New audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk offered by Kosen Gregory Snyder during last Saturday morning program sit is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder (2022/12/03)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Ango Week 11: L.O.V.E.

Image: Buddha Field by Mike Newhall

A weekly message from dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

I awakened from my trance state and was stunned to find the world I was living in, the world of the present, was no longer a world open to love. And I noticed that all around me I heard testimony that lovelessness had become the order of the day. I feel our nation’s turning away from love as intensely as I felt love’s abandonment in my girlhood. Turning away we risk moving into a wilderness of spirit so intense we may never find our way home again. I write of love to bear witness both to the danger in this movement, and to call for a return to love. Redeemed and restored, love returns us to the promise of everlasting life. When we love we can let our hearts speak.
-bell hooks, preface to All About Love

Dear beloved sangha,

This week we would like to offer a focus on the practice-engagement and cultivation of love. To take up together the possibility that, to move towards liberation in this world, grounding ourselves in love increases the possibility of our capacity for freedom and skillfulness in our hearts, minds and actions.

Love is a complex concept/ emotion/ action/ way of being. No doubt there are layers and layers for each of us in what it means and how it is in us. How we cultivate love is a vast exploration.

This week we want to offer one from our tradition, which is the cultivation of Metta, often translated as “loving kindness,” or, as Mushim Ikeda names in her article below, “good will.” This is a cultivation that may be misunderstood as generating something soft and gentle, but in our experience, cultivating Metta is actually a vigorous challenge to the heart, to grow its capacity to extend connection and care beyond conditioned limits, beyond dualities of who is/ is not within the scope of our heart’s care. And it is a cultivation that is endless, and therefore can be engaged anew everyday.

We are in the last few weeks of this practice period together. There will be two more weekly emails after this one. Next week will focus on imagination and the last week on liberation. Again, we hope that you can feel each week building on those before, and see the connections between all we have been working with and how you engage with the concepts of these last three weeks. We hope that turning towards love feels like the natural next step of our collective bodhisattva efforts.

Practices:
– Read this article “How to Practice Metta for a Troubled Time” by Mushim Patricia Ikeda

– Listen to this guided meditation on Metta practice recorded by Sarah (16 minutes)

Inquiring into conditioning:
This is a big one…but gently take some time to sit with and explore- how do you know love in this world? Where did your root sense of love come from? from who? How does love live in your life now? How has it changed from your early life? How is it the same? As always, be as wide as you can in your scope of what you include both in what “Love” is and also what it does in the world, how you express it and know it.

With metta and in sangha,
Sarah & Charlie


Equity and The Great Ocean

Image by Jess X. Snow

Dear Sangha,

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.

Shakyamuni Buddha insisted that once monks entered the sangha, their former caste became irrelevant, “just as when the great rivers…reach the great ocean, they give up their former names and designations and are simply called the great ocean.” It was a quietly radical act in a society defined by those social stratifications.

America has its own caste and class system built on race, enforced through economic and political systems. We must face and care for those histories to build true sangha. It is not enough to leave our doors open—we must meet each individual who approaches with skillful means and compassion. Our new Equity-Based Model is a major turn in this direction: a practice of mirroring, and a way to offer dana to the temple and teachers.

We ask you to turn against the stream of division as you offer a gift that reflects the depth of your intention. Your offering will widen the dharma gate of our practice, and offer a chance at repose and bliss for our sangha. Please consider making a gift today.

Ryan Lee Wong
BZC Administrative Director

2022 at BZC: A Year in Pictures

Approaching the end of a very challenging and unusual year, we look back at the life of the BZC sangha during 2022. Together we have established a new practice space in Brooklyn, strengthened our organizational and practice structure, participated in national meetings across the country and gathered to celebrate the priest ordination of Kaishin Victory Matsui—among much more. This selection of images is a reminder of our precious life together during the past year.

A Temple in Brooklyn

After the closing in 2020 of our temple on Carrol Street in Brooklyn, the establishment of a new physical practice space in the city was a very important moment for the BZC community. In March this year, at the end of the three-day sesshin, the sangha came together for the reopening ceremony of Boundless Mind Temple, in which we celebrated our new practice space at Christ Church!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/March-2022-sesshin_Panoramic-scaled.jpg

Spring in the Horizon

Dharma teachers and residents at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple take a moment to pose after a (very windy) garden opening ceremony in March.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Residents-AHZT-March2022-scaled.jpg

A New Administrative Director

 

In early April, Ryan Lee Wong stepped into the new full-time position of Administrative Director! A new role at BZC, the AD not only manages day-to-day operations but also supports logistics, strategy, and administration at BZC. Since then, Ryan—a long time member of our sangha who has been serving the community in multiple roles over the years—has been instrumental in helping to implement BZC‘s mission and strategic plan.

