Zen Rohatsu Review

Barbara Bamberger Scott reviews Zen Rohatsu

Noted non-fiction author Nora D’Ecclesis addresses the mystical yet pragmatic practices of Zen Buddhism from a wide array of historical perspectives in her newest book, Zen Rohatsu.

The author’s opening chapter describes her personal experience of Rohatsu, a ritual of meditative zazen named for the timing of the ceremony which in modern times has evolved to fall on December 8th each year. “Rohatsu begins with the sound of an ancient gong” and is meant to duplicate the steps of the enlightenment of the Buddha. It includes classic seated meditation and much walking in circular paths indoors and out, all accomplished in total silence, giving each participant scope to experience mindfulness.

Zen is one aspect of Buddhism that has gradually developed over the centuries since the birth, life and passing of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. Siddhartha was the son of a Nepalese, Hindu king, heir to all the luxuries that station implies. But after he achieved manhood, he began to wish to see what lay beyond the walls of his father’s castle. Once he did so he saw things he had never before confronted – sickness, old age, and death. This led him on a path of asceticism and eventually to being revered as a spiritual teacher of the Eightfold Path, which D’Ecclesis presents along with other concepts for her readers. The art of Zen developed through the fabled teachings of Boddidharma, the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism, and through the conversion of Ashoka, a famed King of India. Jesuits and other mystic thinkers brought Zen to the Western world, along with the arts of the Japanese tea ceremony, the poetry known as haiku, and the modern concept of mindfulness.

D’Ecclesis concludes her enlivening look at Zen with detailed advice for meditation encompassing postures, breathing techniques and mala beads, offered for readers who want to inculcate this ritual into their lives as she has done. She was fortunate to have direct exposure to Zen in her college years, and has written best-selling, award-winning books embracing similar subject matter, including Multicultural Mindfulness: Nourishing the Soul and Haiku: Natures Meditation. This current work is diligently researched, combining historical reference with tender, personal touches to provide outreach to those new to the subject matter.

Quill says: In Zen Rohatsu, D’Ecclesis has created a straightforward guide to the concepts of Zen with the potential to attract fresh attention to this time-honored, proven means of mental and spiritual self-examination.

This review originally appeared here: https://featheredquill.com/zen-rohatsu/

Zen Rohatsu Review

Michael Froilan reviews Zen Rohatsu…

Buddhism is one of the world’s most intriguing religions and has carried a compelling aura around it for years. Although technically not a religion, it has influenced millions of people to practice its sacred philosophies with devotion. Zen Rohatsu is a far-ranging book that primarily summarizes the Buddhist holiday globally celebrated on the Gregorian calendar’s eighth day of the twelfth month, which is believed to be the day Guatama Buddha achieved enlightenment while meditating under a banyan fig tree. Written by author Nora D’Ecclesis, this compact book contains a substantial amount of unique teachings, history, and traditions regarding Buddhism, not to mention a vast background on Zen which “is just one branch of the Buddhist tree.” 

I treasure this masterpiece. The well-thought words and information Nora D’Ecclesis writes encouraged introspection and inspired me to take my spiritual practices more seriously. It’s interesting to ponder just how much Buddhism has positively impacted many people’s lives on a universal scale. D’Ecclesis does a remarkable job accentuating this truth. For instance, she mentions King Ashoka, who renounced warfare and devoutly committed himself to spread Buddhism worldwide. I also enjoyed learning more about other historic spiritual giants, especially the stories of Siddhartha Gautama’s life, which D’Ecclesis tells poetically. Most people tend to overlook that it took Buddha six years to reach enlightenment, and there were many enlightened ones before him. Living in a fast-paced world, we want our desires to quickly manifest so that we tend to forget to cherish and be mindful of every fleeting moment. Zen Rohatsu was refreshing to read because it made me realize that nothing worthwhile comes from forcing anything. Praiseworthy, formidable, and exceptional, this is a monumental book from which I sincerely believe all strata of society can benefit.

The Greek Alphabet and its Neutrality

The fascinating words in the news these days, where did they come from? We see fraternities and hurricanes named after the Greek Alphabet but they are also used by scientists. The many words used by modern medicine are from the Greek Alphabet as the go-to choice enabling a more neutral connotation on naming viruses.

The Greek Alphabet began in the Ninth Century, but originated from the Phoenician Alphabet. The Greeks added consonant’s to the vowels in their letters. The naming system, now used by W.H.O., makes public communication about virus variants easier and less confusing. They will use the Greek Alphabet.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, said she conducted many interviews with reporters this year, before the Greek naming system was announced, and she stumbled through confusing explanations about the variants. They are now known as Alpha, which emerged in the United Kingdom, and Beta, which emerged in South Africa. “It makes it really cumbersome to talk about when you’re constantly using an alphabet soup of variant designations,” she said, adding, “Ultimately people end up calling it the U.K. variant or the South African variant.”

