Zen Peacemakers http://zenpeacemakers.org Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:29:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Fr. Manfred http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-fr-manfred/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-fr-manfred/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 16:05:27 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13965 404619_133959396723221_508094753_n

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.   BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS Manfred Deselaers, Germany/Poland (In photo, first on left)   I live in Oświęcim since 1990, in the Catholic Community Mariae Himmelfahrt, and since 1995 […]]]>
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 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” –
reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Manfred Deselaers, Germany/Poland
(In photo, first on left)

 

I live in Oświęcim since 1990, in the Catholic Community Mariae Himmelfahrt, and since 1995 I work as a minister for the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer (CDiM). From the beginning on I was aware of the [Zen] Peacemaker Retreats, from a big distance at first. In the nineties, I heard from priest Piotr Wrona, director of the CDiM at that time, that an American international Buddhist inter-religious group with Jewish roots (or something like that, I don’t remember exactly) was planning and conducting contemplative days in Auschwitz. I had no idea what that meant. Then coincidental meetings happened, conversations in between, invitations and then, eventually, at some point the request to take over the role of a Christian Spirit Holder. Later I often said that for me, the Peacemaker Retreats belong to the most important events in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Why?

There are few groups, which listen so intensively to “the voice of this ground”. Sightseeing – yes, of course. Meetings with contemporary witnesses, too. But sitting in silence on the tracks, from time to time chanting the names of those who were murdered… feeling the space while meditating, becoming aware of the many different dimensions in different spots of the camp site… this is such an intense offering to take this place and its victims (and even its offenders) seriously that even former inmates came back to participate.

I also learned a lot from the method of Silent Sharing. Mornings in small groups, evenings in bigger groups. It’s not the lectures that account for the atmosphere, it’s the respectful listening to the inner wealth everyone brings in. “Auschwitz” – that was the annihilation of others. Nearly none of all the groups coming to Auschwitz these days is bringing together different nations, biographies, faiths and religions so intentionally. The healing of broken identities and broken relationships belongs together, there is no other way, I’m convinced of that. New trust comes from honest listening to each other. For that, it needs a safe space, allowing for trust. That is what this retreat offers.

I’m a Catholic priest, not a Jew, not a Buddhist. This means, I am under no obligation to engage in liturgies that I don’t understand or can’t relate to. And that goes for other people too. That’s why for me the respect towards the other-ness of the others was always very important. It was expressed, for example, in the separate prayers for the different religious groups that were part of the retreat program, even when almost everything else is offered collectively. Anyone could visit “the others”, but also find a group with a familiar prayer-language. Sometimes, collective prayers or prayer-paths would form, in which we would express ourselves in our traditions successively. (…)

I have encountered so many beautiful people. My gratitude reaches out to all of them, especially to the founding parents and the pillars that make up the spine of these retreats from the very beginning, Bernie and his “family”. The retreat is not only “Bearing Witness” – it’s also Building a Civilization of Love…

 

This excerpt from Fr. Manfred’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en

 

 

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-damian/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-damian/#respond Tue, 21 Jun 2016 19:30:41 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13955 Damian Dudkiewicz

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.   WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE By Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain (in photo, third from right)   […] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might […]]]>
Damian Dudkiewicz

Damian Dudkiewicz

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” –
reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.

 

WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

By

Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain
(in photo, third from right)

 

[…] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might be over ten times. My first retreat happened in 1999, I was the youngest participant at that year, aged 18. I had not been to Auschwitz-Birkenau before.

As a Polish person, I learned about it at school, I saw programs on TV, read in history books, but never went there. A few months before the Retreat I had watched a short film done by a Polish director, Andrzej Titkov, about that event, and something deep down in my soul was calling me to go there. It became one of the most significant experiences I had in my life. The entire experience of this Bearing Witness Retreat was a big plunge for me into the history and energy of that place … into the known, and into the unknown. […] Asking myself what this retreat brought into my life, I say: it connected me with worlds inside and outside.

On the outside, I met lots of people from all over the planet, I experienced the oneness of differences … People from many countries, traditions, languages, cultures, sexual orientations, skin colors etc. in one place – that was a mind-opener for me. I started to learn English, and since 2008 I live in London. On the inside, the Retreat was a journey into my own sorrow, my own suffering, and I was able to connect with it. I met my own inner victim and also an oppressor, and it was possible to bring the lessons I learned into my daily life.

 

This excerpt from Damain’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en

 

ABWbanner2016v5Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in 2016

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“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/now-what-bernie-talks-about-the-first-days-after-his-stroke/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/now-what-bernie-talks-about-the-first-days-after-his-stroke/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 01:38:28 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13942 stroke2

  “NOW WHAT?” Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all […]]]>
stroke2

 

“NOW WHAT?”

Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke

Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris

Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all around. And all of a sudden, I was in my office with Rami—our office downstairs—and you were in your office, and all of the sudden, you came down to give me a note. Do you remember what that said?

Eve: Yeah. I wrote you a note on the yellow pad of paper, and it said, “Bernie, don’t take over the meeting. Just listen.”

Bernie: So, I got that note, I started to listen, and all of a sudden, I blacked out! And I have no memory—I don’t even know how many days I have no memory for. So maybe you can tell us a little about that initial period.  

Eve: Yeah, you sure took that seriously, “Don’t take over the meeting,” because at that point you started sliding down your chair. And Rami called me again, and I came down. And he had caught you, and put you on the floor. So you were lying on the floor, on your back. I looked at your face. And you were talking at that point. I asked you to raise your leg, and you couldn’t raise your leg. And I asked you to raise your arm, and you couldn’t do that. And then I could tell that your speech was beginning to slur. And then it just stopped. And I asked you, and you just, like did this [shaking head left and right], or something like that—that you couldn’t speak anymore. Oh, and I said I wanted to call 911, and you said, “No.” And I must have asked you another one or two questions, and then I called 911.

And they came, and they were great. They were ready, and they hooked you onto certain medication, put you in an ambulance, took you to a hospital in Greenfield [MA]. They turned right around then, and took you down to Springfield, also in the ambulance. And you went straight into the Emergency Room. And from there you went to Critical Care. And then you went down to Neurological Critical Care. And then you went down to a regular bed.

So at each of these stages they were trying to stabilize you. They knew right away that you had suffered a stroke. And you were at Bay State Springfield Hospital for five full days. They did scans, MRIs, and it was a big stroke. And it had hit your left side they told me, affecting the right side of your body. And also that’s where the speech center is in the brain. So it also affected the speech center. So for five days they were trying to make you stabile. And it was really not clear you were going to make it.

So that was your five days in Bay State. And your daughter Alisa came, and Rami was there. And after five days they thought you were stabile enough to release you to the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. And that’s what we did.

And you spent five weeks at the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. The first couple of days after your stroke, you didn’t talk. And it wasn’t at all clear that you could even speak. And only after a couple of days, I think one morning Rami and I were there, and you said something. And I realized that you could, that you had some speech—little bits, some words. But you were able to make yourself heard. And I remember just squeezing Rami’s arm, because I was so moved. He was standing right next to me. And you were even able to — one or two people from the family called on the phone, and if I put it to your ear, you were able to say, “Yeah,” or “OK,” very muffled. You were able to do that.

So in Bay State you would just lay in bed, and you didn’t move. And we were just hoping you would stay alive, and that you would stabilize. Once they brought you to Weldon—for me at least—the full extent of the loss of abilities became clear. Because it was only then that they really started looking at your legs, your arms, your whole side, noticing how you couldn’t feel here [right side of the head], the whole shape of your mouth that came down on the right. Your eyes, you couldn’t see, your vision was impaired on the right. And you couldn’t move on the right side at all. You couldn’t move.

They pretty much were able to ascertain that you were not paralyzed. I guess they have a way of seeing that. So they could determine you were not paralyzed, but the extent of the recovery, and what you would eventually be able to do was anybodies guess at that time.

People were optimistic. And according to various tests, they said you would have a good recovery. And if you remember, a Tibetan doctor came to visit you, and he looked you over and said you would have a very good recovery. And the prognosis was guarded, but very positive. And the rest depended on you, and the work you would be ready to do to regain your abilities.

Bernie: So, how long a period are you describing?

Eve: So, I know you have practically no memory of those first weeks. You were five days in the hospital. After that, at the rehab hospital you spent five weeks. And I’m aware that the first two, three weeks, you have almost no memory. A few people came to visit you, and I’m aware from when we talked that you barely remember faces, but you remember no conversations.

They started trying to get you to move, and walk. Well, not walking. That took much longer, but just to get you to move, get you to move your arms. And just everything— toileting—on me it was very hard because I could actually see it. I’m not sure, you know later on when we’ve talked, like we’ve talked now, it doesn’t sound like you were quite aware of what was happening. I think for people around you like me—who were there, and I could see—it was a shock. It was a big, big, shock to look at the abilities that you lost. A huge shock for me. I realized that you weren’t aware—or you were aware then, but you’ve forgotten now.

At his Weldon room, Bernie looks through countless cards of support.

Bernie: Now I do have some memories in that period. I’ll repeat it, because it seems powerful. I thought I had the memory—I thought it was three days in which I was dying. And my whole energy was based on how to die. I thought, the fourth day, that all of a sudden I had the sense that I could improve. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have a sense of anything else. All I had a sense of was that I could improve. And that to do that I had to exercise.

So again, I don’t know when that came. But that was all I had in mind—that I have to exercise. Most of the time—I think, I don’t know yet, later on it’s more clear—that most of the time I was in what I call a state of non-thinking. I just was laying there. And so I don’t remember that.

Eve: But were you alert, or were you just kind of out of it, in a daze?

Bernie: That’s interesting, see. I think—now I’m thinking, this is not experiencing—I’m thinking that in that state I was aware that I was in the state of no-thinking. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t remember being in pain, or anything like that. I just remember where I wasn’t doing anything. And it seemed to me I was resting so I could exercise. Everything was so focused about exercising. And then I do remember certain people coming to visit. And I may have even said it’s OK that they come to visit. And I remember thinking when they came, “They’re taking all my energy. I can’t do this. In between my exercising, I need to rest—or be in the state of not-knowing.”


Eve:
How did you feel when you exercised, and you say that you couldn’t do? Like when they first tried to get you to walk, it took three people to get you walking. And I wonder, did you feel discouraged? Did you feel bad?

Bernie: Yeah. During this time, which was later—four or five weeks, I remember five week, or I remember the last few—during all that time I didn’t feel depression. I didn’t feel negative. I didn’t feel like I can’t do these things. All my attention was, “How do I get what I’m doing to be done with more energy? And then we’ll go to the next thing.” Somehow—I don’t remember at least—having any sense of, “Oh this part’s not working, that part’s not . . .” I just was, “Here’s what I’ve got to do now. Oh, I need three people to help me walk. OK, let’s do it. And you know, what? Hopefully it will be two people next week, or one.”

And a good example of this—it was late in the game, I think it was the fourth week, or fifth week, I don’t know—they brought me over to four steps. And they said, “Here, we’re gonna have you walk . . . We’re gonna have you take your good leg (My left side was in good shape. The right side had a lot of problems.) . . .” So they said, “We want you to move your left leg, and move it up to the first step. Today that’s all we’re gonna do.” I couldn’t do it!

That’s the first sense that I had that my brain and my body were not so together. Because I know my body. I could lift my leg. My brain would say, “You can’t get up that first step. You’re fooling yourself.”  So that first day, I couldn’t get up the first step.

The second day I came, I moved my foot up, and I moved the next one. I could walk up four steps! And then I said, “Now what?” On the top of four steps they said, “OK turn around, and come back.” My brain said, “No way! You can’t turn around here! And you ain’t walking down.” That very day, I walked down.

So obviously, what I was learning was that my brain was saying one thing, and my body another. That first day my body knew I couldn’t lift up that leg. My brain was saying, “You can’t.” And so I couldn’t. The brain took over. It had more control over what I did than my body had.

Eve: So what happened on day two? You think your brain was suddenly persuaded that you could take those steps up?

Bernie: Well there was no difference between that first step, and the second step. And all of a sudden, I said oh, I did the first step. My body could do a step! Man, I could have done ten steps, or a hundred steps. Maybe not—I might have gotten too tired. But I got past an impasse. So obviously on that first day, my brain was telling me, “No. Your leg can’t get up. Your right leg can’t get up.” But second day, it just went right up. So what the hell? That means I could have done it the day before too—I think. I mean I couldn’t have just in one day done it all. But it may be . . .

Eve: So you’re saying that even though the brain was saying, “No, you can’t do it,” on the first day, you might have just been able to raise your feet and do it anyway.

Bernie: On the second day?

Eve: No, even on the first day. That’s what I’m trying to get at.

Bernie: Yeah. There probably would have been a way—I don’t know if there would be a way—of overriding. The brain has a lot of control, it seemed to me. That control is not allowing me to do something, not allowing me to feel something, not allowing me to hear something. I know there were many times I’d say, “What was that?” And you’d think I don’t have my hearing aid. My hearing, my brain for some reason doesn’t want, so things would be repeated two or three times.

