Living on this Earth—together with all beings

Dear sangha friends,

Peas, lettuce, spinach and arugula are up in our garden beds. Winter wrens, song sparrows and robins are singing their territorial songs. And a frothy white wild cherry is blooming in our front yard. No doubt you’ve been enjoying this early spring, as we have. But perhaps your enjoyment has been shadowed, as ours has, but knowledge of the harsh winter that folks in eastern Canada are still enduring, and the prospect of potential water shortages here later this summer due to the low snowpack. Perhaps we shake our heads, and say “Global warming…” and then mask our anxiety with busyness and distraction. Our practice asks us not to turn away, and yet we doubt what difference our small efforts can make.

You may notice that several of our events in the coming month  this quandary—how can we respond to what’s happening to our world? How do we live with plants, animals, earth systems, and each other in harmonious, non-harming ways? It seems, without really planning it deliberately, we’ve created a spring Earth-Care practice period, so let’s declare April Earth-Care Month and encourage each other to express our care for the earth in  meaningful and substantial ways. For inspiration let’s share our Earth Art in the zendo entry hall, and let’s raise money for a local organization with an Earth-Care flea market. Caring about what’s happening to our world does not have to be grim, despite the grim headlines. Let’s care with gratitude and joy, in community.

Planting dharma seeds, cultivating wisdom, compassion, and skillful means,

Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

New Year's greetings from the teachers

Dear sangha friends,

The long dark days are beginning to grow shorter, as happens every year in our part of the world where the seasons are so distinct—well, maybe not so distinct here on the raincoast. And every year the return of the light is an object of wonder and remark, despite its familiarity.  In our darkest moments, it’s so easy to believe that our life is defined by our hurt, depression, anxiety, woundedness. That our world is defined by suffering. Perhaps the greatest gift of our practice, is not some distant ideal of perfect enlightenment, but the capacity to be fully present with life-as-it-is, moment by moment, in all its beauty and pain and absurdity.  

On New Year’s Eve close to eighty people showed up to sit together at the zendo, and to share our intention to cultivate peace in our hearts, our families, our communities, our world. It’s encouraging that so many people want to practice a way of living in this world with a quiet mind and open heart. We hope that with your support the Mountain Rain Zendo can continue to provide a community venue for dharma practice in the year to come.

With deep gratitude for your generosity and your practice, and our wishes for peace, joy and well-being in 2015.

Shinmon Michael and Myoshin Kate


Words and Images from Practice Period

 Photo by Joost Bakker    Loon Lake 2014

Photo by Joost Bakker    Loon Lake 2014

Our practice period this year was rich in expressions of what our shuso, Kanshin Ruth Ozeki called Dogen’s Path of Creative Enlightenment. Practice/realization/expression—remember! Many of us shared our expressions at the zendo in the Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening classes, at our practice period closing circle, and in our everyday practice in our work and family lives. Warm bows of gratitude to Ruth, our inspiring shuso, and to everyone who participated so whole-heartedly.

Here are some offerings from participants:

Conversations with Dogen

by Rowan Percy, Salt Spring Island


Just now, all buddhas sit serenely at ease in receptive samadhi…

 just now

illumined leaves

before they fall

from the branch                                  Oct 9, 2014


practice within realization occurs at the moment of practice

 walking up the road

leaves  bright in dying

clouds and ripe apples

turn the great earth                            Oct 10, 2014


flowers of emptiness were made to bloom

 the path of the moon

a silver swath

sweeping the sea                                Oct 14, 2014 


…do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring 

in the course of my life

i thought one thing led

to another, now i find

past and future in the folds

of my skin                                            Oct 15, 2014


after listening to Kate’s Zen poetry talk (Mtn. Rain), given Oct 10, 2014

in a cedar house

rain on the roof

a woodpecker raps out

a generous peace


cries of people

caught in storms

of war and wind


in stillness

hear their heartbeat                                       Oct 16, 2014


take up emptiness and wash emptiness, take up emptiness and wash body and mind

wash the river

wash the sky

blue wetness

moistens the marrow

of the dragon’s bone                                       Oct 20, 2014


…establishing an area of practice, all worlds of phenomena are established.

fir needles cover valleys

incense pierces clouds

red-legged frog leaps                                     Oct 24, 2014


…to hear with the ear is an everyday matter, but to hear with the eye is not always so…. Just see large and small buddhas as valley sounds and mountain colours…

the mountain’s fall

shelters a whisper of cloud

tock of raven tongues

catch across the valley skies

a kingfisher’s cry reaches day and night                    Nov 1, 2014


the old buddha’s words seemed

simple enough   now they confound me

which way to turn

the clock ticks

just this breath                                                            Nov 4, 2014

Dogen quotes from Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, Kaz Tanahashi, Shambhala.

