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Mountain Rain Zen Community April Newsletter

Anna’s hummingbird   Calypte anna
Dear sangha friends,

We hope you are spending time outdoors, enjoying the spring flowers and somewhat warmer days. It’s an ongoing practice of finding ways to stay grounded and connected, as of us some get their vaccinations, others continue to wait, and infection rates remain high. You can read commentary on the pandemic everywhere, so instead of adding more, we’d like to share one thing that has helped us get through the past year: watching hummingbirds! 

Here in coastal BC the Anna’s hummingbird stays year-round. This small marvel has extended its range northward over the past 50 years. Kate saw her first in mid-winter, in Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver soon after moving from New Brunswick in 1977, and could not believe her eyes. How could a hummingbird live through the winter? As she watched, it repeatedly darted out from its perch and snatched tiny gnats from the air. Mystery solved.

Anna’s hummers arrived here on Blue Mountain about seven years ago, and have been a source of daily delight ever since.The males flash their iridescent magenta head feathers in the sun. The females are the earliest nesting bird in North America, and just this past week we saw a fledgling at the feeder. Also, a few days ago we saw the first flashy male rufous hummer, returning from wintering in Mexico–no quarantine required. They arrive reliably every year just when we see the first pink salmonberry blossoms, and the females a week or so later. Soon the yard will be buzzing with hummer activity–feeding, display flights and chases. 

How can we humans take ourselves quite so seriously when hummingbirds are around? Yes, we need to find our way forward, and address the serious and urgent issues of climate and social justice that will continue beyond the pandemic. And we need to do that well-rooted in our dharma practice and insight, with wisdom, compassion and skillful means. But we need not only, our formal meditation practice in the zendo, but direct experience of the world around us, the more-than-human world of such wonder, diversity and resilience. The mountains and waters, red cedars, hummingbirds, salmon, and dragonflies are our source and sustenance, our teachers. 

Let’s celebrate Earth Day by going outdoors with a companion or two, and re-sourcing ourselves. And joining in community to take skillful action.

Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

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Newsette April 5, 2021

I have good news to share with you today! Our new website is up and running. Here is the link. We can thank Jon Voss, the SFZC IT staff, and volunteers Bernard Voss-Potts and Pat Yingst for the refreshed look and updated content. Please let me know if you see anything that needs to be corrected.

Branching Streams Flow On – Invitation to submit photos

You and members of your sangha are invited to a Branching Streams Online GatheringSaturday May 22 from 9a.m. to 12 noon PDT. Please save the date.

Teresa Bouza will be creating a video for the event, using photos of sanghas’ outdoor activities and images of nature. Please send your photos to tbouza@gmail.com. Teresa made a video using images she received from sanghas, which we shared at our December 10,000 Joys and 10,000 Sorrows gathering. Here’s the link in case you missed it.

There will be no Zoom Clinic with Jon Voss this week. He will be back on Wednesday June 14th.

Celebrating spring and Earth Day – Here are two expressions of spring you may enjoy knowing about:

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver is offering a creative way of celebrating the new season with a Spring Renga-kai on Saturday, April 17, 1:00-4:00.
Cherry blossom season is here! Please join us for our fifth renga-kai, or “linked-verse gathering”. Renga is a sequence of linked verses, typically created by a group of 2-4 people in a convivial atmosphere. The roots of renga lie deep in the history of Japanese poetry, but the form has survived and evolved through the emergence of haiku and into modern times and other languages. We will learn how to write and share renga in a way that is both grounded in our Zen practice of moment-to-moment awareness, and also accepting and fun! Click here for registration and details.

Austin Zen Center is celebrating Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, 6.45 pm CT All are invited to participate (in person outside, or by Zoom) by offering words of gratitude, intention, and vow regarding our commitment to our Mother the Earth on paper ‘ema’ (plaques),: in-person or online. The paper ‘ema’ will be hung from the great oak in the front yard. The oak tree, which was symbolically ordained in 2014, reminds us of our unfathomable and absolute mutual interconnection with all things, and specifically that our natural world greatly deserves and needs our utmost respect, care, and stewardship. For more information, here’s the link.

