Introducing ZPI Affiliate Group: Deep Ocean Zendo Community

To strengthen our planetary network, ZPI will feature newly affiliated groups.  Join HERE to explore some of the offerings of the organizations affiliated with ZPI, and visit here for a full list of these groups.  Following is an introduction to Deep Ocean Zendo in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

What is your organization’s name?

Deep Ocean Zendo

What is your mission?

We are a community dedicated to the realization of our true nature and the healing of the world through Zen study and practice.

Where is your organization based?

1500 Kindly Court, Suite 202 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455

How many regular members do you serve?

We started in June. We have about 35 people who come at varying times. Rarely all together. So far, our most consistent group meets on Monday evenings, and is usually 6-8 people.

Tell us a bit about how the group was conceived?

In April, I moved to Virginia Beach, VA at the great urging of my daughters, because various health problems kept prompting them to come to me in the hospitals in New York where I was living. They urged me to move down to be in the area with them so they could take care of me. 

I decided that was not only fair, but that I had reached a point in my life where I was ready to focus on what is absolutely the most important things I want to be doing. For me, at the top of my list, was the creation of a new Zen center. Having previously served as Guiding Teacher of Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, NY, I looked forward to the birthing of a Zen center in an area where there is relatively little Buddhism. (Virginia Beach has one large Zen temple, predominantly Vietnamese.) 

As I talked with Enkyo Roshi, my teacher who had given me transmission, and we talked about a name, I mentioned that the most outstanding characteristic I knew about Virginia Beach was the fact that it was a beach: with ocean around most of it. The adding of the term “Deep” has a long personal history for me: as a now retired master scuba diving teacher, I had established a business I called “Deep Journeys” in which I would take people on scuba diving trips that included Zen practice. Robert Aitken had recently died, but I was told that he had experimented with combining the two as well. In addition, of course, the ocean as metaphor was important for Dōgen in his writings on Zen. For me personally, my love of the ocean is how I express my work and concern for Climate Change. Just last week I attended a local meeting of a scuba diving club who had a professor of Virginia Institute of Science share she was an ichthyologist and proceeded to talk about her favorite focus, Oarfish. Her talk brought in clear issues of climate change affecting very deep (600-900 feet) ocean life, which is where the Oarfish live.

Tell us about one exciting project, program, retreat or other offering you are currently working on?

Inspired by David Loy’s urging for us to “practice in the wild,” I have started weekly Zazen at the beach on Saturday mornings. At this point in the season (fall), of course, 7 a.m. is sunrise, so it’s perfect!

How do the Three Tenets inform your social engagement? 

We gather each week to practice this dedication in some very simple ways. We sit and meditate. We walk and meditate. We chant. We listen to one another and discuss the path to this realization.

Some of us extend our commitment to healing ourselves and the ocean as scuba divers. Diving into the sea, we enter the depths practicing the Three Tenets of Zen Peacemakers International: Not Knowing- and therefore, being ready to see what is actually there in the depths (beer cans or eels,;  Bearing Witness to what we find, especially as manifested by the impact of climate change;  and Taking Action, doing actual research and sending underwater photos to appropriate agencies concerned with the health of every aspect of ocean life, thereby tracking sea change as related to climate change.

What is the most meaningful challenge your organization faces?

Virginia Beach is a primary center for evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. The fact that I grew up with that means that I understand it very well, while not being constricted by it. The central attraction to Zen, I believe, is that it teaches us how to open to the depths of the self that is not just I/we, but the Self of the entire cosmos. That’s an awareness and a point of view that is not easily come by, nor felt lacking. It is, I would say, opened up for people when dealing with suffering and some experiences of great joy. Getting acquainted with people in the community as part of everyday life seems to me to be key to our growth and development.

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Your main contact email address for members:

Learn more about Deep Ocean Zendo by visiting their website, and visit to find more great work by our global affiliate network.  A complete list of our affiliated groups can be found here.

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Introducing ZPI Affiliate Group: Deep Ocean Zendo Community

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