“China seemed to notice there is now something, and that something was born out of nothing. Therefore this something we live in is also inherently nothing.” - Dave Cuomo


WEEK OF 9/16- 9/22

Hello Sangha!

So as we're gearing up promotion for the Fall retreat at Mt Baldy (Nov 8-10 w/ Brad Warner & Nina Snow!), I thought I'd take a moment to talk about one of the things that's a little different about our Zen retreats and meditation schedule here at the center - yoga!

If I can get a little personal, I came here some years ago from another sangha that prided itself on being all about zazen, so I had very little experience with yoga. I mostly avoided it thinking it was just meditation for people who couldn't sit still, or a way to tone your abs while justifying it as spirituality. But laying there on the floor at that first Mt Baldy retreat, heavily meditated and maybe a little under slept, something funny happened. I made a new friend... out of my own body! With nothing else to do, nowhere else to be, no one to tell me how impressive or stupid I looked (silent retreat and all...), the focus was just naturally my own hands, my aching ham strings, the stretch of my neck in the morning, and the length of my back before bed. I've loved yoga ever since as an extension of zazen into the active world, a way to take the roiling stillness of zazen into the motion of everyday activity of bodies moving in space. And I credit a lot of this to Nina's peculiar style.

I have limited experience of yoga outside of ACZC, but from what I've seen, it's a bit different here. There's none of the pressure toward better looking form or pushing yourself. Nina's style focuses much more on knowing and accepting yourself just as you are. It's a true goalless Zen yoga. It's more like free form Tai Chi or meditative dance than most yoga I've seen elsewhere. No one is judging, and in her classes I learned to stop seeing my body in that way. It wasn't a project or a machine, it's just the activity of what's happening. She's taught me to really see my body and yoga practice less in how they're doing and much more in what they're doing. And the funny thing is the longer I've practiced in her classes with her not pushing me to do any better, the more my body has found it's own way into comfort and some inkling of perfection in the poses (we're talking internal perception here, I'm positive it still looks a little funny...). Not to over state it, but after a yoga class here, I usually walk around like my body is some kind of sporty fun car I feel lucky to get to drive.

So that's your pitch for the week! Don't forget to sign up for the retreat so we know who's coming, and also don't forget to come on Thursday nights at 7pm for donation based yoga right here in Echo Park!

Speaking of the ever present unity of constant change, this week on the podcast we have Dave Cuomo w/ "Something from Nothing" (History of Zen - The situation in Ancient China) We have finally wrapped up our story of Buddhism in India and head over to where the real story of Zen begins - China. But first we have to get a little background on just who China was (old) and what it was doing (dealing with chaos like everyone else) when Buddhism and Zen first made their inroads. It's a fascinating look into how one society tried to cope with the problems of civilization through philosophy and deep thinking. This is the story of a single line drawn to represent the unity of all reality, and some spoil sport quickly pointing out that one line had just cut the universe into two. It's the story of two ancient rival philosophies trying to put society back together- stodgy old Confucianism trying to get everyone to fall in line and play nice, and witty anarchic Taoism telling everyone to just stop doing. It's the story of why these two rivals absolutely needed each other to make any sense and how their fractured dualistic unity was exactly the fertile ground Zen needed to do what it was about to do.
Up now at http://aczc.org/aczcpodcast or subscribe on iTunes!

This week at the center (full schedule at https://www.aczc.org/schedule):

Monday 9/16, 7:30pm - Meditation & Discussion w/ Brad Warner. Our favorite head teacher returns! Maybe he wrote a letter to a dead friend, maybe he's just here to answer our questions. One way to find out! Join us tonight.

Wednesday 9/18, 7:30pm - Koan Night w/ Dave Cuomo. If you've spent much time around ACZC you've probably heard Dogen's crazy idea by now that insentient objects are constantly preaching the dharma (I know, so preachy amiright?). Well here's where it all starts folks! Tozan asks Ungan how he can hear these inanimate objects, and Ungan suggests he might want to start by actually listening to his dharma talks... (zing!)

Thursday 9/19, 7pm - Yoga & Zazen w/ Nina Snow. This week! Finding space in the heart. I took the preview class Sunday in the park, and this was a delightful and highly awakening sequence of opening up, taking in, and giving back. Join us!

Saturday 9/21, 10am - Zazen, Discussion, & Lunch w/ Erik Andersen. Third Saturday means our favorite dharma talking psychiatrist is back with another brain twisting talk on Zen and the art of having a brain (always a confusing proposition), which is to say you can expect a free flowing and fascinating discussion at the intersection of Zen lore and modern psychology. The lunch rumor is that our tenzo thinks he's funny and we're not sure what to do with that. But it is both September, which sounds like fall, and still blazing hot, which sounds like bold spicy flavors. Plus he finally got a line on some beautiful heirloom pumpkins, which apparently means we are going basic here at ACZC with pumpkin spice chili. We're talking big bold spicy stew with creamy pumpkin-y goodness and of course some homemade sourdough for the dipping. He says to just trust him on this one and we fully intend to.

Saturday 9/21, 1pm - Zen Writing Workshop - 3rd Saturday also means it's time again for the Zen Writing Workshop! One of our favorite opportunities for adults to sit around and play with words. All experience levels welcome, nothing you need to bring or know beforehand, it's a self contained afternoon of free writes, zazen, and playing with the words that appear to us.

See y'all soon!

Love, ACZC

PS: Don't forget to follow us on instagram for (almost) daily cartoons and the latest event info!