Zen Peacemakers http://zenpeacemakers.org Thu, 26 May 2016 16:26:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/flowers-of-wisdom-on-the-edges-of-graves/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/flowers-of-wisdom-on-the-edges-of-graves/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 18:13:48 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13762 IMG_2953

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 …

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 circle was the altar with the box containing the lists with names of those murdered here. This afternoon snowflakes covered the altar, and little by little they also mantled us in meditation, sheeted the stones on the ramp, the roofs of the barracks in the background with a light white layer. I was shivering with cold; even though I was sitting on a mat with warm winter clothes, the iciness crept right into my bones. The snow was blown into our faces by a freezing wind, my eyes watered. As I looked around the big circle, boundless love arose in me, gratitude and appreciation for this moment.

Appreciation for the people who took it on to cultivate this practice together, who didn’t flee, who didn’t distract themselves which would be so much easier. I was touched by our courage to bear witness to ourselves and to the collective history that had assembled us here. I felt gratitude towards the practice, here in this place where once there was so much noise, violence, and horror. To sit in silence together in order to learn what it means to be human among humans, in order to listen to the teachings of the place.

I sensed that we were welcome, that it was good to be here.

Bearing Witness at Auschwitz has made me more awake – for the suffering but also for the joys in the world. I didn’t find answers, but encountered my urgent desire to appreciate every moment of life. Life is uniquely precious; I vow to take care of it – here, there, everywhere.


after all the years of




you are a wondering


through time.

will there be

flowers of wisdom

on the edges

of the graves,

their whisper

being heard

by humans


wet with grief


with shame

reach out

their hands


the “Other”?


Barbara-WegmüllerRoshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller is a grandmother, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe and the development of the Zen Peacemaker Circles. She and her husband Roland are Zen teachers offering weekly Zazen practice in Spiegel, Switzerland and are actively supporting refugee in their area. She is a spirit holder in the Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat.
(Read more about Barbara)


Roshi Cornelius v. Collande, Dr.
  is a father, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman, a psychotherapist working with refugees, a Zen Teacher based at the “Centre for Spiritual Ways – Benediktushof” in Holzkirchen, Germany and a spirit holder in the Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat.
(Read more about Cornelius.)



]]> http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/flowers-of-wisdom-on-the-edges-of-graves/feed/ 0 UPDATE: 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat CANCELED http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/update-2016-native-american-bearing-witness-retreat-canceled/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/update-2016-native-american-bearing-witness-retreat-canceled/#comments Sun, 15 May 2016 03:00:04 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13734 dsc02772

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 founder

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UPDATE to ZEN PEACEMAKER ORDER MEMBERS, SPRING 2016 http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/13743/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/13743/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 18:19:24 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13743 ZPO INT April 2016sml

  Dear Member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, On Apri […]]]>
ZPO INT April 2016sml

ZPO INT April 2016sml


Dear Member of the Zen Peacemaker Order,

On April 29-30 2016, the international ZPO governance circle gathered at Bernie and Eve’s house in Massachusetts USA with the circle’s members flying from California, Germany, Belgium, Colorado, Israel and driving up from New York City. All the ZPO regional governance circle stewards were in attendance. For information about the ZPO’s governance structure and the list of all stewards, click here.

First and foremost, we listened and set an intention to address concerns and requests coming up from members through the local regional circles. Many of the topics, such as ZPO training paths, ZPO Bearing Witness Retreats, ZPO membership and ZPO training groups, were discussed in the context of what became the new ZPO transition group.

Marushka Glissen, ZPO Steward on the New England Governance circle who attended the meeting as a witness, wrote:

“It was clear to me that Bernie had come a long way from when he first had his stroke on January 12th 2016 especially in his ability to speak clearly. Some of his relationships with people in the International Circle spanned 45 years and the interconnection of all present was palpable. The most significant thing that got accomplished at this meeting was the installation of a transition group. They will help the ZPO move from a leader based organization to a vision based organization. The vision for many is how to create and expand a community based on meditation, social action, and peacemaking through the 3 tenants.”

Zen Peacemakers Inc., the 501(c)3 nonprofit US organization has been established to support Bernie in his teachings and projects, which included Bearing Witness retreats as well as the ZPO. As the Order developed, the need to birth it from being a project into an actual legal entity that would support its growth, its vision and its members was evident. This group is mandated with proposing to the International governance circle and ZP Inc. board of directors how to seamlessly as possible facilitate that.

It is my impression and conviction that the individuals in this circle are whole-heartedly dedicated to listening to our members’ needs as we weave the vision Bernie holds and to which I suspect many of us responded, and I hope this communication contributes towards clarity and flow of communication.

If you are interested about learning more about the process, to raise matters or contribute, I encourage you to turn to your ZPO regional circle and steward. If you are not sure who that is, find that in this link, or write me at rami[at]zenpeacemakers.org or to Petra Zenryu, our membership coordinator, at info[at]petrahubbeling.com .

