When I filled out the practice period application, I noticed the option to help serve dinner at the Men’s Shelter. Although I had served once years ago at the shelter, I had never helped prepare the
meal. So, I spoke to Laurie about it, signed up on the community room porch bulletin board and showed up on Center Street on May 8 a little before 5pm. I was early and had some time to hang out
on the street a half block from city hall, across the park from my old alma mater, Berkeley High, and a few doors from the Veteran’s Hall.
Laurie arrived at 5pm with a load of food that Don had purchased earlier from Costco and we helped bring in food. Several long-time stalwarts prepared lemonade and set up the serving tables for
buffet. Folks were washing dishes, locating tools and some of us pitched in to wash and cut up potatoes, prepare salad, portion out chicken into baking/serving pans. I learned by watching how to
mash cooked potatoes with the skins on, add a quart of 2% milk and a cube of butter. Delicious.
In the freezer, Laurie discovered ice cream from a previous dinner that could go with the Trader Joe blondies which I had overbaked a bit… some of the men don’t have good teeth, so soft is better.
After serving the line of men who thanked us and told us frequently how good the food was, I filled a plate with food and joined some of them at a table. One man asked about Buddhism and where we were located. Laurie invited him to a zazen orientation at 8:45am on Saturdays. Another man told me he had lost his small business when he got sick and ended up at the shelter. The third man was not able or willing to engage in conversation and left after he finished his meal and before dessert. Men can stay for 30 days, have to leave
each day by 7am and return at night for dinner and bed. You can see some of the dorm area from the dining hall.
It is a good space to be in and the more hands make the work lighter. I was glad to see more volunteers show up for serving and clean-up help. We were all out of there by 8pm.
I’m still thinking about Friday. How can I impact the roots causes of poverty, ill will, and greed? How can my Buddhist practice and my
political practice make a difference? One idea is that you can really help by preparing food, serving, and eating with people. Give it a try and then consider if you can schedule yourself regularly and be one of those who can be counted on to be there.
Half-day sittings include five periods of zazen, kinhin (walking meditation) and an informal tea. Sojun Roshi asks participants to commit to the entire four-hour schedule. A $10 donation is requested. If you have questions or if you cannot sign up on the bulletin board, contact the May half-day director Peter Overton (firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 848-5239).
Our spring practice period will conclude with a five-day sesshin from Wednesday, June 10 to Sunday, June 14. The first four days’ schedule is from 5:00am until 9:00pm, while the final day’s schedule is from 5:00am until 3:10pm, followed at 3:30 by the Shuso Hossen, dharma dialogue with the shuso. Please sign up on the patio bulletin board for a minimum of three days; we encourage you to make two of those days consecutive. If you want to request an alternative schedule, please speak to the sesshin director. Sign-ups close on Saturday, June 6, at 12:00 noon.
The Shuso Hossen ceremony will begin promptly at 3:30pm, and will be followed by a reception. All practice period and sesshin participants will be supporting the shuso and our practice by coming with a question.
If this is your first sesshin at BZC, it is strongly recommended that you first participate in a full Saturday program, have oryoki instruction, and that you speak with the sesshin director. The fee is $35 per day, advance payment requested. Leave checks marked “June sesshin” in the laundry room door donation slot. If you have questions, contact the sesshin director Gary Artim ( email@example.com or (510) 676-9756.
All are warmly invited to the annual Berkeley Zen Center Campout, scheduled for July 11-12. We’ve reserved a group campsite in nearby Tilden Park, and will meet for a potluck dinner and possibly a short hike, as well as s’mores and songs around the campfire, sleeping under the stars, and waking up to oatmeal and coffee/tea/cocoa in the morning. Join us to pass on the campfire rounds we grew up with, tell stories, and learn the latest songs from our own kids.
All ages are welcome! If you prefer not to stay for the night, come for the dinner and company. If you would like to stay but are missing a tent or sleeping bag, let us know, and we can almost definitely find one for you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, and look for a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board in mid-June.
Practice period at BZC this spring begins with the Opening Ceremony on the afternoon of Saturday, May 2 and ends with the Shuso Ceremony on Sunday, June 14. Sojun Roshi has invited Susan Marvin — Sentei Kunka — Spring Garden/Virtuous Influence to be shuso and serve as exemplar of devoted practice for us. We invite BZC members to participate in this time of intensified practice. The full schedule of events is on the BZC website and the bulletin board.
To participate, please complete a registration form on the bulletin board shelf. You must also sign up separately for sesshin and a number of events, even though you may have noted them in your registration form. Those sign-up sheets will be posted.
There are some requirements for participation in the practice period. These are detailed on the registration form. The spirit of this practice is expressed by Sojun Roshi in his words here.
The start of this year’s spring practice period will coincide with a major milestone in BZC’s presence on the World Wide Web. Our completely new WordPress-built website will go live on May 1.
The new site will introduce several new features, including:
- Podcasting for our dharma talks and classes (subscribe through iTunes or RSS)
- Live calendars of upcoming events, family practice events, and 20s and 30s group events
- Faster downloads of files, including the newsletter PDFs
- Better image gallery views
The best part is that you won’t need to do anything to enjoy the new site. Simply continue to visit www.berkeleyzencenter.org as you always have. If you miss any features from the old site, catch any errors, or have any other feedback, please drop our webmaster, Troy DuFrene, a line at email@example.com.
Barbara Stevens Strauss created a beautiful white vase and donated it to BZC in memory of Nancy McClellan, and Andrea Thach donated a special black Japanese vase. These vessels will be used and loved.
There were a number of mistakes in the BZC directory this year. We are preparing an erratum that we mail out to our Yahoo groups in a few weeks. If you would like to have one sent to you by regular mail, please contact the office manager at (510) 845-2403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you stay for breakfast on Saturday morning it is expected that you will stay for the following work period (samu).