And Godfried and Mariola, they just came from Europe. They came to visit me. And Godfried said something about—because he’s going to write a book with me on Zen—and he said something to me about Zen, and the essence of Zen. And then he had to go the bathroom. And Mariola turned to me and said, “What is the essence of Zen?” And I looked at her. And I realized at that moment that I had no idea what the essence of Zen meant. Now people have been asking me that question for years. And I didn’t have trouble answering them in one way or another. I may have changed the way I did it. But this time I had no idea.

Now what I also recognize is that I felt I knew what that state was—the state of Zen. But I had no way to describe it. The words that I used before to describe it weren’t available to me. And I had no words that were available to me. What that did to me was huge. A huge sense of joy. Or a sense of holy cow! I don’t know what this is, and now I can find out.

Now I’ve been sixty years in the world of Zen. And I don’t know what it is, maybe since the beginning, and feeling so much joy that I can now express it. But that’s what I remember, this state where I was just, “Wow. I have a new chance to clarify what does that mean.”

Bernie on the porch at Weldon Rehab Hospital

And then I got home, and I started to work with Godfried, and Rami, and Mariola on my book. I was doing a book. And the book was going to be the sixty years of Zen, talking about those things, which in a sense didn’t interest me anymore. But working on the book, one of the first things that happened was Godfried said, “I heard you say over and over that you stayed to study with Maezumi Roshi because he was the clearest man that you knew of.” And Godfried said, “What do you mean by ‘clearest man’?”

And I looked at him, and I said, “Huh? I have no idea what that means.” But now I have a chance to try to find out. What does that mean? Not only don’t I have an idea what it means, but I don’t think it could mean anything.

So anyway I was in a whole new study phase for me. And that was true for many Zen words that I had been using. I thought maybe we used them without really knowing what they mean. And I thought I probably thought I knew what they mean. But I didn’t really know what they mean.

And this is a new phase in my life where I could go a little deeper into what these states are.  And then, what became strong also is that in between the times that I did at the hospital, I did a lot of exercise—for my feet; it was three main things, my legs, my hands, my arms, and my speech. All three were exhausting. I would put maybe two hours into each. I was exhausted by the time it was over. I needed to rest. I rested before and after. I had to rest before and after.

And when I was resting, there was nothing. I was staying in a state of non-thinking. It was very restful. I would get ready for the next things, but I didn’t remember thinking anything.

Eve: Now Bernie, for many years you’ve talked actually about that state. And you’ve said that the purpose of Zen isn’t to get you to not thinking—because if you don’t want to think, you can have a lobotomy. So that’s not the point. The point is to live, and be actively engaged, and to live like everybody else. So now you’re saying, in the face of all that, after your stroke, you still found yourself in these states—prolonged states of non-thinking. So what is your comment about it now, given how many years, my impression was that you thought that there were teachers who said, “I could be in a state of non-thinking for two hours,” and you actually pooh-poohed that. I remember, “That’s not the objective,” you said. “That’s not the point.”

So what is your impression now of this?  

Bernie: Well, I don’t know. Again, these are areas that I want to explore. What I do know is that I could sit there . . . It was not a lobotomy state. I was aware. I was aware, and I was resting. And I wasn’t thinking. Now that period went on for a long time. And I think—but I have no way of knowing—that that’s probably true during the phases when I don’t remember what was going on. But I don’t know. And I have no way of going there.

So I would like to explore with somebody who has some thoughts on this—what was going on there. Also, it’s also gone.  It used to be when I’m in that state; I would get there and rest up, now my mind is doing all kinds of things. So it feels like my brain has redone some wiring. And part of that wiring has given me more memory— because I didn’t have that much memory.

Eve: And do you have to have a stroke to experience that?  

Bernie: Perhaps. I just don’t know.

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Orlando and The Call of Connection http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/orlando-and-the-call-of-connection/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/orlando-and-the-call-of-connection/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 11:11:53 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13919 candle

    Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three […]]]>
candle

 

 

Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three Tenets: Not-knowing, Bearing witness and Taking Action.

This was intended to be a letter of introduction to me and the responsibilities of my role for those who are engaged with ZP and whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet. But as I bore witness to what was alive today I decided to address my own vision in light of the wave of mourning following the killing in Orlando FL USA, surrounding our LGBTQ ZPO members, their communities and anywhere around the globe. Right of the bat, I’d encourage anyone who knows an LGBTQ person — or a Muslim, a Porto-Rican, a Latino or Latina — to reach out and ask “how are you?” Following this tragedy there are nuances of pain that my caucasian, Jewish, male-cis-gendered conditioning cannot even imagine. If you are one yourself, my heart at best glimpses yours — and hurts. Know that the Zen Peacemakers stand in solidarity with the queer, trans, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community.

