Why don’t I see ya’ll doing nothin? ~ A Guest Post by Andrea

[Andrea is a Vegetarian Buddhist, who has made a mess of her life and is slowly picking up the pieces.  She thinks it sucks that she is responsible for her own happiness.  She loves yoga, running (turtle speed), writing, cursing and crochet. She lives in Central Florida with her 5 crazy dogs.   Because she is not nearly as interesting in person, you can find her on twitter @grumpyzen. ]

I would be the first person to tell you that if you want to read  an article about the  benefits of Zen for the Black community, you should read “Being Black” by  @changeangel aka Angel Kyodo Williams.  It’s an amazing book that is well worth the read.

I see no point in trying to re-invent the wheel.  Rather I offer a what could easily be classified as a criticism.  And maybe even some whiny finger-pointing.  I am also going to take my personal observations and experiences, and apply them to Black people in general.  Yeah I know.  Just take what is useful and leave the rest. 

I lived most of my life in misery and fear.  All the people I knew were barely scrapping by.  Constantly on the brink of losing everything.  There was never a question of if something bad would happen, it was only a question of when.  I honestly believed that my problems only plagued me and people who looked like me.  No one else could ever understand.  As I continued to gain more education, I was surrounded by people who didn’t look like me and could never understand my pain.  I was numb and depressed.  I didn’t know it.  There was no talking about my pain.  I swallowed it and kept pressing forward.  My depression was masked as anger and a bad attitude. 

I didn’t realize I was stumbling around in a small dark room until someone turned the light on.  And for me that light was Zen.  I realized people are more alike then we are different.  Most people live lives of quiet desperation.  Fear, anger, betrayal, inadequacy, failure, depression, loneliness, longing, and suffering are part of the human condition.  I learned a simple truth that made life very complicated.  It was the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me.  Ready?  Here it is: I and I alone was responsible for my happiness and my suffering. Not my circumstances, not the stuff I have or don’t have.  Not the people in my life or out of it.  Not my God or lack thereof.   I save myself.  I have the answers to all my questions, the solutions to all my problems.   Happiness and suffering don’t just happen to me, I choose them.  That was some transformative shit.  That simple, yet complicated truth saved my life.  Literally.

People who live desperate lives, can’t conceive of such a thing.  At least, I couldn’t.  What good is all that meditation stuff when you are constantly on the verge of catastrophe? Or when you have lost everything and you and your family of five must move into one room in your grandmother’s already crowded apartment?  The answer is that suffering is the mother of Buddhism.  Ending suffering is why that skinny dude went and sat under that tree in the first place.  Yet sitting is contrary to everything Black folks know and believe.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  You dig in and press on.  Carrying all your baggage with you.   

Typically, when  Black folks have problems, we don’t sit and we don’t go to therapy.   Some drink, some use drugs, some sit around hating the world.  But we almost always end up in church.  We’ve learned generation after generation to look up, not in. The church is like going home after a long vacation.  My momma, her mamma, their grand mamma and all them, go to church.  Everybody knows and it doesn’t have to be explained.  And if your next question is ‘knows what?”, that is exactly my point.  People who look like you, care about you, and sometimes gossip about you,  welcome you with open arms.  This home away from home is usually in the middle of  a neighborhood that people move out of as soon as they can.  They are not just in the neighborhood, they are a part of it.  From feeding the hungry to neighborhood legal clinics. 

I’ve yet to come across a “help the local community,”  “grassroots” type of activity organized by Buddhist.   I am unaware of any Zen centers in a neighborhood where I can guarantee there is a church. So how exactly are my fellow sufferers with no money, nothing but problems and no inkling  of the world outside of their own neighborhood going to discover this trans formative shit called Zen?

Honestly, I don’t know.  I’m about as good of a Buddhist as I was a Christian.   But I think the answer lies somewhere in where we sit.

