50th Anniversary

Rochester Zen Center

April 15, 2016

Garden Party on Saturday, April 16

OK, more of a work day than a party, but still…

Most everyone on staff will head out to Chapin Mill tomorrow morning, around 8:15, to get the garden ready for the growing season that’s bursting forth all around us. If you like to dig in the dirt and help things grow, we’d love more help! Let us know if you need a ride, or come out on your own. We’ll provide lunch, of course, and head back to Rochester around 3:00.

Zendo Experiment No. 2

After an enthusiastic response from out-of-town members to our live streaming of Arnold Park sittings (and teisho), now we’d like to try something new for local members: a place – right next to the zendo – where people can sit at evening sittings while allowed to move during the 35-minute round. Namely, the dining room.

For decades at the Center we’ve seen markedly more people signing up for membership than attending sittings. So what keeps new members away from sittings? It could be any number of things, but one might be the rule of no moving during a full, 35-minute round of sitting. Because this constraint enables one to reach stronger concentration (even while sitting alone), we’ll maintain the rule in the main zendo. But now, people who want to ramp up to sitting for 35 minutes straight at an evening sitting will be permitted, in the dining room, to change posture before the round ends. As for kinhin, they would join it with everyone else. (Note: the rounds on Tuesday evening, “Beginners’ Night,” will continue to be just 25 minutes long, so even brand-new people will probably choose to sit in the main zendo then.)

Although we’ll continue to ask people sitting in the main zendo not to leave the sitting early, those in the dining room may miss either the first OR last round – but please stay for two of the three.

Some practical points: When you arrive for an evening sitting, just plop yourself down in the dining room, where there will be round cushions set up. If you need additional cushions or a bench, bring them with you from the basement. If you have any questions, a monitor will be sitting there to guide you.

We hope that new (or old) members will give this experimental “sub-zendo” format a try, whether or not they think they’ll someday feel comfortable moving into the main zendo. Our sittings will be fortified by every person who joins in, whether she or he sits in the main zendo or right next to it.

April 14, 2016

Memorial Service on Sunday, April 17

Dane (formerly Zenson) Gifford died unexpectedly yesterday at his home in the Rochester suburb of Brighton. The cause has not yet been determined, but very likely it was a heart attack. He had served as Head of Zendo, a long-time sesshin monitor, and a Dharma heir of Roshi Kapleau. We will hold a memorial service on Sunday at 11 am, and everyone, member or not, is invited.

There will also be a service today, Thursday, April 14, at 3 pm, and all are welcome to that as well.

Earth Vigil

Earth Day is approaching fast, Friday, April 22, 2016. Earth Day aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the earth’s environment. On this day for many years, communities worldwide have engaged with the challenge of our changing climate by holding events of various kinds – workshops, lectures, demonstrations, marches, film screenings, etc. This year in Rochester many such events are scheduled for the entire week leading up to Earth Day.

Earth Vigil is one way that some members of the RZC have chosen to engage. This is the mission:

By holding silent public demonstrations, Earth Vigil is a quiet intervention into the busyness that denies the urgency of our environmental crisis. It is our belief that silence can speak louder than words and that stillness has the power to move. 

Vigil: A purposeful watch.

We are holding an Earth Vigil event at noon on Earth Day, April 22, at Christ Church, 141 East Avenue here in Rochester. Please consider joining us.

April 7, 2016

Memorial Service for Diane LaPietra

A memorial Service for Sangha member Diane LaPietra will be held this Saturday, April 9, at 3:00 (the front door will be unlocked at 2:30). Friends of Diane are invited to attend.

Saturday Dokusans

For members unable to attend dokusan during the week, there are three opportunities in April: the 9th, 16th, and 23rd. Show up in the zendo any time before 10:00 a.m.; dokusan begins shortly after.

11 South Goodman Street for Sale

The Amitabha Foundation, which has been located behind the Zen Center on Goodman Street, is relocating and has put its house up for sale. The 4,500-square-foot building may be used either as a residence or as office space, and the asking price has been reduced to $300,000. You can find details on the realtor’s website at http://www.pyramidbrokerage.com/properties/listings/details/R5510/11-south-goodman-street-rochester-ny

April 2, 2016

Zendo without Walls

The streaming of daily sittings (and teisho) at the Center has been live now, outside of sesshin, for almost 3 weeks. Sangha feedback has been encouraging and even enthusiastic. Who would think that listening to people silently meditating, far away, could be so supportive of one’s own practice? But then, when both parties are doing zazen, a conjoining can take place in which distance disappears. The walls of the zendo in Rochester dematerialize, and those sitting at home are no longer doing so alone. Already some home sitters have reported that by synchronizing their sitting with sittings at the Center, they’ve been able to establish a regularity in their practice that had eluded them before.

So go ahead and invite Arnold Park sitters into your home. We’re a quiet group, though you may hear an occasional cough or sneeze (without the danger of contagion). We’ll bring the bells and other zendo instruments, and also the stick. And those of us sitting at the Center can always use your support as well!

