. . . the more you become a
connoisseur of gratitude, the less
you are a victim of resentment,
depression, and despair. Gratitude
will act as an elixir that will
gradually dissolve the hard shell
of your ego—your need to possess
and control—and transform you
into a generous being. The sense
of gratitude produces true spiritual
alchemy, makes us magnanimous—
large souled.

Sam Keen

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O ka pono ke hana ‘ia a iho mai na lani
Continue to do good until the harvest come down to you
Blesseings come to those who persist in doing good

‘Olelo No’eau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, #2437
Collected, translated and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui

June Ryushin Kaililani Tanoue, Sensei

The last three weeks have been so full and good.  It began with a wonderful gathering of hula people and Hawaiian musicians in a joint performance on September 21st – the Autumnal Equinox – on the Oak Park Pa Hula.  It was the last time that we formally danced hula on the mound, as we’re selling our house.  When the festivities ended, Connie Harris did a beautiful pule (prayer) and ceremony to formally close the mound.  I loved that five local Hawaiian groups (singers and dancers) came to share that moment with us!That weekend was followed by a 7-day silent meditation retreat.  Then came another week during which I secluded myself in preparation for my Dharma Transmission to become a fully empowered Zen Priest and Zen Teacher. I didn’t use my computer or iPhone during that last week which culminated in a wonderful Robe Ceremony this past Sunday.

During my seclusion, I got up at 4:15 am to meditate and then did Buddhist services in honor of our lineage of Buddhist teachers which trace back to Shakyamuni Buddha.  I chanted sutras and the names of our male and female ancestors throughout the day, copied manuscripts and made 108 bows every evening.

I was a little concerned about being able to do the 108 prostrations.  I did them slowly and rhythmically and noticed when I was worried about my performance.  I observed when I procrastinated and how whatever story I made up about not doing them just added to my not wanting to do them.  But, of course, I had to do them so I just leaped into bowing.

The first night that I completed them, I noticed I was breathing hard and was glad to have a chair to sit on.  I also noticed how much more energy I had for sitting meditation and that my chest felt more open.  Bowing is a good physical practice to accompany meditation.

On the second day I included a Hawaiian chant after the Buddhist services.  As soon as I finished chanting, tears spontaneously arose in gratitude for my hula practice.  I knew then that hula was my heart practice and realized it is so very much a part of who I am.

My week of seclusion and intensive practice culminated in a public Robe Ceremony on Sunday.  At least 50 people attended.  I was given a new robe by my teacher, my husband Robert Joshin Althouse.  The robe signified my dharma transmission and a new title – Sensei (teacher).  Then we danced hula that made me really happy.  It was a beautiful and empowering day.  So many people had supported me in different ways – cooking, cleaning, dancing, praying.

The next day, I slept in – the first day off in three weeks.  When I awoke the first thing I did was look at FaceBook on my iPhone for an hour lying in bed.

Later on that foggy day, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago – the last day of the Magritte Exhibition.  Magritte was a surrealist who believed in the power of his dreams and looked at the world in a very different way.  I too am beginning to see things differently.

The great photographer, Peter Cunningham, was with us.  Much to my delight, he said that foggy days are perfect days for photography!  After lunch, we walked out to the Lurie Gardens – an oasis right in the midst of urban Chicago!  Peter was right – the fall colors of the garden were magically enhanced by the foggy light and rain.

Photo by Peter Cunningham

My iPhone battery was almost gone, but I had my small Cannon PowerShot to use.  I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos – what nourishment the garden gave to me.  I saw one angle  that was particularly enchanting – I wanted to take a photo on my iPhone to post onto FaceBook, and share it with you.  So I took out my iPhone, and then I dropped it.

It bounced off of the retaining wall and dove straight through a little crack – like a champion Olympic diver – not touching either side of the crack.  It fell perfectly straight into the water flowing under the deck.  I stood there stunned.  There was nothing I could do.  My iPhone was gone!

A very nice young man came towards me as this happened.  He witnessed the whole thing and was almost as stunned as I was.  He looked at me and said with empathy, “It’s gone.”  I said, “Yes,” still in disbelief.  He said, “I’m sorry.”  I said, “Thanks” not knowing whether I should laugh or cry.

My world shifted a little again.  When you lose something of value, there is a momentary change in awareness.  Then I laughed out loud in disbelief at how my iPhone could have done such a perfect dive into the drink.  Could this be a blessing in disguise?  Maybe I need to start doing more face to face time with people. So, for now, I’m exploring living without my iPhone.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

Malama pono (Take care of body, mind and heart),

June Ryushin Kaililani Tanoue
Sensei (Zen Teacher), Kumu Hula (Master Hula Teacher)

P.S.  Here’s a slide show of our Celebration of Halau i Ka Pono’s 5th Anniversary.  For mobile units click here .

Here’s a slide show of our romp in the beautiful Lurie Gardens, where I lost my iPhone.   For mobile units click here.

Posted in Articles by June Tanoue, Zen-inspired Life | Comments Off

Eve Marko, Robert Althouse, June Tanoue, Bernie Glassman

I am pleased to announce that I gave Dharma transmission to June Ryushin Kaililani Tanoue on October 11, 2014. She received full empowerment as a Zen Priest in a Denkai ceremony and full empowerment as a Zen teacher (Sensei) in Shisho ceremony. These were witnessed by Bernie Glassman Roshi, Eve Marko Roshi, Susan Anderson Roshi, Annie Markovich and Peter Cunningham.

June has been practicing Zen for over 20 years. She is also my wife. In 1992, together, we founded the Zen Center of Hawaii. We eventually ended up in Chicago where, in 2010 we started the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago. 

June is also an accomplished teacher of hula, a Kumu Hula, and runs Halau i Ka Pono – The Hula School of Chicago. She has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a BS in Biology from the University of Redlands. For most of her life she has directed and run food banks in Portland, Oregon and on Hawaii Island.

Taizan Maezumi Roshi married us at the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1988.

In early 2001, June and I moved from Hawaii to work for the Zen Peacemakers. Two years later, we moved to Chicago where June took up work with Feeding America, the National Food Bank Network’s headquarters. In 2010 she left Feeding America to work full time helping to run the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago and her hula school, Halau i Ka Pono.

Posted in Everyday Zen, Zen-inspired Life | Comments Off

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my daughters.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.

I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you, fear, so you can no longer
keep me naked and frozen in the winter.
or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved, to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart    my heart

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid.
of dying.

Joy Harjo

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Man’s superiority to the rest of creation and his right to hold over it the powers of life and death, evolution and extinction, are questioned scarcely more often or more seriously than they were when he boasted a soul as his excuse. Now in the rare instances where his convenience alone is not taken as ample justification for his manipulations and erasures of other species, it is his intelligence, or some aspect of it, that is held up most regularly as the great exoneration. This, according to the myth, was the property which gave him the edge on the other creatures; and in the process it became endowed, in his eyes, with a spontaneous moral splendor which constitutes between him and the rest of nature not a relative but an absolute difference.

W.S. Merwin

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Woodcutters and fishermen know just how to use things.
What would they do with fancy chairs and meditation platforms?
In straw sandals and with bamboo staff, I roam three thousand worlds,
Dwelling by the water, feasting on the wind, year after year.


Posted in Everyday Zen, Quote of Week | Comments Off

“How sad to think that nature speaks and mankind doesn’t listen.”

Victor Hugo

Posted in Environment, Quote of Week | Comments Off

June Ryushin Kaililani TanoueMy best friend, Leneah Forest, left her body on August 12.  I visited her in Portland in June when she told me she was in hospice after a hospital stay. I was so glad that I had seen her and spent a good week being in her presence.

