Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Poems of Walking and Sitting

After a whole bunch of years living in San Francisco, at last, it was time to leave. But how to leave? How to say goodbye to a home that through my twenties had always been more than crowded streets and tall buildings, had always been the human scene plus the surrounding waters, the fog and wind, the redwoods, the songbirds and seals?

I developed a project, a fare-thee-well tour, and thanks to support from an outfit called the Awesome Foundation (check ’em out, they’re awesome indeed) was able to devote myself to it entirely. Each day that December, rain or shine, I walked a random route northward from my apartment, exited the metropolis via the Golden Gate Bridge, and trudged into the chaparral hills of the Marin Headlands. There, I sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean for a couple hours, scribbling poems and watching the sun sink, before finally tightening my shoelaces and returning to the city beneath night’s first stars.  

These were huge outings, at least 20 miles a day, sometimes closer to 30—driven yet aimless. Perhaps I was trying to grind myself down so I could better commune with the Bay Area, so I could better appreciate the ways that “nature” and “civilization” interpenetrate one another. Perhaps this was a spiritual exercise, an exercise in humility and perspective. Perhaps it was a kind of ecopoetic meditation. 

Honestly, I don’t know. All I can say for certain is that my legs hurt and my heart ached and the cars honked their horns and the pelicans glided past without beating their wings. The following poems are a selection from a book-length poetry manuscript that emerged from the project, Golden Gate: Poems of Walking and Sitting

           —Leath Tonino

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Pandemic Guidelines for Faith Communities

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

CDC Releases Pandemic Guidelines for Faith Communities

On May 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for faith communities that choose to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The guidelines include instructions on hygiene practices, face coverings, disinfection, and social distancing. Although President Donald Trump last week deemed places of worship “essential” during the pandemic, CNN reported that faith leaders across the country have stressed the need for caution. Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told CNN that God “has given us the gift of science” and urged her congregations to abide by the CDC guidelines. “Protecting others is a faithful response,” she said. 

Many Buddhist centers remain closed while continuing to offer online teachings and meditation sessions. (Tricycle’s live online meditation sessions will continue as well.) In an update explaining their decision to keep their doors shut, the Insight Meditation Society said, “The alleviation of unnecessary suffering is a way to honor our mission even when no one is sitting in our meditation halls.”

Tibetan Nun Found in Rare Meditative State

A Tibetan nun, Ven. Tenzin Choedon, died on May 22 at age 82 and was found a few days later in a rare meditative state called thukdam, reported the Central Tibetan Administration. Thukdam is a phenomenon in which a person is deemed clinically dead but their body shows no signs of decay for days or weeks without preservation. Some Tibetan Buddhists believe this is a sign that a realized master’s consciousness remains in the body despite its physical death. Over a decade ago, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama commissioned research from Russian scientists to try to better understand the neurophysiological science of thukdam, according to the Central Tibetan Administration. The research remains ongoing. 

Japanese Temple Expands Wedding Ceremonies for Same-sex Couples

After the city of Kawagoe became Japan’s 48th local government to legally recognize LGBTQ partnerships through a “partnership oath system” on May 1, a local Buddhist temple expanded its wedding ceremonies to include services for same-sex couples. According to Yahoo News Japan, Saimyo-ji temple now offers weddings (photography and traditional outfits included) for 200,000 yen—about $1,858 USD. “With the increasing understanding of LGBTQ in society as a whole these days, we’re working on creating a new temple with people who are sexual minorities,” vice priest Akihiro Senda told Yahoo News Japan. He also said that the ceremonies will provide “rainbow malas” and rainbow-colored kesa [Buddhist vestments] for the couple to wear. While Saimyo-ji is not the first temple in Japan to provide same-sex wedding services, it may be the only Buddhist temple that offers these sartorial accompaniments. 

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Change Your Mind: Free Mass Meditation

Meditate together virtually with people from around the world on June 13.