Buddhist temples are not very inviting.  And they are certainly not filled with folks that look like me.   Often they are set far off.  You don’t just ride past or walk to them.  And, granted I have never been in one, like I said – not too inviting.  But I’m willing to bet there’s a lot more involved than just walking in and sitting.  My perception may be wrong, but it is not unwarranted. 

What I love about Zen is there is no special equipment needed.  Zafus can be expensive on a tight budget.  But you can use a towel or couch pillow or even a chair.   Just sit, count your breathes.  When you stop trying to figure it out, you’ll figure it out. (<——– I love when we talk like that).  We can and do practice anywhere.  We don’t have to restrict ourselves to far off temples.  But because of this we can easily practice in isolation (<— guilty)  or restrict ourselves to more affluent places. 

We can cultivate compassion on a cushion, but we need to go further.  I think if Buddhism was all about sitting in caves and keeping your own counsel, then there would be no Buddhist.  Siddhartha  would have just been some half-dressed weirdo  who abandoned his family and sat under a tree.  Stop being selfish with your Dharma.

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43 thoughts on “Why don’t I see ya’ll doing nothin? ~ A Guest Post by Andrea

  1. “Take the Kama Sutra. How many people died from the Kama Sutra, as opposed to the Bible? Who wins?”
    ~Frank Zappa

    • Now if you wanted to read the Kama Sutta you would get brief and Buddhist take on senuality. Mind you the pictures are not as cool. Although Frank Zappa does kick ass. If you want so more Buddhist and Zappa mayhem, you should check out Richard from My Buddha is Pink since he does a Zappa blog too.

      Cheers,
      John

        • No worries! That is Al, he is my brother-in-law once removed. He drops random quotes on my blog posts. Just ignore us. Nothing to see here.

          Cheers

          John

          And thanks again for your amazingly wonderful guest post. I love it!

        • RESPONSE TO JOHN’S POST BELOW
          |
          |I am more accurately described as
          |”once removed & twice convicted.”
          |
          |Also, my posts are NOT random…
          |the
          |randomness
          |is
          |all
          |in
          |your
          |MIND
          |
          V

  2. I also love that there is no special equipment needed for Zen or any other kind of meditation. It’s like the soccer/football of spiritual practices: the ‘beautiful sit.’ 🙂

        • In the blog I referred to zen as “transformative shit” and I read your comment without my glasses. I thought your “beautiful sit” was “beautiful shit”.

          This is what I should have wrote: “The beautiful sit is beautiful shit. I’m sorry I have a potty mouth. But sometimes the dirty words are the best words”

          Sorry about that. I’m responding in between periods of trying to look busy at work :>)

  3. Dear Andrea,

    That was beautifully put. I loved all of it! Thank you very much for expressing this. And you make me want to join twitter so I can “follow” you and your 5 crazy dogs.

    I am not a buddhist, but I really appreciate what little I know of the precepts, and the compassion and loving that is taught.
    I was raised in church, and the way my mama taught me to pray was a lot like meditation, but contemplative meditation….
    now I ramble.

    with much gratitude,
    Barbara

    • MBarbara Eaton,

      I think your mom taught you to pray the correct way. When a lot of people pray, it’s very much about begging, complaining and bargaining. I myself was very guilty of this. If I were God, I wouldn’t want to hear that shit all the time. There I go with the potty mouth again.

  4. Awesome. And true. The problem is that we need ambassadors like you and maybe like me.

    I write a blog on anewspaper website. I give up control of what it looks like and adding modules and such like on wordpress or blogger, but in return I bring the Dharma to a whole new audience.

    Of course, it also makes me the “Voice of Buddhism” in Houston so I have to be careful not to rant or otherwise protray our community in a bad or false light.

    It’s alos a bit of an ego problem. I have a hard time cultivating begginer’s mind and emptying my cup as much as I would like.

    I guess it is what is, though.

    Thanks for the post and the insight. If you ever want to come to houston and do zazen at the Shape Center in the 3rd Ward, I’ll be there with you.

