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Autumn Edition - October 2017

Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners, 
Freedom has been defined as the moment-to-moment experience of not being subject to our own reactive mechanisms. If in both our meditation practice and our lives in general we can let go of or loosen the familiar grooved patterns of thoughts and feelings that generally govern our lives, we can experientially check the David Loy quote, "When your mind changes, the world changes. And when we respond differently to the world, the world responds differently to us.”
Herein is the essence of  the Buddha’s teachings that encourage us to move from a limited, contracted identity to the freedom and interdependence of our selfless Buddha nature.
How to go about this process is one of the root questions of our practice. One ingredient is to exercise our will. Not the will power of iron discipline in which one fights oneself but the will to move in a direction that you want to go. I was recently reading a book I have had for many years, What We May Be (pub. 1982) by Piero Ferrucci (the successor of Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis). In the chapter headed The Will, Piero Ferrucci gives an exercise for reviewing the will. He then suggests ways we might exercise our ‘will muscles.’ I have reproduced some of it below. Some of his suggestions look like fun as well as being challenging.  See what you think.
Kind wishes,
Keizan Sensei

Take a look at your own will. Is it frequently:

Pushed around by the will of other people?
Subjugated by your feelings, such as depression, anger or fear?
Paralysed by inertia?
Lulled to sleep by habit?
Disintegrated by distractions?
Corroded by doubts?
Do you generally do what you wish, from the depths of your being, because you have willed it, or does some other factor prevail?

Take some time considering the major aspects of your life and your most important relationships. Then write down your answers in detail.
Despite many obstacles, the discovery of the will is quite an elementary experience. If we want to facilitate this process, we can start in the simplest of all ways: we can discover or intensify our will by using it. Each moment offers such an opportunity; if we look at it that way, life becomes a laboratory for experimenting with and developing our will. Here are just a few of the ways – thousands of others can be invented – of activating it in various situations of everyday life:
Do something you have never done before.
Perform an act of courage.
Make a plan and then follow it.
Keep doing what you are doing for five more minutes even if you are tired or restless or feel the attraction of something else.
Do something extremely slowly.
Say “no” when it is right to say “no” but easier to say “yes”.
Do what seems to you the most important thing to be done. 
When facing a minor choice, choose without hesitation.
Act contrary to all expectations.
Behave independently of what other people might think or say.
Postpone an action you would prefer to start right now.
Begin at once, an action you would prefer to postpone.
Perform the same psychosynthesis exercise every day for one month, even if it seems useless.
Eliminate something superfluous from your life.
Break a habit.
Do something that makes you feel insecure.
Carry out an action with complete attention and intensity, as if it were your last. 
In this issue:

Theme of this Edition
News from Centres
Readings used in Local Groups
Recommended by You
Membership of Buddhist Networks
Life and Practice
Reflections of a Shuso
Crosby Sesshin October 2017
Future Retreats
The Next Issue

The theme of this edition

When your mind changes, the world changes. And when we respond differently to the world, the world responds differently to us.' - David Loy.  We invite you to share if and how you have found this to be or not be the case in your life and practice.

We'd be keen to hear from other people. Let us know your thoughts via Facebook  or the website.
Stuart Gendai Hollyoak - Interdependence

When your mind changes, the world changes.
When I pass through Bold St I sometimes see a young man sleeping outside Halifax or the old Waterstones with a can of HCC Black Pear Cider in his hand. I see others along the way hunched over themselves or curled into sleeping bags on cardboard mattresses with dogs by their side. Though we exist together in the same world, their world is not mine.
In a previous draft I tried to articulate the world Loy refers to as my subjective world within the objective world but I felt that I couldn’t draw the line between subjective and objective because I wasn’t sure if that line even existed, or, if it does, where that line is drawn. When my mind changes what world changes? In Identity of Relative and Absolute we chant ‘each and all, the subjective and objective spheres are related, and at the same time, independent.’ What is my world? What is yours?

