Cultivating the Way

Genko and others from Dharma Rain recently shared a sesshin with Zen West/Empty Field in Eugene. In this post, Genko shares pictures and reflections from the event.

Last year’s Cultivating the Way (CTW) retreat west of Eugene was cancelled because of Covid. This year it went on as scheduled August 18-22, with modifications. Most of it was held outdoors and used several Dharma Rain established practices adopted during Covid. Sixteen people, including seven from Dharma Rain (Genko, Kakuon, Yuton, Ryotan, Lucas, Maria Cristina, and Goshin), practiced for the five days of the retreat, and it was wonderful to spend that time together on the land.

This retreat has been held annually for a couple of decades on Seido’s organic farm west of Eugene in the coast range. Seido is a Lay Dharma Teacher, who was transmitted by her teacher Kyogen, and now leads zen groups in Eugene, has a psychotherapy practice, and works on the farm. She and her local sangha, with help from Buddha Eye Temple in Eugene and Dharma Rain, built a rustic zendo in an empty field that floods in the winter — hence Empty Field Zendo — which closes October to April. It serves as a resource for the local community, including the farm community there, and also hosts a couple of retreats each year that others from elsewhere are invited to take advantage of. Seido generously shares leadership of these retreats with others, so the Interdependence retreat in July is done in conjunction with Mushin from Sangha Jewel in Corvallis, and CTW in August is done with Genko from Dharma Rain.

This year we spent the first early morning period of zazen inside the zendo, with masks on. The second period included optional outdoor meditation on the engawa (deck around the building), which left fewer people inside. Everyone inside the building wore a mask, regardless of how many doors and windows were open at any given time. We did oryoki distanced outside on the engawa, with two experienced servers from Dharma Rain, which allowed for giving and receiving in a ceremonial way. Breakfast and lunch were served oryoki style, while dinner was informal, seated in a circle near the outdoor kitchen. Work practice included field work, processing garlic, meal prep, and other work supporting the farm.

Other periods of meditation took place either on the engawa or in the Ash Grove nearby, and the Dharma Talks in the Ash Grove each afternoon were lovely. The weather was delightfully cool all week, partly sunny, and pleasant. Seido and Genko each did Dharma Talks, and each offered sanzen (face to face meeting with a teacher) on different days in the open-air sanzen structure. The last evening, both offered Daisan (kind of a public sanzen) together, outdoors in the Ash Grove.

Like all sesshin (silent retreats), the energy generated kept building, deepening our practice every day. The clarity, softness, and gratitude were palpable by the last day. Seido’s vision for her offering on this beautiful land was fully realized during this week.

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