Dear Friends in the Dharma,
We at Austin Zen Center hold our local community in our hearts as we prepare to meet the ongoing public health challenge of COVID-19. We encourage everyone to take refuge in the Buddha’s teachings on the importance of calming body & mind and practicing mindful attention to every aspect of our daily lives, especially in times of increased stress and anxiety. We wish for your and your loved ones’ good health and well-being.
AZC will remain open to the public through Saturday, March 14th, but will then close for a minimum of two weeks to help protect the wider sangha from potential spread of the CoVID-19. We will post those changes on our website and public calendar. In the meantime we have implemented the following precautions and proactive measures:
We have adopted the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as other precautions particular to our community life. This includes, but is not limited to:
* Sanitizing high-touch surfaces completely every day including kitchen counters & utensils, restroom fixtures, as well as door handles and light switches.
* Bleach-water basin for rinsing dishes and utensils following washing.
* Making liquid sanitizer available at entrances and throughout the building.
* Replacing cloth towels with paper at all hand-washing sinks.
* Regular public service announcements demonstrating CDC-recommended mitigation procedures including requests that everyone wash their hands thoroughly upon arrival, after coughing or sneezing, or touching one’s mouth/face, and before and after eating.
* We encourage those who are at higher risk (i.e. those who are elderly or who have underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems) to stay at home as much as possible.
* We are staying up-to-date with the CDC and the Austin Department of Public Health to share any further recommendations.
* AZC’s Executive Committee (Board Chair, Director, Head Teacher) is working to develop an AZC Emergency Preparedness team and is seeking healthy sangha volunteers who are interested in helping provide support services (offering resources, meals, checking in, etc.) to the needs of community members who are at increased risk of severe disease. If you are interested in joining our Emergency Preparedness team please send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in need of care, please send an email to anyone on the Executive Committee or to AZC Admin Julie Strahan.
* We are looking into ways to stay connected with our members and supporters via online platforms, including the AZC website member forums, newsletter, Zoom conference calling, etc. Stay tuned! In the meantime, we recommend joining San Francisco Zen Center’s ONLINE ZENDO, which is held each weekday, Monday through Friday at 6:30 AM (PST).
Additionally, there are many traditional Buddhist practices that support us to care for our mind & body, such as greeting each other with a gassho bow, which gracefully avoids the less sanitary handshake or hug. (See below for some additional suggestions that you may find helpful.)
In times like this, our practice intentions include efforts to be well-informed, avoid harmful reactivity, engage in beneficial action, and support each other with love, patience, & diligent effort. Thank you for taking good care of each other.
With deep bows and wishes for well-being,
AZC Board of Directors & Practice Leadership
A few Practice Suggestions (from our source temple, San Francisco Zen Center):
- While washing hands, consider chanting the En Mei Jukku Kannon Gyo (Life-Extending Ten-Line Kannon Sutra) or Sho Sai Myo Kichi Jo Dharani (Dharani for Removing Hindrance) once or twice through (instead of ‘Happy Birthday’).
- Engage in a Metta Practice, extending well-wishes to all beings.
- Recite gathas during other routine activities throughout the day. The following are some traditional gathas from the Flower Ornament Sutra which can be posted in your residential or communal bathrooms and food serving areas.
When washing the hands with water
may we with all beings
have pure clean hands
to receive and hold Buddha’s teaching.
When washing the face with water,
may we with all beings
attain the pure teaching
and be forever free from defilement.
When going to sleep at night
may all beings
attain physical ease
and undisturbed minds.
A few resources on mitigation of the spread of CoVID-19 virus and “flattening the curve”:
- Updates at Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now (Medium.com)
- Can we contain the COVID-19 outbreak with the same measures as for SARS? (Lancet: Infectious Diseases)
- Check your facts at Politifact.com