 

Our First Sangha Harmony Allies

This year, BZC has designated its first two Sangha Harmony Allies: Renhō Gerardo Dexter Ciprian and Inzan Monica Rose Smith. The Sangha Harmony Allies (SHAs) are a new role recommended by the Ethics Working Group as part of the formal Ethics Process. The SHAs are tasked with meeting and holding ethical concerns in the sangha, and strive for impartiality, fairness, and true communication. Inzan and Renhō brought a depth of practice, commitment to our sangha, and compassionate hearts to this work. Their dedication and commitment has helped sustain the sangha during this year.

BZC at Branching Streams Conference

Forty zen leaders, students, and teachers from across the US and Canada gathered in Austin for the Branching Streams Conference, which brought together temples in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. Ian and Ryan represented BZC, and participated in workshops on healing circles, climate change, and poetry, and in between gathered to discuss everything from our CRM systems to Undoing Whiteness work to staffing our temples.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Branching-Streams-2022-Conference-participants-in-robes-scaled.jpg

Image by Pat Yingst, Austin Zen Center

Dharma Teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny in Brooklyn!

Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny moved to Brooklyn this summer and are now supporting the BZC sangha and organizational life at Boundless Mind Temple. As ordained priests and dharma-transmitted teachers, they have both brought their many years of training to the benefit of our community throughout the fall Practice Period. From dharma talks, to practice discussion, retreats, sewing instruction, and Zen training, they have become a cherished and precious support to our sangha. Thank you, Sarah and Charlie!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Sarah_Charlie.jpg

BZC at 2022 Future of American Buddhism Conference

BZC Board Chair Weishin Huang attended the four-day Future of American Buddhism Conference in Garrison, NY. Weishin shared some highlights from the conference, giving us a taste of the conversations that took place there about the state of our mahasangha:

American Buddhism is messy, complicated, and, at times, painful and fraught. Yet, if those present at this two-hundred-plus-person gathering, onsite and online, were reflections of the Buddhdharma in this also-messy nation-state, then I have full faith that the three jewels—already carefully cared for on Turtle Island for two centuries—shall continue to glisten, like Indra’s net, amongst the multitude of intersectional inter-beings, for many more moons.

L to R: Chenxing Han (author,”Be The Refuge”), Cristina Moon (Rinzai Zen priest), Devon Matsumoto (founder, Young Buddhist Editorial), Weishin Huang (Brooklyn Zen Center), Rev. Blayne Higa (Kona Hongwanji), and Ru-Jün Zhou (Hemera Foundation)

BZC Residential Summer Retreat

The BZC annual summer retreat was filled to capacity—again! Kosen Gregory Snyder, Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, and Kidō Ian Case co-lead the BZC Residential Summer Retreat this August at the Watershed Retreat Center, next to Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, in upstate New York. During this week-long Soto Zen retreat, participants followed a semi-monastic schedule, which included zazen, service, study, dharma talks, discussions, meeting with teachers, and silent meals, along with time for swimming and walks in the woods. The retreat marked the Teacher Entrustment of Kidō Ian Case, a major step for Ian and the BZC sangha.

Qigong Fundraiser for BZC with Sally Chang

Dear teacher Sally Chang offered a Qigong Fundraiser Workshop at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn. The workshop raised over $4K for BZC! Sally Chang guided participants in learning the Eight Silk Brocades, one of the oldest and most influential Qigong forms. The program also included a special Evening Conversation with Sally Chang and BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, now available at the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/SallyChang_02.jpg

Zen Priest Ordination

In October this year, the BZC sangha came together to celebrate the Zen priest ordination of Kaishin Victory Matsui by dharma teacher Kosen Gregory Snyder. Surrounded by BZC’s teachers, senior practitioners, sangha members, as well as family and friends, Kaishin took a vow of dedication to practice and community. The first such ceremony to take place at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn, the gathering was a very special occasion for our community!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Kaishin_JessXSnow_10-23-22-40.jpg

Image by Jess X. Snow

Jukai Ordinands

A group of nineteen Jukai ordinands has begun sewing rakusus and delivering Way-Seeking Mind talks. This is the largest group of ordinands in-training at BZC, a sign of the strength of the dharma in our community. They will be receiving precepts in June 2023.

100th Anniversary of Soto Zen in America

In November, six members of BZC attended a Jukai-e marking the 100th Anniversary of Soto Zen in America hosted by Zenshuji in Los Angeles. There were 100 kaitei (ordinands) from around North America, as well as 100 priests from North America and Japan to organize and hold the ceremonies, including a tenzo ryo from Eiheiji. Each day was packed with services, many of them rarely done in North America, as well as talks from elders in our lineage like Shohaku Okumura, Tenshin Reb Anderson, and Konjin Gaelyn Godwin. Gengo Akiba Roshi presided and offered the precepts to the kaitei. It was also an historic mix of Sotoshu representatives, historically Japanese American sanghas, and zen centers like BZC, forging stronger bonds between these different expressions of sangha.

