All posts by stonecreek

Ryokan – Playing with Children

Ryokan – Playing with the Children

Early spring
The landscape is tinged with the first
fresh hints of green
Now I take my wooden begging bowl
And wander carefree through town
The moment the children see me
They scamper off gleefully to bring their friends
They’re waiting for me at the temple gate
Tugging from all sides so I can barely walk
I leave my bowl on a white rock
Hang my pilgrim’s bag on a pine tree branch
First we duel with blades of grass
Then we play ball
While I bounce the ball, they sing the song
Then I sing the song and they bounce the ball
Caught up in the excitement of the game
We forget completely about the time
Passersby turn and question me:
“Why are you carrying on like this?”
I just shake my head without answering
Even if I were able to say something
how could I explain?
Do you really want to know the meaning of it all?
This is it! This is it!

Book Study Group: Not Always So – starts May 23

Led by Burt Quinn

Not Always So is the companion volume to Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. The book is made up of Suzuki Roshi’s Dharma talks from the last three years of his life and covers a range of topics, from zazen to enlightenment.  Please join us as we open up this treasury of teaching by a much beloved Zen teacher.

In person at Stone Creek Zen Center
Six weeks, starting May 23

Thursdays, 6:30 – 8pm
May 23 & 30, June 6, 13, 20, & 27

Burt Quinn is a long-term Zen practitioner whose journey started in 1970 at the Berkeley Zen Center and moved through Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in the 90s, till he finally settled down at Stone Creek Zen Center in 2011.

$100, $150, $200
(No one turned away for lack of funds.)



The Dharma of Money – Saturday, June 8

With Spencer Sherman, CFP

10am – 4pm

Turning a Dharma lens toward the arena of financial matters can offer a tremendous opportunity for transformation and growth, as we often bring less awareness to our relationship with money than we do to other areas of our life. Through interactive exercises and the power of a supportive community, we’ll explore topics such as resilience, sympathetic joy, generosity, and cultivating a mindset of “enough.” Using neuroscience and Buddhist psychology, this program will help you develop greater equanimity around the often uncomfortable topic of money as well as uncover the hindrances and pathways to your own financial well-being.

Regardless of your financial advantages or challenges, it’s possible to shift from fear, confusion, and avoidance to clarity, confidence, and engagement. Together, we will loosen our inherited beliefs, gain new perspectives, and experience the paradox of how letting go offers a path toward abundance, generosity, and peace.

This daylong retreat invites you to explore your authentic relationship to money, independent of cultural and familial conditioning, and to use the day to make real-life decisions within a spacious, non-judgmental container.

 Sign up here.

Spencer Sherman, CFP, is the creator of the Dharma of Money, a longtime mindfulness practitioner, teacher, and the founding CEO of Abacus, a sustainable financial firm with Buddhist values. He developed the Fearless Finance program, is the author of The Cure for Money Madness, and teaches for Sounds True and New York University’s Inner MBA program. His 30+ year meditation practice, including being a graduate of several multi-year programs, supports him in helping others create an equanimous, powerful, and spacious relationship with money.  He brings the wisdom of the dharma to a neglected area of our lives. Given this, the domain of money holds significant potential for our personal, spiritual, and financial health. He is dedicated to helping all beings realize the benefits of shifting from a mindset of “more” to a mindset of “enough.” He has taught at Spirit Rock, Green Gulch, Tassajara, Menla, corporations, and other venues.


Dharma Talk This Sunday

Sunday Program

8:00am            Zazen (meditation)
8:30am            Informal breakfast and conversation
9:10am            Cleaning/work practice
10:00am         Zazen (meditation)
10:30am         Service
10:40am         Dharma talk

You are welcome to join for all or part of the program.

10am zazen through the Dharma talk is available online as well as in person.


If you’d like an introduction to Zen meditation and forms or would like the Zoom link for online offerings, please reach out at

We are located in West Sonoma County at 2999 Bowen Street, Graton, California.


Yoga with Corina – Wednesday Mornings 9:30-11:00

Ongoing Yoga Classes

Wednesday 9:30 – 11:00am
In Person and Online

Corina Stoicescu teaches classes in the Viniyoga tradition that focuses on meeting the unique condition of the individual. Using breath centric movement and pose adaptations, she helps students find integrity in all the poses. Classes are accommodating to a large variety of people and designed so students learn about their own bodies and minds and how the tools of yoga can serve them.

