May 2019 Newsletter

Summer Ango (May 17-July 28 2019)

       Pasque flower on Skinner Prairie, Monroe Township

"That bold bit of life at the edge of the snows" 

- South Dakota Poet Laureate Badger Clark, 1939

During our recent hike to Skinner Prairie in Monroe Township with the Prairie Enthusiasts, we saw the first-emerging prairie flower, called the Pasque Flower (pictured above). It seemed to me this flower, and the description offered by South Dakota Poet  Laureate Badger Clark in 1939 was also a description of our endangered lives (humans and all other species)  on this fragile planet at this time. We are indeed a "bold bit of life" being propelled ever closer to the edge of our extinction by our own greed, hatred and delusion, the underlying driver of the runaway climate change we now face.   At Great Plains Zen Center, we join with others in declaring climate emergency and recognizing our responsibility as Ecosattvas to take the personal and collective action we truly hope will not be too late.  During this Summer Ango (and beyond) , we invite you to commit to the Ecosattva Vows (Macy and Johnstone) as one of the Ango practice commitments you make this summer.  Please also consider joining the Zen Life and Meditation Women's Retreat in Oak Park, IL June 21-22 in which our response to climate change will be the topic.  


Planned burn of the Wisdom Heart Prairie at Great Plains Zen Center to promote native plant growth

Summer Ango (May 17-July 28 2019)

What is Ango? The term ango literally means “peaceful dwelling.” It refers to a monastic practice period, typically 90 days of concentrated practice of zazen, work and study. The practice of ango dates back to the summer rainy season in India during which Shakyamuni Buddha was unable to travel and stayed in one place to teach for the approximately 3 month period of the rains. A traditional 90-day residential ango can be an extraordinary opportunity to deepen practice. Having to stay in one place and follow an intensive schedule with others day after day brings forth deep and solid zazen and work practice, but also all of our resistance, restlessness and avoidance. We have an opportunity to bear witness to all aspects our practice selves.

Great Plains Zen Center's community consists of practitioners who are not residents of the Zen Center and live in a widespread geographic area. We've had to be creative in offering an ango that is meaningful for those who are not able to leave their home commitments behind for 3 months at a time. GPZC offers instead an opportunity to settle and focus our practice more deeply during the ango through a practice commitment that covers the wisdom, concentration and actualization aspects of our practice. This makes the practice opportunity of ango available to everyone, regardless of where you live and what your home commitments are. It does, however, take more internal discipline to follow the commitment you make in the midst of your daily life. At the same time, this challenge can prove very rewarding in that it compels us to integrate practice and daily life to an extent we may not do if we are practicing a more monastic form.

Shuso/Head Trainee: During ango, one student serves as the shuso or head trainee. They serve as a role model by attending all events (geography permitting) and practicing diligently. Once students have completed the role of shuso, they are able to officiate services, either as a lay person or a monk or nun and are considered senior students. At the end of the ango, the shuso gives a talk on a koan and then engages the community in formal dharma combat in a lively and unpredictable ceremony known as shuso hossen. Questioners attempt to challenge the shuso with a query about the koan's meaning and the shuso answers back, demonstrating her understanding, until the questioner is stumped or satisfied with the shuso's answer.

For this ango, Bonnie Myosen Nadzam has been asked to be shuso. Myosen began her practice at Zen Center of Los Angeles and became a student at GPZC when the family moved into the area several years ago. Last fall, she and her family moved to Northfield, MN to accept an employment offer. Myosen is also the mother of 3 year old twins. She is courageously undertaking this important step in her practice, to become shuso, in the midst of demanding occupations of motherhood and professional writing. She will be presenting Writing and Zen: Creativity and Obstacles on May 19 at the end of the May Zazenkai and will offer some guided writing exercises for us throughout the ango.