Shokuchi Carrigan of Brooklyn Zen Center shared information about a Love Walk/Love Sit in New York City on April 11th from 3-6 p.m. EDT, sponsored by the Buddhist Council of New York. The walk is in solidarity with the Asian Community in response to recent and past violence toward people of Asian descent.

Wishing you joy on Buddha’s birthday this week, as we are all buddhas, taking our steps toward liberation for all beings.

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March 29, 2021 Newsette

As we move into spring and more people are receiving vaccinations, this Newsette features several offerings that address the challenges and opportunities of this time. These include a half-day Branching Streams gathering, our Zoom clinic focusing on hybrid zendos and ceremonies, and a class in psychological first aid. In addition, there’s a book published by Milwaukee Zen Center that may interest you.

Branching Streams Flow On

You and members of your sangha are invited to a Branching Streams Online Gathering 

Saturday May 22 from 9a.m. to 12 noon  PT

In this time of many transitions in our lives, our sanghas, our country, and our world, we will gather to reconnect, explore shared concerns, participate in a ceremony, and be inspired by music, poetry and one another. 

Please save the date. More details to follow.

At our next Zoom clinic with Jon Voss on Wednesday March 31st at 11 a.m. PST we will focus on the topic of hybrid zendos. Many sanghas are learning ways to combine live and online offerings. Please come if you have questions or would like to share your sangha’s experiences.

Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

The Shogaku Zen Institute announces its Spring 2021 online class: Psychological First Aid – Creating Safety in the Present Moment taught by Rev. Koshin Steven Tierney, EdD, LPCC
April 22 through June 23,10 Wednesday evenings, 5:00 to 6:30 pm PDT (6:00 – 7:30 MT, 7:00 to 8:30 CT, 8:00 to 9:30 ET)

 This course will identify tools of psychological first aid which we can use in our lives, in our work as pastoral counselors, and in our teaching – to assist those with whom we live and practice to meet both the challenges and the joys of living life fully. Here’s the Full course syllabus. The course costs $600 and earns 3 credits toward a Master’s Degree in Divinity. For more information or to register send an email to registrar@shogakuzen.org. Payment can be made on the Shogaku Zen Institute’s payments page.

The Milwaukee Zen Center recently published a book with vibrant art work by a member of a prison sangha and essays by ten contemporary Soto Zen teachers. Royalties from book sales are collected for the artist, MC Winston. It’s available through Amazon for $19.50. Here is the link.

May you, your sanghas, and all beings be healthy and safe in this transition-full time.

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March 23, 2021 Newsette

As we celebrate the coming of spring, I am reminded of a song about Sister Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic. The words of the chorus are “Ring out, bells of Norwich and let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know.” As many of us receive vaccinations we may be feeling some relief and hope that the isolation of the past year will be lifted in the coming months.

At the same time, in recent weeks in the U.S. there has been rising awareness of and concern about violence directed at people of Asian descent, heightened after last week’s killing of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. San Francisco Zen Center’s leadership wrote a statement which offers some resources for further learning and ways of intervening when we hear or see acts of anti-Asian hatred. Here is the link:  Speaking Out About Anti- Asian Violence.

This is short notice – nevertheless, you may be interested in hearing Mushim Ikeda, a founding teacher at East Bay Meditation Center, and Greg Snyder, co-guiding teacher of Brooklyn Zen Center, in conversation on Tuesday March 23 at 4 p.m. PST. Mushim’s topic is “I Vow Not to Burn Out.” Here is the link.

As spring brings new life, Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento CA will be welcoming the birth of a child to a family in their sangha with a Jizo Ceremony. This ceremony may be of interest to those who are offering baby blessings or supporting sangha members who have lost babies or children. Their Jizo ceremony will follow a half-day sitting on Saturday April 3. Rev. Doralee Grindler Katonah will give the Dharma talk and lead the ceremony. Here is how she describes the ceremony:

Jizo is the Great Bodhissattva who protects the baby and mother during pregnancy and birthing. Jizo is known as the ‘Earth Store’ or ‘Earth Womb’ Bodhisattva who embodies and transmits the qualities of fearlessness, tenderness, and open heartedness – qualities that protect the mother and cradle the child. Participants are invited to offer blessings and good wishes through a spoken prayer to Jizo, which will then be typed in the chat and made into prayer flags for the family to hang. This will be a sacred time to come together to celebrate new life. For more information, email info@valleystreamszen.org.