I’ve learnt through the years that changing something as intangible as the mind isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. To know by measurement whether change has even occurred with some accuracy is equally difficult. The measure I’ve used for as long as I can remember is feeling. If I feel better than I did before then things must be changing for the better, or vice versa, which is a deluded way to think but think it I do. READ MORE

Suzanne Tsuko Adey - My Father

I grew up with a very dim view of my father. Growing up he was often aggressive and rude.  As a child I feared him and as an adult I avoided him. For decades, apart from perfunctory Christmas visits, we were pretty much estranged. I was haunted by memories of his aggressive and frightening behaviour and saw myself as a victim of his hatred. I believed he hated me and wanted total control over me. 
About four years ago during a spiritual healing session, I suddenly remembered something that my grandmother had told me when I was a child. It had never been spoken of since and I had forgotten all about it until that moment. She told me that when he was four years old he had run into the side of a lorry. He was unconscious and liquid was coming from his ear. He had fractured his skull and had a long stay in hospital to recover. It occurred to me that his struggles to control his temper may have stemmed from a brain injury rather than belligerence. At that moment my whole past looked very different. There was now a possible explanation for his behaviour other than that he was just a ‘bad man’.
I rang him to say hello which I never did. I felt more kindly towards him although I was still a little nervous of him. He was surprised and delighted. A few months later he rang me in tears. He had had an insight into his own behaviour and realized that it was inappropriate and out of order. He said he just had never realized how he came across and felt terrible. He was apologetic and resolved to change. I had already forgiven him and now this was happening. I had resigned myself to a fatherless existence. Now I have a dad again. Somehow miraculously all that hurt that had plagued me for so many years had healed. I am grateful to the universe for this example of how, for me, changing my mind the world changed. Even before my dad had his insight the world had already changed for me, his new attitude was a bonus.

Woo Tetsugen Young-Yang - In My World

In my world, there are many people, many sentient beings. The ones who come to my mind most often and most easily are the ones who I either love or hate. Often the ones who I hate grab my attention more forcibly, and I spend much time hating them. The ones who wronged me. The ones who hurt me. The ones who shirked their duties and dumped them on me. The ones who ignored me. The ones who looked down on me. Of course, I also spend time with the ones who I love. The ones who love me. The ones who were kind to me. The ones who supported me. The ones who picked me up again when I was down.

The interesting thing is that there are equally as many “me’s” as there are these people. The indignant me. The hurt me. The irritated me. The embarrassed me. The angry me. Again, there are not only the horrible “me’s” in my world: there are also the joyful me, the grateful me, the me who wants to pay back/pay forward the kindness, the inspired me, and the humble me. Of course, these “me’s” are as much sentient beings as the people in my world.

An even more fascinating thing is that, in my world, I cannot really separate these people from these “me’s”, and vice versa. The indignant me is superimposed on the ones who wronged me. The ones who hurt me superimposed on the me who is hurt. The grateful me on all the ones who I love. They are like a needle and its thread – and I cannot even say which one is the needle and which one the thread. At any rate, if you pull one, the other comes along too.

Sometimes these people in my world go through metamorphosis – the ones who were kind to me may ignore me some other time, or the ones who hurt me show incredible kindness. With them, the “me’s” also change, still superimposed.READ MORE

Brodie Shoji McKee - Falling Frog


Jo Doshin O'Riordan

I found it hard to decipher exactly what David Loy means. Saying that the world changes when one’s mind changes sounds very dramatic and even grandiose. The second bit could be restated as,  “What you give, you get back”. This I have found to be the case in my life but especially in my practice. My practice is just sitting or Shikantaza. I have changed my mind a lot of times but never noticed the world taking a blind bit of notice. However sitting regularly increases and broadens one’s awareness. Things change all the time. That is the nature of the world. Sitting makes me more aware of these changes.

This awareness is extremely subtle and ineffable. It also contains a wisdom that seems to guide me in my dealing with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. It guides me in my attitudes and demeanour to life’s everyday problems. By regularly cultivating this awareness i.e. by just sitting, certainly I have found the world less threatening and fearful. Also this awareness always seems to be positive and creative. It seems to make everything more inclusive.

My feeling is not that we respond differently to the world but that the sense of being separate is lessened. If calming the mind by sitting equates to “when your mind changes”, then I reluctantly have to agree with Mr Loy.

Mark Kogen Shawcroft

Well, this seems to me to be about how our habits become us and then they become our world. I can see that this does not have to be the world I am stuck in but I somehow keep coming back to it. The frustration of seeing you are making it thus and then making it thus anyway. Living with your life’s hangovers again and again. I have attempted on many occasions to respond differently to the world. But this too should have a cautionary note. When I respond differently so that I can make things more the way I want them it often all goes tits up. But that is okay as long as I can respond freely and without expectation again and again and again. A typical example for me is when I have tried to change the nature of my relationships with my family members to myself. I was breaking out of old habits and responding to the world, others and myself in a more appropriate, more adult way. The world also changed for them: they thought "why is MARK ACTING SO WEIRD TODAY?".

