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Follow the actions and reflections of Zen Peacemakers around the world.

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Blog, Council Ministry, Reflections, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order | 7 comments

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

  By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Spiegel, Switzerland Tala is three years old. A year ago she arrived out of the war in Syria to Switzerland. Her mother brought her to our women circle. The first time some weeks ago, Tala sat for two hours in the circle, holding the talking piece when it was her turn, looking in our faces, smiling. Tala loves it, as we all do, our sitting in the meditation room around the candle in deep listening of what our one heart wants to share and to the sharing of all the hearts in our circle of women. Yesterday evening she laid down on the black zabuton and slept during all the rounds of our sharing, but at the end she woke up to blow off the candle. It is a good way – to share in council – about the pain and the joy we hold in our hearts. We invoked the presence of family members who are gone in the war, we called their names and accepted the deep pain of the loss. I often hear in Switzerland people hope not to meet their parents too often because their relationships are not always easy. In the circle, we listen to the pain of loosing everything, home, work, culture, friends, brothers and sisters — and out of this, came to me the idea to write poems in Arabic and work together on translation, to share it in a book. Later when I expressed this idea, I saw light in the sad eyes of the woman sitting next to me. After the council we had tea and sweets together. Every time the Swiss women come to the circle, or to the meditation, they bring bags full of beautiful outfits and shawls for the others or for their friends or families. The field is filled with love and respect for our different lives as women, all with the wish to be happy and live a precious life. Later, I wrote to Jared Seide a dear peacemaker friend and director of the Center of Council, asking if he knew anyone who would have Council guidelines in Arabic language. The same day, I got it, with warm wishes from Jack Zimmerman, Leon Berg and Itaf Awad, founder and head teachers and editors of the book “The Way of Council.” I am deeply moved of their generosity and kind support. They generously shared — this is the essence of council, a wonderful practice to make peace in bringing all the pieces together. I feel deep gratitude to all who invited me in all the years, again and again, to be part in the circle, to practice it in letting my heart learning how to listen and to share.   Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller is a grandmother, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe and the development of the Zen Peacemaker Circles. She and her husband Roland are Zen teachers offering weekly Zazen practice in Spiegel, Switzerland. They are involved in various socially engaged activities around the world and are actively supporting Syrian refugees in their area. (Read more about Barbara)  ...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 1 comment

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

(Iris, on right, during 2013 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat)  This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from 20 years of participants in the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.   By Iris Katz, Israel It was in November 2010. It was my first time in the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. Three months before I have visited Bernie in Montague, USA. He had been telling me about the retreat, I told him that I had never been to Auschwitz. I used to have my own fears which prevented me to go there. They were connected to all that I have known about Auschwitz. Bernie convinced me to go. I went. I had “my” two tenets to follow: Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. The first one was very important for me. Forgetting all I knew, all that had made me afraid and horrified of the Holocaust and its Jewish victims that for me was the main issue about Auschwitz till then. Not-Knowing helped me to go, to be there and to bear witness with some sort of empty mind. Many experiences and few transformations were the outcome of my first retreat in Auschwitz. But one of these experiences changed my life. This one was connected to Ihab, the Israeli-Palestinian from the city of Jaffa, Israel. Ihab, my husband Tani and I became close friends during the retreat. We felt like cousins (which we are, mythologically) or friends who grew up together since childhood, many years back. We speak the same language, share the same history, and have the same background and ideas. I mean, I felt close or oneness with many people in the group. I felt close to psychologists or therapists, for example. I felt close to the victims and I even could feel their guards who had been “sharing” their lives on that place. But with Ihab it was different. We had our jokes, our joint stories, our small idiosyncratic talks, our combined ideas. But … I was an Israeli, a Jewish Israeli, and Ihab was Israeli as well, but “Arab” Israeli, as we keep saying in my country, or Palestinian Israeli, as “they” keep saying in my country. “They,” that is the “Arabs” in Israel. It was a painful recognition to reflect on that in Auschwitz Ihab and myself were equals, close, just the same people, having different religions – but in Israel we were not equal at all. Mainly, our particular communities were not equal at all. It was like a wide opening in my consciousness: the insight, active and alive in me, that I have to do something about this. This special and deep insight into my sick society has brought me to the decision that has become a path in my life. This path was dedicating myself to give my share in making “Arabs” and “Jews” in Israel more equal, bringing them closer, having them experience the same recognition, respect, and dignity.(…) This is an excerpt and appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en     JOIN THE ZEN PEACEMAKERS IN 2016 – Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in...

