Coming Home to the Heart: Reflections on Retreat at Hokyoji

Ringing the bell at Hokyoji

:: Submitted by Taizan Alford ::

April 26, 2023

I’ve been hoping I can go to the April sesshin at Hokyoji for some time now. I wasn’t able to go last year because I was sick and sesshin’s haven’t quite been the same since the Covid pandemic.  I was not feeling the best and was resting most of the day, hoping I would feel better. I was having some digestive issues. I spoke with Sosan, our guiding teacher, and I find out that the person who was going to be the coordinator is really sick. I tell her that I think I’ll rally in time to go and fill in.

April 27, 2023

I wake up and feel as though I have rallied enough to be the Ino (coordinator) for the retreat.  It is one of my favorite things to do. Besides, the hard part has already been done: planning, coordinating, figuring out where everyone will sleep and what roles they will perform to support the community. Now, it’s just a matter of helping the wheels go round and making sure that everyone feels supported in their roles.

When I drive down the dirt road see the sign, I remember my first three-day sesshin at Hokyoji with Byakuren Judith Ragir and about twenty other people. I think Dan was the Ino and he seemed like a god. I was so happy to just to be washing dishes after every meal. Simple, easy, doable. Nothing complicated. Not at all as hard as sitting still on the cushion. There was this amazing sense of coming home in a place that I had never been. The first time we did kinhin, walking meditation, the feeling of the wood under my feet, of the porch, the smell of the trees, grass, fresh air…I looked out in the distance into the big sky and felt the center of my own heart.

June 2023

So, I keep coming back. Each time I come it’s a little different. Now there are flush toilets and not a latrine for my morning constitutional. There is a fully functional beautiful kitchen. There are inside showers and I sleep inside instead of my tent.

Hokyoji Zen Practice Community was started over forty years ago by the founder of Clouds in Water, Dainin Katagiri Roshi. This place has been kept alive by the selfless service of steady practitioners. I hope to keep coming home to the heart of Hokyoji again and again so that I may feel the slight awakening of my own heart.

There is a sesshin scheduled for July 17-23 2023, and all are welcome. We hope you get to experience the peace and beauty of this space for yourself.

Taizan is available to meet with students, although mostly on Zoom.

Taizan was ordained as a Soto Zen priest by Sosan Flynn in 2016, and completed shuso in 2021.  Taizan’s journey with meditation began on the yogic path in the early 1980s after getting sober. He has been to India, studied Ayurveda, and taught yoga since 1998. Taizan spent three months as a resident at Zen Mountain Monastery in 2020  Taizan’s focus in Soto Zen Buddhism is on how zazen, taking refuge and loving kindness can heal old wounds and help create less suffering for individuals and their communities. He is an associate member of the Teacher Ryo at Clouds. Taizan is committed to long-term recovery from addiction, healing from trauma, and not creating more suffering. Taizan is deeply grateful for his loving and supportive husband Tom.