Emptiness Matters

Our life’s flame is snuffed
like a candle. The smoky residue
curls and drifts into the void.

In the long, dark reaches
of endless night, stellar masses
are born, flicker, and fade away.

 It is not the bodies that glow or
reflect that ultimately matter, but the
dark potential in between.

The vastness of interstellar space
and the spaciousness of clarified mind
are the poles of a single continuum.

 by Joe Kyugen Michaud from Prairie Wind, Prairie Poems


Madison, Wisconsin based Midwest Soto Zen Community (MSZC) provides instruction and workshops on Zen Buddhism in a collaborative, non-hierarchical format, a method uniquely suitable to the lifestyle of the lay practitioner.

MSZC follows the Soto Zen form of practice placing special emphasis on the Zen attributes of spiritual autonomy and equality within a harmonious community. Principles of dialogue and discussion are used to guide activities.

There are no membership fees. Events are funded on a dana (donation) basis.

Participation in scheduled events is open to any interested individual. Anyone can join any of the activities. The Midwest Soto Zen Community was established in 2001 with the goal of supporting the interest of individuals and groups in Buddhist meditation and studies. They do so by providing a range of instructional activities adapted to the particular needs of each request for service. Please email for information – info@mszc.org.

As of July 2017, Lay Entrusted Suzanne Hoju Shoff provides group facilitation and Zazen leadership. Renshin Barbara Verkuilen and Taizen Dale Verkuilen retired as MSZC guiding teachers in July 2017. Renshin and Taizen will continue to practice with the group and provide assistance during the transition period.

Zen Sparks
Zen Sparks offers a place for Sangha members to share their practice insights with other members and the wider community. Members are invited to participate by any means––audio, visual, photographic, musical, poetic, verbal, or any other way deemed appropriate. All are welcome. Send submissions to info@mszc.org for posting.


The Way of Zen Meditation Brochure



MSZC refers to itself as the Stray Dog Sangha.


Creed of the Stray Dog Sangha

Stray Dogs are:
Their own alpha
At home wherever they are
Happy alone or running with the pack
Above all else they value their freedom

“ Stray” is understood as a synonym for “homeless” or “home leaver”:
One who consciously takes to the Path.