Myōan Grace Schireson was born in Los Angeles in 1946 and attended UC Berkeley from 1964-68. She married Peter Schireson in 1968 in a ceremony performed by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. She and Peter immigrated to Canada during the Vietnam war where they joined a spiritual commune and lived in a tent on Lasqueti Island and then Calvert Island and had two sons. After the Carter amnesty, Grace and Peter returned home and she resumed practice with Sojun Mel Weitsman of Berkeley Zen Center and completed a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has worked with children, families and women’s groups before retiring from clinical work to teach Dharma full time.
She moved to the family ranch in North Fork, California in 1995 where she started multiple Zen meditation groups in the foothills and California’s Central Valley. She enjoyed horseback riding and cross country skiing until called to sit down and share the stories of Zen’s female ancestors gathered from her trips to Japan to study with the gifted Zen master, Keido Fukushima Roshi of Kyoto’s Tofukuji monastery. She has also co-founded the Shogaku Priests Ongoing Training Institute, a Zen priest training seminary, for teaching Zen priests and sangha leaders the skills necessary for leading Western sanghas. She lives with her husband of 40+ years, Peter Schireson, and enjoys (the never often enough) visits of children and grandchildren at her Zen retreat center, Empty Nest Zendo.
Kuzan Peter Schireson is a Dharma Heir in the Suzuki Roshi lineage and a co-founder of the Zen Center of Fresno. Peter has trained in the U.S and Japan in Soto and Rinzai Zen and is especially interested in how Zen practice can be transplanted to the U.S. in a way that informs and enriches everyday life.
Kuzan’s website: http://www.zencenterfresno.org/
Myogo Mary-Allen Macneil is a Roman Catholic who turned to Zen meditation practice in search of a non-cognitive approach to the divine and a way of living a deep spiritual commitment in ordinary life. She has been studying Zen with My?an Grace Schireson since 1998, and received lay ordination in October of 2002. She served as Shuso at Empty Nest Zendo in the practice period of 2007, and was ordained as a Zen priest in September of 2009. Mary-Allen has served in a variety of supporting roles at ENZ, and she completed the SPOT program in October 2009. With other sangha members, she teaches meditation at Valley State Women’s Prison and a course in Zen Meditation for Stress Reduction in Oakhurst. She also serves as a volunteer chaplain with Hinds Hospice in the foothills of Eastern Madera County. Mary-Allen is a retired nurse-midwife. She is married and has two daughters and two grand-daughters.
Ezo Doug Wilson is also a founding member of the Modesto Valley Heartland Zen Group. He received Lay Ordination in March of 2004 and was ordained a Zen priest in December of 2005. He served as Shuso in 2008. In 2005 Ezo spent nine months at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County and in 2006 did two practice periods at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Ezo currently lives in Modesto and is a carpenter by trade.
Do’on Andy Young is a founding member of the Valley Heartland Zen Group, serving in a variety of positions for the group. Andy began Zen training with My?an Grace Schireson in 2001 and received Lay Ordination in March of 2004. He served as Shuso for the Central Valley Zen groups during the summer of 2005 and was ordained a Zen priest in September of 2008. He grew up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California, studied Contemporary Continental philosophy as a graduate student, and is now a Professor of Philosophy at CSU, Stanislaus where he teaches a variety of courses including Eastern Philosophy. He is a father who enjoys hiking, writing, playing blues piano, and the challenge of bringing Zen practice into lay life.
Josei Myoko Sara Hunsaker received zazen instruction from Suzuki-Roshi in 1968, went to India in 1972 learning Vipassana meditation with Goenka-ji, and has actively practiced the Soto tradition of Suzuki-Roshi since 1988. Under the guidance of Sobun Katherine Thanas she received jukai in 1991 and was lay shuso in 1994. Her pilgrimage to Japan in 1992 with eleven other women had a profound effect. She retired to deepen her practice by training at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for three practice periods and at Green Gulch Farm. Having become a student of Myoan Grace Schireson, Sensei, she received priest ordination in 2008, was shuso for the ENZ 2010 practice period, and received Dharma Transmission from Myoan Sensei in 2014. She is a sewing teacher and studied principally with Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Roshi. Sara lives in Carmel Valley practicing and teaching with the Monterey Bay Zen group and Empty Nest Zen. Gratefully she continues to find her way. She may be contacted at sarahunatcomcast.net
Soshin entered the Buddhist path in the early 1960′s at the San Francisco State University bookstore when it occurred to him that he had not read any Chinese literature. Unsure that he would really be interested in Chinese literature he chose the slimmest volume he could find: the Tao Te Ching. He was fascinated by its foreshadowing of modern linguistic theory and organismic anthropology, his major. He read further on the subject and discovered its relationship to Zen Buddhism. He assumed Zen Buddhism was a relic of the past and was surprised some six years later, while walking through Greenwich Village, N.Y.C., to discover the newly issued Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau. Some months later, while reading the “Village Voice”, he saw and advertisement for a seminar to be given by Sensei Kapleau. He registered and attended the seminar. He was hooked. A year later he moved to Rochester, N.Y., and began his practice at 7 Arnold Park. He had practiced there less than a year when he suffered an internal injury work which made sitting in any position painful. He left his practice.
After six years in Rochester he returned to San Francisco. There he met a high school friend, Steven Lowell, who invited him to sit at 57 Hartford Street with the Dharmadhatu, part of Chogyam Trungpa’s sangha. The Dharmadhatu eventually moved to a new location and he took up residence in the former basement meditation hall.
There he began the Gay Buddhist Club which was to become the Hartford Street Zen Center. After the group began advertising itself, Richard Baker took notice and sent Issan Dorsey, who would later become the first abbot of the Hartford Street Zen Center, to look in on the group. On one of his visits Issan suggested to him that, if he were to move out of his basement room, it could be converted to a meditation hall once again. Issan generously promised some old zafus and zabutons, no longer used at S.F. Zen Center, for the hall. The offer was accepted and the Zen center came into being. Subsequently the house was purchase through the effort of the gay sangha members.
He left San Francisco in 1986 and, after living in Albuquerque, N.M. for a few years, returned to Fresno, C.A. where he had been raised. In 2003 he started attending Myoan Grace Schireson’s classes and retreats in the Soto tradition, Suzuki Roshi lineage. As a student of Sensei Schireson he was ordained as a priest in 2008 and was Shuso for the Empty Nest training period of 2010. During that time he attended and was graduated from the Shogaku Zen Institute’s S.P.O.T. training program. He is a registered as a priest with the Sotoshu in Japan. He retired eight years ago from his work as a cardiovascular technologist and currently practices and gives talks at Zen Center of Fresno.