Many sanghas are including more ceremonies in their offerings. This week and next there will be Full Moon Ceremonies offered by Zen Centers in many time zones across the U.S. including Austin Zen Center Read more & register, Seattle Soto Zen Read more, and Brooklyn Zen Center Read more.

Guiding teacher Peter van der Sterre invites you to join the Oak Street Zendo in San Francisco, and the 7th Street Zendo in Boise, Idaho for their 2nd annual spring practice period from March 27th to May 29th on Zoom, featuring Jennifer Block as Shuso.

The theme for the Practice Period is Way Seeking Mind: the Path to Our Original Self.  Both beginners and those who have practiced for many years are welcome. You will find more information on the Oak Street Zendo website.

The Soto Zen Buddhist Association is offering Spring and Summer classes and requests your input. Here is a message from Anna Breckenridge, the SZBA Operations Coordinator:

”This year the SZBA will be opening its courses to members of other organizations and communities, including additional courses coming in the fall. We hope you’ll join us, and we have created a survey to gauge availability and interest in these offerings. Please click this link to take our survey. We look forward to hearing from you! The classes are:
Unpacking Whiteness: Exploring the Delusion of Race from a Buddhist Perspective and Building the Joy and Energy of Diverse Community: Living the Bodhisattva Vow

 I hope you are all in good health. As spring unfolds, may you find ways to meet this tender time of both sorrow and opening.

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March 16, 2021 Newsette

Houston Zen Center’s newsletter noted that the temple made it through last month’s ice storm in good order, losing electricity only for a short while and not losing water at all. However, their garden and temple grounds have taken a blow from the storm. They are planning a Garden Samu Day to work together physically in a safe way. “We will see the rejuvenation of spring before we know it.”

I find this expression of resilience encouraging, as is a report from Centro Budista Zen Soto in San Juan Puerto Rico. Sandra Laureano writes: “We have had continuous practice during the pandemic period. Initially, we met by phone. We later moved to virtual participation through a variety of electronic apps, until we decided to use zoom. For 8 months we met on a nightly schedule. When the holidays began, we adjusted to the changing conditions and now meet three nights a week for a well-being service, sutra chanting, zazen, and teachings.

“Prior to the pandemic, we celebrated a monthly Zazenkai, that we decided to renew starting January 2021. We meet at the center, which is an open, well-ventilated space and accommodate up to 8 people (half its capacity), with the required distancing. Students can also do the Zazenkai virtually. “Overall, we feel this arrangement has worked well. We are pleased to have taken this decision. It has given us the sense that slowly we are returning to our regular practices and are able to once again experience the richness of being physically present.”

Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC is planning a Spring Equinox Celebration
Sunday, March 21, 10:00-12:15, “to celebrate the coming of spring and the resiliency of our sangha one year after we closed the Wall St. zendo early in the pandemic. Please bring a poem or reading for the occasion! Everyone welcome!” 

In last week’s Newsette I mentioned that we are planning an online gathering of Branching Streams leaders and members and gave an incorrect date. Please save the date, Saturday May 22 from 9 a.m. to noon PST. We will have details about the program soon.

And here is the link for the March 21 at noon Central time Stepping Down Ceremony for Michaela Bono who has served as guiding teacher for Mid-City Zen in New Orleans for nearly a decade.

In a recent Zoom Clinic with Jon Voss we explored closed captioning and live transcription through Zoom. If you need Zoom support or want to expand your skills please join us on Wednesday March 17 at 11 a.m. PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

May you be noticing signs of spring, internally and externally.

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March 9, 2021 Newsette

Last March when I was visiting Austin Zen Center, we discussed plans to hold the 2021 Branching Streams Conference at a nearby retreat center in October of 2021. Now, due to Covid-19, conditions are too uncertain to plan an in-person conference this year. However, getting together can lift our spirits and provide connection – so the Branching Streams Advisory Committee is planning an online gathering for Branching Streams leaders and members. Please save the date, Saturday May 24th from 9 a.m. to noon PST. We will have details about the program soon.