​With thanks for your support, patience and enthusiasm,​

Rami Efal

Operations Coordinator & Assistant to Founder

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Greyston’s Founder Wins Social Innovator Award http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/greystons-founder-wins-social-innovator-award/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/greystons-founder-wins-social-innovator-award/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 13:18:21 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13714 Social Innovator Award


Greyston’s Founder Wins Social Innovator Award
As Organization Continues to Expand Impact

(from Greyston press release, April 2016)


April 8, 2016. Yonkers, NY – On April 7, 2016, The Lewis Institute at Babson presented the Social Innovator Award to Greyston’s founder, Bernie Glassman, for pioneering an organization dedicated to job creation and community empowerment. Bernie joins the ranks of past Social Innovator Award recipients, such as Dr. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl, Founders of Partners in Health.

This award celebrates extraordinary global social innovators and informs the Babson community on what it takes to create real and lasting change in the world. Bernie created Greyston on the foundation of Open Hiring, which embraces an individual’s potential by providing employment opportunities regardless of background or work history while offering the support necessary to thrive in the workplace and in the community. Greyston continues to champion and expand Open Hiring 33 years since its founding.

Babson Award

Dion Drew and Mike Brady

The event also marked the launch of an innovative partnership between Greyston and Babson. Babson will be the first school to participate in Greyston’s immersive social innovation learning program, which will change the way students learn and approach social change.

Mike Brady, CEO and President of Greyston, says, “33-years ago Bernie had a vision for combining business and the values of non-judgement, transformation and loving action to change the lives of people most in need. His vision continues to inform innovative approaches to poverty alleviation three decades later. We are delighted to be launching the education program with Babson College to create a new generation of courageous leaders who will push Bernie’s vision forward. Businesses need to embrace solutions like Greyston’s Open Hiring if we are to break the cycle of poverty and the address the social injustices in the world today. ”

“We are excited to co- create this innovative program. Social Innovation is best taught in context and there is no better context for our students to learn from than inside one of the most admired and sustainable social enterprises,” Cheryl Kiser, Executive Director, The Lewis Institute.

About Greyston: Founded in 1982, Greyston is an integrated network of programs that provides jobs, workforce development, child care, after-school programs and community gardens, reaching more than 5,000 community members annually. Best known for Greyston Bakery, which produces brownies for Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods, Greyston embraces an individual’s potential by providing employment opportunities regardless of background or work history while offering the support necessary to thrive in the workplace and in the community through an Open Hiring model.

About Babson College: Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.

About The Lewis Institute: The Lewis Institute at Babson College illuminates pathways for students, faculty, social entrepreneurs, foundations and corporate partners seeking social innovation solutions. By drawing upon Babson’s core methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®, the Institute activates unexpected yet fruitful collaborations and integrative designs for action. The result is business prosperity and societal improvement.

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Passover in Piraeus: A Zen Peacemaker’s Plunge with Refugees http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/passover-in-piraeus/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/passover-in-piraeus/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 03:08:07 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13681 PiP1_ - 40


The following report is part 2 in a series of 6 reports, and was written during the Not-Knowing Pilgrimage in Greece. This plunge has been created and self-led by members of the ZPO in the spirit of the 3-tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. 


By Rami Efal

“Eye-liners, mascara, make-up, bottle of wine.” That was on Petra’s grocery list on the way to the camp — items she’d promised folks at pier E1.5. I followed the tall bald Dutch woman through the busy late morning market by Piraeus’ pier strip. We passed several homeless people and she’d comment, that’s Roma, that’s local, that’s Bosnian, that’s Syrian. People stop us in the street for small talk, and I feel like the entourage of a rockstar. A young man shakes her hand and tells us he will leave to another camp soon. Petra fills me in that he is a refugee and I’m surprise to understand ‘they’, refugees, walk openly in Piraeus, which is a volunteer-led and police-monitored camp, compared to other military-managed camps where they can’t. In front of a large red church we pass a rally of middle-ages men, we ask and learn they are sea men demonstrating against 60% salary reduction. Homelessness, poverty, job security, I get some of Greece’s challenges even before we hit the refugee camps.

We make it across to the port. Massive freighters and island shuttle dock and load. Port E2, a bustling tent camp last week, is now clear. We walk further and arrive at camp E1.5, situated between port E2 and E1.

IMG_4615 2I spot the colored orbs I saw from the bus yesterday a hundred meters ahead and I feel angst-citment. A few steps further and we are deep with the camp. Tents of all sizes, tiny and medium size placed flap to flap, some joined by their opening towards one another and a blanket covers the patio between them. Children, dark skinned, some with bright blue grey eyes through orange skins at each-other, teenagers play card on the ground, a dozen sit in a circle around a power cord stretched to a generator, powering their phones. UNHCR containers with UN staff helping with immigration, NGO volunteers with neon yellow vest manage the line to the showers in a white container “no ticket no shower”. Police officers stand by vans. Petra asks me what I’m thinking and I answer “zoo.” She says that’s what everyone feels on the first day.