L to R: Ryan Lee Wong (BZC Administrative Director), Inzan Monica Rose (Jisha to BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin), Wesley Antell (Ancestral Heart Zen Temple Enju—head of the garden), Shigetsu Camille Goodison (techryo co-chair), Kaishin Victory Matsui (Ancestral Heart Zen Temple Tenzo—cook), Kidō Ian Case (BZC Tanto)

Zendo Dog

Not the most quiet of creatures, but here is Milo, one of BZC‘s dogs, in a moment of calm in the zendo, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight.

Image by Jess X. Snow

New audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny

A new audio dharma talk offered by Charlie Korin Pokorny during last Saturday’s one-day sit is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Let things come and rest in your heart: audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny (2022/11/10)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Ango Week 10: Joy continued

Image: Dancing Buddha print by Vivienne Eastwood

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

Right! There’s serious work to be done: let’s play.
—Bayo Akomolafe

Dear Ango sangha,

How have the past few days been? How is your practice of joy going?

We want to recognize, not only is this a tender time in the Sangha, but for many people the holiday season is a mixed bag. There are so many messages about joy and gratefulness and merriment…while for many people the holiday season amplifies loss, increases anxiety, and can generate despair, even while the world is all glitter and shopping and apparent holiday cheer. So it may feel like engaging a joy practice right now is yet another thing that brings mixed feelings. We want to offer the image of untethering joy from conditions, and really engaging it as something subtle and readily available, not something that could be compared, bought or sold. Practicing cultivating joy in this way takes effort. This is partly why we wanted to spend weeks building up to it- through embodied attunement, through breath, through rest, through ritual and ceremony, through our senses, through not-hurrying…see if it’s possible to approach it through the lens of all you’ve been cultivating and exploring over the fall Ango.

For those in the U.S., we want to include acknowledging that dominant collective culture turns this week toward the immense complexity of the tradition of Thanksgiving. However you do or do not celebrate this holiday, may practice support you to be with whatever the holiday evokes: maybe a season of gratitude, maybe an anticipated coming together of family…but also maybe something you have not historically celebrated/ not your cultural tradition; maybe a time of anxiety and pain around family, around food, around history; maybe a time of deep reflection on the myth and social conditioning that attempts to erase attempted genocide of indigenous people and centers colonial domination; and much more. May the Dharma support us being spacious enough to hold the complexity to honor every part, and to lift up parts that have not been so seen or acknowledged or allowed in the past.

Dancing

We are going to recommend dance as a practice this week, and wanted to share this teaching with you that we received for some context. Our family’s dance Kumu in California, Vao Paleti or Aunty Vao, shared with us that in Pacific Islander dance, every time our foot touches the ground or floor, we are connecting with ancestors and honoring them. Since learning this, all dance has opened for us as more of a ceremony- connecting us to our lineages, to our ancestors, to earth. This teaching can change our relationship to Kinhin/ walking meditation, and to walking or standing in general- feeling every step we take as meaningful, connected, and honoring. It feels resonant with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings around how “Peace is every step.”

The monks at Ancestral Heart shared that, in the days after hearing about Kosen having cancer, they were invited by Watershed to a bonfire and dancing. The image was so moving- everyone carrying care and worry, and also coming together around a fire, and moving with joy.

So it’s in these teachings, and in this spirit, we are offering the practice this week of dancing.

Possible practices:

– Dance for 5 minutes a day: we are hoping everyone will try this one on in a way that works for you. Maybe it just means listening to music you like and bobbing your head. But maybe it also means turning it up loud and moving until you’re sweaty and falling over…or maybe something in between. If you notice annoyance, cynicism, irritation, self-consciousness arising with reading this, honor that…and maybe try it for a couple minutes anyway. It can be supportive to dance alone, so it’s not about being seen or being social- just about having a vital human body and allowing joy in movement. And it can be supportive to dance with others, sharing the joy.

– Play: if you see the chance this week- do something playful you maybe haven’t done since you were a kid, or maybe ever. Jump on a swing for a minute; go down a slide; put on some roller skates, or ice skates; jump up/ down some stairs, roll down a hill or maybe just roll around on the floor? This is by no means an exhaustive list! Find something that works for you, for your body, that feels maybe a little silly, and try it on…just once, as an experiment.

