December 9, 2013

Seminar and lecture recap

Two events this past weekend were held at Daiyuzenji in Chicago.

On Saturday evening through Sunday morning, Meido Roshi led the overnight retreat focused on practice of internal cultivation methods transmitted in our lineage.  Instruction on Saturday centered on Hakuin's Nanso no ho method, and on two of the three sections of the Do-in ho:  the self-massage practice used to release tension and energetic blockages, and a series of movements which integrate upper and lower body and train the student to "drop" the ki energy down.  On Sunday the various tanden kokyuho exercises were reviewed:  "belly" breathing, A-Un breathing, the use of katsu and kiai, chanting of various syllables with voice and silently, and finally a "breath-swallowing" practice which helps the student transition to the long, silent and deep tanden-focused breathing used in zazen.   As a bonus some instruction was given regarding remedies and foods to be used if the energetic system becomes stirred up from incorrect training.  For those who missed it here is the "secret" recipe for one of these:  a beverage containing equal parts of hot water and sake, very lightly sweetened with sugar.

Following the retreat our usual Sunday morning practice was held.  After this, a group gathered for the special lecture by the Daiyuzenji abbot, So'zan Roshi.  This was to mark Rohatsu, the day commemorating Shakyamuni's enlightenment (traditionally, the 8th day of the 12th month on the lunar calendar...today many Zen students observe the modern date).  So'zan Roshi's lecture touched on the event of the Buddha's enlightenment experience as described in the Sutra Pitaka, and on understandings of dhyana/jhana found in various Buddhist traditions.  He compared these with the Zen approach which, though essentially without fixed method, rests upon and can make free use of these.

After the lecture, the group adjourned to a local restaurant for brunch and conversation.  Many thanks to all who participated.  We'll shortly be releasing the dates for many RZC events in the coming year: sesshin, zazenkai and more.  

November 5, 2013

Korinji dedicated

Bright, breezy autumn weather greeted attendees at the November 3rd ceremony dedicating the first structure at Korinji, formally marking the "birth" of Korinji as a place of Zen practice.  Zen priests, students and supporters from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Utah gathered together to witness the event and recognize the effort of so many which has led to this point.

The ceremony began at the Korinji gate with So'zan Roshi (abbot of Daiyuzenji in Chicago) and Meido Roshi (the Korinji abbot) assisted by Kozan, a Daiyuzenji priest.  Meido Roshi dedicated this new gate by sprinkling salt and water on its upright posts while reciting the hak'ku darani, which is the heart mantra from the Surangama sutra.  Moving uphill to the zendo where guests were being seated,  this continued within the building as each corner of every room was sprinkled in the same manner.  Salt and water are traditional purifying substances, and the mantra recited has the power to liberate beings; in this way negative forces are cleansed from the structure.

Following this Meido Roshi moved to a small altar which had been set up, drew an enso (circle) in the air with lit incense, and immediately gave a katsu shout.  With that So'zan Roshi, assisted by Enmei Hunter, began striking the instruments for the chanting portion of the ceremony.

The Heart Sutra was chanted by all, followed by several repetitions of the Great Compassion Dharani (Daihishu) and the Crisis-Averting Dharani (Shosaishu).  Dedication was given first to Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri, the Bodhisattva often enshrined in places of meditation).  Further dedication was then given to the attendees and their families, to all donors and volunteers throughout Korinji's history, and to teachers both living and dead whose inspiration has been crucial to Korinji's establishment:  Tekio Sogen Roshi, Tenshin Giryu Roshi, Kizan Dogen Roshi, the lay Zen master Tenzan Gensei Rokoji (Toyoda Sensei), and the priest and Aikido master Tenryu Kigan (Chiba Sensei).

After this formal ceremony several individuals spoke to the group:

So'zan Roshi gave the opening greeting and reflected on the chain of circumstances which led to Korinji. This started with the transmission of our lineage to the west by Sogen Roshi through the temple he founded in Hawaii, Chozen-ji, and continued through to the untimely death of Toyoda Rokoji - who dreamt of founding a place like Korinji - and the preservation of his dream by the Korinji founders today.

Enmei Hunter, speaking on behalf of the Korinji board of directors, spoke to the precious nature of our training and of a place like Korinji, with its power to enrich our lives in today's world.

Greg Dekker and James Mills, the Korinji project and construction managers, spoke regarding the long process of building Korinji - from the earliest days when only a few individuals struggled to clear the building site and carry hundreds of bags of concrete through the forest by hand, to the present day when we could sit within a nearly completed building.

