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Lions Roar : September 2017
Anthony Stultz: You’re in recovery from a stroke that you suffered in January 2016. It affected the right side of your body. What about your mind—or at least, your brain? Before my stroke I would say that my brain was oriented around getting things done, and I was not as thoughtful or thankful for what was going on around me. I was a person who thought, “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that. If you can’t help me then I will move on to somebody else.” Because of my stroke I went much deeper into the question of gratitude. How so? When you have a stroke, you are dealing with something pretty major. I had so many caretakers, all coordinated by my wife, Eve. That job was much more difficult than what I was going through. And what came up for me in seeing what she was doing, and what other people were doing, was just a great sense of gratitude. The other side of my brain is much more active now and gratitude is much more important, which is part of the third tenet of the Zen Peacemaker Order— “taking action.” What are the other two? The first is “not knowing”—letting go of fixed ideas. The second is “bearing wit- ness”—totally immersing oneself in the situations that one is involved in. It’s hard to say one tenet is more important than another but the third... for me, that is what has led me to be involved with social action. What’s your take on how Zen and social action work together? There are many Buddhist teachers, including mine, who would empha- size sitting and knowing the truth, not on doing. My own emphasis on social engagement (and the reason I ran into trouble when starting out) caused people to think that what I was doing wasn’t Zen. I love shikantaza (just sitting), but if it ain’t got that thing, it ain’t got that swing! In the first days after your stroke, you told Eve that you were in a very restful state of nonthinking. But then she reminded you that Q&A After a Stroke, Still Loving Life Pioneering Zen teacher ROSHI BERNIE GLASSMAN may have suffered a physical setback, but he’s recovering now—and even grateful for the experience. RAMIEFAL you’ve said that the purpose of Zen is not nonthinking. How has your view changed? First, I have the same opinion as Shakyamuni Buddha: that we all change and that’s what we are all about. In the hospital after my stroke, I was really gung-ho, doing exercises almost all day. In between them, I was lying onmybedinastateofnon- thinking—not being attached to a thought that comes up. I was just simply doing that. Nobody told me to. Do you think this was a positive factor in your recovery? Looking back at that period, I see that it was extremely important for my being to refresh itself. In fact, what I learned later on as I began reading about the brain is that the brain actually rewires itself when you are resting. My exercise, which is based upon the work of the exercise therapist Moshe Feldenkrais, also taught me this. But before knowing about all these concepts, I was letting my brain rewire itself and then, on to the next exercise. And I believe this is what led the therapists at the rehab place to say that I was going much faster than most people in rehabilitation for a stroke. It is not common to have as much motion as I had so quickly. If you are doing meditation, you are seeing thoughts happening almost in slow motion, which allows you to see them in a very enlightened way. I think that is what I did in rehab. ♦ LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 15