– Care for yourself with tenderness: make it a koan for this week- how do I care for this moment? Include yourself in the inquiry and see what arrives to be done/ or not to do.

With gratitude and complexity abounding,
Sarah & Charlie


New BZC Audio Dharma Podcast Episode: Conversation with Sally Chang and Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin

This episode is a conversation with Sally Chang, Chief Instructor of Evergreen Taiji Academy, and BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, offered as part of a Qigong Fundraiser Workshop for BZC, offered at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn in September 2022.

Conversation with Sally Chang and Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin (2022/09/23)

About Sally Chang

Sally Chang is Chief Instructor of Evergreen Taiji Academy. She is a Teacher, Acupuncturist, and 30+ year practitioner of Daoist Wisdom Arts including Qigong, Taiji, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Sally’s teachings focus on cultivating the innate capacity for healing; and she is known for her warm, focused presence.

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Ango Week 9: The serious matter of Joy

Image: Yoko’ Ohashi’s calligraphy: raku- joy, bliss, music 

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

The zazen I speak of is not learning mediation, it is simply the Dharma gate of repose and bliss (raku).  The practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment.
—Dogen-zenji from Fukanzazengi, from Moon in a Dewdrop translation

 

Do not think lightly of good, saying it will not come to me. Drop by drop the water pot is filled. Likewise, the wise one, gathering it little by little, fills one’s self with good.
—Dhammapada Chapter 9 verse 122

Dear Ango sangha,

I have been working all week on an email about the complexity of cultivating joy and play in the midst of pain and suffering. Also about the relationship of joy and play to repose and bliss, engagement and, most importantly, liberation. To be honest, this email has taken on a life of its own and become, I think, too massive to be digested in one sitting.

So, in the spirit of our practice period, I won’t try to force all I have gathered to condense into something manageable today, but will slow things down and allow us to take up this theme over the next few weeks. For this week to start us off, I offer two ideas about joy, one story about play, and a few resources for all of us to consider together.

Here are the two ideas:

1) In the tradition of Buddhism, states of ease, peace and joy are cultivated not only because they are easeful and heart opening, but because they are ultimately wisdom building.
2) We have to investigate what we mean by joy and happiness and play, and anywhere we find they’ve been made conditional (vs innate and unconditional), gently untether them.

Here’s the story:
Recently, we were at a gathering for families with our son. Some people had known one another for years. Many, like us, were new to the community. It was a grey, drizzly day, so we were outside and chilly. Everyone was standing around a little awkwardly, not really knowing how to engage. Until, at some point, one wise parent/organizer yelled out- “Freeze tag- and everyone is playing!” Suddenly, everyone was running around, laughing and enjoying the particular chaos that ensues when playing freeze tag (especially when half the participants haven’t played freeze tag in decades). And suddenly we were in intimate connection with people we hadn’t even had a chance to meet yet- dodging and spinning, freezing and unfreezing one another. The whole field of relationship changed within minutes. And, once we all got too tired, everyone now felt warmly in community.

This, to me, shows the role of play in relation to the Dharma- to help us to be pliant and responsive, to wake us up to our vitality, to our connection. Play can transform us and change the field in which we are connected to one another, and also clear away, as really nothing else can, the hindrances for experiencing the depth of our connection

But often access to states of play can get inhibited as people grow. Again, as a Bodhisattva engagement of staying alive and responsive to the world, are there moments in your day where you can play? If not, can you build some? (and if not, start small!)

Here is a small list of resources around joy and play and Dharma:
Possible practices:
check out one, or several, of the resources below and see what comes up in you? what’s stirred? what’s challenged? what’s calling for further exploration?  Are there other teachings you’ve come across that you want to share?

– Listen or re-listen to Yoko Ohashi’s talk on Healing and joy including the evolution of the character above.

“Joy is a Radical Act”, by Scott Tusa, from Tricycle

-The work of Saliha Bava, PhD, Joy and Social Justice

Resistive Joy: Sustaining Our Activism Through Celebration by Helena
from Disorient- a blog/ resource for intersectional, feminist thought, education and activism

The teachings of Ross Gay author of The Book of Delights and Inciting Joy

– Ted Talk by Rick Hanson- neuroscientist and Buddhist practitioner, Hardwiring Happiness

Inquiring into conditioning:
What were you taught in early life about joy, fun, play, pleasure, bliss? Who was teaching you and how? What was allowed in these realms? what wasn’t? How do you feel about these concepts now? What arises in your daily life around them? What from your early life aligns with what you believe now? What doesn’t? When/ where/ how/ with who can you enact joy, fun, play, pleasure, bliss?

Stay tuned for next week, more to come…


New audio dharma talks available!

