Happy Groundhog Day! It’s February, and just as in the Harold Ramis movie starring Bill Murray, there can sometimes be the feeling in these dreary middle months of winter that every day is pretty much the same. And while sure, one could get depressed about this, yearn for something different, something new, we Zen students (theoretically) know better. Because, yes, this is the only day we ever get—and how wonderful!
After all, consider what opportunity this day holds! Indeed, here at the Village Zendo, each day, no matter the day, practice-enlightenment opportunities abound: zazen in-person and online, Dharma Talks, book groups, sitting groups, inquiry circles, zazenkais, fusatsus (see the calendar below for a full list of all upcoming events). Each day, there is poetry (see below for poems from Shuka and Filip). Each day, in the Zendo, and in our own private spaces—life (see below for an intimate reflection on at-home practice by Ryusho).
I’d like to admit right off the bat that I am extremely adept at making New Year’s resolutions, and absolutely awful at keeping them. In fact, this gap between thought and action—between knowing what one should do and doing it—is a subject I’m trying to write a book on (yet another thing I want to accomplish but can’t seem to). Anyway, the fact I can’t manage to adhere to my resolutions apparently doesn’t stop me from making them, so I thought I’d share a few Zendo-related ones that made it onto the list this year.
In this holiday season, when the act of giving is on our minds and in our hearts, I am moved by Maezumi’s comment that the best thing to give is no-fear. (What about ugly Christmas sweaters, you ask? Well, those come in as a close second.) For me, this “no-fear” is in part a leap of faith—faith that we are already who we are meant to be, buddhas, bodhissatvas, each and every one of us. But the other (and perhaps most important) part of no-fear is that we show up. At the Zendo, on the cushion, for our family and friends, for the whole universe. Then, having summoned the courage to be ourselves, and to be truly present, we do what we can.
As many of you already know, the formal name of the Village Zendo is Dotokuji, which translates as True Expression Temple. I am reminded today, gathering together this Bulletin, of how many forms this expression—this true expression—can take. True expression manifests in action, like, for instance, when Sangha members come together to support a refugee, as Doshin reflects upon below. True expression happens in the clear, intentional ringing of a bell, as we’ll learn during the upcoming Rituals Workshop. True expression occurs in Dharma Dialogue, as Shuso Jeff Shugo Bergman has just proven—the natural spontaneity of response when it comes from a place of openness and presence. (Congratulations, Shuso!) And true expression reveals itself even in the fixed form of the printed word, as it does in Sal Gessho Randolph’s new book, The Uses of Art, which we are grateful to be able to excerpt below in our Reflections section.
Ever since long-time editor of the Bulletin Nina Shuka Klippel came up with the wonderful idea to have Sangha members write about practicing from afar, I’ve been thinking about distance, separation, longing. (A romantic at heart, the quote above from the poet Robert Hass has always been one of my favorites). But in a practice that is, at least in part, about closing distances and finding a way to not separate—what does it mean to practice from a physical distance? And is separation just an illusion? After all, I know from experience you can be sitting in the Zendo itself and be distant from it—mind three thousand miles away. And it’s clear from reading the moving personal reflections offered below that you can be in an entirely different country and yet be fully present, right there in the Zendo, intimately connected with your fellow Sangha members.
Maybe it’s because I never really grew up, but September still feels to me like the start of the year—summer drawing to a close, back to work, back to school. It’s a time to begin again, and recommit to our practice, our inquiry. We are, after all, students of the Way, and the Village Zendo is our school—the institution that helps us conduct our investigations into this great matter of life and death.
It’s been a strange month to want to celebrate freedom, even if that’s what we’re supposed to do on the 4th, or on Bastille Day: mark our independence. But even though—and perhaps especially because—our very rights and freedoms are being so threatened, it is worth celebrating freedom right now. Fighting for it. Practicing it. Because freedom of course is what we do in Zen—not just the goal of it, but the very practice of it. Which is one of the many reasons to be grateful for all the practice opportunities the Village Zendo offers us: day after day, we get to practice—to proclaim—our independence.
So here we are in June, on the very edge of summer—change of season, and for many, a change of lifestyle and, maybe, a different sense of time.
This summer we may also be experiencing a variety of places for practice. Many of us will be sitting in our new space, while others participate from home via video. And we will able, at last, to return to Wisdom House for our summer Ango, a two-week retreat starting July 25. (For intimate reflections on returning to the new space by Torei and Fusho, see below.)
Two of our ongoing groups will be meeting this month: the Book Group, on June 24th and the prison letter writing group the following day. All VZ members are welcome to attend these groups.
Here we are in the month of May—the height of spring, with its dazzlement of flowers, and surely a transition to summer.
For the Village Zendo, a time of transition, too, as we move into our new space. Roshi tells us, “We are in the midst of a ‘soft opening’ and there’s availability for 12 of us to sit—so please do check our website and come on down!”
As you’ll see on the calendar, some of our Dharma Talks this month will be given in person from the new space, though most remain remote. Check the calendar for which events are online only and which are hybrid, and remember that you have to register for in-person practice.
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.