That’s the other big reason that the W.H.O. moved to the Greek naming system, Dr. Rasmussen said: “The older naming convention was unfair to the people where the virus emerged. The agency called the practice of describing variants by the places they were detected “stigmatizing and discriminatory.”

“The practice of naming viruses for regions has also historically been misleading,” Dr. Rasmussen said. Ebola, for example, is named for a river that’s actually far from where the virus emerged. “From the very beginning of the pandemic, I remember people saying: ‘We called it the Spanish flu,’ Dr. Rasmussen said. “The Spanish flu did not come from Spain.”

The W.H.O. encouraged national authorities and media outlets to adopt the new labels. They do not replace the technical names, which convey important information to scientists and will continue to be used in research.

The New York Times, 27 November 2021.

Greek Letters and Names:

Σσ, ςsigma

Wisdom of Ages Podcast

I was recently a guest on the Wisdom of Ages podcast with Ayn Cates Sullivan:

What are the different ways of spirit? How can we evolve and become free? In this episode of Wisdom of Ages, host Ayn Cates Sullivan and guest Nora D’Ecclesis discuss the different traditions of cultures when it comes to spiritual approach. Furthermore, they tackle the Shinto tradition of Japanese, Haiku poetry, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Tune in and join Ayn and Nora as they talk more about global mysticism and multi-cultural mindfulness.

Click here to listen on Spotify

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts


Who doesn’t love a barbecue on a summer day? The fun of family and friends, a few beers and juicy steak hot off the grill makes me salivate while writing about it. The picnic that includes a slightly burned hot dog, the Italian sausage with peppers and onions and rare hamburger brings up a visual of the perfect Saturday party outdoors. If we close our eyes we can almost feel the stress free environment created by the barbecue and certainly smell the meat cooking. 

There is that one guy off to the side eating salad and chicken wings with what appears to be a voracious appetite. He is the one with Alpha Gal allergy, he is the one who was bitten by a Lone Star tick. That day he pulled out the brownish tick with a white spot that altered his life in a way no one anticipated and wasn’t even described in the medical literature until 2009 as “strange meat allergy”. Using the technique of questing a tick attached itself to this unsuspecting victim and stayed long enough to puncture the skin and inject the Alpha-gal molecule. This could take less than an hour. The end result is that this man will probably never be able to eat red meat again without a potential life threatening allergic reaction (Commins & Platts-Mills, 2013). 

The Lone Star tick bite transfers galactose alpha 1,3 galactose from its gut into a victim when it bites a human. The human’s immune system then produces an IGE antibody to this sugar in the meat. When the human eats red meat after this process an allergic reaction between the IGE antibody produced by the human’s immune system and the alpha Gal sugar in the meat produces the allergic reaction.

The allergic reaction occurs when an IgE antibody reacts with the alpha gal molecule on the meat resulting in a release of histamine and other vasoactive amines which cause damage to capillary walls resulting in leakage of serum in the body tissues including airspaces in lungs and tissue in skin and other organs. Leakage of serum into the lungs may result in actual drowning of the patient in his own body fluid. This is part of anaphylactic shock and will result in death if not medically treated.

It would seem to the layman this is an easy problem to fix from a tick bite, it is easy to diagnose and easy to avoid by simply giving up meat, but it is not that simple and no one knows at this point if it ever gets better. Remember the physician in our anecdotal has had this for seven years with no change.

Most allergic reactions occur quickly, the bee sting can drop a person in minutes into a life threatening allergic reaction. The child who eats peanuts and gets itchy and has hives can die within minutes. This is not the case with this allergy caused by a tick bite, it is not for 4-8 hours that anyone feels the horrors of the allergic response. Therefore it might take months before the person having this allergy correlates it to the source. Most people look to the last thing they ate and have never read or been told an allergy can take 8 hours to emerge. 

Alpha Gal Allergy is a DELAYED 4-6 hours allergic response after eating mammal red meat.

Examples include:

  • pork
  • beef
  • lamb
  • venison
  • rabbit
  • goat
  • bison

Or mammal products:

  • beef broth
  • bacon drippings
  • protein powder
  • cow’s milk
  • cheese
  • beef gelatins

Or in medical products:

  • chemotherapy known as centuximab
  • cardiac pig valves
  • beef gelatins used in flu vaccines
  • some dental gels

When a person eats mammal meat who has Alpha-Gal antibody the ingested meat causes a histamine release causing the allergy resulting in anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic shock causes death quickly if not treated by medical personnel. The only way to avoid this at this time is by avoiding all mammal products which is a great hardship and sometimes difficult task due to lack of information on the ingredients in many products or prepared meals. Fish and poultry are not mammalian meats and therefore have not been known to produce the allergy in most people.


