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StoneWater Zen Sangha Digest
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In this issue:
1. Sensei's Welcome
2. Essence of this Edition
3. Remembering Ken Jones
4. The StoneWater Zen Sangha
5. Practice without a local sangha

6. The Meaning of Sangha
7. Your suggestions...
8. News - Crosby Retreat
9. Hidden Gems


Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners, 

This is our first Digest of StoneWater Zen Sangha news. Our hope is to bring together, on a  bimonthly basis, extracts from posts on our web site and Facebook pages, news of retreats and other events and any other items that may be of particular interest. Thank you to Sarah Thwaites, Brodie Shoji Macphee and Rachel Keido Forday for editing the Digest. If you have any comments or suggestions for future editions do let them know.
 
For myself, I would like to take this chance to mark the great loss of Ken Jones, who died on August 2nd, 2015, by including an extract from his new book Beyond Mindfulness. It is a Haibun, titled 'A Change of Address' and for me perfectly reflects Ken's insight, wisdom and gallows humour. The last verse of the piece is:
Some day   
I''ll await a sunset such as this
and share its graceful exit

 
Well dear Ken, I hope you did.
 
A Change of Address

My end game is best played out atop a sea cliff. So we have exchanged our wrap-around wooded valley for a precarious perch of sea and sky.

Stretched tight and gleaming
from cape to cape
the sea horizon

Chainsaw and strimmer, dear old friends, sold off. The wildwood exchanged for a coy lawn. A dinky electric mower for this, my second childhood. “A better place to die,” she says, turning her face away. And so, day by day, arm in arm, we promenade our love, as wave follows wave.

A red fishing boat
cutting its white wake
through our winter morning

And now there’s chemotherapy, as our penultimate forlorn hope.

In my mirror
this beardless stranger
deceptively smooth

Biculatimide, degaralex, casodex—those ugly, heartless words of hope that trip off the tongues of oncologists. Mine sketches time lines on the back of some scrap paper. Her Celtic silver wedding ring is just like mine. “Mean survival rate, two years more or less” was her estimate. An attractive woman, in her own way.

Heeling in our fuschias
how I envy their survival rate

My once well-regulated self, cast out into the bleak wastelands of sickness and death. I struggle to find a foothold on the shifting sands of meaning and purpose. My fading routines of must and should. Is this really how Inconceivable Liberation feels!

Each in our so-called easy chair, we enjoy the magnificent sunsets.

Some day 
I’ll await a sunset such as this
and share its graceful exit
.


As you may know from previous mail outs, the month long retreat at the Zendo in the Lakes continues and the Liverpool Zendo reopens for our normal schedule on Wed 2nd September. I am sure there will be mail outs before but if not I look forward to seeing you at Crosby sesshin with myself and Tenshin Roshi in late October.

Kind wishes,
Keizan Sensei
 
 

Essence of this Edition


The theme of this first edition is sangha, a vital root of our practice and a defining characteristic of StoneWater. Content includes information on the extensive spread of StoneWater groups across the country, tips on what to do if you do not live near a group, and a selection of quotes on the meaning of sangha. We hope that this encourages reflection on what sangha means, and how it affects our daily lives and practice. If you’d like to share your thoughts or reflections on anything in this digest, please head over to the Facebook page or email using the website contact form. We’d love to include people’s thoughts in the next edition.  This edition also includes the sangha’s tribute to Ken in his own words with a selection of his favourite haikus. We'd also welcome suggestions of what you would like to see included in future editions. 


