Shuso Talk

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I come today to speak the truth of God and to talk about his words. I come today to speak the truth of God and to talk about his words. Hello.


So at the beginning of a movie, after all the trailers and the ads, there's usually a logo of the company, the production company that is bringing you the story. It's the lady with the torch, or the Universal Globe, or MGM Lion, or that little boy sitting in the crescent of the moon, DreamWorks. So tonight's story is brought to you, like all stories are actually brought to you, by the compassion and the generosity of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. So try picturing this logo. An enormous horde of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as innumerable as the grains of sand in the


River Ganges, extending as far in the ten directions as you can imagine. Their golden bodies extending and sitting on lion thrones, festooned with flowers on the base and jewels that radiate and create rainbows everywhere. Do you see it? So they are around us, amongst us, in us and through us, encouraging us to understand how we actually are intimate, how we actually receive our life, and reminding us that ultimately we've never not known each other. And invoking their presence and their assistance, I want to bring up one warning about tonight's


talk, and that is, when I've listened before to people's way-seeking mind talks, I find myself grasping for some common thread, some familiar piece of the story that will let me lock in and feel like I know the person. This is fine, this is natural, but if I hold it too tight, I shut off all possibility of discovering, moment by moment, who that person is. So whether or not a way-seeking mind talk is the best way for us to meet, I don't know. Just try to let the story wash over you. There's a poem in the first case of the Book of Serenity that goes like this.


The ultimate breeze of reality. Do you see? Continuously, creation runs the loom and shuttle, weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring. But nothing can be done about Manjushri's leaking. So if it gets wet down here in the front row, let me know. Fade to black. When we fade back up, where we are is in Burlington, Vermont, in 1946, August. That's when I was born. And there are some aspects of my parents that maybe would be helpful for you to know about that I think were formative. My mother was a lace-curtain Irish-American Catholic, and my dad was from a more rough-and-tumble


working-class Irish Catholic background. His desires when he was a kid had a lot to do with art. He could sing and dance and paint and write poetry, and later that became a big piece of his work as a salesman. While he was selling nuclear power plants for a living, he would sing in piano bars to entertain the clients. Also, though, more importantly, when he was four, he was abandoned by his parents. They went off to work in a hotel in Florida and left him, knowing quite well that they would not be able to call for him. They left him with aunts and uncles, and eventually they moved back to the same town and never came and picked him up. So this was a theme in my father's life, abandonment, and a lot of unresolved anger.


Luckily, he had very loving aunts and uncles who was able to survive that kind of abandonment. My mother was a person who, because of her upbringing and the times and somewhat because of the—oh, that's not true. I was going to say because of the Catholic religion, and that's casting aspersions. I'm not sure why, but she didn't know her body very well. Her two best friends each had 13 children. So my parents married, and within two months my mother was pregnant and sick. And after I was born, in another couple of months she was pregnant again. And this time she had cysts on her ovaries and had to have surgery. So for many of the months of her pregnancy, when I was an infant, she was not able to really take care of me. Her sister came and helped, but it was the beginning of my sense of being on my own.


So, when I was 17 months old, around the age of Lila and Kaya and Lucius, I was walking and my parents saw that I was crying. They took me to the doctor and they discovered that I was born without any hip sockets, which is a fairly common—Elizabeth knows this, Elizabeth had the same situation—birth defect for girls. I had it on both sides. And what they did at this time for me is they decided to do surgery. So at 17 months I went through my first surgery to carve out a part of the hip bone to allow the top of the leg to have a place to rest. Also at this time they had a theory that by letting the parents come and go every day it was too upsetting for the children, so they only let the parents come once a week. So I was in a ward with other children.


It was my first experience of community living. And I think it's no small thing that I really enjoy this kind of community living. I learned it very young. And I was in a full body cast. So it was like this until my second surgery. I had it at three years old and they did something to the other hip. And again I was in the hospital in a body cast and I had a pair of shoes that had a bar in the middle between them. And so I would thrust myself from side to side. And when I see Sabrina walk, that feeling is very familiar to me of thrusting my body through time and space. They gradually bring the shoes in closer and closer. So that's how it began. One thing also you may notice about me is I have this smile, pretty big smile.