Finally Meido Roshi gave a brief teisho (formal talk).  Reminding that a poem is traditionally offered by a newly arriving abbot, he recited the following to mark the occasion of Korinji's birth:

A crow flies over this valley,
white with frost.
Dawn comes with flashing blade
and a bowstring's hum,
thrusting through with her spear
the poles of the spinning world.
What is the goal of the Patriarchs?
Gathering twigs for a fire,
pulling in our chins
against the cold. 

In his talk following he explained some of the poem's meaning, which also sketches out an essential "map" of Zen practice: 

The first line, he said, references Hakuin's description of his own kensho (awakening) experience. Thus is signifies not only the direct recognition of one's own Dharmakaya wisdom which is the entry into Zen, but also the arrival of our Rinzai Zen line - the line of the great master Bodhidharma, of the Sixth Patriarch, of Hyakujo, of Rinzai, of Daio, Daito and Kanzan, of Hakuin, and finally of Sogen Roshi -  to this forested hillside in the upper midwest.  "White with frost" further carries meaning which could be grasped by those who have themselves entered into kensho.

The lines about dawn he explained refer not only to Marishiten, the guardian figure of Korinji, but to the experience of practice after awakening by which kensho is embodied and integrated in the continual upwelling of liberative wisdom.  Practitioners who have reached this point in their training will immediately grasp what is meant by "spinning the world", and the seamless activity symbolized by the flashing, humming weapons of Marishiten who is said to move as a flash of light that can nowhere become stuck or fixed.  This also has a meaning in regard to  internal cultivation and embodiment in Zen training.

Finally, "goal of the Patriarchs" is a reference to the sango, or "mountain name", of Korinji:  So'tekizan, "mountain of the Patriarch's target/goal".  "What is the goal of the Patriarchs?" thus can mean "what is the final fruition of Zen practice?" as well as "What is this place?  What is Korinji monastery?".  Regarding this he recited the final lines, "Gathering twigs for a fire/pulling in our chins/against the cold" and said, "I'll explain that some other time!"

Following teisho a short break was given while the zendo was set up for a zaike tokudo (jukai) ceremony.  On this auspicious day four students took refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and took up the practice of the five precepts for laypersons; each was given a dharma name composed of two characters to mark the occasion.  They are:

Ken Bringer:  Yushin, "courageous, brave/heart, mind"
Greg Dekker:  Genshin, "original, origin/loyalty, fidelity, faith"
Nicholas Oldfather:  Kyosei, "mirror/truth, sincerity"
Kristen Radtke:  Myoan, "miraculous, mysterious/grace, benefit, blessing"

With official activities ended, guests enjoyed tea, coffee and sweets wonderfully arranged by Karen Radtke.  Everyone was invited to sign a flat piece of polished cedar wood which will be lacquered and then sealed within the zendo ceiling to commemorate the occasion.   

All in all it was an amazing day...and the culmination of quite a few amazing years of work.  Many contributors and volunteers could not be present, but all were remembered.  Though Korinji is still some years away from raising sufficient funds to build a residence on-site, the substantial completion of this first structure marks the beginning of new stage and the historic birth of a new Rinzai Zen monastery in the West.  It is with great gratitude and deep emotion that we reflect on all the circumstances - and especially all the people whose life energy has been so freely given - which made such a day as this come about.

A gallery of additional photos may be found here.

October 15, 2013

Internal Cultivation retreat in Chicago: Dec. 7 - 8

Meido Roshi will lead a short overnight retreat at Daiyuzenji in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday Dec. 7-8, focused on the Internal Cultivation practices passed down within our lineage. Instruction will be tailored to the individuals attending, but in general will cover aspects of the following practices:

1. Progressive instruction of Tanden Kokyuho (the breathing used in zazen). This includes foundational instruction in diaphragmatic ("belly") breathing as well as the pelvic floor lock used within zazen posture to "set" the hara, causing energy to gather at the tanden and increasing clarity dramatically. Within this training, various methods used to deepen the intensity and refinement of energetic vibration (kiai) in unity with samadhi, and to cut through obstructions to recognizing one's nature, will be examined and practiced: A-Un breathing, chanting of mantric sound, energetic vocalization (kiai/katsu), physical exercises and so on.

