Friday, June 29, 2007

Zen Poem

The myriad of differences resolved by sitting, all doors opened.
In this still place I follow my nature, be what it may.
From the one hundred flowers I wander freely,
the soaring cliff-my hall of meditation
(with the moon emerged, my mind is motionless).
Sitting on this frosty seat, no further dream of fame.
The forest, the mountain follow their ancient ways,
and through the long spring day, not even the shadow of a bird.

Reizan (d. 1411)

Friday, June 15, 2007


Hi, everybody.

Margaret and I are at the point where we would like to begin formalizing the relationship between Tall Grass Zen and the Kwan Um School of Zen. This stems primarily from our commitment to the practice and the school. Our secondary motive is more practical: when we formalize, the school will return fifty percent of our dues money. This money will help offset some of the costs of running retreats and the prison dharma work. More importantly, it will help us to grow, to make the practice available to more people in the Manhattan area.

The school recommends that a group have four to five dues paying members of the Kwan Um School before requesting recognition. We have three members already: Christina, Margaret, and Dick. Richard Brown will join when we formalize. Others (as many as three) have indicated that they would like to join.

We’ve posted the complete guidelines to this blog: scroll down to read them.

We would like to emphasize that no one is being asked to join the school. Joining the school is NEVER a requirement for coming to practice or sitting retreats. In most respects, formalizing our relationship to the school will change nothing.

We would like to hear from you! Are you interested in formalizing? Are you interested in joining the school? Will you run in the opposite direction if we take this step? Please feel free to use this blog to share your thoughts and feelings. Or email us at or call us or talk to us after practice.

Yours in the dharma,

Christina & Margaret

Guidelines for Starting a Zen Center

The model for Zen center development is based on the central role of the guiding teacher throughout the process.

1. A dharma teacher (or higher) in good standing with the Kwan Um School of Zen may decide to start a sitting group and promote it to the local community. It’s best if the group meets in a public space for practice. It is important that Kwan Um forms (chanting, sitting, bowing, reading letters, etc.) be introduced from the beginning. This can be done gradually. A web site, newsletter, and e-mail list can also be established. A dharma teacher should identify him/herself as a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen in any publicity.

2. Either as a kick-off event, or soon after the foundation of the group, the dharma teacher should invite a Zen Master or Ji Do Poep Sa Nim to give a public talk or workshop. Establishing a relationship with a guiding teacher is the key to the development of a new Zen center. It’s best if a guiding teacher is involved from the very beginning of the group.

3. Developing membership is an important and sometimes difficult step. Show prospective members that there is something worthwhile to join by continuing to invite teacher(s) and to offer workshops, public talks, and perhaps one-day retreats. New students will be more confident in joining a group knowing it is part of a larger sangha. While a group is forming, new members temporarily join as members of the guiding teacher’s home Zen center (or a geographically close Zen center). The new group’s portion of its members dues are routed through this Zen Center, helping the new group develop a financial profile that will be needed when the costs associated with practice equipment, incorporation, insurance, banking, etc. begin to appear. It is suggested that four to five members be onboard before a group becomes a Zen center. Five members generate $750 annually for a group.

4. The group must request ratification of its guiding teacher by the School trustees. The group establishes and maintains a consistent practice schedule of weekly sittings and several retreats per year.

5. The guiding teacher should encourage and help facilitate incorporation as a non-profit and the adoption of the common bylaws. The group must establish a board of directors and officers, all of whom must be members. The group should request that it be included in the School’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status. It is strongly recommended that groups carry liability insurance, officers and directors insurance, and professional liability insurance. (The guiding teacher is already covered by the School’s professional liability insurance, but the Zen Center is not.)

6. When it has accomplished the underlined items, the group will become a Zen Center in the Kwan Um School of Zen and be listed in Primary Point and on the School website.

