Seven Thunders is an organization formed to support growth towards a deepening spiritual awareness and appreciation of life. We believe each of us has a unique path and we benefit from teachers and companions along the Way. Membership is open to all people interested in the practice of contemplative prayer or meditation.
Formed in 1992, Seven Thunders is incorporated in Oregon as a non-profit ecumenical religious organization. For guidance we look to teachers from the Christian contemplative tradition as interpreted by Fr. Willigis Jaeger, OSB, and from the Zen Buddhist tradition of the Diamond Sangha.
Seven Thunders organizes Contemplative Intensive Retreats and Zen Sesshin. Although these practices have certain outward similarities, we do not attempt to merge these two traditions.
Retreats consist of a series of 25 minute sitting meditation periods (zazen) and 5 minutes of walking contemplation (kinhin). There are opportunities for interviews (dokusan) with the teacher (Roshi), a daily work period (samu), Eucharist (Buddhist sutra service at sesshin), conference (Teisho), and vegetarian meals. Silence is observed throughout the retreat with the exception of group recitations and private interviews with the teacher.
Contemplative Intensive Retreats include approximately 8 hours of sitting contemplation each day. Our Contemplative program is modeled after the format established by Fr. Willigis Jaeger, Roshi, a Benedictine monk, who studied Zen in Japan for 6 years with Yamada Koun Roshi. Fr. Jaeger is one of the pioneers in adapting Zen techniques to contemplative Christian practice.
Zen Sesshin consist of 12 hours of zazen daily. The word sesshin means “to touch the mind.” Our sesshin ritual was developed at the Diamond Sangha, which was founded in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1959 by Robert Aitken Roshi and Anne Aitken. Our Zen comes from the Rinzai and Soto schools in Japan.
First Saturday Sittings at Bethany House
Seven Thunders organizes first Saturday retreats in Bethany House at the Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon. These gatherings usually occur on the first Saturday of each month, but dates can vary. The format is Christian contemplative prayer. The monks of the Trappist Abbey of Guadalupe graciously provide the space and sitting cushions (zabutons and zafus).
Formal sitting begins at 9:00 A.M. (please arrive at least 5 minutes early) and ends at 12:00, noon. Although the formal retreat ends at noon, sitters are welcome to return to the hall for sitting from 1:00 P.M. until 2:30 P.M. Anyone with an interest in silent prayer, meditation, or contemplation is welcome to attend.
An orientation to sitting will be offered by our teachers before each Saturday retreat. Designed for those who are new to the practice of sitting prayer or meditation, these 20-30 minute informal sessions will begin at 8:15 A.M. at Bethany House.
Evening or morning sittings take place in Portland and Corvallis, OR; and Port Angeles, WA. There are opportunities for private interviews at these sittings when a teacher is present. In the Portland area, zazen is offered at the Stones and Clouds Zendo, Lake Oswego, on Monday evenings. Corvallis sittings are on Monday evenings and sittings in Port Angeles are on Saturday mornings.
For a current list of weekly sitting times and places check out the Sitting Page. If you'd like to join us at any of our sits or just want more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intensive Study with a Qualified Teacher
Seven Thunders members have opportunities for long-term study and ongoing intensive study with our teacher, Leonard Marcel Roshi.
Fr. Patrick Hawk Roshi, our founding teacher, passed away May 8, 2012. Pat led our Contemplative Intensive Retreats and Zen Sesshin since 1988. Fr. Pat was a Redemptorist priest with degrees in philosophy, theology and English literature. He was a qualified teacher of contemplation and mysticism having completed these studies under the direction and guidance of Fr. Willigis Jaeger, OSB. He formally practiced Zen since 1978 as a student of Robert Aitken, Roshi. Fr. Hawk received Dharma transmission from Aitken Roshi and was confirmed as a Zen Master in the Diamond Sangha lineage in 1989.
Leonard Marcel Roshi received full Dharma Transmission from Pat Hawk in October 2001. He has been leading sesshin in Europe for several years, and has worked closely with Rolf Drosten Roshi as well as Pat. He has studied both Zen and Christian Contemplation for more than 20 years, and has been teaching since 1996. Leonard was a founding member of Seven Thunders, and was largely responsible for its inception in 1985. Leonard is a psychiatrist and a Jungian analyst. He worked in Saudi Arabia for a decade and returned to Portland, Oregon in February of 2003. He has also trained for many years in aikido, iaido and tea ceremony.
In the summer of 1977, Robert Aitken Roshi conducted mindfulness workshops at “Bangor Summer”—several weeks of community education and civil disobedience centered at the Trident Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington. There he met members of the Seattle Catholic Worker who, together with monks from Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, invited him to lead annual Zen Sesshin “for Christians and other interested travelers.” After his visit, small groups in Washington and Oregon began regular sitting. Attendees in these early years included Pat Hawk, Leonard Marcel, and Bob Walker. In 1982, on Aitken's advice, the group invited Fr. Willigis Jaeger, Roshi, to lead its annual retreat. Fr. Jaeger returned each year until 1988, when Pat Hawk Roshi, a student of both Aitken and Jaeger, began leading the retreats, which were sponsored by the Trappists until 1992.
Meanwhile, Abbot Bernard McVeigh and the monks of Guadalupe Abbey were encouraging individuals to deepen their spiritual practice through silent prayer and meditation. Monthly gatherings of laypersons began at the Abbey in 1985. In 1992, we joined in celebrating the opening of Bethany House and assumed the sponsorship of the Abbey's retreats and first Saturday sittings.
During 1990-1992 the first Saturday sittings at the Abbey were supplemented by third Saturday sittings at Leonard Marcel's house near Portland. A group of regular attendees gradually coalesced and Seven Thunders was incorporated in May 1992.
We remain grateful to the Catholic Workers, the Monks of the Trappist Abbey of Guadalupe, Abbot Bernard McVeigh, Robert Aitken, Roshi, and Fr. Willigis Jaeger, Roshi for starting us on the Way.
Seven Thunders Board of Directors
Seven Thunders is administered by a volunteer board of directors.
President: Mike Seely
Past President: David White (non-voting advisory capacity)
Treasurer: Doug Speers
Secretary: Joshua Lipps
Members: Dan Dickinson, Nancy Roberts