Words from the teachers from the July 2014 newsletter

Dear sangha friends,

The sweetness of honeysuckle and mock orange floats in the moist air this showery summer evening. Swainson’s thrushes trill their spiralling song and hummingbirds buzz each other back and forth across the garden. It feels like a time to slow down, to lay down the to-do list, or at least to let the things that always fall to the bottom, rise closer to the top.

For us this is a time of “putting our household in order,” which includes everything from weeding the front flower beds, to making appointments to see the dentist, to crunching numbers to see how much longer we have to work at our “day jobs,” to restoring our basement zendo, in hopes of once again inviting you out to sit with us here on Blue Mountain, between Maple Ridge and Mission.

In May each of us spent a week at a rural Zen Center, Kate at Mountain Lamp Community in the foothills west of Mount Baker, for a week of Zen and poetry, and Michael at Great Vow Monastery in Oregon, overlooking the Columbia River, for a week of Tibetan Mahamudra practice. Several sangha friends from Mountain Rain and Red Cedar Communities have just left for three weeks at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico practicing with Norman Fischer and Kaz Tanahashi.

Maybe we can have a simple low budget summer practice period here next year… There’s something so nourishing about early-morning sitting with birdsong, working in the garden, taking time to read and write, and walking outdoors in the lush greenery at this time of year.

We hope that you, too, will slow down this summer, and be alive in your body, senses open—and when you’re able, come to the zendo and sit together with ease and joy.

 Warm bows,

Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Words from the teachers from the January 2014 newsletter

Dear dharma friends,

However arbitrary and provisional our marking of time may be, and how subjective our experience of it—how it flies or drags, we do organize our society around the cycle of the year. It often seems to make more sense to celebrate the lunar New Year that falls closer to the turning of the season from winter to spring. But we do celebrate close to the winter solstice, which is often a time for reflection on darkness and light, birth and death, cycles and transformations. The end of one year and the beginning of the next seems to be a time when we reflect on our values and aspirations and whether we are living a life that is aligned with our deepest vows.

We’ve been doing that ourselves, and maybe it’s something to do with being past sixty with less than half of our lives remaining, that we’re feeling we want to be more daring, take risks (and not be constricted by what we think time is)—to lay down the to-do list (even if it’s a dharma to-do list!), to write a poem or a letter to a politician, to paint or draw or sculpt a bodhisattva that looks a bit different from the ones of old, to make a human connection outside the lines of our everyday routines, to find dharma teachings in the most unexpected of places. We want to encourage you to respond to any such urgings within you, and to feel and know the limitless support of the dharma all around us. “The bodhisattva depends on prajna-paramita, and the mind is no hindrance. Without hindrance there is no fear.”

Wishing you peace and well-being in 2014,

Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael