Red Cedar Zen Community, 1021 N Forest, Bellingham Washington


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  • Tuesday, May 09, 2017 10:16 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       May at Red Cedar Zen Community

    Dear Sangha,


    What follows is a photo essay from the Guiding Teacher Installation Ceremony on Sunday April 30th. The text is the formal statements I made during the ceremony. I am deeply grateful to be your Guiding Teacher and want to thank everyone deeply for your support. We had a wonderful sangha celebration on Sunday. So many helped and were a part of it. The feeling was of deep connection, healing, and love. And I could feel deeply the many many other people who were there in spirit.

    With a bow,


    Nomon Tim Burnett
    Guiding Teacher, Red Cedar Zen Community

    Click here to jump to the Upcoming Events in May

    Mountain Gate Statement – Beauty and peace arises in unexpected places: a downtown alley, the hearts of these unlikely characters. May this gate be welcoming to all beings, always.

    Kaisando Statement (ancestor’s “hall” set up in corner of library):

    I’ve carried your teachings in my backpack, in a Ziploc bag, all of these years great grandfather Shogaku Shunryu, dai osho. And somehow this wandering life led all of us, together with you, to this moment and this place. Today I offer my beginner’s mind to you and humbly request your teachings. I don’t know how to do this role and probably that’s for the best. Please help me to unfold your dharma wisdom together with all beings who walk through these doors. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Receiving the Robe (Dennei):
    This great robe of liberation – field far beyond form and emptiness – made of nine panels, each panel made of two long and one short piece - is a wonderful symbol of our growing up together as a sangha. When I wear it we all wear our open hearts, our deep beauty, our wisdom and our compassion. As you’ll see it’s quite beautiful and fabulous, but it’s also very heavy. Please help me carry the weight and obligation to be open-hearted and loving. Should I ever forget the deep inter-being that is it expressed by this robe I humbly ask you to remind me. I vow to wear this robe of Buddha with the mind and body of its sacred meaning.


    World Peace Statement
    Invoking the presence and support of Shakyamuni Buddha, Bodhidharma, Eihei Dogen, Shogaku Shunryu – Suzuki Roshi -  and all Buddha ancestors on this joyful day, let’s make an offering for peace, harmony and understanding in this world.

    The world needs us to show up and help. And if we can show up deeply grounded in wisdom and compassion we will make a real contribution.

    For peace is the true aim of our practice and real peace is the fruit of waking up to our true nature – waking up to love. May we remember the presence of our ancestors and help each other to practice peace together wholeheartedly, lifetime after lifetime. 

    Lineage Statement

    This offering is in gratitude to All Ancestors – women and men – known to us and unknown who’ve carried the lamp through 2,500 years. At first this looks like a line or a chain going back into the past but Dogen reminds us of the deeper meaning: “On the great road of Buddha Ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. This forms a circle of the Way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment and nirvana there is not a moment’s gap. Continuous practice is the circle of the Way.”

    Today we remember that we’re doing our part of continue this journey around the sun of the Dharma and remember, deeply with our hearts cracked open, that we are not here on our own, that this moment isn’t about a few friends in Bellingham, Washington, carrying doggedly on!

    Today we remember that we’ve been accompanied and helped and supported and encouraged every single step of the way and that only becomes more so as we take this step together.

    I am so grateful for this lineage of devotion.

    May I, may all of us together, prove worthy of the endless support we’ve received.

    May I, may all of us together, make this dharma manifest as our lifetime’s expression of gratitude.

    Thank you to Shakyamuni Buddha, to the seven Buddha’s before Buddha, to the devoted practitioners of India, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, America, and all over the world and beyond this obvious physical world. You carry us now and we carry you in our hearts. Thank you so much.

    Members and Donors Statement

    This offering is for all sangha members, to all supporters, and to all donors and their families.

    If I’ve learned anything about Dharma, heart, and presence over these 25 years of practice together it’s through your generosity.

    I want to name and remember a few we have lost over the years: to Mark Livingston – you lovely bear of a man so devoted to your children and to the dharma – we walked into the building today on the concrete ramp you made for us; to Barb Crowley – your wisdom and sense of humor, honesty and liveliness sustains us today; to Gene Reeves – the cheerful and humble one armed painter of many pieces of trim around us; to Avonne McLaughlin who was also so positive and graceful, a regal person – Avonne we’ve planted your pine tree in our garden, to Marge Moench – wondrous living treasure of dharma understanding – every encounter with you filled our hearts with delight; and also to my own grandmother Fran Burnett and stepmother Joan Burnett both of whom inspired and supported my practice and Red Cedar.

    And to the many, many practitioners, supporters, donors, members who have practiced here. Even coming here one time is deeply important to this unfolding. We all contribute and we are all together in this.

    May we remember our endless circle of support. May we remember that our practice and our generosity is affecting the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions endlessly. It is the life force of this place of practice.

    Root Teacher (Honshi) Statement:
    This offering is for my root-heart teacher Zoketsu Rinsho Norman Fischer. It’s now been 30 years since a 21-year-old new Zen student and a 41-year-old new Zen teacher first sat together to explore this way of practice. In every one of those 30 years, I have been deeply supported by this good fortune to practice and study with you. My gratitude can’t really be expressed, but the ceremony says I need to try.

    Thank you for sharing with me your deep faith in people’s natural ability to heal and grow.

    Thank you for sharing with me your deep faith in our Zen way of practice and our family style – that it’s enough to practice together, steadily, devotedly, over time. That this is enough.

    Thank you also for sharing with me your confidence in offering our practice in other forms. Watching you teach lawyers and executives about mindfulness and renunciation and even help to create an emotional intelligence program at Google with units like “mindful emailing” has led to me teaching physicians and community groups about this deep way of practice without all of these fancy threads.

    I would never have had the confidence in any of this – formal Zen or everyday Mindfulness - without your example and support. This is nice for me to get to do such satisfying work but more importantly the practice has flown out in wider circles than it ever would have otherwise.

    Thank you for your sense of humor. Thank you for modelling that it’s okay to be just be myself.

    Thank you for being you.

    REQUESTING DHARMA QUESTIONS: “Dharma brothers and sisters, please bring me your questions, let us bring up the dharma together.”


    Backbone Statement (Teiko)

    This offering is to the essence. To the mystery. To the question. To not knowing. To beginner’s mind. Beyond any idea of right or wrong or success of failure there is an empty field. Let’s meet there. Let awaken to the reality that we are always meeting there, meeting here, we are only meeting. To the essence.

    Appreciation Statement (Jago Byakutsui)

    This offering is in appreciation of the many, many teachers who have helped me along the way.

    To Gary Bacon the, deepest high school teacher on the planet, who introduced me to transpersonal and eastern psychologies.

    To Keido Les Kaye who first showed me the Zen practice environment in 1983 and showed me something of the importance of the practice of humility.

    To Dainin Katagiri Roshi for sharing his powerful practice of presence and encouraging me when I was so completely overwhelmed.

    To Sojun Mel Weitsman for showing me that our way is about kindness.

    To Zenkei Blanche Hartman for bowing to me with such sincerity, sharing with me her love of mechanical repair, her humility as a teacher, and her fierceness when that’s what’s needed.

    To Jan Chozen Bays for challenging me like a bolt of lightning.

    To Kyogen Carlson for honoring me as a colleague. You left us too soon.

    To Jon Kabat-Zinn for showing me that the Dharma is wider than any frame we can put around it.

    To so many teachers, more than I can name and many are in this room, I am deeply, deeply grateful.

    Personal Statement (Jiio)

    This offering is for the numberless people who have helped me in this life. I have been so incredibly fortunate, although I didn’t always understand that at the time and I doubt I fully appreciated this yet. My intention is to continue discovering how supported and fortunate I am in order to encourage me to keep offering all I can to help others remember this for themselves in their lives.

    Deep gratitude to my four parents: Toby, Neta, Joan, and Ed.

    Deep gratitude to my four siblings: Brad, Karla, Jeff, and Mark.

    To my amazing life partner/spouse/endlessly best friend Janet – it’s now 35 years since a certain fateful party!

    To my unbelievably smart and so-himself son, Walker. I don’t know where you came from but I am so happy that you came into our lives.

    Deep gratitude to friends far and wide.

    Deep gratitude to the earliest members of Red Cedar Zen, among them: Bob Penny, Florence Caplow, John Wright, Nancy Welch, Dylan Schneider, John Wiley, Connie Martin.

    Deep gratitude to each single person crossing my path and to life in all its manifestations for continuously expounding the dharma and for teaching me the Truth of all Being.

    Understanding of a Koan Statement (Nensoku)

    This offering is for our ancestral teaching stories.

    I offer one now that we can pick up like a stone along the beach and turn over in our open hands.

    A monk, newly arrived at the temple, asked master Zhaozhou, “For a long time, I’ve heard of the stone bridge of Zhaozhou, but now that I’ve come here I just see a simple log bridge.”

    The teacher Zhaozhou said, “Ahh, you just see the log bridge; you don’t see the stone bridge.”

    The monk asked, “What is the strone bridge, then?”

    Zhaozhou replied, “It lets donkeys cross, it lets horses cross.”

    Our way is a log bridge way. Is it enough for you? Is it enough for me? We realized in retreat the other day that we are all of us part of an epidemic of dis-ease feeling that we are never good enough. Why do we keep trying to be a stone bridge? Perhaps now, right now, we can set that down and appreciate the strong log bridge. It let’s donkeys and horses cross. All beings cross.

    And yet renouncing the stone bridge doesn’t mean we don’t practice with strength and skill. I vow to be the best log bridge for you that I can be. Will you please be a log bridge for me? Our bridges will meet in emptiness and all will be whole.

    Concluding Statement (Ketsuza)

    Hanshan wrote,

    Cold Mountain is a house

    Without beams or walls.

    The six doors left and right are open

    The hall is the blue sky.

    The rooms are all vacant and serene

    The east wall beats on the west wall

    At the center: nothing.

    Our culture is so good at creating places that are full. Full of all kinds of things. Some quite important. And yet, and yet, we need empty too. I am deeply happy that today we come together to commit to openness, to emptiness. To the blue sky and a quiet room. Into this open, empty space like the mist of a Bellingham Spring morning, flows nothing but compassion, wisdom, and love. Nothing and everything are here. The six doors are open. All doors are open. Please, dear friends and comrades, let’s leave them open and let everyone in. Horses and donkeys and all beings. Open the door and let them in.


    With gratitude to the photographers: Ken Oates, Amy Darling, Desiree Webster, and Janet Martinson.

    Sangha Events for May

    Saturday, May 13: Contemplating Nature Workshop. This day will be devoted to engaging the senses and slowing down together in the rich, natural area around Hawk Meadow Farm.  The theme for this day will be "Awareness of Diversity".  Our day will be divided between silent meditation practice in the farm's twenty-four-foot yurt, the Hidden Mountain Zendo, and time spent in explorations and discoveries in the surrounding fields and woods.  This is a very accessible experience that does not involve too much walking or any need to carry a pack.  At the same time, this is a meditation retreat that does not involve too much seated meditation! We will explore the changes of spring, the life in the wetlands, and hopefully have a chance to check in on Hawk Meadows' gregarious pair of resident ravens who should be rearing nestlings at this time about a hundred yards from the yurt.  We will conclude the day with a closing ritual in the Cedar Grove.

    Saturday & Sunday, May 20-21: Awakening in Everyday Life: A Zen Studies Retreat with Nomon Tim Burnett. This year's topic for our annual Zen Studies Retreat is Eihei Dogen's teachings on awakening in everyday life as expressed in his famous essay Instructions for the Cook (Tenzo Kyokun). Combining the traditional and the contemporary, Nomon Tim Burnett will lead our annual Zen Studies retreat this year in spring, instead of fall. Far from just an academic inquiry, the weekend will involve a series of meditations and experiential exercises along with ample discussion to help us explore the text and Dogen's thought from the inside out. Our Zen Studies retreats combine meditation, lecture, discussion, private interviews with the teacher, and innovative experiential education to explore the contemporary meaning of ancient Buddhist texts.

    Upcoming Retreat:

    June 16-24: Samish Island Sesshin 2017Our annual silent Zen sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer includes seven days and eight nights of silent practice of sitting and walking meditation in a beautiful church camp on the water on Samish Island in the Skagit Valley. Retreat includes dharma talks by Norman and other Northwest teachers, dokusan and practice discussion, sitting and walking meditation, and delicious vegetarian meals. This is a deep time for practice and reflection with the support of sangha and teachers.

    Board Meeting minutes:

    May 2017 Board Minutes

    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Community sends out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter. We welcome all kinds of offerings: event listings, 

  • Wednesday, April 05, 2017 11:45 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       April at Red Cedar Zen Community

    Dear Sangha,

    When I was about 16, I remember flipping through a book on Buddhism at a bookstore. Opening the book at random, my eyes landed on the four vows of bodhisattvas. The version of this we chant regularly in our practice now goes:

    Being are numberless, I vow to save them.

    Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.

    Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.

    Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

    These words really struck me. How is this even possible? To live this this degree of commitment and engagement? It was, I think, an important seed planted in my heart.

    Thinking about it now, everyone who practices Buddhism is making a commitment, much like the physicians I work with in mindfulness classes do: first, do no harm. (Side note: interestingly the Latin phrase primum non nocere is not part of the oath for physicans suggested by Hippocrates.).

    The Buddha is often portrayed as a physician devoted to healing sentient beings of suffering through the practice and the discipline he developed.

    Once we take in the scope of this practice, some big questions emerge! How do we truly help others, much less save them? How do we truly help ourselves? How can we live deeply? 

    And how can we live deeply together? There's an aspect of self that can only really relate to self. Other selves seem so foreign, weird, and troublesome. How can we merge and connect deeply and what gets in the way?

    I've always loved the community-centered orientation of our way of practice. Last week, at the fifth Wednesday Sangha Conversation, one members said "You're my chosen family." And like all families we also are trouble for each other. Yet with our shared intentions expressed in these Bodhisattva vows, we have more room to turn trouble to wisdom. Employing, in whatever form, the process expressed in our Clear Communications and Ethics Policies (

    But sometimes emotions run hot, and we know from both neuroscience and painful personal experience that our wise brains can shut down. I've been thinking more and more about strong emotions. How powerful they are, moving below the surface. How dramatically they can crest into our conscious awareness. How easily we, and everyone around us, can get confused and tangled when they arise. 

    Strong emotions appear when the many factors come together: their triggers in present-moment phenomena, the seeds in our deep subconscious from our history and society and beyond, and that tight conditioned impulse towards self-protection that appears so quickly.

    When we're angry or defensive or fearful, what should be done? What is skillful in our own lives? What is kind, or at least respectful, of those around us? Can we at least do no harm? 

    Do we believe the stories of blame and judgment that can emerge so powerfully in the mind? Can we distinguish the trigger from the deep conditioning that was just activated?

     Here's where getting to know the dance between the external (what he said) and the internal ("I'm being disrespected") can be so powerful. 

     Do we go to reaction or to curiosity? Is it really true? And even if it is, what now? Do I have any freedom here? Can I choose my response to the powerful currents in the heart-mind, or am I run by the strong emotions? If the latter is this case, maybe I'd better just hold my tongue and wait!

     It's so helpful that through practice we can become more aware of these dynamics between external and internal and gradually become wiser in our responses. This really is possible. 

     When we feel triggered and injured we can, little by little, go to curiosity instead of rage. Go to "what can I learn about the mind here?" instead of "how do I straighten these other people out so they'll give me what I want?"

