I flew out to Cincinnati Ohio on Thursday to lead our first 3-day retreat in our permanent location for the Great Cloud Zen Center. The trip was uneventful and I met up with Reverend Jigen who also flew in from California to attend the retreat. Rev. Jigen lives in Oakland and is a priest in the Five Mountain Order. He rented a car and we embarked upon the short drive from Northern Kentucky to our location in the heart of residential Cincinnati. It was cold and rainy as we left the airport and when we reached the street where the center was located, it was a bit difficult for us to find the address in the dark rainy night. After several passes, we managed to see the sign out front that said Great Cloud Zen Center.
When we got upstairs, there were several of the retreatants along with our Daechuji Sunim (Reverend Jiun, SDPS) in the Kitchen drinking tea and munching on pizza. Rev. Jigen and I were hungry and were thankful for the pizza and the time to warm up. Once we got our bags and possessions settled we all retired for the evening.
When I woke up for our first day of our three day Yong Mang Jong Jin (to leap like a tiger while sitting) I noticed a light frosting of snow on the ground and cars outside my window. It was refreshing to feel the briskness of the cold weather and still I was glad to be inside of a warm and sheltered Zen Center. In addition, when we got up several of the (semi) local attendees had arrived and we all met for a review of what we would be experiencing for the next three days. Rev. Jiun and I had decided to allow the participants to experience formal meals and this meant that meals had to be cooked and served as a group effort.
A few weeks prior to the retreat, I had contacted my old Dharma Brother Barry Briggs to ask him if he could share some of the extensive work, he had done when he was the Abbot of Dharma Sound Zen Center in Seattle. Barry graciously shared his menus, recipes and shopping guides with us to facilitate our formal meals. This turned out to be a monumental help in allowing our retreat to run as smooth as any I have attended with experienced practitioners.
There were four of us who had attended our 5-day retreat last year at a rental facility in Grailville and four who had never sat with us before. Therefore, we reviewed the forms and assigned the jobs, as much as they are within our Korean tradition. Our form tends to not structure too much the distribution of work and looks more for spontaneous involvement at the moment a job needs to be filled. I could not have been more happy with the balance of work and the flawlessness of the daily duties. Of course, we did have a Tenso (Cook) for the whole retreat who was Adam and he had let me know that he really had not cooked anything in his life. By the end of the retreat, we were all so happy with the results of his efforts that we all enjoyed each and every meal. Adam was very thankful to Barry for his efforts and his help in allowing him to grow as cook and to take away any worry he had that existed prior to the retreat. Within this, our friend Barry Briggs was manifest as the ninth member of our retreat.
Rev. Jiun and I worked on an eclectic liturgy for our morning and evening chanting. The new liturgy was drawn from his time as a Tibetan Monk, our Korean tradition as well as my involvement with the Boundless Way Zen Group under the direction of James Ford Roshi. Everyone kept a just do it mind and managed the bell and the mogaku instrument assignments that were rotated around during the retreat. This was definitely a try mind and just do it retreat.I did the initial interviews with everyone and then sat in for the rest of the retreat working with Rev. Jiun on interviews with students. We all had a wonderful time discovering the ineffable truth and bonded as our sangha emerges slowly. At the end of the retreat we had three of the retreatants taking precepts. Two of the participants who took the first five householder precepts are students in the Five Mountain Seminary and they were Laura and Glenda. Additionally, Reverend Jishou who is also a priest in the Japanese Tendai lineage took the 74 Precepts in the Five Mountain Order and became a Bodhisattva Priest. It was a great pleasure to share a beautiful weekend of discovery with all our new family.