New Year's Greetings from the teachers

Winter garden at Blue Mountain Zendo

Winter garden at Blue Mountain Zendo

Dear sangha friends,

Looking out the window at the brilliant white snow, blue sky, green cedars and hemlocks, the mind cannot help but release the multitude of worries that throng in their pressing dance. Let them dance, don’t tell them just to go away, because they are the upwelling of our deepest love: of humanity, of the swimming, walking and flying creatures, of oceans, forests, this great earth. Our worries are not trivial. But they are contracted, tensed around fear, anger and self-clinging. As this New Year turns towards the light, let’s dance in the snow with our worries and with each other. Toss me your worry, and I’ll toss you mine. Watch them burst into sunlit particles like snow-clumps blown from the treetops. Beneath the snow lie dormant bulbs and roots waiting to push new growth upward and outward, as our deep aspiration to awaken swells and yearns to be expressed, through each of us in our particularity, always with and for all beings.

On the day of New Year’s Eve we left home at Blue Mountain around 1:00 and it had been snowing heavily since 11:00, but we were going on the assumption that it was raining in Vancouver as reported. Still snowing through Maple Ridge, still snowing on Highway 1, still snowing in downtown Vancouver as we went in the Vancouver Art Gallery, still snowing as we came out two hours later, still snowing in Kitsilano as we went out to eat and after drove carefully to the zendo on very messy streets. Not so much snow at the zendo. We thought virtually no one would show up, but gradually more and more arrived, and others left after a while, with a total of 53, and a circle of about 30 there for the midnight bell-ringing. We were moved once again by the sincerity of people's choice to come and sit in stillness with others on New Year's Eve, after a year of such deeply troubling events, with the intent to cultivate a peaceful heart and a peaceful world. As in previous years, several people came without prior connection to a sangha—a reminder that our small storefront zendo and our practice in community reach out farther than we imagine.

Let’s pause to feel our gratitude for the Triple Treasure: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as we go forward into the always unknown future, step by step, breath by breath, vow by vow.

With deep gratitude for your practice and warm wishes for health and well-being, peace and joy, to you and all beings,

Myoshin Kate McCandless
Shinmon Michael Newton

Pratice period closing words from the eachers

Dear Sangha Friends,

When we decided on the theme for our 2016 practice period earlier this year with our shuso-to-be Jikai Vicki Turay, perhaps we didn't realize just how relevant it would be to world events to come--you don't need us to list them--or maybe we did suspect we'd be needing our bodhisattva super-powers more than ever. Patience, wisdom, kindness, forgiveness, open-heartedness, the ability to take a long, spacious view--these are not what our culture values as super-powers, but they are ultimately more powerful than the kinds of power we see being misused in so many ways in our world.  

We hope you have found the practice period encouraging as we renew our vows practice together with and for the benefit of all beings. We're so grateful to our shuso Jikai Vicki Turay for her warm and wise teaching, and to our new priest Nin-en Susan Elbe, entering a new phase, after years of faithful practice. No doubt we'll be seeing more of them both. Also warm thanks to all those who contributed varied and inspiring ZED talks about their practice in the world. And finally, much gratitude to everyone near and far, who participated in the practice period, to whatever extent you were able. As Hakuin Zenji said in his Song of Zazen, "Those who practice zazen, even once, wipe away beginningless obstructions." Every moment we are fully awake makes a difference!

Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Practice period words from Myoshin Kate

Dear sangha friends,

As we enter our sixth week of practice period, I find myself full of inspiration, insights, concerns and information from sitting, reading, listening and taking my practice into the world. I wonder if you feel, as I do, the need to stop and sit in silence, maybe by Loon Lake at sesshin, or near another lake, forest, or river closer to your home, to empty out, and open deeply to the truth of our being: impermanence, non-self, suffering and the cessation of suffering. Cessation of suffering, not as some once-and-for-all, big-bang enlightenment experience, but in moments of vivid, full presence, right here and now in this world. There, having written this, I think I won't wait for Loon Lake sesshin. I'll go outside and look at the big clump of mushrooms that appears to have sprung up overnight in our backyard. I hope you will join me in stepping away from the computer screen and clicking the refresh button of breath and body awareness. 

You'll be happy to know that we'll have record attendance at Loon Lake sesshin this year (76 to date) with the new generation of Zen practitioners sprouting up like mushrooms.
Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate

2017 Celebrations Ahead

Next year will mark several anniversaries in the history of our Soto Zen practice community: 30 years since Zoketsu Norman Fischer first came to lead a retreat in Vancouver, 15 years since Mountain Rain Zen Community was founded, having grown out of Karuna Meditation Society, and 5 years since we opened the Wall Street zendo. In addition, our guiding teacher Norman, has recently sent a letter to the Mountain Rain sangha, via the Council, proposing that he step down as guiding teacher, and our resident teachers be named guiding teachers of Mountain Rain. Council has accepted on behalf of the membership. This occasion will be marked by two ceremonies in the new year. If you would like to read Norman's letter please click Download PDF. Stay tuned for news of celebrations in 2017!

Words from the Teachers

Dear Sangha friends,

It’s chilly and rainy outdoors here at Blue Mountain Zendo and the gas fireplace is lighting up its false logs, with flames that are comforting nonetheless, except for the thought that the gas may have been fracked from the earth of northern BC, leaving poisoned water and air where inhabitants are few to heat the homes of the many. This past Saturday (Labour Day weekend) an intrepid sangha crew worked through rain, drizzle and sun breaking through to reveal vivid blue sky and warm our backs as we spread manure, cut back invasive blackberries, and prepared the garden for its dormant season. (Big bows of gratitude!) Working, walking, opening our senses outdoors, preparing and eating food grown from this local soil remind us of how close we are to the earth systems on which our lives depend.
Our bodhisattva vows ask us live a life of awakening to our non-separateness from each other and from our environment, a life of non-harming, of benefit to all beings. But in the face of such complex systemic threats to the well-being of all beings, how can we respond? And how does the Buddhadharma support us to do so with wisdom, compassion, determination, patience and skillful means? This will be the theme of our 2017 practice period, and also of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association’s Biannual meeting titled Responding to the Cries of the World—Soto Zen Priests and Sanghas in an Age of Climate Change and Social Suffering
Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael