Rain, Thunder And Lightning Were All Present – Report from the Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in Fort Snelling MN USA, November 2016

Read this report from ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy who co-organized a bearing witness retreat with the Native American Dakota in MN, bearing witness to the history of genocide there and its present day expression in the community and land.

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In Search of Dignity And Care: A ZPO Member’s Reflection On A Year of Street Retreats

“…The tech firms have headquarters literally right across the streetcar tracks from the Tenderloin, the city’s most impoverished neighborhood…my mind and my body can be and has been complicit in setting up boundaries and breaking down neighborhoods… if I allow all experience – the whole plaza – to penetrate me, then I will be transformed…” – ZPO Member Kosho Brian Durel of Upaya Zen Center.

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Special Offer: Bearing Witness, Hardcover, Signed By Bernie Glassman 2017

Bearing Witness: A Zen Masters Lesson’s in Making Peace, Written by Roshi Bernie Glassman and Roshi Eve Marko, has introduced countless people to the Zen Peacemakers Three-Tenets: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. We are offering, for limited time, 25 copies signed by Bernie.

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Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Bearing Witness Retreat, by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller

Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Retreat, 8-12 May 2017 By of Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Bern Switzerland

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The One Body Had a Stroke

“Each one of us who lives here is part of that one body called the United States, though we often don’t realize it. One arm feels superior to the other arm, one leg would like the other to stumble, oblivious of the fact that that would cause the entire body to stumble.”

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“The River Song” Zen Peacemakers at Simply Smiles, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, August 2016

In August 2016, the Zen Peacemakers visited Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation. They met the people of La Plant and Eagle Butte, visited the local youth center and the wild mustang horse refuge, as well as worked with Simply Smiles – a non-profit building and revitalizing homes for Lakota families. This August 2017, The Zen Peacemakers will return to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation for a week of service, in collaboration with Simply Smiles inc. Meet the local Lakota community, rebuild and prepare homes for the winter, practice meditation and council and deepen your appreciation of the Zen Peacemakers Three Tenets: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Join us! August 6-12 2017 Register at http://zenpeacemakers.org/nat2017/ “The River Song” Kristen Graves, Guitar, Music and Lyrics Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Flute Rami Efal, Video and photos...

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Standing People, Rooted People: Peacemaking Among the Indigenous Cultures of Southern Africa and Turtle Island

Drawing experiences from different corners of the world, two ZPO members, one from the United States, Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt and one from Finland, Mikko Ijäs, share their stories of being welcomed by #FirstNations and the #indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (Northern America) and Southern Africa and how their appreciation of #peacemaking was affected by encountering these rich wisdom cultures and the individuals that embodied them.

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2017 ZPO EUROPE Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

in May 2017, Zen Peacemakers will commence the Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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“DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Photo by Josh Morgan, Huffington Post By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, Zen Peacemaker Order   I met a friend of my brother’s the other day at a Jerusalem café. He told me that he had taken part in a convocation honoring Elie Wiesel at the Hebrew University, and that the Chief Rabbi of Rumania was there and told the following story: In my position I’ve visited many small Rumanian towns and villages which once had a large population of Jews but which are now empty of Jews after the Holocaust. In one such town I hear something strange. There is an old synagogue there, abandoned and unused since World War II. But every Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, the lights go on in the synagogue and they go off on Saturday night, at the end of the Sabbath. I decided to look into it, and discovered that a goy, a non-Jew, enters the abandoned synagogue every Friday evening and puts the Sabbath prayer books by every single empty seat. On the Sabbath morning he comes in again and puts prayer shawls by each seat. He comes back on Saturday night, returns the prayer shawls and prayer books, and turns off the lights. He has done that for many years. I told Elie Weisel about this long ago, and he told me to support this man as much as possible so that he could continue to do this work. When I heard this story I immediately remembered Bernie’s and my 1996 visit with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, to ask him for his blessing for the Zen Peacemakers’ retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Reb Zalman said that he was all for it, only the retreat had to be done for the sake of the souls there. I vividly remember driving back and pondering his answer: What souls? Weren’t the dead dead? Beside, as a Buddhist I didn’t believe in souls. We’d asked him for his blessing for a single retreat, not knowing that this retreat...

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Retracing the Path of Bullets

    Retracing the Path of Bullets   A Report from a Seventeen-day Pilgrimage in Sweden, Bearing Witness to the Effects of the Arms Industry on Communities, Veterans, Refugees and Caregivers. By Pake Hall, ZPO Member, Sweden (Top photo by Lennart Kjörling. All other photos by Pake Hall) During the summer of 2015, forty individuals undertook a pilgrimage from Gothenburg harbor to the industrial district of Bofors in Karlskoga, to bear witness to how war and arms exports are present right here in the midst of the idyllic Swedish summer. It was an interfaith group and people joined and left at different points along the way. So why did we do it? How can walking along open Swedish roads, listening to stories and meditating have importance in connection with this subject? In spring of 2014, I became ensnared in the net of endless discussions around refugees and Swedish arms exports on Facebook. That spring, the rise of the extreme right wing Sweden Democrats party and a new arms deal between Sweden and Saudi Arabia were the reason that these issues were being so hotly debated. The discussions soon became more like polarized monologs and in my opinion led lead nowhere. One thing that struck me was that many of those who were very critical of allowing refugees to come in to Sweden often wrote things like:” They are not real war refugees” and ”Those who really need to flee are not coming here. Those who come are just luxury refugees.” For my part, I was just as convinced that they were truly refugees and that they were fleeing from inhumane conditions and terrible suffering. The discussions became very strongly polarized, with people just talking past one another and separation grew with each exchange. When I looked at what others wrote and at my replies, it struck me that I had very little direct experience of war and of refugees in Sweden. In many ways, I live in an insulated world where I mostly just heard stories that reinforced my worldview. How would it be to actually listen to a Swedish soldier who had been in combat? Or to people that actually work in the Swedish arms trade? To refugees? To people working in the refugee camps…...

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2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz Retreat Summary

‘This [Auschwitz retreat] is an opportunity to love, and to give up fear.’ Bernie called, spirited yet tender, from the middle of the auditorium on his way to his quarters after delivering his opening remarks for the 2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat.   He was surrounded by eighty participants from seventeen countries who have traveled seas and land to participate. Forty-five of them, an unprecedented number, had come to Auschwitz for the first time with the Zen Peacemakers. In the following five days, through rain, snow and sunshine, we shared time at the camp, visiting the barracks of children, women and men in places where they spent their last nights and days, we dedicated ceremonies at the remains of the crematoriums and ash fields where they were killed and disposed of, and we sat silently at the selection site where this very decision of their fate was made by other fellow human beings. From the silence, we called their names and those of our own loved ones that died there. Above us, crows circled and swooped.   “I came quite “not knowing” and plunged into one the most meaningful experiences in my life. I felt cared for, safe and guided through this week with enough flexibility to find my own pace. I felt as part of a compassionate community and I am deeply thankful for all these moments of deep humanity. ” – Retreat Participant   Day by day, we further revealed the layout of the camp and the schedule was marked by extended time for self reflection, private practice and exploration. We bore witness to moments of grief of soft lullabies in German, Hebrew and French and moments of celebration of life by songs in Arabic, Dutch and many other tongues. We heard from Yaser and Rabia, two Palestinian siblings, refugees from present-day war-torn Syria of their moments of despair and inspiration, of caring for family and friends, and joined them in the Al-Fatiha – the most essential Muslim prayer – in closing our final silent circle, kneeling palms up by the alter at the selection site. Their presence at the retreat anchored our experience in the present suffering of their people and many others around the world.   One afternoon, Bernie, wheeled by chair and surrounded by the participants, visited...

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Bernie Off to Poland

(in photo, Bernie exercising with Ari Setsudo Pliskin)   By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, ZPO   Bernie goes off to Poland on Friday. Back in June, when he barely walked and had only just mastered the stairs, he began to say how much he wanted to join the November retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Zen Peacemakers’ 21st annual retreat at the concentration camps. To be honest, I thought it was pretty crazy. When we filled out questionnaires for the Taub Clinic in Alabama, one of the questions asked what specific and practical outcomes Bernie hoped for from their intensive therapy, and he asked me to write that he wished to go to the retreat in Poland. Again I thought it was pretty crazy. On Friday he’s going. Without me. There will be people accompanying him on the planes between Boston and Krakow, and someone with him the entire time he’s in Poland, not to mention some 80 other folks who’ll be happy to see him and do everything they can for him. He’s been practicing his walking outside on uneven terrain, as he’s doing with Ari in the photo. At the camps themselves he’ll need to use his wheelchair, and momentarily I think of one of the exhibits at the Auschwitz Museum showing the various canes and prosthetics the people arriving on the trains used. They were the very ones who were quickly ushered to extinction while the mechanical aids, seen as more valuable than the humans, were given a longer life. I wonder what he’ll think when he sees that exhibit. If he sees it. The Museum is not wheelchair accessible and it’s a lot of walking. Bernie will have to pace himself, see what he can do, how far he can go, how far he can let himself be from a bathroom. The camps are meant to be arduous. No drinking or eating is allowed inside those fences, and Birkenau itself is huge. But over the 21 years quite a number of people with some disability have joined this retreat. Since I’ve heard of his wish to go back there I’ve thought of the old scenario of human approaching the officer in elegant uniform and told whether to go right or left. I...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Malgosia Roshi

   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.     How to Distinguish Day from Night By Roshi Małgorzata Braunek (1947 – 2014) Photos courtesy of Roshi Andrzej Krajewski. Pictured above: Bernie, Jakusho Kwong Roshi, Małgorzata Roshi, Peter Matthiessen Roshi, Junyu Kuroda Roshi at Auschwitz-Birkenau   Bernie says that the places of pain and suffering are our greatest teachers. Therefore we went to Auschwitz – a symbol of the greatest evil that man has done to his like. Usually noticing the ubiquitous suffering around us does not mean that we are immersed in it. Rather, we train not to recognize it, because we are afraid that we can’t stand it. The first time I traveled to Auschwitz I just asked myself if I can face the fear, apart from that I did not know what would happen here. The most important was to understand that every thought to eliminate anything and anyone is the voice of the torturers slumbering in me. It turned out that I had such thinking as ‘eksterminujących’ (exterminate) in myself, and that there’s no end to it. For example, sweeping a container of liquid on ants, killing a mosquito or a fly. I think that is accompanied by: “Ugh, that’s awful! This must be eliminated! Dispose! Let them disappear!”; After all, this is the same way of thinking that was applied to the Jews, Gypsies, beggars, gay, to all those who were and are “different”; We see them as foreign, other, dirty (inside or outside), barbarians, worse than us – in a word, vermin disrupting our lives. They are useless, so they must be eliminated! The world would be better without them. The world knows this lesson very well … When I saw the executioner in myself for the first time, I kept crying a long while and could hardly stop again. The whole camp melted in my tears. When I sit on the ramp or in the barracks for hours, I touch suffering directly. Sure, we are sitting there in warm jackets, we know we’ll soon have something to eat… Sure I do not know about the cold back then, I don’t wear those thin striped uniforms. But this is not about historical reconstruction. It is important to listen to what...

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From War in Syria to Bearing Witness in Auschwitz

Story by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Switzerland, September 2016 My friend Rabia is an extremely courageous woman and I am happy to share my story of how we met. It was in 2006, only days before Beirut was bombed, and our friend Sami Awad from Bethlehem, Palestine, who is a Peacemaker, gave a talk against the planned war in Lebanon. He was invited to speak at a big peace demonstration in Bern the capital of Switzerland. The square was packed with people and I waited for him at the edge of the crowd. Small children with dark curly hair were playing right next to me, their mothers urging them to keep quiet. I was playing with the children and tried to have a conversation with the women. One of them spoke a little French and was desperately fumbling for words. She told me she had arrived in Berne the day before and I spontaneously handed her my business card saying that if she learnt to speak German we could communicate. Ten months later my phone rang and a female voice said, “this is Rabia speaking, I have learnt German and would like to speak with you.“ I immediately knew who it was and we arranged to meet for coffee and that’s how our friendship began. Rabia is from Palestine and her parents fled from there with small children. They travelled a long way through distant countries, from Yemen to Syria. The war in Syria made life for the extended family unbearable and with the help of Peacemaker Switzerland we could arrange to evacuate many members of the family and get them out of the war zone. We had the entire family stay with us for one week in our home. On the last evening Yazer told us his story. He had not eaten for 3 months, just some leaves to have something in his stomach. He had given his last ration of food to some hungry children. Yazer, the brother of Rabia, a young dentist arrived in Switzerland after a long ordeal and totally famished. What helped him to survive and safe his life was a film he had seen several years earlier by Steven Spielberg — “Schindler’s List“. In the film a few people had survived despite...

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Diversity Fundraiser, Auschwitz 2016

  Celebration of diversity has been a hallmark of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreats and in particular in Auschwitz-Birkenau, once a symbol of extreme intolerance towards others. Through the years the Zen Peacemakers hosted there countless nationalities, faith and ethnicities. In 2015, our large community collected donations to bring Lakota Native Americans, Croats, Bosniaks & Serbs, the indigenous of Australia and Palestine. Barbara and Roland Wegmueller of the Zen Peacemaker Order have been working with Syrian refugees for several years. Two of their friends, a brother and sister who had to flee Syria and are currently in asylum in Switzerland, would like to join the retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau this year. Their presence will connect the retreat and all its participants with the horrors of the present-day war in Syria and the excruciating difficulties encountered by those fleeing its shores. We are raising $5000 towards their retreat tuition, travel and lodging. Contribution in any amount will help us bring them there. Donation can be done online with Paypal or credit card at the link below, US checks can be sent to: Zen Peacemakers ATTN: Auschwitz Diversity Fundraiser 2016 POBOX 294 Montague MA. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization for your tax...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Greg

 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 Greg Rice, USA   This last November I quit fishing early to attend the annual Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz, Poland. After an all-day flight, I arrived at the hotel in Kraków after dark, tired and unsure of what I was doing there. Within minutes I was invited to dinner with a group of other participants. I felt welcomed in as part of this retreat immediately, and my doubts vanished… In the big changing room of the “sauna” was a display of thousands of photos collected by the guards as they stripped the prisoners of their lives. Sitting in that room, we sang a simple song, the first line of which was “how could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful”. We all sang, in this dreadful room, first looking each other in the eyes, then at the beautiful pictures of happy children, of lovers, of grandmothers. Pictures taken in a time in their lives when they were happy, a time in their lives like this time in ours. And then they experienced what no living being should ever experience. It broke my heart, walking slowly through these walls of photos, singing “how could anyone see you as anything less than beautiful.” How could they? One day, as we stood in a circle around the blown-up remains of Crematorium chamber IV, we all read the Kaddish in our native tongue. It was read in at least eight different languages. At the end, Reb Shir blew on the Shofar – the ram’s horn. It was the first time I had ever heard it. The sound brought tears to my eyes. It seemed a strong and ancient call to the world, to the ashes, to all that keeps us separate. It was a voice saying we are still here, we will always be here, all of us. It was the sound of perseverance and inclusiveness. To me, a secular guy, the sound of that Shofar was Holy. There is a teaching that says, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha. What needs to be killed is the sense of truth, of knowing, the root of this separateness that keeps us apart. It...

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ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY

  Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Part 1 of this interview is available here. Below is part 2 of this interview.   Rami: I heard you say once that you have a vision of what Bearing Witness retreats are and that while both the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats in Rwanda  2014 and in the Black Hills 2015 were successful in their own way, they both differed from that vision. Can you say more about that? Bernie: In Rwanda, we had mostly two sides, the Hutu and the Tutsis. We had some Europeans of course, but it was all about Rwanda. No Congo, no others… We did have this guy—you heard about the guy that was a paramilitary guy that came to a retreat. Twenty years before, when the genocide in Rwanda was happening, he was sent with a battalion (I think it was 600 Belgian) to rescue the local Rwandans that were surrounded in a coliseum by militia. He was sent with orders to stop what was going on. He commanded armed soldiers, they could have stopped what was happening. When their planes landed, he got a message from Belgium headquarters saying, “Forget it. Rescue whatever Europeans you can. Go there, get them out, and leave.” And that’s what he did. For the twenty years he hadn’t told that story to anyone. Not to his wife—his marriage was on the verge of breaking up. It was killing him. At our retreat, 20 year later, he broke that story. Now that’s a bearing witness kind of thing. I tried to get more people like that. We couldn’t. So if I had any remorse, it was that I wasn’t able to get enough different kinds. It was just a few people. We had a woman who’s arm was chopped off, and we had the guy who cut her arm off there. But it wasn’t broad enough for me. I wanted—because I know the Europeans have a heavy burden in what happened...

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ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

PREFACE:The following invitation is to a ZPO members-led retreat organized in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers. This event is another expression of the building momentum between the Native American of Turtle Island and the Zen Peacemakers, following the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills and 2016 ZPO Members-led plunge in Cheyenne River reservation this past July. The retreat’s page on Facebook  Clouds in Water Zen Center Registration page  Article by ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota This Bearing Witness retreat began over 15 years ago. As many processes in life what I thought would take place and what is actually unfolding are different. About 15 years ago I read Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book “Bearing Witness.” There was an immediate resonance with Roshi’s teachings. Practicing meditation for years and working with people who appeared on the edges of life, Bernie Roshi expressed engaged Buddhism for me. I have always felt a deep connection to Beings who intersect with suffering and resilience. Direct experience combined with training in spiritual practices and formal education supports having a chance to help. I understood genocide and resilience was everywhere. After reading, “Bearing Witness”, I decided to meet Fleet Maull, Bernie Roshi and coordinate a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. This was not to happen until many years later. In 2012, I participated in a workshop with Fleet Maull at Upaya and asked him if he would come to Clouds in Water Zen Center and share his teachings with us. This was a direct bloom of my bodhisattva vow. In 2014, I went to Upaya again, this time to see Bernie Roshi. I explained my dream of a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. Bernie Roshi said, Zen Peacemakers Inc. was already coordinating this retreat in August of 2015 and I could come at that time. I went to the Black Hills and it was clear — the retreat was to be where I lived. In Minnesota there was was a concentration camp for 1700 Grandmothers, mothers, children and elders in the winter of 1862 and 1863 at Fort Snelling. Minnesota’s legacy of genocide is embodied at Fort Snelling. As a non-native person,...

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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...

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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....

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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...

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Resonance is Everywhere

  By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo of Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance (left) by Peter Cunningham Originally appeared on Eve’s blog on 7/6/2016     The Facebook page for the Bearing Witness visit to Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota during the last week of this month has been closed, made accessible only to those people who have confirmed they’re participating. I’m not one of them, but I am very happy that a substantial group is going, and I just put a Comment on that page asking them to build a foundation for future visits and work so that I, too, can come next time. It’s our second time returning to South Dakota. These plunges, projects, visits, pilgrimages, however we refer to them—all call me. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Srebrenica in Bosnia, refugee camps in Piraeus, these places summon me. It is no accident that in Judaism, one of the names of God is Place. And She, He, the unknown, is most palpably present for me in these Places, maybe because we walk around there and shake our heads, muttering Inconceivable, inconceivable, all the time. Right now I feel most called to go to South Dakota. Why? Because I’m an American, and all my doubts (What is this? How could this happen? What’s still going on?) surface there. Where there’s doubt, there’s the unknown. In early May Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele, who have so kindly and generously helped Bernie and me these past months, went back to Europe. Mariola joined a group of German women at the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women in Germany, while Godfried went to Greece to visit with refugees landing there day after day. When they returned they talked about how the two visits are connected, how to this very day Europeans make pilgrimages to places associated with World War II because they remind them of what people can do to each other out of fear and rage, which come up now, too, in connection with the refugees from Africa and Asia. We need to do that here in the US, go to our own places of trauma and reconnect with the things we as a nation have done. What eats at our foundation? What is the rotten piece that won’t...

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My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

  MY CHAT WITH 8TH GRADERS ON AUSCHWITZ By Noemi Koji Santana For the past 15 years, I have been involved in one capacity or another with a small cluster of community-grown charter schools in the Bronx, New York. I served on their founding Board of Trustees and later, in my capacity as consultant, helped develop their business office, lead them in a strategic planning process that set the foundation for their network administration, as well as managing their rebranding. Through all of this, I have seen them grow from a Kindergarten to fifth grade school to three schools that will eventually all be K through 8th grade. The student body is comprised largely of inner-city Latino children, from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico Honduras and other Central and South American countries. There is also a growing number of new African immigrants. The rigorous curriculum has increased the chances for success for many of these children, as they graduate and find themselves in some of the best high schools of the City of New York. Because the schools are small with only two classes per each grade and also due to low to no attrition, we get to follow these students from Kinder through graduation. Students many times refer to me as the picture lady since I am often called upon to record school life and events with my camera. I also get to dialogue with faculty in their professional development room or during lunch breaks. It was one such occasion that created a unique opportunity for me to be a guest speaker for an eighth grade class, recently. The Social Studies teacher, a young, warm, funny and vivacious first-generation Dominican who can often be found in the gym during recess playing basketball with his students, was talking to me about the unit on the Holocaust he was currently teaching and I mentioned the fact that I had been to Auschwitz four times. His eyes lit up and it didn’t take but a minute for him to extend an invitation for me to speak to one of his classes about my experience. Their letters reflect the chat better than anything I could say.   Noemi Koji Santana     Dear Mrs. Santana, Thank you for...

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Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

(The following invitation is to a members-led retreat organized by members of the Zen Peacemaker Order. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers.)   BEARING WITNESS IN SOUTH DAKOTA JULY 25-29, 2016 Ever since Zen Peacemakers canceled its retreat in the Black Hills, a number of people have said that they would like to return to South Dakota anyway this summer, reconnect with our Native American friends, and perhaps contribute in some way. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is offering to facilitate a group of people at Cheyenne River Reservation, north of Pine Ridge as of July 25. We think being able to visit other places of the Lakota would bring a broader perspective on how the people have creatively survived and adapted to the differences in a culture and a society, as opposed to the consequences of not adopting a Western thought process but evolving within the ‘adaptive’ cultural continuity of the Lakota Oyate. Tiokasin, who comes from Cheyenne River Reservation, will connect the group with various communities and give us opportunities to work hands-on in home construction, community gardens, and children and teen projects. We also hope to meet with elders and learn more about what Natives are doing to preserve their language and culture, and strengthen their connections with the land. Visits to Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Reservations are also possible. We hope that our coming together at Cheyenne River Reservation this summer will strengthen the energy and connections that began with the retreat last summer. We plan for the group to remain together for five days (even as they split up during the day to work in different areas), after which, depending on individual interests, people can continue to work on their own in various projects that interest them, return to the Black Hills or to Pine Ridge to renew friendships from last year, or go back home. This is not an organized retreat, so there is no retreat fee. Zen Peacemakers is not doing any organizing or logistics. Each participant is responsible for his/her own travel and accommodations (tents or motel). More details will follow, depending on your interest. You may place a comment to the organizer below, The...

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“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das

Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das met soon after the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills and shared about the practice of Bearing Witness and their personal experiences of the retreats in South Dakota USA and in Auschwitz/Birkenau Poland. Watch the video in full below or read the transcription of the interview here. Interview videotaped and edited by Rami Efal, video of Krishna Das performing in Auschwitz/Birkenau by Ohad...

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Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

The following are two of many testimonials of those who have attended the Auschwitz/Bikrenau Bearing Witness retreat. They appear in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe” (English & German language) at https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en       All of Life in This Moment By Roshi Cornelius Collande Five days of meditation in Auschwitz. I imagined it to be a place of horror, but what I found was a holy place. A place where grief and joy, despair and hope, hate and love, tears and laughter are intertwined in an incomprehensible way. A place that constantly questions your being, a place that doesn’t leave you out, that doesn’t allow you to return to your everyday agenda. In the afternoon, rituals are performed in the barracks of the labor camp, at the gas chambers and crematoria. Everybody can choose between Jewish, Christian and Buddhist ceremonies. I specifically remember a celebration by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi. A beautiful clear autumn day, bright blue sky, old oaks with golden yellow leaves next to Gas Chamber III, birds twitter and some deer are grazing at a distance. We are beside a pond, where the ashes of the killed were dumped. The water reflects the trees. Kaddish, the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, is being read; in Hebrew, German, Arabic, in all the languages of those who are attending. May the Great Name whose Desire gave birth to the universe Resound through the Creation – Now! May this Great Presence rule your life and your day and all lives of our World …” Who can grasp all this, who can endure it? Then Jewish Songs of Grief; many tears flow while we sing. And now, a Wedding Song, a song that a well-known rabbi had requested to be sung at his funeral. The “Great Name,” the “Great Presence,” as life and death. A Wedding Song, very tender at first, then more dynamic, then dancing, wildness, joy, yes joy and laughter in the company of 1.5 million dead. Deeply shattering, incomprehensible, unbearable for the individual. Only love can endure this … JOIN THE ZENPEACEMAKERS IN AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU IN 2016 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT AND REGISTER After all the Years of Looking By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmuller I remember one afternoon when our group of 100 people was sitting on the selection ramp in a big circle. In the center of the...

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UPDATE: 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat CANCELED

UPDATE: 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat CANCELED Dear members, friends and supporters, The Zen Peacemakers and our Lakota friends in South Dakota would like to thank all of you who supported the Native American Bearing Witness Retreat this year with your enthusiasm and patience. As it stands, we did not receive enough registrations to cover the costs of the retreat and arrived at a point on our planning timeline it was no longer possible to continue. Today the Zen Peacemakers board of directors, with full hearts, concluded that it is necessary to cancel the retreat. In our years of Bearing Witness we have learned to pay attention and respond to the unique needs of the moment. Last year that has resulted in the tremendously successful 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat. This year, the needs and fruition seem to have changed. We have also learned that things don’t end but change form and direction. This moment is such a moment, and we are excited and dedicated to see the form of the next unfolding in seventeen years of relationship with our Lakota allies, friends and elders. If you are one of the many who have fully registered to the retreat, you have received an email regarding your money refund options. If you have not received it yet, please check your inbox, write Suzanne Webber, our retreat’s registrar, at suzanne[at]brooksbendfarm.com, or me at rami[at]zenpeacemakers.org, 347.210.9556 We are glad that many relationships and actions rose from last year’s retreat. We hope you continue and share them with our community. Thank you. Rami Efal ZP Operations Coordinator and Assistant to...

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“ONE HOOP, WIDE AS DAYLIGHT”

“ONE HOOP, BROAD AS DAYLIGHT” by CHAS JEWETT I had wondered aloud several times about what kind of crazy white folks were wanting to bear witness to our people’s genocide. The folks from the Wantabe nation are pretty clueless, well meaning maybe but clueless, this could be dangerous, I was skeptical. The genocide of my people, the Mnicoujou is ongoing:  the mascots, the boarding schools, the textbooks, the incarceration, the whiskey, the meth, the white flour, the white sugar, the treaties, the land. Genocide like ecocide are words to me that hold breath taking unspeakable meaning. I had gone to visit the rainbow tribe a month earlier, their coming was with much fanfare and some segments of our tribal community in the black hills mistrusted their intentions. I was unsure, so I went to investigate and on the road to the camp I saw a couple of kids from my UU fellowship running barefoot and fancy free, when I arrived they fed me pancakes and I sat for a while in their drum circle.  I left, not needing to linger, they were respectful to the land, they seemed genuinely happy, mostly self-interested I suppose, had I been ten years younger, I might have camped and become engaged, but I was chockful of engagement with white folks, there was nothing for me to learn besides, my dog Luta was geriatric, and I had been having to leave her more and more, I wanted to get back to her. Later on that summer, investigating again, I came in the first afternoon while most everyone but Tiokosin and Jadina were touring Pine Ridge, you folks had a bigger tent, a tipi and looked a little more ligit than the hippies, but I had no real way to know you folks weren’t going to be donning regalia and dancing around said tipi, so I came back the next day. I was still so curious to see what bearing witness looked like.    The first day, I learned some stuff and met some people, so the next morning, Luta secured at her second home, I came back with my tent and began my relationship with the Zen peacemakers.  I stayed all week, soaking in the good vibes and the honest,...

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Join the Zen Peacemakers in Auschwitz/Birkenau, October 2016

  JOIN THE ZEN PEACEMAKERS FOR THE 21st RETURN TO THE CAMP OF AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU “What could Auschwitz— this place oceans-deep with death and the source of so much fear-turned-hate in the hearts of people I deeply love— possibly teach me about living a full, beautiful, wise, compassionate life?” – Kineret Yardena. Participant of 2015 retreat. REGISTER AND READ MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT Still Poem by Wisława Szymborska (Polish poet and recipient of Nobel Prize in literature) In sealed box cars travel names across the land, and how far they will travel so, and will they ever get out, don’t ask, I won’t say, I don’t know. The name Nathan strikes fist against wall, the name Isaac, demented, sings, the name Sarah calls out for water for the name Aaron that’s dying of thirst. Don’t jump while it’s moving, name David. You’re a name that dooms to defeat, given to no one, and homeless, too heavy to bear in this land. Let your son have a Slavic name, for here they count hairs on the head, for here they tell good from evil by names and by eyelids’ shape. Don’t jump while it’s moving. Your son will be Lech. Don’t jump while it’s moving. Not time yet. Don’t jump. The night echoes like laughter mocking clatter of wheels upon tracks. A cloud made of people moved over the land, a big cloud gives a small rain, one tear, a small rain-one tear, a dry season. Tracks lead off into black forest. Cor-rect, cor-rect clicks the wheel. Gladeless forest. Cor-rect, cor-rect. Through the forest a convoy of clamors. Cor-rect, cor-rect. Awakened in the night I hear cor-rect, cor-rect, crash of silence on silence. (translated by Magnus J....

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“How Simple the Answers Are” – Testimonials from Council in Bosnia/Herzegovina

Photo by Tamara Cvetković (left) “How Simple the Answers Are” Testimonials from Council in Bosnia/Herzegovina In March 15-18 2016, The Zen Peacemakers, together with the Center for Peacebuilding and led by Center for Council Director Jared Seide (Read Jared’s report of the training here), conducted a four-day Way of Council training for 22 Bosniak, Croats and Serb women and men. This training is another step in the peacebuilding effort to address the deep suffering in the balkans following the genocide of the ’90’s.   “When I think of Council… It is fascinating how many layers of prejudices and expectations you have to strip off yourself to enter into an honest heart-to-heart conversation. It is fascinating how even when you think you have reached that point, you get astonished realizing how far you have to go to get to the point of speaking and listening heart-to-heart. And it is fascinating how, when you think that nobody sitting there with you can surprise you anymore, you discover that you have not even started that conversation. It is fascinating to discover that everybody can go far beyond in sharing the pain we all have. But above all, it is fascinating how simple the answers are. All you have to do is to be there, to step in it and let yourself be… whoever you never had an idea you were.” (Nikica Lubura-Reljic) “Last week’s training in council was an amazing opportunity not only to familiarize ourselves with the methodology a bit better, and more thoroughly, but also to see it work in Bosnian circumstances. It might sound funny, but during our Auschwitz councils I had only one thing on my mind: this will never work in Bosnia. The fact that our mentality is pretty closed and that patriarchy, as such, dictates emotional distance, added to the fact that we haven’t had any formal nor systematically organized support on psychological post-war issues, pretty much determined my pessimism. Therefore, there is nobody happier than me to share impressions on our work and process! Firstly, I must commend Jozo’s and Jared’s patience, which was needed to overcome all the mechanisms Bosnians use when somebody tries to open them and provide safe space for sharing their deep fears and emotions. As I anticipated, it...

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Coming Back to Ourselves: Council Training in the Balkans

The following report on the ongoing Zen Peacemakers peace-building efforts in Bosnia/Herzegovina is a glimpse into the ongoing development of our Bearing Witness program that includes Auschwitz/Birkanu, Poland, The Black Hills in Turtle Island/South Dakota, USA and Bosnia/Herzegovina. These are funded by donations and income from previous retreats (learn more here). They are planned, staffed and participated by many of our Zen Peacemaker Order members, who are actively pursuing social action causes around the world in ecology, human rights, refugee relief, hunger, homelessness, hospice, veteran support and prison outreach and others. To join the Zen Peacemaker Order and participate in world-wide community of spiritual practitioners and social activists, follow this link.   “Coming Back to Ourselves: Notes on a Council Training Workshop in the Balkans” By Jared Seide, Center for Council, ZPO Three participants in last year’s Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat to Auschwitz had come from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). They arrived in Poland with some trepidation about just what the plunge would be like. They left shaken and pretty raw. When Jozo and I met them this month in Sarajevo, they were eager and energized. “I’ve missed you guys so much,” Boris said, “and, seeing you here, I’m starting to realize what the trip to Auschwitz was really about and why I’ve been feeling so unsettled these past months.” Turning toward suffering can take many forms. As a practice, it can seem counterintuitive and, to be wholesome, it demands skillful means, deep fortitude and compassion. The suffering of the Bosnian people is deep and profound and the events of twenty years ago are still tender and uncomfortable. Even now, excruciating memories are triggered by certain sites, uncorked stories, even turns of phrase. Despite the notorious “Bosnian humor,” an off-color and surprising proclivity for diffusing tension with dark jokes, there seems to be a longing for a real encounter with our common experience of suffering. So much there has gone unaddressed, unrestored, unmet… and a deep and embodied experience of coming together to grieve, release, celebrate feels emergent. Or so we imagined, as we designed a 4-day Council Training with an assortment of peaceworkers engaged in the complex and challenging work of rebuilding. The Zen Peacemakers Order is deeply committed to building relationships and bearing...

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BLACK HILLS: GOING BACK–AGAIN AND AGAIN

GOING BACK–AGAIN AND AGAIN By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photos by Peter Cunningham, at the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat     Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance died this past week. She is one of the  Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers representing native peoples all over the world, leading petitions and prayers for peace, human rights and the rights of our planet and its citizens. Grandmother Beatrice, an Oglala Lakota, came to the Zen Peacemakers’ retreat at the Black Hills last August along with her daughter, Loretta. She was already somewhat frail, but I was deeply moved to see her. How strong these Lakota women have had to be! They raise not just children but also nephews, nieces and grandchildren, and are often the most consistent breadwinners for their families. Grandmother Beatrice was no different, and in her younger years had to combat alcoholism like many other Lakota. But she became a leader and an inspiration to others, advocating finally not just on behalf of her native land and people but also for the entire globe. I often wonder about how people who’ve gone through trauma heal themselves. This question has accompanied me all my life. While other children grew up on Mother Goose rhymes, I grew up on my mother’s stories of the Holocaust. I couldn’t possibly understand the full extent of what she carried, but I did get just enough to wonder how one continues after such a childhood. How do you live with these memories and voices, these pictures in your mind? How do you not go crazy? And how do a few, like Grandmother Beatrice, use these kinds of early concussions as ballast to push off from and surge upwards, helping others rise, too? In July 2016 we return to the Black Hills to bear witness once more to this sacred place, promised by treaty to the Lakota and then sold down the river for gold. After gold, for other metals, the most recent one being uranium. It’s our old Western way of doing business, not just selling off the earth and its inhabitants as if they’re ours to sell, but also selling off our own word, our own honor. What I’m thinking of today is the slow step-by-step process of...

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“A Voice I Am Sending As I Walk” : An Invitation to the 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

NOTE: THE 2016 NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT IS A COMPLEX AND COSTLY EVENT. TO GUARANTEE ITS EXECUTION WE MUST GATHER 50 ADDITIONAL FULLY PAID REGISTRATIONS BY MAY 15th​. PLEASE JOIN US IN THIS MILESTONE EVENT AND COMPLETE YOUR REGISTRATION TODAY​ OR AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE​. (THE RETREAT IS FREE OF CHARGE TO ENROLLED TRIBE MEMBERS)   AN INVITATION TO ATTEND THE 2016 NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT By Eve Marko, Grover Genro Gauntt, Rami Efal “With visible breath I am walking. A voice I am sending as I walk. In a sacred manner I am walking. With visible tracks I am walking. In a sacred manner I walk.”[1] Personal healing—experiencing all aspects of our psyche as whole, as one body—takes years. Family healing, a little longer. Healing among communities, nations, and cultures takes generations. And what about the healing among humans, plants, animals, and the earth? How long does that take? If it takes an age, don’t we have to start immediately, persevering step after step, action after action, every day and every year? This summer the Zen Peacemaker Order will hold its second bearing witness retreat in the sacred Black Hills at the heart of Turtle Island. The first took place last year, in August 2015, but in some way it began in 1999, when Grover Genro Gauntt first went up to the Pine Ridge Reservation, meeting with Birgil Killstraight and Tuffy Sierra, the first of many tender forays into this middlemost nucleus of history, treachery, trauma, and denial. Sixteen years of this culminated in the retreat in the Black Hills in 2015. Genro went back year after year. Showing up again and again is an important practice for all of us who care about what the Black Hills stand for, historically for us here in America, and worldwide. The Hills are sacred to many native peoples and were promised to the Lakota and Dakota Nation by the United States government according to treaty. The promise was broken for the sake of gold, an archetypal mode of behavior repeated time and time again around the world. Be it lumber, salmon, elephant tusks or metals like gold and uranium, we have plundered the earth and wiped out many of its inhabitants. Now we are paying...

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BEAR WITNESS TO THE BLACK HILLS IN 2016

BEAR WITNESS TO THE BLACK HILLS IN 2016 NOTE: THE 2016 NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT IS A COMPLEX AND COSTLY EVENT. TO GUARANTEE ITS EXECUTION WE MUST GATHER 50 ADDITIONAL FULLY PAID REGISTRATIONS BY MAY 15th​. PLEASE JOIN US IN THIS MILESTONE EVENT AND COMPLETE YOUR REGISTRATION TODAY​ OR AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE​. THE RETREAT IS FREE OF CHARGE TO ENROLLED TRIBE MEMBERS In 2015, the Lakota Nation and Zen Peacemakers conducted the first Native American Bearing Witness retreat in South Dakota. It hosted over 180 people from over a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia who came to the Black Hills to bear witness to the land and to individuals from the Shawnee/Lenape, Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Mohawk, Lakota and Dakota nations about first-hand accounts of intergenerational trauma, present-day teen suicide epidemic, acute poverty, alcoholism and addictions, as well as presentations on historical bulls leading to the genocide and ecological justice issues. Together, each morning, we awoke to a ceremony appreciating the bounty of all that was around us – we bore witness to the majestic Black Hills – the running water streams, the tall grasses – referred to by the Lakota as Cante Wamakhognake – “The heart of everything that is.” We bore witness to our own lives and hearts – all that the hills gave rise to. Following the retreat in 2015 several members-led actions came forth, including the delivery of several thousand pounds of winter cloths and distribution in Pine Ridge reservation throughout the year. A Lakota delegation accompanied the 2015 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat and shared their ceremonies alongside with Muslims, Christians, Buddhist and Jews. The Zen Peacemakers, together with the Lakota Nation, will return to the Black Hills this summer for the 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in South Dakota, to continue this ongoing and long-term process of restoration of trust. Why Return? In the Zen Peacemakers, we practice bearing witness to the oneness of life, and to all that which veils this from our experience. Auschwitz, Rwanda, the Black Hills, Bosnia/Herzegovina are not the same. Each place, at each moment, is subjected to its own climate and politics, bathed in its own lore, its own history, its own forms of kindness and its own forms of ruthlessness. Coming to the Black Hills is unlike coming to Auschwitz. Coming to the Black Hills is unlike returning to the Black Hills. While bearing witness to a specific place...

