I recently shared with Shugen Sensei some painful internal conflicts I was deal- ing with. He suggested chanting the Emmei Juku Kannon Gyo in the morning, along with some liturgy, and it was immediately helpful, lightening my load, giving me some space around the tightness. And then, no big surprise, the space contracted again. I kept at the chanting, which felt right, but I was missing something.

One morning, I turned toward the Kannon figure on my altar, yellow with the candlelight of 5:30 am, and faced her as I chanted. Since that turning, my aspiration has become clearer in my own mind, which makes it more accessible as I move through my days, my work, my relationships. It is really so simple, it’s kind of embarrassing: I want to learn to love as Kannon Bodhisattva loves. I have felt it before, rising in moments, waves, whatever. I know it’s in there. And I see it everywhere, not just on my altar, in the imagined heart of a statue, but in the way strangers love strangers, and water is water.

—Bethany Senkyu Saltman, MRO

In practice, I aspire to return to what I once knew a long time ago—the fresh life of me—as a child. Although life was filled with the unrelenting question of ‘why is this happening to me?’, there was also the complete absorption in the summer dark, the breeze in the cherry tree swing, getting lost in the autumn leaves. Whenever I am heavy with uncertainty, it is this natural place of being that I seek.

—Michelle Segei Spark, MRO

First coming to the monastery, I knew very little about Buddhism, only what had made it into the popular culture and the catch-phrases I had picked up at Berkeley. My path, however, started young, with my parents dying early. My confusion and my suffering kept me in a very tight swirl. I had taken a job in New York City at one of the first hospice clinics, but, despite my experi-ence with my parents’ death, I had no real understanding of how to process death or help others do that. I became depressed and had no idea I could do something about it.

One day, I found myself sitting on the steps of my apartment when a stranger came up and asked me what was wrong. I told him, and he said he thought it might be a good idea to come up to the Zen Arts Center, where there was a practice and a teacher that might be able to help me. That is how I came to practice. To actually aspire to clarity was, in some ways, the culmination of a long journey of trying to find my way mostly in all the wrong places. For me, the aspiration to wake up did not come until I actually had a practice and a teacher.

—Mn. Michael Yukon Grody, MRO