Letter from the Training Office

Spring Ango 2021

Dear Sangha,

Oh, my beloved dharma friends—what a difficult time we are in. My heart heaves a sigh to be writing a second ango letter to all of you from within the loss, disruption and separation that continue to characterize pandemic life for so many of us. I remind myself (and you, too, if you need it) that conditions are changing, and that at some point not too far off, we will begin to feel this period of crisis loosen, resolve and recede. In the meantime, as the days grow longer and hints of spring appear, I invite us all to turn our attention to how we might use this upcoming Spring 2021 Ango training intensive to nurture our resilience, refresh our resolve, and relax our heart-mind. If you would like to join the sangha as a formal ango participant, please register online. And if ango is new to you, please review the overview atop the ango webpage.

The ango theme is two-fold this spring—we’ll be studying Master Seng-tsang’s Faith Mind poem and Master Dogen’s fascicle “Ten Directions,” or Jippo. While we typically frame ango (which translates as “peaceful dwelling”) as a time to intensify our practice, we might also think of it as a time to refine our understanding of how to take care of our practice and more sensitively attune to our body-heart-mind.

Transformation works in such mysterious ways, but clarifying the connection between what we do and the way it effects us is an extremely empowering part of the path. The teachings of the Faith Mind poem allude to this throughout, and although they point the way, ultimately we have to discover how to settle our mind when anxiety takes hold, or open our heart when we feel shutdown, or “be serene in the oneness of things.” This is what practice is all about, so as you complete the ango commitment sheet, please reflect on both what you already know supports your practice, and on areas of training where you feel resistance—these can become realms of tremendous growth if we enter them with curiosity, care and attention.

Mark your calendars for a sangha meeting via Zoom on Thursday, March 4, at 7 pm during which we’ll introduce the ango and also share some updates. Click here for the Zoom registration link. On Saturday, March 6, from 9-5 we’ll have a Zazenkai, extending the boundaries of the zendo so that it reaches into your practice space. Sunday morning will revolve around the Ango Opening Ceremony, a chance for us to come together with renewed intention, and for Shugen Roshi to offer some remarks on the training period. For a full listing of all that will be happening this ango, including Zoom art and body practice sessions led by sangha members (a deep bow to those of you who are so generously offering your time and expertise), please visit the ango webpage.

One final bit of good news to send you off with: Linda Shinji Hoffman will serve as the Chief Disciple this ango. Shinji has been a student here since 2004, and I know I’m not alone in looking forward to having her enthusiasm, warmth, generosity and fierce determination provide an example of practice this spring. Shinji plans to quarantine and join the residents for at least a couple of sesshins this ango and will be providing a model of practice during spring. You can read her letter to the sangha here. Thank you, Shinji, for taking this role on during these unusual circumstances.

At the very start of “Ten Directions,” Dogen writes: A sincere heart, just one, is simply the ten directions crystal clear. That sounds so personal, doesn’t it? So complete, so simple. Could it be that, indeed, the “buddha land” he refers to throughout is so close at hand? This feels like a very good time to find out. Shall we?

Yours in the dharma,

Shoan

Training Coordinator
Zen Mountain Monastery