Feeling Gratitude in the New Year, and a 2020 Year-End Review

Dear Dharma Friend,

As we come to the last moments of an extraordinarily arduous and upending 2020, it is both natural and appropriate to pause for reflection: to offer condolences as well as congratulations, to grieve our individual & shared losses, and to offer gratitude for our friends & family, our sangha, & our mutual practice.
While the Austin Zen Center and its members & supporters have adapted and changed in all manner of ways since the start of 2020, our community is strong and we remain committed to the creation and maintenance of a space for deep practice, connection, and refuge. May we find space in our hearts for the whole of our experiences that have both nourished & challenged us through these turbulent times!

In acknowledgement, celebration, and gratitude for the considerable creativity, compassion, and warmhearted spirit that has characterized our sangha over the past year, here is a brief year in review, with a few highlights:

Within a mere 2 weeks from happily welcoming incoming Tanto Rev. Choro Antonaccio and her husband, Rev. Bunkai Tracy (and before we could even have a proper Tanto-seating ceremony!) we were shutting down and heading for lock-down. A week later we opened our online zendo and started sharing photos & stories of home altars and practices. Several sangha members sprang into action with a number of generous offerings: from crafting Buddhas by request, to the continued practice of holding memorial services and caring for our zendo altar, and all the way to the recent creation of our holiday Lotus card; from the creation of our Mutual Aid Project and Emergency Relief Fund to coordinating with Dharma Relief to address the early shortage of PPEs; to finding a variety of ways to stay connected – from our pre-pandemic Visioning Member Survey (remember that?) to creating a thriving AZC Chat Room to developing Waking Up! Study Groups for dismantling unconscious and institutionalized racism, to our recent efforts at reaching out though our Coffee & Chat Campaign – please read our outgoing (and recently moved from Austin) Board President Dave P’s update HERE.

As summer hit and our 100 year-old temple with its 20+ year old infrastructure began crumbling with the collapse of our water heater, AC, & plumbing, over 40 members & supporters came to the rescue by donating funds both large & small – enabling the upgrade of necessary systems: a perfect example of taking care of our home-temple. Further examples of our sangha’s generosity include the continued care of our grounds & teaming up for an ongoing Bamboo Mitigation Effort, which was a wonderful way for people to take care of the grounds while remaining socially distanced.

Within such great activity we also managed to continue deepening our formal practice together – largely online & occasionally in-person (masked & distanced, of course). By creating an outdoor Zendo/Buddha Hall in the side yard we were able to hold retreats, celebrate Earth-Day, Sejiki & Buddha’s Enlightenment, chant our monthly Bodhisattva vows, and even to hold our first Lay Ordination Ceremony of 4 of our members in 5 years.

As evidenced by all of the above, the generosity of our members & supporters is what enables the Austin Zen Center to offer a warm & welcoming space for refuge & transformation. As 2020 comes to a close we invite you to make a year-end gift to AZC, if you have not already. Each offering is a welcome contribution, no matter the amount.

What a year this has been! Perhaps we will see you this evening for our New Year’s Eve Celebration, which includes a final Full Moon Ceremony, brief home-temple soji, 2 periods of zazen, and an online reflection and intention gathering? We sincerely hope that amidst the challenges we have faced – and those that are yet to come – our resolve to practice for the benefit of all beings grows & strengthens. May our practice extend into the world to help heal divisiveness, promote basic respect & decency, and reveal our true & interconnected nature that is grounded in wisdom and compassion.

With our deep bows of gratitude for your practice and support,

Rev. Dōshin Mako Voelkel, Head Teacher,
AZC Practice Leadership & Residents,
& the Austin Zen Center Board of Directors:
Dave Pietruszynski, Outgoing Board President
Maureen Milligan, Treasurer
Onryu Shoemaker, Secretary
David Adelman
Josh Kopin
Karen Laing
Shugen Louis Shuey
Wendy Salome