     And Buddhism suggests we can go even further than this, to the deep and ultimate healing of what I call here the fundamental level. The fundamental level is the stage and also the driving force behind the play between internal and external in our lives. At this level, we start to inquire into our deeply held assumptions about who and what we are. 

     Does this fragile self really need to be defended when it feels attacked? Is it as real as it makes itself out to be in my mind? Are the many conditions that I think I need to feel okay really necessary, or can I experience an okay-ness without all that?

     I deeply hope that through our practice and the mutual support of our community we can both become more skillful in navigating the complex waters of the external and internal interplay of our lives but also, little by little, move toward this more ultimate level. 

     The Bodhisattva vision is that we can free ourselves from being so victimized by circumstances and our conditioning, so that we can serve this tangled world as powerful bodhisattvas of healing.

     First, do no harm. But then, open up to this suffering world and serve as best we can with freedom and flexibility. By healing our hearts at this more fundamental level we can be so much more helpful because we don't need to be guarded anymore. We can be open and generous - come what may.

     With deep respect and joy,

    Nomon Tim

     P.s. If your Bodhisattva expression includes community activism, one of the recommendations of our new Sangha committee on activism and social justice is to participate in Dignity Dialogs organized by the Community to Community organization. See new our online Sangha Bulletin Board ( for details.

    Sangha Events for April

    April 10, 17, 24, and May 1: A Conversation About Death and Dying A short course for Buddhist practitioners on how Buddhist teachings and practice can help us accept and work with the dying and death of loved ones and ourselves. Sessions will include readings, exercises, meditations, and discussions of the emotions and ideas we have about death and dying; the needs of the dying person and how care givers can respond; the needs of care givers as they accompany a dying person; and the experience of grief and grieving and resources for the bereaved.

    April 12: Buddha's Birthday - Potluck Dinner, Meditation, and Ceremony Celebrate Buddha's Birthday with a 5pm sangha potluck dinner and by building a flowered pavilion together for the baby Buddha. Then after meditation starting at 7pm we'll have a ceremonial washing of the baby Buddha together. As we process and chant a little dancing and music is in order - bring hand instruments: rattles, bells, little drums and such! Come celebrate! 
    (Our apologies for the confusion with the reminders on this event. It's next week, April 12th.)

    April 15:Mt. Erie Hiking Meditation Join Red Cedar Zen Community for our annual spring Circumambulation of Mt. Erie hike.  This celebration of the encouraging energy of springtime is close to the traditional date for the celebration of Buddha’s Birthday.  Our route will follow a very moderate trail for approximately 7 miles clockwise around this prominent small mountain situated near the shore of the Salish Sea. The hike begins at 10am and we will probably be done by about 2 or 3pm. A preliminary group will meet to carpool at the Red Cedar Dharma Hall in Bellingham at 9am, or you can arrive at Mt. Erie independently.

    April 29 at 7pm: Guiding Teacher Stepping Down Ceremony with Zoketsu Norman Fischer Join the sangha in thanking and honoring our founding Guiding Teacher, Zoketsu Norman Fischer, in a special ceremony of "Stepping Down from the Seat". Norman will continue as the sangha's Founding Teacher returning annual to lead us in sesshin.

    April 30 at 10am: Guiding Teacher Installation Ceremony with Zoketsu Norman Fischer and Nomon Tim Burnett Join the sangha in supporting Spiritual Director, Nomon Tim Burnett, in his empowerment by Zoketsu Norman Fischer to be our new Guiding Teacher.

    April 30: Norman Fischer Poetry Reading Join us for a poetry reading with Norman Fischer at Village Books after the Guiding Teacher Installation ceremony. Norman will read from his new book any would be if, tanka by norman fischer.

    Upcoming Retreats:

    May 20-21:Awakening in Everyday Life: A Zen Studies Retreat with Nomon Tim Burnett This year's topic for our annual Zen Studies Retreat is Eihei Dogen's teachings on awakening in every day life as expressed in his famous essay Instructions for the Cook (Tenzo Kyokun). Combining the traditional and the contemporary, Nomon Tim Burnett will lead our annual Zen Studies retreat this year in Spring, instead of Fall. Far from just an academic inquiry, the weekend will involve a series of meditations and experiential exercises along with ample discussion to help us explore the text and Dogen's thought from the inside out. Our Zen Studies retreats combine meditation, lecture, discussion, private interviews with the teacher, and innovative experiential education to explore the contemporary meaning of ancient Buddhist texts.

    June 16-24: Samish Island Sesshin 2017 Our annual silent Zen sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer includes seven days and eight nights of silent practice of sitting and walking meditation in a beautiful church camp on the water on Samish Island in the Skagit Valley. The retreat includes dharma talks by Norman and other Northwest teachers, dokusan and practice discussion, sitting and walking meditation, and delicious vegetarian meals. This is a deep time for practice and reflection with the support of sangha and teachers.

    Board Meeting minutes:

    March 2017 minutes

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017 6:07 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       March at Red Cedar Zen Community

    Dear Friends,

    I've been thinking more and more about the profound implications of a simple idea: that what we practice we get better at. 

    Like so many useful truths, it's a no-brainer. If we want to get better at something we do it again, and again; we learn more about it; we read a book, watch a video, take a seminar. All around us people are improving all kinds of skills from how to knit a hat to how to extinguish a structure fire. 

    What's interesting, and important, to me is that we usually only apply this simple maxim to external things. To the things we do and make and create. To the problems we solve in the world.

    We don't apply it to our inner selves nearly as consistently. We don't practice the things we want to improve about ourselves.

    We all have wishes for improvement in our inner selves. 

    We may want to be more reliable, or more patient, or kinder, or more generous. We may want to show up on time more consistently. We may want to listen to our kids more fully. 

    Or maybe we don't have clear goals for our inner life and instead the mind goes to the things we don't like about ourselves. What is that for you? If you start the sentence "what I don't like about myself is..." and pause with that a moment. What comes up 

    But here's the thing: if we just focus on what we don't have we are only reinforce a kind of internal impoverished mindset. If instead we can focus on what we would like to be better at we can take it out of the realm of frustration or wishful thinking and practice that trait we'd like to strengthen 

    I've been thinking a lot lately about strengthening my ability to ask for help. I've always been a bit of a go-it-alone guy, and not only does that wear me out, sometimes it damages my relationships.  It's been so helpful to change that little by little.  Of course like all things human I know I have to be smart about this, feeling my way into whom to ask for what. But so many people in my life (all of our lives?) are so willing to help. And people not in my life yet, too.

    In a political climate of mistrust and division, asking for help and the connection and trust that can foster feels especially important 

    I was just remembering a moment of asking for help that happened last summer, and it inspires me to keep working with this.  Maybe you also have examples in your life of when you acted in a way that stretched you and inspires you to keep developing your best self?

    We'd had some work down on our house. We had contractors here completing our half-finished stairs (it used to be a duplex and the stairs were taken out in the 1940s).  We had to move a window to make the stairs work right and the carpenters discovered the siding on the entire south side of the house was rotten.  So our other house work plans, and our a chunk of our budget, shifted and we had to redo the siding and exterior window trim on that side of the house. 

    Our contactor got that taken care of, but I wanted to do at least some of the work myself, so I was working on painting the new window trim. Then I hit a problem: the upper window was too high for my 22' extension ladder. And darn it, I was in the middle of painting, the day was getting on, and wanted to get the whole job done.

    It was Sunday at 6pm, and off I went to Home Depot to buy a longer ladder. But darn it: they were expensive, $280 for a 28' ladder! I stood there debating back and forth what to do. That impatient do-it-yourself voice within me was screaming "Oh just buy it, just get it done, you have a tall house so you need this ladder." So I put this enormous ladder on one of their big carts and wheeled it--tricky getting around corners!--to the check out. 

    There were two people in front of me and the guy at the head of the line had some problem involving tricky customer service so we were standing there a while and then the person right in front of me turns out and says, "Hey, how much is that big ladder?"--almost $300 I admitted--"Darn" he said, "that's a lot. I have one just like it lying around at my place." 

    At that point the "just buy it, just do it yourself" spell weakened a little. I could feel the tension in my forehead and the raggedness of my breathing relax a little. And then I surprised myself by asking this stranger if I could borrow his ladder. 

    He response was immediate and relaxed. Like he has strangers asking him to borrow ladders all the time. "Sure," he said, "just follow me home and pick it up." A total stranger! And he was good for his word. Without needing anything from me he generously lent me his ladder. I finished my painting. 

    As a way of thanking him, he asked nothing of me. I did do a repair to the rope and pulley that lifts the ladder extension. I realized even without arranging a payment or an exchange there is often a way to give right back. That helping engenders more helping.

    Sometimes we can trust another. We can trust their generosity. We can trust the good hearts of people. I hope to keep practicing this inner skill of asking for help. 

    What would you like to develop about your inner life?


    Sangha Events for March

    Friday, March 3: Public Dharma Talks: Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Nomon Tim Burnett, and Ryushin Kate McKenna

    As part of the March Sesshin, the Dharma Talks on Friday and Saturday morning are open to visitors.

    Sunday, March 5: Shuso's Dharma Inquiry Ceremony

    Join us with a question from the heart to share with Shuso Ryushin Kate McKenna at the Hossinshiki ceremony.

    Wednesday March 8: Practice Period Closing Circle

    After the previous weekend festivities' with the Three Day Sesshin  and the important Hossinshiki ceremony, we will gather one last time on Wednesday evening to sit in circle and close the 2017 Winter Practice Period.

    Friday, March 10: Calligraphy Practice Group 

    Learn the  basics of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy in a relaxed environment. We'll explore a little about the history of Chinese ideographs, learn how to hold the brush and make the basic strokes and brush a few characters. 

    Friday, March 19: Zazenkai: a morning of silent practice

    Join us in this rare opportunity to spend the day doing nothing but zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation), and bowing. We will maintain silence throughout, with bells to mark meditation periods, and chanting the Refuges aloud when we end. ​

    Saturday, April 1: Sangha Work Day

    Samu - Zen work - is a key part of the Zen Buddhist practice tradition. Harmonizing body and mind we sweep, repair, and tend the temple. Please join the Red Cedar Zen Sangha for a joyful full morning of working together on many of the 1st Saturdays of the month. After our usual early morning meditation practice and potluck breakfast (6am - 9:00am) we'll begin work at 9am, continue until noon when we'll enjoy a potluck lunch together. Closing about 1:00pm

    Upcoming Retreats:

    May 20-21: Zen Studies Retreat with Nomon Tim Burnett: Appreciating Our Life (Zen Master Dogen's Instructions for the Cook). Details and registration available soon.

    June 16-24Samish Island Sesshin 2017  update: registration to open on Monday, March 6th at 6:00pm PST.

    Board Meeting minutes:

    February 2017 Board Minutes

    Community Offering: Contemplative Community House

    Hello Everybody – are practice, meditation, and open-handed inquiry important in your daily life? How about expression, play, and community?

    I am actively pursuing the creation of a Contemplative Community House, likely to rest on a non-dogmatic Buddhist foundation but potentially interfaith or secular – dependent on the inclinations and wherewithal of the members. A shared interest in daily practice and rich communal life will be at the heart of the house. Move-in date somewhere between May 1st and September 1st.

    If you might be interested in exploring and shaping this together, please email ( or call me (360-441-7090). And please also pass the word along to others. Thank you!

  • Wednesday, February 01, 2017 6:11 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       February at Red Cedar Zen Community

    #resist #thisisnotnormal #staysane

    Dear Sangha,

    I've never started one of these essays with hashtag slogans before. But these are new and different times so perhaps new approaches are needed, even while we stay true to what we know helps us and others.

    Yesterday on my way to lead a group of 12 doctors in a 6-hour meditation retreat, I switched on the radio and was soon hearing how the effects of President Trump's executive orders restricting immigration were playing out. 

    People from the counties names in his arbitrary list of Muslim-majority counties had gotten on planes in good faith that they were allowed to fly to America. In some cases, yes, new immigrants - but immigrants already granted visas and already "vetted" in various ways; in other cases established residents with visas, green cards and other papers. There are people who have received promises from our Government that they would be let in. 

    And then landing at JFK and other American airports many of these people found themselves suddenly detained - stripped of their rights and held in small rooms. And under threat of being sent back where they came from. Most were not being allowed access to lawyers. In some cases even being tricked into signing away their rights. By all accounts there are ordinary people: students, scientists, mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. 

    I was trying to put myself in their shoes. The stress of this! Families separated. Long held plans were interrupted or perhaps crushed. Just the loss of an expensive international plane ticket is significant. Real lives disrupted.

    Sadness over this was to emerge regularly through the day as I was leading the doctors in sitting and walking and gentle yoga. I could feel the weight of that sadness as I also felt the joy of their various discoveries and the gradual process in the room of calming down and remembering something of our nature as human beings to be sane and grounded and real with each other. And to be compassionate and feeling with each other, too. It was a challenge to hold the joy of a day of meditation and the sadness of these events in my heart together.

    I do know that I have a certain political stance - conditioned by my family, my class, my education, my race, and who knows what else. We all do. And I do know that there are other stances and concerns that I can learn about and understand even if I don't agree with their conclusions. I can understand that immigration policy is immensely complex. And maybe it's also simple. And simply impossible. For one thing it's an attempt to impose order and some measure of fairness on an unjust and and unfair socio-economic world. America is (still) a rich and stable country with more opportunities than many others. Many people from poorer countries, and from unstable and dangerous countries, want to come here. What to do? 

    Surely there is no perfect solution and compromise and care is needed. Some would restrict immigration more than I would. Some seem to want to base the decisions more on gut feeling of who should be in "our" country. Others on socio-economic data suggesting, for instance, that actually recent immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. And each camp thinks itself more right than the other not just in their conclusions but on the basis of how such decisions are made.

    I can accept this and I know that my role as a meditation teacher and Zen priest is not to explore political policies with the sangha particularly. Not what you signed on for.

    But this is not a disagreement over policy or ideology. 

    These recent executive orders by our legally elected President appear not to be based on a policy we can discuss, but on slogans, on gut instinct without study or thought of consequences on real people. For one thing there was apparently no plan for implementation. No plan! If rules are being changed that have a huge effect on others the governing officials surely have a human rights obligation to make those changes with care. With a time table. With clear guidance to the immigration officials as our airports and borders. With time for feedback and consideration for how they might play out. It seems that none of this happened from what I could read. It was just an order. Made on a piece of paper with a pen on a desk in the most promiment room of the world. 

    As Bodhisattva practicioners commited to service and compassion, I think we have an obligation now to resist immoral acts of governance. This appears to be one. And although we can't know what will happen or when (the election results certainly remind us of this!) it looks like we'll have to be ready to do what we can in response.

    What will that look like for each of us? Here in our relatively peaceful corner of the country? That's the challenge - we don't know. I for one am committed to learning how to regularly call our Washington State senators with my views and concerns. Is that enough? I really don't know. I am grateful that many people in New York dropped whatever they were going to do last night and went to JFK airport to bring attention to this through peaceful (and vigorous) protest. And closer to home people went to SeaTac. At least one US Congressperson from New York was there too asking questions of the immigration and customs officials. And right before I went to bed a judge had already issues a stay on at least some of the order in response brought by an action brought quickly and efficiently by the ACLU. Janet and I sent the ACLU a donation soon after the election. Time to send another. 

    And we do need to #staysane.  To maintain our practice. To take breaks. To support each other. To sit and walk and be together with others. To exercise and take good care of the only body we have. To continue studying Dharma (perhaps with the question what our Buddhist way can offer the world now?). To keep on. To keep on.