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Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Native American, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 6 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

This week twenty-four Zen Peacemakers arrived at South Dakota to commence the Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Reservation plunge, with participants from Turtle Island (USA), Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Palestine and Myanmar. This plunge, as actions inspired by the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets are often called, was coordinated and organized by members of the ZPO, and led by Grover Genro Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse who was born in Cheyenne River Reservation, home of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. This effort was initiated following the momentum of the Zen Peacemakers 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills. Before setting out, they picnicked in Rapid City with Charmaine White Face, Tuffy Sierra, Alice Sierra, Chas Jewett and Grover Genro Gauntt, some of whom were among the leaders of the retreat last year. They welcomed the Zen Peacemakers back, reviewed the expressions of trauma and beauty they may expect to see on the reservation and Tiokasin Ghosthorse advised: “As you walk about the land, be silent, let the land get to know YOU.” During the next five days, the group visited Bridger village, refuge of survivors of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, and met descendants Toni and Byron Buffalo to hear about the challenges of their community; They camped at and mingled with the volunteers and Indian visitors at Simply Smiles Inc. Community Center at La Plant; Dipped in and cleaned around the Missouri River (Tiokasin: “the Lakota word for water is Mni — ‘that which carries feelings between you and I'”); The group met with Julie Garreau, executive director of Cheyenne River Youth Project and heard about Graffiti Jams art events and community efforts to address teen suicides and teen empowerment; They met with Keren Sussman at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB, refuge of 550 wild mustangs, and learned about the animals’ intricate family dynamics and the challenges of contact with humans; They withstood a fierce hailstorm and bore witness to breathtaking ever-changing sky. The group joined Simply Smiles Inc. construction crew and helped raise two brand new houses on the grassy mounds of La Plant, South Dakota. Simply Smiles puts up two houses per summer for local reservation residents. The event concluded with paying respect and listening to Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe who welcomed them at his home. The Zen Peacemakers Inc. supports these members-led plunges and is grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering and for the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity....

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Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Bernie's Health, Blog | 0 comments

Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

  Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge cakes, your attentiveness and kindness have been an invaluable source of encouragement and energy leading to a remarkable progress in Bernie’s health. Zen Peacemakers Inc. would like to express appreciation to you both. Thank...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Reflections, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from 20 years of participants in the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996. By Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA Photos by Peter Cunningham   The suffering that we touched during our retreat at times led us into darkness and sometimes transformed into joy and healing as we sat and practiced together and heard one another. I remember Bernie’s old buddy Peter Matthiessen asking: How could one feel joy in such a place? Bearing witness is not only about bearing witness to one's own life but also to all of life. And it was here at Auschwitz that we bore witness to the suffering of others, to the suffering of ancestors, to our own suffering, and to the possibility of the transformation of suffering. Peter was astounded by the release he experienced at Auschwitz, and so were all of us. One of the ways that I have practiced bearing witness has been in the experience of Council, a practice where people sit in circle with each other and speak clearly and listen deeply. Council at Auschwitz was a way for us to communicate about the deepest issues of our lives, including suffering, death, and grief as well as meaning, healing and joy. Council was indeed one of the deepest ways that we taught each other during the retreat. Council is found in many cultures and traditions over the world. There is reference to it in Homer’s Iliad. One finds it in the tribal world of earth cherishing peoples. And, of course, it is a key strategy of communion and communication in the tradition of the Quakers, who so influenced the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In the 1970’s, I and others brought what we had learned in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement to our lives as teachers and people who were involved with social action and spiritual practice. Council, or the Circle of Truth, or whatever we called it then became a way for us to incorporate democratic and spiritual values into our collective and individual lives. In the mid-90’s, I introduced the Council process to Bernie and Jishu Holmes. It fit so well with their work as peacemakers, and they brought it to many places, including Poland. For Bernie and Jishu, Council seemed to be a practice that was naturally based in the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Healing. And it was to contribute to a more profound relationship with our time at Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the practice of Council did not necessarily lead us into seeing things the same way. It was not a consensus process at all. Rather, it was a way for people to recognize that each individual in the circle had his or her own experience, take on things, his or her own wisdom. When differing views and experiences were expressed in Council, the depth of field seemed to be much greater. Here we began to discover the importance and richness of differences. The practice of Council allowed people to develop appreciation for differences and to respect the differences of perspective that were held by Germans and Jews, by men and women, by old and young, by rich and poor, by the joyful and the terrified among us. We saw clearly that it was the intolerance of differences that made an Auschwitz possible. This is an excerpt...

