December 2019 Newsletter

December 2019 Newsletter

Joya no kane 2018

Please join us for our annual Joya no Kane ceremony with refreshments following, December 29, 7 PM at Countryside Church, 1025 N. Smith St., Palatine, IL.  Read more about this year-end ceremony here
Rohatsu Sesshin, a five day sesshin commemorating the enlightenment of our original teacher Shakyamuni Buddha, takes place December 3-8.  We are pleased to announce that Zen Peacemakers International and One World in Dialogue are co-presenting a 24 hour vigil called Belonging to Earth which will include guidance from world experts and spiritual leaders, hosted by ZPI Executive Director Rami Efal and Elizabeth Debold of One World in Dialogue.  The vigil takes place December 7-8 online and we will be integrating it with our Rohatsu sesshin schedule in the last 2 days to make this a deeply healing and meaningful Rohatsu.   This is an opportunity to bear witness to Mother Earth and our relationship to her in this time of climate crisis and threat of extinction for many species, including our own.  Through guidance from spiritual/environmental leaders from various traditions and the silence of many hours of meditation, what actions will arise in our lives going forward to serve the wholeness of our being and all beings of the great earth?  Learn more and see the schedule of presenters for the vigil here.

The dates for retreats in 2020 through July are here. Registration links will be available on our website soon.  

Please join us in making this practice available for all by participating in GPZC's stewardship circles.  Through these circles, all of our practice offerings are conceived, planned and brought to fruition.  We would love to have you and your talents, skills and creativity be a part of them.  Find more information about the new Ethics Circle that will develop written guidelines for ethical behavior and a grievance procedure here.    Help us plan our 25th anniversary and Annual Members' Meeting event here.  

Are you interested in helping our long time faith partner, Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist with their Chalice House project?  Early next year, they are initiating the Chalice House Project, to  provide a residence adjacent to the church for an immigrant family identified by Interfaith Communiity for Detained Immigrants.  ICDI will provide case management, legal and other forms of support to the family and CCUU is seeking funds to provide housing for the family.  If you are interested in contributing or want to know more, please contact John Genshin Knewitz, Service Circle Steward. 


Have you attended an Introductory Workshop and want to continue learning?  Sign up for Aspects of Zen Practice classes.  The four different classes can be taken in any order and continue throughout the year.  Topics addressed are:  the basics of meditation and zendo forms, our lineage of teachers and ceremony, precepts practice in everyday life and how to become more involved in the GPZC community.  Aspect class #2 (Liturgy and Lineage) take place this month on Sunday, 12/15 in Palatine and Saturday, 12/21 in Monroe.   These classes teach about the lineage of teachers behind us and the meaning and purpose of chants and liturgical services. 

Attending an Introduction to Zen Practice workshop is a prerequisite for the Aspects classes.  Introduction to Zen Practice workshops provide a three hour introduction to Zen meditation (zazen), an overview of  Zen practice, and practical guidance in getting practice started.  The workshops are offered on Saturday from 8:30-11:30 AM in Monroe and Palatine.  Introductory workshops this month take place on December 14 in Monroe and in Palatine


Save the Dates:

Myoyu Roshi will be teaching a mindfulness meditation class at the Behring Senior Center in Monroe, Wednesday mornings 10-11 in January 2020.  Participants will learn mindfulnessmeditation and other practices to calm their body and mind, reduce stress and harmful judgements about self and others, and develop their ability to stay focused in the present moment. No prior experience is necessary. Cost is $20 for 4 sessions.  To register, call 608-325-3173 or stop in at the front desk of the Behring Center, 1113 10th St., Monroe, WI 53566. 


Educators, be inspired to bring mindfullness to your school! Consider attending the Educating Mindfully Conference (EMCON20)  in Itasca, IL, Feb. 27-March 1. This is the second year of this highly popular and acclaimed conference, hosted by Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully (COSEM).  GPZC member Matt Dewar, past president of COSEM, and a current board member was instrumental in establishing EMCON.  Matt will be presenting a 2 day long workshops and a breakout session.  Myoyu Roshi and psychologist Jennifer Moniz will be presenting a breakout session  about providing a mindfulness program for incarcerated youth and their teachers at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lakes Schools. The session will also provide information on trauma-informed and culturally inclusive mindfulness. 