We went for slow walks on her land, and sat in her garden.  She told me a story about her magical linden tree that grew where she had planted a different tree.  She loved the beautiful scent of the linden flowers. I massaged her feet while she rested.  She didn’t talk a lot. I didn’t either.

I felt disoriented when I first heard the news of her passing.  She was only a year older than me.  It was as if someone had hit me hard on the head.  I walked about in a daze – with an aching heart – for a few days.  I decided to just sit with the pain and not try to distract myself from it.  I told myself it was okay to have a broken heart and to mourn.  My best friend was gone. Tears came.

I remember our first meeting in a beautiful Portland Park 37 years ago.  I was out walking with my partner as she was with her’s.  Both of our partners knew each other – they were physicians, residents at the same hospital – and our paths crossed.  She was dressed in a long skirt, wore birkenstocks and had a gentle strength.  We became friends after that meeting.  I was very busy working at the Interagency Food Bank then.  She volunteered to help and eventually became my closest friend.

I remember the birth of her two beautiful daughters who now are grown and lovely women. I was dubbed their “fairy” godmother.  Leneah and I talked and listened to each other’s problems, joys and sadnesses.  She was there for me a decade later when I split up with my partner. She invited me to live with her and her family as I figured out what my next step would be.

I decided to leave Portland about five months later and moved to Los Angeles where I married – she was my matron of honor. After that, I’ve lived in Hawaii, Santa Barbara, Montague (Massachusetts) and, finally, Chicago. We kept in touch with long phone conversations through all of my moves.

Whenever we talked, she urged me to move back to Portland and when I visited her a couple of months ago, she continued to suggest it to me.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be loved unconditionally by someone.  When I received my Hawaiian name, Kaililani, in 1996, she decided to call me Kaili (kah-e-lee) for short.  Her family called me that too.  They are the one family besides my hula family who call me by my Hawaiian name.

Part of my zen practice is to realize that we are all going to die someday. We aren’t going to live forever. If we truly realize that, death becomes an ally and helps us really appreciate each moment of the very precious lives we live.  Being happy or sad isn’t what matters.  Everything is part of our journey and happens to teach us something.

“Someone should find a cure for death,” my eight year old friend Shelby said very matter-of-factly as we baked cookies a few months ago. “I want to live forever!!!” she exclaimed.

I chuckled when I heard that. Good to hear that kind of youthful energy just beginning and bursting with life.  And good to mark the passage of time with tears for the death of a beloved friend.

Malama pono (Take care of body, mind and heart),

June Kaililani Tanoue
Dharma Holder, Kumu Hula

P.S.  Here’s a slide show of my Portland visit and another for my visit to the Great Vow Monastery and Portland’s Heart of Wisdom Zen Center.  For mobile units click here for Portland slide show and here for Monastery slide show.

Posted in Articles by June Tanoue, Zen-inspired Life | Comments Off

Space is beyond color or shape.
It doesn’t take on color, black or white: it doesn’t change.
Likewise, your mind, in essence, is beyond color or shape.
It does not change because you do good or evil.

The darkness of a thousand eons cannot dim
The brilliant radiance that is the essence of the sun.
Likewise, eons of samsara cannot dim
The sheer clarity that is the essence of your mind.

Although you say space is empty,
You can’t say that space is “like this”.
Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity,
There is nothing there: you can’t say “it’s like this”.

Thus, the nature of mind is inherently like space:
It includes everything you experience.

Stop all physical activity: sit naturally at ease.
Do not talk or speak: let sound be empty, like an echo.
Do not think about anything: look at experience beyond thought.

Your body has no core, hollow like bamboo.
Your mind goes beyond thought, open like space.
Let go of control and rest right there.

Mind without projection is mahamudra.
Train and develop this and you will come to the deepest awakening.

- Tilopa

Posted in Mindfulness, Quote of Week | Comments Off

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”

Meister Eckhart

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