Sangha News

September 21, 2021

Bows of gratitude to those sangha members who jumped in to assist Tanto Choro Antonaccio in her pre-Dharma Transmission ceremonies at AZC for the past week: carrying bowing mat, incense, ringing bells, chanting, and bowing to each of our Zen ancestors. Rev. Choro is now at Houston Zen Center for the remaining 2 weeks of ceremonies, studies, and final preparations culminating in the Denbo ceremony on October 6th & 7th.

AZC Head Teacher Doshin Mako Voelkel will be traveling to Houston for the first week of October to assist as Preceptor. We look forward to welcoming our newly transmitted Tanto back to AZC in time for the start of our Fall Practice Period on October 13th!

September 11, 2021

Former resident and AZC Director Tatsushi Museki Tim Kroll was priest ordained on September 11, 2021 at the San Francisco Zen Center by Senior Dharma Teacher Ryushin Paul Haller (with Abbess Furyu Schroeder and Abbot David Zimmerman as co-preceptors). View many more photos HERE. If you would like to send Tim your regards and congratulations you may send a card to:

Rev. Tim Kroll

c/o Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

39171 Tassajara Rd.

Carmel Valley, CA 93924

September 10th, 2021

Lots of turnover afoot in the temple’s residency, with Cole Packingham’s recent move out and new residents Karen Laing and Meikan Prado moving in at the end of the month. In mid-October long time AZC Ino Bruce Smith will be returning to his home state of Missouri. Read Bruce’s parting words HERE. While we’ll be holding a departing resident ceremony for Bruce on the morning of Wednesday, October 13th (immediately following morning service), stay tuned for details of an outdoor gathering on Saturday or Sunday prior to Bruce’s departure.

Greetings to the Sangha Jewel!

Hi! How are you? We miss you. We miss hearing the little details of your life – the things that seem so small, but that filled our conversations in the comings and goings around Austin Zen Center. A story about your family or a new plant in your garden or an ambitious recipe that you finally tackled. Maybe just a small update on YOU and how you are doing this week.

Could you take a few minutes and send us an email? Maybe you could answer any of these questions:

  • The favorite thing I have done all summer is_____;
  • The best news that I have heard all summer is_____;
  • The challenge that has been frustrating me this summer is_____;
  • The thing I miss most about being away from Austin Zen Center is______. 

Intentionally sharing these small parts of ourselves is what tethers us together. It’s where we find our similarities and differences and it gives us a chance to know that we’re not alone, even in this time of virtual practice. Taking a few moments to connect with us is more powerful than you can know – for US and for YOU. 

Please send an email to – if you’d like to add a photograph, we can include that too!  Please contribute! Let’s show up for each other.

October 1, 2020 – Virtual Book Launch at Malvern Books, with sangha member Liliana Valenzuela 
Join us in celebrating the recent release of Liliana Valenzuela’s Codex of Love: Bendita ternura. Liliana will be joined by poets jo reyes-boitel and Edward Vidaurre.
This event will take place via Zoom. The book can be purchased via our online store (, or call us on 512-322-2097 to arrange curbside pick up.
Codex of Love: Bendita ternura is a migration of spirit. Liliana Valenzuela takes us by the hand and shows us where she comes from, where she’s been, and where she is through a collection that at times reads like a song and other times like a prayer. Valenzuela’s voice whispers to us and gives us pleasure. She is kind in her sensuality and transcendent in matters of the heart. The five sections in the collection are as visual as they are thought-provoking, through a metaphorical journey that’s tender and urgent. A well thought and well written poetic entrée for the starving reader.
jo reyes-boitel is a poet, essayist, and playwright. Somehow born in Minnesota, her family calls Texas, Florida, Mexico, and Cuba home. jo’s most recent work is “she wears bells”, a hybrid operetta rooted in the story of Coyolxauhqui, which imagines her after her dismemberment and exile on the moon. The piece combines music, spoken word, voice, and choreography. It will be performed in October by theater students at Palo Alto Community College in San Antonio, TX. jo’s first book, Michael + Josephine, was published by FlowerSong Press in 2019. jo is now at work on their second book and a chapbook and maybe a novella.
Edward Vidaurre is the author of seven collections of poetry. He is the 2018-2019 City of McAllen, Texas Poet Laureate, a four-time Pushcart-nominated poet, and publisher of FlowerSong Press. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Times, The Texas Observer, Grist, Poet Lore, The Acentos Review, Poetrybay, Voices de la Luna, as well as other journals and anthologies. Vidaurre is from Boyle Heights, California and now resides in McAllen, Texas with his wife and daughter.

August 21st, 2020 – In Memory of René van Zanten

It is with great sadness that we announce the recent passing of Catherine van Zanten’s husband René. As some of you know, René fell and broke his hip in late January and was moved into nursing care for rehabilitation after surgery. Unfortunately, after suffering a small stroke in late March, René later contracted Covid after retuning to the nursing home. René passed away at the nursing home on Friday, August 21st. His obituary may be read HERE.

A little about René, from Catherine: “Rene was born in Indonesia and was three-quarters Japanese and one-quarter Dutch.  He later lived in The Netherlands and then immigrated to the US.  He had a career as an oil and gas lawyer and loved to play tennis and chess. He also loved to read World War II history and sometimes wished he had become a history teacher instead of a lawyer.  He was intelligent and well read and enjoyed classical music, especially Mozart.  He was 76 years old when he died on August 21.”

A memorial ceremony will be held at AZC over zoom on September 9th at 6:45pm.

