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Lions Roar : September 2007
67 Rhino Hits the Midwest Meeting the Chinese in St. Paul: AS A SOTO ZEN STUDENT I had successfully steered clear of koans for almost my full twenty-five years of practice. They were considered more a part of the fierce Rinzai Zen training and seemed enigmatic and scary. How would I know what the sound of one hand clapping was, as one famous koan asked. Koans were meant to be illogical and stump the student, to kick her into another way of thinking—or not thinking—so that she could have insight into the nature of the universe. My old Soto teacher said, “Soto is more like the not-so-bright, kindly elder uncle.” He admired Rinzai and indicated it was for sharper types. Despite my reservations, in 1998 I moved up to St. Paul, Minnesota, for two months to dive into koans. I would study of The Book of Serenity, an ancient Chinese Zen text of one hundred koans (or cases) depicting situations and dia- logues between teacher and student, teacher and teacher, student and student. Driving in the car through Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, crossing one state border after another, I repeated to myself, “Yes, I can do it.” My old friend Phil Willkie and I were going to trade homes for this mid- October through mid-December period. We didn’t know who was getting the better deal. I would live in his three-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up flat on Mackubin in St. Paul, and he would inhabit my solar beer-can-and-tire house on the mesa six miles outside of Taos. by NATALIE GOLDBERG NATALIE GOLDBERG’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away: How to Write Memoir, will be published in February 2008. With filmmaker Mary Feidt, she recently completed the documentary Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan’s childhood on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. She has been a Zen practitioner for over thirty years and teaches workshops and retreats on writing as a Zen practice. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 SEPT 66-71.indd 67 SEPT 66-71.indd 67 6/25/07 5:05:48 PM 6/25/07 5:05:48 PM