Check out our affiliate groups:
Live in or near the city of Chicago? Consider attending Tuesday night zazen at Logan Square Zendo.  More information here

Zen Sitting Group DeKalb meets December 19 this month.  Details here

Beloit Zen Community meets Monday afternoon 4:15-5:30 on the Beloit College campus.  We will be closed December 23 qnd 30 for winter break and will resume on Monday, January 6 2020. More information can be found here.   

We are happy that you have chosen to receive our monthly newsletter with periodic announcements.  You can change your preferences or contact information at any time by clicking on the update preferences link at the bottom of this email and following the instructions.  

Do you have something you'd like included in next month's newsletter?  Please call Roshi at 608-325-6248 or email

View or download our November 2019-January 2020 Calendar here



In this Newsletter:




Joya no Kane  will take place Sunday night, December 29 at 7 PM at Countryside Church in place of our usual Sunday evening program. Joya no Kane literally means New Year's eve bells.  On New Year's eve, in Japan, Buddhist temple bells are struck 108 times, ending with the 108th strike exactly at midnight.  The number of strikes - one hundred and eight - has different explanations.  Most commonly, it is understood to refer to the 108 kinds of unskillful behaviors and attitudes that we as human beings have.   The 108 kinds of unskillful behaviors are as follows:


egoism - - ignorance - - greed

hatred - - wrath - - quarrelsomeness

enviousness - - posturing - - obstinacy

envy - - deceit - - irresponsibility

lechery - - insidiousness (gradual, cummulative [harmful] effect) - - intolerance

excessiveness - - vanity - - abuse

hurtfulness - - mendacity (untruthfulness) - - falseness

sarcasm - - manipulation - - cruelty

pretense - - hypocrisy - - contempt

inattentiveness - - being a know-it-all - - torment

blasphemy - - deviousness - - negativity

stubbornness - - shamelessness - - sadism

effrontery (insolent behavior) - - derision - - garrulity (excessive idle chatter)

ridicule - - arrogance - - unfriendliness

hostility - - anger - - discord

high-handedness - - unyieldingness - - malignancy

humiliation - - callousness - - discontent

imperiousness (being arrogant and domineering) - - stinginess - - insatiability

greed for money - - ambition - - calculation

jealousy - - censoriousness (being harshly critical) - - oppression

intoxication - - pessimism - - conceit

ostentatiousness - - self-indulgence - - gluttony

sexual addiction - - lust for domination - - obsession

capriciousness - - lust for power - - craving for alcohol

tyranny - - intransigence - - aggression

mercilessness - - rapacity - - presumption

hard-heartedness - - rage - - self-hatred

dogmatism - - violent temper - - masochism

violence - - haughtiness - - belittlement

baseness - - deception - - disrespect

desire for fame - - disrespectfulness - - gambling

prodigality - - seduction - - faithlessness (disloyalty)

vindictiveness - - cursing - - indifference

self-denial - - lack of comprehension - - dissatisfaction

pride - - prejudice - - impudence

grudge - - delusion - - ingratitude

In this ceremony, we let the reverberations of our own temple bell clear away our attachment to all of our negative mind states and allow us to begin the New Year with a fresh and open mind.  We will invite everyone to participate in ringing the bell and reading the list of 108 bonno (negative mind states).  Refreshments will follow the ceremony.   There is no charge for this event, but please RSVP to Myoyu Roshi if you can bring a snack to share.


Being Part of the GPZC Community

Great Plains Zen Center Stewardship Circles

 photo by Jeffrey Miller

Great Plains Zen Center operates through the efforts of volunteer stewardship circles. We invite you, the members of our community, to share your time, talent and creativity to help us in serving all who wish to practice the Buddha Way.  We need volunteers for planning and putting on specific events, for developing policies and procedures, and for providing ongoing logistical support. We may sometimes be looking for volunteers with specific skills but more often are just looking for folks to contribute their creative ideas and their time and effort to getting needed tasks done. Some tasks can be done at home. We know that many of our members have full time jobs and families, so it is our intention to make these volunteer opportunities available to you in a way that works for you.

Working together is a powerful practice. We get to know other members of the GPZC community, we have a chance to grow our interpersonal and work-related skills, and have the opportunity to truly make a difference in the broader community by making Zen Center programs and teaching available to others. In our work at GPZC, we are intentionally taking responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and actions.  We are guided, to the best of our abilities, by the Buddhist Precepts in our work attitudes, relationships and decisions, an intention that is both empowering and challenging. Members often say that they feel more like a part of GPZC when they help out with events and activities.

Please look over the following list of circles and contact a circle steward or talk to them before or after a scheduled sitting if you are interested in participating in a circle they lead:


Administrative Circle (Board of Directors)

Steward: Roshi


This circle performs the same function as a not-for-profit board of directors, overseeing the administrative functions of GPZC. Members of this circle are nominated and elected by the board. If you are interested in being on the board, please let Roshi know. Current projects include: Making the 2020 Budget, looking at long range plans and fundraising.


Building Circle

Steward: Roshi


This circle oversees buildings and grounds projects. Volunteers with specific trade skills, such as construction, or anyone who wants to donate some time on specific projects are needed.  

Current Projects Include:  Building or purchasing a garden shed, increasing our buildings' energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy, r
epainting and possibly installing new flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Learn more about the Citizen Action of Wisconsin initiative here.  Illinois residents can participate in this program as well!


Cleaning Circle

Steward: Sherry Shozan Lira


This circle manages the care and cleaning of our two buildings as well as aesthetic and functional improvements.  Some of the roles for volunteers include coming early before retreats or other events to do cleaning, staying after events to clean up, supervising cleaning during work practice at retreats when Shozan can't, and participating in all-day or weekend work weekends to accomplish a major cleaning task. If you have interest in becoming a member of the Cleaning Circle, we would welcome your support. Current projects include: new carpeting in library and back door entryway and new futon covers.


Community Development Circle

Steward: Jeff Ryuzan Slepak


This circle seeks to grow and support our community membership. Circle members can help with publicizing events and classes, grant writing and helping with event logistics. Current projects include: Planning and logistics for Annual Members' Meeting and 25th Year Anniversary Celebration, logistics for extended sitting in Palatine, and helping with our 2020 fundraising campaign.


Ethics Code and Grievance Policy Circle

Steward: Roshi


Current project:  This circle will study the Codes of Ethics and Grievances Policies of various organizations, such as White Plum Asanga, Zen Peacemakers International and ZCLA.  We will then update the Great Plains Zen Center's Code of Ethical Conduct and Grievance Procedure.  These policies address teacher/student and student/student boundaries, respectful conduct in thought, word and action and establish a justice-making circle to intervene if and when problems arise in the community. 


Instructor Circle

Steward: Roshi


This circle is for those senior students who are zendo monitors, instructors of Introductory Workshops and/or Aspects classes or other instruction (pre-sesshin oryoki instruction or zendo procedures). Current projects include: Developing more classes beyond Introductory Workshops and Aspects classes.

 Interfaith Circle

Co-stewards: Chris Jishin Wellington and Chuck Tenshin Wellington


This circle promotes interfaith interaction and programs within the community. Please contact Tenshin or Jishin if you have ideas or would like to help with events.

Liturgy Circle

Steward: Myoyu Roshi


This circle meets periodically, to engage in a project related to liturgy, for example, creating a new translation of the Four Bodhisattva Vows, revising service dedications or developing ceremony. We welcome new members to this circle to take part in projects. The circle is not currently active, but will accept new members when a new project is begun.

Service Circle

Steward: John Genshin Knewitz


One of the basic principles of our sangha is a vow to serve all beings through socially engaged activities. The GPZC Service Circle focuses on supporting sangha participation in social justice and service activities in our communities. Current projects include: developing guidelines and policies for financially supporting and volunteering in local community projects, identifying existing projects (such as CCUU's Chalice House Project) or initiating new ones and organizing sangha support for them, organizing and carrying out movie/discussion nights on current topics (such as immigration, criminal justice reform and climate change.