And I learned that in the hospital because there seemed like there were a couple of ways to get by and get my needs met. And one would have been to cry the loudest. That was a strategy. But I guess I didn't feel up to it or there were some champion screamers in the ward. I don't know. I don't remember that part. The other way, another way was to... I can still see the nurse about where Phu is, coming into the door of the ward and smiling her over to me. So that relationship and that way of being with people developed as a strategy at a very young age. My mother couldn't lift me. She couldn't lift the cast. So wherever I was, I stayed put until my dad came back from his travels.


So this body cast had other repercussions that are present in my practice life. I have a theory, I don't know if this is true, that one reason I'm so attracted to zazen and to the zazen form as opposed to some of the other forms of meditation is that it's a way to go back and choose to be still and undo that karma of not having a choice about being still. So those roots were set early too. Also, one time in New York I was meeting with a woman and she had taken me actually to a small sitting group in Manhattan and we were having lunch afterwards and I had this feeling that there was some way I couldn't get to her, I couldn't quite reach her, even though we were having a very friendly conversation. And we happened to start talking about our youth


and it turned out that she too hadn't been in a body cast. So I don't know because I don't sit on the outside of me, but I think there's probably a body cast there and maybe a difficulty in feeling like you can reach me. And I don't quite know what to do about that except to hear about it if it's so. But it certainly was there with her and it felt like maybe it was true for me too. When I got a little older and my hips would ache, particularly when the weather changed, I would do kinhin around the dining room table. I have great memories of walking for 45 minutes just in a circle around and around the dining room table and help lubricate the hip joints and make them ache less. So that's another body practice


that is very familiar to me in our practice. This event in my parents' life was very traumatizing and they were very young. I was the first child. My mother, who later, we didn't discover this or I wasn't aware or realized this until she was 60 and put herself in the Betty Ford Clinic, that she was an alcoholic. And maybe it started at this time. I don't know when it started. But she was overwhelmed by this and having another child and surgery and then many miscarriages between my brother that was born a little after me and my youngest brother who was born six years later. So her body was not her friend and her feminine nature was not her friend. So this was difficult. And I was a girl and, you know, what did this mean? And early on she said, quite often and through most of my life,


she said, you're nothing like me. And I realized that actually this was her way of helping me, putting me in the hands of my father and saying, be like him. Have his way of surviving, not mine. And so she sort of handed me over to him. And we didn't have a kind of a mother-daughter bond in that way. She was there for me in quiet ways, but I think always quite puzzled about what this was, that this child, this girl child that she had. In the midst of this trauma, I was taught what I call my four inverted views. And I mentioned a couple of them when Phu asked me to speak a while back during the diversity times about body things. But my parents taught me four things.


The first one was, there's nothing wrong with you, which you can imagine was a way of encouraging me. And it has been fairly successful in encouraging me. So that was something they told me, which in fact wasn't true, but that was one thing they told me. And then they told me, there's nothing you can't do. So in that way, I was put in sort of my father's hands and encouraged to do things that girls weren't usually encouraged to do. And then there was a sense, these weren't words, but that I needed to get myself to the front of the pack because if everyone else started running, I couldn't catch up. So I had to be out ahead. That was a kind of a physical learning I had by not being able to move. And the last one was, you can do it by yourself.


So I think they needed me to think I could do it by myself because they were really not able to help me so much. Just saying that made me a little faint. So I want to look at how these truths are upside down a little bit. First of all, there is something wrong with me in just a very physical sense. I was born without hip sockets, and my legs didn't work that well or like other people's, and I had something to deal with. But by denying this, it really kept me blind and it kept me unempathetic to other people's disabilities. So I was blind to my own and not so kind to other people. I remember when I was in high school


and I was walking down the hall and I heard these two boys say, there goes that cripple. And I whipped my head around to see if the girl who had polio was walking by because I wasn't brought up to see myself as a cripple. I wasn't brought up to see that there was anything wrong with me. It was a hugely denied thing. To this day, I'm not quite sure when I walk down the street if people are looking at my bald head or at my limp. So it's a confusion for me. And then the second one, there's nothing you can't do. Actually, this was mostly a helpful thing. Thank goodness the women's movement came along right as I was coming of age. Obviously, it had started before I was in my 20s, but it really was helpful to be in the vanguard of that


