Sangha News

Greetings to the Sangha Jewel!

At this time of continued distancing and increasing risk of illness, meaningful connection between sangha members is vital to sustain our community and to encourage one other. This is a warm invitation to contribute your news – personal, work-related, milestones, accomplishments, family, activities – to be featured in our AZC Newsletter. In this way we can share our lives with each other, and nurture our interconnectedness. Please send write-ups (photos welcome) to [email protected]. Please contribute! Let’s show up for each other.

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.