Dharma Talk With Grace Schireson Tonight

Please join us tonight for a special dharma talk with Grace Schireson at 8pm. The title of her talk is “The Self–Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It.” Please register here.

Myoan Grace Schireson, PhD, is a Zen Abbess, president of Shogaku Zen Institute (a Zen teachers’ training seminary), and holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. She received Dharma Transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi Zen lineage. The late Fukushima Keido Roshi of Tofukuji Monastery, Kyoto asked her to teach the koan she studied with him during her practice there. Abbess Myoan Grace leads two practice centers and a retreat center, Empty Nest Zendo, under the Central Valley Zen Foundation
Abbess Myoan Grace is the author of Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters (Wisdom, 2009), and has published articles in Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma and Tricycle magazines. She has also been anthologized in The Book of Mu, Receiving the Marrow, The Hidden Lamp, and Seeds of Virtue, Seeds of Change as well as in a book on spiritual training: The Arts of Contemplative Care.  She has been married for 46 years, and lives with her husband part time on Stanford campus and at her Zen retreat center, Empty Nest Zendo in North Fork, California. She has two grown sons and four grandchildren.



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.

Regular Schedule Resumes This Week

The regular weekly meditation schedule at BZC will resume this Wednesday, September 3rd with morning zazen starting at 7:30am and our members night that evening. The full meditation schedule can be found here.

Please note that our regular Saturday schedule will not be taking place on September 6th due to our one-day sit. The next public Saturday program will be our Second Saturday, September 13th.

Fall Classes at BZC

The Dharma is one of the three treasures of the Buddha way. At Brooklyn Zen Center, we offer many opportunities for studying and engaging the teaching. BZC will be offering four new dharma classes this fall, all starting in September.

Please click below for more information on each class and to register.


The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

A 10-week class led by Larry Lane
Tuesdays, September 16th through November 18th, 8:00 to 9:15pm
$150/$100 for BZC members

Hidden Wisdom: the Teachings of Our Female Zen Ancestors

A 10-week class led by Laura O’Loughlin
Fridays, September 19th through December 5th, 7:00 to 8:15pm
$150/$100 for BZC members


Fall Practice Period

A practice period is one of the main offerings necessary for deepening the practice of a committed urban practitioner. Developing continuity of presence in daily life is fundamental–as is sitting more zazen.

During the practice period this fall, shuso (head student) Greg Snyder will be teaching and discussing  the fundamental practices of a bodhisattva–an awakening person practicing for all beings. This is our path. These are the 6 practices, or perfections, of the bodhisattva: generosity, ethics, patience, energy, meditation and wisdom.

Please consider filling in a practice period commitment form and joining our community for this period of intensification of our practice life. There will be a special shuso ceremony will be at the end of our 5-day Rohatsu sesshin in December.

The truth of our your deepest request awaits your discovery.

Limited August Schedule

Please note that Brooklyn Zen Center will be operating on a limited schedule from August 1st through September 2nd. During this time, we will switch over to a Saturday-only meditation schedule (ie, there will be no weekday meditation periods).

The Saturday schedule for August will be as follows:

9:00am Meditation instruction
10:20am Zazen
10:50am Kinhin (walking meditation)
11:00am Zazen
11:30am End

Our regular weekly meditation schedule will resume on Wednesday, September 3rd. Have a great summer!

Reb Anderson Talks Added Online

Just a heads up that the talks from Reb Anderson’s 5-day retreat last month have been added to our online archive of recorded dharma talks:

The Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva’s Good Friendship – Part 1 (06/11/2014)

The Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva’s Good Friendship – Part 2 (06/12/2014)

The Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva’s Good Friendship – Part 3 (06/13/2014)

The Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva’s Good Friendship – Part 4 (06/14/2014)

Our online archive is updated regularly. Please check back often. Enjoy!

Closed for the 4th of July

Please note that Brooklyn Zen Center will be closed this Friday for the 4th of July holiday — but we will be open for our regular Saturday program on the 5th.