Tenzo Circle

Interim Steward: Roshi


This circle is responsible for preparation of food for retreats and events and for promoting sustainable practices in the kitchen that promote health, support community agriculture and protect the earth. Current projects include: Compiling recipes and developing a sustainable practices manual for tenzos.

Treasurer Circle

Steward: Matt Shingetsu Hellige


This circle manages the financial aspects of GPZC. Volunteers with accounting experience are welcome to contact Shingetsu about how they can help.

Webmaster Circle

Steward: Tom Zwick


Current projects: This circle is currently developing a new website and is responsible for website updates. If you'd like to volunteer your expertise in the area of building or maintaining a website, please contact Tom.






Rohatsu Sesshin

December 3-8 2019

When the morning star appeared, I attained the way

simultaneously with all sentient beings and the great Earth.” Shakyamuni Buddha


Join us at Great Plains Zen Center for Rohatsu, a five-day intensive meditation retreat December 3-8 that commemorates the Enlightenment of our original Ancestor Teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha developed deep questioning about the nature of life after witnessing the pervasive suffering and death around him. He immersed himself diligently in the practice of asceticism, but was unable to find satisfying answers. He realized that neither extreme asceticism nor indulgence in sensual pleasures would lead him to the answer to his question. Instead, he believed, the answer was already present within him, and that he just needed to be still and concentrated enough to see it. With great courage and resolve, he sat beneath a great fig tree in Bodh Gaya, now known as the Bodhi Tree, determined to awaken to the true nature of life.



"It is said that after his awakening, Gautama gazed at the dawn star as the new day broke.  He had been through an immense effort, withstood mighty forces that tried to undermine him, and he had prevailed...the newly awakened Buddha stayed for six weeks in Gaya, enjoying the bliss of emancipation.  It is said that for one whole week he gazed in devotion, with eyes unblinking, at the tree that had sheltered him, and which ever after became known as the Bodhi tree.  Wondering who could witness his sublime accomplishment, he realized there was no one. Then he understood that there was one, the true witness of his momentous struggle through his countless rounds of rebirth.  In a state of complete harmony, he reached down and touched Mother Earth.  She had been there all along." - Thanissara

Each year, we celebrate Buddha's Enlightenment with a five-day silent meditation retreat called Rohatsu. Throughout the day, there are multiple periods of zazen (seated meditation), walking meditation, Teisho (formal Dharma talks), silent meals (oryoki), work practice, chanting and rest. The retreat begins Tuesday evening December 3 with informal dinner at 5:30 PM, followed by procedures instruction for those new to retreats. The formal silent retreat starts at 8 PM on Tuesday and concludes with a special Bodhi Day Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony on Sunday morning December 8 at 8 AM followed by informal breakfast.

This year,  Zen Peacemakers International and One World in Dialogue are co-presenting a 24 hour vigil called Belonging to Earth  beginning at 8 AM (Central Standard TIme) on Saturday, December 7 and continuing until 8 AM, December 8.  This vigil is organized into 3 hour cycles, each cycle including guided meditation and teaching from a different world expert or spiritual leader.  Here are the times and presenters for each three hour cycle:

Belonging to Earth Vigil

Saturday, December 7- 8

(Note that this is an international vigil but all times listed below are US -Central Standard Time. Each cycle begins with an introductory offering of about 45 minutes followed by two hours of silent meditation, sometimes with guidance, with 15 minute breaks each hour. We invite you to watch this internationally broadcast, 24 hour vigil online with us Saturday 8 AM through the end of Rohatsu. Watch all or part of it. Full descriptions of presentations here.)

