The signs of late summer are apparent here on the mountain—fuzzy fronds of goldenrod dot the meadows, the cicadas churr from morning into the afternoon, and the training staff has been circling up to prepare for Fall Ango. As the season shifts, I’ve been appreciating the cycles of relaxation and intensification in our training year. I hope this letter finds you ready to turn a fresh awareness to your study of the Way. Joining ango as a formal participant is a great way to deepen your practice and offer your commitment for the benefit of all beings.
Ango means “peaceful dwelling,” and this fall, Shugen Roshi has chosen The Eightfold Path as our theme—a wonderful chance to explore the Buddha’s original teaching on creating genuine peace within the container of ango. We’ll be taking up The Eightfold Path in different ways throughout the fall, and the ango web page includes links and titles for some suggested reading, as well as the forthcoming art practice assignment.
Formal participation in ango begins by registering online and completing of the Ango Commitment Form. Ango commitments are intended to be upaya, or skillful means, and each of us is responsible for balancing our aspiration with the pragmatics of our present circumstances. Remember that even an apparently small shift has an effect over time, and while self-discipline and prioritization are major components of ango practice, even more important is an attitude of loving-kindness. As you reflect on your commitments, please hold the whole of your life in mind.
The training staff has been reflecting on how to bring the Sangha Treasure alive for those of you who live at a distance, and we’d like to try something new: Sangha Practice Groups via Zoom video conference. We’re envisioning these as peer-facilitated groups of about ten, in which folks commit to meeting twice a month for an hour to connect and discuss practice-related themes. You can find more info about this on the website, and if you’re interested, please sign up.
I’m truly glad to share the news that Katie Yosha Scott-Childress will serve as our Chief Disciple this fall. Yosha began practicing at the Monastery in 2005 and has been a steady presence in the zendo ever since. She lives locally and is planning to be here as much as her job and family commitments allow. Yosha’s love for the dharma is palpable, and I’m looking forward to how it will manifest as she leads us in the ango. You can find Yosha’s letter to the sangha on the ango web page.
Finally, I want to acknowledge that we are coming together to create this peaceful abode in a time of great turmoil; I know I’m not alone in experiencing most of the news each day as grim and deeply troubling. We may wonder what zazen and dharma practice have to do with the crisis at our border or the divisive language in our politics. How can turning inward address the suffering that appears without? Or, to paraphrase activist Lilla Watson, “How is my liberation bound up with yours?” This question is the live heart of practice. May we turn toward it, investigate it wholeheartedly, and let it illuminate our way.
With love and gratitude,
PS: If you’re not able to attend the Monastery’s Ango Opening in person on September 1st, you can join us online via Livestream. The Buddhist Studies sessions at ZMM will also be webcasted via our Livestream page.