Clara House, located just down Page Street from City Center, is a family shelter with which San Francisco Zen Center has been involved for many years. It has been our tradition for City Center to host a holiday party for the families where each child is given a gift that was selected, bought, and wrapped for him or her by a sangha member. Due to the shelter-in-place restrictions, we are unable to invite the children and their parents into the temple but we plan to still have a role in their holiday celebrations.
We are inviting 20 participants (individuals or groups), to purchase a $50 gift certificate for one of the families. The request, per discussion with the Clara House director, is that the certificates are from either Target or Visa, as these will give the parent a range of choices. Because the gift cards will be used to purchase holiday gifts for the children, we would like to have them ready to be delivered by November 30 at the latest.
If you would like to make a donation of a gift card, please contact Outreach Coordinator Jeffrey Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please DO NOT send a certificate until you have contacted him to confirm that there is still a need and that the total has not yet been reached.
Thank you for helping Outreach and City Center to make the holidays at Clara House merry and bright! Read more
During my first month as a farm apprentice at Green Gulch I had a bad dream. I dreamt that I had gone home for the weekend and that my boyfriend had been with his ex-girlfriend. When I woke up I was really upset.
Later that morning I was sitting at breakfast with some people I didn’t know very well. Someone asked me how I was and I said, “Actually I feel kind of off-kilter, I can’t stop thinking about this bad dream I had last night.” All three people at the table were completely available and present. They asked me, “Do you want to talk about it?” So I told them the dream. As I was telling them I was thinking, “Do they really want to hear this?” They were so attentive. Read more
I started going to San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) in 2017. As with some of the best things that you discover in life, I found SFZC through word of mouth. I was looking for a spiritual home in San Francisco and a place to practice meditation that would be peaceful and have a sense of community.
From the moment I walked into SFZC, with its Japanese scrolls and statues and the Julia Morgan architecture, it felt like this peaceful serene place that was familiar. For me, my home has been and continues to be the Young Urban Zen (YUZ) affinity group. Especially during Covid-19 and sheltering in place it has been a great support and a consistent stable space. I see familiar faces every week. I get exposure to the dharma. There’s a sense of growth and connection there. Read more
Let me go back to the very beginning before Green Gulch Farm was established. When the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was finalized, George Wheelwright made land available to San Francisco Zen Center. Some of the members of the Zen community were looking over the ranch houses on the property. I visited Green Gulch because I had started an organization called Enterprise for Youth, for high school students, and I was looking for a place in Marin for the students to spend a summer in the country.
I saw these black-robed Zen people, the way they moved, just their way of their being, and I felt an instant connection. This was in the 1970s. I’d been a very loose Episcopalian, not really believing in it. But this seemed to be so nourishing … In 1982 I decided that I would become a member of the San Francisco Zen Center. Spiritually it fit like a glove over my hand and it still does.
I would get up in the morning to meditate half an hour before I went off to work. My husband wasn’t averse to it but he could never spit out the word “meditation” — he would call it “exercises.” As in, “Are you going to do your exercises?” I meditated faithfully in the mornings and evenings. That carried me for many years.
I’m originally from Argentina and I practiced Soto Zen for many years in the Deshimaru lineage there. Back then I already knew about SFZC and had read Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I remember thinking at the time how “far away” San Francisco Zen Center felt. Who would have guessed I would be writing this? Read more
How did I first come to San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC)? It’s kind of a funny story. I was going through a lot since my mother had passed away. I was suffering quite a bit. I knew my spiritual path had started whether I liked it or not.
I was going to a meditation group in my neighborhood, but I started to feel like it wasn’t the right fit, especially since they were pressuring me to do a lot of work for them. One day they said if I didn’t want to volunteer with their group, I could go to SFZC. They were trying to put SFZC down but it actually led me there, since I had never heard of it before. Read more
Engetsu Lefevre first came to SFZC’s City Center in 2013. After several years of Zen practice in her native Brazil, she was looking for a Zen center for long-term residential practice in the US.
I took the night bus from LA to San Francisco, and arrived really early in the morning,” Engetsu recalled. “When I walked through the front door at City Center, I left my backpack in the office and went straight into the Buddha Hall to join the morning service. We were chanting the Heart Sutra in Japanese, the Makka Hannya Haramitta Shin Gyo. Many of the sanghas I had already visited in the US didn’t chant the Japanese version.
In that moment in the Buddha Hall, I felt connected by chanting in Japanese like we did at my home sangha in Brazil. I didn’t have a connection with SFZC before this, and from all the Zen centers I visited that year, I had the shortest stay at SFZC, only a week. But because of that feeling of connection, I came back to SFZC as a resident the next year.
Carla Walter already had a dedicated spiritual practice when she visited Tassajara for the first time in 2018, and she “had no intention of becoming a Zen practitioner.” She tells the story of how she changed her mind and became increasingly involved with San Francisco Zen Center.
My first experience with SFZC was in August of 2018. I went with my sister to Tassajara, where she had been going for years. I went along because I really just wanted seven days of not being online, not being a wife, not being anything, just doing absolutely nothing. But once we got there, I was affected by the way people were and the way they interacted with me, my sister, and each other, and of course the food didn’t hurt, and the stars at night; it was just phenomenal.
By Cat Li Stevenson
Kyoshin Wendy Lewis has been practicing at San Francisco Zen Center since 1987, including living for six years at Tassajara. She was ordained by Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1997, and completed Dharma Transmission with Eijun Linda Cutts in December of 2012. She will be teaching an online class this Fall on The Ten Oxherding Pictures 10/08-11/19.
For the past several years in September, City Center has hosted a dinner for volunteers whose constant efforts help to keep the temple open and functioning. This year we are unable to offer our thanks in person, but we want to acknowledge their vital contributions to the practice life of San Francisco Zen Center. Truly the volunteers and the residents together are the strong threads that weave the seamless fabric of this practice. Read more