    And take a bigger view. Not to let these troubles, as truly frightening and dramatic as they are, get all of our attention. 

    I was deeply encouraged by this recent article by NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (who is constantly traveling in the third world to see what's really going on there) which continues other important statistics I've seen. The world on the whole is definitely getting better for most people. Of course the environmental news globally is not so rosy, but let's take heart that fewer people are in poverty - a lot fewer. There is less suffering. This is amazingly wonderful news.

    #resist #thisisnotnormal #staysane

    in solidarity and love,


    p.s. you might also appreciate our Guiding Teacher, Zoketsu Norman Fischer's, article on Tricycle online: On Not Knowing What's Next

    Sangha Events for January and into February

    Saturday, Feburary 4th, 2017 9:30am: Annual Sangha Meeting with the Board - an important opportunity to find out how we're doing as a sangha, hear plans, give input, be a part of helping us move forward as a community.

    Sunday, February 5th, 2017 9:00am - 5:00pm: Sunday Simple Sit with Chris Burkhart - Zazen in Uncertain Times: Sitting with the Fire - a wonderful opportunity for a day of practice. Two short talks with discussion on Zen meditation.

    Monday, February 6th to Monday February 27, 2017 6:30pm-8:00pm: our four-week Introduction to Zen Meditation This class is designed for those who are curious about Zen meditation as well as those who are already meditating and want to learn more. Tell your friends interested in Zen meditation, or come yourselves to our Monday evening in-depth class, taught by Connie Martin and John Wiley.

    Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 7:00pm to 9:00pm: Mid-Practice Period Check-in & Parinirvana Ceremony - come check in with sangha about how Practice Period is going and mark the Buddha's passage into parinirvana in a beautiful ceremony.

    Thursday, March 2 to Sunday, March 5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

    Sunday March 5th at 11:00am: Shuso's Dharma Inquiry Ceremony - don't miss the wonderful ceremony.

    Events in the Community:

    Our involvement with the interfaith group Let Love be Our Legacy continues with two events in December:

    February 4, 11, and 18: A Course on Islam will be hosted at St Paul's on these three Saturday mornings from 10am until noon. The Rev. Josh Hosler of St. Paul’s Episcopal will moderate this three-part series on our Muslim neighbors. There will be a presentation by members of Bellingham Mosque on the 4th. On the 11th, Professor Paul Ingram, Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran University, will speak. Recently the leadership of the Bellingham Mosque reached out and voiced a readiness to build interfaith dialogue, so this is a valuable opportunity to learn about this tradition.

    More information on these events will be place on the Let Love Be Our Legacy Facebook page and webpage.

    Upcoming Retreats:

    March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

    Board Meeting minutes:

    January 4, 2017

    An Offering From a Sangha Member:

    Photograph by Collette Riopelle

    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Community sends out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter. We welcome all kinds of offerings: event listings, resources, poetry and visual art.

  • Friday, December 23, 2016 7:10 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       January at Red Cedar Zen Community

    Dear Sangha,

    A dramatic year is coming to a close. As the new one arrives I know many of us are feeling rattled and uncertain. About everything. 

    One thought: let's devote more of our energies for these first two months of the year to meditation and reflection. Let's support each other in returning to the "zero point" of our lives. To remember the feeling of fullness and radical okay-ness. This is so important and so fundamental, and a central thread of what we have to offer as Zen students.

    Let's take action too, absolutely, but maybe first we take Dogen's "backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate yourself" - we need to be illuminated to bring light into the world. And into the world we must go. For we already are there. 

    But first, let's practice. 

    We can end the year with our New Year's Eve Zen Ceremony next Saturday evening.

    We can begin the new year with Zazenkai: a morning of silent practice on Sunday morning.

    And then a couple of weeks later, let's begin Winter 2017 Practice Period together on Wednesday, January 11th.

    What is Practice Period? Every year in January into early March we gather together to intensify our practice through the ancient Buddhist tradition of the "rains retreat" - in India this was done in the summer, but our rains are in the dark of winter. 

    A time of darkness, a time of light. A time of formal practice and a time of reflection and growth.

    (Action too! One possibility: we have moved the opening sesshin of the Practice Period from Saturday, January 21st to Sunday, January 22nd to make room for the Bellingham Women's March, which will be from 10am to 2pm on that Saturday. Gather in front of Bellingham City Hall to join the march.)

    I am delighted that our long-time member Ryushin Kate McKenna is bravely moving forward as our head student (shuso) for the Winter 2017 Practice Period. Please come join her and the sangha in deep practice from January 11th - March 8th

    Two important things to do to get started after you take a look at the Practice Period page to get the overview.

     (1) Sign up online - here the link: Winter Practice Period 2017 - overview & registration sign up there, and then also book the classes and retreats you wish to attend. (Everything else is drop-in: there is separate registration for classes and retreats).

    The online sign up is helpful. It serves as a clarification for you of what is offered, as a planning guide for what you plan to attend, and it's an opportunity to share with Kate and I what your intentions are for this sesshin. (only Kate and I will read your comments).

    Additionally, there are options in the online sign up to ask for support. 

    You can request a practice partner (and "accountabili-buddy"?) or you can invite one of our teachers to be in touch especially if you live outside of Bellingham (or even if you're local but can't make the regular times).

    (2) Come, if at all possible, to the opening ceremony when Kate is invited to become our shuso and the gathered sangha share their intentions out loud (if they choose!) - Wednesday January 11th. More details here: Practice Period Opening Ceremony

    Hope to see you soon at the zendo or beyond,

    Nomon Tim Burnett

    Spiritual Director

    Annual Red Cedar Zen Community Fundraiser

    In case you missed the email, we're grateful to the Annual Fund Workgroup for putting our annual fund drive together again this year. 

    Over the last year, we have been involved in the larger Bellingham spiritual community through the countywide interfaith program of Let Love Be Our Legacy.  We have done several service projects in the community, continued our wilderness programs, and have dealt with some very significant issues with our beloved but aging infrastructure (read: "flushing with confidence.").

    Your ongoing support is vital for us to remain financially stable and to continue to grow and thrive.

    To offer a donation (fully tax deductible):

    • Donate online
    • Mail a check, payable to Red Cedar Zen Community and labelled as "donation", to the following address:
    Red Cedar Zen Community
    PO Box 5183
    Bellingham, WA 98227

    Also, please take a moment and have a light-hearted look at our 2016 Fund Drive Video.

    In addition to a yearly contribution, if you wish to become a member of RCZC or to renew your membership ties, please submit a membership form. For additional information about the benefits of membership, please see our web page About Membership.

    Sangha Events for January and into February

    Saturday, December 31, 2016 7pm  New Year's Eve Zen Ceremony

    Sunday, January 1, 2017 8:00am  Zazenkai: a morning of silent practice

    Saturday, January 7th 6:00am - 9:00am 1st Saturday Morning Sit with Potluck Breakfast
                                        9:00am - 1:00pm Work Day with Potluck Lunch

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017  7pm-9pm (Wednesday evening)  Practice Period Opening Ceremony.

    Wednesday, January 18, 201 6pm (before Wednesday zazen)  Intimacy at the Heart of Conflict (Shuso's Class)

    Sunday, January 22, 2017 (NOTE: re-scheduled to Sunday) 6am - 5pm Practice Period Opening Sesshin, which includes...

    Sunday, January 22, 2017 10:30am Shuso's Way Seeking Mind Talk.

    Saturday, Feburary 4th, 2017 9:30am Annual Sangha Meeting with the Board

    Sunday, February 5th, 2017 9:00am - 5:00pm Sunday Simple Sit with Chris Burkhart

    Special event for the sangha and the Bellingham community - our 4 week Introduction to Zen Meditation class
    Tell your friends interested in Zen meditation, or come yourselves to our Monday evening in-depth class on Zen Meditation. Taught by Connie Martin and John Wiley.

