About the Williamstown Zen Group and this Blog

Welcome to the blog of the Williamstown Zen Group, a Zen practice group based in Williamstown, MA, led by me, Bernie Rhie.

At present, the group meets once a week, at 7:30pm on Tuesday evenings, for a meditation practice/instruction series called “Intro to Zen.” Each Tuesday evening session is one hour long and consists of a mix of meditation (guided and silent) and a brief talk on some aspect of Zen practice. The series is intended to be of use to those who are new to meditation as well as to those who have been sitting for decades (we often have some of both in attendance). We meet in the zendo (meditation room) located in the lower level of Thompson Memorial Chapel (on the campus of Williams College). All are welcome. To see a schedule of upcoming sessions, check out our calendar. If you’d like to receive email announcements about the group (including reminders about upcoming “Intro to Zen” sessions), please sign up for our email list.

I began my formal Zen training in 1989, when I moved to the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center (SMZC), a Sōtō Zen temple located in the rolling hills and mountainous land on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, CA. SMZC was founded by Jakusho Kwong in order to carry on the lineage and practice traditions of his teacher, Shunryū Suzuki (founder of San Francisco Zen Center and author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind). I ended up living at SMZC for a little over three years, serving for most of that time as the tenzo (head cook). I now study with Ezra Bayda and Elizabeth Hamilton, who both teach at the Zen Center of San Diego, and in December 2018, I received ordination from Ezra and Elizabeth as a Zen priest. My view of Zen practice is deeply indebted to both Ezra and Elizabeth, as well as to the outlook of their own teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck. If you’d like to get a quick sense of the style of Zen that I practice and offer to others, I recommend Ezra Bayda’s “What is Our Life About?”, a short poem-like text that perfectly encapsulates my approach to Zen. If you want to know more about the style of Zen that I practice, I recommend the following books: Ezra Bayda’s Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life and Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness and Compassion; Elizabeth Hamilton’s Untrain Your Parrot: And Other No-nonsense Instructions on the Path of Zen; and Charlotte Joko Beck’s Everyday Zen: Love and Work

I plan to use this blog to share readings and other kinds of resources (like audio recordings, videos, and links to other sites) that are related to this Zen group and to meditation practice in general. To see a list of all posts that have already been published on this blog, check out the blog’s archive.

Welcome again! And warm wishes,

Bernie