A peaceful mind can be hard to come by with all the chaos in the world. Laughing Teabowl Sangha, a Zen Buddhist group in Rapid City, is hosting a retreat this fall to help people cultivate a deeper understanding of meditation and its mind-calming benefits.
Laughing Teabowl’s retreat will be Sept. 30 to Oct. 5 at Placerville Church Camp near Johnson Siding. People who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are welcome to attend. The retreat begins on Sept. 30 with a light dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by meditation. The retreat concludes at noon Oct. 5. The cost is $60 per night; the deadline to register and pre-pay is Sept. 15. To register, pay and for more information, call Jan Ernst, 605-787-2847.
The retreat will be led by a trained Buddhist Roshi, or teacher, James Kando Green of Rapid City. Green, a retired plastic surgeon, relocated with his wife from Santa Fe, N.M., to Rapid City in December. Green has been practicing Zen Buddhism for more than 30 years and has been teaching for about 14 years. He writes and teaches about Zen Buddhism and meditation on his website, walkingmountainzendo.org.
This is the first retreat for which Laughing Bowl Sangha has had a Roshi. The Sangha has been in Rapid City for 22 years but until this year the group never had a teacher, according to Suzan Nolan of Rapid City. Nolan has been part of the Sangha for 19 years. The Sangha currently has a core group of about eight people and about 15 more who sometimes participate, and the Sangha asked Green to be their teacher.
Having a trained Buddhist teacher for the group takes the Sangha’s practice of Zen Buddhism and meditation to a whole new level, Nolan said. The retreat is best suited for those who have some experience meditating and are ready to delve more deeply into the practice.
Meditation is the practice of bringing a quiet mind into daily life, Green said. The quiet mind is achieved by committing to the practice of meditation.
“(Meditation) is an inward reflection, and it does take concentration and it takes determination and focus,” Green said. “A big part of the Zen practice are extended retreats. A practitioner sits every day on their own and a couple of times per day with the community.”
“Probably the most important aspect is a daily meditation practice. You become more peaceful. The mind is quieter,” he said. “The other aspect of this is we can see ourselves and what we do. It becomes more clear what we do and what our motivations are and why we do what we do in life. And that is a big part of the practice because this will change your life, and it is has changed mine in extremely positive ways.”
Laughing Teabowl Sangha's retreat will be five days spent largely in silence, Green said. It will incorporate seated and walking meditations, services in which the participants chant together, and personal interviews with Green that will help individuals strengthen their practice. Everyone will also spend time in work practice — cooking, cleaning and doing other chores needed to support each other as a group during the retreat.
“We’d like people to be there for the five days, and we know that’s not always possible, so people can come in for two days or three days. We hope people will stay at least two days,” Green said. “We want people to be prepared. It’s not something to take lightly.”
Those who want a less intensive, shorter introduction to meditation may be interested in Laughing Teabowl’s community education meditation classes, which Nolan said will be offered this winter.
Nolan said meditation has helped her cope with difficult emotions and has shifted her perspective.
“I really had a chip on my shoulder about a lot of things. I was angry and discontented, and I was on the verge of retirement. I thought, ‘I can’t go into retirement feeling so annoyed and cranky,” she said.
Practicing meditation has given her a “deep sense of love and concern and trust for people in my Sangha and the world. There’s a deep sense of concern and caring. To erase the idea of the ‘other,’” Nolan said. “We’re all in this human experience called life.”
Year-round, the Laughing Teabowl Sangha meets on Sundays in person and on Wednesday nights on Zoom. People who want to know more about the Sangha and meditation are welcome to join the Wednesday night Zoom meetings at 7 p.m. For a Zoom link and information, call Suzan Nolan, 605-415-1554, or Chris Jones, 605-390-0100.
“The Sangha that has been here would like to see Zen Buddhism promoted and grow in the Black Hills. That’s what we’d like to do is make it more available to everyone,” Nolan said.
For more information, go to the Zen in the Black Hills Laughing Teabowl Sangha Facebook page.