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New Zen Center In Oakhurst

Submitted by Bodhi Oak Zen Center —

OAKHURST — The Silver Creek Center has a new sign: “Bodhi Oak Zen Center.” Downstairs, on the far left corner, Suite 1-I is a small center dedicated to the study of Zen meditation and mindfulness.

Zen is a Japanese word that simply means “meditation,” but in the United States, “Zen” has an exotic and mysterious flavor. It may not be what you think.

“It’s not what you think it is, and it’s not about thinking,” says Rev. Myogo Mary-Allen Macneil, the Zen priest who leads the group.

Zen is an ancient Buddhist practice of quieting and centering the mind, and of finding stability in the midst of our hectic, everyday life. The study of Zen can be life-long, because there is a deep wealth of teachings on the subject.

Nowadays, it seems as though nearly everyone has heard of mindfulness training.

First adapted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, for relief of pain and anxiety, mindfulness has been used in hospitals, prisons, boardrooms, and the military, for the relief of pain, anger-management, increased concentration, and greater attention. Though it has non-spiritual applications it is, in essence, a spiritual practice, cultivating compassion and wisdom to guide us through life and even prepare us for death.

Mary-Allen has been studying Zen since 1998.

“People ask me, ‘How long does it take’? The old saying is, ‘Do it for ten years, then do it for ten more years, then do it for ten more years . . .” she says, with a twinkle in her eyes. “It’s easy to learn meditation, but it’s hard to practice it, especially in our wild and crazy world.”

Mary-Allen was ordained in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, by Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson, of Empty Nest Zendo, formerly in North Fork.

Since Empty Nest in now closed, Mary-Allen wanted to continue the tradition in the foothills, and with the support of friends, created Bodhi Oak Zen Sangha, which opened the Center in November.

Many people wonder if Zen is a religion or a philosophy.

It has its philosophical qualities, in that there is a vast literature of commentary on the practice of meditation and the inter-connectedness of all existence.

This sense of connection fosters a deeply ethical approach to life as a human being. Not all Americans who practice Zen are converts, in the conventional sense of abandoning one religion to embrace another. Many Zen practitioners remain Christian or Jewish, or self-identify without religion, finding that Zen practice enhances and deepens their traditional faith or thought processes.

Why “Bodhi Oak?”

“The Buddha attained his awakening under a ficus tree in what is now Nepal, some 2,500 years ago,” says Mary-Allen. “Thereafter the tree was called ‘the Bodhi tree.’ ‘Bodhi’ means ‘enlightenment’ in Sanskrit. I chose ‘Bodhi Oak’ to suggest that the promise is that even here, even now, we can awaken under the oak trees of this very valley, where we live, our home.”

The Center currently offers monthly “Zen 101: Learn to Meditate” for those who have never meditated before, or who are just curious about Zen, and weekly meetings on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon.

Meditation instruction and support is also offered on Sunday mornings.

From time to time, the Center offers special lectures and presentations. Bodhi Oak Zen Center is open to all, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, background, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.

Donations are gratefully accepted, but not required. Bodhi Oak Zen Sangha is a California Religious Corporation. Non-profit status has been applied for.

Bodhi Oak Zen on Facebook

For more information contact mamacneil@sti.net or phone (559) 642-7470

The Bodhi Oak Zen Center is located at 40879 Highway 41, Suite 1-I in Oakhurst

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