    Events in the Community:

    Our involvement with the interfaith group Let Love be Our Legacy continues with two events in December:

    February 4, 11, and 18: A Course on Islam will be hosted at St Paul's on these three Saturday mornings from 10am until noon. The Rev. Josh Hosler of St. Paul’s Episcopal will moderate this three-part series on our Muslim neighbors. There will be a presentation by members of Bellingham Mosque on the 4th. On the 11th, Professor Paul Ingram, Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran University, will speak. Recently the leadership of the Bellingham Mosque reached out and voiced a readiness to build interfaith dialogue, so this is a valuable opportunity to learn about this tradition.

    Saturday, January 7: The Sikh Gurwara in Lynden will open its doors in celebration, to share prayers, peace, and food in a multicultural, interfaith prayer service from 4-8pm. Service is from 4-6pm, and a traditional vegetarian meal is offered to all attendees in keeping with Sikh teachings to make food available to all. All are welcome, anRyushin Andrea Thach will represent Red Cedar Zen at the service.

    More information on these events will be place on the Let Love Be Our Legacy Facebook page and webpage.

    Upcoming Retreats:

    January 22, 2017:  Practice Period Opening Sesshin (re-scheduled to Sunday!)

    March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

    December Dharma Talks:

    December 1, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett: David Loy’s Response

    December 2, 2016: Eko Jeff Kelley: Avowal and Repentance

    December 3, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett: Four Foundations of Mindfulness 1 – Observation of Body 3

    December 14, 2016: Heigaku Talus Latona: When Truth Moves

    An offering from a Red Cedar Zen member:

    So here is a moment in time – photo. 

    It spoke to me. I may be the only one?

    Winters grip fading. Late March morning.

    Time for a walk around Lake Padden.

    Not freezing, but still chilly. Walking along the shoreline, I noticed a color change off to my right.

    Stopped and looked out through a tunnel of branches to lake water and sun.

    Something was there. I (quickly) used my cell camera to record a number of images.

    Idea was to sort them out later.

    One jpg spoke to me!

    Spring blue.

    Last summer -


    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Community sends out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelleten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter. We welcome all kinds of offerings: event listings, resources, poetry and visual art.

  • Thursday, December 01, 2016 5:31 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       December at Red Cedar Zen Center

    Dear Sangha,

    A week after the election we had a "supermoon" - the moon as close as it's been to the earth since 1948 and an opportunity that will not be repeated until 2038. I read this was coming and several friends pointed it out with excitement. And I could feel the anticipation of seeing something special and maybe getting a great photo with my telephoto lens. A little excitement and a little desire arose in my heart.

    And not too unusually for the Northwest it was rainy and cloudy - at least when I looked (I'm not too hard-core about such things). So I didn't get to see the full moon clear and unobscured.

    The first time I looked up at it, I barely looked. All I could really register was the disappointment of not seeing what I'd wanted.

    And of course for so many of us since the election we've been thinking and feeling in all kinds of ways about the unexpected results of our national elections. 

    The full disclosure here is I'm on the liberal side of the equation, but I hope these reflections are useful for my friends on the conservative side. And the minute I write that I'm aware of how limited and narrow is it to think that there are just two kinds of people in our country.  I reminde myself that people have all kinds of reasons for choosing to vote for one candidate or the other, or choosing not to vote at all.

    The  next morning after the "failed" supermoon viewing, I was up early and went out to my backyard mediation hut to practice. 

    Another full disclosure: for week after the election I found it really hard to keep up my daily practice. I skipped several days figuring I'd be sitting with others in mindfulness classes or at the Zen center. Which is true enough but it doesn't serve the same essential purpose as sitting quietly at home in the morning does for me.

    I'd felt literally a bit ill in the body - queazy, low energy. And I'd felt a bit sick at heart. It's been hard to really show up for life. Challenging conversations in classes and at home. Trying to make sense of what's happening and trying to be helpful as others make sense of it. Sometimes trying a little too hard to reassure others. Other times feeling shut down and not wanting to engage. Wanting to hope that everything is okay sometimes. Other times batting down the whisps of despair that everything is very much NOT okay (and again this paralyzing belief in there only being two possibilities).

    And then that morning I saw the moon. There is was hanging just above the horizon to the northwest. On it's way down for the day. I saw it through the trees and in the clouds. I could just make out some of the details of the lunar surface. Mostly a glowing white orb.

    And I stopped. I really saw the moon - the supermoon! - as it was showing itself at this particular moment. Not what I had wanted in my mind, true. And incredibly beautiful and just as it is, also true.

    I've heard people (mostly those within my liberal-leaning circles) talking like this is the beginning of dark days. We'll have to be strong. We need to mobilze. So much to do. Anger and frustration needs to be channeled and used. I've heard doubts about peacefulness too: we don't want to chill out too much, we need that hard edge to be strong, to be motivated, to show up.

    But of course the America of Monday the 7th was, more or less, the same America that voted the way it did on Tuesday the 8th. Either the dark days have been with us for a long time or it's not quite right to say the days are dark. 

    The days are dark and light. The moon is clear sometimes, obscured by clouds other times. It's still the moon. This is still our beautiful, diverse, strong country. Part of the liberal ethos is to be a little suspicious of "loving our country" - that could be code for a certain kind of narrow minded, potentially violent, nationalism.  And I guess it can be.

    But maybe it's time for all of us, no matter what our particular kaleidoscope of views is, to learn how to really love our country. What is our country after all but the lands and peoples that live in it? And that live in it now. It's time to learn the effective and clear way to love everyone. That's what I hope our mindfulness and compassion practices will support us in doing. I think we need a much bigger vision than "enduring dark times."

    Will sitting on the cushion and bringing our attention back to our breathing with kindness solve anything really? Not exactly, but it can help us find a stronger ground to stand on to do our work of love. If there's anger, we can find ways to include that reality with honesty and with kindness, if there's fear - the same, but spilling our anger and fear out into the world only adds to our troubles.

    My secret hope from the surprise (or even shock) of this national election we will all be moved to find our own particular way to express and contribute to our hopes for the future. Whether that's renewing our attention to the quiet helping we're already doing at work or at home, or whether it expresses as overt activism.  And I hope that somehow the insights of our practice will help us not fall into these binary traps. Us and them. Good or bad. It's a mix. It's an unbelievably rich mix, and none of us can know the whole story.

    So I can understand if you voted for Mr. Trump. I really can. I want to know your reasons and I want to be in dialog and I hope even as you support the changes you hope for in making that choice we'll all join together to resist the anti-love expressions of misogyny and racism that also emerged in his campaign.

    It's time to be strong and loving. And this isn't new. It's always been true. Maybe this month we all received a big wake up to that ongoing reality regardless of how we voted or didn't vote (the third choice which about half of us made!).

    Nomon Tim Burnett

    Spiritual Director

    Sangha Events for December:

    November 30 - December 4, 2016: Rohatsu 2016 - Buddha's Enlightenment retreat

    December 1, 2016: Public Dharma Talks by Nomon Tim Burnett and Eko Jeff Kelley

    December 10-11: Saturday-Sunday, Rohatsu (Buddha's Enlightenment) Retreat with Myoshin Kate McCandless and Shinmon Michael Newton. Please join Mountain Rain Zen community for our annual  27-hour Rohatsu retreat. Let’s sit together through the night with determination, then celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment with all beings! Details and registration online:

    December 17, 2016: Saturday Morning Practice with Breakfast

    December 31, 2016: New Year's Eve Zen Ceremony

    January 1, 2017: Zazenkai: a morning of silent practice

    Upcoming Retreats:

    March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

    Board of Directors News:

    November 2016 Board Minutes

    November Dharma Talks:

    November 2 Nomon Tim Burnett discussesthe four Foundations of Mindfulness: Observation of Body

    November 16 Nomon Tim Burnett:Loving My Country

    November 23 Nomon Tim Burnett discussesthe four Foundations of Mindfulness: Observation of Action

    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Center will send out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter.

