Oct. 3-5 (possibly Oct 1-5) Finland all events to be determined
Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany
Oct. 9-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany
Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany
Oc 18-20 Possibly in Bonn, Germany (not confirmed)
Oct 24 Lecture in Gronigen, Netherlands
Oct 25 Day-long zazen in Gronigen, Netherlands
Oct 26 Lecture in Eindhoven, Netherlands
Oct 27-30 Amsterdam, Netherlands (exact dates to be determined, but within that week)
Oct 31 Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands
Nov 1-2 Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands
Nov 4-6 (or 3-5 possibly) Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK
Nov 7-8 Something in Manchester, UK (to be determined)
That’s all I know for now. Only the event in Benediktushof is currently open for registration. You can reserve your spot at this link. Please don’t write me asking for details about the other events because right now this is all I know for certain.
My biggest dilemma in general is that everyone wants to book me on weekends, which leaves me in some strange part of the world on a lot of random Mondays through Thursdays trying to figure out how to pay for being there. If you plot the above dates out on a calendar you can see a few gaps like that are still waiting to be filled in.
This is one of the personal reasons why I have decided to establish some kind of permanent Zen space in Akron, Ohio and another one in Los Angeles, California. Once those are up and running, when people ask if they can be my student or see a talk or whatever, I can just tell them to come to Akron or come to LA. It’s tiring to run all over the world. I truly hate traveling on airplanes and going through customs check-points.
My vision for these places is that they would provide the following to their communities:
• Every Saturday or Sunday morning there would be a long-ish sitting (two 30 or 40 minute periods) followed by a full-scale Zen morning service consisting of chants (Heart Sutra etc.), bows, incense offerings with all the appropriate bells and bonky percussion things, then a lecture/discussion, with maybe tea and snacks at the end.
• One or more weekday evenings each week (Thursdays at 7pm or that sort of thing) there would be a shorter, less formal zazen (one 30 – 40 minute sitting) followed by an informal discussion session (no pre-planned lecture or sermon, no service) with tea and snacks.
• Three days or so per week there would be a morning zazen held at a time such that ordinary working folks who wanted to could sit zazen with the group before going to work. There would be no service, lecture or discussion after this one. It would all be done in silence. Maybe we’d serve coffee.
• Weekly classes in Zen or related topics, such as yoga classes or Japanese lessons or things along those lines.
• Annual multi-day Zen retreats. These could be held at the spaces themselves but more likely would be held at other locations, since I want to establish these places in fairly dense urban areas.
• Monthly day-long micro-retreats. These would be low-intensity affairs lasting from, say, 10am until 3-4pm. Just a lot of sitting and staring at walls together with very little formality.
• Frequent community events. These would not have to be necessarily related to Zen or spirituality. If there’s space we could host things like improv comedy nights, movie screenings, musical performances, art shows, vegetarian cook-outs etc. I’d like for people who are planning their nights out to say, “Let’s see what’s going on at the Zen Center.” Though these events would not have to be “spiritual” in any direct sense, they would all be alcohol and drug free. They’d be fun, social events but all fairly low key, not wild party type things.
• Community artistic projects such as putting together a Zen-oriented zombie movie and filming it. Maybe getting a play together and putting it on.
Although the orientation of our formal services would be Soto-style Zen Buddhism, these centers would be open to anyone of any religious affiliation as well as to atheists, agnostics and everything in between. We would promote interfaith events (and inter non-faith events) and partner up with like-minded churches, synagogues, mosques, atheist clubs and other such organizations who wanted to establish mutual understanding and respect. I want them to be the kind of places where born-again Christian Republicans can hang out with gay atheist cross-dressers and have a good time together.
Although the main events at these places would be quiet and meditative, I want to keep the atmosphere there light and fun and avoid any sense of stodginess or excessive formality. I do not want them to be religious places. I want people to go there because they enjoy and benefit from the practices or just like hanging out in a supportive environment with good people.
It’s a pretty big idea, made even more complex by the fact that I want there to be two of them. But lesser people have had more grandiose plans than this and made them work.
At this point nothing has really been set up except that I have a handful of people in both cities who have committed their support. We’ve established a non-profit in LA and are at work on establishing one in Akron. I’m sure there will be a Kickstarter or Indie Go-Go campaign soon to try and get funding.
I feel like both Akron and Los Angeles need this kind of thing. There is very little of what you might call “alternative spirituality” in Akron. And while there is an over-abundance of alternative spirituality in Los Angeles, too much of it is fluffy rainbow bunny nonsense with very little practical value. LA needs to be more grounded while Akron needs to be a little less tethered to the earth.
I’ve been avoiding doing this kind of thing for years because I didn’t want to create the kind of religious organizations I’d seen before. But now I want to do this thing. As long as I am able, I will work to keep these centers on track and fight the good fight to prevent them becoming cult-like or religious.
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That’s what I want for the future. For now I’m just trying to keep the lights on. Your donations help tremendously. Thanks!