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October 9, 2013


Abbot Steve Stücky Diagnosed with Terminal Cancer

Letter from President Susan O’Connell

Dear Friends:

Ten days ago our beloved Central Abbot, Myogen Steve Stücky, received a medical diagnosis of stage-four pancreatic cancer.  He shared this news with his family and a few Zen Center leaders, and then wrote an inspiring letter, which was sent out to a few more of his close friends and colleagues.  A copy of that letter is below.

Photo: Renshin Bunce

Photo: Renshin Bunce

We are stunned by this news, and challenged to find ways to accept it.  Needless to say, we are offering our complete support to Myogen and his wife Lane and his entire family.  The exact steps that will be taken to meet the cancer are still being determined, and there is a link at the end of this post that will lead you to a page that will include updates on his condition and allow you to leave messages.

Myogen continues to be engaged in key decisions that are part of his role as Central Abbot, while also expressing his commitment to studying deeply the needs of his body.  He gave the Dharma talk last Wednesday at Green Gulch Farm, and is scheduled to give the talk this evening at the City Center.

A group of us—including Abiding Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts, City Center Abiding Abbot-Elect Rinso Ed Sattizahn, Zen Center Board Chair Mary Morgan and Zen Center President Zesho Susan O’Connell—are meeting weekly and are prepared and fully committed to support Myogen, and Zen Center.  We will be absorbing some of the duties Myogen has so beautifully cared for, as the need arises.

We extend our thoughts of compassion to Abbot Steve and hold him and his family in our hearts.

Deeply Bowing,
Zesho Susan O’Connell


Letter from Abbot Steve

May this find you all healthy. My news is not good:

Today, after two weeks of increasing pains and weakness, Lane and I reviewed the results of last Friday’s CT-scan with Dr. Zhang, oncologist at Kaiser, Santa Rosa. The symptoms and visual evidence are consistent with pancreatic cancer stage four. There are lesions in the lungs, liver, spleen, and a mass on the lower end of the pancreas.

Biopsy results will be forthcoming with more precise detail, hopefully by the end of the week with chemo-therapy beginning next week.

Dr. Zhang believes that if left untreated, I could expect to live three to six months. Effective chemo-therapy should improve quality of life and perhaps double life-expectancy.

My extended family has already been informed of the situation and I look forward to your support as I rearrange my planned activities to take the best care of this body and all the relationships that are so important and rewarding . . . especially those with each of you.

Please address any questions to my assistant, Mary Stares, and we’ll do our best to respond.  Perhaps we’ll set up a a site for regular updates.

to what shall I liken this life?
moonlight, reflected in dewdrops
shaken from a crane’s bill

I got trouble in my mind lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
I got trouble in my mind lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
Well I don’t mind dyin’, I just hate to leave my children cryin’
—Blind Lemon Jefferson

Love to each of you,
myogen steve


Subtle Eye on Abbot Steve

A new dedicated blog site has begun following Steve’s condition and progress as he works with illness and its implications for his relationships with students, colleagues, friends and supporters. The Subtle Eye site, named for the translation of Myogen, welcomes your comments during the process. Visit (also found under the News and Blogs drop-down menu at the top of this page).

In addition, a Facebook page set up by one of Steve’s students, Renshin Bunce, has been collecting comments and photos from many students and friends.



The Dharma event this evening at 7:30 pm at City Center will be focused on Abbot Steve. The latest report is that although he very much wished to be present to give the Dharma talk, he will not be able to due to his condition today. Instead, the community is invited to listen to a playback of his recorded Dharma talk at Green Gulch Farm last Wednesday, with the opportunity for comments and sharing afterward. All are welcome.

His recorded talk last week at Green Gulch Farm is now available on the main SFZC website.


24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 9 2013

    I haven’t been around Zen Center much for decades, but participated in the “alumni” (veterans?) long weekend at Tassajara in April last year. I enjoyed your smile, your laugh, your presence — and the wonderful blues you sang. Thank you so much. Gassho. Rick

  2. Patrick Monk.RN.
    Oct 9 2013

    Greetings Steve.
    You’re in my thoughts. I hope you have at least looked into the possibility of using medical cannabis in some form.
    All love.
    Patrick Monk. RN Hospice Case Manager. SF. Ca.
    Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

    FYI. This what even the Federal government has to admit. This is, in my opinion, an extremely conservative evaluation of the potential benefits. Hope link works and is helpful. I have lots more where that came from.

    My ‘monkey mind’ is predominant today, so one more thought. For those new to the topic of medical cannabis but interested in learning more there is a wealth of information on line and in many books. Two I recommend as primers and easy reads are:-
    “Marijuana:Gateway to Health” by Clint Werner
    “Smoke Signals” by Martin Lee
    Just my 2c.

  3. John Briggs
    Oct 9 2013

    Dear Myogen,
    I am very saddened that you are saddled with this affliction, and I am very sure that your sweet buddha nature is equal to the challenges you are facing. It has always been a pleasure to hear you in the zendo, and to cross paths with you wherever that happened. I don’t think I can ever hear the blues again without thinking of you.
    Blessings to you, dear friend.
    John Briggs

  4. Jeanne Nelson
    Oct 9 2013

    Thoughts and healing prayers surround you and your family.

  5. Nadine Greenwood
    Oct 9 2013

    Deeply sad about the news. Sending my love to Steve and Lane.


  6. Judith Cosgrove
    Oct 9 2013

    How can a person whom I’ve never personally met or even seen seem like a friend? Please don’t make me cry any more than I already am, Steve. ( At least I’ve got “Red, red, robin…”) Take care of yourself, live long. Judy, a practicer at Jikoji

  7. Mary Bernstein
    Oct 9 2013

    I have never met Steve personally, but have heard him speak (live and on podcast).
    My heart is broken……..

  8. Vicki Harms
    Oct 9 2013

    Myogen Steve, I am holding you and your family in my heart with blessings and thoughts for your health

  9. Susan Hopp
    Oct 9 2013

    Dear Abbott Steve,

    The memories of the Tassajara Zen-Yoga retreat of a month ago are all the sweeter now. It was such a beautiful few days immersed in Zen and Yoga with you and Shokuchi. You were an inspiration all around – in yoga, seeing you embrace the asanas with your tall strong body; and in Zen, you touched everyone, imparting a deepening understanding. Your quiet wisdom and joyful accepting nature is a beacon of light. I hear you now leading the group in song to ”What a Wonderful World”… Sending you support and love as you take the best care of your body.

  10. I am so saddened by this news. Your peaceful being will bring you through this. Our healing love. Steve and Carrie

  11. Elizabeth Thompson
    Oct 9 2013

    Whenever Patrick and I are at Tassajara — and even when we are not — we remember you singing, so unexpectedly and appropriately, “Relax Your Mind”. Peace and relaxation be with you through this tumultuous time. With thanks and blessings to you and your family.

  12. Judy Worth Friedsam
    Oct 9 2013

    I had the pleasure of meeting you for the first time and listened to your dharma talk last Wednesday at Green Gulch…as all the other talks I have ever listened to via SFZC’s podcast, you inspire me to embrace the practice on a deeper level….

    Like everyone else, I am saddened by your diagnosis….I wish you and your family infinite strength as you journey through treatment…

    Healing thoughts and prayers go out to you Myogen…
    bowing deeply….

  13. Lyn Flitton
    Oct 9 2013

    Dear Abbot Myogen Steve, I know you only through your Dharma talks online, but through those feel intimately connected to you as a result of their deep and hearty wisdom and, of course, your singing. Thank you. May you be well.

  14. Frank Ostaseski
    Oct 9 2013


    My heart is with you. Happy to support you and the sangha in any way I can. I have confidence in you for no good reason other than the way you have lead your entire life.


  15. Sandra M. Coady
    Oct 9 2013

    Dear Abbot Myogen Steve, I am very saddened to hear this news and will keep you and your family in my prayers. With heartfelt thanks for all your kindnesses in leading the wonderful Zen Center. With gratitude and admiration, Sandra M. Coady and Family

  16. Jay Pennington
    Oct 10 2013

    Update posted today on Remember to check there for future updates.

  17. Oct 10 2013

    Remember to not forget the solo rock in the stream at the falls at Tassajara,,, Forever

  18. Oct 12 2013

    Somos limitados a um tempo e espaço nesta forma. E gosto de lembrar: A vida é uma ponte, não construas pois casas sobre ela. ( guia para o Zen segundo a escola Sotoshu – iten 2. Dos Doze Princípios Básicos do Budismo pg.: 8 ) O nascimento e a morte são coisas importantes atinjamos pois a Iluminação nesta vida.
    Energias positivas a seu favor… São Paulo – Guarulhos – Brasil

  19. doris harder
    Oct 13 2013

    Dear Abbot,
    Dario and I received your message during an European Teachers Meeting in France. Chanting and prostrating in front of the altar at Kalu Rinpoches Monastary. You are with me daily and I chant the Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo throughout the day.
    You did so much for me. Please, let me know if I can do anything for you. I will be at CC between Oct 24th and Dec 1rst.

    Always grateful. MyoE Doris Harder, Vienna

  20. Ann Baker
    Oct 13 2013

    Hi Steve,
    Margie and I are hiking the true human body on the coastal path of Anglesey, an island off the coast of Wales. We love you and we want to thank you for your teaching, your service as abbot, and for your Steveness. Empty Sky Sangha in Arizona will be doing a well-being ceremony for you every Sunday.
    Ann Baker and Margie Erhart

  21. Katherine Petrin
    Oct 13 2013

    Dear Abbot Steve, Though we’ve only spoken a few times, I do not know you as well I as I’d like. I am grateful for the things I know about you… things I’ve heard others, from your talks, from reading Fire Monks. Even knowing you a little and in some less-than-direct ways, you have made an impression on me and how I hope to live my life. My form of support for you is to hold an image of you, smiling, among my most positive daily thoughts, and to visualize any pains you have leaving your body and flying up to the clouds, your feet planted firmly on the earth for as long as possible. Thank you. With love and a deep bow.

  22. Anthony Castellano
    Oct 13 2013

    dear myogen steve,
    your evening SFZC vimalakirti class final performances and presentations projects– aprox. 4-5 yrs ago are literally one of the top highlights of my LIFE and have aided my practice.
    gassho teacher of the Dharma,
    Anthony C

  23. Jay Pennington
    Oct 17 2013

    Message from Les Kaye:

    Dear Steve –
    Best wishes from the entire Sangha of Kannon Do.
    We are grateful for your years of devoted practice.
    We are thinking about you.
    With many bows,
    – Les Kaye

  24. elsullo
    Oct 18 2013

    Steve, just hold up your baseball glove. You never know if someone might hit a ball right to it……………………elsullo


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