I remember having a tricky situation at work with a manager I once had. I was in the right obviously and sent an email that conveyed the fact that although I was just a cog in the wheel I was a morally superior one. That night I was talking to my wife and she stated that I could be a bit nicer and see what happens. That got me thinking. Maybe my boss was having a bad day, maybe she was stressed out, had relationship issues or was ill. The list of problems she could have had was endless. Maybe I was stuck. Stuck with being righteous, stuck with having to prove a point, stuck with making myself suffer the indignation of being right. So the next day I was going to respond to this world differently. The next day came and there was a knock at my door. “Look Mark I can see you're angry about this but I don’t appreciate your tone. We are not going to sort this out if you have this attitude, blah, blah”. Here was my opportunity. I swallowed myself for a second and spoke. “I am really sorry I was a bit aggressive and I was rude. Sorry, I was just a bit upset. I know it’s not your fault. I was being a bit over-emotional and dramatic.” I sat back and waited for my world to change and the satisfaction I would get for being the catalyst. Wow, it really did change. Apparently I was a sarcastic little git who needed to know when to keep his mouth shut. The door slammed shut and I was left pondering my new world and what went wrong.

The next day I came in and seeing my manager’s door ajar I went in and silently put a coffee on her desk. She then informed me that she does not like the Nescafe we drink and only drinks her own coffee but thanks anyway. Ever since then, we do seem to get on pretty well and have become friends. So for me, it seems the world changes endlessly and I'd better get used to it. As for my actions, I don’t really know what result they will bring and I can’t even understand it. But I do get a sense that the more fluid I can see this self, the more I can act from a fearless perspective and see what happens. Maybe the world will respond differently but maybe that’s not really the world.

Keith Shingo Parr
Keith sent the following from sesshin at Yokoji Zen Mountain Centre:

Two weeks in and the end of Sesshin; a tough seven days but it’s amazing how strong your sitting gets as the week progresses. Does the world change as your mind changes? Or does it work the other way? Or maybe both?

From my perspective, my mind is constantly changing; as the story I tell myself changes, and as long as I attach to the stories I tell myself, I will see the world in many different ways. What I feel I need to do is to get myself out of the way. But the problem is that the world is It and I am It, and the stories I tell myself are It; so It – my Buddha Nature, my true self, whatever you want to call it, is trying to get itself out of the way. Not going to happen as long as I’m stuck in that particular groove.

So, for me personally, I have to wear it out, because the ‘seeking mind’ won’t let go. So the relative aspect of myself is getting in the way of the experience of ‘just this’ for me, and as my mind changes, yes, it sometime feels as if the world changes. There really isn’t anything to do; I just have to let my conditioned responses take their course, work on them, in terms of putting thoughts to one side as in Dogen's advice, ‘thinking not thinking’ and wear it out, so the experience of the world, my mind, Big Mind, Life, becomes ‘just this’, all inclusive, all embracing.

Karen Shoji Robbie offers these poems that remind her of changes
burning incense
with giant leaps
scale the summit
soak in the mire
collecting dust
when I get cold
I put on my jumper  
in crisscross light
copper to dust
fading of green
of winter's breath


Brodie Shoji McKee - Birds 2

News from Centres 


Beginners Sessions
In Liverpool the Beginning Zen course consists of 3 sessions.

Session 1 takes place once a month on a Saturday afternoon,1.30 to 3.30pm. This informal session includes instruction in zazen, correct posture in different sitting positions, and basic meditation techniques. Our aim is that after this session people will immediately be able to do zazen comfortably at home. Instruction is tailored to individual needs and there is opportunity for informal discussion over tea and biscuits. 

Session 2 is held as part of our weekly Saturday morning zazenkai and reviews people's experience of zazen and introduces the form and practices associated with sitting as part of a group. We encourage beginners to do this within a month of Session 1.

For session 3 we encourage people to attend one of our regular Wednesday or Thursday evening sittings which are normally led by our teacher, Keizan Sensei, and to do this soon after session 2. 