    _/|\_, Dharma sister.

    • J. Andy Lambert,

      Third ward huh? I love it. And should I ever start walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Shape Center will be at the top of my list.
      I feel the need to read more. Be a better Buddhist. And work on being more social. After I all, I have everything I need right now <—this also sucks in case you weren't sure. Then I can stop being stingy and spread the Grump around!

      Ps I am still taking in your blog. But I am enjoying it so far.

  5. I love your post. Yeah, I think it sucks that I’m responsible for my life, too. And I feel really bad lately. I do go to a zen center to sit, and it *was* as simple as going in and sitting down after I went to a beginner’s session, but then again I *do* look like most of the people who sit there: older and white. I quit my second job after 8 and a half years when I could finally afford to leave it behind, and that meant I had time to check out this zen stuff. However, that doesn’t mean anybody talks to you much ‘cuz, hey, it’s just sitting and bowing and walking and chanting and then leaving for work. I started showing up for whatever was happening and helping out, but I know I’m pushing it energy-wise ‘cuz I have a couple of auto-immune conditions. It’s fund-raising month at my center. I gave money last week, and now this weekend there is another event. I can’t really justify giving more money. I’m already a member, and honestly, the monthly donation I make is all I should really be paying– and even that’s a stretch. My house is falling apart, my partner (who started sitting at home on her own) is bipolar and can’t work, and etc. It’s been like a tsunami of emotions at my house lately between the two of us. Meditating makes feelings and thoughts rise to the surface, and I’m feeling bad right now and I’m exhausted.

    • Meltwana,

      First of all thank you.

      Secondly, your life is a mess right now. Sounds like meditation is making it worse. I am pretty sure that this is the process. When you meditate you can’t hide from your self and how you truly feel. You have to acknowledge it, recognize it for what it is and then let it go. Yeah I know that shit sucks. But it really is the best thing for you. Holding it in, or trying to ignore to will kill you slow.
      I cried a lot when I first started meditating and looking at myself and my circumstance for the first time in my damn 30’s.

      Remember to be gentle with yourself. That little pearl of wisdom also made me cry. Because I realized that I never was. I was always so hard on myself because my life wasn’t what it was supposed to be. That little tree sitting know-it-all never said nothing bout crying!

      Sorry Meltwana, I always bring things back around to me. This too shall pass because everything does.

      • “…your life is a mess right now” and “That little tree sitting know-t-all never said nothing bout crying”. Ha! You tell it like it is, don’t you? How refreshing! All that you said is so true, and I thank you sincerely for your truth-telling. I don’t think I *can* hold in my feelings anymore. I tried, but guess what? It didn’t work and they’re just bubbling up. You had the courage to cry, and I’m sure there have been many others crying and raging before us, so I guess I can do it too. My life isn’t what it’s supposed to be either, but as I’ve learned, it is what it is and that’s what there is for me to “see”.
        I read some excerpts from “Being Black”, and the part where her teacher said to be gentle with herself made me cry too. No apology necessary about bringing things back to you. Other than my own shit, I think the points you raise in your post are right on. I couldn’t think of a better way to put it. So what would it take to get the Dharma in the thick of life where people really need it?

  6. andrea, i love your post gurl. i’m a big old zen fag with a potty mouth. i greatly apprectiated your post…it fuckin rocked!

    • You sir are fuckin awesome. How can you not love a big old zen fag with a potty mouth? Keep in touch.

    • @andy yes, and i’m hungry, so let’s go for my birthday food!

      @andrea that’s what i try to keep tellin’ ’em.

      @john i’m glad you do frequent guest posts. you are a bodhifuckinsattva of the blangha.

      • Hey Zenfant,

        I fucking love the guest posts. I easily spend half my week trying to track down interesting people that have something to say. I feel as if I learn much more when I look past my own little bubble sometimes.