This Newsette will highlight a few ways sanghas are meeting the ongoing challenges of the pandemic with creative programming, including ceremonies. It will also feature two ways in which sanghas that participated in last year’s Unpacking Whiteness class with Crystal Johnson have continued the work explored in that course, and a related event offered by SF Zen Center. This Newsette also includes a letter from the Board of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans about a significant change in their sangha.

The Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B. C., Canada has found, despite “tedium, fatigue, impatience, inertia… also gratitude for small mercies and joys, friendships, Zoom connections. One of the sustaining joys has been seeing the home altars of sangha member in their Zoom squares, candles lighting our way through the pandemic, connecting us in the dharma. Please enjoy the home altar album slide show now available on the Mountain Rain website homepage!”

Richmond Zen Center will offer a Spring Equinox Ceremony and Gathering March 20 7:30 – 8:40 a.m. outdoors at Shields Lake, Byrd Park . “The spring equinox closely coincides with the one-year mark of our weekly outdoor Boundless Zendo meetings that began in response to the pandemic. Following our usual zazen and kinhin, we’ll have a spring equinox ceremony, which includes chanting the Heart Sutra and poems read by anyone who would like to share a reading. Live music and other surprises might happen, too. Remember: mask, distance, and connect.”

Austin Zen Center offers a Waking Up to Racism and White Supremacy Group.“All are invited to join this continuing group, a peer-led study of personal & structural racism and bias through the lens of Dharma. J oin us for the new module beginning March 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. (other meetings March 28, April 11, and April 25) which will focus on Resmaa Menakem’s 2017 book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies . ALL are WELCOME!”Read more and register… 

Awakening to Difference + Unity: Richmond’s Unhealed History Tour and Discussion is being offered by Richmond Zen Center, five Saturday Mornings: March 13, April 10, 24, May 8, 22 
We will be reading local author, pastor, and activist Ben Campbell’s Richmond’s Unhealed History over these five weeks and each week we will meet at a different site in Richmond relevant to our reading. Possible sites include the Powhatan Stone at Chimborazo Park, the slave auction and burial sites around the 15th St. + Broad St. corridor, the Maggie Walker Plaza, and the Lee Monument. Please contact Blythe if you want to join us on this journey.

San Francisco Zen Center is offering Healing is the Revolution on March 13 th from 6 to 8 p.m.led by Denese Shervington Lisa Richardson and Dojin Sarah Emerson .

In this evening of conversation Dr. Shervington will bring her expertise in psychiatry, trauma, and community healing, paired with Dr. Richardson’s experience in Public Health and community resilience and Reverend Dojin’s deep understanding of Buddhist principles and practice engagement. For more information, click here and you can register here. 

A message from the Board of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans: “We will be moving from a priest-led to a lay-led sangha with the leaving of our Reverend Michaela O’Connor Bono, who has led our sangha since its inception with her fierce strength, humor and compassion. Michaela has dedicated nearly a decade to guiding MCZ. As a small token of our gratitude and recognition of her dedication to our sangha – a community that would not exist if not for her – we will be holding a Departing Teacher Ceremony on March 21, 2021 at noon via Zoom. (The link will be in next week’s Newsette). We hope that you can join us.”

Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in Clinic continues on Wednesday, March 10thrd, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

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March 2, 2021 Newsette

A year ago, in early March, I was beginning a two-week trip to Texas to visit San Antonio, Austin, and Houston Zen Centers. While I was on the road, Covid-19 was designated as a pandemic and the first cases were being reported in the cities I visited. I gave the last “live” talk in Austin before the Zendo closed and the first online talk in Houston before flying back to San Francisco on a nearly empty plane to enter two weeks of quarantine.

Today is also the beginning of Women’s History Month in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. International Women’s day is celebrated on March 8th in many countries around the world.

For International Women’s Day, Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC is “Honouring Mahapajapati, our first woman ancestor with a talk and a ceremony on March 7th. This talk is part of our regular Sunday morning practice schedule. Everyone welcome!”

