Bruce Kensan Hindrichs

How did you come to EFZW?

After returning from the Vietnam War and getting out of the Army I found myself in bookstores looking for answers.  I spent some time in the “Politics” aisle, then more visits to the “Self Improvement” aisle; finally in the “Religion” aisle I started my first spiritual inquiry with the Baba Ram Dass book Be Here Now.  I then encountered the ground-shifting teaching in Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.  For the next 48 years I dabbled and scrabbled, but without a Sangha or teacher, I was just treading water.  In 2017, I found Seido and Zen West.  Since then my practice has solidified and matured.

What drew you to the practice?

There doesn’t seem to be an option.  Even when there were years of no practice, the pull was always there, and when I returned to Zazen, it always felt like reuniting with an old friend. Our style of practice balances insight and action.  We develop insight, always with the intention of taking that insight into our daily actions and relationships.  

What is something you’ve struggled with in practice?

I’ve dealt with a lot of guilt in my life (and not just because I was raised Catholic).  The most helpful teaching for this has been the precept about turning ignorance into wisdom.  I’ve made grievous mistakes, but those mistakes have given me unique insights.  I can share what I’ve learned from those experiences, and bring insight and awareness to others who may be facing similar circumstances.

What does your everyday life look like?

I’m a terrible saxophone player, a closet artist/sculptor, and a retired salesman. Being retired has given me the time, and lack of work stress, to focus more on study and practice.  I love being retired.

Carol Senkei Robertson

How did you come to EFZW? 

I became interested in meditation when I was in my late teens. After reading books and taking a class on Eastern Religions, I found my way to the Zen Center of Los Angeles. In my early adult life, I was fortunate to live at the center, work on staff and attend many sesshin. Later, after becoming a parent and working full-time, my involvement in Zen practice and meditation fell to the bottom of my list.  But practice was always in my heart and fortunately, it was rejuvenated in 2014 when I retired and moved to Oregon. I discovered the Empty Field Zendo and Zen West, and was struck by the simple way of lay practice as demonstrated by Seido. I became her formal student and feel very fortunate to now devote more of my time to practice.      

What drew you to the practice? 

I’ve always asked, “What is this life?” Having no absolute answer but continuously opening up and exploring this koan has encouraged me to look deeply into my thoughts and actions. I appreciated how Seido blends psychology with her kind and gentle wisdom that sets the tone for all of us in the sangha, creating a practice community that is challenging yet trusting and supportive. I find tremendous value in expressing myself honestly with the sangha and in turn, learn so much from listening to others.   

What is something you’ve struggled with in your practice? 

I struggled with back pain from severe scoliosis. Pain affects how I practice, what posture I take, and how long I can sit. Of course, it also affects my entire life. However, pain does not have to be an obstacle to practice. I feel having dealt with pain so much, I understand the frustrations and difficulties others have with pain, whatever the source, physical or emotional.  

What does your everyday life look like?

I’m retired and live in the beautiful country about thirty minutes outside of Eugene. Most of my life I lived in Los Angeles where I raised a family and taught elementary school. One of my main interests is art; both seeing it and making it. I also enjoy attempts at writing poetry. I’m pretty involved in the Zen center and serve in various ways. In addition, I enjoy my current relationship with my two grown children as well as learning about other people’s lives, especially when they are drawn to practice. 

Hope Komyo Birrell

How did you come to EFZW?

In June of 2017, I walked into Zen West for the first time. I went with my mom, who was looking for a meditation group to join. I knew nothing about meditation or Buddhism and had never felt the need for a spiritual practice in my life. After my first sit and listening to my first Dharma talk, I realized I had found a practice I didn’t know I was looking for. I’ve been a member since that night.

What drew you to the practice?

The “nothing extra, nothing left out” nature of Zen Buddhism appeals to me greatly. We are Buddha when we’re happy, sad, distracted, focused…one mentally formulated state is not better than another, and when we let go of our attachment to those states, recognizing they are clouds in the sky, we are free to respond to ourselves and our world from a place of compassion instead of simply reacting. That insight/wisdom keeps me following the Way.

What is something you’ve struggled with as part of your practice?