and be supported by the sense that there were a few things that I, as a woman, couldn't do. Well, it did, again, lessen my empathy for people who were taught that there was very little that they could do. So there was a kind of an arrogance in that that was not so helpful. And then the forging ahead truth. What it cost me was a certain kind of companionship. So to be sort of out in the front all the time, you're not always with other people, you're sort of taking on a front position, and it seems like you're by yourself. And it gave me a kind of an unbalanced attitude about danger. Lisa and I were talking about this,


the danger and the excitement in being out in that place where it's pretty exciting, and doing some foolhardy things with that as a basis. Also getting bruised a bit, being out there in front, you get kind of bruised a bit. And the last one, the most diluted one maybe, is that you can do it by yourself, which we have been studying quite clearly is not so. We don't do anything by ourselves. And I'm still working on that one quite a bit. You may notice me trying to pick up things I really shouldn't be picking up, or trying to keep up in ways that are not appropriate for my body. And this is fed by a fear of being useless. I think anyone who... Well, you know what I mean. Nobody wants to feel useless.


And this is how it feeds in for me with not being able to do things by myself. Also early influences, the Catholic Church and living a life of privilege. So the Catholic Church was put in charge of my moral education. My parents just sort of sent us to Catholic school and hoped the nuns would do it. At home there was a lot of talk around the dinner table about revenge and hating people. My mother was famous for wanting us to help her tell what she called white lies, not be home, not want to be home when her friends called and that kind of thing. So we were sent to church for that, to Catholic school. And at a certain point, and I loved the ceremony and I loved the kind of mystical feeling of it, but at a certain point I started to ask questions and I didn't have teachers that could actually answer.


And then I tested God by going out on a canoe trip on a weekend when I knew I wasn't going to be able to go to Mass and I didn't get dispensation. And nothing happened. It rained. It rained for a couple of days. I was worried. It actually rained for two of the days. But on Sunday, Sunday came and went. No lightning struck. So therefore, they had lied. And then I tested them in other ways. I eventually was asked to leave Catholic school and went to catechism and continued to ask questions. Why is it a mortal sin to French kiss? Things like that. So I left the church fairly young and I missed it, but maybe because I was given these statements to live on that were not true, I've really been interested in the truth all my life.


What is the truth? What is the truth? It's a tricky word, but that's the momentum, a lot of the momentum in my life was around looking for the truth, almost a preoccupation. The privileged part, we moved to a suburb of Detroit called Grosse Pointe, and it was a wealthy suburb, and we had more than adequate resources. And although my father lived, we lived on commission, so he would sell a power plant, and we'd all go out to dinner. And then eventually the money would run out, and then it would come again, it would run out. And so getting used to that rhythm, I think, freed me somewhat from relying on money for happiness or worrying about whether it was going to come back, because it always did. And I saw some very unhappy people who were very wealthy, so that did affect my relationship to that part of life.


I was the kind of kid in high school who probably most of you hated. I was vice president of the high school. I was an honor student. My best friend was captain of the cheerleaders. We dated the co-captains of the football team. I won a beauty contest and was crowned by Miss America. I was in every honorary organization, valedictorian. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to be a diplomat. I studied French and Russian. I wanted to be... And when I look back, I think I just wanted to be where the decisions were being made. That may have... Some of you may have seen that come up here at Zen Center. But I didn't have... I didn't know what was important to me to get across in those decisions. I just knew I wanted to be there


and that it was a good place for me to be. So in leaving high school and going to college, we moved to California, and I ended up going to UC Santa Barbara, keeping on the same track, you know, in every honorary and doing all of these things. And one day I met with the ambassador to Mexico. His daughter lived down the hall from me to talk to him about joining the diplomatic corps and he said, he said, Honey, you're a girl. You have... You know, there's nothing for you, really. You could join the diplomatic corps and go abroad, because there are a lot of American men abroad looking for American women to marry. And I was crushed. I didn't have the support of other women being in that... Very few women at that time and even today are in positions in the diplomatic corps where they're actually involved with


helping peace happen. And I didn't have parents who could help me in that way. So all my life I had done theater. I forget to tell you, I was the lead in every play in school. But I'd done it as fun, as just, you know, really... I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed getting up there and I enjoyed expressing myself. And so when I was discouraged about the diplomatic corps, I declared a theater major and I didn't tell my parents for a year. And I auditioned for a play and I was told, I was up for the lead, and the director said to me, Well, I said, Well, why didn't I get it? And I went and asked him and he said, Well, you would have made a good stage decoration. And I just thought, I'll show him. So I started studying more


and eventually I was kicked out of Santa Barbara. It's two schools I was kicked out of. Nothing too big, nothing that everyone else wasn't doing, but I was doing it too. So I transferred to UCLA. And during the time that I was waiting to start the semester at UCLA, I did a play in a small community theater in the San Fernando Valley in L.A. And this was one of these life-changing events. The director of the play discovered me. Got me some photographs, a portfolio taken, and walked me into an agent's office, and they signed me. I didn't do anything. I didn't go around looking for work. I wasn't even thinking that I would do this for a living. I just declared a theater major because I wasn't going to go


into the diplomatic corps. I was kind of stalling for time until something else occurred to me. So this happened to me. I didn't seek it out. I went along with it, but I didn't actually think that it's what I would be doing with my life. So the day after I was signed, I had a screen test with Otto Preminger. A little while later, I had screen tests for pilots for television shows, and I did my first starring role. And I never did a small part. I just walked in, and I did starring roles. And again, I did nothing to... Well, I don't know what the conditions were, but I wasn't conscious of them, and I didn't think I was driving this situation. I just went along for the ride. At the same time, I was going to UCLA and in the theater specialization, and the thing that happened there


that was also pivotal was I was standing in the classroom, and I looked across, and I saw someone that looked familiar, and I walked up to him, and I said, Haven't I met you somewhere before? And he didn't say anything, and he had a screenplay under his arm, and he just opened it up and pointed to the first paragraph. And I read it, and it said, Young woman, you know, brown hair, green eyes, speaks French and Russian, is an actress. And so it was describing me, and the first lines that she says are, Haven't I met you somewhere before? So... laughter Turns out that this person, his name was Bob Jordan, was a Gurdjieff teacher, and this screenplay he was working on was based on a novel by Ospensky, who was a student of Gurdjieff's called The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, and it was about a man who falls in love with a woman and loses her


and goes back, goes to a magician and asks to be sent back in life to get her back. And he says, But I have to have my memories. And the magician says, Okay, as long as you don't choose to forget them. Which, of course, he goes back and forgets what he should remember and falls asleep and loses her again. So this person kept, once this happened, I did do a film with him, but he kept pursuing me and wanting me to marry him, and I kept saying no, there was something wrong, something wrong, and I said no. Meanwhile, I was in a relationship with the director who discovered me. He was quite a bit older, he was married. And the day I was leaving to do my first feature film role, I found out I was 3 months pregnant. So I went to my agent to tell him, and as we were looking out


over Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, on the 12th floor of this tower, a big rainbow came across the sky. And I went there to tell him that I was going to have this child. He was willing to fly me to Sweden at the time to have an abortion, and I said no, I'm going to have this child. Again, in retrospect, I think part of me wasn't sure if maybe there were other parts of my body that were broken too that I didn't know about, so I wanted to test it. It's a very, very youthful, immature way to go about the process of having a child, but I think that that's what I was up to. But in having the child, it touched the selfish spot in me and opened it up because here was this other being that needed me and that I had to consider in every decision. So I think he saved me


from a life of complete selfishness. Being an artist can be a fairly selfish life, and I feel saved by him to whatever extent that I've learned about that selfishness. A lot has to do with being a mother and being a single parent for quite a bit of our lives together. I did weaken, however, when my son was about, interestingly enough, 17 months old, which is the time that I went into the hospital, and I agreed to marry this madman, Bob Jordan, and it was crazy, and I was under his watchful eye for 25, 24 hours a day. I couldn't leave his side. He wouldn't allow it, and gradually he got violent, and eventually my brother and my father came


and rescued me and my son and got us out of there. I was just with him for a year, but I learned something. So then I was off to New York and I did a soap opera in New York for a short period of time. And then I wasn't on the soap opera in New York, and I was waitressing in New York with a four-year-old, and it was a fabulous life to be young and have a little bit of cash and be in Manhattan. But two things shifted me away from that, and one was my son was old enough to start school, and I couldn't get him into, I couldn't afford to send him to school I thought was safe. And the other was that I happened upon this dojo.


