Street Retreat Reflections ~ Sally Kealy

This article is part of a series of articles written about a Holy Week 2011 Street Retreat, which took place in New York City. This retreat commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the first Zen Peacemakers street retreat, also in New York.  Zen Master Bernie Glassman invited several longtime students and companions to the retreat to become recognized as Senseis and Dharma Holders. Read bios and reflections of retreat participants. Read explanation of ceremony by Bernie Glassman. See more retreat pictures by Peter Cunningham.

Appreciatory Verse to Bernie:

Your vow has been to feed all the hungry spirits throughout all space and time.

Under that red beret,

You call a new game into play.

So many slices in this pizza-

Delicious!!!!

Yes, so many slices and flavors became apparent at our Holy Week New York City Street Retreat which also commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the first ever street retreat located also in the Big Apple.  This retreat was a little different.

Bernie invited ten of his long standing students and activists to participate in this event.   There was also a wonderful Theravaden nun, Pannavati, and our long time street guide, Larry Batman Chamberlain, and Bernie’s assistant, Ari Pliskin, with  Sensei Paco Lugovina and our street retreat leader, Roshi Genro Gauntt.  As we walked the streets in the wind and rain I looked at the flavors of this pizza:  Belgian, French, Swiss, Polish, American, Israeli, Puerto Rican,Afro-American, and they all karmically gathered around a divine madman from Brooklyn named Bernie Glassman, “Bernie”.

At the end of the retreat on Easter Sunday the ten invited plus Pannavati and Batman participated in a ceremony of Dharma Recognition in the Five Buddha Familuies—ironically nothing is given in this ceremony between teacher and student for it is already there.  It impressed me deeply how this ceremony strips everything away to “just this”===moment by moment.  How could there be something added?.  And yet, I always felt that when we chanted the women’s lineage and said, “And to all those who have been forgotten or left unsaid”, that I stood for all of them.  And now the title, Sensei, has been given to me, and I feel rather odd, and yet, encouraged.

The street retreat prepared me for what happened a few days later.   Our home is for sale, and that is a necessity, and we found that my husband, John, is also retiring in two months!  Many changes and many chances to trust and believe in the words that launch the Bowery Mission service, “God is Good!”  “All the time!”

Easter Sunday with my family was wonderful, and as I returned over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey that evening, I saw those slices of pizza in my mind’s eye.  Bernie with his walking stick, Barbara holding his arm.  Frank sleeping so well, Peter Cunningham in his red beret, Michael O”Keefe directing our ceremony, Rabbi Ohad’s sweet-nectar voice,  Pannavati’s bow,  Batman’s smile and glowing eyes,  Genro’s commanding leadership,  Roland Wegmuller’s generosity in making rakasus (and Barbara making malas), Heinz washing my feet, Michel Dubois’s Don’t Know smile, Andrejez’s wonderful profile,  Ari Pliskin’s tirelessness, Paco’s joy for others.

Truly, truly—- one DELICIOUS pizza!

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