StoneWater sangha visit to Zen Mountain Centre
Some places seem to be alive in the mind well before one ever makes the trip. These may be the great physical forms and structures of the world: the Grand Canyon, the Forbidden City, the Pyramids, the sort of destinations ‘Google Earth’ can zip you to, round and through in just a few seconds. Others places may be vivid because of the feeling you have for the people who inhabit them; friends or family living far away who you speak to, swap photos with or even video link with regularly. Maybe one day a visit becomes possible when time, money, relationships and the other distractions and demands of life allow. Zen Mountain Centre was a place which had a pull in both these ways for me and in May, I was fortunate to be able to join Sensei and Eido in making the long imagined journey.
On Roshi’s regular trips to the UK over the years I had heard him describe with great affection the forms of this place. A high mountain valley, summer heat and winter snow , cayotes, ‘rattlers’ and mountain lions; wooden buildings hidden among the pines and rocks; ‘Turtle Rock’ a striking multi-coloured crag rising protectively above it all to the blue sky above, and, for the dedicated fell walker, (or ‘hiker’ in US I was told) the lure of the ‘Pacific Crest Trail’, following ancient trails high above the centre where on one side you could see the ocean and, on the other, the desert with its distant cities shimmering in the heat haze.
Of course, apart from the wonder of its location and physical forms, Mountain Centre also attracted because of its place in promoting and protecting the sangha’s history and traditions, and in sustaining friendships across the pond. Several friends from Liverpool and the UK who practised with Keizan Sensei had visited and practised at Mountain Centre with Roshi. Some even had the courage to leave England’s sunny shores to become residents. A particular highlight of this trip was to be involved and witness Jishin’s Shuso Hosen ceremony. Chinese New Year had nothing on this for colour sound and theatre!
In summary, it was wonderful and moving to see this special place, to meet old friends again and to be inspired by everyone’s hospitality and commitment to the great matter. If you haven’t yet been and time, money, work and relationships one day allow, don’t hesitate.
John Suigen Kenworthy