New audio dharma talks are now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Healing: audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi (2022/11/05)

This Distress is Worth Recounting: audio dharma talk by Sarah Dōjin Emerson (2022/10/29)

Potentiality: audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/10/15)

Healing and Vow: audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/10/14)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Ango Week 8: The support of ritual and ceremony

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

To bow to the floor and to bow standing is dignified bearing in motion and stillness. Painting a decayed tree, and polishing a brick of dead ash continues without stopping. Even though calendar days are short and regent, study of the way in this manner is profound and deep.

—Eihei Dogen-zenji from Shinjin Gakudo (Body-and-Mind Study of the Way) in Moon in a Dewdrop

With news of Kosen’s diagnosis, and the complexity of feelings that are arising for many of us in digesting this news, we want to wait to take up joy together next week, and skip ahead to the nourishment and support of ceremony and ritual.

In Soto Zen ceremony and ritual are central, and are practice-engagements of non-duality. Ceremony is a place of integration of everything that can seem separate. Coming together in ceremony, we enact how this separation is delusion, and create space for the connectedness of all things to touch us and change us. For example, zazen practice itself is the ceremony of the non-duality of Buddhas and practitioners. When we sit, this is a ceremony of engaging how we are our particular selves, and how to tenderly be with our particular selves; and also how we are not apart from buddhas, how Buddhas sit in the world right where we sit.

Ceremony is a place where things that are hard to digest become digestible, because we do ceremony together, and together we have a capacity greater than when we imagine ourselves to be separate. Even if we offer incense alone in a room, we are engaging the enactment of how all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and all practitioners of the past, present and future, are here with us. The meaning of any offering now lives in relationship with all the beings who have sustained this meaning over time, and do now, and will in the future.

So this week, coming from our practices of attuning to our bodies, and of exploring nourishment, we can take up ceremony and inquire: how does ritual and ceremony support me right now? If we are working with emotions and memories and feelings and life circumstances that feel un-integratable, is there a way that ceremony can help us integrate, help us feel connected to one another, and help us hold what is arriving to be held?

This week for the online daily zazen and service, we are offering well-being ceremonies for Kosen as a way to help us meet what’s arising, and then also to offer the merit and intention of our practice together to be of benefit to him. As we do this, we can open to how, as we make an offering of our coming together, this is also caring for ourselves- as we naturally want to do something to respond when someone we care about is in distress. So the making of an offering cares for our distress and benefits Kosen and we are alive there, in relationship with one another and how we impact one another.

Ceremony is a place of alignment of our conventional reality with the equal truth of the transcendent. In Charlie’s most recent Dharma talk, and in the class on Zen Ritual Life, there has been discussion of how ritual supports a different sense of time than our everyday, quantifiable sense of time. This articulates how, in ritual and in ceremony, we collectively make space to move at a different pace- one that allows for integration of complexities with our bodies and in concert with one another. And how, in a life of practice, this is not only nourishing, it is essential to move into with some frequency to nurture bodhicitta, to nurture our freedom, to nurture liberation.

So this week, please find a way to engage with ritual and ceremony in a way that supports you.

Practice possibilities:

– Wednesday through Friday morning after the ceremony of zazen from 7:30-8:00am, there will be well-being ceremonies for Kosen from 8:00-8:15am. To join these online offerings, please see here.

– On Wednesday evening (November 9) at Boundless Mind Temple we will offer a well-being ceremony in person.

– Utilizing the altar you created in the first week of the practice period- light a candle and simply make the offering of light. Or offer incense: light it, bring it to your forehead and state an intention, then place it in the incenser (or in something where it’s safe to burn), maybe spend some time with it while it burns.

– Take time to sit quietly and acknowledge all of what’s present for you and alive in you. Write down everything you can name on a piece of paper that you can fold into something that fits on your altar. If you practice with offering incense, you can light a candle and some incense, and circle this offering over the incense three times clockwise, then lift it to your forehead and name an intention, just in your mind, of how you want to offer this piece of paper and all it contains. Then put this on your altar and let it rest there for as long as it needs to be there.

– Everyday there are beings of all kinds- human, plant, animal and otherwise, offering us teachings. Offer a bow to something or someone to thank them for being in your life or the teaching they have offered in return. If it doesn’t feel appropriate to do this explicitly or outwardly in any given situation, offer a bow internally or maybe even on the sly so only you know, but the offering of gratitude will still be made.

Inquiring into conditioning:

What place did ritual and ceremony hold in your early life? How did these concepts and practices show up? What were you taught about them? How did you feel about them?

How do ritual and ceremony live in you presently? Are there ways they show up that are obvious? Are there ways they happen in your life that are more subtle, or not something you would historically think of as ceremony or ritual, but is part of a cyclical rhythm of your life?

