Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Crest of the Wave March 2023 Sesshin

Our first fully in person sesshin (Zen meditation retreat) for quite some time ended this past Monday, and here are most of the participants in a lovely group photo taken by Dharma Holder and Temple Director Michael Herzog.  Michael was also the tanto (head seat/sesshin manager) for the weekend, along with Jenny Smith, who was the registrar and assistant tanto.  The retreat was taught by David Rynick, Rōshi, Dharma Holder Alan Richardson and myself.  We focused on a new translation of a kōan that appears in both the Blue Cliff Record collection as case 24 and the Book of Equanimity collection as case 60.  It turns on the relationship between Guishan and his Dharma heir, known as Iron Grindstone Liu.  Their friendship and connection, along with our own gratitude towards our ancestors who provided us with the forms of sesshin, permeated our silent practice throughout the weekend.  Alan gave an encouragement talk about our present moment demonstration of our inheritance as the crest of a great wave of dharma, of the teachings that have been handed down to us for the last 2600 years, and the power of this was felt by all.  If you are interested in experiencing this inherited energetic force, please consider registering for one or all of our next three sesshins.  April will be on zoom only, May will be a hybrid of in person and zoom, and June will be a 2 day zoom only sesshin.  More information is here:  Boundless Way Zen Temple.  As our home page on our website says:  Welcome Home!

Friday, March 3, 2023

Falling Here Sesshin

A few weeks ago we had our February Hybrid Sesshin, with people from far away joining the Temple sesshin residents on Zoom for a lovely weekend of serious Zen practice and play.  Our theme was a koan about Layman Pang and his famous saying, "Beautiful snowflakes!  They don't fall anywhere else!"  Back in February, we were starved for snow in Worcester, and now we've had one big storm to be followed this weekend by another.   It's deeply true that everything that happens, good, bad or neutral, is simply what is happening.  Nothing happens anywhere else!


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Leaving the SZBA


About a month ago, I resigned from the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, a group of ordained Soto Zen priests.  My letter of resignation, which follows at the end of this post, is self-explanatory.  I noticed that as soon as I pressed send on the email, I felt an enormous sense of relief.  My ordination is in two Soto Zen lineages, and in Boundless Way Zen, we have found a way to be priests that matches my deepest sense of what it means to commit whole-heartedly to the Great Way of Zen.  Our style has drifted away from the SZBA style in many respects, especially in our training, which we feel is more strict and also more spacious than what is now expected by the SZBA.  Here is a section from the Boundless Way Zen Temple website which describes our understanding of what it means to be a Zen priest.  Please scroll down to the section called "ordination" for more details:  And here is the first paragraph of that section:

"Priests vow to manifest the life of the sangha. Ordination is a commitment not only to Zen and Buddhism, but also to our particular manifestation of the Path within the Boundless Way Zen sangha. This means taking on tasks of support and leadership that can range from shoveling snow at the Temple to being a member of the Leadership Council, from leading a sitting group to being a chaplain in the larger community. An unsui (clouds-and-water) priest may perform all the rites of the Boundless Way, including performing marriages and conducting funerals. An unsui priest may also serve in the larger community in a variety of ministerial capacities."  

I end this post with the letter that I sent explaining my resignation, written and submitted together with my teacher James Ford and one of my students, David Caruso: 

All of us who have signed below have had misgivings about our place within the Soto Zen Buddhist Association for a number of years. Beyond a nostalgic sense of identity with the historic Soto transmission and fondness for many individuals involved, we do not see an alignment with either the larger vision of the organization, nor its expectations for membership. 

Triggered by the recent suspension of a member, we began discussing our relationship with the SZBA, and why we remain members. Each of us have different feelings about it, but we come to the same basic conclusion.

Our lack of alignment stems from our perception of an expanding list of expectations starting with formation requirements which we do not expect from our students, and extending to what are considered ethical violations that seem at once both overly broad and randomly specific.   After consulting with our formal and informal dharma family, we have come to the conclusion that it is time to leave.

Please accept this as our formal resignation from membership within the Soto Zen Buddhist Association.

Rev. James Myōun Ford, Empty Moon Zen

Rev. Melissa Myōzen Blacker, Boundless Way Zen Temple

Rev. David Shunyo Caruso, Boundless Way Zen Temple

Friday, January 27, 2023

Sweeping the Path Sesshin

Some of the attendees at the January Sesshin

Our first sesshin of 2023 was completely online thanks to the magic of Zoom, and we will continue to have sesshin this year almost monthly: some on Zoom, some hybrid (on Zoom and at the Temple) and some at the Temple only. Our sesshin schedule is here: 2023 sesshin dates and information

David Rōshi was still recovering from his pre-Christmas car accident, but I was ready to teach after the trauma of his accident and my brother's unexpected death began to fade a bit for me and was ably partnered in teaching with Dharma Holder Alan Richardson, assisted by Dharma Holder Michael Herzog. David came in and out, and had the energy to give a brief encouragement talk on the last night.

Our theme for this sesshin was Case 21 from The Book of Serenity collection: Yunyan Sweeps the Grounds, focusing on what it means to be busy. It was a rich and deep time for all. Our next sesshin is a hybrid one, from February 10 -- 13, and will hopefully be taught by David and me, with assistance from Dharma Holder Michael. There are still a couple of in person places left, and an infinite number of online places. If you're not too busy with your own sweeping, you might consider signing up!

Monday, January 9, 2023

Healing and Receiving


About two months ago, I fell from a high stool, and landed on the back of my head, smashed into a cast-iron radiator.  A visit to the emergency room was a journey through grace -- so many people, including a sangha member who is an EMT, helped me through this wildly unexpected event.  

And then, the Friday before Christmas,  my husband David Dae An Rynick, Roshi,  was in a car accident in New Jersey during a powerful storm, as he was traveling from Pennsylvania where he had been visiting his mother.  He has a fractured sternum and some bruises, and our car was totaled.  We managed to get him home that night and I'm glad he’s alive!  

Following that, on Christmas day, my brother Stephen died unexpectedly.  David and I are both grieving and healing, emotionally and physically.  I have slowly returned to teaching,  supported by the Dharma Holders and Senior Assistant Teachers of Boundless Way Zen who have stepped in to offer talks and dokusan.  We are so grateful to everyone in the sangha who has reached out to us by phone, email, and text.  A number of people have offered the use of their car, offered to shop, sent flowers, bought groceries, and made and delivered meals.  We truly feel that we are surrounded by love and compassion.  

And this weekend I taught a sesshin on Zoom with David going in and out as he was able,  partnered with Dharma Holder Alan Richardson and assisted by Dharma Holder Michael Herzog.  

I am truly grateful for my good fortune that has given us the opportunity to heal and receive from friends, family and our amazing Zen community.