This week I was riding a taxi from Düsseldorf Airport. On the German Radio I recognized the words ‘Massacre’ and ‘Orlando.’ The driver said that everyone in Germany are shocked by the recent killing. I was surprised US news even made it across the ocean. I felt moved. When we drove into Essen, one of the most heavily bombarded and reconstructed German cities, we drove by the soccer field where the government-run Syrian refugees camp was. We passed the large white blocks, impenetrable to the eyes, and the driver pointed to tall steel cranes and said that just few days before, three bombs from World War Two were excavated in that construction site. A large perimeter was evacuated, including all unsuspecting refugees from this camp. He dropped me off at my hotel and I joined my sister, her fiancé and their three month old baby for their wedding ceremony.

This is only a sliver of Life, of this flow of mourning and celebration, of moments and narratives intertwined into a single dot, of how bombs from the past, real and implied, affect the unsuspecting living present. Other kind of bombs, buried in the construction site of one man’s mind, exploded last Sunday and killed forty-nine individuals who celebrated authenticity, choice and love.

The call of the Zen Peacemakers, to which I responded when I first walked through the gates of Auschwitz/Birkenau at the Bearing Witness retreat in 2013, was to first recognize that the construction site is not limited to a town, or to one person’s mind. If nothing is separate, it’s one helluva big construction site. How then, do I minister this world’s one wound, from which we all bleed in so many diverse ways?

This past year I followed that question, and followed Bernie Glassman, from Palestine to the Bahamas, from Bosnia to the Black Hills. Bernie’s MO and the Zen Peacemakers legacy is one of zesty action, brimming with creativity and curiosity, gravitas and playfulness, openness and attention.  I have learned from Bernie to cook my life with the ingredients available. I also learned to be an ingredient myself, to acknowledge the larger system in which I exist, and the gifts of others with whom I share this soup. When I observe what members of our Zen Peacemaker Order are immersed in I feel great inspiration. Imagine what we can do, together, harnessing this Great Action, based, simply and humbly, on a caring heart and an open mind.

I have much to learn, and I am grateful for Bernie and ZP’s board of directors’ guidance and mentorship. Bernie’s stroke in January 2016 was a turning point for many of us, to Bernie himself, the Zen Peacemakers, Eve Marko his wife, even Stanley-the-Manly their Dog. I feel grateful to have been there in his support and to many of you who contributed with generosity. The stroke was also an indication of the inevitable changes in our organization from a founder-based to a vision-based organization. ZP is known for its Bearing Witness retreats and Street Plunges, and I look forward exploring additional forms of Buddhist practice and social actions that respond to the needs of now. Bernie is involved and eager to share guidance and opinions and I thank him for the dumbfounding kindness, challenges and shenanigans he has extended to me.

Few weeks ago, while surrounded by tents on a pier in Greece, a Lebanese refugee told me in simple confidence “All I want is connection.” I felt surprised because I have heard the same exact words from Joe of Pine Ridge; I heard them from Pawel of Warsaw; I heard them from Osama of Bethlehem and Boris of Sarajevo; I also heard it from my own heart and from my living sensual body; I heard it from the steel cranes and the turning dusk, from my newborn nephew’s glaring eyes, from the forty-nine individuals who danced to Love! and I also heard it, suffused by gunshots, from the man who killed them. I invite you, let’s invoke together this connection, excavate this shared construction site that is our joint life, bear witness to the nuances that build our experience and be curious of that of others, in an ever-extending perimeter, evacuating none. Lets raise the simple caring heart and mind of the mensch — and plunge.

In remembrance and gratitude,

Rami Efal
Executive Director, Zen Peacemakers, Inc.

PS. A practice of members of the Zen Peacemaker Order is to observe a minute of silence for peace each day at noon. For the next 50 days, I will hold those who died and the one who killed, in heart.

 

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Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/welcoming-zen-peacemakers-new-executive-director/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/welcoming-zen-peacemakers-new-executive-director/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 08:55:08 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13886 BernieRami800

  The Board of Directors of Zen Peacemakers is extremely pleased to announce Rami Efal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Rami is a visionary leader who brings strong execution skills and a deep commitment to meditation, social action, and the arts to Zen Peacemakers. Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director Grant Couch, Chairman Chris Panos, President […]]]>
BernieRami800

 

The Board of Directors of Zen Peacemakers is extremely pleased to announce Rami Efal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Rami is a visionary leader who brings strong execution skills and a deep commitment to meditation, social action, and the arts to Zen Peacemakers.

Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director
Grant Couch, Chairman
Chris Panos, President

 

Rami Efal was born in Israel, lived in the US since 2002 and recently became a citizen of the United States. He has been a student of Zen Buddhism with the Mountains and Rivers Order since 2006, including 4 years of residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery and at the Zen Center of New York City. He began his training with the Zen Peacemakers at the 2013 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, where some of his family had perished.

Before his hiring by ZP, Rami graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NY and has been a visual artist working in animation, film and graphic novels and presented art in NY galleries and Europe. He has contributed to hunger, community and hospice projects, participated in and worked for the Palestinian/Israeli Dialogue Project, translated Israeli soldiers’ testimonials for Breaking the Silence and was board member and field-director for the Inkwell Foundation, an non-profit organization of artists visiting children in hospitals. He is a graduate of School of International Training in Vermont where he studied Peacebuilding and Intercultural Conflict Transformation. Rami is also a graduate of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication Integration Program and has facilitated numerous intensive NVC trainings. He presented on peace-building on NPR, at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC.

Since Joining ZP in March 2015, Rami has supported Bernie in his travels and has coordinated the planning, operations and staff of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order.

 

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My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/8th-graders-on-auschwitz/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/8th-graders-on-auschwitz/#respond Wed, 08 Jun 2016 15:41:09 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13828 NSantana w class 802_edit_1

  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 […]]]>
NSantana w class 802_edit_1

NSantana w class 802_edit_1

 

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 your visit and talking about your experiences of visiting the Auschwitz camp. I have learned much more about the feelings of the generations of the Germans and Jewish people.

They feel ashamed, embarrassed of what their grandparents or parents have gone through or did. It’s very depressing because people don’t want to talk about what had happened to them, they don’t even look you in the eye.

Also by looking at the pictures, the camps were horrifying; it was depressing to the Jewish people. This relates to a novel named Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand and the Japanese internment camps because they were also depressed, lonely, and felt out of place.

Two places that caught my attention were the forest and the Ash Pond. It helped me visualize how clueless the Jewish people were and innocent about their upcoming death. It also tells me how the ashes of the people were thrown in the pond because they didn’t seem important but in actuality every single one of them were.

Your experience helped me learn that I should always “sing” because singing keeps hope, light and faith up, no matter the situation we’re in. Thank you for sharing your experiences of the Auschwitz camp.

Sincerely,

M R

 

May 24, 2016

Dear Mrs. Santana,

I enjoyed your speech about Auschwitz. Thank you for teaching us about how Jews felt and how it would feel if we went and just looked at Auschwitz. I thought it was interesting that the people who were descendants of the Nazis almost felt the same as the descendants of the Jews.

Your visit and how you showed us what was going on and how you felt actually visiting Auschwitz makes me look at the Holocaust in a different way than before. It makes me realize that not only Jews feel sad and depressed about what happened. It turns out that what happened in the Holocaust affected both sides and now they both are feeling the pain and guilt of the Holocaust.

Sincerely,

TA

 

May 24, 2016

Dear Ms.Santana,

Thank you for changing my perspective and point of view on the Holocaust.

It was great to see actual pictures of how everything looked and how these people had no privacy whatsoever. I’ve always read about the Holocaust and seen movies but never had anyone speak about it in the manner that you did. You made me not only see the bad but the good. You allowed me to understand that those who died had a happy life before all this and were joyful overall. You made me see how even if these people are gone their memory and braveness is still with us.

Waiting in the forestI used to think when the Holocaust was over everything was fine … well, that wasn’t the case. I remember you saying there was a small town that had a population of 2 million and that went down to 200 Jewish people. I also remember when you spoke of your neighbor that would bake cookies for your children and how she had an opportunity to live a life in the U.S, a chance not many had. It’s interesting How her family was in the camps and they would write to her until one day the letters just stopped coming one by one. I admit it was a lot to take in and can’t imagine how she handled it.

Thank you for spending your time to inform us about the Holocaust and teaching us that it’s not something that should be forgotten or ashamed of but something that should be known and spoken about.

Sincerely,

K N

May 24, 2016

Dear Ms. Santana,

When you came to my class and spoke about your visit to the Auschwitz camp in Poland you taught me a lot. Instead of just reading articles and seeing black and white photos I got colored pictures and a personal story of someone who visited. I learned that there was a pond (ash pond) where they would put the remains of people that died. Also they would put candles along the side to commemorate the deaths of the people in the camp. When they would eat bread and soup no one wanted to be first or last. If you were first you would get water , and if you were last you would get sand because they wouldn’t clean the dishes. I never knew that and thanks to your visit I learned that. They had a small stove and heater. Also the bunks were wooden and crowded with about 6 people. I can’t believe that. When you told us that my mouth dropped. But what made me very sad was that change in population. I still can’t believe it went from two million to only two hundred.