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2016 5:29 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

       November at Red Cedar Zen Community

    Dear Sangha,

    Lately I've been thinking a lot about how challenging it is that our practice encourages us to take such full responsibility for our own minds and hearts. By quieting the mind a little in zazen we see our own suffering more fully. And as we start to see and undertand our suffering we realize that we're creating so much of it through our expectations of others. What a strong and difficult habit of mind that can be!

    We want others to befriend us. We want others to thank us. We want others to initiate projects that we think they should be doing. We want others to be tidier. We want others to think about things the way we do and organize things the way we do. We want others to do all kinds of things and be all kinds of ways.

    And we expect all of this to By magic? Via mind reading? 

    Sangha life is great. It can include a lot of wonderful and clearly felt support. I could never express fully how grateful I am to the sangha.

    Sangha life can also be challenging. It can show us this powerful pattern of wanting others to do things for us; wanting others to be the way we want them to be. Somehow we think, "they should just know who I am and what I need!"

    And when they don't we suffer. It hurts.

    And yet through that hurt is a powerful path to freedom and joy: through understanding this dynamic more clearly, through learning to ask for what we need, and even more importantly through asking for help in working with this self-centered conditioning we all have.

    We gradually learn the bizare truth that when we do the inner work of softening around our own pain, releasing our expectations, and accepting that others aren't going to give us everything we want, that they somehow then do give us more of what we need! And in fact they already were giving us so much more than we realized.

    This is tricky territory in many ways. Zen is not about self-denial or shutting down our needs. It's not about toughing it out.

    And Zen is not about self-indulgence either. 

    But it is about finding the path to freedom, connection, and joy. And that path sometime goes down dark lanes. Lanes of clinging, lanes of fear, lanes of self-doubt. 

    It's wonderful to have our needs met. It's even more wonderful to recognize that those needs are already being met. And have always been met. 

    Letting go and softening around our own pain and and our own needs and understanding our own patterns is not only possible, it's neccessary. For our real happiness. For everyones happiness. For the survival of our species, and of our planet.

    My dear sangha friends, let's keep working to help ourselves and help each other in the wisest ways we can. I'll keep exploring the dark pathways of need and desire in my heart and I'm sure you will too. With awareness of what motivates our needs we can help each so much more wisely, and little by little we will all awaken to the freedom and joy that benefits everyone.

    with love,

    Nomon Tim Burnett

    Spiritual Director

    Sangha Events for November:

    Tuesday, November 8 and Wednesday, November 9: Election Day Sits 

    Monday, November 14: Cultivating the Seven Factors of Enlightenment (this is a change of date from Nov. 17)

    November 30 - December 4, 2016: Rohatsu 2016 - Buddha's Enlightenment retreat

    Upcoming Red Cedar Zen Retreats:

    November 30 - December 4, 2016: Rohatsu 2016 - Buddha's Enlightenment retreat

    March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

    Events with Mountain Rain Zen Community:

    Our sister sangha in Vancouver is having two milestone events in November, and their rohatsu is a week later than ours this year making it possible to have a double rohatsu December!

    Sunday, November 13: Priest ordination for Nin-em Susan Elbe, at Loon Lake Camp, 10:00 am. Please RSVP to to get directions and the gate code for entry.

    Friday, November 18: Shusu Jikai Vicki Turay Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, at Loon Lake Camp, 9:30 am. Please RSVP to to get directions and the gate code for entry.

    December 10-11: Saturday-Sunday, December 10-11 Rohatsu (Buddha's Enlightenment) Retreat with Myoshin Kate McCandless and Shinmon Michael Newton. Details and registration online:

    Let Love Be Our Legacy:

    So happy that our sangha is participating the first inter-faith project of this effort to increase understanding, tolerance and love in the community. We're helping to host a full day of open public meditation on election day and the next morning. May a little peace and contemplation help in this difficult election.

    Monday, November 7: Let Love Be Our Legacy Interfaith Banner Display and Community Gathering

    Tuesday, November 8 and Wednesday, November 9: Election Day Sits

    More info on the project is here:

    SANGHA NEWS: JUKAI (receiving the precepts, "lay ordination")

    On a beautiful day of practice and community sangha members Jaren Jaren Hoppe-Leonard, Ken Oates, and Anne Mikkelson received the precepts from Nomon Tim Burnett in the jukai (receiving the precepts) ceremony. This ceremony marks a commitment to living by the precepts and deepens each students connection to the lineage m the practice, and their teacher. Taking the precepts warms up and encourages the whole sangha too. A wonderful day!

    Our sangha members new names are:

    Jaren: Junryū Shinchi,  "Pure-hearted Willow, Wisdom in the Body"

    Ken: Junka Shiri, "Pure-hearted Caregiver, Resting in the Forest"

    Anne:  Tojun Kakuyō, "Pure-hearted Companion, Dancing Crane"

    You can read Tim's notes about the selection of their names on the Dharma Talks page


    We're made tremendous progress in this project to help the family of Mercy Akumu and their neighbors in Kagan Village in Western Kenya (Homa Bay County).  We're sent over $2000 already. Enough to meet our initial goals to fund both a small scale irrigation project (there is no irrigation or electricity available in the area where this village farms) and to subsidize Mercy's younger sister Doneter in beginning to study at university to become a special education teacher. Amazing.

    See letters from Mercy's Uncle Charleton and Doneter, a few notes from Mercy, and pictures of the new pump in action in the Kagan Village Project page of our website (under Support). See the new Kagan Updates sub-page for the latest news.

    Board of Directors News:

    October 2016 Board minutes

    October Dharma Talks:

    October 29, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett : FourFoundations of Mindfulness - Observation of Body 1

    October 26, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett : FourFoundations of Mindfulness - Introduction

    October 19, 2016: Ryūshin Andrea Thach :To Forgive and Forget

    October 12, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett :Yogachara Love Seeds

    October 2, 2016: Nomon Tim Burnett :Understanding Consciousness

    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Community will send out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newletter.

  • Saturday, October 01, 2016 5:29 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)


    October at Red Cedar Zen

    Dear Sangha,

    I'm just back from the annual sesshin with Seattle Soto Zen at Camp Indianola on the Kitsap Peninsula. It's similar to the retreat we offer every year at Samish Island in some ways - a lovely church camp on the water. The sesshin was peaceful and deep and I had the pleasure of co-teaching with both Jeff Kelley of Seattle Soto Zen and visiting teacher Valorie Beer from San Francisco Zen Center.

    The theme that emerged in the retreat was paying attention to what the Buddha called the "marks of existence." In Pali these are termed:  aniccā, dukkhā, and anattā: tranciency, suffering & liberation, and non-self. The Buddha was trying to point out that a deep source of our discontent and suffering is we take it all the wrong way - that the actual character of reality is that everything, absolutely everything, is transient and changing, that our mapping of some experiences as our self doesn't help us much, and that we're drop into an endless cycle of grasping and resistant if we're not careful.

    The good news is that we can work with this, It's workable. We can turn our attention towards the process of each moment unfolding, especially with the periodic help of lots of zazen, and through that process change our whole relationship to the unfolding stream of reality. The very same situation we experience can be a source of resistance and pain, or a source of challenge and growth. 

    I ended up coming up with the phrase "take it seriously but don't take it personally" as a helpful shorthand for this process of being in our lives with depth and intention and wisdom. Here's a little excerpt of one of my Dharma Talks at Indianola:

    What does taking it personally actually mean? It seems to mean making something that happens into a part of your identity or part of your person a part of yourself. 

    Someone insults you and you become an insulted person. And you hate being an insulted person right? So you have to fix that. A lot of work and stress and both. The opposite of letting go.

    And of course how do we even know that someone has insulted us? We assume it based on our perception. And our perception is always a little slanted by what we've taking personally in the past. We are all filtering our experiences through this tangle of history and assumptions and personality that we call "me."

