Saturday kicked off with the business meeting. It began with reports from our president Taihaku Priest, and our Administrative Coordinator Domyo Burk. As they were describing how the organization now counts something more than one hundred and fifty full members and, I admit I don’t recall the number but I think some fifty associates, it occurred to me that with its various problems North American Soto has achieved gender equity. Not only are Taihaku and Domyo both women, but as I looked out at t … [Read more...]

LOOKING OVER THE HORIZON: A Talk at the 2014 Soto Zen Buddhist Association Meeting

pilgrim seeing through

LOOKING OVER THE HORIZON A Talk at the 2014 Soto Zen Buddhist Association MeetingJames Myoun Ford Boundless Way ZenI was devastated to learn of Kyogen Carlson’s death in the days running up to the beginning of this gathering. An old and dear friend for me. And, of course, Gyokuko’s long beloved husband. Such a loss. And, truthfully, a loss for all of us here. There’s a reason Kyogen’s portrait has been placed here near the podium where we are conducting most of the business of this gath … [Read more...]


great vow sign

While compared to two weeks ago, I feel great, I continue to have enough discomfort in my lungs that I am careful and do miss some of the program at the retreat, driving up the hill and arriving just before nine a.m. local time, and returning to the motel right after dinner, about seven thirty in the evening. This includes missing the morning sit and breakfast, as well as the evening programs. In the morning, while I awake about the same time as they do up on the mountain, I’m moving at a slower … [Read more...]



I continue to function a tad less than optimal, tiring a bit more easily and in particular it still hurts a little if I try to take a deep breath. That said, still, a vast improvement over last week. I’m also grateful for staying in a motel at the foot of the mountain and driving up and returning after dinner rather than staying for the evening programming.Thursday morning kicked off with brief statements of welcome and some logistical details, sort of the usual for conferences of every s … [Read more...]


Doshi Dharma Heritage

My flight out from Providence to Clatskanie, Oregon, where Great Vow Zen monastery is hosting this year’s gathering began to take on the character of a quest, with adventures, misadventures, and digressions. What is normally more or less a seven-hour experience turned out to be fifteen hours, counting the hour plus from the airport in Portland to the monastery. I’m recovering from a bout, mild, but a bout nonetheless of pneumonia, and not feeling totally up to speed. The trip out didn’t help. Alt … [Read more...]

The Remarkable Annie is Born

annie besant

Annie Besant was born on this day in 1847.When George Bernard Shaw recruited Annie Besant to the Fabian Society in 1885 he called it a major victory for the cause, as he declared she was "the greatest orator in England." She was a social activist and journalist. And one of the most famous women in England.Everything changed when she was engaged to interview and expose the spiritualist Helena Blavatsky who had announced she was channelling ascended masters. Like Colonel Henry Steel … [Read more...]

Preachers of Love


September 30th is a big day in American Universalist history.Elhanan Winchester was born in Brookline, MA (apparently in those days Brookline was called Muddy River Village...) on this day in 1751. And, John Murray was born in Alton, Hampshire (not New Hampshire) in England on this day in 1741.Murray is a particular favorite of mine for many reasons, but not the least of which is his delightful telling of when he was a calvinist Methodist going with a delegation to reprimand and reclaim … [Read more...]

A Feast for the Archangels


Today is Michaelmas, or my preferred name the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, or the shorter version the Feast of the Archangels.I think one of the great gifts to Western religions from Zoroastrianism was the idea of angels. Where they got it, I don't know with any certainty, but on first blush it does sort of look like an adaptation of local deities for monotheistic religions.Wherever they come from, the idea of spiritual beings that muck about between heaven and … [Read more...]

TELLING STORIES: A Yom Kippur Meditation

yom kippur

TELLING STORIES A Yom Kippur Meditation28 September 2014James Ishmael FordFirst Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextWe have seen Yitzhak Perlman Who walks the stage with braces on both legs, On two crutches. He takes his seat, unhinges the clasps of his legs, Tucking one leg back, extending the other, Laying down his crutches, placing the violin under his chin. On one occasion one of his violin strings broke. The audience grew silent but the violinist didn’t … [Read more...]

A Meditation on Breathing as Meditation (It’s a Zen Thing)

child blowing planet bubbles

Last night I had quite the dream. I was suffocating, and I wasn't. The thrust of the dream was that I was suffocating. I could feel the air shutting off. And, at the same time, I was aware I was breathing. I'd dived into some liminal space between sleep and waking, where the dream was driven by the reality of my pneumonia, but another part, a "waking" part knew that I really was breathing, if not optimally...Makes one appreciate taking a deep breath. Even if, as at the moment, it hurts a … [Read more...]