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WHAT’S IN A PHOTO?

  WHAT’S IN A PHOTO? By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo by Peter Cunningham Monkfish Publications, which is publishing a book on Lex Hixon and the radio interviews he did in New York City’s WBAI in the 1970s and 1980s, recently asked us for a photo of Bernie from years ago. I SOS’d Peter Cunningham, photographer extraordinaire, and we went back and forth with various old photos (“Wow, look at that one!” ”Who’s that guy?” “Remember her!” “When was this?”, and on and on), and somewhere in that process, it hit both Peter and me how historic some of photos are, and the broad, multi-weave tapestry we’ve not only witnessed over these decades but have been raveled into ourselves. One photo showed Bernie, Peter Matthiessen, and Lex at a table in the Greyston mansion in Riverdale. Bernie, bald and in his tattered brown samue jacket, is the essence of animation as he lays out one vision after another, Peter looks pensively (painfully?) down, probably wishing he was back home writing a book, and Lex shines like the sun, face radiant. I’m not there, it’s before my days, but I’ll bet a million dollars that this was a board meeting to discuss Bernie’s thoughts and plans for opening up businesses and not for profits as vehicles for Zen practice. Any old member of the Zen Community of New York will remember those endless meetings, the excitement, exhilaration, and the trepidation (How are we ever going to get the money!). It caused me to recall my own first experience, coming up with a friend to the Greyston mansion in 1985 for the evening sitting, only to bumble into the middle of a residents’ gathering in an immense dining room. Generously, we were invited to sit in the corner of the long table as they talked about plans to serve monthly meals at the Yonkers Sharing Community to homeless people, hiring those same folks at the Greyston Bakery (which was already in existence), following that up by building permanent apartments for homeless families (in a county that for years built no apartments of any kind, just private homes and Mcmansions), child care centers, and programs to help folks get off the welfare system. I sat there, novice...

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Join Our Bearing Witness Programs in 2016

JOIN OUR BEARING WITNESS PROGRAMS IN 2016 “In the old Buddhist traditions in India and Tibet they had what they called charnel practices where you would go to the cemeteries and sit with the spirits that are coming in. It’s a very similar thing [to Bearing Witness Retreats] and a way of dealing with our own insecurity, our own fears, our own wanting to be ignorant of certain things and not really grasping that that means that we are not connecting to all that which is us. We are all one, we are all interconnected.” – Roshi Bernie Glassman For twenty years, the Zen Peacemakers, founded by Zen Teacher Bernie Glassman, created Bearing Witness Retreats in places of deep suffering around the world, such as in the Black Hills, Rwanda and in Auschwitz, where this retreat has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. These retreats are open and all-inclusive, crafted in intention to bear witness to suffering and to heal by bringing together as many, often estranged, constituencies as possible.   AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU BEARING WITNESS RETREAT OCT 31-NOV 4 2016 “I felt tormented…Bearing witness in Auschwitz, I am no longer alone with my ardent longing for peace.” – M.W. (Retreat Participant, Germany) This year, the Zen Peacemakers will return for the 21st year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat, a decades-long process of leaping into Not-Knowing where so much knowing is stored in suffering. Last year, the 20th Anniversary return to the camp was marked by 130 participants from over twenty nationalities, including Gaza, Palestine, the Lakota Nation of Turtle Island and Kalkadoon & Kiwai Nations of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Muslim, Jewish, Lakota, Buddhist and Christian spiritual ceremonies celebrated the diversity of faiths present. LEARN MORE ABOUT 2016 AUSCHWITZ RETREAT NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT, JUL 25-29 2016 “Individuals bearing witness […] can break a corrosive and demoralizing silence.” – C.H. (Retreat Participant, Lakota, Turtle Island) In 2015, the Lakota Nation and Zen Peacemakers conducted the first Native American Bearing Witness retreat in South Dakota. It hosted over 180 people from over a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia who came to the Black Hills to bear witness to the land and to individuals from the Shawnee/Lenape, Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Mohawk, Lakota and Dakota nations about first-hand accounts of intergenerational trauma,...

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Exploring the Bodhisattva Way, Free Adventures Every Day, Part 2

EXPLORING THE BODHISATTVA WAY, FREE ADVENTURES EVERY DAY, Part 2 By Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt A talk given at Upaya Zen Center on September 28, 2015 Download audio recording, Continued from Part 1 Transcribed by Scott Harris, Photo above by Peter Cunningham GENRO: […] So we don’t have much more time. It’s like a few minutes before the dinner bell rings. So I want to be open to questions. Please say your name before your questions. Audience member: Nancy. Genro: Hi Nancy. Audience member: What was it like in the Black Hills? What were the interactions with . . .? Genro: That’s a big one. That’s a big question. It was really wonderful. We camped for five days. There were some people that stayed in lodges. So if you want to come do that with us, you don’t have to camp. But I highly recommend it, because the Lakota name for the Black Hills is Cante Wamakhognake. And the translation for that is “The heart of everything that is.” So I would not want to go to my lodge room, and take a shower. I want to be on the land. Because it’s holy land for sure. The natives that were there, they were really surprised. The question that I heard most often was, “How do you know so many nice people?” They can’t imagine two hundred people that are not bigoted—seriously—or don’t have awful opinions of them, and how they should be living their lives, and not being at the tit of the state. That’s what they run into all the time. So the normal way of native people around Wasichu, and that’s what they call the non-Indians — Wasichu’s an interesting word. It means “the one who takes the fat.” That’s what they call the non-Indians, who were the explorers and the colonizers. The fat eaters, Wasichu. But their normal attitude around white people mostly is distance and fear. You know, “What are they gonna ask me? What are they gonna call me? What kind of judgment are they gonna make of me?” But in the Black Hills [retreat], in this container that arose, the native people were saying, “I’m just so happy. I’m just so full of joy to be here, and to be...

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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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“What Should I Sing To You?”

“What Should I Sing To You?”   Conversation with Krishna Das and Bernie Glassman Transcribed from a recording at Bernie’s house in Montague, MA USA, 9/21/2015     BERNIE: So we all talk about the interconnectedness of life, the oneness of life, but if we look carefully at ourselves and see how many aspects of life we shy away from or won’t come in contact, and then try to figure why. I think the biggest reason is fear. So that’s how these Bearing Witness retreats… Well, I don’t know if they started because of that, but that’s where the large numbers started. KD: I had a lot of fear before my first retreat, “How am I going to deal with this?” Just the fear of going, being in that place where so much suffering happened and so much torture and so much inhumanity was manifest. So I just didn’t know what was going to happen to me, you know. So just to go and go through the process and the practice of being in the camp at that time was] very freeing from that fear that I had. Just not that simple. And then to be talking about fear, how much fear there must have been in the camp at the time of the war. The atmosphere was extraordinary. BERNIE: We were just together in South Dakota, in the Black Hills and we met with the Lakota folks. And the fear, the elders went to boarding schools ran by Church, Catholic Church, and the fear that must have existed there, because if they spoke any Lakota they were beaten up, if they wore any traditional clothes they were beaten up. In that school there is a track where people run around and underneath that there’s graves of children that died there. So they had a reason to be afraid, but that fear permeates everywhere. The other reason for these Bearing Witness retreats is our ignorance, which I think that is with most of the non-Native Indians that came, they] had no idea of what went on in their own country, of what we did. KD: And are still doing.     BERNIE: And are still doing. And why we have these ignorant things? Again,...

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Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness

(Pictured above right to left: Michael O’keefe, Peter Matthiessen, Siddiq Powell, Bernie, Alisa and Mark Glassman,(Bernie’s children), Brendan Breen. Auschwitz/Birkenau 1996)   Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness By Bernie Glassman Photographs by Peter Cunningham   (Continued from Bernie’s Training: Social Engagement)  I had a student that many of you probably know, named Claude AnShin Thomas. And when I met him he had already been pretty heavily involved with Thich Nhat Hanh. He had been in the Vietnam War. He had had a mental breakdown. He was a very confused person. He couldn’t sleep at night, you know. He’d be kept up by the bombs, and all kinds of things. He had been a tailgate gunner on a helicopter, shooting people. And then he had a nervous breakdown. At any rate, he came to me wanting to know if he could ordain with me, and be my student. And for many different reasons I agreed. And it turned out that he was soon going to be involved in a walk. He did a lot of walking. His practice was walking. He walked across Europe. He walked all over. And very soon—maybe a year, I can’t remember the timing—he was going to join a bunch of Buddhist monks who chant the Lotus Sutra while marching and beat a drum, and chant— as they walk. Their practice is walking and social engagement. So somebody here was confused about Japanese maybe not being involved in social engagement—their leader, sort of a Gandhi kind of guy in Japan told them if they weren’t in jail half of the year, they weren’t being a good monk. They had to do resistance. That was part of their practice, and walking. So they were planning a walk from Auschwitz to Hiroshima—through all of the war-torn countries. And AnShin had decided to join them. So I said that I would go with him to Auschwitz, and give him Precepts, as a layperson. And I would do that at Auschwitz. And then I would join to the last month of that walk, and ordain him as a Priest at the helicopter site where he was stationed in Vietnam. And it turned out there was an interfaith conference being held at Auschwitz, in regards to this walk. And so...