Sangha Dinner

Please join the Rochester Zen Center community today, Saturday, April 2nd, for a vegetarian dinner.

We will start cooking at 5 pm and will begin eating around 6:15 pm. Participants may arrive any time before 6:15 pm to help cook or just to eat. After dinner we will clean the kitchen.

The menu will consist of rice, lentils, and a lightly seasoned salad.

If you plan on attending, please e-mail Devin Wiesner at tracdev.dudley@gmail.com. The dinner is free.

Climate Change Conference

Nazareth College is holding a 3-day international conference on nature and environment on May 23-25, 2016, at the College campus. Some 62 professors of religion and sciences are presenting papers. For more details, you can visit https://www2.naz.edu/interfaith/programs/academic-conferences/sacred-texts-human-contexts/schedule/.

Zen and Art in HuffPo

Just in case you were looking for an excuse to read The Huffington Post, here it is: longtime Sangha member Ken Kraft is currently publishing an illuminating blog on the HuffPo website that looks at Zen Buddhism’s artistic heritage. Head here for an index of blog posts.

March 18, 2016

Sangha Dinner

Please join the Rochester Zen Center community on Saturday, April 2, for a vegetarian dinner.

We will start cooking at 5 pm and will begin eating around 6:15 pm. Participants may arrive any time before 6:15 pm to help cook or just to eat. After dinner we will clean the kitchen.

The menu will consist of rice, lentils, and a lightly seasoned salad.

If you plan on attending, please e-mail Devin Wiesner at tracdev.dudley@gmail.com. The dinner is free.

Need a hotel room for the 50th? Book now!

April 1 is the last day to book and be sure of getting a room at the reduced rate of $150 (king or double) at the East Avenue Inn (585-831-3096): ROCZEN is the booking code. You can reserve online or by phone for July 1 and 2. If you plan to come earlier or stay later, you’ll need to call by phone for the reduced rate; you cannot book it online.

We strongly recommend you reserve a room: The Rochester International Jazz Festival will be happening during our 50th anniversary celebrations, and many of the downtown hotels will be booked. After the April 1 deadline, you can still book at the reduced rate, but be aware that all rooms will be available to the public and may be sold out. Take advantage of the good rate!

March 12, 2016

Daylight Saving Time

To avoid being late for the sitting on Sunday morning, be sure to move your clocks up an hour tonight.

All-day Sitting Tomorrow

This Sunday, March 13, Roshi will give teisho during the usual 8:30 to 10:30 block of sitting.  There will be three additional blocks of sitting, one before and two after, each open to anyone who’d like to join in.  The full schedule is posted on the website, here.

Live-streaming Teishos and Sittings

Want some “company” in your home zendo? Need a little nudge to get yourself to the mat? The Center will be coming to your home or mobile device LIVE! We are experimenting with live streaming audio from the zendo during teisho and formal rounds of zazen, so you can connect with the Rochester Sangha even if you live out of town or are traveling. We’ll “spring ahead” with our first broadcast attempt for the sitting and teisho tomorrow morning. It should be available to stream at the link below approximately 10 minutes before the sitting begins at 8:30 am Eastern Daylight Time. After clicking on the link, you’ll be taken to a page on our website with a streaming player. In case that doesn’t work, there’s a second link that will take you to a different webpage that should automatically play the live stream. (On that second page, there’s a “log-in” option, but that’s only for live chat–something not likely to occur during teisho or sittings–so ignore that.)

We’ll plan to continue this experiment by live streaming evening sittings starting this Monday. Evening sittings are regularly held on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but check the Center’s online calendar for exceptions. For example, on next Friday, March 18, there will be no formal sitting because it is the night before a sesshin, when out-of-town participants will be rolling in.



Feedback is welcome!  You can email Tom Kowal at tmkowal75@gmail.com.

Gokhale Method Returns to Rochester!

This April, for those who missed the course last year, Gokhale Method teacher Linda Huntting Congdon will be offering multiple ways to learn to sit, sleep, stand, walk, and bend in ways that are restorative, reduce pain, and are conducive to overall well-being.

Besides the full course (six classes), there will also be a free workshop and, for those who attended the full course last year, continuing education classes.

The full schedule is here: http://gokhalemethod.com/city?c=Rochester

Any questions can be sent to Sangha member Alex Comardo at acomardo@gmail.com.

March 4, 2016

Two All-day Sittings in March

Trueman and others are eager to ramp up for the March sesshin, and we’ve added an extra all-day sitting this Sunday, March 6 (as well as the all-day already scheduled for March 13). As always, everyone is welcome to attend any of the four blocks of sitting during the day, including the usual morning sitting beginning at 8:30. The full schedule is posted on the website, here.

Tickets Available Now for Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn Lecture

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the scientist, writer, and meditation teacher known for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), will give a lecture here in Rochester on October 15 in honor of the Center’s 50th anniversary. His lecture will take place in the performance hall of the Hochstein School of Music, 50 Plymouth Avenue North; details are on the Center’s website. Tickets can be purchased through the website or by following this link. If you’re interested in attending a pre-lecture reception with Dr. Kabat-Zinn, buy your ticket soon! Like the tickets for Leo Kottke, they’re likely to go quickly. We’re announcing this first to members and will follow up with an e-mail to non-members tomorrow.

