Life breaking and blossoming – what are we to make of it?
So here we are in April—wonderful to know that the month gets its name from the Latin aperio
, meaning “to open,” as plants begin to open and grow. And how apt as the Village Zendo prepares to open its long-awaited new space!
Although the opening date has not yet been announced, we can offer a glimpse of the completed space, thanks to the photo below from Myoko.
But right now, we have a varied calendar of activities. The month leads off with a meeting about Jukai, receiving the precepts: April 1 at 6 pm.Our Prison Letter Writing Group will be meeting this Saturday, April 2. This is just one of several prison-related initiatives of the Village Zendo. We are also engaging with refugees, with an organizational meeting April 5. Our monthly book group will meet on April 10, focusing on an extraordinary memoir by Sangha member Marco Seiryu Wilkinson.
One special event will be our annual meeting on Saturday, April 30 from 4 to 5:30 pm. It will include a review of our membership, financials, programs, and special announcements, with time for questions, comments, and suggestions.
Last month we had a vibrant Urban Sesshin. Planned by our Shuso, the artist Michael HonGo Brooks, it was all about art-making, and was, by all accounts, extraordinary. Equally so was HonGo’s Shuso Hossen, as recalled in accounts by JyaKuen and Torei.
Finally, in this issue, we hear from Sangha members afar—including those in the Bolivian Sangha as well as, on a snowy mountain in Colorado, our own Lumi Windwalker, who sends a beautiful reflection on the wintry life around her.
With deep bows to all,
Nina Shuka Klippel
Kojin checking the settings of the hybrid set-up at the new zendo….
Myoko is supervising final details of shelving in cloakroom ……
Eye-opening date soon to be announced!
Friday, April 1: Jukai, Receiving the Buddhist Precepts, 6 pm
Saturday, April 2: Prison Letter Writing Group, 1:30 pm
Sunday, April 3: Practice & Inquiry Circle with Joshin Roshi
Tuesday, April 5: Sanghas Helping Refugees, 8 pm
Thursday, April 7: Dharma Talk by Mukei
Saturday, April 9: Zazenkai with Dharma Talk by Ryotan Roshi
Sunday, April 10: Dharma Talk by Ryoshin
VZ Book Group, 5 pm
Thursday, April 14: Dharma Talk by Tokuyu Hoshi
Sunday, April 17: Dharma Talk by Enkyo Roshi
Thursday, April 21: Dharma Talk by JoAn Hoshi
Sunday, April 24: Dharma Talk by Jisei
Path of Koan, 1:30 pm
Thursday, April 28: Dharma Talk by Soshin
Newcomers’ meeting, 6:40 pm
Saturday, April 30: VZ Annual Meeting, 4 pm
The Bolivian Sitting Group meets Saturday mornings, 7 am
Bolivia Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 297 525 8394; Password: 1234
The People of Color Sitting Group meets Saturday mornings, 10:30 am
How to Meditate meets every Monday evening (except holidays) at 6:30 pm
VZ PRISON PROJECTS
Lifelines to Solitary
Saturday, April 2, 1:30 pm
Guest speaker: Jesse Jiryu Davis
VZ’s Lifelines to Solitary group meets quarterly to support Sangha members who correspond with persons incarcerated in our nation’s prisons, sharing letters, discussing issues that arise. Our next meeting will feature VZ senior student Jesse Jiryu Davis
, a longtime member of Dharma Song Zen Temple at Sing Sing Prison, and a founding member of the VZ NYC Jails Program. Jiryu will share his experiences and answer questions about in-person dharma practice with our incarcerated brothers and sisters. There will also be time for discussion of our own letter-writing practice.
This meeting will take place in the regular VZ Zoom room: https://villagezendo.org/online-zendo/
Everyone, group member or not, is welcome to join us for this informative and compelling discussion.
For more information about Lifelines to Solitary, contact Shuka at email@example.com
or ChoGaku at firstname.lastname@example.org
NYC SANGHAS HELPING REFUGEES:
Tuesday, April 5, 8:00 pm
Please join us for our first organizational meeting – we finally have enough people to get started! We will talk about our next steps and the committees we will form to address the refugees' needs (e.g. housing, education). You will have a chance to break into small groups to learn more about the committees you're interested in. Please email Doshin at email@example.com
if you have any questions.
Register for the Zoom meeting here:
VZ BOOK GROUP
Sunday, April 10, 5 pm
Madder: A Memoir in Weeds
By Marco Seiryu Wilkinson
We are honored and delighted to welcome longtime Sangha member Marco Seiryu Wilkinson to discuss his new book, Madder: A Memoir in Weeds
, published by Coffeehouse Press.
Madder, matter, mater—a weed, a state of mind, a material, a meaning, a mother. Essayist and horticulturist Marco Wilkinson searches for the roots of his own selfhood among family myths and memories.