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Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Blog, Native American, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed to send winter cloths for to Alice and Tuffy Sierra of Pine Ridge Reservation, who were among the Lakota leaders of the retreat. Reaching out to other Zen Peacemaker Order training groups, and with the use of social media and the ZPO Members Facebook page, other responded. Hundreds if not thousands of pounds of cloths were sent from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and other places around the United States. Members gathered the clothes, boxed and shipped them to the Sierras in South Dakota. Thank you to all the members for your organizing, donating, and contributing to this effort. Peg Reishin Murray, a Zen Peacemaker Order member from Boulder, Colorado USA, chose to drive her donation to the reservation herself. She writes: My community responded wholeheartedly, my VW van was filled to the rooftop in a few short weeks, and I drove the van to Pine Ridge staying just long enough to unload the donations, then turned around and drove home. Way boring, no? Then Alice sent a second request and in late January 2016 the scenario pretty much repeated itself—except this time I received a Tuffy Teaching and that is the story I’d like to relate. According to Google maps, the drive from Boulder Colorado to Pine Ridge takes a little over 5 hours. In reality, Google couldn’t be trusted here and on both occasions that I drove to the reservation following its directions (albeit different routes each visit), I entered a hell realm of GPS deceit that added about two hours to Google’s estimated drive time. (Tuffy told me that he has tried to inform Google that their directions are way off but apparently this is another instance of Native Peoples being ignored) But let me be perfectly honest here—the scenery between Boulder and Pine Ridge is one of the most spacious, uncluttered and majestic landscapes you will encounter and at some point in the journey, an unbidden bliss and the thought, this is suññatā (Pali term meaning emptiness; voidness), arose in my mind. After many wrong turns, I finally found the road that leads to Alice and Tuffy’s home, and a second act in this comedy of errors unfolded as I attempted to contact Alice’s cell phone to let her know I had finally arrived. Of course, no signal. And the half mile long driveway leading to Alice and Tuffy’s home was a trough of scary-deep mud, the traverse of which only a 4WD might survive. After a brief moment of “ruh roh”, Facebook came to the rescue (text messages have a super power that can penetrate the airwaves that phone calls cannot). Soon Alice and Tuffy arrived from one direction and Genro serendipitously pulled in behind me. Genro climbed up into the truck bed and we efficiently unloaded my vehicle and reloaded theirs. I took a photo of the three of them to share. The whole encounter had been completely low key, routine, and pretty selfless up to this point. But then as I...

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THE WOMAN, THE MAN, AND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, Inter-Faith, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order | 1 comment

THE WOMAN, THE MAN, AND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

By Eve Marko  Photo by Jadina Lilien   Bernie’s going up the stairs, I pass him walking downstairs, and suddenly hear Phump!Instantly I turn around. “What happened?” “Nothing, I saw this gorgeous woman and I almost fell over.” My brother gave me a book in Hebrew, teachings by and anecdotes about Rabbi Menachem Fruman, who passed away a few years ago. There is much to relate about Rabbi Fruman, whom we met on a few occasions: a settler rabbi, a lover of the Holy Land who insisted it belonged to God rather than to Jews or Muslims, who cultivated friendships with Muslim religious and political leaders, including the heads of the PLO and Hamas. He also believed deeply in the importance of couples, of intimate relationships. For this reason, whenever he was interviewed by a newspaper photographers liked to photograph him together with his wife, Hadassa. Once he said to the photographer: “Here’s a major scoop for you. You can take a picture of God and bring it back to the paper! Just point the camera here,” and he pointed to the space between him and his wife. The Zohar, the basic text of Jewish Kabbalah, states that God isn’t to be found in the one person, but rather between two people. There’s myself, there’s my husband, and God is in the middle, in the emptiness between us, never in the one. No, not even in the Great Man. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve meditated, how many kenshos (enlightenment experiences) and dai-kenshos (great enlightenment experiences) you’ve had, or even what you’ve done for the world. That’s not where God resides. Often people ask me how my practice has helped me over these past six months since Bernie’s stroke. I think they’re asking the wrong question. The practice isn’t what I do early mornings when I go to my office, light a candle and sit. That’s the easiest, most comfy part of the day. The practice is when I then get up and return to the bedroom to ask Bernie how he’s doing, how he slept. To look again at what happened, his loss of weight, his unsteady but determined walk with cane, the splint on his right hand, the question in his eyes, the question in my eyes: What is this? What is this today? A verse describes the absolute and the relative as two arrows that meet high in mid-air. Both the GM and I shoot arrows up in the air all the time, only these rarely meet. Sometimes they come close, sometimes one grazes the other sufficiently to cause a slight change in direction, and sometimes they’re ghosts in the night, and as I look at all that space in between I think of what the Zohar says: that’s not just any gap between two people who at times feel like strangers, that’s the abode of God. That empty space you’ve gnashed your teeth over, the one you’ve contemplated with frustration and wished to bridge more than anything in the world—that’s where God resides. So what’s there to cry about? The unknown abides in the very misunderstandings, confusion, and clash of wills and personalities that are part of our life. It’s as cozy as could be in the gap between need and fulfillment, desire and...

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Returning to the Three Tenets

Posted by on Jul 10, 2016 in Bernie's Opinions, Racism & Diversity, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 10 comments

Returning to the Three Tenets

  FROM BERNIE: As I look at what’s happening everywhere, the violence in the United States, in Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Europe, I remember that the Three Tenets are not a theoretical thing. I enter a deep state of not-knowing, bearing witness to what’s going on with no judgments or biases, just bearing witness, and then take the action that arises. I invite you, everyone, and especially our members of the Zen Peacemaker Order, to do the same. Then please write comments on this post replying to this question: What actions came up for you going into that space of not knowing and bearing witness? Thank you – Bernie Glassman...

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