The ash pond at Auschwitz/Birkenau

The ash pond at Auschwitz/Birkenau

As you were speaking I started to think of my ELA class. I can connect your experience to the article of Mine Okubo. She was a Japanese American but she was also put into a camp, an internment camp. Now I thought of how they were treated and more of how Mine Okubo was treated in that camp.

When you came and spoke to us I could see your feelings of when you visited in your eyes. When you were speaking I saw your eyes getting worried and I was shocked to know how long ago your visit was and how it still affects you. When you spoke to us about you sleeping in their S.S. camp where the Germans slept my mouth dropped. I am also very proud to hear of that group that you’re in. As you explained it I saw an interest in it. But it seems tough to surround yourself in that horrific past. I don’t know how you did it.

Now on to the pictures you showed us. The children looked so young. I can’t imagine being a parent and knowing what can happen to my child. I can’t believe it. Marion, I believe that’s how you spell his name, it was great that you were able to speak to him. That was a great feeling, right? The loyalty that runs through that camp is unbelievable knowing the consequences. I love it how someone sacrificed themselves. He was like Louie Zamperini. He is a runner from the book Unbroken which I am reading in ELA. The prisoner who hides the letters was a rebel just like Louie Zamperini and trying to hold on to that last little bit of dignity he has left.

I am truly grateful that you took the time out of your day to share with us your story of visiting the camp.

Sincerely ,

AR

 

noemiNoemi Koji Santana was born in the Bronx, New York. She has worked in many industries both in Puerto Rico and in New York in health and education. She has contributed to Family Life Academy Charter Schools for the past 15 years as Board member, as consultant, film director, author, Director of Communications, Marketing, and as a consultant. She and her husband, Sensei Francisco “Paco” Lugoviña, have brought their Zen practice  to the streets of New York, Springfield, Massachusetts, the countryside of Normandy, France, to Tibet, and to the death camp at Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland. Noemi was given transmission as Dharma Holder by Sensei Sheila Hixon in November of May 24, 2016

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Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016 http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/bearing-witness-in-south-dakota-july-25-29-2016/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/bearing-witness-in-south-dakota-july-25-29-2016/#comments Sun, 05 Jun 2016 16:47:06 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13841 Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 12.38.50 PM

(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

Tiokasin Ghosthorse

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.

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Grover Genro Gauntt

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 main thread of communication is conducted on the ZPO Black Hills Facebook Group and on the EVENT PAGE on Facebook.

 

 

Thanks,

Tiokasin Ghosthorse & Grover Gauntt

 

 

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Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/bernie-glassman-recognizes-grant-couch-as-dharma-successor/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/bernie-glassman-recognizes-grant-couch-as-dharma-successor/#comments Sun, 05 Jun 2016 15:56:48 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13846 fuku1

(photo by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao)  On April 30th, 2016, after a ZPO International Governance Circle meeting, Bernie Glassman, who has been recovering from a stroke since January, performed a short ceremony to mark the recognition of Grant Couch as a dharma successor in his lineage. Grant Couch, sensei, worked for over 40 years in the financial services […]]]>
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fuku1

(photo by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao) 

On April 30th, 2016, after a ZPO International Governance Circle meeting, Bernie Glassman, who has been recovering from a stroke since January, performed a short ceremony to mark the recognition of Grant Couch as a dharma successor in his lineage.

Grant Couch, sensei, worked for over 40 years in the financial services industry, with a focus on commercial and investment banking. Following his retirement as President and COO of Countrywide Capital Markets in 2008, Grant’s desire to contribute to other’s personal growth led him to take the position of CEO of Sounds True, a publisher of spiritual teachings where he served for two years. He was Chairman of Manhattan Bancorp and its subsidiary Bank of Manhattan from 2010 – 2015. His current focus is as the Co-Founder of the Conservative Caucus of Citizens Climate Lobby.

In 1990 Grant began to explore various spiritual paths. After 4 years of religious and philosophical self-study he found a deep personal resonance in the Buddha’s teachings. Since then he has studied with many Tibetan, Zen and Vipassana teachers. And after attending a 2010 bearing witness retreat in Auschwitz he began working closely with Bernie Glassman and Zen Peacemakers’ three tenets.

