Zen in a New World


One of my all time favorite images from an American Zen center is this one. It comes from the Brooklyn Zen Center. They’re a Soto Center in the Branching Streams collective of centers in the Shunryu Suzuki lineage.

I’ve loved that picture since the first time I saw it. It raises hopes in my heart. I hope you like it, too. I think it points to something possible, a promise of something.

And there it sat. However, then this past Monday we kicked off our new Blue Cliff Zen sitting group with a pop-up zendo in Costa Mesa. It’s our second group, following one that meets in Long Beach that we established last year. Ten adults showed up for the inaugural sit. And two of them brought along Violet. Violet is not yet a year old.

So, we began to find what our zendo rules are going to look like. Mostly we follow the Soto style with our traditional Boundless Way modification – sitting facing into the center of the group being the main departure from Soto norms. But, in general most would recognize our style if possibly thinking it runs to the shabby side of the street.

But we are now embarked on something wonderful. The deal we have put together is that babies are officially welcome in our zendo. Of necessity they follow their own rhythms. A parental unit, or designated representative monitors, and as necessary guides the child in or out of the hall. The sense of how much noise is for the time going to be up to the parental unit.

We discussed a little the actual source of distractions. Which as any old Zen hand knows has nothing to do with a small child gurgling and practicing talking. While hopefully setting out reasonable parameters for family and other practitioners we are now embarked on our little experiment.

And obviously it is a work in progress. What about older children?  When is coming and going a problem? What about in a retreat, with its demands for greater containment?

A lot to figure out.

I’m confident we can create a family friendly zendo. Now we’ll see. We’re going to see if we can indeed live into the promise of that picture.

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