I was taken there by a friend. My hips were really, really hurting me. I was waitressing, and my hips really hurt. So he said, this person can help you. And his name was Master Chen Wei, a Chinese person, and he did some healing work on me where I could feel the heat coming out of his hands and going down the back of my spine and spiraling around in my hips. It was pretty scary. He also used to call me on the phone and tell me to put the phone on my pubic bone, and he would send heat through the phone, and he actually did do that. And then he said to me he wanted me, if I had a dream about limping, he wanted me to go back and dream that I wasn't limping because he was going to take me back to the place where I decided to be born this way. And I believed him,


and it scared me. My karma, I wasn't ready to let go of my identity as someone who had hips like this. So that Christmas, my parents sent me a ticket to come home to California, and I said, I'm never leaving New York, it has to be a round-trip ticket, and I got here and went to the top of the Bank of America building, met my dad there for a drink, and the fog came in and enveloped the windows as we were sitting there, and I left everything in New York and stayed here. Partly I was running away from this teacher. I've walked by that dojo several times since I've been back in Manhattan. I've never gone upstairs. Back here in San Francisco, I thought I was going to get out of the film business. I worked for the March of Dimes, which was a way for me to repay the kindness of some of the people who had helped me in the hospital. But my son brought home


a little boy from school whose mother was a filmmaker. She and I became best friends. We met two other women. We went on a retreat. We saw some people making a movie, and we said, they're not any smarter than we are. We can do this. So we started a film company. It was called Godmother Productions. People used to tease us. Someone wrote in a column and said, they make an apple pie you can't refuse. We thought of ourselves as being responsible for the spiritual well-being of the projects that we took on. So we were based up here in San Francisco, and we did a film called Tell Me a Riddle based on a Tilly Olsen story. It cost about, I know exactly what it cost. It cost $1,325,000, which we raised, taught ourselves how to raise, met a lot of wonderful people along the way, and at the end of that process,


which the movie got out there successfully, some venture capitalist called us up and said, do you girls like some money? I bet you haven't thought about what you're going to do next, and we hadn't because our whole lives had been put into this process of imagining something and then bringing it, helping bring it to life. The story was more important than we were. It's a beautiful story, and I'm really quite proud of that project, and it set the pace for the kind of things that we were going to be doing, not normal Hollywood kind of things, but things that had some exploration in them and, you know, my word, some truth. So this was the beginning of just a wonderful, creative time for me. I occasionally did some films, acting, but mostly we developed wonderful stories. We had The Kiss of the Spider


Woman for a while I owned and some Raymond Carver stories, and I'm still part owner of a project called Confederacy of Dunces, and just the people I got to work with and the way I got to work was wonderful. And it was very high and very low. So when the highs were there, they were exaggerated in order to make up for how low the lows were. And this life of excitement is something that, when I moved into Zen Center, I think the most important first realization that came to me was that happiness and excitement are not the same thing. I didn't know that. I thought that excitement and happiness were the same thing. But I saw that happiness and peace are the same thing. And you never could have convinced me of that earlier in my life.


It took a few things to slow me down, which I'll tell you about. So in this process, I also had more surgeries on my hips. I had a hip replacement when I turned 40, and what happened during that experience that I think really helped turn me towards this place, turn me towards Zen practice, or some kind of spiritual practice at least, was I had a surgery and they made a mistake. They put a prosthesis in that was too big for me, and they couldn't pop me back together, so they had to break the bone and pull it out and put another one in, all in the same surgery. And there was a machine called a cell saver which circulates your blood, and because it took so long the platelets which clot your blood were dropping out of my blood. So I was in ICU and my family had left, but my business partner was still there, Mindy. And all of a sudden


all the bells and whistles started to go off on the machines and my body was shutting down. My organs were stopping. And I popped out of my body and was up in the corner of the room looking down at my body and watching Mindy hop from one side of the bed to the other, and all the activity of the nurses and doctors down near the bottom of the bed and IVs and things. And my memory of this experience is that in this state there was no pain. And there was a knowledge that to come back into the body was coming back into pain and suffering, not just the obvious pain that would be there from the surgery, but life, life and its pain, and sort of the first noble truth was really clear to me in this state. And it was kind of like,


do I want to go back or not? And what astonishes me is that in this situation no one was there in that consideration, not even my son, not even how this would affect people if I decided, if I didn't come back, nothing, just this consciousness. And there wasn't a decision to come back. It was more that the body was too heavy or the consciousness was too material to leave yet. It had too much density, I guess. So I just sort of fell back into my body. And I lived and responded to the treatment that they were doing. And maybe it wasn't anything


