August 2022

Planting Seeds, Not Pulling Weeds

A sangha member and I were talking one morning, considering how to speak appropriately to others who may disagree with us. “It’s not a good idea to lecture someone who’s excited about their impending flight to Paris about the carbon footprint of flying,” I said.

“It’s like planting seeds rather than pulling weeds,” she replied.

That totally captures the best way to conduct ourselves toward each other. Planting seeds is a quiet, nurturing activity. We are creating something when we plant seeds. We watch over and nurture seeds. We also know there’s uncertainty involved. Some seeds will sport leaves in a few days, some will become soil or bird food. Pulling weeds is an activity of destruction. We select our quarry, then loosen its roots and pull. We’re not into uncertainty here. We want them all gone – permanently. It’s all about our personal agendas. We’re considering what we want, not what that patch of earth and plants wants.

Let’s do this with our speech and actions. Rather than trying to pull the “weeds” of others’ ideas that we see as destructive, let’s plant the seeds of awakening with our words and our actions.

In the Pali Canon, the first account of his words, Shakyamuni Buddha says we should be with people where they are, in ways they can understand. If we are speaking to a farmer, he says, we should understand a farmer’s life and concerns and speak in familiar words they can relate to. This is not “dumbing down” the dharma. It’s being flexible. We say the same truths in different words, just as we would speak French to a French person and English to an English person. To explain the dharma in French or in farmer’s terms is to say the same dharma in different words.

We see the reality of others’ concerns. A farmer’s life is growing crops and selling them to feed a family. Farmers worry that changing their practices to accommodate climate change will be more than they can afford, so they try not to acknowledge climate change. So – we need not speak about climate change. We can look together at practical solutions – affordable ways that will help both climate and farmer. Building soil with compost (available for a minimal fee from landfills in Iowa) and manure is less expensive than chemicals, and it increases plant vigor and crop yields in the long run.

This is about waking up – letting go of our ideas and agendas and being with reality just as it is. Telling others what they should do and how they should think is duality. We are separate, superior beings explaining the world to other, inferior beings. To truly be awake is to seek the truth of the situation together. Letting go of our ideas and agendas, we can listen to and accept others’ concerns. Aware of the concerns of all sides, seeing the reality of the situation, we can work together to find solutions that foster the welfare of all beings.

Perhaps those solutions will work in the long term, perhaps not. To understand this is to be awake. Not all seeds sprout. If they don’t sprout, we see what went wrong and plant more.

August Events

August 14: Talk by Tonen O’Connor - Hybrid

9:45 a.m. Central Time after 9:00 a.m. zazen

Rev. Tonen O’Connor received dharma transmission from Tozen Akiyama in 1999 and is now the resident priest emerita of the Milwaukee Zen Center.

She currently leads dharma discussions on Tuesday evenings and a monthly seminar on Zen Dialogues as well as individual text study. After many years of leading sanghas within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections she remains in contact with a number of incarcerated people.

Tonen translated Kodo Sawaki’s Commentary on the Song of Awakening from the French, edited Buddhas Behind Bars, has essays in The Hidden Lamp and The Eightfold Path, conceived and edited Dharma Gates Are Boundless, featuring artwork by M. Winston. She also edited and provided an essay and pictures for Ryokan Interpreted by Shohaku Okumura.

August 14: Potluck - In Person

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Central Time

There will be a potluck lunch after Tonen’s talk. This is the first chance to get everyone together since COVID, so let’s all come, meet new folks, and catch up with new folks.

Please bring a simple vegetarian dish to share. Something that serves four to six people will be wonderful.

You can let us know you’re coming by clicking here.

August 15: Summer Ango ends

Congratulations to all of you who have been strengthening your practice for these last three months!