Every month when possible, she offers a series where students can experience the cumulative effect of going deeper in a particular subject.

Drop In: $20
Monthly Series: $60 (4 live classes/calendar month, access to series videos for 3 months, written sample sequence)
8 Class card: $120 (4 month expiration)

Please, purchase a ticket before coming to class.


Corina Stoicescu
 first started teaching yoga in 2005. After a bicycle accident, she discovered Viniyoga and and used Buddhism to help heal her body and heart. She is certified as both a 300 hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor and 500 hour Viniyoga teacher. In 2020, she completed 1000 hour Yoga Therapy training and is certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Yoga therapy can address specific health and healing needs like preparing for surgery, post surgery care, osteoporosis, digestive issues, Parkinson’s, allergies, trauma, etc. using through the full spectrum of yoga tools. She has been practicing meditation and daily life mindfulness practice since 2002 and uses both the Buddhist and Yogic understanding to inform her perspective.


Three-Day Sesshin – Wed-Fri, July 17-19

Led by Jisho Warner and Burt Quinn

These three days of practice will be held in silence, with alternating periods of zazen (seated meditation, usually 30-minute periods) and kinhin (walking meditation, usually 10 minutes), and a work period each afternoon. A Dharma talk will be given in the morning and participants will have the opportunity to speak with a teacher (dokusan).

We will be sitting from 8:30am to 5:30pm each day. Attendance all three days is encouraged but not required, though please plan on attending the entire day for days you have registered. Please do not leave in the middle of the day unless you have received permission from one of the teachers (

An informal vegetarian lunch will be served, as well as morning tea and afternoon snacks.

Each day will begin with a short orientation and opportunity for an orientation. Please plan on arriving by 8:15am and on being in your seat ready to start by 8:25am.

If you are new to Zen practice, we recommend that you attend one of the scheduled orientations with zazen instruction on June 1 or July 6 at 10am.

We look forward to practicing together!

Register here

Reflections: The Dharma of Joni Mitchell

by Sessei Meg Levie

In 2015, Joni Mitchell had a brain aneurism, and had to learn to sing, play the guitar, and walk again. Here she is at the Newport Folk Festival in July, playing her first full set in almost two decades.

Listening to her now at 78 singing “Both Sides Now,” I hear the Dharma: How easily we can spin with the questions, Am I up? Am I down? What’s real? What’s illusion? I remember Sengcan saying that the Way is not difficult if you just don’t pick and choose. And Dizang’s famous phrase, “Not knowing is most intimate.”

If you missed this when it came out, enjoy. If you’ve seen it before, I invite you to listen again, deeply.

[maxbutton id=”3″ url=”″ text=”Watch” ]


PS – “Big Yellow Taxi” is fun to listen to right after.

A conversation with Barton Stone, Chosen for Living Peace Wall – Ceremony Aug 27

A deep bow of congratulations to Zen priest Barton Myozen Stone, who has been chosen as an honoree for the Sebastopol Living Peace Wall. The induction ceremony will be Saturday, August 27 at 11:00am at the Sebastopol Town Plaza.

Barton has had quite a journey in his life, from being born in a Christian Bible Belt family to declaring himself an atheist at age 11; discovering Buddhism and poetry and the Beats and dropping out of college; finding his way to San Francisco and sitting the first sesshin in 1960 at Sokoji temple with Suzuki Roshi. He walked halfway around the world, from San Francisco to Moscow, to protest nuclear weapons and war; attempted to sail to the Marshall Islands from Sausalito in a hand-crafted boat to stop nuclear atmospheric testing and spent 8 months in prison; moved his family to south Chicago and worked at a steel mill and car assembly line to help mobilize workers against war and racism; lived at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center with his family for four years; and worked with Japanese wood joinery with designer, builder and Zen priest Paul Discoe.  Along the way he discovered an affinity for goddess religion and for decades has cultivated a sensitive awareness of interspecies life.

He seems surprised to be receiving this recognition. “I’m not a public person,” he says. But, he acknowledges, he has been part of creating community in Sonoma County for very long time.

A longer interview with Barton that shares more details about his life can be found through the link at the bottom of this page. I had a chance to sit down with him recently at Mamalanda, the magical land near Occidental where he lives with his wife Constance Miles. Below are a few gems from our conversation.     – Sessei Meg Levie


What does community mean to you right now? And how does it figure into where we are in the world and what’s needed?
Well, I have expanded what community means to me to include the nonhumans for one thing. And so I want to always reference them and bring them in, and I’ve come to consider that politically important, the same way that race, class, disability and sexual orientation issues are.