        Cheers

  7. a) i love this blog and would read it anyway
    b) I would read as much as Andrea wants to write because I totally dig it/her/everyone a lot.
    c) i was feeling like crap about myself and my life (out of work w/ no unemployment benes, stitches in my knee and can’t even drive, etc.) and along came Andrea to remind me that feeling like crap is both a blessing and a choice. I’m blessed that I’m tuned into my life enough to feel my feelings and also faced with the choice to feel like crap or not.
    Big love.

    • padmaease

      One of my favorite quotes is “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”

      Puts a damper on the pitty parties I like to throw for myself.

      I hate that it is a choice. I really do. I should be the last person responsible for my own happiness or misery. That is why I am grumpy :>}

      I’m glad my experience has helped you in some small way. Be kind to yourself and gentle with that knee

  8. I have to put in a word here for Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple in Detroit. Whenever I read about the uninvitingness of American Buddhism, and the cultural monochrome, it’s always a bit alien to me, because I started studying Buddhism at the same time as I moved to Detroit. The community is diverse in racial, linguistic, political and economic ways, and so I’ve always learned that my Dharma brothers and sisters don’t all look like me.

    I was writing about this today a little. I think white people today are often a little guilty of appropriating cultures, but sometimes also a little too guilty ABOUT appropriating cultures. If a white person becomes a regular at a Buddhist temple, they might feel on the inside like they shouldn’t. So when a non-white person shows up, those white regulars are reluctant to say, “Welcome to our temple. Let me know if you need me to show you around.”

    Yet I do want to mention one other thing. You say that Buddhist institutions are not inviting. That’s because “inviting” is a human trait. A building cannot be, of itself, inviting. Please, step inside one of them. See the human beings inside. Maybe they won’t be inviting, and if they aren’t, I apologize for my fellow Buddhists. If you are ever in Detroit, I invite you to Still Point, and I am certain you will be welcome there.

    • I won’t answer for Andrea but I would like to mention that I have heard amazing things about Still Point in Detroit (mostly from the blog, Zen Under the Skin).

      As per the lack of ‘inviting’ centers: I have felt both sides of this one. There have been centers that the people have been far from inviting and welcoming, no matter what the style of the building. But it was largely, I think, my own intimidation that led to some of that perception.

      However, when I starting practicing at Laught Teabowl Sangha in Rapid City I was surprised by the welcoming atmosphere. It really felt that, despite experience, everyone there was a novice (even though some had 20+ years of experience). With a range of experience; diversity in tradition and background and a small grassroots feel, I felt at home there when I practice.

      That is what I think many need to do. Suck it up and walk through the doors. If you feel at home and welcome then stay. If not then try somewhere else. Eventually it will click.

      Cheers,
      John

    • Thank you for the comment and I see your point.

      But I am going to have to disagree with you.

      Buildings can be uninviting. Take a good look at your nearest maximum security prison.

      As for the temples: A fancy building in an out of the way place gives the impression that it is not for everyone. The people inside may be nice. But how am I to know that. And a person who has to catch the bus every where may not see the point in traveling to said place. Especially if there is nothing “familiar” about the building. And nothing about the building that says “Come on in, sit a spell.”

      How I am to know how wonderful your temple is if there is no indication? I am referring to community participation, some indication that your group cares about what my group cares about. That our suffering is not our exclusive property. Hell, I would settle for a welcome sign.

      And as I said I wonder how many wonderful temples or meditation centers are in not so wonderful neighborhoods. By that I mean ghettos, trailer parks and the like.

      I concede that I can only speak of what I have seen locally. And I agree with you. It is a problem of perception and self limitation. But Buddhists cant’s just sit on that and end the conversation.

      Both sides have to risk “stepping in” if we really want to reach the folks that need what Buddhism has to offer the most.

