdorf, in the country, where they host sesshins. Charlotte, Gisela, Bernd, and Zaher wrote: “A big truck from a local nursery delivered the plants on Friday morning, and for a day our yard was full of rock pears, rowan, willow saplings, white hawthorn, elder, cornelian cherries and roses. We labeled each one, and now the new hedge has taken its place on our land. Soon, we have no doubt, it will unfold all its qualities as a refuge and food source for birds, insects, and all sorts of creatures. We are still completely filled with the energy and also the friendliness and harmony of planting together with 20 members of the sangha – which was possible thanks to your financial support.”

“After the last climate demonstration in Berlin, shortly before the German elections, Greta Thunberg was asked in an interview what success meant to her. She answered: If we can say we have done everything we can to save this earth, that is success to her. Please let’s not stop trying to do everything we can to help this wonderful planet in its great diversity; each and everyone in his/her private sphere, and especially to continue to work together and network. Thank you very much!”

Last week my interview with Hakusho Ostlund about establishing Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont during the pandemic was published in San Francisco Zen Center’s Sangha News.

Looking ahead, if you’d like to bring in the New Year by sitting with others, Brooklyn Zen Center will be hosting an online sit and celebration. “Please join us for this intimate celebration of community and collective practice, in what is the longest running BZC celebration – we have been doing it since 2005! Registration for this offering closes December 30. More information and registration is available here.”

May you feel nourished by our shared practice at this time of year, which is for many a time of both grieving and celebration.

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Newsette 11-18-2021

Yesterday I hosted a second online gathering of European Branching Streams leaders, with participants from England, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy, and Germany. The conversation focused on how European sanghas are meeting the complexities and uncertainties of the Covid pandemic, and in particular the tensions around reopening and vaccinations. The group will meet again in February, 2022.

In the light of the recent climate summit in Glasgow, several sanghas are focusing on the climate crisis.

Brattleboro Zen Center (Vermont) members are engaging in their first climate change action with a table outside the Brattleboro Co-op. They are sharing information and asking people to sign postcards calling on the Vermont Climate Council and legislators to bring about transition from fossil fuels to a just and climate-resilient Vermont, working with 350 VT. Founding teacher Hakusho Ostlund writes: “This is the first step in an exploration of how we as a Sangha may bring the ethics, concentration, and wisdom of our tradition into concrete beneficial action in the world.”

Ava Stanton, guiding teacher of Just Show Up Zen Sangha in Santa Monica CA, invites other Branching Streams leaders to sign a letter drafted by Green Faith, a global faith community organization working for climate justice:

Good news from Brooklyn Zen Center (New York): “We are very pleased to announce that starting in January 2022, we will have an ongoing place to practice in person together in Brooklyn. We will be renting the Parish house at Christ Church in Cobble Hill every Saturday from 8am to 6pm. We are excited to be partnering with Father Mark and his community who share our commitment to justice and love. This auspicious turn of events affords us the opportunity to be together for our Rohatsu retreat this year.

More good news from Chicago’s Ancient Dragon Zen Gate: Guiding Dharma Teacher Taigen Leighton writes, “Due to Covid, at the end of last year our Ancient Dragon Zen Gate sangha sadly had to abandon our Irving Park Road temple after twelve years. We have sustained a robust program on Zoom, with a great many fine participants joining our sangha from more than a dozen states and several countries overseas. Many of our former regular participants have yearned for opportunities to again practice together in person. I am delighted to announce that starting Sunday November 21st, our Sunday morning and Monday evening events will be in-person at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Northside Chicago at 1650 W Foster Avenue.” Their events will be available on Zoom as well.

Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham, Washington shared a haiku by Jack Kerouac in their recent newsletter with an invitation to sangha members to submit haiku poems on the theme of “Awakening.” Some of the poems will be included in their next newsletter, which will be published during Rohatsu week. Here is Kerouac’s haiku:

The taste/of rain/why kneel? – Jack Kerouac –

As we head into the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share Taigen Leighton’s words, from his Ancient Dragon Zen Gate newsletter: Thanksgiving “derives from the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, which I visited as a child. But that event is a tragedy heralding a holocaust for Native Americans, starting with those same pilgrims who repaid the generosity of nearby native peoples with brutal violence. Nevertheless, separate from that history I have celebrated Thanksgiving as an American Buddhist holiday, honoring the practices of gratitude and generosity…Gratitude naturally inspires generosity, the first transcendent bodhisattva practice of offering support to those around us.”

I wish you a nourishing Season of Gratitude and Generosity.

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Newsette 11-8-2021

Many of us in the U.S. experienced the end of Daylights Savings Time this weekend. This can be disorienting as our bodies get accustomed to lighter mornings and darker late afternoons. In her message to the Bozeman (Montana) Zen Group, guiding teacher Karen DeCotis quoted Dōgen Zenji’s Uji: The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world. See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time….

I’m in the process of coordinating meetings for Branching Streams European leaders and priests and am keenly aware of the differences in time zones between California, the U.K., central Europe, and Greece.

Here’s a reminder to save the dates, April 25—28, 2022, for the Branching Streams in-person Conference hosted by Austin Zen Center at Ancient Yoga Center. The theme is Healing Relationships – with Ourselves, One Another, Our Communities, Our Planet

Many sanghas held Sejiki ceremonies last week, although Houston Zen Center will be holding their ceremony on November 21st. This is an excerpt from their description of the ceremony: “This yearly ceremony honors everyone who has passed away, all our friends and loved ones, and all those who are forgotten by others.” To remember those who died of COVID, Ashland (Oregon) Zen Center undertook a Covid Memorial Flag project over the last year which culminated at Sejiki. Kigetsu Ramana Waymire and Tendo Stacy Waymire, sent a description of the project with photos,in case your sangha would like to embark on a similar project.

Kosen Gregory Snyder, Brooklyn Zen Center’s dharma teacher, is inviting the sangha to take up a dana practice for Buddhist Global Relief’s annual fundraiser. Their mission is to “reduce the suffering of chronic hunger and poverty, educate children in need, support sustainable agriculture, and empower vulnerable women.” read more here about their food assistance work—emergency COVID relief, hot meal programs, and more.Brooklyn Zen Center created a fundraising page for their sangha. Berkeley Zen Center, Chapel Hill Zen Center and Houston Zen Center have also supported Buddhist Global Relief’s work.

In acknowledging National Native American History Month, Richmond (VA) Zen Center will have a movie night and show Songs My Brothers Taught Me, directed by Academy-award winning Chloe Zhao (Nomadland). Songs depicts the stark realities of contemporary Native American life. This film selection follows their Difference + Unity book discussion on Joy Harjo’s memoir, Crazy Brave. Discussion will follow.

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Newsette 11-1-2021

It’s a rainy day (still a rare occurrence) in San Francisco. The leaves of the large Japanese maple in the City Center courtyard are turning red, and we’ve started heating the 300 Page Street building – all signs that we’re shifting from autumn towards winter.

Planning for the 2022 in-person Branching Streams Conference is well underway. The dates are April 25 to April 28 (Monday to Thursday). Austin Zen Center is hosting the conference at Ancient Yoga Center, about half an hour from Austin. The theme is Healing Relationships – with Ourselves, One Another, Our Communities, Our Planet. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye will join us, and Stephanie Kaza will return to lead The Work that Reconnects. There will be Healing Circles, zazen and service, opportunities to meet informally, network about shared concerns, share music and stories, rest and renew, after so many stressful months. More details about registration will be available in January. Meanwhile, please save the dates!

So many Branching Streams sanghas have signed up for Tassajara 2022 Sangha Weeks that very few spaces remain. Still available are these dates: July 15-17 (three nights), August 5-7 (three nights), 8-11 (four nights), 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, and September 9-11 (three nights). Please let me know if your sangha would like to reserve any of those dates.