August 17: Introduction to Zazen - Hybrid

7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Central Time

Do you or a friend want to begin participating in the Center? Or perhaps you’re just interested in Buddhism and what we do here. Come to our introductory evening! It features zazen instruction and a short period of zazen, along with some information about Buddhism and the Zen tradition, and an opportunity for questions. Everyone is welcome, whether you’ve been practicing or you’re just curious. Email us for the link, and we'll send it along.

August 20: Work Day

9:00 - 3:00 p.m. Central Time

We’ll be doing various projects, both inside and outside.

Bring your enthusiasm and come in something you’re comfortable working in. If you see a project you’d like to work on, that can be arranged, too.

Work is bringing the mind of zazen out of the zendo, paying attention to what we’re doing and functioning together to create our practice and our center. Let’s take this opportunity to take care of our center and support each other’s effort and practice.

July 24: Talk by Doshin Johnson - Hybrid

9:45 a.m. Central Time - after 9:00 a.m. zazen

Rev. Dōshin Diana Johnson is currently serving as Assistant Minister at Sozenji Buddhist Temple in Montebello, California. She has also served as minister-in-training at Long Beach Buddhist Church.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri she spent over 30 years as a social worker and public servant in Chicago before beginning religious studies at Chicago Theological Seminary. Following further study in New York, hospice volunteer work in New Mexico, and a hospital chaplain internship in California, she graduated with a Master of Divinity from the University of the West in 2020.

She lives in San Diego where she recently completed a mental health services chaplain residency at the La Jolla VA. She is married nearly 30 years to her husband, Ron.

There will be lunch afterward. Please bring something to share.

Other News

Zuiko’s Teacher Dies

Tsugen Narasaki Roshi, the retired abbot of Zuioji Monastery in Japan, died on July 25. He was 95 years old.

I first met Tsugen Roshi in 1983 when he led Rohatsu Sesshin at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. He was a close friend of Katagiri Roshi, who invited him to lead sesshin in America. He was cheerful, curious, and authentic, and I immediately felt a connection with him. He gave a straight, no-nonsense answers to questions. He had no ego to defend and no appearances to keep up.

He ordained me in 1992 and I practiced under his direction until I returned to the United States in 1997. He saw to it that I understood and lived the Buddha’s life of letting go of self and being kind to others. He used to say that we could do as much zazen as we wanted but it was useless if we couldn’t be kind to our neighbor.

He was deeply committed to sending the buddhadharma to America. It had become old and rigid in Japan, like an old oak tree, he said. Old oaks look very strong and solid, but they fall down in a strong wind. Young saplings look weak, but they’re flexible. When the wind comes, they bend, then stand upright again and continue growing.

Our sangha is a strong, flexible sapling. Let’s continue to grow it as a memorial to my beautiful teacher.


Interdependence - Let’s Do Our Part

You might think you’re just this person out there reading this, quite separate from and independent of Cedar Rapids Zen Center. However, that’s not how it works. You’re a part of the Center just because you’re reading this. It actually goes farther – you and I are Cedar Rapids Zen Center. Our practice, funds, skills, and other support make Zen Center and the dharma alive in the Midwest.

In July we ask for funds for the practical stuff. Things like our subscription to a publishing platform for this newsletter as well as things like providing dharma for inmates in the Iowa state prisons. And we need to pay for maintenance on our building, heating in winter and electricity to power our Zoom link.

If you can contribute financially, please click here. If you would rather mail in a contribution, please click here for our address.

You can also contribute by just practicing. Steadfast practice is the most important contribution.

Drawing: Tom Rauschke

Coming in September

September 15: First Meeting of the Quad Cities Meditation Group

Kelly and another Quad Cities practitioner are beginning a monthly sitting group in the Quad Cities. The first meeting will be September 15. Zafus, zabutons, sitting benches, and chairs will be available, or you can bring your own.