Commins, S.P., & Platts-Mills, T.A. (2013). Delayed anaphylaxis to red meat in patients with IgE specific for galactose alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal). Curr Allergy Asthma Res., 13(1), 72-77. doi: 10.1007/s11882-012-0315

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Asheville

Anyone having an affinity for writing a novel should read, The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest American novels written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My journey as a novelist included reading every novel and most of the short stories published by Fitzgerald and then traveling to Asheville where he spent his final years with Zelda, his wife and muse. They had one child a girl named Scottie. F. Scott was born to an aristocratic father who lacked ambition and never achieved the status  F. Scott admired. All of the novels weaved a theme of affluent socialites, social elitism and the descent into addiction. Fitzgerald died in 1940 at age 44 from heart failure after years of alcohol abuse.

I was joined on my adventure in Asheville by William R. Forstchen who is a novelist and co-author on my first novel. Bill is a resident of Asheville, North Carolina.

On an extended trip to Asheville to view where F. Scott Fitzgerald  made his final attempt to beat his addictions in 1935 and again 1936 I was able to walk the paths he walked at the Grove Point Inn and see the sight where he committed Zelda to a mental institution. She was predeceased by Fitzgerald eight years earlier and actually died in a fire in the Highland Hospital near Asheville where he left her as he made his way to California for a new life. The Grove Park Inn has an elevator to the rooms used by Fitzgerald which are kept as he left them in memory of the great author. By all accounts Scott, as Zelda called him, would take her out of the mental institution and have her join him for lunch at the Grove Park Inn on the terrace. I enjoyed all of my meals on the visit on that very same terrace area of the restaurant.

The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

In 1935 Fitzgerald  felt he had one more chance to write and visited the Grove Park Inn with its magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, clean air and luxury accommodations to tame his insatiable desire for alcohol and write a new novel. He decided if only he could omit gin he would cure himself and switched to a case of beer a day. He also decided his wife was unresponsive to his need for her literary expertise and he flirted a great deal while in Asheville with other women perhaps to recapture or add to the long line of women who functioned to inspire him. Zelda once accused him of plagiarism when she noticed some of his novel taken directly from her diary. They agreed that the semi- autobiographical nature of his work should be a combined effort and joined forces to improve his career.

Mr. Fitzgerald was named for his relative Francis Scott Key who of course gave America the Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Fitzgerald  spent his early years in Minnesota born to an upper middle class family he also went to private schools eventually made his way to New Jersey to attend Newman High School a Catholic prep school in Hackensack. After graduating he stayed in New Jersey and enrolled in Princeton. As a matriculated Princeton student he met, fell into deep infatuation with Ginevra King who he dated and lost and eventually caused him to  flunk out of Princeton University before graduating. Yes, attachments according to the Buddha cause suffering, a concept probably not entertained by Fitzgerald. Since WWI was raging he enlisted but it was toward the end of the war, so he never deployed out of the United States.

Fitzgerald’s typewriter at the Grove Park Inn.

Fitzgerald’s first novel was published in 1920, he called it This Side Of Paradise taking the title from Tiare Tahiti a poem by Brooke. It told his semi autobiographical story of being a Princeton student at the lower end of the social economic status, love lost, greed and status seeking. This was followed by three more novels, Beautiful and the Damned in 1922 this time about an affluent Harvard culture. In 1925 he wrote what many consider to be his masterpiece if not one of the greatest American novels ever written, The Great Gatsby detailing social climbing ambition, greed, and unrequited love during the party days of heavy drinking in the Jazz Age. Tender Is the Night published in 1934 detailing the marriage and the psychological intervention set in France. The Last Tycoon written in 1940 was not completed by Fitzgerald as he died from a heart attack and complications of alcohol addiction that year.

The Jazz Age, a phrase F. Scott Fitzgerald made famous complete with bathtubs filled with gin, drugs on the party coffee tables and yes dancing the Charleston Gatsby style are sights that remain with the reader forever. Hollywood has created two amazing movies of the The Great Gatsby further immortalizing that era. The Grove Park Inn has a September 24th celebration of F. Scott Fitzgerald when they open Rooms #441 and #443 to the public and finish the celebration with dancing the Charleston. In is an adventure that by today’s standards actually seems tame. It is also inspirational for future authors as they put pen to paper as Fitzgerald was known to do or they are writing into a computer program that spell checks, corrects syntax and formats the 21st Century novel!

All of the blog photos were taken at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC: