words of appreciation

"I must express to you my gratitude for introducing me to the benefits of meditation. There has never been a time such as this that the practice has been more necessary in my life. The world has so become mind-boggling to me that I can only keep a semblance of balance by relying on sitting with regularity, morning and evening. I am so thankful that Joel found you when he most needed you, and that I was smart enough to tag along. Please take care, stay well, and continue doing what you are doing."

- J.A.S.

coping with anger during the pandemic: a question and response

A question from a student:

How can I let go of anger when I see my friend taking actions that risk spreading the coronavirus?

(Background: The friend in question is not following safety guidelines about social distancing and thinks there’s no problem with her actions.)

AnShin’s response:

The only thing I can do with such people is not be like them, not act like them. There is really nothing that I can do to change their behavior. To be angry, in some respects, makes sense, but it is also a waste of time. To address your question further I will share a story with you. 

My age qualifies me for special hours of shopping during the pandemic. They call it “Senior Shopping.” (I am 72.) I have never identified as a senior citizen, but according to my chronological age I am. So, I thought I would try this out, and I went to a supermarket on the first day that “Senior Shopping” hours were implemented.

I arrived a bit early so that I could be more relaxed. As I was coming into the parking lot, I saw a group of about 15-20 people gathered in a tight group at the entrance door, waiting for it to open. I was surprised and dismayed that they were not social distancing or wearing masks. I instantly made the choice to stay in my car. 

I thought to myself, Here is a group of people who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and they are ignoring the instructions about keeping physical distance, about wearing masks and gloves. I could also say that I was angry. At the same time, I have some understanding of how these behaviors come about. When people are living detached from their feelings, they become detached from the reality of their situation and the impact that their behavior has on the world around them. This is what ignorance looks like. They put themselves and others at risk because of their detachment and ignorance. 

What then can I do about this? All I can do I can do is model the kind of behavior that I have been informed is helpful and supportive during the pandemic. I can take care of myself in a visible way. When I’m in public I can wear a mask, keep myself at least 6 feet from others, wear gloves.

I hope your friend will be OK—and that the people she is associating with will also be OK. But my wish for you is that you take care of yourself. With as much grace and compassion as you can manage, model the behaviors that are respectful of the current health circumstances. I also wish you the best with your anger. Please don´t let it poison you.

veteran living newly as a monk

When I ponder the topic of how being ordained has been for me, I remember getting my hair cut. Claude AnShin gently dragged the razor against the skin of my head after Scott machine clipped the thicker clumps of hair. A group of onlookers made small talk during a very tender moment leading up to the ordination ceremony. How curious it is that this was 5 months ago. The thing about ordination: maybe it is more about other’s projections and expectations than it is the dynamic reality of living. I shave my head twice a week working against the growth I knew happened when my hair was long. The stubble growth is now a more understandable interval. I don’t know what it means to be ordained, or to look a certain way, to be in possession of stamps and certificates that say, “Full Ordained Zen Monk in the Soto Zen Tradition.” But I do know what has lead me to this point. With a lack of direction and a life of both curiously disguised and more obvious self-destruction, I simply kept coming back, again and again, to Claude AnShin, the practice, the sangha. At the first veteran’s meditation retreat in November 2007, I was desperate for direction and consumed by fear. From there, it was a simple process of doing the next thing, saying yes to the invitation to the formal retreat in December. Then the next after that and so on. Today I continue just to continue. When I experience grave doubt about it all, not just Zen practice, but the everything of life, I touch my suffering. I regularly experience a felt sense of deep offense, indignation, dislocation, my mind tearing apart what is blocking my escape. Then the doubt passes. And I simply return, again and again, to the practice, to the cushion, the meeting, incense offering, the clippers and razor…

There is the idea of ordination as I see others see me, their projections, assumptions and leading questions are informative. As far as I know, I should be cloistered, neutered, pasty with sublimated desires bursting forth in bad acts, and living among the same. One of my friends asks me why I shave my head - as if there is a correct answer. No matter what I say doesn’t seem to satisfy them or me.

There is the internal perspective in how I live in my skin. What does ordination mean to me, how does it change me, etc.. All I can say is I feel closer to my ordained sangha members, those who have taken a similar step. I feel closer and more connected to my ordaining teacher. The closeness is not unlike the bonded connection to others in my Ranger platoon, or with my children, only disarmed. If anything, I feel the ordinary of ordination when its definition refers to, “being elevated” among the lay people. I ask, how do I elevate myself or others and how do I deepen into what is ordinary?

Last, I take responsibility for myself for however the teachings may manifest in my life, in my actions, speech and consciousness. At the moment, this seems a manageable prospect, but other moments, it is terrifying. To continue to learn, evolve, and question my thoughts and feelings as they form my perceptions, sometimes this feels a glacial pace. Other times, life is a blur, where my gaze and focus can barely rest on something still enough to be reckoned.

- Dave MyoKo Edgar

about hūdō zendo in chile

I was very close to sell this place, the meditation hall here in Santiago de Chile.  What made me change my mind, was AnShin when he came here for the first time.  AnShin explicitly urged me to continue with the practice here... and here we are!!  Practice has firmly settled since then.  I also changed the place’s name soon after his visit. Before, it was simply named after the street’s name. This place’s name was “Joaquín Godoy Zendo”. When AnShin left, I changed the name to “Camino Medio Zendo”, and now, for simplicity, I have just translated “Camino Medio” (which means “Middle Way”) into Japanese. This is the origin of Chūdō. -- Michailo O'Ryo AnGyo Judic