When engaging with ritual, what arises for you? Some possibilities: skepticism, cynicism, doubt…devotion, love,immersion, freedom…discomfort, comfort, familiarity, resonance, alienation, confusion…and everything else in between. Take some time to turn this and just observe whatever is stirred up.


New audio dharma talks available!

New audio dharma talks are now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Small Project: audio dharma talk by Sarah Dōjin Emerson (2022/09/17)

The World of Dew: audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny (2022/10/22)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

 

New audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Repose & Bliss: audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/09/10)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity

Ango Week 7: Nourishment

Image (detail): Mayumi Oda, “Morning Breath/ My Breath”

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

We need to flood the system with life-affirming principles and practices, to clear the channels between us of the toxicity of supremacy, to heal from the harms of a legacy of devaluing some lives and needs in order to elevate and indulge others.
—adrienne maree brown, “We Will Not Cancel Us”

This week’s email is a little later because it took some time to form.  The theme we want to offer is Nourishment, and we want to offer it in light of a couple of teachings from our tradition.  The first is stewarding, attending to and caring for the first grave precept: a disciple of Buddha does not kill.  We can turn this precept to its affirmative form: a disciple of Buddha cares for and cherishes life.  So in taking up Nourishment, we can ask ourselves:how do we care for life?  How do we flood the systems with life-affirming principles and practices, moment after moment?  And taking up this question as a koan and a compass on every level: from a vast planetary scope, to our communities, to our beloveds, to our own bodies within systems, down to the minutiae of our most mundane, intimate daily choices.

The early roots of the word nourishment come from Latin nutrio, which has the meanings: to feed, foster, nourish, cherish, preserve, support.

This week, growing from contemplating the body and contemplating rest, we invite an inquiry around nourishment. Like rest, nourishment is something we can think of more conventionally- as in food and nutrition; or more expansively- what sustains us, what supports, what restores and nurtures?

What feeds, fosters, cherishes, preserves and supports you? What nourishes your body? your heart, your whole being? your practice? your bodhicitta/ aspiration for liberation? your freedom?

The second offering form the tradition that we want to include this week is an understanding of nourishment in the context of the cyclical nature of giver, receiver and gift- how true  nourishment never actually travels only in one direction, but happens, in interconnectedness, in systems of reciprocity.  Given that, are there things you offer into the world that nurture you by your offering of them?  Are there offerings you receive that are actually a gift to those giving them to you?

Possible practices:

– Mindfully feeding ourselves:
Caring for how engaging with food and eating can be a complex relationship for many people, and acknowledging that mindful appreciation of eating is rarely supported in dominant culture and busy lives, can we engage with eating and feeding ourselves this week as an offering?
One possibility: Take time to get quiet and settled, and then ask yourself what foods your body would really appreciate taking in right now. If something comes, can you find this food? Is there time, just once this week, to cook this for yourself? Can you create a small ceremony to offer yourself the food and to receive from yourself the food?

– Savoring small moments of sensory joy:
Attuning to your senses, can you identify things besides food that feed and nourish your heart/mind/being/soul? If you let the aperture be wide around asking this question- is there anything that surprises you?

Are there

sights (art, light, colors, views, scenes in your daily life, an expression on someone’s face),
sounds (music, sounds in nature, certain voices, laughing babies, the sound of the subway?!),

smells (scents that bring a sense of ease),

sensations of ease and joy (some examples: noticing a moment of feeling warmth- holding a cup of tea, putting on a warm sweater or socks, sun on your skin, stepping into a warm shower of bath; or noticing a moment of moving from even small discomfort into ease- sitting down, laying down, resting your eyes, resting your feet)

that bring joy and nourishment to your being?

If you can identify one or a few, can you make time to encounter them, turn your whole being and attention toward the nourishment, and maybe even savor the sensation for a few breaths, a couple of times this week?

-Find a way to make an offering, even one that seems small, this week that nurtures you in the giving of it.

Inquiring into conditioning:

What does Nourishment evoke for you? What did you learn about it in your early developmental life? Who nourished you? How? What nourished you? How? Are there things you felt nourished by in the past that no longer nourish you? What has changed?  Are there things you can experience as nourishment now that weren’t in the past?

What is the history of nourishment for you and your family, for your ancestors, for the communities you come from? What were the forces at play in shaping all this? What does it mean to care for these histories in your life right now?

We are working our way toward the contemplation of joy, pleasure (maybe even bliss!) next week- so maybe begin to walk in some contemplations around these concepts this week as you explore nourishment as well.