If you live nearby, join them for sitting in September and on the third Thursday of each month. Here’s the relevant information:

Location: Gilbert Room of the Bettendorf Public Library , 2950 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf

Time: 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Central Time

  • 7:00 – introduction and zazen instruction

  • 7:15 – 8:05 – zazen and kinhin

  • 8:05 – 8:15 – questions and discussion

Contact information: Kelly Kruse,

September 18: All-day sitting

6:00 a.m. - 4:40 p.m. Central Time

All-day sittings are informal times of sitting together ― participants can come and go as their schedules allow. If you’re remote, we’ll have the link on all day and you can come and sit with us anytime.

There will be an informal lunch for on-site participants. Please bring a dish to share – three or four servings of something simple and vegetarian.

Email the Center to register and get the Zoom link. Donations are welcome; there is no fee.
A typical all-day sitting schedule is available here.

September 21: Introduction to Zazen - Hybrid

7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Central Time

An introduction to zazen, Zen Buddhism, and the Center. Donations are welcome; there’s no fee.

Monthly Practice

If you’re interested in joining any of these activities, please contact us.

Sundays - Hybrid

We’re live-streaming our Sunday activities over Zoom. If you’d like to join us, please send in a request. You can participate either with a video or an audio-only link.

9:00 – 9:40 a.m. Central Time – Zazen
9:45 – 10:15 a.m. Central Time –
Dharma talk
10:15 a.m. Central Time –
Check-in and discussion (bring your tea)

If you aren’t able to connect by Zoom, you can still connect. Please sit with us at the regular time anyway. If you’d like, you can receive a summary of the dharma talk later in the day. You can get on the list by clicking here. Dharma talks will be posted on the web site during the following week, usually on Tuesday.

Mondays - Zoom

6:30 - 7:00 p.m. Central Time - Zazen
7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Central Time -
Dharma Study

Wednesdays - Zoom

12:15 - 12:55 p.m. Central Time - Noon Zazen - Zoom and in person

Third Wednesdays - Hybrid

7:30 – 9:00 p.m. Central Time - Introduction to Zazen and the Center

Second & Fourth Fridays - Zoom

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Central Time - Baika

Fourth Sundays

Sangha meeting (following dharma talk)

Picture: Flax flower - Lara Dayes

Sitting Opportunities

Weekday Zazen

Zuiko is sitting our regular weekday schedule. Please sit with her wherever you are or come and sit in person if you’re vaccinated. Zazen is definitely good for connecting with reality in a sane way.

Morning Zazen

Sunday, 9:00 – 9:40 a.m. Central Time

Noon Zazen

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 12:15 – 12:55 p.m. Central Time

Evening Zazen

Wednesday and Thursday, 6:30 - 7:10 p.m. Central Time

Other Ways to Connect

Tell Us About Your Experience

Post something on the blog page on the website. This is a place where people can exchange their adventures in practicing in a pandemic and support each other’s practice. If you’d like to be part of that, send us a request and we’ll send the link. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Help Around the Center

Work is a fine way to connect with the Center and with our practice. There's always something to do around the place. For instance, you can clean the zendo, take photos for our publications, sand doors that don't fit, or take care of the library. And these are just few of the things you can do. Just look around and you'll find a project that fits you. Just email us and arrange a time to come over. Zuiko will show you where the tools are and where the work is. Kids are welcome if they're old enough to help.

Other Sitting & Sangha Opportunities

Bloomington-Normal, Illinois Group

The group is meeting again. You can connect with them at

Quad Cities Meditation Group

The Quad Cities Meditation Group meets on the third Thursday of each month, beginning on September 15, 2022. Zafus, zabutons, sitting benches, and chairs will be available, or you can bring your own.

Location: Gilbert Room of the Bettendorf Public Library, 2950 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf

Time: 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Central Time

  • 7:00 – introduction and zazen instruction

  • 7:15 – 8:05 – zazen and kinhin

  • 8:05 – 8:15 – questions and discussion

Contact information: Kelly Kruse,

Des Moines

Daishin McCabe and Jisho Siebert lead half-day sittings and other events online for the moment. For more information, contact Daishin.

Staying Connected