December, 2013 - Muir Beach

by Norman Fischer | December 31, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Note: This is a copy of the year-end letter that was sent out by mail to Everyday Zen subscribers, written at the beginning of December. We have just received word that Myogen Steve Stucky passed away this morning, December 31, 2013. He was at home with his family and died peacefully. He will be missed. (editor)

December, 2013/Muir Beach

Dear Everyday Zen friends,

As you know, I like to read. I am always reading. I don’t remember most of what I read, but I keep on. And everything I read sounds like Dharma.

Lately I have been reading about light, which is, for us, the world. Without light we wouldn’t be here and neither would anything else. When we see the world we are actually seeing consciousness activated by light, which creates an image in our brains of something “out there.” And the light that activates our eyes and brains isn’t actually light per se - it’s the mixing of light and the objects we see. Light itself, it turns out, is invisible, may or may not actually “exist,” and requires an observer. Light is the one thing in the universe that isn’t subject to the relativity of space and time. In others words, light - the most everyday occurrence there is - is impossible to understand or pin down. It is, in every sense of the word, a miracle. Everyday life is a miracle.

As I write this letter, our dear Dharma brother Myogen Steve Stucky, Abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, is practicing with end-stage pancreatic cancer. He is in hospice care, growing weaker every day. But his spirit is powerful as he does his daily practice of gratitude. This makes perfect sense when you really appreciate the world we live in. Everything is given; everything is connected; everything is evanescent; everything is lovely. I have been deeply moved by Steve’s practice and teaching at this most poignant time of his life. And I too am grateful. With no special skill, talent, or effort, I have been able to live a life of practice, to know all of you, and to share life with you.

Thank you. 

You notice that for the first time this letter is quite short - it doesn’t include the usual multiple-page schedule of events. After sending all of that to you for ten years or so we’ve determined that it is probably not worth it. The events are all posted on the website and are easily accessible there. It’s better to save the paper and the money and send you instead just this personal letter. I hope this makes as much sense to you as it does to us. Let us know. If you want a paper copy of the schedule you can email and we will send one.

In the rest of this letter I’d like to mention a few events upcoming (all on the website,

In early 2014 we’ll be having some unusual dharma seminars (Wednesday evenings, 7-9 pm, at the Community Congregational Church in Tuburon).

In January (8,15,22,29) we’ll be studying Shakespeare’s “King Lear” as a Zen text, joined for that by Ben Donenberg, a Zen student and Shakespearean actor, director and creator of the L.A. Shakespeare Company.

In February (5,12,19,26) Chris Fortin will lead a seminar on “The Lion’s Roar of Queen Srimala,” an important Mahayana Sutra translated by Alex and Hideko Wayman.

In March we’ll be having a series of guest speakers, all of them younger Dharma teachers, among them Jeremy Levie, Head of Practice at Green Gulch; Meg Levie, a priest at Green Gulch and a mindfulness teacher for businesses and other organizations; and Ari Goldfield and Rose Taylor, teachers of Tibetan Buddhism.

Other important events:

Our March 30 All Day Sitting at NatureBridge (at the Headlands) will conclude with a Lay Entrustment Ceremony for Alan Block, James Flaherty, and Laura del Valle (Laura is from our group in Mexico). I have been studying with them for about a year in preparation for this ritual, which empowers them as lay Zen teachers. Please attend this joyful occasion, which will come at the end of the sitting, about 4 pm. (We’ll do a second version of the ceremony at our annual retreat at Mar de Jade in Mexico, April 5-11, a good excuse to attend that wonderful retreat on the beach in tropical Mexico).

At the April 27 Sitting we’ll have a jukai ceremony and our annual Buddha’s birthday party. Outside the Bay Area there will also be jukai ceremonies in Mexico in April and in Victoria, Canada, in early May, at our affiliate group there led by Wayne Codling, a lay student and old colleague from Zen Center days.

And in July (2-23) Kathie and I will be at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, leading a summer Practice Period. Upaya has made the event very affordable for Everyday Zen regulars. It is the first time I will have been at an extended residential training period since I led Practice Periods at San Francisco Zen Center in the late 1990’s. Please come to all or part of it if you can. (See Upaya website for details).

All this to look forward to in the new year. As I write this the days are short and the old year is nearly done. Looking backward, I am thankful for another year of health and happiness and practice with all of you. Everyday Zen does a lot with very little- thanks especially to our many volunteers, among them our finance wizard Andrea Jacoby, our administrators Lynne Hofmann and Martha de Barros, our website editor Ruth Ozeki, our registrars Barbara Byrum (who is also a transcriber), Tom White, and Kathleen Martin, our talks maven John Murray, and our teachers. Thanks to all of them and to you for your presence, your work, and your financial contributions. You keep me and the rest of us going. Happy Holidays!

Yours, Norman





Norman Fischer