April 1, 2006

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I just returned from my second amazing retreat at the Indianapolis Zen Center (IZC)! Our teacher, Linc Rhodes, told me to give his best to my friends, Margaret and Christina a couple of times. He told me about how amazing it was to see a herd of buffalo on the Konza Prairie during his last visit to Manhattan. I'm sure it's an amazing experience for anyone, but for a dyed in the wool Easterner... Also, Chris, who has sat with M & C in Indy, Chicago, Providence, and Colorado sends his love and says he's trying to think of how to kidnap them and take them home to Alabama with him.

During the circle talk at my last IZC retreat, someone mentioned how nice it was to have four guests from Kansas who knew the chants so well that the group didn't just sound like Eddy (a local Dharma Teacher) and his back up singers as usual. Well! They have been practicing! The chanting was amazingly enthusiastic, confident and downright inspiring. Only 3 or 4 people needed chanting books at all, and no one used them during the Heart Sutra. For someone like myself who practices alone most of the time, this enthusiastic chanting was absolutely inspiring. I found myself taking big gulps of air at times in order to get it around the lump in my throat. Practicing alone is necessary, but the opportunity to practice with a Sangha means partaking in what is deservedly one of the three jewels of Buddhism along with Buddha and Dharma. Keeping a practice going on my own has proven to be very difficult, especially during times of stress and anxiety when I (and the world) need it the most. But, the inspiration and support one derives from sitting, chanting and walking with others of like mind and direction provides the momentum and helps with the considerable discipline needed to keep it up. When thinking about Sangha I'm always reminded of what Garrison Keiler says about Powdermilk Biscuits on his radio show. “They give you the get-up-and-go to do what needs to be done.”

Interviews with Linc were wonderful (of course). We talked mostly about impermanence as it applies to getting older and to jobs and relationships whose natures are always changing. He pointed out that I have real life koan to sit with in order to help my situation. I found this very helpful. Of course, just sitting for two and a half days was an immense help in toning down my stress level.

The drywall is up in the IZC Dharma room as they continue to convert their two year old Zen Center from a residential home. Linc stayed through Monday to lend his carpentry expertise by putting up the trim in the Dharma room. A bunch of other folks, inspired by Linc’s presence were taking off of work to help out. Again, there’s Sangha at work.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dry Cleaning the Mind

Thanks for the invitation to join the blogspot. I am uncertain of any particular protocol, so, I ask for grace and education with any faux pax. I was honored to be able to read the letters while sitting last Saturday morning. Two short letters that resonated powerfully for me. One of the things that has continued to stand out was the phrase "dry cleaning the mind" when talking about an arduous nine day sit. The retreat was an ardous sit. Saturdays moring sits no longer seem arduous but the 108 pronations do. I still find even short sits alone arduous. My mind continually leaves the train station and my body urges me to move. But as I get back to center and let go of the urges of the body, I do find my mind is dry cleaned. Thanks for welcoming me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A pocket full of nothing...

I had awakened at 9 p.m. last night only to sit on the stoop of my apartment building and peer into the evening sky. I sipped a cold glass of water and quietly watched the leaves in the trees dance in the wind. In my khakis I was completely rooted to the concrete watching the neighbor's cat stop to observe my presence then patter away. I thought about impermanence. How the things of life do not always remain the same. Relationships change and end. Jobs come and go. My son can now lift me over his head and has a running vehicle in contrast to my now dead Nissan Sentra. Nothing special about this evening. In the silence; between the rustle of the wind through the trees there was nothing. The things I clung to so dearly and even those things I had been told I should hold to were no longer fixtures my mind had created. Gone. I searched for some remorse. On my cushion, like so many other thoughts, it was like a torrent. I remember the Heart Sutra and the interviews with the Ji Do Poep Sa Nim. "Cling to nothing..." What the hell? Another sip of the cold water and I sat for an indefinite amount of time. When I brought the glass to my lips and discovered a trickle I knew it was time for a walk. I blended into the shadows of the tree laden streets and allowed the cool of the evening to envelope me like a moist blanket. My feet are placed before me and I move forward slowly.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Meal Gatha

Here is a widely-used gatha our family says when we sit down together to eat a meal together. perhaps some others will want to use it.

We venerate the three treasures
And are thankful for this meal
The work of many people
And the sharing of other forms of life