The following haikus have been chosen by Sangha members to pay their tribute to Ken. 
Old summer house
settling out of true
to how it's meant to be
"As Tenshin says, our lives don't have to look like anything; like the summer house we are as we are!" - Andy Scott
 
Alone with Dad
In his collarless shirt
The gilt stud
"I loved so much of Ken,  his humour, mischief and probably most of all his courage in expressing his heartfelt tenderness..." - Jan Jones
 
Soda bread and honey
the mountain sits apart,
indifferent 
"A reminder that everything stays the same regardless of an individual's preferences" - Alan Bell
 
I switch off the light to see the night. A hazy moon hangs in a starless, cloudless sky. My eyes fill with gratitude. Beyond the wire, a moonscape of familiar rolling pastures, and the lights of our little town.
Cutting the scent
of new mown hay
“The full poem gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. I can just picture this soldier and can barely imagine how he must have felt. It was so hard to narrow it down to a short section. Well worth reading in full” - Vivienne Dent (you can read the full poem on P88-90  of this link)
 
Click on map to link to a Google map with addresses of each centre.

The StoneWater Zen sangha


It is easy to think of our sangha as those people that we physically sit with and to forget that the StoneWater Zen sangha now extends around the country and beyond. It’s good to remember that we are all practicing together, as one community, even if we are geographically apart. Future editions will include updates from the local groups. 

StoneWater Local Groups are all led by experienced practitioners who are students of Keizan Sensei. All the groups are warm and friendly and beginners are always welcome.
StoneWater Zen Liverpool
Meets Wednesday and Thursday evenings  and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings with zazenkai on Saturday mornings. The normal schedule resumes on Wednesday 2nd September after the August closure during the Lakes retreat. The first Zazenkai and beginners class will be on Saturday 12th September.

StoneWater Zen London
Meets in Newington Green, north London every Wednesday evening and monthly on Saturday mornings.  StoneWater London is convened by Tony Shinro Doubleday and Dorinda Cho'un Talbot who are ordained priests in the Soto Zen tradition. Between them they have more than 50 years experience of Zen practice. For further information:
http://swz-northlondon.blogspot.co.uk

StoneWater Zen Northampton
Meets in Northampton each Wednesday. StoneWater Northampton is convened by Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson, who ordained as a monk in the Soto Zen tradition in April 2011. For further information:
http://swz-northampton.blogspot.com

StoneWater Zen Derbyshire. 
Meets in Bolsover every Thursday evening, restarting 3rd September. Convened by Mark Shawcroft. For further information: www.stonewaterzenderbyshire.com, 07412563924 or Shawcroft4@sky.com

Stonewater Zen Bromley, Kent
Meets in Keston in Kent 3 times a week: Saturday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday evenings. Convened by Tim Steel. For further information: 
www.stonewaterzen.org/stonewater/local-groups/

 

Practice without a local sangha


Despite the spread of local StoneWater groups, those of us who live within easy travelling distance from a group are very fortunate. For those who do not, this guide by Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson (StoneWater Zen Northampton) is full of helpful suggestions. 
 

What to do if there is no zen group near you?

I've been asked this question quite a few times in different contexts, and I've seen and corresponded with some people who are desperate to establish a formal Zen practice but feel entirely alone. Just in the past two weeks I've exchanged emails with a young ex-Marine in the American Midwest and a British guy in East Anglia. Their contexts are worlds apart but the problem is the same. I've cobbled this together from a few responses I've made to people and tidied it up a bit - hopefully it might start to answer some folks' concerns. There are very few of us lucky enough to have a Zen group within easy reach. Even for people in London who seem to have loads of choice, once you factor in travel times, the restrictions of a regular working day and so on, it’s very often impossible – or at least difficult and inconvenient for those you live with – to get to a sitting group. So: you’ve googled your heart out, asked around online, checked around on Zen Map UK… and all to no avail. What can you do? Luckily there are fortunately a few options, and one or some of these should be enough for you to establish and maintain a strong practice....  READ MORE
The Meaning of Sangha
From a huge number of quotes and definitions of sangha, we have chosen a small but and varied selection which we hope might stimulate reflection and discussion. Please share your thoughts.