Balancing family, work and sitting practice is a delicate and challenging endeavor for anyone. Yet, how essential it is that practice forms be adjusted to embrace moms and dads who are serious about their families and their sitting practice! Does it really make sense that they be asked to sit on the sidelines for a decade or two until their children are grown, when really they could be using the wisdom of their practice to inform their parenting (and vice versa) all along the way? Just stepping into the role of shuso in the midst of parenting and outside employment is in itself a powerful encouragement and teaching for all practicing families. Please read Shuso's message to the sangha below: 

Dear Sangha,

Though I try to be careful with my imagination, especially as a zen practitioner, I always imagine Ango (years ago and traditionally occurring during the rainy season in the East) as a time of slipping behind a veil of rain. I hope you’ll all join Roshi and I in so doing, and in thereby dropping more deeply into a practice that—as we all know—becomes increasingly a way of being, becomes more clearly what being is, independent of training periods or zendos.

I’m particularly grateful to Roshi for making the space and responding creatively to the needs arising for her students as they juggle many roles and responsibilities, and in my case, for her appreciation that raising children is full of opportunity for practice. In particular this ango season as a mother, wife and human being, in the spirit of increasing “self”-awareness, I’m committing (again) to engaging in shadow work  (click on this link for an article on shadow work). In very brief, intention is to pull out of shadow or unconsciousness basically anything that is there…there is always more awareness to be had. “Shadow work” is not as grim as it may sound. Recall the Zen Peacemakers Three Tenets, and our need to bear witness not only to the suffering of the world, but to the joy as well. As a busy, worried, serious person, there is no doubt some joy in my shadow. One of my own service commitments this period is in helping Moshe Cohen, Bernie Glassman’s “clown teacher,” in completing a book about Joy and what he calls Lightfulness. I’m going to be exploring some of these matters—shadow work, Lightfulness—in guided writing exercises during this ango season, and hope you’ll drop in and join us in online meetings to try them out, and discuss.

I take very seriously—very joyfully!—this opportunity to drop into a training period as Shuso. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I know we’re all going to learn so much from each other. Bowing with gratitude to all of you, from Minnesota, and see you soon!


We invite you to attend the Ango Opening and Shuso Entering Ceremony on the first night of the Maezumi Roshi Memorial Zazenkai, and the beginning of the Summer Ango on May 17 at 7 PM.  You can commit to practice in various ways during the 75 days of the Summer Ango - sitting, attending sesshin, precept practice, and more - and put your commitment down in writing by completing the Ango Commitment Form (downloadable PDF here.) 

Zen Sitting Group DeKalb (ZSGD), a new affiliate of the Great Plains Zen Center, will begin on Thursday, May 9, 2019. Currently, DeKalb, Illinois, home of Northern Illinois University, has no formal Buddhist presence. Several people in that area have taken GPZC classes and it is hoped that a small sitting community can be developed there. ZSGD will be housed at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N. 4th Street. The steward for the group will be John Genshin Knewitz, a student of Myoyu Roshi. The group will initially meet twice monthly on a variable schedule which can be viewed on the Zen Sitting Group DeKalb Facebook page. There will be no dokusan or teisho offered on a regular basis, but there will be regular formal sitting and some instruction regarding basic Zen practices and philosophy. If you have interest in this group, please checkout the ZSGD Facebook page, or feel free to email John directly at for further information.

Also a reminder that there are two more classes of the WISDOM Leadership Training being presented at All Saints Angelican Church, 169 S. Academy St., Janesville on Thursday nights from 6 to 7:30 PM.  On May 2, the topic will be Building Community and on May 9, Implicit Bias.  These are free and very informative for anyone leading a community organization. 


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View or download our May - July  2019 Calendar


In this Newsletter:



Maezumi Roshi Memorial Zazenkai

and Ango Opening Ceremony

May 17-19

This retreat honors the memory our founder, Koun Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Myoyu Roshi's teacher. Maezumi Roshi received Dharma transmission from Hakujun Kuroda, Roshi, in 1955 and also received approval from both Koryu Osaka Roshi, and Hakuun Yasutani Roshi. In 1967, Maezumi Roshi established the Zen Center of Los Angeles.