Most sanghas are being cautious about reopening their zendos despite the increasing availability of vaccines. As spring nears and temperatures rise,  more outdoor programs may be possible.

Here is San Antonio Zen Center’s plan for an outdoor “hybrid” experience: On Saturdays March 6 and 27, we will attempt to have outdoor in-person zazen here at SAZC. This will be contingent upon weather and San Antonio’s Covid numbers. We will monitor this closely and there will be a go/no-go announcement before the event. If we can hold the Saturday program in person, it will also be broadcast on Zoom.

Taigen Leighton, guiding teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago writes: “We continue doing the mysterious, challenging work of sustaining our practice and our teaching tradition. Just to continue this dignified practice of upright sitting and life expression is a wonderful gift to our world, to each other, and to ourselves. We continue even through the current challenges of pandemic, climate breakdown, and our historical karma of slavery and now violent white supremacy. Just to sustain caring and attention provides possibilities for healing.  Though we are now a homeless sangha, we are beginning the process of locating a new permanent Chicago home where we can also include our new widespread zoom sangha folks.”

Sunday morning March 14th from 9:30 to 11 Ancient Dragon will host Pamela Ayo Yetunde in their series of Black women teachers. Ayo is a college professor who teaches pastoral care, counseling, and comparative religion, with connections to Vipassana and Soto Zen communities. To access the room, click here.

Emily Dashawetz, the Ino of Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, Massachusetts, writes in their newsletter, “We may feel the hope of the vaccine and an end in sight to the conditions of this pandemic – not because our hope is held elsewhere, in some other, unattainable place, but because we can expand ourselves wide enough to know all things must shift and change. We do not know the timetable, or the events to come, but change itself is unremitting.” ZCNS is offering several dharma talks by guest speakers this month:

Thursday, March 4, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Dharma Talk by Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel on The Shamanic Bones of Zen
Thursday, March 11, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Conversation with Chenxing Han on Be The Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists
Thursday, March 18, 6:30-8:30pm ET: Zazen and Conversation with Rev. Andre Bennett and Rev. Myozen Joan Amaral on The Sacred Work of Justice 
Thursday, March 25, 6:30 – 8:30 pm ET: Zazen and Guest Talk by Rev. Bernadette Hickman-Maynard on Liberation

Bernd Bender describes a project conceived by members of Akazienzendo in Berlin as a response to their longing, during this time of meeting in digital space, for physical contact and analog exchange. They are individually copying by hand one or more pages of Suzuki Roshi’s “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.” Sangha members are invited to add drawings, collages, photos or whatever arises from their own creativity and the desire for expression in connection with the book. At the end, the handwritten and designed book will be put together and made into a jointly developed whole.

 Fushin Susan Schoenbohm at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago sends “a very heartfelt thank you to all the folks who have responded to our request for information regarding how your sanghas have conceived and organized sangha care. It’s been very helpful as we have begun to formulate how we will proceed.”

Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in Clinic continues on Wednesday, March 3rd, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

I want to thank Hiro Ikushima in SFZC’s Communications department for formatting this Newsette.

May you be well, and may you be encouraged by the strength, persistence, and creativity of dharma friends around the world.

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February 23, 2021 Newsette

As the weather has warmed in some parts of the U.S., sanghas in Texas may be resuming many of their activities and finding ways of supporting those who have suffered during last week’s power and water outages. I checked back with the guiding teachers of Austin, Houston, and San Antonio Zen Centers last Thursday. If you’d like to read what they reported, you can find their words here.

At City Center we are getting ready for a three-week intensive led by Kathie and Norman Fischer on Dogen’s Zuimonki, from March 2nd to March 20th. Here is a link to an interview with Kathie Fisher that you may enjoy reading. Norman is the teacher of many Branching Streams guiding teachers. Perhaps some of you will be participating in this intensive.

I am wondering what questions you have for other sanghas. What information would you like to share or hear from Branching Streams groups in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Columbia, and several countries in Europe?

Jon Voss and I are still working on the Branching Streams websitePat Yingst of Austin Zen Center is assisting us with updating the links, particularly on the Resources page. 