      • If a maximum-security prison is the example of a building that looks uninviting, then what does an inviting building look like? I mean, I’d tend to say if you don’t want your building to look like a prison, you’d plant flowers, you’d locate it near greenery, you’d give it a fresh coat of paint. Except then you say that a “fancy” building isn’t inviting. So you want Buddhists to be in unfancy buildings, but one that have welcome signs and indications that it’s not a prison.

        I think you’re making excuses. Get on that bus, go to that Buddhist temple, and see it for yourself before you judge the people inside.

        Less than 1% of Americans are Buddhists. We can’t step in everywhere. When we do step in, we don’t always identify ourselves. “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I’M BUDDHIST AND I’M VOLUNTEERING TO PLANT TREES IN DETROIT AND SERVE AT A SOUP KITCHEN AND I’M BUDDHIST!” Not a very Buddhist thing to say.

        What I’m saying, Andrea, is that you are welcome. I will speak for every Buddhist temple in America, do what you ask and not just sit silently on this conversation. I’m not going to sit by and say, “Gee, if you don’t feel welcome then you’re probably not welcome.” You are welcome. I invite you. Tell them Bija sent you when you go.

        • Bija

          I think I conceded I was being judgmental.

          But my point still has merit

          Where I come from, fancy (referring to the often very ornate architecture – which by the way I love) can often be as uninviting as a prison. I don’t know how else to expand upon that.

          Sometimes the messenger isn’t as eloquent as the message.

          Maybe there are so few Buddhists because we may be unintentionally uninviting. Or they are just not sure and all they have to go on is what other religions tell them. Which is usually wrong. And yes this is a “Christian Nation”

          I know “advertising” is very anti Buddhist. But it doesn’t really have to be. Why not wear a t-shirt with your temple info on it while your planting trees and serving soup? Or maybe your temple can open its own soup kitchen. And in doing so accomplish all at once what I am suggesting. After all, your temple has all that it needs right now to do so.

          Not : “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I’M BUDDHIST AND I’M VOLUNTEERING TO PLANT TREES IN DETROIT AND SERVE AT A SOUP KITCHEN AND I’M BUDDHIST!”

          That would annoying.

          I submit that maybe, just maybe this is an area that we as a whole can improve upon.

          I am sure we could go back and forth on this all day. But I really do appreciate your comment I think we can agree and disagree at the same time. And I can be simultaneously aggravating, thought provoking and endearing. That’s what happens when you step into the vortex that is Grumpyzen.

          Thanks again

        • I’m going to be vehement about it, because it’s important. I do think it’s important for members of the Buddhist sangha to broadcast the message that people of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are welcome at our temples. That’s what I’m doing, and if someone tells me, “Black people aren’t welcome at Buddhist temples,” it’s my job to disagree.

          The part of your point I will concede is that people designing the temples look at design elements of “inviting” or “uninviting” from a limited cultural perspective. I painted the temple to look a certain way that I felt would look inviting. Really, there’s no way I could have known that someone else would look at it and say, “It’s beautiful, and that scares me.”

          I’m glad that you’re deciding to go. Even if you’re the only nonwhite person there, it could be a good thing. If you become a regular, in a few years, someone else might visit the temple for the first time, see you, and feel more comfortable. That’s a service I can’t give to the community–as much as I want to tell people that people of all backgrounds are welcome at Buddhist temples, your presence could make that argument better than mine can.

        • Sorry
          I can’t respond to your last comment. I’m not disagreeing. If you disagree with my suggestions, let me know how you get the word out that “that people of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are welcome at our temples”. I mean it, let me know what you try and let me know how it works out.

        • Whatever we’re doing at Still Point in Detroit, it’s working. The diversity of people who shows up there every week is proof of that. There are four residents of our abbey now, and only one of them is white. I know it sounds like I’m counting colors here, but I’ve lived there, and been in the middle of it, and I want to dispel the illusion that a temple is exclusionary and lily-white. It’s false. Go to a temple. You might be surprised.