The zazenkai also marks the beginning of the Summer Ango (Intensive Practice Period).  It begins Friday evening with informal dinner at 5:30 followed by procedures instruction for all who need it. The formal retreat begins at 7 PM with the Ango Opening and Shuso Entering Ceremony.  We encourage you to be present for this ceremony if possible! The retreat concludes on Sunday morning. Participants may attend part time if unable to be at the entire zazenkai. The cost of the retreat is $75 and includes overnight accommodations Friday & Saturday, as well as all meals. Participants can stay for the Writing and Zen: Creativity and Obstacles Workshop which begins Sunday at 9 AM (additional charge for the workshop). Register here by Tuesday, May 14.

Dates for Upcoming Retreats and registration links: 




Writing and Zen: Creativity and Obstacles

a workshop with
 author Bonnie Myosen Nadzam

Sunday May 19 2019 9:00 - 4:00

You and your life are fundamentally creative—arising spontaneously and intelligently. The writing process can lend itself quite well to revealing some of the obstacles that can freeze up, block, and derail this force. In so far as we bring awareness to these obstacles on the page, we bring the awareness to our lives, and insofar as we bring awareness of such obstacles in our lives, we bring awareness of them to the page. In this 1-day workshop, writing assignments, discussion and Zen meditation will present opportunities to investigate each of our own obstacles with, hopefully, a little urgency and honesty.

Participants can expect to finish with workshop with several short pieces that might be lengthened or revised independently, and with new tools and strategies for navigating and working with the obstacles that arise during the writing/creative process. 

Bonnie Nadzam is an American writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, Granta, Orion, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Epoch, and many other journals. Her first novel, LAMB, has been translated into several languages and was recipient of the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and made into an award-winning independent film. Her second novel, LIONS, was a PEN Literary Prize finalist. Her third novel, 31, is forthcoming. She holds degrees in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Carleton College, an MFA from Arizona State University, and an MA and PhD from the University of Southern California. She is a long-time practitioner of zen and a student in the White Plum asanga.

The workshop takes places at Great Plains Zen Center, W7762 Falk Rd., Monroe.  Cost is $75 for members, $90 for all others. Student or senior scholarships available. Register here.


WISDOM Leadership Series In Janesville, WI





Introduction to Zen Practice Workshops:

Great Plains Zen Center offers monthly Introductory Workshops especially for those new to practice.  The workshops provide basic, practical information including how to do zazen (Zen meditation), how to establish a home practice, how to make everyday activities practice, the aims of practice, and what programs are available for practice through GPZC. 

Upcoming Introductory Workshops at GPZC, W7762 Falk Rd, Monroe, WI 53566:

 All workshops take place  8:30-11:30. Register here:

Upcoming Introductory Workshops at Countryside UU Church, 1025 N. Smith St., Palatine, IL:

All workshops take place 8:30 – 11:30 followed by vegetarian lunch. Register here:


Aspects of Zen Practice at GPZC  This series of four classes helps those who have taken an Introductory Workshop review the basics and continue to learn about the various elements of practice and ways to participate at Great Plains Zen Center.  Classes are held once per month in Monroe and in Palatine and may be taken in any order.  The class series repeats throughout the year, so you can take a class you missed the next time it is offered. These classes provide a great way to continue learning after the Introductory Workshop.  All classes are 1 hour with optional zazen following. Saturdays at 9 AM in Monroe and Sundays at 5:30 PM in Palatine.  The cost of each class is $5. 


