It’s beautifully designed and laid out, dynamic, and attractive. Plus, the editing is impeccable and the articles very interesting and well written. With the perspective of someone who spent 20 years in publishing before my lawyer phase, I am impressed. 

In addition, it often happens that something hits me in a personal way. Ahhh . . . that’s it! That was the idea coagulating in my brain! In this case, it’s the discussion of nen in Roshi’s brilliant article. I have been tackling nen for a while, and Roshi helpfully illuminates the topic. I am very grateful.

Amaury Cruz, Miami Beach

When the new Zen Bow arrived, I couldn’t help but ask, what happened? Looking at the new Zen Bow I feel like there are flash grenades going off all over the place. Why all the Sturm und Drang? What is the point of this? To distract? To gin up “excitement”? To be “new”? To increase sales? A long time ago I asked myself in all seriousness – why was I practicing zazen? To be something, or to realize the truth? I knew right away that I didn’t want to be “something”. This Zen Bow seems like it’s trying to be “something”.

The old Zen Bow was substantive in the content of its articles with no need for flash and color, and it was substantive in the high quality stock of its paper. The old Zen Bow issues called out to be collected and saved, if for no other reason than to “preserve” the dharma in some small physical sense. Now we have a “zine” with a flimsy feel presented in an unwieldy size. I don’t feel a need or desire to save it.

The “old”’ Zen Bow had a quiet dignity that let you focus on the direct experience and personal understanding of the author(s), who remarkably have always been authentic, honest, sincere and unpretentious. The New Zen Bow delves into speculative and theoretical discussions by (presumably) non-practitioners (e.g. “Panpsychism and the Question of Consciousness”). The old Zen Bow embodied sitting down quietly, concentrated and doing serious zazen. The new Zen Bow reflects the busy and chaotic world that we live in with all its attendant distractions.

It pains me to say it, but I fear that we have lost something truly valuable. Why fix what wasn’t broken?

Peter Greulich, Wakefield, MA

When I saw the first edition of the new Zen Bow design I was very sad to realize the old esthetic was gone: the quality of the paper, the B/W, and the way it felt natural. But the thing is, once I opened it up, I read almost all of it and I’ve had many of the old ones sitting around yet to be opened. Don’t know why. But the design worked on me. Maybe the writing is different as well: more items, shorter stuff, in some cases, but I think the design made it easier or at least more inviting to read.

Dave Dorsey, Rochester

Chris, kudos for all the work that went into creating the new Zen Bow format. I can’t even imagine what is on your shoulders pulling it off. After living with it for a few days (change is not my forte) I have come to see a lot of good in it…fresh, alive…really accessible to the next generation.  After reading through it a few times this is what I would say not as a criticism but as an observation:

  1. It feels a little frenetic and I think it should be a little “calmer”.  I found it hard to follow the stream of placement.
  2. You might be trying to do too much and might want to think about simplifying a little bit. It has a jumpiness that I don’t associate with “Zen Mind”.

Deborah Zaretsky, Spokane

I love the Zen Bow refresh!  Gretchen’s art on the cover, different size, some bright colors, photos from past and present, etc., etc.  

Hopefully you already know this, but I’d be happy to help you and John with the website end of Zen Bow.  There’s so much untapped potential there.  Off the top of my head, one easy way I can help would be to turn at least some of the articles into HTML.

Anna Belle Leiserson, Nashville

Hi there – wanted to let you know that while home sick today w the flu I read the new Zen Bow cover to cover and loved it! The new format is far more accessible to me … somehow the previous format felt out of reach/too serious and/or resulted in me feeling unworthy … odd, but that’s my hit after reading the new one. THANK YOU!

Kathy Collina, Rochester

First, congrats!  Love the direction…

Secondly, I did find the layout a bit chaotic. And hope it tightens up as the project develops.  

Lastly, for my part (and with prejudice no doubt) I would love to see more contemporary Buddhist art!

Gretchen Targee, Rochester

The Editor Replies:

Thanks so much to all of you who have given us feedback, both written and verbal. We (art director Daryl Wakeley and I) knew that the new design would be a bit of a shock with so many things changing at once, and especially given the switch to color after more than 50 black-and-white years. With the theme of the issue, “Starting Over,” already established, this seemed to be an appropriate time for a complete redesign, as symbolized by the synthesis of the enso and a “refresh” icon on the cover.

So why did we do what we did? The Zen Bow research study conducted earlier this year provided some clear direction. For example, the 113 members who completed the survey said they would be more likely to read Zen Bow if it were less formal and more challenging. In terms of content, nearly half (48%) wanted Zen Bow to include “secular materials and/or materials from other spiritual practices that are relevant to Zen practice” versus those who wanted it to focus on Zen practice only (26%) or Zen plus other Buddhist traditions (26%). These answers, among others, encouraged us to liven up the overall look of the publication as well as including a variety of shorter items and some secular material.

As Zen Bow continues to evolve, you may see small changes to the format. (One change in this issue is a less busy, easier-to-read table of contents page.) We hope that readers will continue to let us know what we could be doing better. Zen Bow’s mission is to inspire Zen practice…and that means it’s for your benefit. So keep those cards and letters coming!

Chris Pulleyn