On 11/21/21, the Monastery held a Shuso Hossen ceremony that capped our fall ango training period. During the ango, Degna Chikei Levister held the position of chief disciple acting as a model of practice for the sangha.
What does ‘a model of practice’ look like? It looks like a true person bringing their whole self and dedicated commitment to every task set before them. The ceremony and Chikei’s exchanges with the sangha are a testament to that.
The Zen Tweens program has been offering in-person programs monthly on the 2nd Sunday of the month since restarting in June, and will continue with outdoor programs October 10 and November 14, 9am-noon.
We focus on Zazen, concentration practices, and exploring perception through caretaking activities and creative games. We maintain Covid precautions, and hold space for the tweens to share their feelings and opinions on what we study and how it relates to what is going on in their lives.
In September we made autumnal offerings to the chipmunks, birds, and other woodland creatures by creating cornmeal suet feeders and hanging them in thoughtful places around the forest. After just a few days, woodland creatures have clearly been enjoying our offerings! As a part of our ongoing explorations of perception, we read a passage from phenomenologist David Abram that described his insights on making offerings to the more–than-human realms when researching in Bali.
We also participated in helping with the dye garden’s indigo harvest. The process of extracting indigo from the leaves of the plants grown on Mount Tremper is ancient and involves many opportunities for learning. Developed over centuries, the oldest known indigo dyed textiles were created over 6,000 years ago. For the tweens the lessons included a connection to this deep human past, and also new practical knowledge about the pH scale, agitation, and precipitate in chemical transformations.
Tweens helped in every step of the process, as the harvest is so large that it is taking days and weeks to process the raw indigo matter through all the necessary stages. We removed plants from a pool that had been fermenting, processed pigment, and neutralized various fluids for environmentally friendly disposal.
In other summer sessions we have assisted in supporting the trees of the orchard and weeding the garden beds. We have engaged in various games exploring visual perception and the perceptually influenced interplay of images and written language. In addition to in-person offerings, Zen Tweens maintains a monthly zoom session at the end of the month for community participants living further from the monastery.
Upcoming Zoom dates and times are Thursday, September 30 and Thursday, October 28, 6:15-7:15pm.
Because our guidelines include outdoor programs only, we will return to Zoom programs every 2 weeks over the winter months. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve maintained these Zoom sessions (with lively participation) in order to support this unique age group in their practice and contemplation.
It is a true joy to work with aspiring bodhisattvas at this special age and to see this world through their fresh, inquisitive eyes. If you know any 10 to 13 year olds who might be interested in participating, please share with them and their parents this web page where they will also find contact information for coordinators Kyuko and Jo.