“The original implication of the word sangha was forest. In a forest the trees form a wind break against high winds, giving mutual protection and benefit to all. For a lone tree the protection is absent, and the tree could be damaged. In a practice environment we encourage each other. When one person is enthusiastic we all benefit; when that person is struggling, then we encourage him. On a more profound level, the sangha are those who live in vast emptiness [the Buddha refuge], and experience the interrelationship of all things [the Dharma refuge], harmonizing and seamlessly shifting between these two perspectives.” - Tenshin Fletcher Roshi and Keizan Scott Sensei 

“Being mindful of the Sangha is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for it helps us to be steadfast in our pursuit of the way” - Dogen

“The Sangha meets where the Buddha arrow and the Dharma arrow meet. Where do they meet? Right here now, as our life, as my life!”- Maezumi Roshi

“Our lives are defined by human relationships. It is nonsense to think of a person in isolation. Even if he crawls into a deep mountain there are still connections with others – relatives, friends, parents. You have all sorts of connection with other people. It is like a vast net.”  - Maezumi Roshi

"Having spiritual friends is not a superficial comfort. It helps free us from a trance of separation so deep that we are often not aware of it. Conscious relationships shine a direct light both on our layered feelings of unworthiness and loneliness, and on the truth of our belonging. We begin to respond more compassionately and actively to the suffering of the world. Our real community, we discover, includes all beings. As we relax and trust this belonging to the web of life, we recognize the one awareness that shines through each being." - Tara Brach,

"Everyone I meet is in my sangha.  I don’t know if that’s the proper definition, but that’s the way I’m going to hold it in my mind." - Jeff Bridges
Your suggestions...

Most of us have favourite books or quotes that we feel fortunate to have stumbled upon. We'd like to use the digest as a way of sharing these. This first of this edition's suggestions come from one of our international sangha members, Samantha Boo.
 
Quieten your mind,
reflect, watch,
nothing binds you,

You are free.
- Dhammapada

"My favourite books are: Thich Nhat Hanh - 1. 'Buddha Mind, Buddha Body', 2. 'Teachings on Love' 3. 'Peace is every step'; Thubten Chodron -  'Taming the Mind' and Pema Chodron - 'Start where you are'.  These books offer good practices and distinctions into mindful living, in addition to a deeper understanding of our minds. Their titles are reflective of their contents so if the titles resonate with you, they are the books for you. Enjoy!" - Samantha

Stuart Hollyoak, from Liverpool, has two recommendations:  "I am reading 'Realising Genjokoan' by Shohaku Okumura. It's a commentary on Dogen's 'Genjokoan'. It has very good reviews. I tended to avoid Dogen because he often isn't clear about the terms and contexts he uses and this can make for frustrating reading. However, Okumura provides a welcome helping hand and I'm coming to see the density and insight of Dogen's writing. I also recommend Kosho Uchiyama's 'Opening the Hand of Thought'. It's considered a classic and I would agree. It's perhaps 'the' book to read on Zazen, Shikantaza, and Zen in general." - Stuart

Please let us know what your own favourites are.
Photo of Crosby Hall
News - Crosby Retreat 

Crosby Sesshin with Tenshin Fletcher Roshi and Keizan Scott Sensei, 
Sunday 25th to Saturday, 31st October at Crosby Hall, near Liverpool. 
Full details about this retreat, dates and how to book are now available 
You are advised to book soon! For enquiries and bookings, contact:Jez Lovekin, Llwyndrain, Pontrhydygroes, Ystrad Meurig, Ceredigion SY25 6DP, 01974 282686, jezlovekin@btinternet.com
Hidden Gems

For those of you considering Crosby as your first retreat, and even for those old hands, the following links may be helpful. The Beginning Zen section of the StoneWater Zen website has pages on:
  • Retreats, including information about Crosby Hall
  • About retreats, including the benefits of building retreats into your practice and what to expect from a typical day on retreat.
  • Etiquette, which includes, as well as retreat etiquette, what to bring with you.
To get some idea for what a retreat feels like you might like to read the following about the Easter 2015 Crosby retreat:  And for anyone who still thinks that a retreat is easy, this Tricycle article may be of interest. 5 Things That Might Surprise You about Meditation Retreats - It’s not all calm and cosmic-flavoured bubble gum.

 

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