Jon’s weekly Zoom class has been lively, and you or any member of your sangha are welcome to participate. It’s a drop-in group, although some people attend week after week to hone their skills and ease in creating ceremonies, using breakout rooms in creative ways, and solving audio and video problems. The next class is Wednesday, February 24th, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Can you please share this message with any members of your sangha you think might be interested? Guest Student Program Reopens at City Center

We’re pleased to announce that the guest student program at San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center location has reopened to the public. For this new iteration of the program, guest students participate in a three-month residency designed to deepen one’s practice, connect to the community, and experience what it’s like to live the temple life. The temple schedule includes morning and evening zazen, service (sutra chanting and bowing), work as a form of practice in action, Buddhist classes, and communal vegetarian meals.  To ensure the health safety of guest students and residents alike, we have created a hybrid program where some of these activities occur in person and others online. This allows new students to live, work, and practice in the temple, while supporting the health and well-being of the sangha.

To learn more about the new guest student program as well as our health and safety protocols, visit the guest student stay webpage.  

February is the shortest month, yet it can seem very long, especially in places where spring doesn’t begin to show its colors until March or even April. Many people may be feeling exhaustion, especially after nearly a year of meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the weather has warmed in some parts of the U.S., sanghas in Texas may be resuming many of their activities and finding ways of supporting those who have suffered during last week’s power and water outages. I checked back with the guiding teachers of Austin, Houston, and San Antonio Zen Centers last Thursday. If you’d like to read what they reported, you can find their words here.

At City Center we are getting ready for a three-week intensive led by Kathie and Norman Fischer on Dogen’s Zuimonki, from March 2nd to March 20th. Here is a link to an interview with Kathie Fisher that you may enjoy reading. Norman is the teacher of many Branching Streams guiding teachers. Perhaps some of you will be participating in this intensive.

I am wondering what questions you have for other sanghas. What information would you like to share or hear from Branching Streams groups in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Columbia, and several countries in Europe?

Jon Voss and I are still working on the Branching Streams websitePat Yingst of Austin Zen Center is assisting us with updating the links, particularly on the Resources page. 

Jon’s weekly Zoom class has been lively, and you or any member of your sangha are welcome to participate. It’s a drop-in group, although some people attend week after week to hone their skills and ease in creating ceremonies, using breakout rooms in creative ways, and solving audio and video problems. The next class is Wednesday, February 24th, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Can you please share this message with any members of your sangha you think might be interested? Guest Student Program Reopens at City Center

We’re pleased to announce that the guest student program at San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center location has reopened to the public. For this new iteration of the program, guest students participate in a three-month residency designed to deepen one’s practice, connect to the community, and experience what it’s like to live the temple life. The temple schedule includes morning and evening zazen, service (sutra chanting and bowing), work as a form of practice in action, Buddhist classes, and communal vegetarian meals.  To ensure the health safety of guest students and residents alike, we have created a hybrid program where some of these activities occur in person and others online. This allows new students to live, work, and practice in the temple, while supporting the health and well-being of the sangha.


To learn more about the new guest student program as well as our health and safety protocols, visit the guest student stay webpage.  

February is the shortest month, yet it can seem very long, especially in places where spring doesn’t begin to show its colors until March or even April. Many people may be feeling exhaustion, especially after nearly a year of meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

May you be well, and may you find moments of delight even in difficult times.

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February 16, 2021 Newsette

Dear Branching Streams Teachers and Leaders,

Last week I mentioned a number of parts of the U.S. that were dealing with winter storms – and Texas and the Gulf Coast were not included. However, an intense cold front accompanied by snow and freezing rain, has landed in that part of the country.

This morning. Reirin Gumbel, Milwaukee Zen Center’s guiding teacher, posted her concerns about sanghas in Texas on the Soto Zen Buddhist Associations members’ forum. She wrote:

“How are you doing in this weather? Are your centers safe? Thinking about all Texans and others in the South. We have a seemingly unending snowstorm here; but Milwaukee is ready for it. 

Much metta, Reirin

Our three Texas Branching Streams sanghas in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio responded within hours. 

