Greg Snyder

Practice Zen in the Kitchen!

If you are interested in bringing the mind of meditation to cooking, you are very welcome to join us on Wednesday evenings from 6–6:30pm and Saturday mornings from 9–11am as we prepare food for our Saturday community lunches.

Under the guidance of our kitchen head, Laura O’Loughlin, and our head teacher, Teah Strozer, you will be taking up Zen kitchen practice, where we train in the presence and care for one’s life, one’s nourishment and the gifts of the earth. Our practice is to deeply connect with our activity and life. Our relationship to the preparation of food reveals our relationship to all being. The many hindrances to a present mind and loving heart become evident as we mindfully chop carrots or peel ginger. Because our cooking practice is a profound mirror revealing the habits of mind in each moment, we consider the Zen kitchen to be a second meditation hall.

Whether you are new to Zen or have been sitting meditation for awhile, working in the kitchen is a wonderful way to enter practice or deepen your understanding of the self through mindful activity. In Zen, shared activity is the training. We come and work together to support ourselves and one another with our presence. Our way is rooted in thousands of years of monastic practice where all work is done in silence and functional speech so that we can be with our activity completely. 

Our kitchen practice is rooted in 13th Century Zen Teacher, Eihei Dogen’s book, Instructions to the Cook. In this text he lays out how Zen practitioners are to regard and work with food. Focusing our attention on the preciousness of life, he encourages those in the kitchen to “see the pot as your own head, see the water as your lifeblood.” Not only will we prepare food together, we will refer to this text from time-to-time as a way of deepening our understanding of mind, heart and life.

Zen Kitchen Training supports you in:

  • Bringing sacred presence to the preparation of food
  • Entering Zen practice through mindful activity
  • Allowing meditation to spread into the everydayness of life
  • Learning to prepare healthy, organic, vegetarian meals
  • Having a sense of our ancient, Zen cooking practice

Our culture has lost many of the opportunities to experience the joy of preparing meals together. Though it was once integral to our human life, we now reserve it for holidays and special occasions. We enthusiastically invite you to share in this nourishing practice of realizing our deeply interconnected life through the shared care of food. 

If you are interested in taking part, please email the head of the kitchen at tenzo[at]brooklynzen[dot]org. 

Thank you and we look forward to making meals together, and don’t forget to join us on Saturdays to eat the lunch you helped prepare!

The Practice of Wholehearted Activity

From Zen’s inception in China, wholehearted presence in activity has always been considered integral to our practice. Habits of mind are clarified when the body is still in meditation as well as when the body intends toward this very same presence in daily activity. Both stillness and activity are required to see clearly what hinders our liberation from the mental habits causing us unnecessary suffering. Brooklyn Zen Center provides not only a place for practicing meditation and studying Buddhist teachings, but a community-supported opportunity to encourage in your own life a continuity of presence in activity.

All practitioners – to the degree each is able – take part in the care of our practice, the community and our physical building. The overall care of the community is coordinated by five roles, four of which have a crew – or ryo as we often call them – addressing the many details of an area. These leadership roles have both a functional responsibility to ensure their areas are addressed as well as a practice responsibility to encourage wholehearted activity in all that we do. In being wholehearted or fully present in what we are doing, we are embodying the liberated mind and heart of non-separation and freedom. Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” We invite you to participate in this wholehearted effort that burns up the self-clinging at the root of suffering. 

The five leadership roles are:

Tenzo (Head of the Kitchen) The Tenzo leads the care of the kitchen and supports kitchen practice for the community. Ordering food, organizing meal preparation and caring for the overall kitchen falls under the purview of the Tenzo. The Tenzo takes on the kitchen as heart, mind and body. The Tenzoryo, or kitchen crew, is the practice group that takes care of the kitchen and helps with meals. In Zen, we consider the kitchen a second meditation hall as meal preparation is a powerful mirror for showing us the mind. Please read here for more on kitchen practice. If you are interested in learning more about kitchen practice, please email the Tenzo at tenzo[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Ino (Head of the Meditation Hall) The Ino leads the care of the meditation hall and supports all meditation and ritual practice for the community. Caring for the zendo (meditation hall), training and supporting those on the doanryo, and organizing ceremonies are only some of the many responsibilities of the Ino. The Ino takes on the zendo as heart, mind and body. The doanryo is the collective name for the practitioners who have decided to make the carrying out of our ritual forms a part of their wider Zen practice. Those on the doanryo time meditation, lead chants and sound bells and other instruments to hold the container of meditation. Like the kitchen, this practice too is a powerful mirror for the mind. If you are interested in learning more about doanryo practice, please email the Ino at ino[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Shika (Guest Manager) The Shika leads the care for our guests and supports all processes around the welcoming and following up with those who come to our center. Greeting and providing information to those new to our community, making arrangements for those coming to retreat from out of town, supporting visiting teachers and generally creating a welcoming environment at Brooklyn Zen Center are among the responsibilities of the Shika. The Shika takes on all guests as heart, mind and body. Those on the shikaryo have decided to make the practice of welcoming, inclusivity and cultivating an open space for others integral to their Zen practice. If you are interested in learning more about shikaryo practice, please email the Shika at shika[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Work Leader  The Work Leader leads the care of our physical facility and supports all work practice for the community. Organizing work periods and work days, ensuring the maintenance of appliances and equipment, ordering supplies and overseeing the cleanliness and upkeep of the space are some of the responsibilities of the Work Leader. The Work Leader takes on the physical facility as heart, mind and body. Those who are on the work crew often have skills useful for taking care of the center. That said, this is not required. Those who join the work crew are Zen practitioners who find joy in caring for our beautiful loft space and making sure it is maintained for our practice together. If you are interested in learning more about work crew practice, please email the Work Leader at workleader[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Director The director leads the organizational administration at the Brooklyn Zen Center. All administrative volunteers including the Treasurer, Program Director all board committee chairs – communications, development, finance, inclusivity, membership and planning – report to the Director. The Director takes on the administration and operations of the organization as heart, mind and body. If you are interested in volunteering on any administrative committees or roles, please email the Director at director[at]brooklynzen[dot]org. 

Our aim is to have two people sharing the responsibilities of each of the ryo leadership roles. The Head Teacher invites Zen students to take up the role of Tenzo, Ino, Shika or Work Leader as a way of deepening their practice. Usually these roles are filled by community members who have been practicing for sometime.

All are encouraged to contact the various ryo leaders to take up these various expressions of wholehearted activity in order to experience the true richness of Zen practice. We welcome and want your to support your interests. We hope that you will join us, both on the cushion and in community activity together.

Spring Retreat Snapshot

At Brooklyn Zen Center we do our best to offer monthly opportunities for longer sitting meditation. If you are new, a one-day sit is a great way to try out a more extended sitting practice. The day is more flexible and shorter than our longer retreats. We also offer three and five-day retreats with our head teacher, Teah Strozer, and visiting teachers. Please keep checking the website for updates on offerings.

Spring Schedule

Saturday, May 24th: May One-day Sit With Teah Strozer, 9am–5pm – Registration is closed.

Wednesday, June 11th through Sunday, June 15th: Five-day Retreat With Reb Anderson – Register here