“My life, these weeds.” Marco Wilkinson uses his deep knowledge of undervalued plants, mainly weeds—invisible yet ubiquitous, unwanted yet abundant, out-of-place yet flourishing—as both structure and metaphor in these intimate vignettes. Madder
combines poetic meditations on nature, immigration, queer sensuality, and willful forgetting with recollections of Wilkinson’s Rhode Island childhood and glimpses of his maternal family’s life in Uruguay. The son of a fierce, hard-working mother who tried to erase even the memory of his absent father from their lives, Wilkinson investigates his heritage with a mixture of anger and empathy as he wrestles with the ambiguity of his own history. Using a verdant iconography rich with wordplay and symbolism, Wilkinson offers a mesmerizing portrait of cultivating belonging in an uprooted world.
Marco Seiryū Wilkinson
has been a horticulturist, a farmer, and an editor. He currently teaches creative writing at University of California, San Diego and Antioch University’s MFA program, and has taught horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and wild food foraging in Ohio and Southern California. He has been the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Award for Individual Excellence and fellowships from the Hemera Foundation, Craigardan, and the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. Madder: A Memoir in Weeds
is his first book. He has been practicing with the Village Zendo since 1999.
"Remember that the little and the useless are what knit the visible world together."
—from Madder: A Memoir in Weeds
In May, we will be discussing Ruth Ozeki’s new book, The Book of Form and Emptiness
. It's long, so you may want to get a head start.
Saturday, April 30, 4 – 5:30 pm
Please join us for our annual meeting It will include a review of our membership, financials, programs and special announcements. There will be time for questions, comments and suggestions.
—Buddha image by Rodney Musho Greenblat
Shinryu Roshi, co-founder of the Sangha writes:
When we started out, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, nor what we were building. We just went forward step by small step. Sometimes the path was smooth and sometimes it was rocky. And all of a sudden, thirty years have gone by.
We still don’t know what will come of it all. But we continue going forward, trying to pay attention to each step we take, sharing our practice with the people around us and with the universe.
A video has just been produced to honor the Bolivian Sangha’s 30th anniversary https://youtu.be/UYzBBTGHVRw
. Special thanks to Pablo Komon Alanes for the design and production.
In it, some Bolivian practitioners speak:
“Zen for me is an upright spine, a deep breath, an attitude of connection, and a flowering from within, without any pretense.”
—Nené Hannya Do Molina
“For me, all these years of zazen have been understanding that our life is what is ordinary, normal, everyday. We aren’t separate from that. But within the everyday lies something deep, the deepest thing that life has to offer. We are part of that life. We are that life.”
—Alejandro Chigen Mangiarotti
Zen has opened up for me the possibility of doing something simple, but which I didn’t do before: to pay attention and see myself as I am and see the world as it is.”
—Marisol Shoken Quiroga
using all its strength
Some words from Enkyo Roshi, (from her March 19 talk on Bearing Witness):
I think poetry, painting, drawing, and music help us to find our way to be able to witness the suffering and the joys of life. Sometimes it is so subtle, that we can miss it. It can be a line on a white page, or a whole page of words, or a splash of color—the very moment that sound reaches our ears, that the insight, the connection, appears.
Indeed, this very week when the world seemed so cruel, we were able to take nourishment and teachings through the arts—being the line in drawing with Hongo, the flow of color in painting with Emma, and the wisdom and compassion of words with Joshin Roshi.
We can turn toward the suffering when we have the expressive tools to articulate the distress, the hardship, the anguish that accompanies life itself. And these same tools also offer us joy and realization and compassion. Fusho’s talk on Thursday pointed to the power of creativity to refresh and encourage us.
So, for one all-too-brief week, we were immersed in the arts—drawing, painting, writing…so many opportunities for discovery and expression.
Here are some reactions to HonGo’s neurographic drawing workshop:
I drew lines I wanted to draw.
I painted with water and color onto the drawings.
Immersed in the process and with the Sangha.
Ordinary and special it took me away from the trauma of daily war.
…the impact it had on me after the fact has been profound—
Especially the part of the connection points.
In Gratitude, Leslie
The first word that comes to mind to describe HonGo’s workshop, and this Ango under his care . . . Solace.
Having forgotten the transformational power of drawing a line, HonGo's workshop invited me back in with his characteristic kindness and full-heartedness. The neurographic drawing exercise was the perfect way to practice being present to artistic expression, and I am already planning to share it with friends and family.
Connecting … pen to paper … line to line … no plan … color, maybe … together.
Carolyn Goshen, One Heart Sangha, Maryland
Joshin's Writing Workshop
Joshin gave a wonderful instruction for any writer: Allow! Bear witness. Allow ourselves to be with what emerges. Be with “messiness.” How to get started? She gave us this exercise: choose a letter from the word Shodoku, make a list of words starting with that letter, choose three, and then, thus armed—write! We had a chance to share our writings in small groups—these break-out groups, sometimes finding oneself with people we’ve never met, are so illuminating and enriching
Seiki’s Watercolor Workshop
Seiki started by explaining what made watercolor fun—“I really like it because you can’t control it,” she said. And off we went, exploring the mixture of water and pigment, dipping and wiping, dabbing away, while creating every color of the rainbow, on a color wheel, using just three primary colors as our base.
