Words of gratitude from the teachers-- May Newsletter

Myoshin, Zoketsu and Shinmon   May 7, 2017

Dear sangha friends,
 We are feeling such gratitude for the weekend retreat with our dear teacher Norman, the sad, simple, funny Stepping Down Ceremony, which made clear that there's no-coming, no-going, and the beautiful Guiding Teacher Ceremony, which affirmed for us how much our practice and the Mountain Rain sangha mean to so many. Your heartfelt expressions of love and confidence will give us the courage to go forward together with all of you, as we continue to co-create a vibrant practice community in these troubled times. 

So much goes into putting on a retreat for eighty people at UBC, so we'd like to take this opportunity to thank:
Megan for taking on the complexities of the registrar's job
Kaye and the zendo schlepping crew--in her wisdom she rented a van!
Leah, Ben and Kevin for being a great house band
Claire, Reamick and Brian for shepherding everyone to dokusan
Marlee for the the gorgeous flowers
Flo for being doshi for services and Nadia for being her incense attendant. 
Ursula for altar cleaning and Evan for taking care of tea. 

A special thank you to Kaye for taking on the prodigious task of organizing the sewing of our beautiful new ceremonial okesa (robes) and teaching something like 17 people how to use her sashiko sewing machine!! Thank you to Susan, Flo, Kwee and all the others who sewed. And to the Calgary sangha for sewing our okesa envelopes. 

And thank you to all those who offered such heart-warming words of appreciation to Norman, and congratulations to us during the ceremonies, and for all the beautiful cards and gifts, but most of all for willing to practice this radical non-action of sitting in silence paying attention to each moment of your human experience on this earth, and then to get up and actualize your practice in daily life. May our Everyday Zen practice flourish in community for many years to come.

Warm, deep bows to all,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Words from the teachers--April newsletter

Dear sangha friends,
April is the month, in our latitude, that the earth springs to life. It’s the month of cherry blossoms, the dawn chorus of birdsong and of course, rain. It’s also the month of Earth Day. I just googled Earth Day and was reminded that it started in 1970 in the wake of a massive oil spill off Santa Barbara, California. Now, almost fifty years later, as Donald Trump attempts to roll back environmental protection measures established by the Obama administration, many of us fear for the well-being of the earth and the systems on which our lives and the lives of countless other beings depend.
In recent months, we and other sanghas have been inquiring into how our practice extends into the areas of social and environmental issues. We explored engaged Buddhist practice in our fall practice period, and we’ve continued the conversation in our recent long-term visioning/planning meetings. Some sangha members have expressed appreciation for the support of dharma perspectives and practice in their engagement in the world. Others have expressed concern that Mountain Rain might be putting too much emphasis on “activism”.  It’s a word that can be freighted with associations of partisan politics and aggressive confrontational tactics. Our bodhisattva vows call us to respond to the suffering of all beings, not to turn away—and there are countless ways of responding. We know that everything we do or say, or don’t do or say, makes a difference in the net of inter-being.
Buddhist leaders in North America and around the world are joining with other religious leaders to speak out on issues such as social justice and climate change. Bikkhu Bodhi, the eminent Theravadan monk and translator of Pali texts, gives an eloquent appeal for the necessity of offering a dharma perspective to the wider world in the recent issue of Buddhadharma magazine. What better base from which to respond to the cries of the world than the practice of sitting in moment-moment awareness? Then actualizing that practice with wisdom and compassion, patience and equanimity.
As a sangha, let’s continue to explore how we can support each other in a wide spectrum of bodhisattva activity, guided by the bodhisattva vows and precepts, deeply grounded in silent sitting practice. Some may take care of the earth by growing vegetables with care, some may attend marches and rallies, some may write letters to politicians, some may ride bicycles and take transit, some may serve their community, some may nurture children and grandchildren—the possibilities are endless.  We welcome your ideas and suggestions.

Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Words from the Teachers--March newsletter

Dear sangha friends,

It's been one of those weeks: the dharma talks haven't been recording right, the uploading system for talks hasn't been functioning right, the website email linking function hasn't been working right, I haven't been working right! Have I been distracted by the daily news from south of the border? 

It makes me yearn to practice like the Japanese poet-monk Ryokan, living in a hut, cultivating my garden, visiting neighbours, playing with their children, giving away my poems. Sadly, my calligraphy disqualifies me for life as Ryokan. 

We can smile at what a Tibetan Buddhist teacher dubbed our "bourgeois suffering", but we can also look into our need to re-source, to tap the deep roots of the dharma, the miracles of the present moment, of our life just as it is, in flux, within a matrix of connection with all being. 

My resource has been the snow--I've lost count of how many snowfalls we've had here on Blue Mountain since early December. I go outside and shovel the latest layer, each one a little different in weight and texture, then stop and open to the stillness, the whiteness blanketing the evergreens, the cheeping of the juncos.   

Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate

 

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 teachers

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