The full Saturday schedule is as follows:

8:45am Doors open
9:00am Meditation instruction ($10 suggested donation)
10:20am Zazen
10:50am Kinhin (walking meditation)
11:00am Zazen
11:30am Service
11:50am Soji
12:15pm End of day

Please feel free to take part in any or all of the schedule.

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



Kikuko Morimoto: This Is Not Water

March 8 – June 30, 2014 /Opening: March 8th 6-8 PM

No Eyes Viewing Wall (NEVW) at the Brooklyn Zen Center is pleased to present a single new painting by New York based artist Kikuko Morimoto.  The 11 yard long work consisting of acrylic washes on paper and canvas was made specifically for the No-Eyes Viewing Wall.  Due to the work’s formidable scale, the artist used the large formal meditation space as art studio. 

 The NEVW program offers a chance to experience new artworks through the lens of a functioning meditation and mindfulness community. Each exhibition includes a conversation or an experiment regarding the states of mind involved in creating art, as both research for the artist and an offering to the public. Kikuko shared the following words:

 “Usually I start with a pale color and I layer them,  but when people saw the early layers, they said “Oh- this is water, or this is ocean, this is river” and I thought about how to make it something  not so particular, and I thought to make it darker. But maybe that was not a good idea (laughing). So then I started to make it dark, and I thought, maybe its too dark…”

Full Interview:

Noah Fischer interviews  Kikuko Morimoto in advance of her exhibition “This is Not Water” at the NO Eyes Viewing Wall of Brooklyn Zen Center

 NF: Do you feel that you’re finished with the piece for the NEVW?

 KM: I’m not sure, I don’t know yet, I still have to look more

 NF: How was your experience working inside the zendo as you created this large painting?

 KM: It was very difficult. At times, I regretted it.

 NF: Regretted what?

 KM: That I started. Maybe I was- what’s the expression? “Biting into more than I could chew.”   So I thought maybe this is too big.  Its really strenuous to paint edge to edge on this size, it take a really long time to finish, and its so big that you can’t really see the whole thing, and no matter where I stand I can’t see everything. I had a high  chair but still couldn’t really see, that was the hard part.

 NF: What qualities were you looking for in order to feel it was completed and to feel good about it?

 KM: My initial idea was I wanted to see something big and blue across the wall. Usually I start with a pale color and I layer them,  but when people saw the early layers, they said “Oh- this is water, or this is ocean, this is river” and I thought about how to make it something  not so particular, and I thought to make it darker. But maybe that was not a good idea (laughing). So then I started to make it dark, and I thought, maybe its too dark…

 NF: So it sounds like there were a lot of questions and judgments and uncertainties.

Do you think the uncertainties came from anticipating people’s judgments or was it about your own happiness with the piece?

 KM: Well, I’m always looking for some kind of sensation I get from the piece, some excitement. But sometimes you go over the point.

 NF: Tell me about your artistic path in your life. When did art practice become important to you?

 KM: I was making film and tv before, and film and tv has a lot of process, lot of business and negotiation and writing and thinking and it involves a lot of people.  Painting is much simpler. If you have paper and paint, you can do it without negotiating. That’s my freedom. Even though I was making film and tv, I didn’t feel really creative. I needed to do something to let it out.  So I’d go to paper and just paint. When I’m making film, and tv it was a little suffocating. In the process, you don’t really feel like you’re creating but rather negotiating and that was frustrating, and it was suffering.  I needed to relieve the frustrations.

 NF: Does the painting continue to feel free as you are practicing it over time, and taking classes and becoming more professional?

 KM: It’s a little different now. Now I’m not just tryng to get my frustration out, which sometimes came out dark and dirty and terrible!  Now I’m looking to create something beautiful. That’s what I’m looking for in my artwork. Now before I paint, I have to find a really peaceful space in me, so then I can really work and make something beautiful.  This is a different approach.

 NF: And what do you think about having this piece up in the space at Zen Center.  Do you look forward to practicing here with your piece in the wall?

 KM: Well, it’s a little scary, you’ll be exposed, you’ll be open to being criticized.

