Whether you’re already writing to incarcerated persons, or are curious about the practice, come to the next VZ Lifelines to Solitary meeting on Saturday June 25, 2022 at 1:30pm via our online zendo link. All are welcome. No need to pre-register.
You may join us for some or all of the time. Please note that to receive a service position you must attend from the 25th on.
We’ll be adhering to the latest CDC guidelines and the recommendations of our Village Zendo medical team. Vaccination plus a booster is required for in-person attendance.
For those unable to attend in person, our regular online sitting schedule will continue and the Dharma Talks will be streamed online via our Online Zendo.
For information and to register: Click Here
Practicing with “Beginner’s Mind” has been a necessity, not an aspiration, as we settle in to our new home at 260 W. Broadway. It took many hands and a whole lot of coordinating, behind the scenes, to make it happen. But now we’re up and running, and it feels good to have set sail in this new Tribeca environment. There is a lot to get acquainted with: being on the ground floor, a new coat room, a new dokusan room, some new columns, a new kitchen . . . not to mention the new hybrid experience!
Relying on our Beginners Mind, we’re not just getting used to the new space, we’re all readjusting to practice in person. It’s been two long years of "practicing in place” together, in our own homes. So there’s some additional bumping up against things, and each other, because of the pandemic. How do we ring those bells, again? When do we bow? Which way do we go during kinhin? And can they hear us online?
The mornings have been quiet and luxurious, in my humble view. New people have been trickling in, and so have our “old-timers,” usually to the tune of joyful greetings.
And when, at last, we do sit down together on the cushions for a precious period of zazen—for me at least, it feels like coming home after being out in the storm.
“Vast is the robe of liberation!”
—Traven Fusho Rice
This morning I sat in the new zendo
grateful for the 72 labors that brought it to me
and it felt holy
not because the zendo is more elevated than home practice
or anywhere else
but because it reminded me that everything is holy
Including having coffee at Grandaisy with Fusho after practice
the city bustling around us
our short curly hair on fire (a reference only she might understand).
ringing the bell
we chant verse of the kesa together
vast is the robe
your home practice reaching into the zendo through a screen near the altar
I can see your faces
even if you can’t see mine
sometimes it is like that
the vast reach of one’s compassion is felt in ways that you could never imagine
this new place so unfamiliar
and yet here it is
Roshi in the dokusan room
that worn cushion
that has waited for us for over two years
—Navah Torei Steiner
Sangha—The Yeast of Practice
By Jeff Shugo Berman
A few minutes into the first period of zazen at our new 260 W. Broadway Zendo, I felt that indescribable feeling of sitting in-person wash over me. The unique sounds of the space, the unpredictable moments arising in the silence; the handing of ourselves over to communal practice and a shared space of ritual. As much as I’ve enjoyed our at-home practice on Zoom, I’ve longed for the return to in-person practice. As I felt my belly pumping in and out, my body finding its rhythms of zazen, I remembered why. When we go to the Zendo, in the literal sense, we go to sit, to chant, to walk. And in the midst of those activities, our lives reveal themselves to us. Breathing, watching, listening, experiencing awareness—a satisfaction and subtle joy emerges from the depths. But more than that, it is the sharing of those experiences in the presence of one another that makes our practice so rich. As has become painfully clear these past two years, there is an indispensable, primal quality to being with others. And like the mundane experiences of being in the world with others that we’ve so longed for during Covid, it is this experience of sitting side-by-side, and of bringing our awareness to the same experiences of living, that I find so delightful to return to.
Years ago when I first started practicing, I remember that for some time I didn’t feel connected to the jewel of Sangha. As many young men are, I was enamored of the glory of what I thought enlightenment was, and though I outwardly took refuge in the three jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, mostly I only thought about the first two. I revered the Buddha, the one who triumphantly achieved enlightenment and didn’t have to experience the suffering of being human—I thought. I bowed to the Dharma, the sacred principles that made such an achievement possible—I hoped. But what about Sangha? It felt boring and mundane to me; unremarkable beyond my normal fondness for other people. A few years later, when I had the chance to spend nine weeks at a monastery, that changed. I remember standing on a balcony outside of the kitchen, feeling for the first time that same indescribable experience of Sangha that washed over me during zazen a few weeks ago at 260 W. Broadway.
This Summer we have the exciting opportunity to return for sesshin at Wisdom House, which we last visited in 2019, six months before the beginning of Covid. It’s a return to the strange and wonderful experience of living under one roof with individuals to whom we are not related, but with whom we share the familial bonds of Sangha. On sesshin, our schedule is comprised of things we do all the time—meals, work, rest, and exercise—and we surround those activities with zazen. In doing so, we practice being with our awareness throughout the day, and by extension throughout our lives. But this practice is ultimately activated by the secret ingredient, which sometimes may not feel like an ingredient at all—Sangha. Sangha is the yeast that makes the bread rise; it allows the other ingredients to breathe and come to life. We wake up, and immediately we encounter the Sangha, who connect us to the vast web of life on our planet. We sit on our cushion—hearts beating, sweaty palms, sore muscles—and we feel the Dharma embodied in the people all around, experiencing what it is to have a body along with us. We eat, exercise, sing, work—living the Dharma alongside other livings beings. Without the Sangha, without other living beings living the Dharma, we cannot live the Dharma.
If these past two years have taught us anything, it is that our bodies are interconnected. We all breathe the same air, walk the same earth, live and die together. On sesshin, our intention brings us back to the cushion again and again, no matter what transpires while we are on it. It is our conviction, our faith, that propels us to put ourselves back on the same seat, and, to the best of our ability, remain open, attentive, and curious. In the same way, during these past two years, and as we sometimes must do on sesshin, we have called upon our strength and resilience to stay open and present despite experiencing tremendous challenge. But we have not done it alone. We have done it side-by-side, lives rubbing together in the same intimate and sometimes uncomfortable way as we do on sesshin. As we approach Summer Ango, this opportunity to return to sesshin in person feels to me like the perfect moment to reflect on and take refuge in the wondrous, exquisite jewel of Sangha once again.
I’m looking forward to another chance to practice together at Wisdom House, a setting so well-suited for sharing our practice together. Each day we are continuing to discover what our lives and the world look like in this new era. And as we do, we are continually reminded of the interconnectivity of our lives with all beings. In the silence and stillness of sesshin, we can return to the power of being together moment-by-moment, and discovering how our lives are revealed to us through our connected existence.
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
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