Thank you for your patiences and your care for your practice, yourself, your communities and all beings,
Sarah & Charlie


January Practice Period Canceled 

Some recent health concerns facing BZC’s dharma teachers have compelled us to cancel the January Residential Practice Period at Ancestral Heart and Watershed. This feels in alignment both with the Practice Period theme of “Repose and Bliss” and our Strategic Plan’s emphasis on care and collective stewardship. We hope to offer it as soon as the right conditions arise. For all the latest information on BZC’s programs and latest updates, please see the BZC Calendar.

Zen Priest Ordination

Earlier this month, the BZC sangha came together to celebrate the Zen priest ordination of Kaishin Victory Matsui. Surrounded by BZC dharma teachers, senior practitioners, sangha members, as well as family and friends, Kaishin took this vow of dedication to practice and community. The first such ceremony to take place at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn, the gathering was a very special occasion for our community!

Kaishin Victory Matsui is currently the Tenzo (head of the kitchen) at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, where they have lived for the past three years. They were born in Tokyo and raised in Brooklyn, and have been practicing at Brooklyn Zen Center since 2015.

Here are some of the images of the ceremony. All images by Jess X. Snow.

    

 

 

Ango Week 6: Rest as Resistance

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

I judge my success by how many naps I am taking a week and how many healthy boundaries I create and uphold. This is my wealth.

You will have to think differently. A mind change is necessary for the resistance.

-Tricia Hersey, the Nap Ministry (Instagram post 8/8/22)

This week we want to turn our full attention to the repose part of repose and bliss, and take up practicing with rest. As Charlie mentioned in his talk on Saturday, the work of Tricia Hersey of The Nap Ministry was an essential ingredient in the inspiration for this practice period. One of the things she teaches is to understand rest beyond just naps or sleeping, but the nourishment of daydreaming and imagination, or having time in our day, of taking care of our bodies. She is challenging people to expand our conceptions of what’s restful and restorative, and then asking people to include these practices as valuable in our lives, as essentially transgressive forms of resistance to capitalism and white supremacy culture, as acts of liberation.

Practice possibilities:

– Read this brief article: “To Transform Work, We Must Rest” by Tricia Hersey from Yes magazine

– Drawing on the past few weeks of attuning to the body, inquire into what’s restful and restorative for you, your being, your body and nervous system. Be expansive in this inquiry: maybe this means more sleep, but maybe this also means savoring a sound or a view or a color, or a cup of tea; maybe it’s a gentle activity: drawing, bathing, walking, gardening…roller skating?! Maybe it’s having a small chunk of time each week that isn’t scheduled, so you get to move at a different pace (the joy of puttering!). Or activities that ask us to be in a different time than dominant culture time: connecting with ancestors, making offerings at a home altar, prayer, creativity. See what comes if you open heartedly inquire: what is restful for me in my life right now?

– Maybe actually take a nap?! Or just lie down or recline and close your eyes and let the mind drift…

– Read or listen to Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Inquiring into conditioning:

What were you taught early in life about the concept of “rest?” What messages impacted you around rest? Who exemplified rest and taught it to you? How much of your early conditioning around rest aligns with how you see it in your present life? How much doesn’t?

Also, can you inquire into, historically in your life and also now in the present, who gets to rest and who doesn’t? And can you attend to and care for some of the forces behind the discrepancies? Can you care for where you fall on this spectrum? Can you see places where sangha might support you in this care?

A couple weeks ago, we had the gift of attending an event with Tricia Hersey in person in Brooklyn celebrating the publishing of her new book. One thing that she emphasized several times that stayed with us was that, even once she was certain about reclaiming rest as an act of liberation, it took years for her to fully engage this practice because of how powerful the “brainwashing” of dominant culture was. This is such an important teaching: that in our efforts to investigate and uproot harmful conditioning, we don’t cause ourselves and others more harm in thinking this should be a quick process, or even that it will be a painless one. One of the things that’s needed in learning to rest is saying no to a lot of things that are wanted and engaging. Conditioning around pushing ourselves happened over years, in many ways over centuries, the forces of it won’t change over night. And we can participate in the collective undoing with our hearts and efforts strongly rooted in compassion… and also some perseverance and commitment to caring for suffering too.

Your body is a site of liberation.

It doesn’t belong to capitalism.

Love your body.

Rest your body.

Move your body.

Hold your body.

– Tricia Hersey, Rest is Resistance


BZC Residential Summer Retreat audio dharma talks available!

Kosen Gregrory Snyder, Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, and Kidō Ian Case co-lead the BZC Residential Summer Retreat this August at the Watershed Retreat Center, next to Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, in upstate New York. During this week-long Soto Zen retreat, they offered dharma talks drawing from the Xin Xin Ming, a poem attributed to Seng Can, the Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen.

These talks are now available for listening, sharing and downloading on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast! The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity.