When I welcomed Red Cedar Zen Community in last week’s Newsette, I mistakenly said that Zoketsu Norman Fischer is the guiding teacher. Norman is the Founding Teacher. The Guiding Teacher is Nomon Tim Burnett. Norman supported Tim in founding the group in 1971.

Please send me any news you’d like to share with the Branching Streams network.

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Newsette 10-25-2021

After over 24 hours of rain, much welcomed after months of drought in the Bay Area, the sun is dispersing clouds and drying glistening raindrops on the maple tree and bushes in the City Center courtyard.

I am happy to welcome a new member to Branching Streams, Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham Washington. Founded in 1991, Red Cedar ZC is affiliated with Everyday Zen Foundation. Zoketsu Norman Fischer is their founding teacher, and Nomon Tim Burnett is their guiding teacher. Here is their Mission Statement: “The Red Cedar Zen Community follows the Soto Zen style of Shunryu Suzuki. We support practice with a spirit of cooperation, extending the essence of Buddha’s teachings into everyday life.” They are currently searching for a new meeting space.

A Men’s Retreat will be held at at Hokyoji in Eitzen, MN from October 28 to 31 (thank you, Chapel Hill Zen Center, for sharing news of this retreat). Retreat leaders, Marc Anderson and Bob Zeglovitch, and participants will investigate “what it means to be male and explore the terrain of awakened, energetic and mature masculinity. The retreat is suitable for all levels of experience – everyone will explore new terrain.” Here is a link to the retreat flyer).

Tonight, Valley Streams Zen Center in Sacramento, CA is featuring a recorded talk, Love and Rage – The Path of Liberation Through Anger with Lama Rod Owens, interviewed by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz. Lama Rod Owens is an author, activist, African American gay man and authorized lama in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism who explores spiritual practices that transform anger and rage into a force of healing.

San Francisco Zen Center is offering a one-day retreat with Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder, Toward a More Radical Dharma: A Path and Framework for Liberation on Saturday, November 13from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. The final hour will be a special session for dharma teaches and leaders.

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Newsette 10-18-2021

Here’s an autumn poem from Richmond Zen Center’s newsletter:

Although I try
to hold the single thought
Of Buddha’s teaching in my heart
I cannot help but hear
The many crickets voices calling as well

–Izumi Shikibu

We’re approaching the full moon and the end of October – a liminal time when many centers have ceremonies to honor the hungry ghosts.

Mountain Rain Zen Sangha in Vancouver, B.C. is having their “annual ceremony to offer the nourishment of the dharma to the hungry ghost realm” on October 31st. Chapel Hill Zen Center is combining a Sejiki Ceremony with a Food Drive for the local Interfaith Council pantry on October 23rd, ET. Here’s the link if you’d like to learn more about the meaning of the ceremony and how it can be linked to a food drive.

Reirin Gumbel, guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, is involved with an interfaith group, #Teach the Wisconsin Truth, which sponsored a Week of Action for Racial Equity this month, lifting up stories of Wisconsin history at sites of significance for racial justice. Reirin and a sangha member made a video about their visit to Native burial grounds an hour’s drive from Milwaukee.

#Teach the Wisconsin Truth offers this message: “Around the country, the forces of white supremacy and racism are confronting school boards, demanding they prevent teaching the true history of racism, slavery, sexism, and violence against marginalized communities that is part of the founding of our country. 

“As people of faith, we believe it is the responsibility of each person to do their part to address the systemic inequities and injustices in our society, and to create a world where every human being can live a life of dignity and respect.  Our children need to be prepared to take on their share of this task when they grow up. Yet, without knowing the true history of how our nation came to be, they cannot understand the underlying causes of the issues we face, and therefore, will be ill-equipped to meet the challenges they will confront as adults.”

