News from New Zealand
The Auckland Zen Centre, our sister Center led by Sensei Amala Wrightson, has closed on property in the city that they’ll be converting over the next few months into their zendo. Amala-sensei writes that much generosity is what made the purchase possible, including contributions from American donors over the past ten years. But there is still a way to go to pay for all the work that needs to be done. The Auckland Centre needs to raise about 30,000 New Zealand dollars ($25,000 US), and Sensei is busy working on material for a webpage where people can learn more about the project. In the meantime, here’s a link to a video.
Anyone who would like to help out may make a U.S. tax-deductible donation to the Rochester Zen Center, noting that the money is for the Auckland Zen Centre Fund.
Zen Center residents sometimes want to use their time off to do private retreats away from the Center, which was the original purpose behind staff and trainee time-off. They can do this while camping in the late summer, when the Center is closed each year, but winter presents problems, since some residents have too little money to go south to camp.
If you have a cabin or little house that you might want to see used by a Center resident (in winter or summer) for a private seclusion of a few days or more, please contact the Head of Zendo, John Pulleyn (email@example.com). In exchange, you could receive not only a bit of merit but an infusion of zazen energy in the cabin!
Free the Mind
Once again, the Little Theater will be screening “Free the Mind,” a recent documentary on brain scientists who are using meditation to treat conditions like PTSD and ADHD. The first Zen Center-sponsored showing on February 9 was a huge success – so huge that it sold out, and more than fifty people were turned away at the door! Given the enormous demand, the Little has scheduled an encore screening on Sunday, March 9, at 1 pm, so you’ve got a second chance if you missed it the first time around. For more information on the film, including a trailer, have a look here.
Every year or two, Roshi gives himself a sesshin, led by one of his disciple-teachers, at which he can just face the wall for seven days without teaching at all. This Thursday he is going to Germany for ten days to attend a sesshin conducted by Sensei Robert Goldmann. Roshi will be visiting with our sister Sangha in Berlin for the first time since 2007, when he gave his last sesshin there.
Roshi will return on the night of Monday, March 17. This means that after tomorrow morning (Wednesday, March 5) the next dokusan will be on Wednesday, March 19.
Roshi will be out of town until Monday, February 24, so there won’t be dokusan tomorrow evening, Thursday, February 20. This weekend most of staff will be out at Chapin Mill for the 2-day sesshin, but we will have regularly-scheduled sittings here at Arnold Park. Cecily and Alex will be holding down the fort, so come by and keep them company.
Seeing Through Racism
Jim Thompson has asked us to announce that the next meeting of the Seeing Through Racism group will be on Sunday, March 2.
First Guest Speaker Lecture on March 9
Dr. Anthony Cerulli, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, will offer the first of three lectures on Buddhist topics on Sunday, March 9, in the Arnold Park dining room, around 11 am, after sitting and brunch. Dr. Cerulli’s talk is titled, “The Four Noble Truths in Context: the History and Representation of the Four Noble Truths in Early Buddhism.”
“Free the Mind” Heads Up
The screening of the documentary, “Free the Mind,” at The Little Theater was sold out, and the theater tells us that about 50 people had to be turned away. We’re working with the distributor and The Little to see if we can schedule a second showing. Stay tuned!
A Souvenir of Sangha Entertainment Night
Thanks to the initiative and video editing prowess of the Center’s Board Chairman, Tom Kowal, a number of staff members and trainees (not to mention Tom’s wife, Donna) finally made their big movie debuts. First, you’ll want to watch the trailer for the work that inspired this effort, a fondly-remembered artifact of our Business Manager’s misguided youth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nmOjIUR9kA. Then you’ll be ready for the Zen Center version: http://youtu.be/UFf6PKxdauQ. As I think you’ll agree, everyone involved should probably plan on keeping their day jobs.
Sangha Entertainment Night!
This Saturday, February 15! 6 PM! In the Buddha Hall! Music, comedy, and who knows what else. Come see what discursive minds have dreamed up this year. We aim to wrap up by 8 PM.
And if you, yourself, would like to entertain, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of your act. Once again, Phil Swanson and his keyboard will be here from Massachusetts to provide musical backup for anyone who needs it. (If you’d like Phil to accompany you, be sure to e-mail Cecily with the details, so that Phil has time to prepare.)
