Willow Monastic Academy Forum

Willow's Branches (lineage and connections)

This topic is one I find super interesting. I had NO idea just how closely tied Willow and MAPLE were to Shinzen Young, a pretty big name in the field of meditation. Turns out what the Monastic Academy offers are teachings based in Shinzen Young’s ‘Unified Mindfulness’ system. I have a feeling this would be fruitful and interesting to dive into. I know Seishin and other MAPLE residents know more than I – curious to learn more about this and about the Rinzai Zen tradition :slight_smile:

Hey James! yeah it’s definitely interesting to me to see how the different systems of meditation interact. Especially these days when so much is available online.

So i’ve been using Shinzen’s system, Unified Mindfulness, for about 3 years now, delving pretty deep into it, and recently trained as a UM coach.

This may all be old news, but this is how i see the basics of the system: It is unified in the sense that it offers a secular synthesis of most major contemplative practices—ancient and modern, eastern and western—that is compatible with science.

Over many years of ongoing experimentation (much of which took place at the various MAPLE iterations), Shinzen organized these many practices into four quadrants: Appreciate (Self and World), Transcend (Self & World), Nurture Positive (Self & World), and Express (Self & World)—which are more or less applicable in different circumstances, or for different goals, etc.

Crucially, each practice cultivates the three core skills of concentration, sensory clarity and equanimity (sort of mapable to Power, Wisdom and Love from the Forall Method). And once these skills are honed enough, true, lasting, ever deeper happiness without conditions is the result. And like all of Shinzen’s terms, happiness here is defined precisely, to include all of the following at ever deeper levels: reduction of suffering, elevation of fulfilment, understanding yourself at all levels (ie. awakening in the classical sense), positive behaviour change, and service to others.

As for Rinzai Zen, it was the main inspiration behind the Express quadrant of practices, which develop ways of moving, acting, speaking, thinking spontaneously and effortlessly, from a space of Big Mind, no-self, “Source,” etc. He specifically included these practices for lay practitioners without access to a Zen monastery. But Zen practices in general influence a lot of the techniques, such as Do Nothing, etc.

Let me know if any other curiosities come up! : )

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@James so what’s the nature of the relationship between Maple, and Oak/Willow? Are they essentially extensions of Maple?

Yea essentially! @Seishin could probably say more, but Soryu’s profile on the MAPLE website says this

“He is the Head Teacher of the Monastic Academy in Vermont (MAPLE) and Head of CEDAR, the growing network of modern mindfulness monasteries including MAPLE, OAK in California, and Willow in Canada.”

CEDAR stands for “Community for the Experience and Development of Awakening and Responsibility,”

Which, from what I understand, is the over-arching name for the organization

Yup, what James said is correct! We are extensions of MAPLE, and Soryu is the head of the overarching organization and the guiding teacher. In practice, this means that the branches all advise and support each other, but there is also immense freedom (and explicit encouragement) to do things in a way that is appropriate for our specific branch, rather than trying to just be copy/pastes of MAPLE.

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