Catching Up with Inryu Bobbi Ponce Barger
This month we begin a series of interviews to introduce the Dragons Leap community to the six priests ordained by Dairyu Michael Wenger in 2013. These brief interviews will let you know how these priests are carrying the Dragons Leap dharma message forward. We begin with Reverend Inryu Roberta Ponce Barger, known as Bobbi.
Inryu came to San Francisco and Zen practice when she conducted a summer spiritual journey through California. She found herself at Tassajara where she immediately began to feel the layers of protective armor begin to fray. Following this initial three day experience, Inryu would spend time at City Center or Tassajara every time she came to came to California, becoming a member a short time later in order to support SFZC and stay connected.
Bobbi knew she wanted a relationship with a Zen teacher before she met Michael at a Tassajara retreat on Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. Bobbi recalls, “The first evening of the retreat he walked our group around Tassajara like someone showing you their home. He was candid and plain spoken. Our final tour stop was to enter the zendo itself. He helped everyone get settled on their cushions, up on the tan and then he himself sat down on the floor cushion near the big bell to instruct us further. It was while I watched him lower himself to the floor and get settled on the cushion that I knew I wanted him to be my teacher.”
Bobbi is the teacher at a Sangha in Washington DC: All Beings Abode Zen Sangha. She organized this Sangha out of a desire to find the type of experience she had enjoyed at SFZC and Tassajara. In 2004 she invited Curt Steinmetz (a practitioner in the Kwan Um school) to see her yoga space as a possible zen group meeting space. With good humor and energy he immediately said yes and put the word out on his website: (click here for Curt Steinmetz website) about this new DC based group. Bobbi reports that the first sitting was in February 2004 with four people in attendance. Curt’s teacher, Zen Master Dae Gak of Furnace Mountain Zen Center in Kentucky and Dairyu Michael Wenger would visit regularly during our first years. Michael offered the name “All Beings Abode” in 2005. The name is fitting because Bobbi and her family are deeply committed friends of all creatures, especially kittens and cats. Anastasia, the All Beings Abode cat, can be seen in the photo above.
Currently there are 18 people who identify as members and another 30 people who drop in for for events. For a long while the core activity was sitting two mornings and one evening each week. Gradually the sangha began to offer talks, workshops and half day retreats on weekends. The current goal is to have a weekend event every month. Guest teachers in the past year have included Ed Espe Brown, Danny Parker and Daishin McCabe. The hope is that other senior teachers will learn about All Beings Abode and be open to visiting and sharing their teachings. The new website provides wonderful updates and teachings. Click here to go to the website: All Beings Abode website
Dragons Leap is a Center for “meditation and creativity.” We asked Inryu about the role of creativity and the creative arts in her life, and practice. “I’m so grateful to Dairyu for turning me on to art again. Somewhere in my youth I began to esteem knowing about art more then ‘doing art’. The zen practice of drawing the ‘Ox herding pictures’ and writing poems to go with them was the start of re-imagining my wholeness to include doing art”.
Bobbi also reports that Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson has been a “gate opener for me”. Marcia’s adage to steal everything (technique, inspiration, etc) and to paint like your inner five year old and her amazing humor and view of life has been a tremendous benefit. Currently I have a big glass mosaic in progress called “Bobbi’s Seven Dragons .” Having the art in my life is now like a touchstone for coming back to myself”. (Click on Marcia’s name to check out her website.)
Finally we inquired as to Bobbi’s summer plans. Not traveling she says is her main plan. “I did a lot of coast to coast trips last year. So staying right here feels amazing. From my fourth floor home windows I enjoy a view across a forest of trees all the way to the horizon. The summer air is warm and moist on my skin and in my lungs. In this moment I’m in heaven.”