that was... That's just what it felt like from this side. I can't say what was happening physically in the room that also encouraged the body to keep going. They were probably pumping me with all kinds of new blood. But that closeness and that experience shifted something in me that I didn't recognize at the time but that I think definitely got me here. And I wanted to say something about pain, too, and my relationship to pain. People sometimes ask me if I'm in pain, and there often is pain. I'm much better now at being specific, thanks to our sitting practice and particularly Keeney being specific about what exactly it is, where the pain is and what kind of pain. But I think because this has been my life and I don't actually


know another way, it's different than it is for someone who has an injury later in their life and has the kind of outrage of, what's happened to my perfect body? And I think when people talk about pain and ask me about pain, that may be what they're talking about, their own experience of something happening, and they don't expect it and they don't like it, and it's not okay and it shouldn't be happening to them. And that's not my relationship to pain. It's a companion and it's been very helpful in developing concentration in zazen. It's a good teacher that way. When you don't move, it hurts less. So that's my relationship to pain. During this time in my life, I did remarry to a person


who eventually became a therapist who didn't have to be in therapy to be a therapist, and that was not so good. I mean, it was good for a while, and then it was not so good. And so after about 8 years of being with him and being a stepmother to 2 sons who are about the same height as Will, and feeding them all, I left my husband at the same time I had the hip surgery that didn't work. I like to do things when it's really difficult. And so with the healing that needed to go on with this hip, I was on crutches for about a year and a half, and I worked with a physical therapist again who had some healing hands and heat that came out of her hands. She and I became quite good friends afterwards. And it was during this time that I also worked with Helen Palmer. She did a series of introductions to meditation styles,


one week Tibetan, one week Vipassana, one week Zen. And the first was Tibetan, and I sat down and closed my eyes and did what they told me. And I got so high so fast that it scared me, and I thought, this is too much like my life. You know, the visualization and the richness of it, and I just thought, no, no, even though I could get high this way, I don't think this is for me. And then I was introduced to Vipassana, which I tried for a while. I studied with Jack Kornfield for about a year, did some retreats. And then I was introduced to Zen, and the eyes opened. It was such a good antidote for my visual mind, my busy visual mind, that I was drawn to that. And I came out here. And first I did a retreat


with Thich Nhat Hanh in this room in the 80s, and then Tathagata. And I don't remember what he said, but it struck me. It struck me in a way that I knew I wanted to study with him from the first time I heard him speak. So I began to come more often and go to, there used to be these things called abbot's retreats at Tassajara in the summer, and I did several of those. There were small groups of people who got to hang out and talk, and I got to know him better as a teacher, and I asked to receive precepts, which I did with Alan and Luminous Owl, among 14, 15 other people, in 1991. And started doing a couple of sushins a year, and all the time,


still working in the film business and going back and forth to L.A. and going to Cannes and Venice and running around and coming back to Koan class. Luckily, my business partner was also a Buddhist practitioner, so we carved out sushin time and class time from our schedule. But it took a lot to stop me. So, in 1994, the stopping started. And several things happened in an 18-month period of time. My mother died. I was able to be with her near the end, which was really... And the practice, even the beginning of practice that I had been trying to do was really helpful in being with my mother at that time. And then I had another hip surgery


on the other hip, which didn't go well. They put in the wrong hardware that set my leg turning inward, which it did for about 9 years that I just had corrected in February. And during this time, my father, I went down to Palm Springs to be with him because he was running, screaming through the house. They had been married 49 years, and he couldn't stand to be alone. So he started going out on dates and I would go and chaperone in my walker. I was the youngest person on a walker in Palm Springs. And so my son also at this time left home and went down to Los Angeles to get ready to be married to this wonderful young woman that he married, so that shifted. My business partner and I had a disagreement, and she refused to speak with me, and I had to shut down my company right when I was about ready to grow it.