The sun is blazing and I need water, rest and shade. It occurs to me that these basic needs are felt by all the people around me, the need for comfort and ease. My need for space has been challenged by living in a small apartment with others and I think of the thousands in this camp the sleep between walls .5 millimeter thick. I think of the yearning for privacy, for solitude to gather one’s thoughts and center, the children huddling to their parents who are lucky enough to both survive a grueling journey and at the thick of night wish to make love.

A beautiful young woman, short with grey hair walks to Petra and they hug. Petra opens her shopping bag and hands her the make up we bought earlier. In a matter of moments we are surrounded by women of all ages, from elders to children, requesting the same. We hand out a few. Boys join the commotion. They are more demanding in their requests and I’m not sure if they actually know what we offer. We pass by a tent where the bottle was supposed to be received. It’s empty.

The boys who still followed Petra finally give up, shouting at our back “F#@ck your sister!” we all chuckle and move on. A group of young men come towards us and we hand them over the wine.


PiP1_ - 26I meet Milad, a handsome Muslim Afghan my age who speaks good English. He jokes with his Serb friend there whom, to his opinion, is not grateful enough when Milad threw a floating donut and saved his life when the Serb fell off the boat. “I had a vest!” the Serb smirks in the Balkan dry humor I learned to love in my trips to Bosnia/Herzegovina. They chuckle and hold hands. They compare how many borders they crossed and the Serb holds the wining hand with 7. Everyone nod with respect. I acknowledge the companionship and closeness I feel among these men, and I feel grateful with a sense of brotherhood, men taking care of each-other. Milad tells me of his mother having a heart attack in the forest in Turkey. She survived.

Petra walks away with others and I tell Milad I’m an artist and would like to find a shaded place to sit with kids and draw. He is excited and I asked to draw his portrait. We sit on a yellow concrete block and I take out crayons and paper, which has been donated by an anonymous donor to me, and I draw. I enjoy the silence and the closeness I experience with this man, my mind imagines the panic of his mother in the forest, and I bring back my attention to the distance between his nostrils. A male voice sings in Kurdish behind me, and shortly I am surrounded by boys and men laughing, singing, commenting. I finish drawing Milad and another took his place. I asked for his name and to pick two colors from the crayon box: Sher , Black and green, then Sheehan, red and blue then Izzin then another and another. Sheehan is the one who leads the Kurdish singing, with a round haircut covering his forehead and dark shades with golden frame. Between verses he orders everyone to relaaaaax and organized the line. I hire him as my manager. “Relax!” I smile and realize how frenzied the energy in my body is. I pause and breath, roll the crayon and find the next pair of eyes before me.

IMG_4973I thank each person I draw. A young man shows me his phone and a photo of his girlfriend. I draw her portrait and realize that I have only drawn males. I wonder where the girls are. I have seen this before in an orphanage in Rwanda. The boys are much more aggressive and find themselves ahead in line, the girls are not in the same club. I am amused but also moved by the sense of universality of this, how kids and males and females share so much across cultures. I feel moved when I consider this male aggression can be transmuted to purpose and contribution, and I think of Milad through out the donut, getting crossing the forest to find medicine for his mother.


Another young man asks me for a plastic sleeve, one that I give to protect the drawings. I suspect he needs it for another reason, maybe for protecting documents, and I make a bargain with him, I’ll give him a sleeve if I he lets me sit and draw with the girls in the camp. He agrees. I follow his foot steps. A man I haven’t met sitting within a tent gesture with his hand a square around his head and gives me the thumbs up. I wave back.

I follow Maher the young man to two 2-person tents joined. I take off my Nike shows and place them by the plastic flip-flops at the entrance. My mind flashes to my visits in Japan. The universality of traits of one’s home. Dignity. Hospitality. Warmth. I return to Piraeus and lower my head and find inside a middle aged woman scrubbing a naked young boy in a tub, and two girls sitting on plastic milk crates. Big smiles, curious eyes. Bags of clothes behind me. I smile at the kids and take out the packages of crayons and paper. I set it out on the blanket and encourage them to draw. They are embarrassed first and they jump in.

I draw his mother Bse, his sisters Amanda’s braid, Trea has blue threads for earrings, his brother Samil’s round nose. While I draw a curious teenage cousin, Maher rolls a cigarette and offers me. He sends Samil away and a moment later he returns with a lighter. We light the cigarette and the cousin takes off to return the lighter. I take note. Amanda hands me over a brand new pencil. A gift. They offered me crackers, ‘Naniq’ in Kurdish and I answer ‘Mamnoon’, thank you. They insist I take a bottle of water. “We have more.”

Part of me, a self-righteous part, is dumbfounded, taking water and food from refugees? I recall that I am not here to help. I am not here to volunteer. I am here to invoke the mind of not-knowing, not knowing what helping is, not knowing what connection is, and to let each moment be an opportunity to experience curiosity and connection anew.