2. Hakuin's Naikan no ho and Nanso no ho practices: to balance and learn to direct energy, to dissolve physical and energetic blockages, and to improve/preserve one's health.

3. Do-in Ho: a series of exercises to circulate energy throughout the body, to increase suppleness and to improve circulation. This includes a routine for daily self-massage.

The schedule is 6:30pm Saturday evening through 8:00am Sunday morning. Participants should bring a sleeping bag. Suggested donation is $55 for Rinzai Zen Community members, $65 others...however any donation is fine, and no one will be turned away if unable to donate (proceeds benefit Korinji). Breakfast will be served on Sunday morning. Participants are invited to stay for our usual Sunday morning practice afterwards (8:30-11am).

Prerequisite: participants must have received prior foundational instruction in zazen and be able to sit with stability for average-length periods (30-45 min). Persons attending who are not RZC members are requested to obtain permission from their teachers beforehand.

All are welcome! Please contact RZC with any questions: info@rinzaizen.org

October 14, 2013

Gate teaser...

A detail of the sanmon ("mountain gate", the traditional entrance to a Zen monastery) under construction at Korinji.  The gate is being constructed largely from timbers harvested on our land. When completed it will stand above the stone steps which lead up to our buildings. 

Large, illustrious monasteries often have large, illustrious gates.  In former centuries these could serve to display a temple's status and position: the larger the gate, the more important the place. 

This gate, however, is small, rustic, hidden and poor...as befits a monastery of those qualities.  Our primary concern, after all, is with a different "gate"...  

October 7, 2013

Fall-a-thon fundraiser results...Thank you!

The results of the 2013 Fall-a-thon - an annual fundraiser sponsored by Shinjinkai, the Japanese Martial Arts Society - are in!

It's with tremendous gratitude that we acknowledge our donors and everyone who came together on the day of the Fall-a-thon last week.  This year, Aikido students threw and Iaijutsu students performed kata.  Zen students supported the effort also by undertaking a practice of chanting and prostrations for an hour and a half.

Donations are still arriving and being tallied, but so far nearly $10,000.00 has been raised during the Fall-a-thon period.

These donations make possible the current work at Korinji. As of today the interior walls are being completed and prepped for painting (photos soon).

Thank you again to everyone for your kind support, and especially to the Fall-a-thon participants whose effort has been so crucial!

September 23, 2013

Samu and Dedication Ceremony at Korinji

Wrapping up this season's work at Korinji we have two upcoming events:

1.  October 8-13 Meido Roshi and Greg Dekker will be at Korinji for a final extended work period.  During that week they'll be working on the gate which will stand near the stone steps, at the bottom of the hill below Korinji.  Timbers for this purpose had been cut last year and kept in storage; they're now weather-treated and ready to be erected.

Volunteers are needed and welcome at any time during this Tuesday-through-Sunday stretch.  RSVP by email to info@korinji.org. 

2.  November 2-3 will be our final samu weekend of the year.  At 2pm on that Sunday the 3rd, there will be a short dedication ceremony for our (nearly) completed first building.  Though we have a long way to go at Korinji before residential practice is possible there, this ceremony actually marks the official "birth" of Korinji as a monastery.

Following the ceremony, several members of our community will also undertake zaike tokudo (jukai) on that auspicious occasion. 

All who have donated to, or volunteered at, Korinji are invited to this event.  Because space (and parking) are limited, RZC will shortly be sending out an email with more information and a link to RSVP. 

Thanks to Mike Prindle for the photo.  Mike has been taking a great deal of photos and video for us, and we hope also to soon release professional re-shoots by him of the videos on our website's member resources page. 

Upcoming Zazenkai and Sesshin

The next zazenkai (mini overnight retreat) will be held at Daiyuzenji in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, October 5-6.  Zazenkai stresses the formal practice undertaken at sesshin, our longer retreats; it's an ideal way to deepen your practice and prepare for sesshin.  For more information or to RSVP, please email to info@rinzaizen.org.

Speaking of sesshin, online registration for our November. 8-10 retreat at Daiyuzenji in Chicago is now open here.  Please note the registration deadline of Wednesday, Nov. 6 as late or same-day registrations cannot be accepted.

Beginners:  if you have questions regarding your readiness for either of these retreats, please speak directly with your teacher or email to info@rinzaizen.org.

September 9, 2013

2013 Germany Sesshin Recap

[Submitted by Meido Roshi]

I'm happy to report that we had another wonderful sesshin in Germany organized by Rinzai Zen Community members there.  Participants from Germany and Switzerland gathered once more at the Kapuzinerhof in Laufen, a restored monastery founded in 1655, which lies just outside the medieval city gate of this quiet town on the German/Austrian border.

Our zendo was once again set up in the old monk's choir, but the clear and cooler weather allowed us to make great use of the monastery grounds.  During free practice periods in the afternoon and evening, individuals and groups walked the wooded path along the monastery wall, which is marked by the stations of the cross and was used in past years for contemplation by the resident monks.  Just outside the choir is the entrance to a small monastery cemetery where many of the original monks are buried, and beyond that a larger cemetery with graves and stone tombs stretching back into the 1700's:  these locations were ideal for free meditation periods into the late evening.  Finally, we were able to have outdoor teisho in the cloister garden during which I lectured with a special emphasis on the "direct pointing" which is the hallmark of our tradition. 

This is our fourth annual sesshin in Laufen.  A core group of participants have attended all four, and they demonstrate an increasing familiarity with the forms and schedule of sesshin.  This is wonderful to witness, and of course makes things all the smoother for newer practitioners.

I'd like to thank everyone for their effort, and particularly the following students who performed sesshin duties:  Kai-Uwe Nolte served well as our jikijitsu, his first time in that role.  He was assisted by Thomas Neumann.  Raymond Schroder anchored the zendo as tanto, and Anselm Stahl served dual roles as shika and inji.  Our handaikan were Nora Helbling and Dominic Karcher.

Finally, I was especially pleased to conduct the first zaike tokudo (jukai) ceremony for a member in Germany.  Anselm Stahl (shown in the photo to the right) was given the dharma name Anzan ("peaceful mountain"), which suits him very well in several ways.

We look forward to more practice with our dharma brothers and sisters in Europe next year...and many thanks again to everyone who made this retreat possible.

August 21, 2013

Falling for Korinji in 2013

The annual fundraiser organized by Shinjinkai (the Japanese Martial Arts Society) to benefit Korinji is underway and culminates on Sept. 29th...but this year with some twists!

In past years, martial art students from Shinjinkai have used their skills in Aikido and other disciplines to raise funds through a process similar to a walk-a-thon.  These "fall-a-thons" involved Aikidoists taking as many falls as they can in 15 minutes, and receiving donations from sponsors of their effort.

This year we'll again see the wonderful display of skill from our Aikido friends.  But Zen students are now invited on board as well!  On Sept. 29th they'll join in the effort by undertaking a practice of chanting the Heart Sutra 108 times, with prostrations.  In this way, we'll all join our energy together to push Korinji forward.

Because of this new format, you can participate in one of several ways no matter where you are by going to this page, on which...

1.  ...you can donate any time to the cause!
2.  ...you can sign up as an actual fundraiser, request donations from your contacts via email and Facebook, and on Sept. 29th join our practice - in Chicago or from a distance!
3.  ...you can be a supporter by spreading the word online about our campaign.

Again, please go here to join the campaign! 

July 5, 2013

Busy times!

Things have been busier than usual.  But before we update you on what's been going on:  an URGENT CALL for volunteers...

The next Korinji samu weekend is July 13-14.  This year and last we've not required large work crews, but this time we need many bodies!  Our job is simple:  to move all the tools and materials out of, and from underneath, our building so that insulation and interior buildout can be completed.

So, not hard work really.  But without sufficient hands, it will be impossible to complete!  Please come out, even if only for a day...RSVP to info@korinji.org.

KORINJI:  We're moving now into the home stretch with our zendo construction.  Contracts have been concluded to finish interior buildout (insulation and walls) in September.  This means that we're on track to dedicate this, our first structure, in the fall.  Though it feels as if we've been working for many years, it's actually only four since we first began to clear the building site.  This a remarkable accomplishment, especially when we consider that it's been funded entirely through grassroots fundraising.

Also, "dedication" has a deeper meaning.  Though we have much more work to do, from that moment onward we can say that Korinji exists as a monastery...officially and concretely, not just as an idea.  It also means that our commitment to do intensive Zen practice becomes rooted in the land there:  the dedication ceremony is the moment, for some of us, that we express our willingness to spend the remainder of our life's energy and effort in that place.

We'll soon announce a date, and hope to see our volunteers and donors there.

During Hosokawa Roshi's recent visit to Chicago we took him to Korinji to see the progress made since his last visit.  He kindly gave a great deal of invaluable advice regarding our future development, arrangement of the grounds, the monastic daily and yearly schedule and so on. 

CHICAGO:  Speaking of Hosokawa Roshi, this past weekend we concluded a number of events during which he taught and lectured to our community.  His public lecture on Thursday, entitled "Flax Three Pounds:  the Zen View", used that famous koan to very directly point out the core realization of Zen.  Additional teaching time over the following days was given to our students, and took the form of open question/answer sessions.  In a session for teachers, Roshi talked at length regarding the roles of priests and Zen teachers, and about the practical meaning of the crucial yet "untransmissable" advanced practice after koan training, describing this as the chasm to which students eventually come...but which not all have the motivation or capacity to jump over.  A truly inspiring discussion.

We look forward to welcoming Hosokawa Roshi back soon, and thanks to everyone who helped organize these events and make them run smoothly.

Again, please focus on Korinji:  July 13-14.  We appreciate your support and work as always...

June 18, 2013

Sept. 7-8: A Zen Approach to Body Therapy

This weekend training at Daiyuzenji in Chicago is the introduction to Zentherapy®, a style of bodywork closely connected to our Zen lineage, and the first in a series of seminars certifying practitioners of this powerful discipline.

Anyone interested in learning to release tension, toxins and energetic blockages - helping themselves and others to realize the natural form of the body - is encouraged to attend.

Full information here.

Note that this course is a prerequisite for further training and certification in Zentherapy®, including the Zen Triggerpoint Anatomy® trainings which will be offered in Chicago January - April, 2014.

Jukai lecture dates

Attention Jukai candidates:  the first required lecture, given at our recent zazenkai in Chicago, is now posted on the RZC site member resources page.  Please access it with your member password.

The next lecture will be held Tuesday, July 2nd at Daiyuzenji following our regular zazen which begins at 7pm:  the subject is the Five Lay Precepts.  The third lecture, on the Four Great Vows, will be given during our August sesshin.  All of this will also be posted for those unable to attend lecture days.

The actual ceremonies will be held at times confirmed between each candidate and his/her direct teacher.  Please speak to your teacher about this.  One of the times we are planning to use for this purpose is the dedication ceremony at Korinji this fall, TBA.

June 22-23: Korinji this weekend




















If you'd like to come do zazen, work and sit around the campfire with us, please RSVP to info@korinji.org.

June 5, 2013

June 9: Hojo seminar this weekend

A seminar teaching the Hojo kata, led by So'zan Roshi, will be offered this weekend at Daiyuzenji in Chicago.  More information here.

From the RZC website:

Hojo Kata are four sword forms created in the middle of the Muromachi period (1333 - 1573) as part of the Jikishinkage school of Japanese swordmanship. However, these forms - carrying the energies of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter - are not practiced by us for the sake of learning swordsmanship, but rather as a powerful method for imparting principles of posture, energy and center. As stated within the Jikishinkage school, the purpose of the Hojo is to remove all bad habits and addictions acquired since birth and to restore the original pure and bright permanent body. A Buddhist way of saying this would be that such practices cut through the student's jikke ("habit energy"), or karmic obstructions.

It was Omori Sogen Roshi who integrated these forms into our training. They are practiced with great intensity using the dynamic A-Un method of breathing.


May 28, 2013

August sesshin registration: open

Information and online registration for our August 1-4 sesshin in Chicago has been published here.

We hope to see you!

May 15, 2013

Upcoming retreats, seminars and Jukai info

Our next overnight mini-retreat, or Zazenkai, at Daiyuzenji will be June 1-2, 6:30pm - 7:30am. Focused primarily on meditation practice, Zazenkai is also an ideal way to prepare for sesshin, our longer retreats. Participants may stay overnight at Daiyuzenji (please bring a sleeping bag). As usual breakfast will be served Sunday morning, and participants may stay for the usual Sunday morning practice afterwards if they like, 8-11am. Donation: $20 Rinzai Zen Community Members, $25 all others.

JUKAI NOTE: the first lecture for zaike tokudo (jukai) candidates will also be given on Saturday evening during this retreat. Subject: the Three Refuges.

Hojo Seminar: A seminar instructing Hojo Kata, a series of sword forms used in our Zen lineage to impart the fundamentals of posture, breathing and kiai (energy), will be offered on Sunday, June 9th. Beginners and experienced students are welcome. 10am - 1pm. $25 RZC members, $30 others.

Summer Sesshin in USA and Europe: don't forget to mark your calendar with the dates of our next sesshin in Chicago, August 1-4. More information soon! We are also finalizing travel plans for our annual summer sesshin in Laufen, Germany, August 29 through Sept. 1. For more information on this event please contact Meido Roshi by email, info@rinzaizen.org.

Internal Training: The previously scheduled Internal Training seminar had been rescheduled due to the Zentherapy training which was held this month. We will instead offer this training December 7-8 at Daiyuzenji. Also, it will now be offered in an overnight retreat format rather than as a seminar, allowing for much longer and more extensive practice of things like Tanden Kokyuho and Hakuin's Nanso no ho. More information will be released as we get closer to December.

Successful Zentherapy intro

Nine trainees, led by Kogen Nagel and Jim Mills, completed the introductory level course "A Zen Approach to Bodytherapy" on May 4-5th.  This was the first training in a series imparting the powerful Zentherapy methods developed by William "Dub" Leigh which have a connection with our Zen line.

We hope shortly to announce the next in this series of trainings, and possibly a repeat of the introduction course for those who missed the first one. 

May 9, 2013

Hosokawa Roshi in Chicago, and other events...

We've confirmed a number of upcoming events at Daiyuzenji in Chicago, including our next zazenkai (June 1-2) and the events during Hosokawa Roshi's visit June 27th through 30th. Please take a look at the RZC calendar for details.

Korinji this weekend

Our next samu (work) weekend at Korinji is this coming weekend!  Please RSVP through the Korinji site if you'd like to come up to sit, work and enjoy good company...

April 16, 2013

Spring mud and snow

The 2013 construction year at Korinji kicked off this past weekend.  Winter has been slow to depart the land there; snow, hail and sleet accompanied our work of opening up the site for the year and laying the foundations of a new tool shed.

A small, hardy crew braved the cold and wet:  Greg Dekker, Ian Poulos, Miguel Muzzio and Meido Roshi.  After zazen on Saturday morning around the wood stove, the shed site was chosen, laid out and cleared.  Railroad ties set into the earth will form the base.

Also accomplished this weekend:  on-site meetings with our electrical, insulation and drywall contractors, and with the local firm that provided the crushed stone for our drives.  We'll shortly be ready to move forward with interior build out as well as a final layer of finish gravel on our access drives and parking areas.

All of that and much more to do this year.  To volunteer, please take a look at the scheduled work weekends on Korinji's calendar, here.  Then just email Korinji through the website.  You're very welcome to pitch in and become one of Korinji's founders. 

April 9, 2013

Michigan Zazenkai Recap

[Submitted by David Mata, Kyoseikan Dojo in Grand Rapids]

On March 9th and 10th we conducted a zazenkai, a short Zen retreat, at our dojo in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Meido Roshi came from Chicago to sit with us.

Zazenkai is a time to meditate as a group for a night and morning.  I experienced it something like this:  you sit for what seems like hours, counting your breaths in unison with everyone in the circle of meditation. You sit with your eyes open but not distracted by the activity around you. You are not asleep but present. Then suddenly the wood clappers sound as the timekeeper (jikijitsu) leads the group in walking meditation. You walk quickly behind the timekeeper and walk as they walk, slow down when they slow down, speed up when they speed up. And when they return to the circle, you find your place and sit to return to that place of counting.

My experience with zazenkai was extraordinary. I came into direct conflict with my own mind, fighting off the thoughts of the past and future. I was uncomfortable and unaccustomed to such rigorous discipline of the mind and body, not being able to think about whatever I wanted and not moving until the time was up. Meido Roshi reminded us that what is most important is not the traditional forms, not the bells and the style and the clothing or the schedule. It is the reason behind all that: to be with and become one with our existence, moment-by-moment. So often we get caught up in what has happened to us or what will happen in the future that we forget to life for today. When you walk, you are walking. When you read, you are reading. When you work, you work. Our life becomes so much less if we let the days pass by in anticipation or dread of what is to come. One purpose of meditation is to help us refocus and find that value in "now".

But meditation is also not limited to this. Another important aspect is the recognition of others. We are not in this world alone. There are many others, equally caught up in their own selves and sharing a need to recognize the life around them. Not only are we to live in the now, but live with others. At zazenkai I learned that, in sitting with others in a circle and counting my breaths, I was in sync with these people. Life is not about me; it is about everyone.

