Click to preview Acequias & Gates (softcover) photo book

This is the stone, drenched with rain
that points the way

Acequias & Gates contains two zen koan collections and a collection of essays by Joan Sutherland on keeping company with koans. The first collection in the Gates is the Miscellaneous Koans, part of the formal Pacific Zen School curriculum for koan study. Every koan school has its own unique collection of koans, and this is ours. The second is Awakened Life Koans, compiled by Joan Sutherland. Together they provide a strong grounding in the koan tradition as we’ve come to understand it. These collections are, vitally, receptacles for koans we’re gathering from sources beyond East Asia, and for koans that begin to fill in some pretty important gaps, like the presence of women and the concerns of householders’ lives.

Acequias (pronounced ah-SAY-ki-ahs) is named after the vast network of irrigation canals that have sustained life in much of northern New Mexico. Joan Sutherland’s essays provide an introduction to the spiritual, artistic, literary, and philosophical contexts of these collections, and they give some early shape to our fundamental reimagining of koan practice. They include three essays on koans as art, koan practice, and advice on engaging with koans in meditation, waking life, and dreams. They also address what we’re likely to encounter, and how we’re likely to be changed, through a life lived with koans.

Acequias and Gates is first and foremost intended to support the practice of people in the Pacific Zen School as a koan resource, practice manual, and beautiful piece of ritual gear. To that end, the book is full of reproductions of works by renowned painter Ciel Bergman. One of the reasons we decided to self-publish was to be able to create such a singular book for such a singular purpose—at cost.

The koans are messenger birds, beckoning us into the vast and compelling dark so much closer and more intimate than we’re often aware of in our ordinary, daylit lives.


About the Author

Joan Sutherland
JISutherland Santa Fe, NM

What is the Way?

A clear-eyed person falls into a well.
~Baling Haojian

Joan Sutherland, Roshi is a Zen teacher deeply involved in re-imagining the koan tradition and exploring its relationship to creativity. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she teaches through Awakened Life. She is the founding teacher of The Open Source, a network of communities in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Northern California, and is one of the founders of the Pacific Zen School, an innovative contemporary koan school. She is also a writer whose work appears regularly in Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma magazines, and a translator from Chinese and Japanese, collaborating with John Tarrant on a new translation of the Blue Cliff Record.

For more information about Joan Sutherland’s work and the Awakened Life community, please see

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