Announcing our July Zen Meditation Retreat in Seattle with James Ishmael Ford

A Zen Meditation RetreatLed by James Ishmael Ford, Roshiand Janine Larsen, Practice LeaderWhen: Friday, July 14 through Sunday, July 16 (see retreat schedule) Where: University Unitarian Church (UUC) in Seattle. Plus: Optional Retreat Preview, Thursday, July 13, Woodinville UU Church (WUUC), 7:00 – 9:00 PMCost: Pay what you are able.And we have suggestions: The full retreat, $60. Friday or Saturday only (single full day), $40. Friday or Saturday morning or afternoon (half da … [Read more...]

Gary Snyder Turns 87

Happy birthday, Gary!He once sang to us:Ah to be alive on a mid-September morn fording a stream barefoot, pants rolled up, holding boots, pack on, sunshine, ice in the shallows, northern rockies.Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes cold nose dripping singing inside creek music, heart music, smell of sun on gravel.I pledge allegianceI pledge allegiance to the soil of Turtle Island, and to the beings who thereon … [Read more...]

America’s Buddhist. Happy Eightieth, George!

George Hosato Takei was born in Los Angeles, California, on this day, April 20th, 1937.Today, he is probably best known for his social media presence as a wit and social commentator. He is, of course, also a social justice activist, with a focus, although hardly exclusively on LGBTQ rights. And, for most all of us of a certain age, and it seems generations following, he is and will always be Star Trek's Lt Hikaru Sulu.In 2008 he married his long time partner Brad Altman. Walter Koenig … [Read more...]

Zen Priest Seeks Work: Has Zafu & Kyosaku. Can Travel.

As many of my friends know I've worked principally as a Unitarian Universalist minister for the past quarter of a century. This has supported my family and me as I've also studied and then taught Zen. I like to think I've been useful.And now that I have retired from parish ministry I am devoting myself fully to guiding our Blue Cliff Zen Sangha, writing, leading retreats, and supporting a handful of Zen teachers in their early formation. There is no charge for joining our sangha, or that … [Read more...]

Soto Zen: A Collection of Videos

There is an ever increasing library of videos regarding Zen available on Youtube. As one might expect, they are of varying quality and usefulness. Here are a handful I believe are useful for someone looking to know more about Soto Zen, and particularly Soto as it is taking shape here in the West, and more specifically in North America. The ancient way with some new wrinkles... First, an historical overview. Not the best, but serviceable... In … [Read more...]

What Rough Beast? A Small Meditation on Book Smugglers

Jurgis Bielinis was born on this day, the 16th of March, 1846, in Purviskiai, Lithuania.During the long Russian occupation of Lithuania, books written in Latin-Alphabet Lithuanian were banned. It was a part of Russia's assimilation program, which necessitated the destruction of historic Lithuanian culture, or at least the extreme attenuation of it. And, of course, at the heart of such things books must be banned. And so they were.These were heady and lethal dangerous years. In the face … [Read more...]

Hello Bodhisattvas! Another of Zen’s Inside Jokes

I understand that when he would give talks the early Zen missionary to the Barbarians of the United States, Nyogen Senzaki would address his audience as "bodhisattvas." A friend who knows his way around, suggested the sensei was throwing out a net, hoping to snare a wise heart, maybe even two.Years later I sometimes say to someone who has done a small mitzvah, "you're a bodhisattva." Maybe in the same spirit. Okay, maybe with a bit more snark. But, then I stand solidly within my age, and our … [Read more...]

Alexander Hamilton Calls Out Donald Trump

There's an excerpt from a letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1792 going around the social media world that disturbingly looks like it was addressed to Mr Trump. Allow me to do my small bit to make sure as many people who can, will see it...The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on … [Read more...]

THE FOUR FREEDOMS A Speech, Some Paintings, and an Essay

As it happens it was on this day in 1943 that Norman Rockwell's painting Freedom from Want was presented to the general public in the Saturday Evening Post. It was the last of Rockwell's Four Freedoms series inspired by Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union address. I personally think that the president's address, and the accompanying paintings by Rockwell are a beautiful if not completely adequate summation of what I believe the American Dream in fact is.Possibly of interest to … [Read more...]

That’s Entertainment: My Reviews of the 2017 Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Award

Over the years Jan & I have said we'd love to go the movies more. But, the reality was we never did much. A big part of this was my work life as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister and with the erratic hours that parish ministry meant doing something regularly was difficult. And, we chose to guard the time for our Zen community rather than anything else.And time flows, and things change.Now, in the first year of retirement we have started doing things that we just couldn't put … [Read more...]