All posts by Troy DuFrene

Study Retreat: Dongshan’s Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi (Hokyo Zammai) Saturday, September 2, 2017, 5:00 am - 5:15 pm

Hozan Sensei will lead this year’s one-day study sesshin on Saturday, September 2, from 5:00 am to 5:15 pm. As the summer winds down, this day will provide a quiet and reflective respite. It will include zazen, oryoki meals for breakfast and lunch, soji, and two study and discussion sessions.

Our study will be of Dongshan’s “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” (Hokyo Zammai). Regarded as a sutra in the Soto School, Dongshan’s profound and poetic teaching echoes the non-dual wisdom of the Sandokai with bright images. Embedded in the poem is Dongshan’s “Five Ranks,” mapping our perceptions of the relative and absolute.

Reading materials will be available on the bulletin board shelf in advance of the sesshin. The fee is $35, and should be paid in advance. Please leave payment marked “Study Sesshin” by Wednesday, August 30, in the donation slot. For more information, contact sesshin director Carol Paul: or (510) 206-5051. A sign-up sheet will be posted on the bulletin board in August.

Samu (Sangha Work Day) Sunday, May 7, 2017, 8:45 am - 5:45 pm

Please join us for samu (sangha work day) on Sunday, May 7. Arrive at 8:30 a.m. for a warm cup and a casual bite in company; work circle at 8:45. Or join us at noon for a decidedly delicious outdoor lunch, with work circle at 12:45. Or join us whenever you can, to share this opportunity to support our cherished practice place.

If you have a pet project to promote, we are still taking suggestions! Please leave a note on the bulletin board or email John Lake at

Consider Making a Bequest to BZC

As we say every Saturday after lecture, Berkeley Zen Center is solely supported by our dues and donations. One of the significant ways sangha members and friends have donated is by leaving a monetary gift in their will or their trust.
A gift in your will or revocable living trust, called a bequest, is a wonderful way to donate for people who love the sangha but who may not wish to part with their resources today. Remembering BZC in your estate plan helps ensure the ongoing health and well-being of our teachers, the physical structures at BZC, our sangha, and our practice.
The Board of BZC would like you to know that a number of its members, past and present, have named BZC in their wills or trusts. To ensure a legacy for BZC, the Board invites all members and friends to follow this example and consider making such a bequest. For more information about including BZC in your planned giving, contact Development Committee chair Laurie Senauke at You can also contact Laurie if you would like to let us know that you have already provided for BZC in your estate plan.

Being What’s Happening Family Practice at BZC

In our Zen practice life, we try to create the opportunity to experience something “different” from our usual life. What is that difference? Something like “no gaining idea.” We want to allow an experience that is not limited at the outset by our ideas about what might happen or what it means. We resume our true nature, which is always flowing underneath or within our everyday lives.
For the families who come to Family Practice, we also want to offer something different. As parents, so much of our day is taken up with getting our kids to do the various things we expect of them. Getting them to get up, to eat breakfast, to go to school; to learn specific things, to get along with others, and in general to act in accord with the way others are acting, in accord with expectations coming from the adult world. We expect a lot, actually.
When children come into the circle at BZC, we don’t want this to be just another thing we are trying to get them to do — to get them to sing the songs, to get them to prepare the snack, to get them to sit quietly, and so on. Even getting them to come in the first place! How can we create for all of us, children and adults together, a “place to turn around” in the midst of our busy lives? How can we offer something different?
The natural state between parents and children, between caregivers and children, is one of love flowing between us. You might call it the “true nature” of families. When families join our program, we want to help them resume this true nature, which is always there, flowing underneath all the expectations and challenges.
Just as it’s not always easy to sit in the zendo with no gaining idea, it’s not easy for us adults to allow this opportunity to unfold — for children to simply be together with their parents, in love and fun. When it happens it feels amazing.
Our Family Practice program is led by BZC member and music teacher Ryk Groetchen. It happens most Saturdays from 9:30-11:15 a.m. (check the calendar for exact dates). We share songs, dances, stories, poems, social-emotional learning tools, preparing, serving, and eating a snack, discussion, and laughter. We welcome any BZC members to take a taste; we think you’ll be glad you did.

Write Your Death Poem A Workshop on New Year’s Eve

It’s traditional for Soto Zen monks to write a “death poem” at the turning of the year. The idea is to take time to reflect on the fleeting nature of life, not in a depressing way, but in a way that brings forth the truth and joy of each of our lives as they are right now.
On December 31, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Laurie Senauke will offer writing exercises, examples, and time to reflect, create, and share your own death poem. Come for the workshop, bring a bag dinner, and then stay for the New Year’s Eve sitting. Sign up on the bulletin board as usual. For more information, contact Laurie at

One-Room Schoolhouse Turns 50!

Next year, Berkeley Zen Center will be celebrating 50 years since the old zendo on Dwight Way opened its doors. Plans are already under way for a party to be held on the evening of September 30 at the Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland. Details will be coming early next year from the event committee, headed by Jake Van Akkeren.
For now, we want to get a head start on gathering recollections from you — current members and friends, alumni, and everyone else who has been touched by practice inside BZC’s gate this last half century. These items will become part of an anthology of BZC’s first 50 years. We will also edit this into a smaller booklet for distribution at the 50th anniversary party.
We welcome everyone to contribute stories, favorite anecdotes, poems, photographs, drawings, memories — anything that we can make copies of and print. Please also share our invitation to participate with anyone you know who was once connected to BZC but who may no longer be in touch.
We ask that written pieces be no more than 250 words. All printed materials will be returned. Please submit them by March 15, 2017, to or to Andrea Thach, 800 Northshore Drive, Bellingham, WA 98226. Please send her your questions or suggestions for the anthology. Thank you.

Position Changes

Greg Denny and Peter Overton have passed their co-leadership of our half-day sittings to Alexandra Frappier and Laurie Senauke. Thanks to all four of you for handling the recent upsurge in attendance for these monthly events.

Sewing Buddha’s Robe

If you are interested in preparing for lay ordination next year, sewing classes start in January. Classes are open to those who have asked their teacher if they may participate.
Before the winter break (mid-December), please speak with Sojun Mel Weitsman or Hozan Alan Senauke.
After you speak with your teacher, promptly contact the sewing teacher, Jean Selkirk. Check the bulletin board for further announcements.

Cold and Flu Season Is Among Us

At this time of year we encourage all sangha members to get an annual flu shot at either your doctor’s office or local CVS or Walgreen’s pharmacy.  If cost is a barrier, contact your local health department for information on when and where they provide low-cost or free vaccinations.
In an effort to support each other’s health, we are asking that sangha members stay home if they are ill. We recommend following the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines: Please don’t come to the zendo if you have fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, gastro-intestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea, or anything you equate with viral illness. Please stay home and take care of yourself. You should wait to return until you have not had any of the following symptoms: sneezing, coughing, nose blowing, sore throat, or fever, for 48 hours.
If you realize you are ill after you have arrived on a Saturday or sesshin day, please let the director know and go home. Some of us are not only older, but also have medical conditions which are immune-compromising, so your awareness and self-care is important to us all. Of course, some coughs and sneezes result from allergies. If you are at all uncertain, speak with the Saturday Director or Sesshin Director or contact the Coordinator, who can refer you to a health consultant.
A copy of the BZC Wellness Policy will be posted on the bulletin board. If you have questions, please contact Gerry Oliva at

Note from the Coordinator

When I asked Sojun Roshi what the role of the Coordinator was he responded, “You’re the eyes and ears of the temple.” In this role and in weekly consultation with our abbots, I intend to help maintain the harmony and vitality of our practice place. Please share your comments and concerns with me either by email ( or by telephone ((510) 306-1964) and together we will.