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 judgments, perceptions, and myriad delusions about duality.

What does your everyday life look like?

I’m a mom to my teen 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.

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 U.S., and raised children in Presbyterian and Quaker groups. I gradually returned to Zen practice in the Corvallis Zen Circle maybe 15 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 Oregon State University 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 ZWEF 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 to “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 and is a 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.