Plunging on the Streets of Helsinki: Civil War, Child Slavery and The Ease of Generosity

HELSINKI, FINLAND. This September, Zen Peacemakers will be holding a street retreat in Helsinki, Finland. In this article, Mikko Ijäs describes the historical context of what these streets have born witness to in the past hundred years: Civil War, Child Slavery and Generosity.

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This Food of Seventy Two Labors, an Invitation to a Bearing Witness Retreat to Food, Land and Racism in the USA

PETERSBURG, NEW YORK STATE, USA. Rev. Ariel Pliskin​, ZPO Minister and founder of Unity Tables​ and community-based Stone Soup Café Greenfield MA​ has participated in several Bearing Witness Retreats on the streets, at Auschwitz, and the Black Hills. He now brings this rich experience to examine the interplay of food, land and race in the USA, in a new retreat he is organizing together with Sensei Francisco Lugovina​ from Hudson River Peacemaker Center-House of One People​, and Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm​. Read what led Ariel to co-develop this retreat, and join him in September 2017 on Soul Fire Farm.

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Sharing a Meal with Hungry Hearts

by Cassie Moore, Upaya Resident “Calling all you hungry hearts All the lost and left behind Gather ’round and share this meal Your joy and sorrow I make it mine.” —from The Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy Most nights, people line up outside of the Santa Fe homeless shelter, Pete’s Place, well before the glass doors stretch open for dinner at 6 p.m. For dozens of people, “Pete’s” (formerly the Pete’s Pets building on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, now the Interfaith Community Shelter) is a winter emergency shelter that offers nourishment and beds, as well as community and safety. To serve meals, the shelter relies on legions of volunteers, like us. A Upaya team of eight, we’ve come dressed not in our usual Zenblack, but in “normal” clothes. We unpack a Subaru full of prepped veggies, spices, oils, and kitchenware and lug it all into Pete’s kitchen. Debbie who works at the shelter greets us with boundless energy, and orients us on how to prepare dinner, how to serve, and when to sit to join the shelter guests for dinner. Over several days, we have been preparing for this dinner with the help of local sangha members. Our menu feels like a pre-Thanksgiving feast for the 105 people who will fill Pete’s dining hall tonight. As we unload the car in trips, walking back and forth through the parking lot, we pass a dozen people looking in through the still-locked glass doors, pacing outside, resting on the sidewalk, catching up, smoking. A sangha volunteer whispers to me, “This is where I get shy.” Internally, I feel an old shyness fog me, too. I feel intense waves of differentiation coming up, noticing the clients who appear to be on drugs, seeing a group of women yelling in the parking lot corner. A man in the lot catcalls me. I notice this feeling arise that says, These people are different than me. I feel self-doubt. I’m afraid I don’t know how to show up with these people, that our differences are too big for us to connect, that I won’t know the right thing to say or do. As we settle in, the kitchen begins smelling like holidays: it’s snowing out and our chicken soup and...

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Exploring the Bodhisattva Way, Free Adventures Every Day

  EXPLORING THE BODHISATTVA WAY, FREE ADVENTURES EVERY DAY By Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt A talk given at Upaya Zen Center on September 28, 2015 (downloadaudio recording) Transcribed by Scott Harris, Photos by Jesse Jiryu Davis   Genro: Good evening everybody. It’s lovely to be here, lovely to be here with you. And this room, the energy during zazen—good work. It feels great. Joshin mentioned that I’m here because we’re doing a Bearing Witness retreat tomorrow in Albuquerque. And the whole idea of bearing witness came out of Bernie Tetsugen Glassman Roshi’s practice. Back when he was in college—he did his graduate work at UCLA, in Los Angeles, got a doctorate in mathematics. And when he was there, before he dreamed of Zen practice, he realized that he wanted to do three things. He wanted to start a monastery, somewhere. I’m not sure he knew what tradition he wanted to be in, but he wanted to start a monastery. And he wanted to be a clown. And he wanted to live on the streets as a homeless person. And he’s managed to do all of them. His early practice at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, which started in about 1967 with Maezumi Roshi . . . His doctorate at UCLA was in mathematics. And the Zen Center wasn’t up to full speed yet. It was still growing. And so he would work during the day. And during the day he was in charge of the manned mission to Mars project at McDonnell-Douglas. So they say you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a Zen person, but he was. When he left the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1980 or so, he came to New York, started a Zen community, and quickly sort of revolutionized Zen practice. Because it became clear to him rather quickly that Zen shouldn’t be practiced only in a meditation hall, only in the temple—that in order to really manifest it, we need to really manifest it in our daily lives, in service to all beings. If our practice is to realize the oneness and the wholeness of life, and that we’re really one with all beings, then we have to take care of them. We have to...

