From June 6 through 15, my son and I engaged in a sort of genealogical scavenger hunt throughout England. It's a beautiful country--so verdant and kind-hearted. I loved every moment of our time there. I've posted a slew of photos here.
During our travels, I had the opportunity to visit three different sanghas, Stonewater Zen Sangha in Liverpool, Sussex Sangha in East Grinstead, and Nothing Special Sangha in Sheffield.
In Liverpool, I was warmly greeted by John Kenworthy at the Stonewater Zen Centre. The group was in the middle of an integrated intensive and observed silence after the sit. Nonetheless, it felt very warm-hearted, and after a day of hard travel, it was wonderful to sit in silence with fellow Zen students.
After hobnobbing with the Romans and Georgians in Bath, Henry and I hopped on a train and headed to an ancestral home near Oxted, Sussex. On the way, we took a side-trip to visit Cesca Diebschlag, the leader of the Sussex Sangha. Cesca fed us brunch and told us how her group explores a precept each month. We then enjoyed tea in her lovely garden. You can learn more about Cesca's group here.
The Nothing Special Sangha
The Sheffield Group may have adopted the name Nothing Special, but they certainly felt special to me. An affiliate of Appamada in Austin, the group has worked closely with Flint Sparks over the past 10 years (despite the geographic distance between Austin and Sheffield). I couldn't have felt more at home. Catherine Ellis picked Henry and me up from our hotel and brought us to her home where several sangha members greeted us with lunch and tea. We then explored the neighboring Peak District, taking in the plague village of Eyam and taking a walk up and along one of the district's many "edges". The views were gorgeous and the company was spirited. We returned for tea, supper, zazen, and more tea (these folks have their priorities straight to be sure).
It was wonderful to spend time with the group! Thank you, Catherine and John Ellis, John Coatman, Shad, Judith, Emma, and to the rest of the sangha who joined us in the evening.
If you're ever in Sheffield, be sure to sit with this wonderful group.
On a future trip, I hope to visit another Appamada sangha, the Nothing Missing Zen Practice Group in Lancaster.
Cheers to everyone who took us in during our trip!