January 30, 2019

Dear Sangha,

         After discussion with the Empty Hand Board, I am very happy to announce a period of intensive Zen practice called Winter Ango beginning today, Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. and continuing through March 31. As you may know already, Ango means "peaceful dwelling." It is a state of our heart/mind that offers us a structure to experience that peaceful dwelling deeply and personally. In order to facilitate this experience, I would like to offer the following: 

1)   Zazen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7-8 a.m. in addition to our usual Sunday morning, Monday and Wednesday evening times. These mornings, with the exception of February 11, I will be available for daisan (personal interview) during the second ½ hour, beginning in the morning of Friday, February 1. 

2)   A Friday evening program beginning February 15 at 7 p.m. and continuing each Friday through March 29. This program will focus on Dōgen Zenji's fascicle, One Bright Pearl.  As you perhaps know, this is the title of my 2-volume memoir. The evenings would be focused on the fascicle, though, not my memoir. Copies will be made available on our website and hard copies available in the zendo. 

3)   Zazenkais on February 17 and March 24, 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. 

My hope in adding these elements to our schedule is that we may use the time we have between now and my leaving to deepen our practice rather than ignore the challenges of change. I ask each of you to take advantage of this expanded opportunity not only for zazen, but for daisan (personal interview). As with all leave-takings, but especially after such a recent history of changing teachers that you all have been through here at Empty Hand, there may be a tendency to despair or discouragement in which we keep our sense of loss private as we slip silently away from sangha and from the one who is leaving. 

            Love and community, however, thrive on grieving together in times of loss rather than adopting an attitude of spiritual by-passing (the tendency to avoid unpleasant or difficult feelings in the process of spiritual practice).  I, too, feel sad about leaving you. I am very grateful for the time we have had and I want to connect with you all the more during these next two months. Please take advantage not only of the added zazen, but the opportunity to connect in daisan and our informal gatherings around snacks and meals. There is important spiritual work to do, not just as individuals but as a sangha, to deepen our practice.  In addition to these offerings, I strongly urge everyone to join the meeting on February 4 to claim the strengths and possibilities of the sangha and begin exploring future directions for Empty Hand.  

In deep gratitude, Gassho,