Through the practice of meditation you can begin to take this mindset to every part of your life. It will help release those tensions that build up inside from things like guilt, anger, sadness, or anxiety, allowing you to live more at peace and joyfully.

In this short experience of practice I did not solve all my own internal problems. However, in this overnight meditation I was given a path to live by that I seek to follow and it has been very helpful emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you apply yourself and commit to becoming more one with others and more conscious of the present, you will reap the benefits.

April 4, 2013

A Zen Approach to Body Therapy: Introductory Weekend, May 4-5

Ko'gen (Tom) Nagel, a Zen priest and advanced practitioner of Zen Bodytherapy®, will lead this training seminar at Daiyuzenji in Chicago.  It is the first of the trainings required for practitioner certification in this powerful bodywork method, the origins of which are closely linked to our Zen line.  Training is 8am - 5pm both days.

What is Zentherapy®?

Zentherapy® recognizes that from birth to death, life is a flow of energy. This energy takes shape by our attitudes, our emotions and our bodies. Zentherapy® releases the natural form of the body from the aberrations caused by physical, chemical, psychological and spiritual traumas. These aberrations misalign the body and block the free flow of energy within the body and between the person and the universe. The blocks and misalignment prevent a person from realizing their full potential and experiencing the oneness of all life.

Zentherapy® was developed by William "Dub" Leigh - a student of Ida Rolf (founder of Rolfing), Moshe Feldenkrais (founder of the Feldenkrais method) and finally of Tanouye Tenshin Roshi (the late kancho of Chozen-ji).  Dub's training with Tanouye Roshi, which centered on the use of ki (energy) and which he described as "a post-graduate course in reality and the meaning of life and death", led to the mature system which is today promulgated through the International Zen Therapy Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.

What will we learn at the weekend training?

* To use the principles and methods of Zen Bodytherapy® to release tension, trauma & toxins from connective tissue.
* To transform old, hard, short, nonresilient tissue into soft, lengthy, bouncy tissue.
* To circulate vital energy in a changed, newly aligned body.

Whether you are interested in this training to deepen your Zen practice as a whole, or also wish to become certified to help others using this method, you are welcome to attend.

Registration Deadline:  April 22:  Full information and registration flyer here.

March 8, 2013

Hosokawa Roshi in Chicago: June 27-30

Save the dates: our teacher Kizan Dogen (Hosokawa) Roshi, a dharma heir of Omori Sogen Roshi and the former shike and kancho of Daihonzan Chozen-ji in Hawaii, will visit Daiyuzenji in Chicago June 27th through 30th.

 Several events will be planned to give students the opportunity to practice with him. Details to be announced!

March 7, 2013

Chicago sesshin recap

[Submitted by Enmei Hunter, Daiyuzenji]

On March 1-3 we held our Spring Sesshin at Daiyuzenji with 17 participants, including several first-time sesshin attendees. The shortened length of this retreat made for a very concentrated effort from the group overall.

Chris Wagner was jiki and kept the group together throughout the weekend. Tesshin Brand brought his usual talent to the tenzo role, providing meals that were delicious and kept our energy up throughout. Via Catinalla acted as Handaikan for the first time and I assisted her in this role. In addition, I acted as inji for So'zan Roshi and Meido Roshi while Alex Shakar as shika made sure the group had what they needed throughout the weekend.  So'zan Roshi provided instruction in calligraphy to show how the breath, the body and the mind must all come together in this practice as well.

Sesshin is a great opportunity for concentrated practice, to re-commit to training and to unify the mind and body. The group put forth great effort.  I'm always humbled by the opportunity to train with others, to continue my practice and to be a part of our community.

February 25, 2013

Zazen in Olsztyn

A photo from the 2013 Kangeiko (winter training period) just concluded at Masakatsu Dojo in Olsztyn, Poland:  martial art students during morning zazen, led by Meido roshi.

February 15, 2013

Calligraphy seminar recap

[Submitted by Rev. Tesshin Brand, Daiyuzenji]

This past Sunday's Zen Calligraphy Seminar went rather well. There were a total of 14 in attendance and it was nice to see representation from both Daiyuzenji and our affiliated practice groups.

