Sweeping Heart Zen has taken root in Gloucester in 2017. We’ve grown as a website and settled in as a center for meditation and Buddhist practice. Consequently, I think it’s a good time to write a post to (re)introduce SHZ to our growing community of members, readers, and friends. The Buddha described his teachings as, “…visible here and now, immediate…, to be experienced by the wise.” That is, he invited us to inspect, test, and experience his teachings firsthand. The Buddha did not offer his teachings as dogma. They’re not a catechism-like checklist of ideas to believe. On the contrary, the teachings are experiments in living to be tried and tested. One asks, “Do I grow in joy, peace, and contentment as I practice these teachings? Do the people close to me suffer less as I grow in this way of life?” Testing the merits of the teachings and the value of the techniques can be likened to mindfulness in action, to compassion in action. Consequently, the Sweeping Heart Zen Way is practical, experiential, broad minded, and nonsectarian.
The recorded teachings of the Buddha, Rumi, and Jesus, for example, guide and inspire untold numbers of people everyday. Yet these days, people are just as likely to find guidance from Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, or Norma Fischer. Today, experienced, authentic teachers abound. Given this richness, SHZ embraces many wholesome wisdom teachers and traditions. Consequently, though we practice Zen Buddhism, we do not cling to Zen or to any teacher’s views on what Buddhism requires.
Mindfulness in Action
The Buddha’s liberating instructions guide our meditation and mindfulness, and nurture our growth in harmless conduct and compassion. Sweeping Heart Zen shares the Buddha’s teachings with the world. We call our way of practice “mindfulness in action.” In fact, Zen is mindfulness in action. Meditation in action. Compassion in action.
Sweeping Heart Zen offers many opportunities for practice. At the present time, this includes: Dharma teachings and talks, book club style discussions, weekly meditation gatherings, chanting services, and retreats. Additionally, SHZ occasionally offers Yoga theory and movement, including Laughter Yoga inspired techniques and other mindfulness in action practices to reduce worry, anxiety, and fear. Please check the calendar on our website for our daily and weekly offerings. sweepingheartzen.org/events/
I take refuge in sangha, before all beings, bringing harmony to everyone…
Together with the above, SHZ emphasizes harmonious communication and deep listening as practices. Our sangha gathers for meditation every Sunday morning. After meditation, we practice Dharma discussion. Dharma discussion is a time to create a deeper sense of harmony in our sangha. During our Dharma discussions, participants share their experiences in practice. It’s a time for us to support each other by opening our hearts through compassionate listening and, when it is appropriate and welcome, we offer our advice and encouragement to each other. Of course, we always look to grow our understanding and appreciation for one another. We encourage everyone to apply the skills we practice in Dharma discussion to everyday life and relationships.
In addition to the above, from time-to-time, SHZ supports prison meditation work, and meditation and mindfulness trainings with the staff and clients of community based organizations. We have also sometimes offered meals in local community food programs.
The Soto Zen Buddhist Association
Of course, some of you know that I am Daishin Mark Nelson, a Soto Zen priest. I have taken vows in the lineage streams of both Maezumi Roshi and Suzuki Roshi. My present day spiritual friend and ordination teacher is John Bailes, the founder of One Heart Zen in Somerville, MA. John is in Suzuki Roshi’s lineage stream. John is a Dharma Successor to Norman Fischer.
Additionally, since September, I have been an associate member of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. That makes Sweeping Heart Zen an affiliated center of the SZBA. szba.org/centers/sweeping-heart-zen/
Along with my SZBA affiliation, I aspire to live by and am accountable to the Ethical Guidelines of the SZBA. That is, I have pledged to be accountable to the SZBA’s Ethical Guidelines and procedures. Also, since I ordained in 2009, I have aspire to live by my ordination vows as a Soto Zen priest.
As Soto Zen Buddhist Association Members and Associate Members we have committed ourselves to living an ethical life. Central to this vow is our effort to provide a safe haven in which we and our students may explore our true nature and create a world that expresses a joyful presence, kindness to all beings, and the deep spiritual peace that is the hallmark of Zen Buddhism. The 16 Bodhisattva Precepts are the basic principle of our approach to ethics.
Here is a link to the SZBA Ethics Statement I’ve pledged to live by: szba.org/szba-ethics-statement/
Sweeping Heart Zen is Tax Exempt
Last but not least, retroactive to June 5, 2017, SHZ is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organization with the IRS. Therefore, members, donors and contributors can deduct dues and other contributions to SHZ under IRC Section 170. SHZ is also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devices, transfers or gifts under IRC Sections 2055, 2106, or 2522.
Thank you to everyone who’s made this time of growth in Gloucester positive and satisfying! Many thanks to the Board and Sangha of Wisdom’s Heart, to the Cape Ann Dharma Collective, to the Sweeping Heart Zen Sangha, and to those who have visited us on the web or in person over the past twenty-one months.
If you have any questions about Sweeping Heart Zen or about Zen or Buddhist practice, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please don’t hesitate to visit!
I hope you have a wonderful week!