December 2, 2022
“Be who you are, enjoy your practice just the way you do. Whether you are aware or not, it has a tremendous impact. Those are good ripples for all of us.” Gyokei Yokoyama
Soto Zen in North America turned 100 years old a couple weeks ago with a big Jukai celebration and Gyokei brings us the scene report from the wide world of Zen while reflecting back on a century of continuous practice here. Is American Zen all grown up and ready to move out of the parents house? Which lineage has the best jokes and makes the best drinking buddies? And what exactly do you have to do to get kicked out of Soto Zen?? Find out here!!
November 26, 2022
“If you want to get it, you have to become it. But you already are it, so why worry about it?” - Yunju Daoying
On the first of our talks recorded live from the Fall Retreat, Sara takes us on a personal walking tour of personal ambition. How do we balance the desire to make something of ourselves while still staying true to the spirit of Zen? Along the way we get some Alan Watts hot takes, and a deep dive into Dogen’s “It” (Inmo). What is it? How do we fit into it? And how exactly do we get up off the ground by using the sky, Dogen?? Find out here!!
November 18, 2022
“What's your intention? What's your aspiration? What are you doing it all for? Maybe it’s a delusional question in a goalless practice, but they're going to ask it. Just because it's a silly question doesn't mean you get out of answering.” - Dave Cuomo
Dave unpacks everyone’s favorite Zen quote of ultimate exoneration, Dogen’s “One Continuous Mistake,” and unveils the brand new ACZC logo about said Great Mistake. Along the way Dave opens up about his curiosities and concerns about his upcoming training in Japan, and how his military upbringing both did and did not prepare him for this life of tough love compassion. Is no one really judging our practice? Is Zen really encouraging us to always get it wrong? What is the one fool proof way to mastering perfect bread baking??? Find out here!
November 4, 2022
“When I read the old literature, the Zen Masters are never my role models. I identify with the idiot monks who don’t get it. Like, how do I humble myself to what I don’t understand? How do I respond to what I’ll never feel capable of? That helps me relax. It might even help me be more virtuous.” - Dave Cuomo
Vimalakirti opens up a portal to a sweet smelling alien pure land to order some lunch, while those blissed out beings get curious about what it’s like to have problems and pop over to our little Saha World to see what life is like on the wrong side of the karmic tracks. Will they be able to appreciate the gritty realism of our little corner of paradise? Why is our Buddha so hard on us with all of his tough love truths when other Buddhas teach just by smelling good? Is our messy world a practice opportunity or a perfection we’re just too ignorant to see? Will Shariputra and the gang remember to get the recipe for the best rice in the galaxy? Find out here!!
October 28, 2022
“You can be afraid of ghosts and other evils, but you cannot label them your enemies. You help others like you scratch your back. There's no distinction.” - Gyokei Yokoyama
Altruism, we all know it’s good, but why does it often feel so oppressive? Or, is it even possible to not live a life of service if we’re being really honest about what we’re doing here?? Digging into the classic Shushogi (a refreshingly intelligible extract from Dogen’s Shobogenzo) Gyokei digs us up some answers from the rural farm villages of his youth, to the ghosts, zombies, and other evils of today that just might be the perfect gateways to our own liberation.
October 21, 2022
“I’ve had the experience of sitting zazen and just watching the dust bunnies blow around and thinking ‘this is great…’
It feels ordinary, and exciting, because only good can can come out of that sense of boring - showing up and hanging out without a lot of expectations.” - Heather Ross
In our ongoing series where brave sangha members bring us the story of what they’re doing and why they’re here, Heather takes the hot seat to tell us all about ambition and being special, wanting to be special, the beauty of boredom, and the quest for the coolest Zen center that led (for better or for worse) to us, the most avowedly disappointing place in LA. What makes some people stick around for a practice predicated on disappointment, when the normal reaction would be to go find the fun? Is the pursuit of special the dominant religion in our culture? What exactly is the beauty of boredom?? Find out here!
October 14, 2022
“This practice is not about me. I love noticing that - bowing and realizing that however it’s going for me is not the point of being here.
The beautiful thing about retreat is that it’s not really about your experience. You go up there, go into silence, try not to be late for things, stumble along, do the ceremonies and chants, eat in silence together... The whole thing takes on the character of its own living organism. It's a small way of tasting what it's like to live without it being about you, what you're getting out of it, or what you're going through. That's letting go of the ultimate attachment, the ultimate illusion. That's the benefit.” - Dave Cuomo
Dave gives a pep talk for retreat (and zazen in general) with a brass tacks talk on meditation. Armed with a smattering of his favorite meditation instructions throughout history, we look at their evolution from precise and seemingly sensible earlier teachings, to the perfectly inexpressible of later Zen. How do we make sense of a practice that’s trying to free us of the need to make sense? What do they mean by reversing the direction of our hearing inward? Or as Manjushri so poetically puts it, how do we stand up in empty space when space disappears and the bubble bursts?? Find out here!!
October 7, 2022
“It’s like burning a field. Out of the ash comes a true greenery - a greenery which knows the burning of the land.
It’s a call and response. It’s having a trust that they're not trying to kill us inside. But actually it’s a way to strengthen that uniqueness that's embedded in us - but a uniqueness that does not confront or contradict what is.” - Gyokei Yokoyama
Gyokei digs deep practical truths out of the meeting of Eastern Collectivist culture and Western Individualism. Revealing and poetic metaphors ensue! Is it possible to fully be our own unique piece of the puzzle while still fitting into the big beautiful picture?? Find out here!
September 30, 2022
“I don't think we should be engaging in intentionally changing who we are and how we do things here. I also don't think we should be willfully static and so stuck in our ways that we forget that change is the natural function of everything all the time. If we think about it that way, who we are and what we do will take care of itself. I think. I could be wrong.” - Dave Cuomo
Dave takes us on an autobiographical tour of zazen to try to figure out if ACZC has a house style (spoiler alert: yes we do!), and if so, should we (spoiler alert: does it matter?)?? Is there a right way and a wrong way to teach Zen? If we throw practitioners into the deep end of emptiness on day 1 are we setting them up to sink or swim?? Is there a reason this sangha is such good company, or did we just get lucky?? Find out here!!
September 23, 2022
“People say zazen is hard, so it’s important to check in - are you stressing out about it? Are you making it too harsh? Trying too hard? Are you disappointed with your Zen? Are you waiting for something to happen? Consider taking it easy. Stop waiting for anything to happen and just watch… Zen is the easy path, the very easy path. It doesn’t need to add stress.” - Erik Andersen
You’re busy, we’re busy, Erik’s busy… which becomes the perfect opportunity for a delightfully lighthearted meta commentary on how we deal with overwork, burnout, trying too hard, and running ourselves ragged trying to clean the corners of our already spotless minds. Shouldn’t a book literally called “The Book of Serenity” offer some relief from our stress? What do they mean there’s “someone who’s not busy” and can we copy their notes? Are two moons better than one??? Find out here!