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The Gypsy Girl

    The Gypsy Girl   By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Drawing by Manfred Bockelmann   On the window ledge behind my altar is a charcoal drawing of a Gypsy girl who was killed at Auschwitz/Birkenau, done by the Austrian artist, Manfred Bockelmann. For the past ten years Bockelmann has done charcoal drawings of children and young people killed by the Nazis from photos taken by the SS (http://manfred-bockelmann.de/arbeiten/zeichnungen/zeichnen-gegen-das-vergessen/). The photo was given me by a participant at the Auschwitz retreat that took place in early November. The girl seems to be around 10, dark, fringed hair parted down the middle and waving down the sides almost to her chin. Short, dark, upraised eyebrows under a high forehead. Eyes slightly slanted, pupils high and penetrating, the corners of her small lips turned down. A blouse with a V-shape collar, and what looks like a beaded necklace from which something dangles below the bottom edge of the picture. I’ve looked at this drawing every day since coming home, at the round face and pale, defenseless skin below her neck, and mostly the eyes that seem to call out with some kind of plea: To be remembered? Understood? Loved? Are they asking me to bear witness to what happened to Gypsy girls like her, to the starvation and exposure, their terror and despair? Recently I read about Settela Steinbach, who was murdered along with her mother and 9 siblings at Auschwitz. Do I bear witness to the scale of such atrocities each time I look at the Gypsy girl’s face? Or does that face become a catch-all for my own confusions and fears, my own dread of being blown away one unexpected, disastrous day?    Learn more about and register to the 2016 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat here.       Our last day at Birkenau is always Friday; having been there for four days, we arrive like old hands. Our routine, too, feels like a daily practice. I go through the familiar gate and down the tracks to the shed housing our equipment, pick up a chair, bench, cushion, or mat, and continue down the tracks to the site where they once did selections of who’d die right away and who’d die later. People offer...

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Book: “Pearls of Ash & Awe” & 21st Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat

20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & the Zen Peacemakers In 1996, Zen Master Bernie Glassman went to bear witness at Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time – together with 150 other people from ten nations. Ever since, peacemakers from many cultures and religions all over the world have joined this retreat each year. In the infamous place where the mechanized murder of more than a million people took place, participants not only encountered the horrors of the past but also explored the limits of their own humanity, examining how they themselves deal with the “Other”. For many, it was an inter-faith “plunge” that pierced deeply and transformed their lives. This book compiles the testimonies of more than 70 participants over the two decade span of the retreat. Those who wish not just to comprehend the events of the Holocaust, but also to confront its challenges to spirit and heart, will find themselves moved and inspired by these honest stories. They encourage all of us to open up and expand our understanding of what humanity truly is and can be. Edited by Kathleen Battke (D). Inspired and co-edited by Ginni Stern (USA) and Andrzej Krajewski (PL) Bilingual Edition: English-German Hardcover, ca. 300 pages, ISBN 978-3-942085-47-2 Ebook (ePub) ISBN 978-3-942085-50-2 Order the book on : https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en In 2016, enter and listen at Auschwitz yourself in the 21st Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness rereat Oct 31-Nov 4 Learn more about the purpose, planning and staffing of the ZPO Bearing Witness Retreats...

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2016 Bosnia/Herzegovina Retreat Postponed, Process Continues

The Zen Peacemaker Order has decided to continue the peace work process in Bosnia while postponing the retreat to 2017. Please read ahead on some of our reasonings. We at the ZPO are grateful for all those who have contributed, participated and supported this process to date. We are particularly grateful and excited to keep our collaboration with our friends at Center for Peacebuilding in Bosnia as we develop and listen to the process of bearing witness, to take action, together. We say Never again. But the impulse towards having one way of life in a particular area, is a very familiar one right now. It’s the wish to look around us and see people who look like us and speak our language, whose children dress and behave like ours. It’s our resolve to preserve our heritage and way of life to the exclusion of others whenever we feel they’re threatened. Many of us deeply feel the reality of Europe these days. Thousands of thousands refugees flocking there seeking safety and met with kindness and hospitality from some and violence, fear discrimination from others. In Bosnia, Muslims have lived together with Christians since the 15th century. Sometimes one dominated, sometimes another. Walking along Ferhadija Street in Sarajevo is a tour of both space and time, bearing witness to different religious and cultural streams as they come together and split apart. The architecture, the places of worship, stores and restaurants all testify to that unmistakable quality of aliveness when different cultures come together in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation. Not so the thousands of bullet holes in the walls of almost every building built before 1992. Not so Srebrenica. more than 100,00 Muslims Roman Catholics, and orthodox Christians were hurt and killed. The complexity that is Bosnia/Herzegovina requires more listening. Times of great change test us strongest. It’s easy to lower our voices and withdraw in the face of violence by extremes on both sides. It’s easy to say that we don’t know what to do. Already today innocent people are persecuted even as a great, silent, fearful majority waits to see what happens. On this day the drowned, washing ashore on Mediterranean beaches, amidst our indignation and shame silently call us to...

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Black Elk Still Speaks 

Image Courtesy of SHEPARD FAIREY/OBEYGIANT.COM AND AARON HUEY   Two Weeks Left to Register for 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat   From a talk given at the Green River Zen Center on June 16, 2015 by Eve Marko In the book Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk described how, at the age of nine, he had a powerful vision and was told by the great Thunder Beings to share this vision with his tribe. Afraid and unsure of himself, he was miserable for the next eight years: “A terrible time began for me then and I could not tell anybody—not even my father and mother. I was afraid to see a cloud coming up, and whenever one did, I could hear the thunder beings calling to me, “Behold your grandfathers, make haste.” I could understand the birds when they sang, and they were always saying, “It is time, it is time.” The crows in the day and the coyotes at night, all called and called to me, “It is time, it is time, it is time.” Time to do what? I did not know . . . Sometimes the crying of coyotes out in the cold made me so afraid that I would run out of one tepee into another, and I would do this until I was worn out and fell asleep. I wondered if maybe I was only crazy, and my father and mother worried a great deal about me. I could not tell them what was the matter for then they would only think I was queerer than ever. I was seventeen years old that winter. When the grasses were beginning to show their tender faces again, my father and mother asked an old medicine man by the name of Black Road to come over and see what he could do for me. Black Road was in a tepee all alone with me and he asked me to tell him if I had seen something that troubled me. By now I was so afraid of being afraid of everything that I told him about my vision. And when I was through, he looked long at me and said, “Ah,” meaning that he was much surprised. Then he said to me, “Nephew, I know...

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Four Weeks to Black Hills

“What we would like you to do is to pray. Come and pray with the Lakota. Come and pray with us, for the Lakota, for ourselves, for us, and for this earth.” – Lakota Elder and Bearing Witness Retreat Spirit Holder In this rare event the Lakota Elders have invited all those who wish to come and bear witness at the sacred Black Hills to the present day expressions of the genocide and suffering of the Native Americans in the United States of America. We are entering the last month of preparation to the Zen Peacemaker Order Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills, South Dakota USA. August 10-14 2015 LISTEN to a radio interview Lakota Leader Tuffy Sierra and Zen Peacemaker Order Spirit Holder Roshi Genro Gauntt. READ Roshi Eve Myonen Marko reflection on the vision of the retreat. WATCH Aaron Huey’s TED talk on America’s Native Prisoners of War. REGISTER here and get detailed information about the retreat. For questions please call 347.210.9556 or...

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Be My Witnesses in Jerusalem: Bosnia, May 2015

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko When I think of our time in Srebrenica, it’s not the gravestones I remember, rows and rows of white obelisks dotting long grassy mounds climbing halfway up the surrounding hills, nor the slanting walls of names that glittered even under gray skies. Nor is it the gorgeous forested mountains, the Dinaric Alps covered with beech and pine and reminding me of Switzerland, through which we drove to get down to the memorial commemorating a massacre of over 8,300 people. In fact, when Hasan Hasanović invited us to join him as he testified about what he and his family endured almost 20 years ago, among more than 50,000 who came for refuge in what was the United Nation’s first “Safe Area,” to be protected by “all necessary means, including the use of force,”[1] I thought that was it. What is more powerful than the testimony of a genocide survivor? We sat outdoors by the entrance to the gigantic cemetery on a large rug alongside Muslim visitors, as Hasan—black hair and eyes, and a profile sharpened by experience—recounted how, when Republika Srpska army units (VRS) overran Srebrenica, thousands of Bosniak men and boys decided to try to make it to Tusla, in safe territory, on their own. Joining them, he made his way through 55 kilometers of rugged, mountainous terrain in the summer heat, with little food or water, all while being shelled and ambushed by the VRS. Those taken prisoner were removed and executed though they were civilians, so that in all, only about one-third of those who began the trek to safety made it, haggard and emaciated, haunted for life. Those who stayed behind underwent selections. Most of the men, including young boys and the old, were taken away and never seen again. Register for the Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia/Herzegovina May 2016 A friendly, yellow sun appears to beam on some 8,300 obelisk-like gravestones marking the final resting place of those whose tortured bodies were finally found, identified through DNA, and interred here. July 2015 will mark 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre, and families are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. Not only were their boys and men murdered and buried in mass graves,...

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Two Months to Black Hills

First nations around the world have lost their lands, languages, and ways of life at the hands of American and European colonialists pursuing an agenda of domination, genocide, theft, and the elimination of indigenous cultures and identities. Entire nations have vanished. This catastrophe is not just theirs; it belongs to all humans, and to the earth itself, for it has been succeeded by the calamitous loss of animals and plants, and the specter of global warming. What does it say about us and our separation from this earth? What does it say about our relationship not just to biodiversity, but to human diversity? What does it say about our cultural assumptions of superiority and how they continue to underlie our historical narratives? It is time to bear witness to our systems of thought and values, and to their actions and results that persist to this very day. While hundreds of Native American tribes have been eliminated, drastically reduced in number, exiled, and traumatized, the Lakota/Dakota people of the Western Plains have gained a prominent position in the world psyche as a major archetype of what has befallen America’s native people. The massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, is viewed by many as a defining event in the genocide of the American Indians, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. What we are most blind to is the continuous institutional violence practiced on the Lakota Nation and other tribes, comprising treaty violations, Congressional acts that permit thievery of their land and resources, the building of dams and flooding of burial grounds hundreds of years old, and the constant encroachment of corporate interests looking to “develop” lands commercially and mine sacred sites for various metals, including uranium. The Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in August 2015 is but the first step in a process of coming together with Native Americans, many of whom continue to distrust the Wasichu, or white man, punning the name with wašin icu, which means he who takes the fat, someone who is greedy and dishonorable. This first step is bearing witness to the trauma, pain, and loss suffered by members of the Lakota Nation at the hands of the American government and corporations, supported by the...

