Wherever you are as you read this, chances are that your life has been touched by the winds of turmoil and uncertainty that have blown across the landscape of 2020.
From unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of so many lives around the world, fires raging in the West, and mass demonstrations across the country to confront systemic violence and racism, to a contentious and precarious election just around the corner - we seem to be hurtling through fresh existential crises with each news cycle. These rapid changes serve as daily reminders of our inherent vulnerability and highlight how critical it is for the health and welfare of all beings, in addition to the survival of our planet, to appreciate our interconnectedness.
Right here, in the midst of such chaos, lies the heart of our practice. As Zen Master Dahui reminds us: “This very lack of anywhere to get a grip is the time to let go of your body and life.”
What this means, on a practical level, is that we let go of thoughts, views, and ways of being that no longer serve us, and turn toward the circumstances that are present now. When feelings of grief, anger, fear, or anxiety arise, we acknowledge our direct experience, then recall our aspiration for this life; in this way, vow holds us up and carries us across. Though the ground is constantly falling away beneath our feet, by taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, our practice enables us to manifest resilience, insight, and compassion. Then, heeding the call to wake up and alleviate suffering, we are propelled forward from the precipice, one step at a time.
At Nebraska Zen Center, we’ve embraced leaning into the present moment with open-heartedness and meeting shifting conditions with creativity to guide our process through this uncharted territory. When the temple building was closed for in-person zazen, study, and retreats back in mid-March, NZC successfully pivoted to online practice by joining the students on the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training platform, and we continue to experiment with meaningful ways of teaching, training, and growing a thriving community in the virtual realm.
In our lively cyber meditation hall, NZC currently offers weekly Open Zen sessions, ongoing study periods, eight periods of zazen each week, practice meetings with teachers, and regular retreats. With location no longer a barrier, students in far-flung places from Sweden to South Africa, Spain to Thailand, and California to Maine now come together for Zen practice with the teachers and practitioners from Nebraska. You, too, are warmly invited to join us in exploring this new terrain. Learn more.
Due to the generosity of donors, members, and friends over the past seven months, NZC has been able to weather the storm of a building closure and a drastic decrease in revenue from our usual in-person programming. Looking ahead to the foreseeable future, though, the temple will remain closed into 2021, which means ongoing financial hardship for our bottom line. As one of the oldest Zen centers in the country, we are committed to upholding Katagiri Roshi’s legacy by offering a refuge for practice, whether in person or online, but cannot survive the current conditions alone. Therefore, we are asking for your help to continue this vital work of open-hearted inquiry and audacious awakening by joining with us to support our goal of raising $15,000 this fall. Please take a moment to make a donation, large or small, via the PayPal button below, or by check to 3625 Lafayette Ave, Omaha, NE 68131.
With deep appreciation for your support,
Jim Shogen Poleshuk Board President On behalf of the NZC Board of Directors