How to let myself BE by letting go of “me.” Insight, wisdom, and enlightenment are not existential, unattainable meta goals -it’s being mindfully awake and aware in each moment of the intrinsic Buddha nature of all beings, and freeing all beings by letting go of my judgements, perceptions, and myriad delusions about duality.

What does your everyday life look like?

I’m a mom to my 17-year old daughter, a daughter to my mom, and a formal Zen student. I’m a member of the EFZW Guiding Council, with an emphasis on outreach and diversity/equity/inclusion practices, and jisha instructor in-training. My work life focuses around homeless, at-risk, and medically impaired populations as everything from a medical assistant, to project coordinator for Lane county, to a massage therapist. I’m currently working toward enrollment in the RN program at LCC.

Nancy Seiryu Rosenberger

How did you come to EFZW?

I grew up Christian and met Zen in Japan when I was teaching English there. I was attracted by the possibility of this direct experience of spirituality, and release from an all-powerful, male God. I practiced there, but became a Quaker back in the US, and raised children in Presbyterian and Quaker groups. I gradually returned to Zen practice in the Corvallis Zen Circle maybe fifteen years ago, and met up with Seido there. I needed a relationship with a formal teacher to keep growing and she seemed to be the right person. I took the precepts, became Seido’s student, and joined the Dharma Rain lineage.

What drew you to the practice?

Zen practice allows me to exist more clearly with fewer obsessive thoughts and judgments. My relationships have improved because I am not so reactive as I used to be. I’m a bigger person. 

I like our style at Zen West/Empty Field for many reasons such as: the grounding in nature; concern with justice; the openness and wisdom of the teacher; the sense that our voices can be heard; and the supportive, friendly sangha. 

What is something you’ve struggled with in your practice?

Anger is one thing I have struggled with. I would explode and feel so righteous. My point of view was absolutely right. Zen training has helped me to slow down and respond much more slowly and thoughtfully. Meditating, I can get in touch with the fear that often underlies my anger. I still get angry but the reaction is different. 

What does your everyday life look like?

I am a yoga and Pilates teacher. I love to hike, sing, and travel to see my grandchildren and experience the world. I taught cultural anthropology at OSU and specialized in Japan. I live in Corvallis and am happy to mentor anyone if that is helpful.

Pam Jukan Birrell

How did you come to EFZW?

I am a Christian Mystic and a psychologist.  I had studied Buddhist approaches to psychotherapy for years and practiced the Christian form of meditation, Centering Prayer, for about 20 years. I came to EFZW looking for a way to deepen and broaden my practice, and I wanted a group of people to sit with!  I found that and so much more– an open and accepting community of people with a common purpose the “free all living beings” and embody the Buddha way.

What drew you to the practice?

The truth of our existence and the love that moves us is far beyond words.  Meister Eckhart said that God’s first language is silence and all else is a poor translation.  This is very true to my experience. The deep silence of Zen practice enters into that place is stillness that nourishes my soul.  The openness and acceptance of Zen West has helped me deepen my own spiritual journey in surprising and wonderful ways.

What is something you’ve struggled with in your practice?

It took me a long time to come up with the proper props for meditation and the right yoga practices to make my body comfortable for long sits. I also struggle with (and grow from) studying the confluence of mystical Christian and Buddhist ideas.

What does your everyday life look like?

I’m a psychologist in private practice and a retired University professor.  I love playing my flute and doing ceramics!

Todd Futai Robertson

How did you come to EFZW?

I began Zen practice in the early 1970’s at the Zen Center of Los Angeles. In 2015 we moved to the Eugene area, discovered EFZW and became members.

What drew you to the practice? 

I have always had a deep faith and belief that a personal inquiry could resolve the deepest and most essential questions of life and death. EFZW has wonderful membership and teacher.

What is something you’ve struggled with in your practice?

I have struggled with being outside of enlightenment and stuck in delusion. I now have an appreciation of the ritual forms of our practice.

What does your everyday life look like?

I am retired and live with my wife Senkei on ten acres of wooded land in the Coastal Range west of Eugene. After living a fast paced life in Los Angeles, I’m enjoying neighbors, slow walks in the woods and doing Zen practice for its own sake.