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Let All Eat Cafes

Jeff Bridges, who has been fighting hunger for decades, teamed up with the Zen Peacemakers to create “Let All Eat” Cafés to feed their communities in ways tailored to each location.  Bridges met Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman in Santa Barbara in 1999.  Over the years, their friendship and partnership have developed.  At Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Jeff Bridges discussed his work to end hunger. “Let All Eat” Cafés are inspired by the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers, NY and the Stone Soup Café in Greenfield, MA. Accustomed to spending time on the streets, the Zen Peacemakers developed the Greyston Foundation as a set of social services and businesses that meet basic needs and affirm the dignity of all participants. This tradition of blurring the boundary between people being served and people serving continues with the Stone Soup Café, where a mixed income community gathers every Saturday to enjoy free food, activities and wellness offerings. Unlike many soup kitchens, the Café is a family-friendly environment.  The Stone Soup Café was started by the Zen Peacemakers in 2010 and continues as an independent entity today. The most important partners in establishing the Stone Soup Cafe are the Zen Peacemakers and the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.  The Zen Peacemakers tenet of Bearing Witness and the Unitarian principle of affirming and promoting the worth and dignity of each individual shape the Café’s unique approach.  While these influences are important, the Café welcomes people off all backgrounds without being tied to any specific tradition. If you are interested in putting this model of Soup Kitchen in your area, please read this, and/or contact Ari...

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Homeless and At-Risk Youth Gluten Free Bakery

Please support Ven. Pannavati by linking here and donating to her project. Through culinary pre-apprenticeship training and social entrepreneurship, MyPlace has forged a proven path to independence for homeless youth in rural America.

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A Place at the Table

A Place at the Table is produced by Participant Media, which has a history of making slickly-produced documentaries that take on large issues, and this film is no different as it touches on multiple topics like subsidies for industrial farms, the social stigma of accepting food donations, the effects hunger has on early childhood development, school meal programs and the pathetic amount the government allots per child per meal, and a lot more, featuring interviews with people like food activist Marion Nestle, Top Chef‘s Tom Colicchio, Witness to Hunger’s Mariana Chilton, and actor Jeff Bridges, who’s the founder of the End Hunger Network. As was true with other Participant documentaries like Food, Inc. and Countdown to Zero, A Place at the Table is meant to give you a general overview of a complex, multi-faceted issue. A lot of topics get touched on, many of which could probably be the subject of their own film, so if you’re looking for a lot of detail or in-depth investigative work, you won’t necessarily find it here. But what you will get, which I think a lot of people (including myself) need, is a general overview of how bad the hunger and nutrition problem is in America and why our system is so screwed up. The film also raises questions that must be asked and answered. For instance, why does the U.S. government give more in subsidies to giant industrial farms that feed the processed food industry than it does to small farms that grow fruits and vegetables? Why does the richest country in the world allow so many of its citizens, particularly children, to go hungry? Why do we allow republicans to paint programs like food stamps and school meals as government handouts to the lazy when they’re actually an investment, since America’s future and economy will only succeed if we’re able to produce healthy, attentive kids who will become the educated workforce modern industries require? As is often the case, even with a challenge as big as hunger, awareness and legislation are the key, and A Place at the Table is a great way to spread awareness about food insecurity and to start the discussion on ending hunger in America. After all, if we accept the...

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