I take the water, I receive the pencil, I smoke the rolled cigarette. Mamnoon.

PiP1_ - 48Maher tells me he has been two months at this camp, and stayed one month in Turkia on their way. I ask him how Turkia was and he says quietly “Very bad. Very bad.” Their family is Yazidi from Iraq and says there are several hundred other Yazidi here. I see Samil struggle to open a plastic case of a flashlight with his teeth. “Knife?” I ask. Maher says “No knife, dangerous. Yazidi never fight.” He says brawl happen in the camp over trifles, but never among the Yazidi. I put scissors along with the lighter on my mental note. I ask if they need anything and Maher says nothing with his chin down. Maher reaches to a backpack and takes out a plastic case of photos and shows me a creased picture of clergy in procession. “Yazidi.” He says. He then takes out several photos of another man, “Father. Died in Iraq.” I take a moment to take in this family of eight, their mother, this tent, this camp, the whole thing. “May I draw a portrait of him?” He nods and they all watch in silence as their father faces rises in color from the page. Another cousin enters the tent and Maher says quietly, “Saedow” — father’s name. Maher receives the portrait and shows it to his mother.

PiP1_ - 49bI use Amanda’s pencil to draw Maher. The act of drawing, spending time in silence, the little expression of discomfort when intimacy gets a bit to close for comfort. There is a tenderness that settles, and tiredness revealed. I wonder about the other, a deep sadness in me, in them? — the act of drawing shaves off inches of interpersonal barriers of judgments, and part of me is concerned with facilitating actual emotional contact with the unimaginable pain this man, this brother, holds, a glimpse of it I see when he takes quick peeks at his father’s portrait. This part of me thinks this is not time to ‘process’ or grieve, this time is for truckin’, surviving. I don’t know what this time is. I don’t know. I can only drop what I think should or should not happen, bear witness to what has already arisen, and trust.

Maher offers me an Iraqi cigarette as if it’s the best thing in the world. He sends his cousin away again and he returns with a different lighter. We smoke in silence. Ashes fall from my cigarette on the carpet, making a small hole. Maher says “don’t worry.”

I say Mamnoon. I leave the crayons, paper and a handful of plastic sleeves with the family and step out with Maher. We walk quietly away from the tent. Then Maher speaks quietly:

A mirror,
two sets of t-shirts and pants,
a knife,
a pair of scissors,

I make the list to bring tomorrow. Maher spells his fully family name for me to find him on Facebook. we hug and part.
I walk towards the water, towards the cadence of coming and going of the waves, past a young covered woman with wailing snotty-nosed child; towards the water past the line of people standing in line to the storehouse where cloths are distributed, past the food line; towards the water, I hear the Greek volunteer leader shouting at a refugee walking away with a box of food. I walk towards the water. Towards the soft lapping of the waves, the chiming of the freighters bells echoing away from shore, I think of the ripples people, of stories, of beginnings and endings, of the constant flow and the particular of each point on it on those circles. I think of the ripples our stories send out on the surface of our planet, from Pine Ridge, from Auschwitz/Birkenau, from Sarajevo, from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This evening of Passover I hear the prayer of Bounty from the Jewish Haggadah sung in Hebrew with family in Israel, the Four-Direction Prayer sung in Lakota in Pine Ridge, Sufi Illahis in Bosnia— same song in different languages — and right here in the port of Piraeus I hear, it in Kurdish – Mamnoon.




Rami Efal was born in Israel and has lived in the US since 2002. He works for Zen Peacemakers Inc. as Bernie Glassman’s assistant and operations coordinator at ZP’s Bearing Witness retreats in the Black Hills and Auschwitz/Birkenau. He studied inter-cultural conflict transformation at the School of International Training in Vermont and is an NVC facilitator at the New York Center of Nonviolent Communication. He participated in and led hunger, art, hospice and Palestinian/Israeli peace projects. He spoke on peace-building on NPR, at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. Rami is also a published and exhibited visual artist. Read more from his trip to Greece on his blog Mensch in Training.




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THE SOUND OF ONE HAND http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/the-sound-of-one-hand/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/05/the-sound-of-one-hand/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 23:41:05 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13671 berniehand






There’s a Zen koan made famous by the 18th century Japanese Zen master, Hakuin: What is the sound of one hand? Koans are questions or stories that sound quirky, but actually point to life as both clear and inexplicable. So we think we know the sound that two hands make when they come together, but what is the sound of one hand?

Bernie’s right hand, part of the right side of his body that was affected by his stroke, is always in a splint so that his fingers remain open rather than clenched. His hand must also be elevated wherever he is, placed usually on a cushion.

Bernie has not had an easy time with his right hand. It usually bends in the elbow and the fingers curve as the day progresses. At this point he is able to touch his second and third fingers with his thumb but no further, and lacks the strength to grab onto things and hold them. This is changing and improving all the time, but for now it means that he can only do things with his left hand (he has been right-handed all his life), unable to cut the food on his plate, remove his watch before a shower, or insert a charger into the phone.