Here is a resource shared by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association: “This year, scholars and professionals have come together in conversation to provide important information and findings on sexual misconduct in Buddhist communities. These conversations are entitled Abuse, Sex, and the Sangha; A Series of Healing Conversations. The producers of this series are sharing these videos with the broader Buddhist community.  Each of these conversations focuses on a different issue within this general topic area and all are critically important.” The most recent is entitled Sexual Misconduct & Legal Liability Issues in Buddhist Sanghas. In this conversation, attorney Carol Merchasin, highlights the legal responsibility of boards of directors in cases of sexual misconduct. You may wish to watch the video and share the conversation with your boards and sanghas.

San Francisco Zen Center is announcing the release of the newly completed Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive, a comprehensive collection of more than 300 recordings from SFZC’s founding teacher, Shogaku Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, including 29 lost lectures. It’s connected with a longer project of making some of Suzuki Roshi’s earliest talks available on the SFZC website. To read more about the project and to learn about the first two “lost” tapes they have released, go to SFZC’s Sangha News Journal article.

I wish you all good health in this time of the full moon, falling leaves, and feeding our hungry ghosts.

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Newsette 10-12-2021

I am focusing in this week’s Newsletter on the ways two Branching Streams sanghas are recognizing indigenous people in the U. S. and Canada.

Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.  – a public holiday in some states. Although California is not one of them, members of Everyday Zen sangha, based in Marin County, gathered with several Native community leaders for an online ceremony.

I was invited to attend yesterday’s Everyday Zen ceremony, which was organized by Jaune Evans, a Senior Priest and Teacher with Everyday Zen and Guiding Teacher of the Heart of Compassion Zen in Point Reyes. Jaune works for a foundation that supports indigenous peoples internationally. In introducing the ceremony, Jaune stated that Indigenous Peoples Day gives those of us who are not Native an opportunity to learn about and recognize Native people and how they have cared for the lands we live on. She said that ritual is a way of connecting with all beings, a way of healing the passing of people, a way of honoring sacred places. She noted that both Native spirituality and Zen Buddhism are traditions of gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings us together across language.

Three Native guests introduced themselves in their native languages as well as in English. Melissa Nelson, Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota, said Indigenous Peoples Day reminds us that indigenous people are still here today. “We are modern people with deep roots.” Kaimana Barcarse, participating from the Big Island island of Hawai’i, said the bones of his ancestors are in Hawai’i; “our ancestors discovered Hawai’i.” Kaylena Bray, a member of the Turtle Clanfrom the Seneca Nation, introduced the ceremony they later shared, “The Words Before All Else,” a Thanksgiving address which begins every Native gathering. They offered thanks to many aspects of nature, honored their elders and the land.

Members of Everyday Zen followed with a service. Founding and guiding teacher Norman Fisher was doshi, and sangha members were kokyo, doan, and Zoom host. They chanted the Heart Sutra and the Metta Sutta and ended with an Eko written by Jaune. Here are a few lines of the Eko:

Reaffirming our respect and care for each other

Not turning away from our community or global bonds and responsibilities

Acknowledging and bowing to all our aw-inspiring knowledge systems,

Our diverse cultural lifeways and practices of well-being, our languages and cosmo-visions, our ways of praying, of kneeling our compassionate Earth…

We return the gifts we are given, offering this ceremonial exchange of gratitude for the awakening and freedom of all beings.

Our minds are now One…

Canada has recognized a National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21 since 1996, and the country honored the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 of this year — the Canadian government has apologized at various points for the suppression and forced assimilation of Indigenous communities. Vancouver’s Mountain Rain Zen Community is midway through their class on “Exploring Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” a series for those of settler/immigrant background, whether recent or generations past, who would like to deepen their understanding of history, culture, spirituality and lived experience of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The Everyday Zen ceremony and the Mountain Rain class point to ways those of us who are not Native can learn about history we weren’t taught in school, change some of our misconceptions of Native people, and find ways to engage with Native people in our localities that honor their culture and their lives.