Upcoming Mindful Practice Workshop for Medical Practitioners
Dr. Ron Epstein and Center member Dr. Mick Krasner will be leading a four-day workshop retreat for medical practitioners at Chapin Mill from May 7 to 10. The retreat is hosted by the Center for Experiential Learning, University of Rochester Medical Center. Drs. Epstein and Krasner are both faculty members at the University of Rochester. If you’d like to learn more, click here.
Namgyal Lamas in Rochester
Monks from the Dalai Lama’s Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India, will be creating a sand mandala and speaking on loving-kindness and compassion at Nazareth College on April 2, 3, and 4. There are two parts to the event: The construction of the sand mandala is free and open to the public, while the talk on loving-kindness and compassion is a ticketed event. Tickets for the latter are on sale through the event’s website: www.nnsm.org.
This may be the most event-filled weekend in recent memory: cleaning, eating, sitting, skiing, and watching movies – something for everyone!
This Saturday, February 8, at 9 am, we’ll have our annual cleaning-of-the-temple at Chapin Mill. Call or e-mail email@example.com if you can come and would like a ride. We’ll work ‘till lunch is served at 12:30.
That same evening, at 6 pm, we’ll have a vegetarian potluck dinner at Arnold Park. Everyone, member or not, is welcome, and if you’d like to sit beforehand, the zendo is available.
Sunday, February 9, we have an all-day sitting. Come for any or all of the blocks of sitting. Here’s the schedule:
6:15 am Zazen
8:30 Zazen & Teisho
ca 10:15 Tea break in the dining room
12:50 pm Lunch break (bring your own)
3:00 The Four Vows
Cross-country Skiing at Mendon Ponds Park
Dan Esler reports that the last outing was thoroughly enjoyable, despite lack of snow and only one other skier. Now we’ve got snow! So bring your skis to the Mendon Ponds Park “Lookout” Pavilion, this Sunday at 2 pm.
Free the Mind
And finally, at 7 pm Sunday evening, The Little Theatre (www.thelittle.org) will offer a one-time screening of the documentary, Free the Mind. The movie highlights some of the work of the neurologist and researcher, Richard Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin, studying the effects of meditation in children struggling with anxiety and combat veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Roshi and Dr. Michael Krasner will lead a discussion after the screening.
Cross-country at Mendon Ponds
Dan Esler will be leading a cross-country ski adventure on Sunday, February 2nd. Bring your skis to the Mendon Ponds Lookout shelter off the Pond Road entrance at noon, and you can join Dan on the Quaker Pond loop. There’s a map here. Dan says, “Depending on the number of people and the level of experience, we may do more after this first loop. This would be a good way for Sangha members to preemptively burn Super Bowl snacking calories, making it a guilt-free food fest.”
Movie at the Little Theatre
On Sunday, February 9, at 7 pm, the Little Theatre will show the movie Free the Mind, a documentary about the work of neurologist Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and is one of this country’s leading researchers into the effects of meditation on the mind and on the physical structure of the brain.
After the showing, Roshi and Dr. Michael Krasner will lead discussion for about 45 minutes. Dr. Krasner, an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Rochester, is a Sangha member and nationally-known exponent of mindfulness-based meditation in medicine. The Little Theatre is located at 240 East Avenue here in Rochester.
Change in Plans! – Tomorrow’s Temple Cleaning Postponed
We’re in the middle of what appears to be a norovirus outbreak here at the Center and out at Chapin Mill as well. (See http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/.) Accordingly, it seems prudent to postpone the Cleaning of the Temple that was scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, January 25. We’ve moved it to Saturday, February 8, starting at 9 am and concluding with lunch at 12:30. Appetites for work and for lunch should be a lot healthier by then.
Vegetarian Potluck Dinner at Arnold Park – Saturday, February 8
Come early for informal zazen and be ready for the dinner bell to ring promptly at 6 pm. After cleanup there will be an opportunity for those interested to play games. Bring a favorite game or take a chance on learning something new provided by the Board Game Appreciation Group. Contact Kathy Collina (firstname.lastname@example.org) to RSVP, ask questions, or to coordinate a dish.
Cynthia’s Departure – a Letter from Roshi
In a Sangha e-mail last week, we announced a going-away party for Cynthia Seefeld this Sunday (January 26) after teisho, but without much of an explanation of the circumstances prompting her departure from Zen Center residential staff and move out of Rochester.