It gave us permission to play, knowing we wouldn’t be able to control the end result. Something about water washing over paper felt freeing to me; it took the saying “go with the flow” to a new level. As soon as I finished my first wheel, I was immediately inspired to paint another one, curious about how it would emerge the second time.
Seiki also offered different exercises for us to try, like painting petals and leaves of a flower, explaining, “You can do exactly the same thing over and over, but each petal will be different. And the looser you are with it, the better it turns out."
Hmmm…sounds like Zazen!
HONGŌ’S SHUSO HOSSEN:
Self-portrait by HonGo
Sunday, March 20th, 2022, was
Village Zendo’s Shuso Hossen ceremony.
This ceremony was really lovely—loving and funny and honest. That isn’t to say that others that I’ve seen weren’t or were not as good—there was just something sweet about this one. Not sickeningly sweet but caring and warm—something similar to a big hug.
And it was very human. HonGō started out his talk with the admission that he had no real prepared Dharma Talk written down. The one he had he’d dumped in the early morning hours of Sunday, because he felt that the words were “too wooden.” He wanted to speak more from his heart. This acknowledgment of “Humanness” I felt opened the space for the rest of us to be ourselves—to laugh, cry, deeply reflect, and ask even hard questions of the Shuso and ourselves.
I loved the fun, intimacy and emotion of the whole ritual and seeing all of that in the faces in the squares and seeing HonGō reflect it back to every single square. I stayed for the entire ritual, even though I had a flight to catch—it was good energy to take with me.
—JyaKuen Sherrilynn Posey
Mazel tov! I truly enjoyed your Dharma Talk, the way you dropped the plan and improvised the new, losing your place and finding it again, even the leg cramp at the end. It all held so many teachings…even more than the words itself. But in terms of the content, what really stayed with me was your reflection on practicing zazen after enlightenment… You said: enlightenment is also not permanent. That sentence moved me and made realize my own delusion around enlightenment, seeing it as an end goal, perfect and unchangeable. So thank you for the reminder that even this state is changeable and we all need to continue to practice diligently, so we can notice how we transform, even in our enlightened state.
I enjoyed your gentle, thoughtful presence during Ango. It is clear people feel safe with you, which to me is the most important element when becoming a leader of any kind at the Zendo. I think of what you told me during dharma combat, about growing up in Oklahoma and the long journey you have traveled to become a senior student at the Village Zendo. I am grateful to be on this journey with you.
—Navah Torei Steiner
Love Song to Mother Earth
by Lumi Windwalker
All my life, false and real, right and wrong entangled.
Playing with the moon, ridiculing wind, listening to birds.
Many years were wasted seeing the mountain covered with snow
THIS WINTER, I SUDDENLY REALIZE
SNOW MAKES THE MOUNTAIN -DOGEN
ALL MY LIFE… THIS WINTER I SUDDENLY REALIZE…
All my life I have carried many joys and many burdens. Not with remorse or regret, nor with illusions of wanting something other than what I experience.
All my life I have been a wild…ummm…a wilderness to explore. The overacculturation tries to make me conform; sometimes condemns me, sometimes congratulates me.
All my life I have found refuge within your (Earth-Mother’s) forests, your mountains, your plains, your oceans, your streams, and your council of all beings… All my life I have found wonderment in the diversity of life …
All my life I have found gratitude while breathing in and out the very life of Oneness with you Mother Earth
All my life I have crossed thresholds; opened myself to new frontiers; descended into canyons and clawed my way out; have been abducted into cocoons where my imaginal cells swim in the depths of the unknown.
This Winter I suddenly realize that just as the trees on this mountain today (3/17/22) must carry the heavy burden of snow, the sun, the wingeds and the wind will free their burdened outreached appendages in time.
This Winter I suddenly realize that the burden and weight of the snow builds resilience, character, strength, and flexibility and shapes each tree-being with the challenges as it humbly bows.
This Winter I suddenly realize that just like the tree-people, I bear the burdens and joys, enter the frontiers and cross thresholds; experience the transformations of cocoons and canyon descents, gasp at the wonderment of the diversity of life, hold the gratitude, soften with the breathing of wind, and find refuge in our EarthMother. And all this, has shaped and sculpted the whole of me…
Which is more than I or anyone else could possibly imagine…
I vow to walk-live reverently, gently, lovingly, trustingly, open-heartedly, and respectfully. I vow to practice, moment by moment with presence and attention. I vow to look deeply into the reality of interbeing, and make amends when I unwittingly offend through my ignorance.
We communicate in three places online:
our email list, a Facebook page, and a Groups.io list
where we share events and information among the whole
Sangha. Explore these various ways of staying connected and
up to date here: https://villagezendo.org/connect-with-us/
Editor: Nina Shuka Klippel
Associate Editor: Taylor Plimpton
Managing Editor/ Design & Production: Howard Thoresen
Our Dana Bowl sits empty in our sequestered Zendo, but our expenses continue.
In these trying times, if you are able, please make a donation and type
"DANA" in the Comments box. Thank you!