Mondo Zen | Hollow Bones | Friends of Zen

February, 2013

Sonoma Sesshin

At the end of January, 28 people participated in the Mondo Zen retreat in California.   Deep silence, deep connection under the redwoods at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center.

Chiso Catherine Hupp and Hozo Dean Henry took jukai.


Three priests were ordained:  Choan Tim Cook, Engo Michael Jackson, and Bodhi William Prince.

Just this.

Letting Go ... Until Gone

by Tozan Paco Verin

One aspect of this practice I greatly value is how directly it reveals that talk is indeed cheap. “Talk” could certainly mean “thoughts” or “opinions” or “wants” as well. “What is the quality and depth of my practice?” becomes a pointed question in my mind when all is not going as planned or desired.

I held great anticipation for this January’s Sonoma retreat. I had been friends with the three men ordaining and Catherine, taking jukai, since their first retreats.
To be jiki jitsu for these people near and dear to me was a gift and an honor. 

Then came a conversation with Junpo about Sosan’s request to be in the role. In the spirit of sharing and being practical (I’ll be jiki in March), I let go of what I’d wanted in exchange for being one of the musicians for the ceremonies. “Wait and see, Grasshopper.” 

I had also anticipated a strong retreat for myself and was delighted to find I’d dropped right in from day one. No mental struggle. No physical pain. A first! Woohoo!

Until... waking up Wednesday morning feeling drained and woozy. After the morning service mirror bow, I nearly did a face plant, so chose to lie down for a while. Lying in bed, just on the other side of the zendo wall, I could hear, albeit muffled, Junpo’s review of Mondo with the group. 

“Let go.” 
“No, I want to feel well and participate.” 

My mind was racing, regretting, bemoaning, trying to deny what was so I could rejoin the group. Fatigue took over, and I slept through lunch in to mid-afternoon.

Ug! My excellent practice gone in a flash. My delight in the approaching ceremonies turned in to a fight for enough energy to just show up physically. 

“Let go.” 
“No, I want...” 

Sickness arrived at this guest house and insisted on bluntly honest dokusan: “How present are you to what is? Even if you don’t like it. Even if it is physically miserable. Even if it means missing these once-in-a-lifetime events with your friends? Who are you, Mr. Buddha-bling-dharma-name Guy?” 

I had regained enough energy to be Catherine’s jukai witness (dharma name Chi So) and was glad for her that I did. A struggle just to sit upright through dinner followed, then Bam! down for the count for the evening chanting and sits. Clearly, letting go and leaning in were the only sane choices left.  

Slowly I realized there was no returning to the zendo that night. Slowly I accepted not getting what I’d wanted and that being present, fully present, with the discomfort of the head cold, was my practice at hand, and if honored and engaged in it, perhaps a gift. I put all my attention on the discomfort in my head, sinuses, and tired body. What is sickness? What?!!

I spent the entire Thursday morning practice in bed and rose to eat lunch and prepare for the priest ordinations. Lots of sangha love and generous sharing of immune boosters help enormously. During the ceremony preparation, a reminder of tradition, as well as pragmatics, took the inkin from my hands. 

Let go again. Not what I want. What is. Let go. The ceremony was beautiful, graced by spontaneous presence of a baby Buddha, and the party that followed brought plenty of sacred laughter.

Following the retreat, I was among those who went to Harbin Hot Springs. It was a magical and rejuvenating time. Until the stomach virus claimed seven of us. 

“Yes, let go. Lean in. What?” 

All the thrill of Harbin gone in a flush. And back home, finally getting over the virus, Bam! sinusitus. Due to frequent use of antibiotics in recent years, I decided to go without this time. Oh, brave lad... skull-splitting pain, missing work and income, cancelling my first Sunday sangha sit and more became my koan practice. What kind of host shall I be in this guest house?

(continued next column)


by HoZo Dean Henry

I came to the mountain to acquire yet again.
This time silence and a new name.

I received the name,
graciously bestowed.
Silence alluded me
beneath critical mind.
Retreat come and gone.

Half-empty early morning plane,
mountains and clouds pass below,
San Francisco to Minneapolis--

The still point...

Spacious and deep call: "HoZo"!
The name, the silence, here.
Heart breaks open,
universe gushes forth!

Just this...
a very broad smile.


March 8-10 - 3 day Silent retreat at Treehaven Center in northern Wisconsin led by Doyo Ken Morrison and Daji Corrina Peterson. Registration by Doyo (

March 11-17, 2013 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Sesshin in Amsterdam.  Click here for more information and to register.  For information via email, contact

March 14-17, 2013 - 3-Day Silent Retreat at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center  in California led by Hollow Bones women priests.

March 23-29, 2013- 6-day Mondo Zen Sesshin at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania led by Doshin Roshi.

May 11-18, 2013 - 7-day Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO.

June 15-22, 2013 - 7-day specially designed Mondo Zen Sesshin at Dai Bosatsu in New York State led by Jun Po Roshi.  This retreat is full.  Contact Kevala at to be placed on the waiting list.

July 15-21, 2013 - 6-Day Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi in Griswold, Iowa.

September 14-20 - 6-Day Silent Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in CA.

November 9-16 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Teacher Training in Loveland, Colorado, led by Doshin Roshi. 
Pre-requisite:  You are required to have attended a regular Mondo retreat. See the website regarding exceptions.

December 1-7 - 6-day Rohatsu silent sesshin at Norbertine Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin, led by Jun Po Roshi.

Visit the Retreat Calendar on the website for more information.

The Junpo Roku 

Authored by Daju Suzanne Friedman, The Junpo Roku is a record of the early teachings of Roshi Junpo Denis Kelly.

This roku, or official record, addresses such topics as Zen meditation, the nature of mind, the ego, koan practice, form and ritual, sutras, everyday dharma, and the Zen Buddhist approach to thoughts and emotions.

The roku is available now through CreateSpace and also for Kindle.

Jun Po's Biography

A Heart Blown Open: The Life & Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi by Keith Martin-Smith is available on Amazon.    

Letting Go (...cont.)

Retreats are a great experience. Clear zazen is unparalleled. But of what use are they if not applied when circumstances abruptly change and even involve great pain over an extended period?

While this practice certainly lends to a graceful and rich life, it is far from being about tiptoeing through the spiritual tulips.

I have been sick for 2-1/2 weeks now, and despite the perceived discomfort, frustration and losses, I have gained a radically deeper appreciation for this fleeting and ultimately frail human life, and a greater capacity and will to be with whatever is. 

“Let go” is perhaps the one ultimate koan. Flush. Then get off the pot and vigorously, compassionately engage with this mysterious life. Because a final letting go awaits all of us, and who knows when? Will I be ready? Will you? 

Let go ... Life is now.

Keep Me Fully Glad

Keep me fully glad with nothing. Only take my hand in your hand.
In the gloom of the
deepening night
take up my heart

and play with it as you list.
Bind me close to you
with nothing.

I will spread myself out at your feet and lie still. 
Under this clouded sky 
I will meet silence with silence. 
I will become one with 
the night clasping the earth 
in my breast.

Make my life glad with nothing.
The rains sweep the sky
from end to end.
Jasmines in the wet untamable
wind revel
in their own perfume.

The cloud-hidden stars
thrill in secret.
Let me fill to the full my heart
with nothing but
my own depth of joy. 

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Mondo Zen's Mission from our Sutra Book

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