We started with some basic technique.  Everyone had an opportunity to practice some of the fundamental strokes, and then progressed into more advanced techniques. This was followed by a study of all of the pieces of calligraphy displayed throughout Daiyuzenji. So'zan Roshi did a wonderful job of translating each, pointing out the subtleties and nuances in the spacing and construction of the characters. There was also an emphasis on the importance of this particular practice and how it fits in with Omori Roshi's Zen-Ken-Sho methodology of training which we've inherited.  Everyone then had an opportunity to use the large brushes and practice a few of the characters that we often use, and which are evaluated by our Roshis, during Sesshin.

Thank you to all those who participated in making this a wonderful event, and special thanks to So'zan Miller Roshi for sharing his insights and knowledge of this wonderful aspect to our practice.

February 12, 2013

Sesshin in the snow

Aalstveit Farm, the sesshin location
[Submitted by Meido Roshi]

Our first sesshin in Norway was concluded this past Sunday.  Eight students gathered on a farm in the small town of Hemsedal, set in a long alpine valley about four hours by car from Oslo. 

Our event organizer was Jeremy Wilson:  a farmer, mountain guide and long-time practitioner of martial arts, he and his wife Kirsten have converted an old cowshed on their farm into a beautiful space for training, massage therapy and other activities.  Looking out onto acres of fields and spruce forest rising up to the slopes of  the mountains which ring the valley, it is a silent and ideal place for practice.

Students from both Norway and Germany trained together, including several with only a little sitting experience.  I expect the beginners especially found the training challenging, but they met it well and with an almost joyful stubbornness that was wonderful to witness.  Kirsten served as our tenzo, and mealtimes were a highpoint:  wonderful fare eaten in a dining room with windows opening up to views of the white mountains.  Jeremy essentially served as shika, taking good care of everyone and seeing to their needs.  Lars Limburg from Kiel, Germany served as handaikan during formal teas.  I was happy to give several informal talks, taking one of Omori Roshi's teisho as inspiration and also instructing essential breathing methods and Hakuin Zenji's nanso no ho.

Many thanks to everyone who participated.  I look forward to future sesshin in Hemsedal, and invite all of our members to come train in the future with our friends there. 

February 6, 2013

Calligraphy seminar in Chicago

Feb. 10:  A seminar instructing the etiquette and forms of calligraphy with brush and ink as it is practiced within our Zen lineage.

This Seminar will be held at Daiyuzenji in Chicago (www.daiyuzenji.org).  10am - 1pm. Donation $25 for RZC members, $30 for others.

January 29, 2013

Align and Balance seminar - March 31

We're excited to announce that Tom Nagel, a Zen priest and advanced practitioner of Zen Bodytherapy, will teach a one-day seminar at Daiyuzenji in Chicago. Entitled Align and Balance, the seminar will instruct techniques and exercises enabling participants to assist themselves and others to achieve efficient self-carriage. Self-carriage is achieved by leveling the pelvis and aligning and balancing the body in the vertical plane. A balanced body, integrated with gravity and in which energy flows freely, is one of the foundations not only of Zen practice but of overall well-being.

A word about Zen Bodytherapy: this dynamic bodywork instruction was created by William "Dub" Leigh, called "the Dean of American bodyworkers". A student of Ida Rolf and Moshe Feldenkrais, Dub's method truly emerged after his meeting with Tenshin Tanouye Roshi, then abbot of Chozen-ji monastery in Hawaii. It was from Tanouye Roshi that Dub learned to integrate the energetic component of bodywork. From the teachings of these three masters, integrated by Dub, emerged the methods of Zen Bodytherapy.

Though this seminar is not a formal Zen Bodytherapy training, it will serve to give participants a sense of what such training involves. They will come away with a set of alignment and balancing techniques they can use right away. But we will also use this event to gauge interest in a future series of trainings imparting the Zen Bodytherapy discipline.

All are welcome to Align and Balance:

- Sunday March 31, 10am - 1pm. Registration at 9:45am. You are free to attend Zen practice beforehand, starting at 8:00am.

- Donation:  $55. Proceeds benefit Daiyuzenji.

- Information or questions:   info@daiyuzenji.org

January 21, 2013

Sesshin in Chicago: March 1-3

Information and online registration for our March sesshin at Daiyuzenji in Chicago may now be found here.

This is a short sesshin and ideal for beginners with an established sitting practice. Please inquire if you have any questions!

January 3, 2013

Norway Sesshin Update

A revised flyer has been released by the organizer of our sesshin in Hemsedal, Norway.  The original failed to mention that a reduced contribution will be asked from anyone with financial hardship.

You may see the new flyer here.

All are welcome!