Forms of Practice Review the basics of zazen (body, breath and mind), zendo procedures, and the teacher-student relationship. 7/14 (Palatine), 7/20 (Monroe)

Liturgy and Lineage:  The role of ceremony and ritual in Zen, our teaching lineage, an overview of services (including prayer list, memorials, baby blessings and weddings) and the Gate of Sweet Nectar.  8/24 (Monroe), 8/25 (Palatine)

Everyday Life Practice:  
Practicing the precepts at home, at work, in the community and throughout our lives.  Sharing practice with our children and families.  5/5 (Palatine)5/11 (Monroe)

Being a Part of the GPZC Community:  Shared stewardship circles and opportunities for volunteering and leadership, Council Practice and GPZC Vision, Mission, Guiding Principles and Practices.  6/23 (Palatine)6/15 (Monroe)


Fusatsu (Renewal of Vows)

All are welcome to join us for monthly Renewal of Vows ceremonies.  We begin with a short meditation followed by a council circle.  Council is a practice that teaches us to speak and listen from the heart. Fusatsu ends with a chanting ceremony.  Pre-registration not required. Upcoming dates are as follows:

  • May 5 7 PM (Palatine)
  • June 27 7 PM (Monroe - at start of sesshin but open to all)
  • July 21 7 PM (Monroe- at start of sesshin but open to all)

Gate of Sweet Nectar

In this ceremony, the main liturgy of Zen Peacemakers, we offer nourishment to those who are forgotton, marginalized and not cared for.  The ceremony includes raising the Bodhi Mind and inviting all those who hunger to partake in a meal to ease their distress and includes singing, chanting and musical instruments.  Participants are asked to bring non-perishable food items which will be taken to the local food pantry after the ceremony.  Pre-registration not required. Upcoming dates are as follows:

  • May 19 7 AM (Monroe - at end of zazenkai but open to all)
  • June 30 7 AM (Monroe - at end of sesshin but open to all)
  • July 7 7PM (Palatine)

Teisho (Public Talks by Myoyu Roshi)


  • June 9 7 PM (Palatine)


No registration or fee is required to attend weekly sitting at any location.  

Great Plains Zen Center, Monroe, WI

  • Zazen at 5:30 AM and 7 PM on Fridays
  • See calendar for classes scheduled on Saturdays
  • Chanting service at 8:30 AM followed by Zazen at 9 on Sundays
  • For those new to practice, a brief orientation is offered during the first sitting period.

Palatine, IL at CCUU

  • Zazen at 7 PM on Sunday nights. Periodic special events (see calendar). For those new to practice, a brief orientation is offered during the first sitting period. 
  • Beloit Zen Community meets every Monday from 4:15 -5:30 PM. NOTE that May 6 will be the last meeting for this academic year.   Schedule will resume in Septmeber as follows: 
                4:15 zazen (sitting)

                4:45 kinhin (walking meditation)

                4:55 short talk/discussion

                5:10 zazen (optional)
  • All are welcome to come and participate, not only those affiliated with the college.  Whatever your religious affiliation (or if you have none), experience or interest in meditation, we'd love to have you. 
  •  Instruction provided for those who are new to meditation. 
  • Held in the Spirituality Room in the basement of Pearsons Hall. 
  • For more information, please contact Bill New

Logan Square Zendo, Chicago
  • Zazen every Tuesday night at 8 PM.  For those new to practice, a brief orientation is offered during the first sitting period.  
  • For further information, please visit the Logan Square Zendo website here.
Zen SItting Group DeKalb
  • Variable schedule.  Check Facebook Page:  @zendekalb
  • Meets on the 9th and 23rd in May
  • 6 PM Instruction, 7 PM Sitting followed by discussion. 
  • For more information, contact John Genshin Knewitz 


Several types of membership are available.  More information about membership can be found here.

Support our community by making a donation here.

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You can also ask to join the Facebook Group, Great Plains Zen Center Sangha


Phone:  (608) 325-6248


Our postal mailing address:

W7762 Falk Rd • Monroe, WI  53566




Recognizing that systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories,  Great Plains Zen Center strives to foster a climate of purposeful inclusion of all people. We pledge to do all we can to replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect. We strive to be a Sangha that truly welcomes all persons and commits to structuring our community in ways that empower and enhance everyone’s participation.