Several years ago Cynthia began showing signs of trouble in getting around on her own. She was diagnosed with Benson’s syndrome (posterior cortical atrophy, PCA), an unusual form of Alzheimer’s disease that results in a decrease in visuospatial and visuocortical capabilities. Since this is a degenerative disease, it was only a matter of time before Cynthia needed to move to accommodations that would provide her with professional assistance. However, if she left staff before turning 65 (when Medicare kicks in), she would have had to absorb significant new insurance costs. So I resolved that we’d find a way to keep her on staff until her 65th birthday – this February 2.
With the close help of her fellow staff and others (above all John Grippo, who with power of attorney for her has devoted huge amounts of time in investigating her health-care options and otherwise working on her behalf), Cynthia has managed to carry on surprisingly well, given her near-blindness and cognitive decline. But her need for assistance has steadily grown, and her stamina declined. Early last year I urged her to rest whenever she wanted during the workday at the Center, but with her fierce work ethic she resisted any special treatment. A few months ago I had to insist that she follow a somewhat reduced work schedule, but she would not be kept from her walks in the neighborhood. Recently she has begun falling on those walks, and collecting serious bruises. With her safety now very much at risk, she needs more intensive help.
Cynthia has been an inspiration to all of us on staff and, it would appear, to others in the Sangha who have seen how beautifully she has adapted to her disease. Her grit is impressive enough, but even more, the grace and remarkable light-heartedness with which she has managed to hold up. She has come to embody the selflessness suggested by the Japanese word for a novice Zen monk, unsui – “clouds and water.” Her decision to move to suitable housing in her hometown of Milwaukee rather than Rochester has left more than a few of us disappointed. She will be sorely missed. But Milwaukee is not much more than an hour from our Madison Zen Center affiliate, where she got started in her Zen practice and where she still has a host of Sangha friends who look forward to having her closer.
Cynthia has mentioned the possibility of returning for visits, perhaps in June for our annual Ralph Chapin Memorial Work Retreat. We’ll have to see how her illness advances.
People have been asking what they might give Cynthia before her departure. We’re working with the advice of the Association for the Blind to buy her an audio player with easy-to-use controls for audiobooks and MP3s. Anyone who would like to contribute to the cost of that may send a check, marked “Cynthia,” to the Center, and if there is extra money we can give that to her either as cash or as a gift certificate to www.audible.com.
All Hands on Deck!
The Arnold Park staff will be heading out to Chapin Mill this Saturday, January 25, to join the residents there for our annual Cleaning of the Temple. We’ve always had the same event at Arnold Park, just before New Year’s Eve, but there isn’t time then to squeeze in a Cleaning of the Temple at Chapin Mill.
What we call Cleaning of the Temple is an annual ritual, adopted from Japan, in which we tackle the less visible corners and crannies and hard-to-clean areas that don’t require frequent attention. There are myriad such areas at Chapin Mill, but this annual assault keeps things from building up. And doing it with so many others is fun!
We’ll get underway at 9 am and finish with lunch at 12:30. Give us a call if you’d like a ride out and back.
The next issue of Zen Bow will explore the topic of “Relationships.” For practitioners of Zen Buddhism, relationships present us with an opportunity to work on ourselves and realize both the differences and sameness in self and other. Contributors may consider many facets of relationships: intimacy and practice, attachment or ego in relationships, working through loss or conflict, relationship to self, the challenges of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t practice Zen, choosing a single lifestyle, seeking a spiritual partner, or working with the Third Cardinal Precept, “I resolve not to misuse sexuality, but to be caring and responsible.” To bring this broad topic into focus, we ask writers to consider significant relationships between or among adults. Submit articles and images pertaining to the theme of “Relationships” to the editors, Donna Kowal and Brenda Reeb, at email@example.com. The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 21, 2014.
Winter Term Intensive
The opening ceremony for the five-week winter TI is this Thursday, January 16, around 8 PM in the zendo, after an hour of sitting. If you’re interested, check out the TI webpage and fill out a form. And if you have questions, give John a call or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month’s all-day (actually most-of-a-day) sitting is this Sunday, January 19. Here’s the schedule:
6:15 AM Zazen
8:30 Zazen & Teisho
ca 10:15 Tea break in the dining room
12:50 PM Lunch break (bring your own)
3:00 The Four Vows
You can come to any or all of the four blocks of sitting. And if you’ve signed up for the TI, this should help you meet your commitment for the first week!
A Farewell to Cynthia
Staff member Cynthia Seefeld has been serving the Center for more than 16 years. At the end of the month, she’ll be moving back to Milwaukee, where her family lives. Come if you can and join us after the sitting on Sunday, January 26.