August 5th, 2020 – In Memory of Fred Shoemaker

With deep sadness we send our sympathy and support to Onryu Shoemaker and his family for the recent loss of Fred Shoemaker, Onryu’s father. Fred passed from this life on August 5th, 2020 in San Antonio. Stay tuned for details of the Memorial Service, and please feel free to offer your condolences to Onryu directly.

The 49-Day Memorial service will be held at AZC on September 23rd at 6:45pm.

July 15th, 2020 – Reflections from our friend and freshly-departed AZC Board Member Josh Kopin

In 2013, I moved to an apartment on 29th and West Avenue. When I arrived, I didn’t know that AZC was just a few blocks away, and that it would eventually become one of the central locations of my life in Austin. Although I attended evening meditation sessions on and off for a few years, it wasn’t until 2017, when I was living in Hyde Park and my life exploded, that I became a regular, active member of the AZC community.

I left Austin for Philadelphia on the Fourth of July. The potential symbolism of trekking cross-country, from the city where I spent seven years getting a graduate degree, to the city of Brotherly Love, where I would move in with a partner who I hadn’t seen in five months on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is not lost on me, but I think that maybe it misses the point.

Although I’m excited to start this new phase in my life, with my person and my cat, I’m deeply ambivalent about having to leave, not least because I won’t get to say goodbye to people and places that I care about, one of which is the Austin Zen Center and the community that the Center, well, centers. At one point I actually drove to one of my other spots—the Austin Film Society—just so I could stand outside one last time. I’m also moving on from the one profession I’ve ever known, as a student, at a moment in which finding a job in the only profession I’ve ever wanted, as a teacher, is at best uncertain. This is a deeply difficult time to be going through such a major life transition, even one that I began preparing for a long time ago.

At the same time, the cascading series of global crises that we are living through presents an opportunity for me to stay involved in Austin institutions that I care about, even from 1500 miles away. I can help support AFS by watching movies through their online portal, and I’m able to attend sits, dharma talks, and AZC board meetings using Zoom. While Coronavirus has kept me in my house at a time when I would have liked to have been out and around in the things that I love about Austin—UT Baseball, the newly reopened Shipe Pool, my gym, the barbecue line at Micklethwait—it has also given me opportunities to connect with friends who I don’t talk to often and communities that I have long felt alienated from. And it will enable me to continue to be present at AZC, one other small joy in an environment where joy is both precious and rare.  

So this isn’t my declaration of independence so much as my declaration of the interconnectedness of all things. The piece of scripture that I hold closest in my bones is the Heart Sutra, and in particular the part when we chant “form itself is emptiness and emptiness itself form.” Covid has similarly shown me that I am both more alone than I ever thought and more deeply embedded in the communities the virus has kept me from. These overlaid senses of absence and presence are a kind of knowledge and a kind of peace, and they have made both moving on and holding on that much easier. Without AZC—and without my ability to see you, all of you, even though I can’t simply wake up at 6 am and bike down to the Zendo for the second morning sit anymore (as if it were ever even that simple!), I don’t know if I would have had access to that peace, or even an inkling of it.

I hope to see you all soon, in person or online. In the meantime, I wish you challenging sits and pleasant ginger scallion tofu, daikon pickle, and miso soup breakfasts.

Gratefully, Josh Kopin 

July 2nd, 2020 – Congratulations to Bill Harnew on becoming a Grandfather!

Dear Sangha Friends,

I wanted to share with you some joy in these troubled times. My youngest son, Owen, and his wife, Lizzie, had their first child, Ben. Now I’m a grandfather. Who’d a thunk it? We can welcome the miracle of a new consciousness into the universe. Wow…

Hope this finds you well in your practice.

– Bill Harnew

July 2nd, 2020 – Pat Yingst on Zentangles

I am not an artist.  I know it’s trendy to say that we all are artists, but not me.  During the first few months of the pandemic I felt like I had inherited some time that wasn’t really part of my life.  It was just this extra time and allowed me to do some things that weren’t really “me”.  I have a group of friends that likes to get together once a month and make art – several in the group really are artists and they keep us going.  After shelter in place when we turned to zoom meetings, we decided to send each other little ‘art cards’ – like postcards.  It’s so much better than junk mail.

So I started making art cards using the one art form that I can do  – zentangle.  I guess its called this because its relaxing.  Basically it’s doodling.  There are lots of books about it – full of ideas of doodles that you can mix together.  It’s fun and it has the extra benefit of being something you can do while listening to music or news or audio books.  But though I enjoy it I never do it because as I said, I’m not an artist and it just wouldn’t be ‘me.’  But in the early months of the pandemic I allowed myself to do things that aren’t “me” so I am doing lots of zentangles and enjoy coloring them with watercolors and send them to my art group friends.  I will try to send one to you too if you let me know you want one. 

July 29th, 2020 – A few AZC Porch Videos, by Bruce Smith

Celebrating Liliana Valenzuela’s new book launch: CODEX of LOVE

Liliana’s bilingual full-length poetry collection: Codex of Love: Bendita ternura (FlowerSong Books, 2020) Book Launch took place on June 25th at Book People! We apologize for not getting the word out in time to attend, but we can still celebrate Liliana and her book – a couple of decades in the making!

Read more about the launch HERE.

April 29th – Colleen Morton Busch interviews Rev. Mako Voelkel

PATIENCE, PLAYFULNESS, & THE PRACTICE OF CARE: On April 29th Colleen Morton Busch (author of Fire Monks) interviewed Rev. Mako Voelkel about the pandemic and parallels to the Tassajara Wildfire of 2008.

Read the interview HERE.