Someone was putting a lot of money in and I was going to go raise a lot of money, and it was my sort of dream idea that I'd been working on a film fund, and I didn't handle my relationship with my business partner very well, and the karma was that it all stopped and I had to bankrupt my company. And so my father, within 6 months after my mother died, found the woman he was going to marry. There was a whole line of casserole bringers that were willing to marry him. But we hadn't actually, we'd had a funeral service for my mother, but we hadn't buried her because it was winter when she died and we wanted to take her ashes back to Vermont. So we'd made arrangements to go in June, and my father, with his inimitable timing, had decided to get married the weekend after we buried my mother. So my brothers and I were set for this, and we were all going to go to Vermont and then come back to Palm Springs. And the day before I left for this, I found out


I had breast cancer. So that was enough. Oh, that was enough for me to say, I don't know what I'm going to do next, but maybe I need to get a job. I never had a job. I only had my own company. But whatever I was going to do, I wanted to be fresh. So I gave away everything, and I gave away my apartment on Russian Hill and everything, except a few pair of shoes. And I decided to wait until after radiation treatments to move into Zen Center. I considered moving in during treatment time, but I decided to wait, and I moved in to the city center thinking that I was going to, I'd been talking to people in New York about getting a job there as an agent packaging independent films, or I'd be the head of a film festival, something like that was what I was looking at. And I thought,


I'll move into Zen Center for two months. So I moved in, and within a month, Fu was looking for an assistant in the development office. And I remember sitting in the little alcove and handing her my resume. And I'd raised millions of dollars, and it was kind of funny. And so she said, Would you like to come and work in the development office? And I said, Sure. And when I got in there, I realized, being with Fu and Kokai and a couple of other people in that development office, the atmosphere was so nurturing that I realized that what I was looking for was refuge. And I remember rolling up in the fetal position on the carpet in the development office and weeping in the middle of work.


It seemed quite permissible. And it was necessary. It was really necessary. So I took refuge. And about six months later, the thought came to me that I wanted this practice to be my life, and I wanted to go into it as deeply as I could. And what that meant to me was to ordain as a priest. Partly to be able to study with my teacher more closely. I had noticed that that's kind of what happened. And partly to get the support of all of the other senior people. Everyone, really. It's sort of, if you declare, I noticed if you declare that that's what you want, people take you seriously that you want feedback. So that's what I wanted. I wanted feedback and I wanted this practice to be my life. So that process began.


And in 1999, January 3rd, I ordained with my ordination brother, Charlie Piccorni, and another ordination sister, Linda Taggart, who's now in New York. I was able during this time to do practice periods in Tassajara, which are very precious to me. And I would like to do more. And as I came to this part of preparing this talk, I thought, this is where it gets a little scarier, because am I going to talk about what life is like here for me at Zen Center when there are people in this room who sort of know me and know if I'm being accurate, or what if I use a word that will somehow come back to haunt me. And I was thinking in one of the talks that I've had


in the tea house, in the kitchen, we're talking about how sometimes when you have a work situation, this sense of community can develop that's almost, it's like an artificial sense of community. It used to happen in the film business. You'd do a movie and everyone on there was your family for a month. But it's because you could leave them and go home to another situation. Here, there's no going home. Everything is in one place. So your family and your work and your life and where you get to live and what you get to do and what you don't get to do is all rolled up into one and it's really a challenge and it's appropriately frightening, because in that same kind of equation where fear and intimacy are related, it's very intimate and it is scary. So what I can say about maybe unlearning


some of the, turning over some of the inverted views that I was given. I tried to look at how this life and community has helped me begin to do that and I think that the statement there's nothing wrong with you and in that way ignoring my own diversity. We were lucky enough to be able to do a diversity training recently in which I could look at, by the end, I could see that there were differences in the room and value them, including that I had a difference. And so that's something that's come to me from being here at Zen Center, being allowed to do a diversity training and look at that. Is it alive or dead? Alive. That's right. There's nothing you can't do aspect.


Actually, there's plenty I can't do here at Zen Center. I can't pick lettuce very well. I can't bow without that cushion right now. Because I'm in an environment where I'm not protecting myself by just choosing the things that I can do, I get to actually see and appreciate how other people can do things better than I can and how there actually are some things that I can't do, and that feels more balanced. Patience. It's not possible to push yourself to the front of the pack here, which is, I've bumped up against that several times, and I'm still learning it. I think just being at Tassajara and learning to walk more slowly and not throw my body through time and space, that was, I think, very important in my first practice period, that I think bringing that home with me,


that slower physical pace, keeping in the present and not trying to move over whatever difficulties were there at the moment. So I'm practicing with that. And the you-can-do-it-by-yourself part, I mean, that's ridiculous. And each job I've had here has brought forth a different aspect of that. Being Tenzo, I could barely cook. And with the help of all those beings, and plus everyone that was eating, that whole cycle of eating and feeding and eating and feeding was really clear to me. And being in the middle of that and riding it and not controlling it in any way, but just riding that, that was a very helpful experience. I think being Rev's assistant