    And yet the challenge, and occasional deep pain, of being a "me", a person - a being who has taken so much personally - is what brings us to practice, isn't it? It is our undoing in a way and it is our vehicle to awakening at the same time.

    And we learn how unsatisfactory the whole deal can be. We learn that just trying to get what we want: the right job, partner, consumer objects, whatever, doesn't seem to lead to lasting happiness. 

    Either what you think you want is unobtainable or, even worse, you get what you thought you wanted and you find it doesn't provide lasting happiness anyway!

    And that's the tangible stuff. 

    Then consider the underlying desires and subtle emotional needs: like I want everyone to like me all the time. No matter what. And this isn't even touching on trying to avoid what you don't want!

    But it's not so simple as just turning that pattern around, is it? There's something self-defeating about trying to STOP trying to get what you want or avoid what you don't want. That's a kind of forced acceptance. An aggression towards yourself. Maybe you've tried that approach too, and found that it work either.

    There seems to be some kind of strange dance here where it really does matter that we take good care of ourselves while at the same time holding our perceived needs and desires with more than a little curiosity. A healthy dose of skepticism. Do I really need that thing I think I want? Or is that just a desire that has me in it's grip. And what is "me" anyway. It's confusing!

    So I was already musing a little about the role of the self in all of this. Can we take this practice seriously with a lot of good energy without taking it so personally. Without all of our conditioned hooks hanging out there waiting to be snagged on something, or someone.

    Can we take this all seriously, this big, challenging, rich life, can we take it all very seriously without taking it so personally? 

    Responding to the world and situation we find ourselves in with curiosity with not-knowing, with as much skill as we can must and as much patience as we can. 

    And taking it seriously doesn't mean we loose our sense of humor either! It's a funny business being a person, that's for sure. 

    Wishing you all well as we turn to Fall. Let's do what we can this Autumn to take care of ourselves and our world with true care and deep wisdom. We need that, the world needs that. Let's take that seriously.but not so personally!


    Sangha Events for October

    Saturday, October 1Understanding Consciousness: A Zen Studies Retreat with Nomon Tim Burnett

    Saturday, October 8Closing the Mountains Hike

    Thursday, October 13Cultivating the Seven Factors of Enlightenment

    Sunday, October 15Sangha Work Day New to the schedule.

    Sunday, October 16Sunday Simple Sit with Chris Burkhart

    Saturday, October 29Jukai Day Retreat and Ceremony

    Upcoming Retreats

    Wednesday, November 20 to December 4, 2016: Rohatsu 2016 - Buddha's Enlightenment retreat

    October Events in the Community 

    Saturday, October 22Sitting Meditation in Troubled Times a workshop with Kathie Fischer hosted by Seattle Soto Zen

    Saturday, October 22: Intersangha Service Outing, an opportunity to serve our larger community by cleaning up Squalicum Creek Park

    Sangha News

    Kagan Village Project After hearing Tim's stories of his trip to Kenya (talk 1 and talk 2 are on the website) and the tremendous needs there, as well as Tim's growing personal connections in the village of Kagan in Western Kenya a person-to-person support project has emerged from the sangha if you would like to help you can read all about it on this webpage and find the donation box and printed information at the Dharma Hall. Questions to Connie Martin, Tim Burnett, or Tuli Candella.

    Student Discussion Forum A new interactive web page forum has been created where sangha members can post notes about their studies and thoughts about practice. 

    Note: You must be logged in to the website to make additions to the forum. Your login is the email address you used for membership. If you don't know your password or haven't made one yet, use the password reset feature - it's quick and easy. Or contact Terry Thompson or Talus Latona for support logging in.

    Let Love Be Our Legacy Red Cedar Zen is joining an interdenominational project to address divisiveness and prejudice - meeting it with love and understanding. There are project buttons available in the lobby and soon a large banner will go up on the building. Projects to open the Dharma Hall for meditation for the community or to other member denominations are in the works. Contact Andrea Thach at for information or listen to her talk.

    Board of Directors News

    Please see the minutes to keep in touch with the business of the sangha: June minutes: Board Minutes 2016-06, August minutes: Board Minutes 2016-08.  September minutes: Board Minutes 2016.09.

    Recent Dharma Talks

    Ryūshin Andrea Thach spoke about Everything We Do is About Love on August 17th.

    Nogen Connie Martin offered these reflections in her student talk entitled Revival on August 24th.

    Nomon Tim Burnett offered his reflections on this trip to Kenya in these two talks:  talk 1 and talk 2.

    And sangha members Hannah, Bob, and John describe their moving Zen pilgrimage to Japan.

    About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Center will send out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission.

  • Thursday, September 01, 2016 5:25 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)
         September at Red Cedar Zen

    Dear Sangha,

    Lately I'm practicing a lot with appreciation. Inspired by my experience in Africa, I'm appreciating more the incredibly functional infrastructure that we enjoy. So often we take this amazing infrastructure for granted, or the mind focuses on the rare times there's a problem or a delay. Yet to look around is to witness so many simple wonders:

    Dots and lines and reflectors on the road.

    Piped water, that one can drink.

    Regular trash collection and almost no trash on the streets and sidewalks.

    The quiet and peacefulness on the roads.

    Firetrucks and emergency services that respond quickly and effectively.

    Then I remember to appreciate the rich relationships and mutual support all around me:

    Family, friends, sangha.

    Married for 25 years this month.

    Being seen in the Board meeting and told, "you look good, more relaxed!"

    Parents still living and healthy.

    So many years of friendship with so many friends.

    Somehow…a new family in Kenya.


    And then, I remember to appreciate the gift of this practice:

    Deep quiet with good company in an early Saturday zazen.

    Herons at Samish.

    30 years with a teacher so trustworthy.

    A new student ringing the bells at service.

    Excited energy in the lobby on Wednesday night.

    Calligraphy together on Friday as we watch the ink flow from brush to paper.

    Incense and cedar. Offering, just offering.

    And then, I remember to appreciate the amazing interactions with this beautiful planet:

    Hiking up to Park Butte with Walker - glory all around.

    The sky in all its phases and colors and moods and winds.

    The crows living in my neighborhood.

    Our dear, now departed, cat Lucca.

    Sea and sky, sky and sea.

    Air we can breathe.

    Water we can drink.

    Food - that gift from the Earth (and somehow manifesting for us as something to buy in the store, and we can afford it, and they're plenty, and it's safe- amazing.)

    Of course there are problems, of course we have work to do. Can we do this work, these tasks, from appreciation? Can we root our actions in appreciation? We come home to remembering how deeply fortunate we are to be this supported, that we are this well held by Indra's Net, that we are alive.



    The September Sangha Conversation will be on September 29th. The topic, like this email, will be on generosity and inclusion. We will also have short reports from Tim on helping his Kenyan family with an agricultural pump, and from Andrea on an interfaith initiative on inclusion and love.

    Also this month:

    Sangha Work Day, September 3 at 9:00am

    Sunday Simple Sit with Chris Burkhart: Paramitas of Meditation and Wisdom, September 4 at 9:00am

    Circumambulation of Mount Adams - Journey into Wildness, 10 Sep 2016 – 18 Sep 2016 @ Mount Adams, Washington

    Journey to the Source - hike to Nooksack Cirque, 24 Sep 2016, 5:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ Carpool from the Dharma Hall or Nugent's Corner

    Sangha News:

    Zen Wedding of Ken & Julie Oates, and Nomon Tim officiated. August 13, 2016. Congratulations Ken & Julie!

    Departing monk Dylan Simpson moved to Williamsburg, VA, in July to begin graduate school in biology. Best of luck, Dylan.


    Dylan shared on Facebook:

    Dear Bellingham,

    Farewell! Thanks for being a home for the past two years. You're a shining jewel of a town.

    Dear Washington,

    So long, land of my birth! I'll rejoice to see you again!

    Dear Virginia,

    Get ready! I'm on my way.

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