  9. Great post, Andrea! Inspiring and provocative!

    I know you were addressing Zen Buddhism, but I feel compelled to comment that some Buddhist groups are very much connected to their communities. One great example is Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation. It was founded by a Buddhist nun that was concerned about the lack of medical care for the poor in her community. She banded together a group of women to form a health fund that ultimately evolved into free clinics and hospitals. Temples? Yes, they have them, but the clinics, service centers and community agencies they run have the highest profile and are what people know Tzu Chi for.

    As for personal transformation, Tzu Chi believes that by giving selflessly and caring for and comforting those most in need, we follow the path of bodhisattva practices– a way to Buddhahood. For me, personally, working as a Tzu Chi volunteer as put of lot of my personal issues in proper perspective and given me insights I could have never gained on my own.

    Thanks!

    • That sounds wonderful. Keep up the great work.

      I just wish I saw it locally and on a sustained basis. I am looking.

  10. Really enjoyed your post. I became a Buddhist through a friend of mine who told me about chanting nam myo ho renge kyo. Long story short, I went to the cultural centre and was welcomed by a warm smile and what followed later was a community of regular folk(some of whom looked like me, most who didn’t) who have encouraged and guided me over 10 years now. I really enjoy practicing with other people, who chant for me even when I don’t feel like it.

    You’re so right, you can cultivate compassion on your butt, but you do have to go further.

  11. And apparently its time to get off my butt and stop player hatin from the sidelines.

    Sorry,
    I couldn’t help myself. But really, I should just go to these temples. Walk in an see what happens. I could treat it as a social experiment. It could be subject of my next blog.

  12. Andrea,

    Great post! I linked to it on my blog so more folks could read it.

    I want to comment on Bija’s comments. In the American Zen world, places like Still Point are a rarity. They really are. People can go on and on about how they welcome diversity, and whatnot, but the reality is that we live in a nation with a long legacy of racism, economic discrimination, and various other forms of oppression. I was in a weekend workshop years ago with Still Point’s founding teacher, Geri Larkin, and she spoke about how she felt it was important to have a center in the heart of Detroit, in the middle of the swirl so to speak. I wish there were more places like it, that actually have a lot of different kinds of folks attending, but the reality in most American Zen centers is that you have a lot of middle and upper class, college educated mostly white folks as members.

    My own sangha, which has over 100 members, is probably 95% white despite deliberate efforts to reach out to people of color interested in the dharma. We ARE a welcoming community, and yet it takes more than that for people who have been marginalized in so many other parts of their lives to feel like they, too, are a vital part of the sangha. (I’d emphasize “vital” because everyone should have a real sense of agency in a sangha, not just an offer to be a part of something they have no tangible impact on.)

    Full disclosure: I’m a white, college educated male. I’ve been a member of my sangha for almost 9 years now, so I’ve seen the effort, and sometimes lack thereof, when it comes to diversifying the community. I’m not a guilt ridden person, nor do I sit and wallow about in “woe is us” kind of thoughts. That’s all self-absorbed bullshit. The way I see it, you can be absolutely honest about short-comings without being tied to guilt and shame complexes.

    Bija, you really can’t speak for all Buddhist sanghas in America, and frankly I do think that in some, people of color aren’t all that welcome. That’s reality. It takes work to have a truly diverse community, and some folks just don’t want to do that work – nor do they don’t see the value of it. It always astounds me to hear people who claim to deeply desire “waking up” say things like “talking about racism is irrelevant to my Zen practice.” But I have heard it before more than a few times, and will probably hear it again.

    The old teacher of my sangha didn’t really put much effort at all into supporting the few members of color, or into providing forums for discussing how race, racism, classism, etc, impact our daily lives and our Zen practice. Our current leadership is more open to exploring these kinds of issues, so things are slowly starting to change from what I’m seeing. A few more active members of color. A little more direct talk about race issues and practice. It’s baby steps, but certainly better than simply saying we welcome everyone and then wondering why nothing changes.

    Bows,
    Nathan

    • Nathan,

      Thanks for your comments.