taught me about possessiveness. It's very, I think, easy to fall into that trap of wanting to possess the teacher and to keep everyone else away. So that was something I had to work with. And the idea of service to someone that you love, how to do that fully, how to explore the farthest reaches of that, that was really helpful because I could see where there were things that just didn't occur to me to care about, to be concerned about, to be helpful with. And gradually I learned a few more and a few more, but just to see the limitations of my understanding of what service is. And then the scary intimacy with the teacher. Being Shuso, so far,


has had to do with being afraid of being a fraud and trying to understand what it is that I think I should be, and all the other assumptions that create that fear, like, for instance, that there's actually some knowledge or wisdom that I'm supposed to have, whereas, in fact, it's not my wisdom. It's just wisdom that's potentially available. So I'm working with that. While I've been here at Zen Center, I've undergone a couple of major surgeries and had that scary proposition of needing to be taken care of and being immobile and needing to rely on this community. And the community has come forth, although I was very frightened, particularly this last time, about whether that would happen or not. And I had a personal experience


of how my fear, which I'm not that actually familiar with, how my fear actually caused me to attack. So I regret the incident, but I'm really grateful to see that cause and effect of... I know I feel it when I'm afraid of people who are fearful, but I was fearful and I heard, and that was helpful for me to see. So that brings me here. And I just wanted to say two little things, and then there's a little bit of time for questions. I pulled this saying off of one of those Zen calendars a couple years ago and put it in a book because I loved it and I think it applies to tonight.


It says, it's from the Lankavatara Sutra, it says, Things are not what they seem to be, nor are they otherwise. And the other is something that's written on the back of my Raksu, and it says, it's also from the Book of Serenity, and it says, In the midst of the ten thousand things, a single body revealed. Does anyone have any questions? Neil? Why do I practice Zen? There is no choice anymore.


Why do you practice Zen? I don't know. Happy birthday. Jerry? Do you ever have a hope that you're living life to make your dreams come true? No. All of the aspects of that life that were fulfilling


can still be in my life. So there are creative things I do every day. There is the recognition of, you know, talent in people and putting them together with other people. There is reading stories and telling stories and appreciating stories. The busyness is part of that excitement that I actually don't find at all helpful. So the other parts of it, and I have friends, and the information I have isn't wasted. It's not collecting dust anywhere. Lisa? I'm fine.


She wanted to know how I was feeling right now after telling my story, and I said, I'm feeling fine. My heart's beating noticeably. I think this question session is helping it beat faster. But I feel fine. Catherine? She said it occurred to her I might want to say something about my grandchildren. You know, I kept trying to figure out where to put them in here. I have grandchildren, and it is incredible when Dogen talks about grandmother mind, it is a mind that is different than other minds.


It is, when our teacher talks about his grandson, you know, this unconditional love that, well, first of all, the luxury of not having to survive and being able to sit with the child and throw that ball back and forth a thousand times, or unpack and pack the suitcase just to go out the door and come back. That is, it's delicious just to be able to do that, and they know that you're doing that, and they appreciate that. I can see them just sucking it up, you know, that kind of unconditional caring and spoiling. It's amazing to have grandchildren, and it's amazing to watch my son be a father. That's equally fulfilling. Yeah. Thanks. May you have grandchildren. Yes, Marion.


How do you inhabit the body? How do I inhabit my... How does it feel to be in my body? There's a newness, because my leg, which was bent for nine years, is now straight, and when I look down and see my feet both going the same direction, I am constantly pleased. So that's new, and my leg is aligning itself in a way that it's never been before, so there are a lot of new sensations, new weaknesses. Keen Heen is a very important time for me in terms of exploring that, and doing service, walking up to the altar, doing service, is a really helpful time to notice how my body is.


And there's pain. Yeah, there's pain. Oh, a lot. I'm pleased. I'm pleased that the body is in less pain than it used to be. And Zazen... Actually, one of the problems for me is that when I sit in this chair for Zazen, there is no pain, and I'm used to working with pain, so it's taken a lot of discipline to apply the practice of working with pain to working with no pain, and so it's difficult for me in that way, but it isn't painful. A quarter to nine


might be a good time to stop. May our intention...