The Zen of Living and Dying Group

The group invites you to watch the Japanese movie Departures on Sunday, March 13, at 11:15 am in the library after sitting and brunch. The movie won an Oscar for best foreign film in 2009. Here’s a link to more info on IMDB.

March 2, 2016

Roshi in Madison

Roshi will leave this Thursday, March 3, and give sesshin over the weekend in Madison. While in the neighborhood, he’ll visit Cynthia Seefeld in Milwaukee. The next scheduled dokusan here at Arnold Park will be Monday evening, March 7.

Help Us Spruce Up the Fitness Dungeon!

There is a cave-like room deep in the bowels of the 5 Arnold Park basement that has been designated “The Fitness Room.” At the moment, it is profoundly unfit – for exercise and, arguably, for human habitation. Cecily is going to work on sprucing it up, but it’s a very low-budget renovation, prompting the question: can YOU help save our staff and trainees from terminal sloth and sluggery?

The Dungeon wish list includes: an exercise bicycle (preferably manufactured within the last couple of decades), an ergometer/rowing machine (ditto), and any dumbbells, kettlebells, and/or medicine balls that might be lying around your house waiting for you to stub your toe on. (If you’ve got other items you think might be useful, let us know – but be aware that the Fitness Dungeon is both tiny and low of ceiling, which somewhat limits our options.)

If you’re considering a donation, contact Cecily at cecily@rzc.org.

February 20, 2016

Parking for Sangha Entertainment Night

Tonight, Saturday, February 20, 6:00 to 8:00. Come directly to the Buddha Hall. If the Center’s own parking lot is full, you’re free to park in the lot of our next-door neighbors, the Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word (entrance on Goodman Street). During the winter they’ve graciously granted us permission to park in their lot, if necessary, almost anytime except Sunday mornings and certain other days when they have big events.

All-Day Sitting

We have an all-day sitting scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, February 21, including Roshi’s teisho during the usual block of sitting from 8:30 to 10:15. You’re welcome to come to any of the four blocks of sitting or to all of them. Here’s a full outline of the day:

6:15 am        Zazen

7:30             Breakfast (Center will provide)

8:30             Zazen, chanting, and teisho

10:15           Brunch in the dining room

11:00           Zazen

12:50 pm      Lunch break (bring your own)

1:30-3:00     Zazen

February 18, 2016

Dear Sangha,

This Saturday, February 20, we’ll be letting more than 100 former and trial members know that they can register for the July 4th weekend events commemorating our 50th anniversary. We’re also advertising the events in the current issues of Tricycle and Buddhadharma magazines and placing a “public” link to the registration site on the Center’s website.

What does this mean for you? If you have not yet registered, there’s a chance that you’ll not be able to attend the Saturday luncheon and/or concert, both of which have limited space. (Other events of the weekend, such as the Chapin Mill picnic, would have to be your consolation prize.)

Looking over the list of the nearly 200 members who have already signed up, we’ve noticed that many of the “usual suspects” are missing. So this is a plea to register within the next 48 hours because we really, really want to see you in July!

Here’s the link: Rochester Zen Center 50th Anniversary Registration

Sangha Entertainment Night: It’s ON This Saturday, February 20

We’ve had a bunch of acts and skits join up at the last minute, as per usual, but we’ve still got room for more! If you’d like to do something, contact Tom Kowal at tmkowal75@gmail.com. But whether you’re a performer or just an avid observer of other people’s folly, come to the Buddha Hall at 6 pm this Saturday evening and check out the artistic talent (and “talent”)! We’ll have tea at intermission and refreshments in the dining room after the excitement is over.

Cynthia Seefeld’s Mailing Address

If you send packages to Cynthia, it’s preferable that you send them to her sister, Ellen Driscoll, at the following address: 1522 North Prospect Drive #904, Milwaukee, WI, 53202. Some of the packages that have been sent to Cynthia’s North Lake Drive address have been returned as undeliverable. Because Cynthia has difficulty opening a box, even letters, Ellen helps her once a week, so Cynthia will receive your package through Ellen.

However, cards and letters (no packages!) can still be sent to: 2425 North Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53211.

Time: Zen Bow Call for Submissions

Within our industrialized society, we treat time as a measurable quantity with a linear trajectory. We save, lose, and spend our time. We think about how much we have left, and whether or not time is on our side. Yet, when we are beyond thought, we forget about time and may come to realize Zen master Dogen’s understanding that “time itself is being, and all being is time.” We invite you to submit an essay, poem, photograph, or illustration that reflects on time – in a variety of contexts, including but not limited to sitting practice, work, family, et cetera. Submit articles and images to the editors, Donna Kowal and Brenda Reeb, at zenbow@rzc.org.

Submission deadline :  March 15, 2016.