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Twenty Years Ago, Long Long Ago: Reflections On How It (Auschwitz Retreat) All Started by Eve Marko

This article will appear in: AschePerlen. Zeugnisse aus 20 Jahren Friedenspraxis in Auschwitz mit Bernie Glassman und den ZenPeacemakers Pearls of Ash and Awe. Testimonies from 20 years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman and the ZenPeacemakers Lieferbar Oktober 2015 / available October 2015 I first accompanied Bernie Glassman to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the first days of December 1994, before anyone conceived of a bearing witness retreat at the site of the concentration camps. He was going there to do a Transmission of Precepts ceremony for Claude Thomas, a Vietnam veteran, at an interfaith convocation convened there by Buddhist activist Paula Green and the Nipponzan Myohoji Zen community. Claude was later joining a group that would walk from Poland all the way to Hiroshima, Japan. In my family, two aunts and an uncle died at Auschwitz. Another uncle barely survived the hard labor and lived the rest of his life like an extinguished candle. My grandfather died in 1944 and my mother and her other siblings hid in cellars before getting caught and sent to the Terezin camp near Prague, Czechoslovakia. They were close to death when the Russian army liberated the camp in 1945. Given all this history, I thought, what better way to go to a place like Auschwitz than with one’s own teacher? But as I sat alone on a bench along the Vistula River on the weekend before meeting Bernie, I wasn’t so sure. Years of Zen practice slipped off me like snakeskin, revealing underneath the Jewish woman whose forbears lived, prayed, starved, and finally left Poland for Czechoslovakia. “Don’t just go to see where they died,” my brother had told me on the phone, “also go to where they lived.” So I had indeed flown to Warsaw and taken the train south to Krakow, peering out the windows at dark, hushed houses and even darker twilights. Other Westerners in the compartment, en route to the convocation, talked eagerly and happily; they were not Jews. They didn’t listen to the clanging wheels or the shriek of brakes, they didn’t look out at bare, wintry farms and remember shtetl markets, they didn’t try to pierce through black beech and pine trees and wonder about unmarked graves in the forests. Only...

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“America’s Native Prisoners of War” by Aaron Huey

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk. (Filmed at...

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Centennial Memorial of the Armenian Genocide

Dear extended Zen PeaceMaker family, On Friday, April 24th, 2015 we mark the Official Centennial Memorial of The Armenian Genocide where 1,500,000 Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syrians and Chaldeans perished on the command of the Ottoman Young Turk regime. We recognize the wound that has never been able to heal from the continual evasion of responsibility and denial of the contemporary Turkish government. We also see that denial as an expression of Turkish suffering around this history. We sit allowing ourselves to be fully present to these sufferings, Bearing Witness to the pain and resentment that racism and hatred has built over the last century and offer our open hearts and minds even to those temporarily caught in the grasps of that hatred. We witness in ourselves our own murmurs of violence in our everyday occurrences that are the seeds of Genocidal intent. We say prayers for those hundreds of thousands of victims so senselessly murdered and for the perpetrators lost in delusion of their separation and hatred. We recognize that the term “Genocide” was created by Raphael Lemkin in specific reference to the horrific mass killings of the Armenians and so is properly applied retroactively.  And we also recognize the overwhelming majority of international scholars also agree. So we pray for a resolution and political shift to allow a healing to finally begin for both. We have witnessed the huge Turkish outpouring of sympathy after the assassination of newspaper editor Hrant Dink and so we are perhaps seeing the beginnings of that possible shift already. And, in our lifetimes, we have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of Apartheid, so we do not loose our steadfast resolve that this too could come to pass in our lifetimes. Eric...

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Lakota tribe struggles to stop surge in teen suicides

The people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are no strangers to hardship or to the risk of lives being cut short. But a string of seven suicides by adolescents in recent months has shaken this impoverished community and sent school and tribal leaders on an urgent mission to stop the deaths. On Dec. 12, a 14-year-old boy hanged himself at his home on the reservation, a sprawling expanse of badlands on the South Dakota-Nebraska border. On Christmas Day, a 15-year-old girl was found dead, followed weeks later by a high school cheerleader. Two more young people took their lives in February and two more in March, along with several more attempts. The youngest to die was 12. Students in the reservation’s high school and middle school grades have been posting Facebook messages wondering who might be next, with some even seeming to encourage new attempts by hanging nooses near homes. Worried parents recently met at a community hall to discuss what’s happening. And the U.S. Public Health Service has dispatched teams of mental health counselors to talk to students. “The situation has turned into an epidemic,” said Thomas Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, whose 24-year-old niece was among two adults who also committed suicide this winter. “There are a lot of reasons behind it. The bullying at schools, the high unemployment rate. Parents need to discipline the children.” Somewhere between 16,000 and 40,000 members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe live on the reservation, which at over 2 million acres is among the nation’s largest. Famous as the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, in which the 7th Cavalry slaughtered about 300 tribe members in 1890, it includes the county with the highest poverty rate in the U.S., and some of the worst rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, violence and unemployment. Suicide has been a persistent problem, a fact that is hardly surprising considering the grim prospects for a better life on the remote grasslands, say tribal officials. Most people live in clusters of mobile homes, some so dilapidated that the insulation is visible from outside. At night, trailers are surrounded by seven or eight rusting cars, not because someone is hosting a party, but because 20 or 25...

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Reflections by Eve Marko on Visit to the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge Reservation

Reflections by Eve Marko on Exploratory Visit to the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge Reservation Whiteclay, Nebraska Whiteclay, Nebraska Birgil Kills Straight Tuffy Sierra Tuffy Sierra Retreat Site Winter Retreat Site Retreat Site Retreat Site Map Retreat Site Retreat Site Tiokasin Ghosthorse Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills The slideshow is paused and the title is shown when your mouse hovers over the picture. Whiteclay, Nebraska, is not a town like others on the map. It consists of some half dozen very large, red sheds facing each other across the muddy road that winds down from the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation a mile north. Pine Ridge, in the state of South Dakota, has been dry for over a century, but this town is just as wet as could be, and not just from the sickly clay that turns to sludge with each rainfall. “This is where they come to drink,” Bennett “Tuffy” Sierra tells us. We reach the end of the row of beer stores in a few seconds flat so he pulls onto the broken pavement. Instantly a gaunt, ageless woman appears at his window, wearing nothing over her thin gray sweatshirt though it’s almost freezing outside and a cold rain flattens the thin strands of hair on top of her head. He mouths no, shaking his ponytail for emphasis, wrinkles deepening in his dark brown face. “My father died from drink. My uncle was hit on the head right outside that store and made it to the side of that trailer there—see it?—where he went to sleep, only it snowed that night and he died of hypothermia.” A cousin sobered up for 20 years, then went back out. Police shot and killed him when they found him waving a gun outside a bar. Went back out. Not fell off the wagon, not started drinking or using again, but went back out. It usually starts with drinking at Whiteclay. A few, like Tuffy Sierra, once a champion bull rider in rodeos up and down the state of California and throughout the West, finally stopped coming down here. But of those who’ve stopped, many still go back out. Some are Tuffy’s relatives: The girl who went into...

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One month left for Early Bird Discounted Fees

For Native American Bearing Witness Retreat This retreat will focus on the American Indian genocide, oppression and neglect that began at the end of the fifteenth century and continues to this day.  A defining event of this era is the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. Although hundreds of Native American tribes have been either eliminated, drastically reduced, moved or vastly traumatized, for many reasons, the Lakota / Dakota people of the western plains have gained a prominent position in the world psyche as a major archetype of what has befallen America’s native people. The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemaker Order’s Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. and Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are returning for the 20th year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat in November 2015. Bernie Glassman began the annual Bearing Witness Retreats in 1996, with help from Eve Marko and Andrzej Krajewski. They have taken place annually every year since then. Much has been written about these annual retreats; at least half a dozen films have been made about them in various languages. They are multi-faith and multinational in character, with a strong focus on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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The Wounding of the Native American Soul

In the early ’80s, a Lakota professor of social work named Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart coined the phrase “historical trauma.” What she meant was “the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations.” Another phrase she used was “soul wound.” The wounding of the Native American soul, of course, went on for more than 500 years by way of massacres, land theft, displacement, enslavement, then—well into the twentieth century—the removal of Native American children from their families to what were known as Indian residential schools. These were grim, Dickensian places where some children died in tuberculosis epidemics and others were shackled to beds, beaten, and raped. Brave Heart did her most important research near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the home of Oglala Lakota and the site of some of the most notorious events in Native American martyrology. In 1890, the most famous of the Ghost Dances that swept the Great Plains took place in Pine Ridge. We might call the Ghost Dances a millenarian movement; its prophet claimed that, if the Indians danced, God would sweep away their present woes and unite the living and the dead. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, took the dances at Pine Ridge as acts of aggression and brought in troops who killed the chief, Sitting Bull, and chased the fleeing Lakota to the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, where they slaughtered hundreds and threw their bodies in mass graves. (Wounded Knee also gave its name to the protest of 1973 that brought national attention to the American Indian Movement.) Afterward, survivors couldn’t mourn their dead because the federal government had outlawed Indian religious ceremonies. The whites thought they were civilizing the savages. Today, the Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest spots in the United States. According to census data, annual income per capita in the largest county on the reservation hovers around $9,000. Almost a quarter of all adults there who are classified as being in the labor force are unemployed. (Bureau of Indian Affairs figures are darker; they estimate that only 37 percent of all local Native American adults are employed.) According to a health data research center at the University of Washington, life expectancy for men...