Since he invariably prefers to lie on the left side of the bed, his right hand is always between us. If I’m not careful I’ll bump into it. On occasion he’s forgotten all about his right hand, not even feeling it when he rammed it into a wall, or had no idea where it is (Where did I put my right hand? I can’t find it). It lies between us like some strange, floppy object, an incomprehensible barrier, which in some way is exactly what a Zen koan is.

What is the sound of one hand? I’ve had a lot of meshugas (famous Japanese word) in connection with Bernie’s hand, at times making it a symbol of the stroke itself. What is the sound of my husband’s right hand? What is the feel, color, smell, even the taste of this one hand? It has attained vast proportions in my mind at times, especially in the middle of certain nights when I can’t sleep. I remember the therapists’ somber invocation (Usually the hand is the last to come back!) and see its ghostly outlines in the darkest corners of my agitated imagination.

But then there’s morning, when sunbeams alight on Bernie’s shoulder and there’s this one moment shared by two people in a fresh new day, the dog at our feet, infinity all around us. That’s my chance to let go of what the doctor said, the diagnosis and prognosis, and my feelings yesterday, last night and a few months ago. The right hand looks like I’ve never seen it before because at that moment my mind sees it freely rather than through my (or others’) opinions and fears. And when my mind is free, Bernie’s hand is free. It could be a barrier or a road into the hills, a magician’s hand shuffling a pack of cards, a teenage friend gleefully giving me the finger 50 years ago, the gauzy streak of an airplane plane or an arrow pointing nowhere.

What is the sound of Bernie’s one hand? What is the sound of mine?


Bernie and Roshi Enkyo, April 2016

Bernie and Roshi Enkyo, April 2016


Read more of Roshi Eve Myonen Marko’s writing on her blog at http://www.evemarko.com/

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Belonging to the Forest, Belonging to the Slum – A Zen Peacemaker’s visit to Brazil http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/belonging-to-the-forest/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/belonging-to-the-forest/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:55:36 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13516 image003

Belonging to the Forest, Belonging to the Slum – […]]]>


Belonging to the Forest, Belonging to the Slum – A Zen Peacemaker’s visit to Brazil

By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Peacemakergemeinschaft Schweiz (Switzerland), Brazil February 2016

Our connections with Brazil started at the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. In this place where millions of people where killed and tortured, a lot of friendships and heart connections have started in this retreat that Zen Peacemakers have been doing every year in November for over twenty years.

Nature in Brazil

Nature in Brazil

Roland and I met Ovidio in Krakau in 2005, before the retreat. We had dinner together and he shared about his work in Porto Alegre as a psychiatrist, a family therapist and a mindfulness teacher, a field where Roland and I share a lot of common interest. Since then Ovidio has come to visit us in our home in Switzerland every year. He has brought us together with a Brazilian-Swiss couple living in Zürich, both Zen priests and senior students of Roshi Coen. Jorge Koho Mello and his wife Marge Oppliger Pinto have become precious friends in the Dharma. For many years these four friends have invited us to come to Brazil, and finally this year was the right moment to accept their invitation.

We were invited to speak about the ZPO in various Zen sanghas as well as in a Tibetan monastery. We would meet these sanghas and learn about their practice and their social projects. And in the meantime, Roland and I would have the chance to spend some days together in the nature of the country.

Green, green, vast green on both sides of the road as far as we could see; for two hours we were driving on this road which draws a thin line through the Atlantic rainforest. My breath got deep and it felt as if all the cells in my body smiled. The wild powerful rainforest is still there, it is still exists, grand, untouched, full of life! The Atlantic rainforest in the region of Santa Catharina is part of the cultural heritage of the UNESCO. It is the homeland for 20,000 different sorts of plants and 1,361 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and snakes.

Olga, Ovidio, Roland

Olga, Ovidio, Roland

The hills and mountains on the horizon have a haze of dust. This gives it the name cloud forest. Now in February, big groups of trees are full of blossoms, and huge bouquets of purple seam the endless, wild green. My whole body seemed to remember to belong to this nature. Years ago, when a group of whales appeared right next to the small boat off Cape Cod, so that I had eye contact with one of the huge whales, I had the same taste of a deep, intimate connection.

The nature in Brazil is such a treasure – it is paradise! The guide who brought us to Ilha Do Mel told us about the difficulties the Brazilian economy has right now and shared his opinions on politics and other issues. His German was perfect; he had grown up with a German speaking grandmother who left Germany before World War II. Brazil is a melting pot of many cultures, languages and peoples of different colors living together in a huge country.


After spending our first four days in nature, to assimilate from winter in Switzerland to summer in Brazil, we met Ovidio and Olga in Porto Alegre, where we learned more about their great work as family therapists, professors at university and their institute for family therapists. Ovidio also brought us to the Via Zen Zendo where he is a member of the board with Jorge Koho Mello and others.

There we met Jorge Koho Mello a Senior Zen priest of Roshi Coen and a teacher for street retreats ordained in this by Roshi Genro Gauntt. He and his wife Marge are very actively socially engaged and committed leaders in their Zen sangha in Zürich.

When our group arrived at the Tibetan monastery of Lama Samten, they welcomed us with prayer shawls. It was very moving to meet this big sangha where we spoke about ZPO and the practice of living the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers.

Left to right: Marge Oppliger, Jorge Koho Mello, Barbara Salaam, Lama Samten, Roland Wegmüller, José Ovidio Waldemar at CEBB Caminho Do Meio.

Left to right: Marge Oppliger, Jorge Koho Mello, Barbara Salaam, Lama Samten, Roland Wegmüller, José Ovidio Waldemar at CEBB Caminho Do Meio.

After our talk Lama Samten brought us to the soup kitchen of Dionisia in the favela.
Dionisia runs the soup kitchen. She spoke about her hard life and her struggles at a place like this. Twice she was attacked and hovered between life and death. She shared with us that the reason she goes up every day is her vow to cook the daily soup for a group of children who need to be fed. She showed us her small shrine room, which is also her sleeping place. A gift she got from the Dalai Lama is the most precious object, the treasure of this place.
What a blessing to meet this living Bodhisattva!

Lama Samten introduced us to the school and the kindergarten that are part of the temple at CEBB Caminho do Meio. The beautiful garden is a playground for the children. It was vacation time, but the place felt filled with joyful laughter as I looked at the Buddhas in all the five wisdom colors.

Our next destination was a place not far from the Tibetan temple. From afar a big Buddha is visible as a welcome to all the visitors to the place of ViaZen. The Buddha statue is 9 meter high; his eyes are watching far over the endless green of the wild forest. The place is a beautiful practice place for Zen practitioners coming not only from Brazil but also from Argentina and Uruguay. To meet Roshi Coen and her wonderful Sangha and her teachers was such a gift. The beauty of the ceremonies, like eating oryoki with a big group, was wonderful. The place of ViaZen is huge, like the Buddha statue; there is a potential for great environmental and education projects. The work that has already been done is impressive, and it will need many dedicated peoples more to support the projects. All will be well, step by step, and it will be for the benefit of all!

Our teacher Bernie was present as we spoke about ZPO, but he was also very much present in our hearts and minds knowing that he was recovering from the stroke he had had shortly before we left for the trip to Brazil.
To greet him with all our love, the whole Sangha gathered at the feet of the Buddha and we bought all the red noses we could find in the shop in Porto Alegre to send him this greetings from all of us with clown noses.
As we said goodbye to the head priest Shoden and Sensei Dengaku, and to Roshi Cohen and all the Sangha members, we felt deeply grateful and inspired, learning from their commitment to Zen practice in all its beauty, from their hard work and their warm presence.

After visiting ViaZen we spent time at the beach house of Ovidio and Olga, spoiled by their hospitality and sharing good conversations walking along the beach and lots of laughter, because Ovidio is a master in telling jokes.
The last part of our trip led us to Rio where we met the ZPO member Ivamney Lima, who introduced us to his teacher Sensei Alcio Braz, who is the head monk and teacher of Einji temple.
The temple is at one of the entrances to a community inside the Copacabana district, called Pavão-Pavãozinho-Cantagalo. It is a “favela”, a poor community along a hillside. There are many like that in Rio de Janeiro, places where the authority is shared between drug chieftains and gangs and the police, with occasional “battles” and the usual deaths.


Eininji Temple in Rio. Behind me Sensei Alcio Braz. Second from left is Ivamney Lima, ZPO member.

The temple is a big house that was once inhabited by a rich family, before the neighborhood turned into a favela. That family left and lent the house to Tokuda Roshi, Alcio`s teacher, some 30 years ago. Sensei Alcio had been responsible for a Zen center in another neighborhood for 16 years when his teacher asked him to move to this temple, as the previous sangha there disappeared, for many reasons including the violence around. So he became responsible for this temple and brought the sangha from the other neighborhood here, not without some understandable resistance, says Alcio.

Things have got a little better in terms of security, and they have got some new people too, new residents, and little by little they are rebuilding the house and the Sangha. Sensei Alcio has also gone to Upaya and has met Roshi Joan, so now Roshi Joan is their teacher too; some of the sangha members have gone there.

The sangha is a Zen sangha but they are not sectarian. People in Rio tend to have different practices at the same time, so some practice the Afro-Native-Brazilian religions, and so on.
Roland and I immediately fell in love with the temple. On one of the altars there is a statue of a Native Brazilian, next to a statue of Maria and Kannon. The openness of the place to interreligious diversity is mirrored in Alcio and the residents. The atmosphere in the temple is filled with love and awareness.
As we went to the morning ceremony and early sitting period, I could not follow the recitation of the Heart Sutra. I have never experienced it so fast spoken. They said it is the Upaya style.


With the Bodhisattva of the soup kitchen Dionisia.


Our hotel at the Copa Cabana was a five minutes’ walk from the temple. Right at the corner at the entrance of the favela the energy changed. There is a lot going on around the temple. Visible, energetic, tangible, audible. As I was sitting zazen at the temple on Friday night, it felt like being in the eye of the hurricane, a unique experience.

At lunchtime a block behind Copa Cabana I saw three boys lying on the ground of the sidewalk. Thin eight to ten year old boys, sleeping in a deep drug absence. Heartbreaking, ungraspable. I looked around and saw busy people walking by and I felt compassion not only for the children on the street but also for the population around them. How much energy does it cost not to look at these children? Knowing that there are 10 million of them in Brazil? Every day groups of them are killed; they are victims of sexual abuse, prostitution, violence, hunger and illness. One of the NGOs writes that there are 1,500 children living alone on the streets in Rio….. I did not need any lunch after bearing witness to these children. Sitting with Roland under an umbrella at the Copa Cabana, every two minutes people were approaching us with a request to buy something or to give money. I took a picture of yellow blossoms that had just fallen from a big tree on the sidewalk.


Theatre of the Oppressed

Ivanmey took us to a Campus for a session of a theater play of the oppressed for teachers to learn about new methods. I was deeply impressed by the powerful young people, all residents of one of the largest favelas. In their interactive play they expressed their difficulties to be the “other”, the “one who is a criminal because he/she is coming from this dangerous, horrible favela”. It is indeed not an easy place to grow up in, not easy to get education, not easy to survive. And it is not easy to change to another part of society, to get a job and to be accepted by the population outside the favela.
I am impressed by the work of the trainers of these young people. At the end of the afternoon we shared with them about the ZPO and our work. We hugged each other and we expressed our gratitude to learn about their incredibly powerful expression and their will to change their situation.

This country has a nature like paradise, heavenly sunrises and sunsets, fruits in all colors full of sweetness and a whole range of all sorts of other realms. I came to Brazil to learn, and I experienced our first tenet Not Knowing. I bear witness to the joy and the suffering and I vow to support my new friends in their places and sanghas. In deep appreciation of how they serve the Dharma and work for the benefit of people in need.

With a deep bow,

Barbara Salaam

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“ONE HOOP, WIDE AS DAYLIGHT” http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/one-hoop-broad-as-daylight/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/one-hoop-broad-as-daylight/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 07:24:00 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13605 1350_black_hills_pc





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. 


2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

I stayed all week, soaking in the good vibes and the honest, thoughtful, compassionate folks I met everywhere.  I loved the not knowing.  I was in the middle of one of the most stressful years of my professional careers, the city of rapid city had woke up to it’s racist city moniker. We are mired in a border town situation that holds the answer to the future of humanity: what does a post-colonial Turtle Island look like?  What does an America that honors treaties and honors earth look like? It’s a daunting question and a complicated morass of ideological and historical understandings are necessary to even begin to answer it.  I was totally okay with a bunch of folks coming in to see what kind of good action can come from their involvement.     

I was amazed at all the love that came from the peacemakers.  One the last day one of the youngest participants, a five year old Polish girl who spoke no English, asked her parents if they were there about “love.”  That youthful wisdom was right on. I made lifelong friends.  I shared moments of awareness and awakeness and compassion with so many different people, some I can’t even imagine my life without them, today, they filled a place in me.  Then, a few weeks after the Black Hills retreat, after my very effective job of “white people whispering”– Genro asked me along with a Lakota group to Poland and my spirit, so full of my own people’s genocide survival and resilience was to open up even wider.

NATIVEBANNER2016B Two weeks before I left, sadly, one Sunday, I made fast trip home across the prairie, a gray day that was in the middle of a hawk migration, hundreds of hawks greeted us on electricity poles, fence posts, everywhere as we drove home, as I drove my Luta home for the final time, her body had gotten too old. I had been fretting about leaving her, paralyzed with indecision, she knew it, I think, her health dramatically declined, and that evening, my nephews and nieces dug her grave alongside the creek that bears our name. Ours because my great great grandfather manifested destiny there with his dakota wife. My great grandfather is buried on the hill to the west, since 1832, for almost two full centuries now, Jewetts, our two leggeds and our four leggeds have been dying along that creek, and, since we’ve been living alongside it too, that next week, I packed up and went to bear witness to a Nazi death camp.

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2015 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat, Poland

 The being there was critical, at Aushwitz-Berkinau: the shadows, the fog, the track, the guard bookstore, the tourists, the barbed wire, the broken bricks, the stones, the trees.  you have to witness that place, you have to smell the air, you have to touch the tracks. The heavy shroud of death and the raw nakedness of life flows along that creek in Poland, it’s palpable, it’s a place in history like Wounded Knee, like Srebrenica, like Barunjuba, like Khan Yunis, places where evil and man collide and earth never lets us forget.  

We called their names, those long dead spirits, Maria Baumgarten was five years old when she and her mother were meticulously entered into the papers of record. She died before the world could break her heart.  But so many years later, I called her name. And an image of my sweet niece Jaylee, so vulnerable, so fierce came to me and, me, in all my brokenness and all my fear, and all my weakness, I called out her name, fiercely but my voice shook:  Maria Baumgarten.  

 Later that week at dinner, our rowdy table of originals spontaneously began greeting folks by name a la “NORM!” from Cheers. We were loud and boisterous and like the spirits we greeted so solemnly by day, the spirits we greeted at night were thoroughly tickled.  We don’t just survive, we laugh, us humans.

On the final day we walked together in ceremony, praying as all the peoples of the world pray.  We walked as peacemakers, slowly with reverence, in homage to those who walked their final steps among those beautiful birch trees; their leaves were so perfectly golden that sometimes when they fell, it looked to me like raining sunlight.  

The next morning, we drove away in song.  The rabbis were singing shabbat songs as the buses whisked us swiftly away from Oświęcim, back to Krakow. Marsha Gildin told me on the way about Rabbi Schlomo, the Singing Rabbi who brought joy back to his people through song.  I loved that and him and her and the signing rabbis. I loved the idea of singing ourselves through trauma, we do that, in a way.  

I was so honored and humbled and awed to be apart of such wonderful circle of humans.  Black Elk said:


2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.


2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

There’s all kinds of different Lakotas:  the Hunkpapa, Sicangu, Itazipo, Sihasapa, Oglala, Oohenunpa and the really good looking ones, the Mniconjou.  Our Dakota cousins, the Mdwakanton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, Sisseton, Yankton, Yanktonai, the Oceti Sakowin are still scattered throughout turtle island, throughout unci maka, doing what our ancestors taught us.  We are surviving.  We are thriving.  We are still here, fighting for peace of mind for our children, and respect and the freedom to drink sacred water unpolluted by industrial waste.  We don’t all look like Hollywood indians or powwow indians, some of us are barely legally enrolled, some of us were born when our ceremonies were illegal, some of us were beaten to a pulp for speaking our language, for having long hair, for living with our grandmas, like Russell Means said, we all held onto whatever indian we could, the sacred hoop of our people hasn’t been broken by three centuries of holocaust.  We survive without money, without justice and despite the Washington Redskins.

 Come and find out why! Maybe together we can use that knowledge to move humanity itself into a different paradigm. I’m excited for the second Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills. My new puppy Nunpa and I are happy to continue to expand our peacemaker hoop, and to have more folks join us in continuing to do what our people have been doing in this land since time began, listening, learning and laughing together, as relatives.

Thanks for reading, please join us in July.


1350_black_hills_pcChas Jewett is a Mnicoujou Lakota from Rapid City South Dakota.  She is enrolled in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, she has a cat named igmu and a dog named nupa, she grew up on a cattle ranch her family still operates, was educated by the Benedictines, and spends a lot of her time walking alone in the woods, collecting stone hearts, thinking of funny things to say. She is an environmental, reproductive justice, human rights and peace activist and community organizer.

Photos by Peter Cunningham


Register to the 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat Here:








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COMING SOON: NEW WEBINAR SERIES with BERNIE GLASSMAN http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/comingsoonwebinars1/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/comingsoonwebinars1/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 20:47:29 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13588 BSS960



As many of you may know, back in January 12th ​2016 Bernie has suffered a stroke. ​His recovery, according to his therapists, is nothing short of spectacular, other than the peculiar phenomenon that he sometimes, while speaking about his condition, forgets the word ‘stroke.’ He will pause, then recite an esoteric mantra revealed to him in the bardo of neuroscience blackout – ‘Bowling…? Strike..? Stroke.’ – and off he goes resuming his spiel. Watching him do that is like watching a dynamo engine winding itself up, only to release with great gusto. Once he returned home from rehabilitation, between therapies and espressos, Bernie began working on a new book and found great enthusiasm to share his post-stroke insights and current expression of Zen practice, which to him feels fresh and unconventional. “What else is new, right?”

Bernie decided to share his process and study with all of us, for the first time, through periodic video internet calls (webinars). The webinar series will be open to all ZPO Member. If you are not a member yet this is the time to join this international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists and take part in this special opportunity to study with Bernie.


>>If you are an enrolled ZPO Member, you may register to the webinar now and be notified once the dates become available. Click Here to Register<<

Bernie is offering these teaching sessions free of charge. Any dana will appreciated and will support the Zen Peacemaker Order.

No bowling experience or shoes required


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Join the Zen Peacemakers in Auschwitz/Birkenau, October 2016 http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/apauschwitz2016/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/04/apauschwitz2016/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 02:17:58 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13578 ABWbanner2016v



“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.




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. Krynski)


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