By TricycleMay 29, 2020

Since we started our livestream meditation series, over 25,000 people have registered to participate. Now we are inviting all of these participants and more to join Tricycle and Sharon Salzberg for a free 30-minute group meditation at 12pm ET on June 13. The session will be hosted on YouTube Live and will feature mindfulness and lovingkindness meditation instructions.

This free virtual event is an iteration of Tricycle’s Change Your Mind Day, a free public offering of meditation instruction that started in 1994 in New York City’s Central Park. Then, as now, all experience levels are welcome.

Click below to stay tuned and receive a reminder email to join in at the scheduled time.

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Meditation for Med Students 

Rebecca Williams-Karnesky | Photo by Jett Loe

Rebecca Williams-Karnesky credits her practice at Portland’s Dharma Rain Zen Center with helping her survive a demanding MD/PhD program at Oregon Health & Science University. Later, stressed-out colleagues in the University of New Mexico’s surgical residency program remarked on her calm, steady demeanor despite all-night shifts and 80-hour workweeks. They asked her what her secret was, which got her thinking about how she could teach mindfulness to others. Williams-Karnesky won support from administrators in part because they thought mindfulness might help with physician burnout. She now teaches a mindfulness course for third-year medical students, who learn breathing practices and metta (lovingkindness) meditation.

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How did daily practice at a Zen center affect your experience in medical school? It helped me clarify my reasons for going into medicine. When I started, there was a larger component of ego driving me. Much of it felt like expectation or desire to please others. Practicing with a teacher and having her reflect those things back to me allowed me to understand those drivers and set them down. In zazen you see the transitory nature of things, and if you sit with something long enough it will go away. That helps when you’re in the midst of a difficult situation with a patient.

Third-year med students typically rotate through clinical settings, but for now they’re learning in a virtual environment. How have you adapted to teaching mindfulness during the COVID-19 pandemic? Students usually experience stress when they enter a clinical setting for the first time, but the biggest challenge they’re facing right now is just the uncertainty and anxiety about what’s going on. The mindfulness classes can serve as an immediate stress-relief tool. I’ve actually restructured the course a little bit and increased the amount of interactivity, asking students to spend more time actually practicing these techniques. While I’m teaching them the same tools I did before, the sources of their anxiety are looking really different right now. Luckily, I have a student who is really interested in mindfulness who is helping me with the course. She has the perspective of being a current med student who can check in with classmates and is acutely aware of the present challenges.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhists Resist Turning Bodhgaya into Quarantine Site

Monasteries in Bodhgaya, India, request that they not be used as quarantine centers, the coronavirus reaches Rohingya camps, and Tibetan women create a hotline to help people affected by violence during lockdown. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen JensenMay 23, 2020

The Royal Bhutan Monastery in Bodhgaya, India, shortly before social distancing measures were put in place. Photo by Shiva Shenoy | https://tricy.cl/3cWzKB0

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Bodh Gaya Monasteries Request Their Grounds Not Be Used for Quarantining Others

The Indian government plans to use hotels, guest houses, and monasteries in Bodhgaya, India, as quarantine centers for Indians returning from other countries, reported the Times of India. The announcement alarmed many of the monastics. The International Buddhist Council, which represents more than 50 monasteries in the region, released a statement objecting to the decision and citing public health concerns. The group argued that the temple and monastery managers were unequipped to handle COVID-19 cases and raised concerns about monastery residents, many of whom are of advanced age. The general secretary of the International Buddhist Council, Bhikkhu Pragyadeep, warned that if their request is not taken seriously, “all international monks will come out for a peace protest in front of Mahabodhi Temple.”

Panchen Lama Now a College Graduate, China Says

On May 19, China announced that the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who went missing at age six, is now a college graduate with a stable job, the Associated Press reported. After the Dalai Lama and other trained Tibetan lamas identified Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama in 1995, China abducted him and named another boy to the position.

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