Xin Xin Ming: Reversing the Light – Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/08/09)

Xin Xin Ming: Aversion and Affection – Audio dharma talk by Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin (2022/08/10)

Xin Xin Ming: Using Mind to Cultivate Mind – Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/08/11)

Xin Xin Ming: A Reflection of the Cosmos – Audio dharma talk by Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin (2022/08/12)

Xin Xin Ming: If You Can Be Like This – Audio dharma talk by Kidō Ian Case (2022/08/13)

 

New audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny

A new audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

The History We Carry Within Us: audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny (2022/04/16)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity

 

Ango Week 5: Continuing Returning to Our Senses, and Beginning to Contemplate Conditioning

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

A long loving look at the real…

from The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda Magee

Image: Buddha Eyes on Swayambhunath Stupa-Kathmandu

This week, we wanted to offer to continue grounding awareness in the senses, since there are a number of them and so many ways to attune. We will also add some contemplations of and possible practices for attuning to the sense gate of sight. Acknowledging that not everyone has sight through their eyes, or has sight in equal measure, we all have ways of “seeing” and our dominant or preferred habits of perceiving the world.

Sight is a powerful sense-gate, and even an energetic experience. From Sarah: when I was a child I had a game I liked to play where I would lie in bed in the morning and close my eyes and see if I could feel, in my body, when my parents were looking in at me. Pretty consistently, I had a sensation when they would look in, and if I opened my eyes right then, there they were looking at me. I am not sure that I shared this with anyone at the time, because I thought no one would believe me! But now I know this is a common experience for human beings. Have you ever been looking at someone, and they turn toward your gaze? Or vice versa, you look up and it’s because someone is looking at you? To some extent we have probably all developed a sense of how long we can look at someone before it sets off their I’m-being-looked-at radar. My guess is that this sensation probably has old roots as a protection against predation, a feeling people describe as the “hairs on my neck go up,” a feeling of being watched. I am sure there are interesting scientific explanations for this sensation, but for this week, just feel into this as a way to engage the potency of sight. It’s also interesting to consider that by most measures, the eyes are a visible part of the brain, and in that sense also very powerfully connected to brain and mind and awareness.

Practices:

– Honoring what a powerful sense-gate sight is, this week experiment with what happens when you pour your full awareness into seeing, and see what happens. One way to do this is to spend some time really regarding something you technically “see” often, but don’t fully see with your whole presence. I recommend pigeons and house sparrows, or other birds with such ubiquitous presences some of us may not even fully register they are there. What happens if you spend a few minutes giving them your full-hearted, sight-centered regard? Or a plant or a tree in your daily life that you “see” but don’t fully see. What happens when you give it your full attention? Or the face of someone you see everyday? If the conditions are right (because many people get uncomfortable when being looked at for “too long”…see defense mechanism above!), if circumstances support fully regarding someone you see often, can you notice things you haven’t noticed before? What are other ways to infuse your sight with your full awareness? Can you be open to being surprised by noticing something new even while it may be very familiar?

– Read/ listen to, or revisit if you have before: The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda Magee and My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menalem. Both books offer embodied somatic practices every chapter or section for grounding awareness and mindful attention in the body and investigating our experience as racialized beings in the Dharma of mindful attention.

This week we also want to introduce a new section to the weekly emails…

Investigating cultural and karmic conditioning

This week, and in the coming weeks, we want to offer a practice around inquiring into our conditioning around different concepts related to “Repose & Bliss, Engagement & Liberation.” We want to start off with a gentle, non-grasping inquiry into what have each of us have inherited around the concept of “work.”

When you can, take a few minutes to consider: What were you taught about work in your developing life? What it is and what it isn’t? Who taught you, implicitly and explicitly, about what work meant and how it was supposed to look? Who exemplified “work,” who “didn’t?” How valuable was work in your life and family? What messages were internalized and shaped you? Where did work fall in the hierarchies of values? For example, how valuable were activities considered “work” compared with “play,” compared with “family,” compared with “time for yourself”…compared with “vacation”?!

Considering all that, what’s your conception of work now, in your present life? What of your early conditioning still resonates? What doesn’t? Maybe talk this through with your Dharma buddy, or in dokusan, or with family members and loved ones who were a part of helping form what “work” meant in your early life. What are other people’s ideas about work? Where do they line up with yours, where do they not?

The idea here is not to get some right answers, but just to open a conversation within ourselves and with one another in sangha about our conditioning- to pull into a Dharma-infused inquiry: what we have inherited, culturally and karmically, around work? And to inquire into how all of this shapes and impacts us and our communities and our sangha; and how these conceptions align, or don’t, with our deepest values and heart request as Bodhisattva practitioners, and as human beings at this point in our lives.


New audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Being in Conversation: Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/02/05)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity