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May 10, 2012

Making Time for a Still, Quiet Place:

The Summer Retreat

Teah Strozer, guiding teacher at the Brooklyn Zen Center and a practice leader at SFZC, will be coming to City Center to lead three weeks of study, mindful work, and zazen during the annual Summer Retreat (July 14 – August 4). This annual, intensive period of practice, which will explore the concept of time, will end with a 5-day sesshin.

Photo by Shundo David Haye

In an interview from Brooklyn last week, Teah reflected on the value of joining the City Center sangha for this special three-week practice period.

What is unique about this particular event?

“We are trying to encourage everyone who can to take this time to stop and nurture themselves in this way. Because of the intensity and duration of the retreat, participants will have the opportunity to reconnect to zazen in a deeper way than what we can usually do.”

What is the experience like? How is it valuable to our urban practice community?

“What we give our attention to is what grows, and what we spend time doing is what we value. It’s why Christina [Lehnherr, City Center Abbess] is so clear about supporting everyone who can to do this retreat together. This is a chance to deepen our practice together as a sangha. People are always coming and going in the City, so being able to do a retreat together will help build intimacy.”

What is the value of stepping out of our busy city lives to participate in this kind of retreat?

“If we are serious about our own freedom from karmic, conditioned, habit mind, we can live intimately connected with and open to other living beings. In this way, we can respond with some kind of sanity to this hurting world. We need to make a choice to stop the wild seeking and grasping outside and look inside to a still, quiet place. It is from this place that we can respond with a hand held out to bring others along. Everything benefits from our practice. The point is to stop, sit, and look, receiving what we deeply already are.”

Teah recently led a spring practice period at the Brooklyn Zen Center which was also focused on the topic of time. One of her students, Ruth Ozeki, had this to say:  “It may be true that there’s no such thing as time, but try telling that to a New Yorker [or a San Franciscan, for that matter]. I think we must be especially talented at making big problems out of this particular mental construct, so Teah’s teachings about time during this practice period have been really helpful, practical, and…timely. Her retreats are powerful, both for the intimacy she calls forth from the group, but most of all because of the presence, insight and skill she brings to face-to-face individual meetings. She’s gathered together a wide range of study material for discussion and contemplation, but she grounds the exploration in a down-to-earth practice of this moment that will stay with us forever.”

Teah Strozer

Brooklyn Zen Center co-founder Greg Snyder also had some thoughts to share about time, the theme of study at both SFZC and BZC: “In my experience, these teachings point to the way we construct linear time. Whether it be framed as memory or expectation, the course believed to run from past to future is born in our ongoing comparisons of present experience to thought. Once this is seen clearly, a critical piece of the architecture of self comes unhinged. Without the illusion of linear time as the backbone of the self’s perceived permanence, the truth of life as this one, ever-changing, effervescent moment is illuminated. But our society has convinced us that virtually nothing is more important than tying ourselves to the clock and it’s ever-anxious cousin, the to-do list. Seeing time for what it is requires stillness and bravery – a willingness to fall off a ledge into now. So we sit, we study and we observe as the dharma unfolds. What joy!”

We hope you are able to join the City Center sangha for a joyful investigation of the illusion of time and the only moment we know – this present miracle of a moment – during the Summer Retreat. More information, including how to apply, is available on our website: City Center Summer Retreat.