The next session 1 dates are: 18th November, 16 December, 20th January, 17th February, 17th March
We ask everyone to book a place through the website.

Time to Talk
The group continues to meet on the third Sunday of the month from 3pm to 5pm and is open to all sangha members, either to drop in or to attend on a regular basis. See further information HERE. The next group dates will be 19th Nov, 17th December and 21st January. 
Zazen at Miranda's
The next dates are 5th November, 3rd December, 7th January.
All sangha members are very welcome to join these groups. For more details, please contact Miranda on or 07905460516.
The London group convened by Tony Shinro Doubleday, continues to meet every Wednesday evening in Newington Green and hold monthly classes on Saturday mornings. Tony also visits Tim Zenki Steele's group in Kent monthly on a Sunday. For more information please visit:

StoneWater Zen Bromley meets 3 times a week. Contact Tim Steel:  07850 556822 or email

The Northampton group continues to meet each Wednesday evening. Contact: Alasdair on 07807 753 781, or by email at
The Derbyshire group continues to meet each Thursday. Despite being a small group as yet, they are planning Saturday Zazenkai. Contact Mark on 07412563924 or email
Readings used in local groups

Zazenkai at StoneWater Zen Liverpool has included excerpts from the following:

Heart of Being - John Daido Loori A Judy Lieff piece in Lions Roar 'The Dharma of Distraction'
Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings - compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senaki 
StoneWater Derbyshire have been reading The Eight Gates of Zen: A Program of Zen Training by John Daido Loori.
Recommended by you

Stuart Gendai Hollyoak suggests Novice to Master by Soko Morinaga. "It's a memoir about his ordination and training over many years - all the mishaps and mistakes he went though under his teacher. His language is ordinary and genuine. (I feel off put whenever I read an author firing off Buddhist jargon because things then become too abstract). I loved it."

Julie Webb suggests Zen and Therapy by Manu Bazzano (2017). "This book is not only a critical enquiry into Zen practice and therapeutic work, but is an artistic, humanistic and political comment about how the two practices can inform one another. It is also a radical invitation to consider psychotherapy as the ‘fourth treasure’. I can highly recommend it."

 Memberships of Buddhist networks

StoneWater Zen has recently joined two Buddhist networks - the UK based Network of Buddhist Organisations and the more international European Buddhist Union.

We are yet to explore these networks fully but we hope that they will lead to fruitful connections with the wider Buddhist community, nationally and internationally.

Here we have two pieces on life and practice. 

I am godless, mindless and clueless - Maurice Shokatsu George

At the grammar school which I attended from the age of 11 to 18, every day started in the hall with a religious ceremony. We recited the Lord's Prayer and sang a hymn. Then the head teacher gave a talk on a Christian topic. This ritual was obligatory - no-one dreamed of asking to be excused. I should add that the school was 'non-denominational' in theory, but not in practice. Then there were classes called 'religious knowledge'; so I can still remember the name of Esau's father and the geography of Israel.
I recall that during my time as a sergeant doing two years of National Service, every Sunday the whole regiment was marched to a church for a dose of religion; no-one took it seriously - it was simply a part of the scenery in those far-off and innocent days. It was unquestionable. Of course, we all knew that Yahweh created the seven-day week and declared that every shop had to close on Sunday, the seventh day.
 It was only later that I realised that this brainwashing had had no effect at all. I was not a Christian or any other kind of believer. I never prayed, read the bible, attended any god-oriented events except funerals. I am godless and aimless. I certainly do not believe in any kind of god. READ MORE
Emotions in zazen - Sarah Kokai Thwaites

Recently I found myself thinking about how important it has been for me to get comfortable with really feeling my emotions and how much constricted my life felt when I wasn’t doing this. As is so often the way, reminders of what was on my mind were everywhere:
  • Song lyrics including The Four Seasons’ “Big girls don’t cry” being sung acapella under the zendo as we sat,
  • A young relative being told. "You're a big boy, big boys don't cry", to which I said nothing at the time but later wished I had,
  • An interview by comedian Robert Webb in which he spoke about how being repeatedly told to ‘man up’ left him with a narrowed emotional range within which blocked sadness often surfaced as anger, with damaging effects on his relationships.
I’d also been reflecting on people living in crisis that I have met through my work and how  behind the façade of the angriest behaving people can be a scared inner child deflecting their fear and sadness into rage, which they have learned gets a very different reaction from those around them. I’d also been reflecting on both how as a society we could help children grow up comfortable with the full range of human emotions and how, once habits of blocking emotions have been established, we can start to change these. READ MORE
Shadow Play Waders by Rosie Dembski

During his month in the Lakes as Shuso (Head Monk) Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson wrote weekly blogposts. We round them up for you here.