      If the fact that your temple is 95% white is ever going to change, you and I can’t do it alone. We need the help of many people like Andrea. Which is why I would never say to Andrea, “It’s okay if you don’t go to a temple, because you’re not a vital part of the sangha.”

      The extent to which I can speak for all sanghas in America is this: there is no sangha that doesn’t need Andrea. I solemnly affirm this, and will not retract it. There’s no temple about which I would say, “Don’t go there, because you’d be wasting your time.”

      Are there specific temples you know of that you certainly would be unwelcoming and unproductive?

  13. Thanks so much for your comment Nathan and Bija.

    Bija has a definate opinion on the matter. I can respect that. The message, I think, is despite what I may assume I am welcome. And nothing will change if I just stay home. And if I go, I may just be surprised.

    I think Buddhist as a whole are a welcoming group.

    However, my questions still remains unanswered. If I live in the wrong part of town and your temple or sangha isn’t, how am I to know I’m welcome. How am I to know that Zen is beautiful? How am I to know that I save myself and that is a good thing?

    For instance:
    The Orlando Zen Circle holds meetings in a yoga studio on N. Thornton Ave. The nearby houses start in the mid $200k, can easily average $300k. The exact opposite of the neighborhood I am trying to reach. And no one from the wrong side of the tracks is just going to just get on the bus and go to some meeting in a Yoga Studio. I would. But I’m not worried about reaching me. My world has expanded exponentially. The people I worry about reaching, still live in a very small world. We have to reach out to them first. And if your sangha is in an upper or middle class neighborhood, you have to reach a little further. And the ones that are, need the spread the word.

    And I think you are also right Nathan, saying they are welcome isn’t going to cut it. And doesn’t make it so. If you want diversity you do have to work for it.

    But I really should practice what I preach: those of us who aren’t living in such a small world anymore have to reach both ways. And when I verify that I am welcome I should spread the word.

    And lest we all forget, Florida can sometimes be a different country

    I have an early day tomorrow.

    Much love to you both.

    • I am put off, for various reasons, from large temples for practice. I really encourage looking for a small group to sit with. They may be more receptive or you more comfortable. The post is here and it may provide some leads. It took me around a year of searching (blondly mostly) to find a group here in Rapid City (70,000 population) but we are mostly Christian out here so I had to do quite a bit of detective work.

      When I move back to the East Coast, I plan on temple-hopping until I find one that fits me (Mahayana, Zen, Vajrayana or Theravadan). Its open season.

      Cheers,
      John

  14. Andrea, I think you raise a very important point about access to a zen center. As you so aptly said, “If I live in the wrong part of town and your temple or sangha isn’t, how am I to know I’m welcome?” I’ve sometimes thought that if I win the Publisher’s Clearing House jackpot, or whatever you call it, I would give some of it to the Austin Zen Center, or buy a big piece of land in the hill country outside of Austin (in the country) so we could have another monastery like Tassajara in the wilderness of California. But a better choice might be to go to the east side of town (the part that hasn’t been bought up and yuppified) and buy a run down house on a bus line. Then we could start helping people fix their own run down houses, provide a place for kids to come after school while their mamas and daddies are working their two jobs, etc., etc. Maybe the idea isn’t to go to someplace pretty and quiet in nature, but to make an oasis in a place that’s gritty and noisy. P.S. It’s probably not very zen to hope to win the jackpot or to play the lottery, but I think you can do zen things with money, like give it away!

  15. Thank you so much for this piece of noble speech. 🙂

    As a mixed girl learning dhamma, I’m extraordinarily blessed to live near a super-accessible, donation-based, non-temple-looking meditation center in downtown Oakland that has weekly sittings for people of color. The feeling in that room on Thursday nights has just got that something that, as you say, can’t be explained, only understood.

    Hope to be reading and hearing more from you! Thanks for benefiting all of us by sticking with the practice. We’re in it together.

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