Great Tides Zen: Coming to Portland, ME, Summer 2014

Yes, like dog Bodhi in the photo, we’re getting ready to move and lay some fresh tracks. You see, we’ll be burying the wild fox in a cave out back and moving – or in wild fox language, transmogrifying – in the summer of 2014.

So this winter-spring, we’re in transition, giving the precepts to some Wild Fox Zen students and householder denkai (the first step in lay transmission) to another.

How is this possible?

My youngest child will be graduating from high school and going off to college, so I’ll be retiring from the schools after being in-and-out of education, serving the “throw away children” (poor kids from rough neighborhoods with various issues and looking at a flat opportunity trajectory) for almost 35 years. I might have more to say about all that as time goes on. Mostly I’ve held my tongue so as not to ruffle feathers in my work world.

Well, for one thing, that 85 families control more wealth than 3.5 billion people (for real) has costs – like the homeless 6-year-old I know who has sickle cell anemia, but can’t sleep in his homeless shelter for fear that he or his family will be mugged, so can’t get the rest he needs to deal with the illness, and can’t get the protein and medicine he needs – well, it’s just wrong.

I don’t think I’ve been much help, and yet my life has been transformed by my work with these youngsters and the education teams I’ve had the great good fortune to work with. Good people.

And, although it’s been a rewarding experience, it really is time to move on. For the rest of my days, I want to focus on offering Zen training to both householders and homeleavers (or sōryo (僧侶).

Nothing wrong with this White Bear, MN, Wild Fox Zen life either, of course, just seems like we’ve lived it and are now ready and eager for another adventure. Thus, we have the wonderful opportunity to start a new life in Portland, Maine (that’s the original Portland, btw).

In Portland, ME, we’ll be starting a Zen training center, “Great Tides Zen: Wholehearted Training, Engaged Living.” The “Great Tides” part of the name comes from the great ocean tides of Maine, of course, and also my dharma grandfather, Hayashi Roshi, whose dharma name (Kaigai Daicho) means, “Beyond the Ocean, Great Tides.”

“Wholehearted Training” suggests our focus – zazen and study. The plan is to offer morning and evening zazen of the shikantaza and/or koan varieties, 50 sesshin days a year, dharma study, especially of Dogen’s works, but also the essential sutras for Zen training. We’ll integrate the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support of Zen Training into the mix, because we’re seeing very positive and powerful results from this online work, from students who do both online and in-person training.

“Engaged Living” suggests the “so what?” bullshit test. If your practice isn’t making a difference, so what? Life in the swirl of the world is the buddha field for actualizing this incredible dharma. For this, we’ll take a Constructive Living approach: 1) knowing one’s purpose, 2) accepting one’s feelings (and all of reality), and 3) doing what you need to do in your life.

We hope to lease a big old house with a room for the zendo of about 400 sq. ft. – big enough to hold a sustainable group but not too big – a few rooms for residents and sesshin housing, plus living space for us.

If you live in or near Portland, ME, and know of such a place, or if you’d like to receive updates in the future, please shoot me an email at

If you live near Portland, ME, we welcome you to join the group that’s just forming to make Great Tides Zen an edgy, lively, and fun place to realize and live out this great dream. And if you don’t live near Portland, ME, but want to be a part of this community, the Vine of Obstacles is available to you.

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