Newsletter: November 13, 2014

As Dogen said: “I went to China. Body and mind fell away. I found the Dharma. I went with empty hands, and I returned with empty hands.”


Below are some excerpts from our latest Newsletter, November 13, 2014, featuring Henry Shukman’s dharma teaching. Please signup for our newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of this page (see the box Subscribe below) OR scroll to the bottom of any other page on this site (see Subscribe/Connect).

Newsletter November 13, 2014

Greetings Friends,

The chilly embrace of winter is descending on our high desert in Santa Fe.  Come see our beautiful gazebo and sit zazen in the late fall beauty of Mountain Cloud. Henry is in the zendo this week for our regular practice, Thursday night, Sunday morning…

Our Rohatsu sesshin is getting quite full – thank you everyone who already registered – a great help. There are still some spaces, and still some time.

While every sit and every moment is all there is, in this practice, nevertheless at the same time, the deep winter retreat that we hold around the time of the longest night — and also the time of Shakyamuni’s great awakening to infinite light — is our most cherished annual event. We are so deeply supported in our practice together at this time. It’s a rare and precious opportunity to “touch the heart” of who we really are.

Also, all are invited to our 4th anniversary part this Friday evening at 6pm at the Ellsworth Gallery. Please come even if you haven’t sent an RSVP… all members, friends and extended sangha family are welcome.

Blessings to all.




Someone recently asked whether Zen doesn’t encourage the seeking of a certain kind of experience, and even an attachment to it, with its talk of kensho. It’s a good question.

Kensho – seeing reality or our actual nature – is basically what happens when all seeking and attachment have fallen away. That’s a precondition for it.

It’s a paradox. It’s one of the hardest things about this practice – we want something to happen, whether to become calmer, more at peace, to sleep better, to be less reactive with our coworkers and family, to have lower blood pressure, to be happier – whatever it may be – yet for any of those “results” to have any chance of arising, we have to practice without seeking anything at all.

This is where the notion of intention can be helpful. We have a reason for practicing, an intention. But having established that, we then put it on the shelf, forget about it, and just focus on the practice itself. Which means: this in-breath, this out-breath. Here and now.

No anticipation whatsoever.

If we mix any “purpose” or “result-seeking” into our  actual practice, isn’t that just another thought arising, which we welcome, acknowledge, and let go of? The principle of practice is that all we need is right here, right now. There is nothing more to seek. We simply give ourselves to the practice in this moment. In a sense, all the good things we may be hoping for from practice arise from precisely this gradual discovery – that this moment as it is is enough, it is in fact all we need. In fact it’s all there is.

Sufficient unto the day of the cares thereof – don’t worry about what tomorrow may bring; today’s cares are enough. But the same is true of this moment. Sufficient unto the moment are the cares thereof. If we can just let ourselves settle into this moment – now, here, right now, this breath, this phrase, this sitting on a chair – then we can start to find the true treasure of practice.

Then, if any other “dividends” come, whether better sleep, better relationships, or even a revelatory experience of our real identity, in a sense it is “just gravy” – because we know we are already right with the world.


What is the real value of lineage in Zen?

This is something hard to measure because it’s basically immeasurable. From the first “transmission,” when Buddha held up a flower and Kashyapa smiled, and the two of them recognized one another fully and perfectly, and Buddha saw that Kashyapa saw as he saw, the lineage of Zen has been both the vehicle for its great treasure, and the treasure itself.

It’s partly about surrender – we don’t just give ourselves up in Zen. We give up ourselves in the context of a great web of relationships that in fact transcend time and space. Because of this, when we give up our self, we receive something, something can at last reach us. What is this? The unnameable. The Dharma. Nothing. Everything. And yet better than any of those.

As Dogen said: “I went to China. Body and mind fell away. I found the Dharma. I went with empty hands, and I returned with empty hands.”

And yet, what a difference between the empty hands with which he went, and the empty hands with which he returned. In the most real way, we ourselves are still benefiting today from those very “empty hands” with which he returned from China. They are the lineage itself, which holds us all in its limitless embrace.

4th ANNIVERSARY PARTY! This Friday, November 14th

Mountain Cloud Zen Center Sangha, friends and family are all invited. Please come and share in the festivity!!  6-8:30pm, Ellsworth Gallery on 215 East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe.


Our Rohatsu Sesshin begins Tuesday, December 2 at 6:00 pm and goes until lunch on Sunday December 7. This is a five day sesshin, and each day includes a teisho (dharma talk) and dokusan (private interviews).

The cost is on a sliding scale, based on what you can afford:  $45 – $80/ day (for members) and $55 – $90/ day (for non-members)  The cost includes lodging at Mountain Cloud and all meals, which are vegetarian. If you have specific practice questions about sesshin or if you are new to Mountain Cloud, email Henry at

To register, email the information listed below to

  1. Name
  2. Phone Number
  3. Emergency contact name and phone number
  4. Are you staying at Mountain Cloud or are you commuting?
  5. Accommodation preferences (if any) if staying at Mountain Cloud.
  6. Provide any special dietary requirements.

 Please sign up by Tuesday, November 25th  so we can begin assigning jobs, cabin space and making the meal plan.  Once you sign up, more details will be sent to you.


Three Treasures Prison Project Update: Each Thursday Pancho will be in Cabin 4 from 4–6pm sorting through papers connected with his work in the State Penitentiary here in Santa Fe. He would welcome any company. If you’d like to drop in and offer some help with the filing, and at the same time find out more about what he is doing in the prison, please feel free to just go ahead and join him in Cabin 4.


We could really use some help in two areas: various kinds of jobs around the zen center, and new members of the zendo team. Please contact us if you might be interested in knowing more about either.


We have various ongoing costs in running Mountain Cloud. Please consider making a donation to help it keep flourishing. As we are a non-profit organization, any gift is tax-deductible.

Image: Flowers, from, CC0 Public Domain

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