I'm just back from the annual meeting of the Lay Zen Teacher's Association in Joshua Tree, CA. What a wonderful, warm-hearted and deep-spirited group of humans! The meeting was truly special, and I learned more than I can possibly capture here. Much of that learning happened casually, in conversations over meals, in watching the practices of others, and seeing the ways we are different (and similar). I came away deeply encouraged about the future of the dharma and the many ways it is illuminated.
The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Ryodo Hawley of ZCLA on "The Threes of Zen." He talked about a workshop he has offered to give people an overview of what happens in Zen practice, how our attention can move from our habits and opinions, to a more observational stance, through simple presence, then on to inquiry and bodhisattva action. His model is elegant, and we found ourselves referring to it often as the conference went on.
Next I offered a training in "Meditation and Trauma." I taught the group about how trauma impacts the brain, and how that can show up in meditation practice. I sought to help each participant become a trauma-informed Zen teacher, able to work with people whose trauma may be activated with kindness and skill. The feedback on the workshop was really positive, and many people reflected on the sometimes subtle ways trauma can show up in spiritual work--including for teachers.
The next two days included many wonderful panels and break-out groups. I learned about sangha leadership, the council process of group communication, working with aging and dementia in the sangha, Zen and social justice, and talking about whiteness. I offered a session called "Koan Innovation," in which we talked about creative ways to bring koan work to groups. We also had some ceremony, and people from different sanghas took turns leading morning meditation and service.
Oh, and we had some fun! (Zen charades, anyone?) The lunar eclipse was marvelous and clear in the dark desert sky. Some of us went to a local hangout for dinner and a beer, and we also went hiking in Joshua Tree National Park (yes, it was open and free, no trash to be found!) What stands out the most is the utter kindness and lack of pretense of the people there. LZTA has become like a family to me, and I plan to return as often as I can.
Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..