Mako Voelkel, guiding teacher of Austin Zen Center replied, “Texans are *really* not prepared for such cold temps, and pipes freezing seems to be a huge issue. One of the buildings at AZC has lost hot water, and we’re concerned it’s due to a frozen pipe. Natural gas still works, thankfully, but we just received a recent warning statement from Texas Gas Services saying gas wells are starting to freeze due to the sustained low temps!

“While Austin Zen Center (with five residents) has not lost power yet – likely due to its location a few blocks from a major hospital – our Tanto and a few board members have not had power since 5:45pm last night. With no clear end in sight of either above-freezing weather or repairs to the energy grid, this may go on for some time. Driving anywhere right now seems out of the question, with snow on top of a sheet of ice, cars left stranded, and zero preparedness for such conditions! I myself am safe and thankful for having power (as well as Tassajara training in hot water bottles, headlamps, and bundling up).”

Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, commented: “Thanks for asking – the report in Houston is almost identical to Mako’s in Austin. A wide array of concerns and outages. Perhaps the biggest issue right now is that the water pressure is so low – due to everyone leaving their taps dripping and the big pumps freezing – that we may start having back flow into the drinking lines. The city asked us all to stop the dripping, but we already had frozen pipes here the first day and we are reluctant to repeat that.
“Tim told me part of the electrical shortage is due to the freeze on the gigantic wind turbine wings. No newspapers or mail, limited broadband, but we always have rumors. We’ve brought a member and her 2 dogs into the temple for refuge from the cold.The lack of hot showers was a challenge, but we are very grateful for all we have.”

Colin Gipson, San Antonio Zen Center’s guiding teacher, wrote: “Thank you very much for asking, and for your concern. We received around 3 1/2 inches of snow here at SAZC and so far have been very lucky in that we haven’t lost power or heat at the Zen Center. We are supposed to receive freezing rain tonight, but it begins warming tomorrow and the overall situation will improve rapidly over the next few days.”

The extreme cold and severe winter weather experience in much of the U.S. and in parts of Canada is related to the climate crisis, as Kritee Kanko, a Zen priest and climate scientist/activist posted on the SZBA Forum today. I will include a small part of her post in this Newsette and attach the rest to this Newsette.

“Dear fellow dharma teachers, Zen/Ecodharma enthusiasts and faith leaders, 

Yesterday I was moved to tears several times while listening to two indigenous women speak of Line 3 and repeatedly ask people to stand by their side as they put their bodies on the line to stop this pipeline in Minnesota. This issue is right at the intersection of facing the climate crisis and justice for indigenous people (especially women who are leading this effort). While Biden has put a stop on the Keystone pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 3 and other pipelines are continuing to put sacred indigenous sites, bodies of indigenous women, hundreds of waterlands where they grow their food and the Mississippi river in danger.” Kritee discusses the climate impacts of the Line 3 pipeline, its impact on indigenous communities, resources to better inform ourselves, and actions we can take in her letter.

On another note, Josho Pat Phelan, guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center, invites you to participate in a Zoom workshop with Kokyo Henkel, Questioning Our Assumptions about the World: Vasubandhu’s Twenty Verses on Mere Cognizance on Saturday, March 27, 10:30-3:30 EST
Although Vasubanhu’s 30 Verses is more well-known, his 20 Verses offers another interesting angle on Yogacara. In this short workshop, Kokyo will focus on just a few verses and go into them deeply. To register, please contact info@chzc.org by Wednesday, March 24. After registering, the Zoom link and reading materials will be sent to you. The suggested donation is $20-$50. Donations can be made electronically through MoonClerk at: https://app.moonclerk.com/pay/4yi5tx1i14xf. Please indicate “Workshop Donation.”

You are invited to join Jon Voss’s Zoom Clinic tomorrow, Wednesday, February 10th, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Jon and I are still working on the Branching Streams Website to make it more user-friendly and current. We will also be correcting all the links that are not functioning.

I am also working with a staff member of the SFZC Communications Department on a new format for these Newsettes. I hope this will improve the aesthetics of the Newsette and make it easier to include photos.

I hope that those of you who are in the grips of winter storms stay safe and warm. Thank you to all of you for being part of this interconnected network of sanghas. May we continue to find ways to support one another’s practice.