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Renovated zendo "with so much possibility" re-opens
All are invited to Open House at Stone Creek Zen Center in Graton on Sunday, May 7
Sessei Meg Levie, head priest at Stone Creek Zen Center, tells us about the renovation of their Graton building and the Zen Center’s nearly thirty-year history.
1) Tell us about the renovation and what needed to be done? How long did it take?
As new owners of the building, which Stone Creek bought in 2017 after eight years as tenants, we had to meet code requirements for safety, and we needed to expand for the needs of the growing sangha community. Due to Covid and unexpected regulatory delays, a project that was expected to take less than one year took three!
The zendo has been expanded and now is almost double in size. The interior also has been redone with features that support its function as a Zen center, and there is new landscaping in the front and back, with a memorial bamboo grove and paths for walking meditation.
2) How many people belong to the Zen Center?
Stone Creek has about 65 active members, as well as others who come regularly from Sebastopol, other parts of Sonoma County, Marin, and the wider Bay Area.
3) Briefly, what is the history of Stone Creek Zen Center? Is this a new chapter?
Yes, you could say this is a new chapter in an unfolding story now almost thirty years old.
Stone Creek Zen Center began as a “back yard zendo” in Sebastopol in 1996, started by Founding Teacher Jisho Warner. The center grew slowly and steadily until moving into its home Graton in 2009, and kept on growing from then on. Having to close for the pandemic was a major disruption, but we moved online and the members stayed committed. I stepped into the role of head priest last April.
What I heard when I arrived was that this is a sangha with a lot of heart. I’ve found that to be true–people really care about each other, and about Zen practice. I think it’s remarkable for a group of this size to have been able to come together to purchase and renovate a building in this area.
4) How do you feel about the re-opening?
It’s been a long time in coming, and I have been so impressed by the resilience and commitment of this sangha to persevere through various delays, obstacles, a pandemic, and rising costs to finally come to this point with a beautiful, like-new building, stronger than ever and with a new sense of life and possibility.
The zendo is a light, bright and welcoming space. The building itself almost feels like a living organism to me–there’s so much life, and so much possibility. My job is to take care of the sangha and practice, and also to help Stone Creek become the dynamic center of meditation and culture for Sonoma County that I think it’s ready to be.
We’ve begun expanding programming–bringing back foundational Zen practices like weekday meditation, the Sunday program and Dharma talk, and intensive meditation retreats. We’re also expanding our offerings–such as Saturday qigong workshops with Sally Chang of Oakland–and we’re exploring many other possibilities.
We have a richness of meditation and contemplative practices in the Bay Area. People have so much to choose from, and much, like the mindfulness movement, has been Westernized and secularized to make it more widely accessible. While that adaptation can be helpful in many ways, people come to us because they like the ritual, the formality, the deep connection with tradition and lineage. At the same time, we are actively engaging in the wider world and bringing creativity and life to our offerings in a way that speaks to modern life.
5) What will happen at the Open House on Sunday, May 7?
It’s an open house, so people are invited to come anytime between 10am and 1pm. Everyone is welcome - this is an opportunity to open the doors to our community, both locally in Graton and Sebastopol, and beyond.
Between 10 and 11, people can come and tour the building, have some tea and refreshments and mingle.
At 11:00, we’ll gather for some words about the opening, and also have a Zen-style Buddha’s Birthday ceremony, followed by cake. At 12pm, the Sonoma County Taiko Drummers will be performing. The main events will be outdoors, and people also are welcome go into the zendo to meditate if they’d like.
We look forward to meeting and welcoming all who come, and introducing Stone Creek as a resource for the community.
Sessei Meg Levie, MA, has been practicing Soto Zen for almost 30 years and currently serves as the lead teacher at Stone Creek Zen Center in Sonoma County, California. For over a decade she has taught mindfulness and emotional intelligence at some of the most innovative and influential companies in the world. (LinkedIn)
Website: Stone Creek Zen Center
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