8-10:45 AM Bearing Witness to the Living Fields Between Us

Elizabeth DeBold, Rami Mukyu Efal, Thomas Steininger

11AM – 1:45 PM Bearing Witness to the Water of Life

Rabbi Jill Hammer (bring a stone and some water for this ritual)


2-4:45 PM Bearing Witness to Earth's Embodiment in Us

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan (Inayati Order – formerly Sufi Order International)


5 – 7:45 PM Bearing Witness to Our Love of Her

Charles Eisenstein (author of Climate: A New Story)


8 -10:45 PM Bearing Witness to Our Deep Time

Pi Villaraza (filipino shamanic dance)

Innerdance Community (South Africa)


11PM – 1:45 AM Bearing Witness to Light from Shadow

Thanissara (author of Time to Stand Up, A Buddhist Manifesto for our Earth)


2 – 4:45 AM Bearing Witness to the Joy of the Mother

Ruth Langford and Nayri Niana (Tasmanian aboriginal community)


5 – 7:45 AM Bearing Witness to Sacred Action

Metsa Nihue (Vegetalista, expert in Amazonian plant spirit medicine)


“Hear the jungle, the wind, the plants, the mountains,

the fire,
the water. Hear the heartbeat – your own

and that of the world.

Allow the music to work on and in you.

Allow the music to heal you.

Allow the music to guide you.

For these songs, your internal compass already knows the way.”

Metsa Nihue



"Bearing Witness is a spiritual practice and an act of conscience. 

When we bear witness, we allow the full truth to 

touch us in the deepest part of our selves. We allow ourselves to open

to the complexity and mystery of our relationship to Earth.

Bearing Witness is a practice of spiritual warriorship that helps

us to develop our humanity so that we can hold more

of the whole and respond to life from that wholeness.

We connect with the truth that we are not separate

from our Mother, Earth, or from each other."

Zen Peacemakers International

We invite you to join us for this special retreat  for the whole five days or for any part of it.   Those present at the retreat on Saturday and Sunday will have the opportunity to be part of the  Belonging to Earth vigil.  Zen Centers around the world are holding similar retreats at this sacred time. Together, we can awaken to the wholeness and interdependence of the life we share.

The suggested donation for full time participation in this retreat is $250 for GPZC members and $300 for non-members. This includes all meals and overnight accommodations. Part time attendance is accepted.  Register here.

Upcoming Retreat Dates and Registration Links

  • Rohatsu Sesshin - December 3-8
  • Three-Day Sesshin - January 23-26 2020
  • Nirvana Day Zazenkai - February 14-16
  • Beginner's Mind Sesshin - March 6-8
  • Honoring the Way of Zazen Sesshin - April 24-26
  • Maezumi Roshi Memorial Zazenkai - May 15-17
  • Three-Day Sesshin - June 18-21
  • Seven-Day Sesshin - July 19-26

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.  Please note that the workshop is offered both in Monroe and Palatine.  

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. 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. 3/21 (Monroe), 3/22 (Palatine)

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.  12/15 (Palatine), 12/21 (Monroe)

Everyday Life Practice:  
Practicing the precepts at home, at work, in the community and throughout our lives.  Sharing practice with our children and families. 1/18 (Monroe) , 1/19 (Palatine)  

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.   2/22 (Monroe), 2/23 (Palatine)


Fusatsu (Renewal of Vows)

All are welcome to join us for monthly Fusatsu (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:

  • December 29 7 PM  Joya no Kane
  • January 23 7 PM (at start of sesshin but open to all)
  • February 14 7 PM (at start of zazenkai, but open to all)
  • March 15 7 PM (CCUU Palatine)

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 is not required. Upcoming dates are as follows:

  • December 8  (Monroe - at end of sesshin but open to all)
  • January 26 (Monroe - at end of sesshin but open to all)
  • February 16  (Monroe - at end of zazenkai but open to all)
  • March 8 (Monroe - at end of sesshin but open to all)

Teisho (Public Talks by Myoyu Roshi)

  • Jan. 12, 2020 7 PM (CCUU, 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 during the Beloit College academic year.  Note that during Winter break, we will be closed on December 23 and 30, but open on January 6 and 13.  The schedule is 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
  • 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 (ZSGD), a new affiliate of the Great Plains Zen Center, continues to meet at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N. 4th Street. The steward for the group is John Genshin Knewitz, a student of Myoyu Roshi. ZSGD meets 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 check out the ZSGD Facebook page, or feel free to email John directly at for further information. 

  • Variable schedule.  Check Facebook Page:  @zendekalb
  • Meets December 19 this month.
  • Meets at UU Fellowship of DeKalb.
  • 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.

Like us on Facebook: Great Plains Zen Center

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.