Could you talk a little bit about just how that shows up in your experience of day-to-day life?
I see many of the other beings here every day, and spend quality time with them— sitting at their trunk, pulling weeds out from around the base of them, watering them and trying to tend to their needs and trying to maintain diversity. I’ve realized there are so many contradictions in doing all this, trying to just be a collaborative participant rather than the emperor who makes decisions of life and death over one or the other. And yet, I find myself doing that anyway. It’s always a puzzle, a dilemma, like fire—if the fire comes, it’ll be disastrous for so many of the species here, but it’ll also restore the fire ecology of the area.

You encountered Zen early on, and later came back to it. How does Zen fit in for you at this point in your life?
I had a political problem with Soto Zen for a few of those decades, because it was an import. And for a while I was into natives. Zen came here in a kind of remote and intellectual form. And then I was surprised to find that in Japan, it’s very tightly interwoven with local nature spirits. But they’re Japanese nature spirits, and I wanted to know our nature spirits and how to weave them into this basically wonderful practice of introspection and self-discovery. The Japanese monastic system with its hierarchy is basically feudalistic, and it was all supported by the emperor and was part of maintaining status quo privilege. And I really didn’t want to be too closely involved with that, so it made me hold back, even though I had loved the beauty of it.

In Zen architecture there are qualities of simplicity and clarity and precision and integrity of material and purpose. And, just beauty. I see all the other beings making their place beautiful. But then I came to a time when I realized that my hold-back didn’t change anything. It was just a kind of thorn that I carried around in my shoe. And so I just determined to let it go. It took me so long to get there. It’s a regret that I have walked past so many wonderful opportunities and gifts that I just ignored because of that attitude. Suzuki Roshi loved me, but I didn’t know that, because Japanese culture is really different in how they express affection. And so I missed out on a whole lot of really good stuff.

            Later, a friend told me about Jisho. And she started off talking about your life as your practice, and that that was the key for me because a lot of the teachers that I had been attracted to before that thought that your practice was only in the zendo.

How does the goddess religion or feminine fit in for you?
When I came across women’s spirituality and read Starhawk, I thought, “Wow. I don’t have to be an atheist anymore.” She said, “Of course, we know the Divine is not male or female. But to name is to invoke, and I like who comes when I say she better than who comes when I say he.” That kind of nailed it for me.

Are there elements of the feminine that get neglected in Zen?
We still haven’t figured out a way to chant the lineage that’s non-binary. We still chant the women’s lineage or the men’s lineage. The first time that I heard the women’s lineage chanted, I had gone back to Tassajara after some years and was in the zendo when they chanted it. It made me weep; it was such a relief to know that was active and happening.

What does it mean for you right now to practice as a Zen priest?
To be responsible to the beings who look to me for pulling the weeds around the bottom of their trunk, and to husband and nurture the tradition and what seems so important about the practice. Not just that self-inquiry and zazen and reflection, but the messages of impermanence and connection, and the power to live with uncertainty. I think those are the things that we really have to offer people for everybody’s great benefit—to be okay with ambiguity and uncertainty and contradiction.

How does practice relate to where we seem to be in the world right now, especially as we sense more of the pressures of the climate shifting and greater political uncertainty?
The main one for some time has been dealing with our tendency to ignore or to push away bad news, the grief and the suffering. You’ve got to have that with you. Otherwise, it’s just not grounded. We have to be in the middle way with the agony and the ecstasy. We just don’t get to have one without the other in this world.

Thinking about the weekly Thursday outdoor sittings that you offer on the land, what do you think gets touched in people when they come here?
I think it reawakens all those parts of people you hear when they say “Well, my church is the woods.” It gives people the structure and permission to go back into something of their childhood. Every child has a special place in nature that was magic to them. Not only am I surprised about how much it means to people, but how easy it is, because people come back from sitting and give each other Dharma talks—little paragraphs of just being with the fluttering of the leaves and the breeze, or the warmth and chill on their bare skin as the sun changes. Things like that that just go right to the heart of our desire.

What is the desire?
To feel and realize the community connection.


For more on Barton’s life:

The Outdoor Sitting Group meets weekly on Thursday afternoons. More information here.