Grant graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Lehigh University. In addition to serving as the Chairman of Zen Peacemakers; he is on the investment committee of Aravaipa Ventures, a Colorado-based, impact technology VC fund; and is a financial advisor to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.

Now retired, Grant is focused full time on finding a conservative solution to the challenging nexus of energy and the environment – aka climate change. Grant is the Chairman and Secretary of Zen Peacemakers, Inc.non-profit 501(c)3 .

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“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/what-shall-i-sing-to-you-video-interview-with-bernie-glassman-and-krishna-das/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/what-shall-i-sing-to-you-video-interview-with-bernie-glassman-and-krishna-das/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 17:21:20 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13833 Bernie and KD Sep 2015 CUT

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 […]]]>
Bernie and KD Sep 2015 CUT

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 Ezrahi.

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OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/oak-tree-in-the-garden/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/oak-tree-in-the-garden/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 17:11:57 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13830 oakeve

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko

posted originally on her blog on May 21st 2016

Today is Vesak, a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. In his honor, people all over the world meditate, chant, walk, make prostrations and offerings, give charity, and vow to awaken.

My husband, Bernie, has shared that during the first months after his stroke, while resting in bed, he has gone into a state of deep meditation that’s effortless, restful, and at the same time fully alert. He said that it has taken him into the most profound space of not-knowing that he has experienced so far, and that it felt so natural and organic that he thought nothing of it—didn’t think to himself Wow, this is something! or label it as special in any way—until someone asked him if he was bored lying in bed and staring out into space. It was only then, as he began to explain what was happening, that it occurred to him that perhaps something unusual was taking place.

I was glad to hear this on his account, and also because it’s nice to know that when our body isn’t responding as it always has or when our energy level isn’t what it once was, this makes space for new things to happen. For myself, I’d always hoped that if and when I get older and weaker, I would have the alertness of mind to do prolonged meditation.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that enable Bernie to experience the state he described. People prepare and serve him food, people have helped him walk wherever he needed to go (now he can walk mostly on his own with a cane), someone makes the bed, someone sets up the table adjoining his bed with the things he needs to have on hand, someone makes sure to adjust the blanket and pillows when he can’t do this. Generous friends all over the world have given us money towards his recovery and have prayed and meditated on his behalf. All these things enable him to not just recover, but also explore a deep meditative state. Hunger and thirst would be distractions. Discomfort and pain, with no one on hand to help out, would hinder and obstruct. If we didn’t have the money for the things he needs for his wellbeing, if the therapists and caretakers didn’t do their job, if the food we get from friends and sangha wasn’t nourishing, if the messages we get from all over the world weren’t loving and supportive, I’m not sure he would have that experience.

That is one reason why the Buddha is reputed to have said, upon his awakening, I and the entire earth have simultaneously achieved the Way. It wasn’t just he alone, as a separate being, who had that awakening, it was all beings. It had to include the parents who gave him birth and the aunt who raised him, the wife who nurtured him, the girl who brought him milk and honey when he was too weak to go on, the tree which provided him shelter as he sat, the earth that held him and the morning star that came up that auspicious day. Even Mara, known for sending delusions and temptations his way, played a role. Just like our own dog Stanley, the Great Obstructer, who tries to obstruct Bernie in his walking, forcing him to take detours and fortify his focus, Mara provided the Buddha with just enough challenges to his focus and determination, pushing the ascetic monk into deeper and deeper realms of concentration. Where would we be without those thorns in our discipline? The entire earth awakened that day, not just the person named Gotama.

But we prefer our “great man” approach to history and religion. We put someone on a pedestal for having achieved this and that and we ignore the system, the infinite encounters and events, the many small gifts and kindnesses that must take place so that that person can achieve what he does. Instead of bearing witness to the many, we attach to the one person (usually a man), build statues in his image, and lay down garlands in his memory.

Individual achievement matters. We each have our work, we have our separate roles to play. Bernie likes to say that if he could move things just the tiniest of hairbreadths, he would be satisfied. On this Vesak day, I light incense and acknowledge with deep respect and appreciation the Indian man who awakened two and a half millennia ago, forever changing my life. And I write this in deepest thanks to the many many beings that have supported my life and practice, beginning with my orthodox Jewish parents and continuing with my teachers, husbands (yes, the first, too), family, friends, fellow meditators, fellow activists, fellow lovers, the dogs that sat at my side and the coffee that kept me awake those early mornings, the light green leaves that flutter outside as I sit, reminding me of the visible and invisible energies that have been there from the very beginning of my life.

 

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