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2015 Bearing Witness Retreat in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Registration is Now Open For September 1-5, 2015 Bearing Witness Retreat in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. To read more and/or to register click here. The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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Reflections on Rwanda (1): Creating Us and Them by Russell Delman

I recently participated in a “Bearing Witness Retreat” sponsored by both the Zen Peacemaker Order, based in the U.S. and Memos- Learning from History, based in Rwanda in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.  Having just returned, I am both deeply grateful for the inspiring human beings I have met and reeling as I process what I have experienced.  I come away both devastated and extremely hopeful for our potential as human beings. Brief history: in 1994, inflamed by their leaders, the largest group in Rwanda called Hutu’s, went on a 100 day rampage of collective insanity with the intention of eliminating the minority, yet socially dominant group, called Tutsi’s.  This genocidal campaign in which neighbor turned on neighbor with machete’s and clubs is perhaps the most violent short term instance of genocide in human history. (Note- there is, of course, much more to the story and many angles: how colonialism worked to divide people, aggressions by the Tutsi’s etc., I am only focusing on the specific genocide in the spring of 1994.)   “Genocide is not one million deaths, it is one death a million times” (quote seen in the Rwanda genocide museum)  We are in the genocide museum in Kigali the capital of Rwanda.  The history of these incomprehensible acts is presented through words and large panoramic pictures.  I see Allison (name changed for confidentiality), one of the Rwandan retreat participants lingering in front of one picture.  Although we do not share a common language we have exchanged deep, warm looks over the previous day.  As I stand next to Allison she leans into me.  I put my arm around her.  She points to the picture: the woman in the picture is missing much of her right arm as is Allison.  The woman in the picture has a large cut on the right side of her face as does Allison.  Suddenly I see- we are looking at Allison!  I discovered that it is impossible for me to process so many deaths.  My body freezes, a lump in my belly won’t move, stuck like an undigested mass. The feelings can not move.  When I sit with one person, someone with a name, perhaps their picture, then I can feel...

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Possible Congo Bearing Witness Retreat

The Zen Peacemakers is considering hosting, with Congo partners, a Bearing Witness Retreat in the Congo. It would most likely occur in early 2016. If you would like to be notified if this retreat becomes a reality, please fill out the form below. In April, 2014, we held a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda which included folks from the Congo. It was an amazing retreat and we discussed holding a similiar retreat in the Congo with the Congolese...

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Rwanda: April 2014, Report on Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat by Eve Marko

zazen-grave wreath wreath-laying weomen step-sitting spiral skulls rain rain-walk photos morley,children morley-women mass-grave man landscape juliette,pauline hands flower flower-putting eve,bernie,congo dorms crowd candles bernie-bus art alice All Photos by Ola Kwiatkowska Monday, April 14. We’re at the EPR, the Presbyterian Church’s well-known guesthouse in Kigali, seated on chairs assembled in a circle. Downstairs a children’s choir practices for the Easter weekend services; they will sing for us tomorrow at our orientation. But right now we’re 11 Council facilitators, 6 “internationals” and 5 Rwandans. It’s supposed to be 6 Rwandans.  Where is Albertine? Albertine withdrew. Why? Death in family. No, Noella corrects, speaking in English very slowly in a clear, mellifluous voice: They discovered the whereabouts of the remains of her family members and the family is preparing to receive them and prepare them for burial. Are remains still being found even now, 20 years later, I ask our host, Dora Urujeni, and she explains that prison inmates are still revealing the whereabouts of those they killed so long ago. Someone else is assigned to take Albertine’s place so that now we’re what we should be, 6 and 6, and can continue the preparations begun last January when Jared Seide, Director of the Center for Council, flew to Rwanda and trained a group of young Rwandans to become council facilitators and lead, in their words, peace circles. Out of that group Jared chose 6 to co-facilitate during this retreat. But Albertine’s absence casts a shadow over our small group, a micro version of the vaster shadow hanging over Rwanda in April 2014: the almost 1 million Tutsi men, women and children who died over a period of 100 days starting April 1994. That year, Easter fell on April 3 in Catholic Rwanda. Five days after mourning Christ’s crucifixion and three after celebrating his resurrection, Rwandans started killing each other. And no matter where you go, whom you talk to, no matter how green and pastoral the hills (Rwanda is known as the Land of One Thousand Hills) and how bountiful the rains, the pain is there: in the keening and wailing of women during the annual ceremonies, in the testimonies of survivors, in the memorial piles of skulls and bones, in people’s eyes. “It was...

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Personal Relections on Bearing Witness in Rwanda by Roshi Eve Myonen Marko

People often don’t understand such a bearing witness trip. I have been asked why anyone would travel a long way to East Africa to listen to people describe a genocide perpetrated on them close to 20 years ago. Someone asked me candidly if I felt a peculiar attraction to terrible suffering. I can only speak of my experience. Of course, as a member of a family that suffered from the Jewish Holocaust, I have a special interest in how another ethnic group of humans fared after being designated cockroaches, or untermenschen. The two genocides share differences and similarities. But more generally, I went to Rwanda to witness how these survivors are struggling with the question of what it means to be human. In some way many of us would say that we struggle with the same question in our own lives. But the Rwandans can’t fake it. They’ve seen their families wiped out and must find some way to move on, face the killers, and plunge into the inquiry of what to do: Remember? Forget? Forgive? Hate? Take revenge? Remember God? Forget God? To me it doesn’t matter what the answer is; the question matters, the readiness—out of choice or lack of choice—to bear witness, to own completely one’s individual life and that of society. What loving action emerges may well differ from person to person, but what the people we talked to had in common was a readiness to fully engage with this most basic of human challenges. Yes, they each expressed sincere appreciation for our coming there to listen to them. It’s crucial to them that the world wants to listen, to join in their pain if only for a short time. But to me it’s clear that I brought home something immeasurably precious: various soft, clear, courageous voices articulating age-old experiences of suffering and the quest to relieve suffering. Each person did this in her own way, with a simplicity that had no patience for the trivial but that only spoke of what was done, and now what is to be done. Instead of running away, they had to face the killers. Instead of denying, they wished to walk down the streets of their village and meet the Other face to...

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What are Bearing Witness Retreats? – Bernie Glassman

In the days of Shakyamini Buddha, during the rainy season, Buddha would stop his meandering and spend time with his monks and nuns in one locale. In Japanese this period is called Ango, a period in space and time of peace. In English we use the word retreat to often mean “getting away from the issues of the world.” A Bearing Witness Retreat is becoming one with the “issues of the world.” A Zen Meditation Retreat is to bear witness to the wholeness of life. I use the word “plunge” for my Bearing Witness Retreats. To plunge into the unknown, i.e., to plunge into that which my rational mind can’t fathom. These plunges or Bearing Witness Retreats have helped folks let go of their attachments to their ideas or concepts and experience things as they are. Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat Nov 4-8, 2013 READ MORE/REGISTER  Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are returning for the 18th year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat in November 2013. Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat April 14-19, 2014 READ MORE/REGISTER In April 2014, Zen Masters Bernie Glassman and Grover Genro Gauntt will go to Rwanda to bear witness to the Rwanda genocide. You are invited to join them for this Bearing Witness Retreat.  Dora Urujeni and Issa Higiro, representing Memos, will be our hosts in Rwanda.The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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Auschwitz II — Zen Peacemakers' retreat, June 2010, from Jiko

I did not go to Auschwitz to find out what happened there, nor to understand the worst that the human mind can do. Nor did I go in sympathy with the suffering of the Jews and others killed and tortured there. The only reason to go was to discover to what my own heart and mind could open from staying with such a dire, unbearable, and unfathomable event. I asked how the potential or actuality of what produced Auschwitz, is present and manifesting in my life? Can this experience help me learn and connect with my own humanness, help me in choosing love/identity as the only motivation for action in my life? We are taught in many religions that there is a “peace that surpasseth all understanding,” the stillness at the center of the storm, the great wisdom in which the small discomforts that can absorb our days and our energies are as nothing in the grand functioning of the cosmos, in the mightiness of God, or the cosmic void. What we experience is never personal — only our self-protective responses make it seem so. For the first three days at Auschwitz I was uncomfortable at hearing, seeing all the horror, viewing reconstructed, imagined lives of Jewish communities before the holocaust, and imagining the dislocation and cruelty of their precipitous deaths without dignity, the removal of their freedoms in the grossest of ways. I tried to imagine the mind that could be unmoved while doing such terrible actions. I was wondering if my being relatively unperturbed in the midst of all this came out of such a mind, unable to connect, distant and cold. Or was it acceptance of the human condition? My thoughts considered that I have studied old age, sickness and death intimately and deeply over quite a few years. We will all die, and death does not look too bad — my own near death experiences have felt like release and enfolding rather than fearful deprivations. Many of us die prematurely. Many of us suffer sickness and pain. Many of us, our lives and our passionate, loving dedication of sustained effort, are abused and misused. We lose hope, we lose our loved ones, our children, our countries, homes, possessions, and our...

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New Book on Bearing Witness in Rwanda

This new book made by Fleet Maull and Peter Cunningham recounts their experiences at the first Bearing Witness Retreat in...

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Detroit Street Retreat: May 13th-16th

DETROIT STREET RETREAT SOCIAL ACTION THROUGH BEARING WITNESS May 13th – 16th, 2010 “When we go… to bear witness to life on the streets, we’re offering ourselves. Not blankets, not food, not clothes, just ourselves.” -Bernie Glassman, Bearing Witness We will live on the streets of Detroit, having to beg for money, find places to get food, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc. By bearing witness to homelessness, we begin to see our prejudices directly and to recognize our common humanness. We will stay together as a group and twice a day participate in meditation (in the Buddhist and Christian traditions) and sharing. The donation for the retreat is $250.00. All funds will be donated to Homeless Service agencies and to the non-profit forming to address systemic causes and find solutions to homelessness in Detroit. Registration and payment deadline is May 7, 2010. The retreat is limited to 12 participants on a first come, first served basis. Jeanie Murphy O’ Connor and DaeBulDo Stuart Smith will lead the retreat. To learn more about bearing witness to homelessness, read Bearing Witness by Bernie Glassman. If you have any questions or to register, please contact Jeanie or Ch’anna Lynda Smith at:...

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