June 24, 2022
“Enlightenment might be inherent, but it’s not natural to humans for some reason. In some places they will literally beat it into or out of you. So my question is, what are we doing here? What do you want to get out of this?” - Dave Cuomo
Dave takes a look at a modern Zen conundrum: is a Zen center a place of equal practice and training for all, or is it a service job with necessary hierarchies and distinctions? Is our current model of importing traditional monastic practice really applicable to the busy lay practitioner of today? Is it possible to share the dharma to everyone without watering it down?? Find out here!
June 17, 2022
“It was always about what am I contributing? What am I doing out in the world? But yeah, I’m not shooting so high anymore. It’s true, there are important things to be done out there. And the reality is this practice is going to be really important to the future. So yeah, sitting is my contribution.” - Mota Mynttinen
Mota open up and regales us with the story of what he’s doing and why he’s here in a raw and revealing account of the traumatic injury that threatened to derail the life he thought he was living. Can sitting up help bring some balance to the world when it goes bottoms up? Is it possible to overcome our addiction to ambition as the meaning of our lives? Can sitting help bridge the gap between being and doing? Find out here!
June 10, 2022
“If you train yourself to always be confident, competent, and charismatic, you're going to walk into a room and either alienate or inspire everybody, and connect with nobody.
If you’re able to walk into a room with a tickle of anxiety and self doubt, next to some hope and aspiration, all cradled in the big old thromb of emptiness that animates everything, then you can actually connect with people. Maybe.” - Dave Cuomo
Dave regales us with the wild and wacky wizardly hijinks of Chapter 6 of the Vimalakirti Sutra. This week the assembly needs to find itself some chairs, so Vimalakrit busts out his portal gun to go looking for the Greatest Chairs in the Universe, which turn out to be 84,000 feet tall! Can the lesser monks among us measure up to the seats of the great bodhisattvas (metaphor alert…)? And how are we to understand the bodhisattva’s great magic known as “Beyond Comprehension” (irony alert…)? And if, as the sutra says, every jerk in the universe is actually just a bodhisattva in disguise trying to test and train us, what is the actual answer to the test?? Find out here!
June 3, 2022
“…when you’re totally beaten up and you don’t know what to do, that’s the moment of truth - when suddenly all those Buddhist teachings you’ve read about are no longer just something you read in a book….” - Gyokei Yokoyama
On day two of our Mt Baldy retreat, Gyokei opens himself up for Daisan - a revelatory round of public practice discussion where he fields all of the sangha’s burning questions such as: How do we find meaning in our worldly work? How is North American Zen developing differently from its Japanese roots? How do we raise kids as Zennies without them growing up to hate us and Zen in the process? And can we get Gyokei to spill the beans on his own spiritual awakening? Find out here!
May 27, 2022
“Bodhisattva’s determination is not something that makes you feel leashed or confined. This kind of determination frees you…. It's not self-sacrifice. It's the feeling that I cannot help but do this.” - Gyokei Yokoyama
Gyokei returns from a nationwide tour of the post-pandemic Zen Center scene with an impassioned (and important) message of unity and diversity for all the far flung sanghas of right here and now - from the pure diligent practice of Dogen, to the welcoming warmth of Keizan, and all the many myths, characters, and bodhisattva spirits in between. What do old world and new world Zen have to learn from each other (literally everything...)? What is the hairsbreadth of difference between free giving and self sacrifice (universes!)?? And are we really just here to make friends (absolutely!!)??? Find out here!
May 13, 2022
“There’s a thousand ways of speaking, infinite understandings, all just inviting you to befriend your unknowing.” - Shitou Xiqian
Dave brings us a fresh original translation of Shitou’s timeless, “Straw Hut Song” - a beautiful and deceptively simple piece that moves from a humble nap in the hay to the boundless fringes of everywhere and nowhere at the drop of a line. Why can’t Shitou just live and love like normal people, and for better or for worse, why is it so easy for us to relate? Is his ancient wisdom something he can teach us, or something we already know? As translators, can we be faithful to our forbears as we dust off their lines, and still make their songs sing?? Find out here.
May 6, 2022
”…it was like, ooh, I don't have to count breaths? I liked that idea… no anchor, nothing holding me to this cushion… where was I going to go?
It was scary, but liberating. I thought, ‘Hmm… maybe I shouldn't tell anybody that I'm doing this… But I can do this. This is something I could do every day.’” - John Nilsson
John shares the raw unvarnished story of what he’s doing and why he’s here, from growing up in the triumphal certainty of the Mormon Church, to a kindly German Buddha compassionately bursting that bubble with the liberating chaos of uncertainty. What do we do when no one is telling us what to do? Is Zen a suitable religion for the irreligious? And just how much meditation does it take to master levitation?? Find out here!
April 29, 2022
“The goal here isn't to stop feeling pain. We need you to feel pain." - Dave Cuomo
In pt 4 of our Vimalakirti series , the great bodhisattva Manjusrhi finally meets the enlightened laymen Vimalakirti himself for some playfully profound dharma combat as they tackle the big questions; why do we have trouble? How should we care for other people when they have trouble?? How should we care for ourselves when we have trouble??Can we really rid ourselves of all pain, and if so, should we??? Let’s find out.
April 22, 2022
“We all think that we're a good person, that we're some form of intelligent. In the monastery, they compassionately take that away and help us remember that there is something more important.” - Gyokei Yokoyama
Gyokei takes us on a personal tour of zazen from the monastic perspective; from the enlightenment of certain failure, to the raw self underneath we may or may not be ready to meet. How is zazen supposed to wake us up when it’s always putting us to sleep? Is it possible to be ambitious in practice without being goal driven? Do we really need rough rude awakenings to drop off the self or is there a kindler gentler way? Find out here!
April 15, 2022
“Part of grief is that you can't predict it. It just happens and you have no control over it. And some of that aspect of grief is accepting that you don't have control; or maybe not accepting, actually resisting it entirely and rebelling against it, and being afraid that you don't have control over your loved ones disappearing and going. And maybe getting over it is accepting impermanence, accepting that ‘however you imagine it, it always turns out other than that.’” - Emily Eslami
In true Bodhisattva fashion, Emily shares a recent loss and takes the opportunity for a heartfelt look into Buddhist teachings on grief. Can a practice of non attachment offer any solace for the attachments we don’t want to let go of? Are the enlightened masters of old too enlightened to offer anything more than the cold comfort of dispassion? Is there good in grief? Let’s discuss.