Four haiku

by Karen Shklanka


driving too fast

wheels make a deep puddle sound

delight slows me down! 


gutters fill with leaves

windshield wipers direct Bach

trucks tsunami past


foot hovers the brake

plaid jacket-wearing dog crosses

tail high, and waving


dog’s eyes and ears speak

pat me, feed me, love

she is always clear


Poems by Ruth Ritchey, Vancouver and Sunshine Coast

Three Haiku

The start of winter

from dry orange to night sky ice-

sandals packed away


Lone spruce - long railway

ties rust in deep flood waters

nest in boxcar


Bamboo bending low

strong gale winds sound the tall reeds - 

lonely winter song



"...and vowed 

always to be open to it - "    (Gary Snyder, I Saw Myself)


the movement of clouds

crossing city lights 

their bellies red green

as the urban sprawl dictates

the colour of the air

                              we breath

this "progress" - but why

does it make me choke?

as did the jar left unnoticed

far from sight and mind,

too full to notice

then so empty -  now caring

to look deeper and realize

white mayonnaise turned yellow,

because there was more

to draw on - 

                               newspapers, television, radio,

such drama to drown out bad smells.   


Saltwater Cows

Saltwater cows breath the ocean 

air into their boxy black 

nostrils steaming the autumn chill.

Grazing slopes to the Skookumchuck,

too familiar these beasts roam

a forgotten rain forest

of twisted deep roots 

that nourish this earth

under heavy hoof.

I see you as sacred

but I do not know you well 

your large soft eyes

to stare into the emptiness

                                                of this day.

Grey skies fall,

soaking your thick firm bodies

steaming tall grass outcrops.

You - branded to this earth,

rotating through sun shade blankets,

the cycle of dawn endlessly growing from darkness.


Impressing a soft existence,

finding grace on the backs

of saltwater cows.

 Photo by Ruth Ritchey    Saltwater Cows

Photo by Ruth Ritchey    Saltwater Cows

Poems by Kate McCandless

Long accustomed to groping for the elephant…

Dogen Zenji


I’m a blind woman

grasping at the elephant’s tail

insisting an elephant is a being

that is thin, tough and ropy

until a big load of elephant shit

drops at my feet and I wake up—


This is the rear end of something big


I feel my way around

the tree-trunk legs

the wall-like side

the elephant reaches around

touches me with the so sensitive

tip of its trunk


I hold still and let it explore

my face with the delicacy

of fingers reading Braille

then I reach with both hands

open to touch back



Mist rises over Loon Lake
alight in morning sun
two figures walk slowly
on the dock—stop and bow

She saw this
and told me—
eyes shining

 Photo by Joost Bakker     Loon Lake 2014

Photo by Joost Bakker     Loon Lake 2014

Practice period mid-point: words from the teacher

We are almost at the mid-point of our six-week practice period, so this is a good time to reflect on our intentions, make adjustments as needed, and encourage each other to continue our practice—including every aspect of our lives, even our deepest doubts and greatest challenges, in the simple practice of mindful, compassionate awareness. If perhaps you are not quite meeting the practice intentions you had set for yourself, take heart, you are in good company. In our retreat on forgiveness, this past Saturday, we practiced with self-forgiveness, reframing the old cliché “forgive and forget”, as “forget and remember, forgive and renew.” Over and over, we forget to pay attention to our lives, we remember (wake up), then we forgive (let go of self-recrimination), and renew our vow to awaken, for the benefit of all beings.

In gratitude for your practice. It gives me courage.

Myoshin Kate McCandless

15th Annual Practice Period Under Way: words from the teacher

Dear Sangha Friends,

Our 15th annual practice period is now under way. We successfully persuaded Kanshin Ruth Ozeki to be our new shuso Friday evening, and over forty people participated in at least part of the opening weekend retreat, and about twenty sat steadily through Saturday and Sunday as we practiced zenki, undivided activity. Dharma talks from the weekend are posted on the website under teachings. We’re happy the new website will make it easier for us to share our practice period with our extended sangha, people who are too far away to participate in person. We have about fourteen long distance participants this year in Calgary, Victoria, Cortes Island and beyond.

With deep bows to all those who helped with the opening weekend retreat in so many ways, and for your courageous practice.

May your practice period be nourishing,

Myoshin Kate McCandless

Practice Period Opening Retreat, September 26-28, 2014

photo by Martha Abelson