Let’s have a Coffee & Chat!
An Invitation from AZC Board President Dave Pietruszynski
Dear Dharma Friends,
There’s a corner of the rug in our office/bedroom where I sit morning zazen. My zabuton is a brightly colored striped blanket from Mexico. Over six years of my morning routine I notice the city waking up – the increasing drone of cars and trucks on I-35, black turns to grey and then the colors of the zabuton become visible. Then there’s a soft whir of the elevator in the hall as bleary-eyed dog owners, some in pajamas, take their pet for a quick walk. The city stretches and wakes up. There’s a comfort in this repetition of changes, a sense of certainty. Since March though, there is something else…
Now in zazen, there is a knot in my stomach of low-level anxiety that arose with the COVID pandemic. My pandemic experience thus far does not include the devastating loss of close friends or loved ones as it has for others. In the six years on my rug corner, I have sat with a deep personal tragedy (not COVID-related), the stress of going back to school after 40 years, and a cancer diagnosis and operation. With these life-stressors I did not experience this persistent knot. Maybe it’s the heightened awareness of life’s uncertainty that resulted in a “sea-level rise” of angst? Perhaps for many of us COVID disrupted the routine of comfortable changes and amplifies the anxiety felt when random life crises arise.
There was a comfortable routine at AZC until Sangha life was disrupted in March. Our teachers and leaders responded with an amazing effort to normalize a regular online practice. My rug corner has space for a cellphone – for Wed/Thur morning service, I see and hear Bruce Smith or Pat Yingst ringing the bell. Our Saturday morning services and program attendance rival pre-COVID numbers. Recently I had a sunrise remote dokusan with our Head Teacher Mako while in my car in an IHOP parking lot! I am deeply grateful every time that I log on and AZC is there supporting my practice.
While trying to use my now familiar stomach knot as a practice opportunity on the zafu, I am aware that some of my friends and family are going through more difficult circumstances. Many of us experience a feeling of compassion- a rising awareness of interdependence and interconnection during the COVID crisis, racial unrest, and election issues. This has been a leadership topic at AZC through the summer. In any outreach to our interdependent Sangha community we wanted to extend more than general well-wishes – many of us need a warm helping hand and a listening ear. Based on that awareness, AZC offers help for those facing immediate financial problems or those needing services that volunteers can provide – see AZC’s Emergency Relief Fund and Mutual Aid Project links on our website.
In addition, we have planned a one-on-one Coffee & Chat with our members, where a group of senior leaders within AZC will be contacting our Sangha members to touch base and have a brief “check-in”. The intent of these conversations is to connect with our members and understand how we might collectively or individually help one another through this time of difficulty. These are informal and confidential chats that will begin next week and extend through Thanksgiving. Expect a reach-out from us to set up a conversation – either over Zoom or in-person (as long as both you and the “meeter” are comfortable social distancing outdoors).
For our very new members that may not have participated in programs, we don’t want to miss you! If you are in that category, or if you are not contacted in the next couple of months, please reach out to Julie in the office and we will ensure that you are included.
Warm bows from my corner of the rug,
AZC Board President