New Year Eve 2021

Dear Students of Hakone Zendo,
There is an interesting tension in me as I write to you on this last day of 2021.  One part wants to say something wise and positive, while the other part does not want this email to be just another pat comment with well wishes and Happy New Year!’s that tend to be everywhere on this day.
So, instead, I will ask that you participate in an email request/assignment which will take all of 5 minutes at the most….but on 2 separate days… and tomorrow.
Go outside, or to a quiet place where you can notice something in our natural world, and just breathe and BE for a few minutes.  Notice the beauty and goodness of this time,and as you breathe in allow yourself to feel your own beauty and goodness.  There is no one like you.  There is only THIS.…the world, the breath, and yourself in this moment. 
Do this on the last day of 2021 and the first day of 2022 please.  (And maybe start now so that you don’t forget today).  And repeat again tomorrow, January 1, 2022.
You are cared for.

Ann Kugyo


By Ann Meido

A time of contrasts, similar to the picture of the hills around St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista that accompany these words where I spent last weekend.
Sesshin: a time of touching or collecting the heart-mind during a period of intensive meditation.

To look closely at the photograph, one sees trees, some bare and some with foliage. The background is less definite, hidden by the morning fog. Such was the experience of sitting in silence, with others, during sesshin…a retreat from the busy and demanding routine where my life finds itself so much of the time… Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, 48 hours, spent in 40-minute segments of zazen, followed by 10 minutes of kinhin, walking meditation….all in silence with only my individual inner self…to wrestle with, to celebrate, to appreciate, to abhor. All these awarenesses arose during the hours, much like the clear focus of the trees in the forefront of the photograph. And there was misty time, less clear of thoughts, hopes fears…..of doing something which I only knew was in accord with my heart-mind…. doing something that was calling me to do more, and of which I was also afraid…of letting go of plans, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and just being quiet and still…trusting in what I did not know or understand. And which at the end of Sunday evening, tired, I knew I was grateful for having been on that sesshin.


We discussed what we are thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Sue shared a poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver”

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver
The Summer Day