Reflections of a shuso (The Lakes)

And off he goes..

So I leave for the Lakes tomorrow to start my four week training period as shuso or ‘head trainee’. Can’t quite believe it’s come round so quickly.
I’ve no idea what will arise for me over the next month, but have known for a while now that my challenge will be to totally throw myself into it, to fully stand in my own footprint for the whole duration. Just as I was finishing up some work I needed to do, I came across this quote from the late Master Sheng Yen:
“Just as when you sit in meditation you just sit, when you sleep, be aware of the totality of your whole being going to sleep. When walking, you just walk. When you eat, you are right there just eating. Plunge your whole life into what you are doing at that very moment and live that way. So we train ourselves to engage our whole being in what we are doing. Whether sitting or eating, you are not engaged in discursive, wandering, or deluded thoughts. All of you—environment, body, and mind—is right there. Whatever you do, whatever the task at hand, your whole life is there at that moment. READ MORE


More reflections of a shuso (the ceremony)

What started as a brief reflection ended up being a bit like one of those 1980s photo-story magazines… brace yourself! 

So it comes to this – the four weeks of retreat, the preparation and admin leading up to that, the 95 hours of zazen in August (sad that I counted this – during zazen of course!), the grappling with Joshu’s “Supreme Way”, living in Butterwick away from my day-to-day life and family, the preparation done by so many sangha members, the efforts of my fellow monks and of course my teacher, the travelling by friends and family from Northampton and London and everywhere else… Right, Alasdair… don’t cock it up. READ MORE

Crosby Sesshin October 2017
Here are a few pictures from the recent sesshin and from the Shukke Tokudo.



"We owe deep thanks to Sensei for his trust and never-ending support and to sangha members also for their support, in the ceremony, beforehand and in the years to come. The stitches that so many sangha members made in our kesas are especially appreciated and already help make wearing them feel even more treasured " -Sarah and Woo
Future retreats
Rohatsu in the City 
StoneWater Zen Centre, Liverpool, Wednesday, 6th December (6.30 pm) to Saturday, 9th December (12.30 pm). 
Annual retreat which marks the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment on the 8th day of the twelfth month. Retreatants will be resident at the Centre and will be joined by the Liverpool sangha at regular sittings throughout these few days. Opportunities for interviews with Sensei.

Cost: £90. A non-returnable deposit of £15 secures a place.
To book: Please contact John,
January Silent Retreat
Lakes Zendo, Cumbria
Monday, 15th (6pm) to Friday, 19th January (12.30 pm) 
Annual silent retreat in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside. Maybe a chance to recover from the demands of the festive season? There will be a full sesshin schedule from 6 am until 9.15 pm each day but with time during the afternoons for rest and recreation. Starts with shared supper at 6 pm on the Monday and ends with lunch on the Friday.

Cost: £120. A non returnable deposit of £20 secures a place
To book: Please contact Jenny Best:

Our question for you for the next issue is: What emotion(s) is the most difficult for you to manage and what strategy do you use? 

Contributions on this or other subjects are much appreciated. Please pass them to Sarah at and Andy at by 15th December or earlier if possible.

Guidance for contributors for web posts and Newsletter pieces
We are looking for up to 1000 words and for articles to be written in the first person.  Sensei very much wants us to talk about our own personal experiences and to own our own stuff; he really does not like or want us to preach or teach. Your photos or pictures to illustrate articles are very welcome.  The intention is to include shorter pieces, including poetry, book reviews etc. only in the Newsletter and longer articles as web posts and as excerpts in the Newletter with a link to the web post.
We reserve the right to edit pieces for length, style and format.  If you want guidance on any of this ask the editors - for the Newsletter Sarah, for the website Andy.
All content in the newsletter or on the StoneWater Zen website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. We are happy for the resources to be used but not for profit and provided StoneWater Zen is acknowledged.
Copyright © 2017 StoneWater Zen Sangha, All rights reserved.
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