 NF: So, what is being exposed?

 KM: Besides the painting?

 NF: How about that sign o the BZC kitchen wall  that says “You are Not the Soup.” Is it true that you are not the painting?  Or maybe you are a little?

 KM: I am still identifying myself a little with the painting, so there’s a fear of failing…that people will judge my painting and say yes or no.

 NF: And what if they find it beautiful, is that also dangerous?

 KM: That’s also dangerous. When people says its gorgeous or beautiful, you feel a little flattered, and now you’re identifying with this piece: that’s me.  But I don’t yet know how this Buddhist practice will apply to all this. 

 Also, I noticed that I’m thinking about Zen Buddhism.  Instead of pink and purple, I am thinking on a monochromatic scale.  I was looking at a book of robes form the BZC library,  which was very beautful but monochromatic. I’m being influenced, maybe I’m limiting myself.

 NF: Kiku, thanks you for contributing your thinking and work.




New Year’s Eve at BZC

Please join us on Tuesday evening, December 31st for our 7th annual New Year’s Eve sit and celebration.

The evening will start at 8pm and will include a period of zendo cleaning, a meal of noodle soup, and three periods of zazen leading up to midnight. The sit is filling up quickly so please register soon if you would like to attend.

For more information and to RSVP, please click here.

Winter Interim Schedule

Please note that our regular weekday meditation schedule will be suspended during the winter interim period (December 12th through January 10th), and we will be following a Saturday-only schedule during this time. On these Saturdays, we won’t be having zazen instruction or a community lunch.

The schedule will be as follows:

10:00am Doors open

10:20am Zazen

10:50 am Kinhin (walking meditation)

11:00 am Zazen

11:30am End

Our regular schedule will resume on Saturday, January 11th, with our full Saturday program.


Membership Drive Update

Dear sangha,

We are so grateful and happy to report that 81 new and returning members have shown their generosity by pledging for 2014! Thank you so much!  We have just 4 bright lights left to make our goal, and only a few days left to do it! Please consider making a pledge at whatever amount is possible for you. Membership helps us to budget for the entire year, supporting our programs, staff, and operating needs. Current members who have not yet renewed for 2014, we hope we can count on you for another year! Potential new members, we hope you join us for the fun. With your help, we can reach our goal.

We are also happy to report that 16 members have taken the “108 at 108” pledge, committing to support the Zen Center at at least $108 dollars per month, deeply strengthening our financial sustainability for the next five years. Thank you for doing so, and if you haven’t yet – consider becoming a 108’er yourself!

Sign up today!

Each week of the drive, we’ve featured another of BZC’s bright lights and asked them why they became members. 

For our final week: meet Caitlin Burnham!

CaitlinMember since May, 2013.

 In her words:

 I don’t think I would have lasted a week in New York City if it weren’t for Brooklyn Zen Center. It continues to be the place in the city where I feel most at home. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way I have been enveloped in the sangha’s support. Accepting the opportunity to support this community is a way for me to support life. Through Zen practice, I find myself becoming more and more alive. I feel more and more human. I cannot think of anything more worthy of support. 

Please consider becoming a member or renewing your membership today!

You can sign up HERE.

Thank you for shining your light in our community, and for supporting the Center that supports you. Your gift is so deeply appreciated.

 With gratitude,

 Yael Shy and Ian Case (Membership Co-Chairs)




Holiday Schedule

Please note that Brooklyn Zen Center will be closed to the public during our Rohatsu retreat this week, from Wednesday, December 4th through Sunday the 8th.

Fall Practice Period Public Talks

As part of the fall practice period at Brooklyn Zen Center, head student Laura O’Loughlin will be giving three dharma talks at BZC over the next couple months. The first one will be this Saturday, October 19th, at 11am as part of our regular Saturday program. Zazen starts at 10:20am and the talk will follow. All are welcome.

Laura will also give talks on Saturday, November 2nd and 16th, also at 11am.

Teah Strozer will be giving talks on Saturday, October 26th and November 23rd.