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Lions Roar : November 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 57 IN A HOSPITAL ROOM in Buffalo, New York, Trudy Goodman had a spiritual experience she had no way to understand. Goodman was only twenty-one at the time, and her then husband was not much older. So young, so inexperienced, they knew nothing about childbirth. While she was wracked by con- tractions, he felt helpless and started to read. But it was incon- gruous—his book, her pain. Goodman lost her patience and told her husband to leave. For the next four hours, she labored alone. Only a nurse checked in on her every hour or so. In her aloneness, in her intense pain, Goodman discovered a “pinnacle of now-ness,” she says. It was vast. It was deep. It was her realizing her connection to every being who had come before and to every being who would ever follow. Two years later Goodman was in a hospital in Geneva, Swit- zerland, with her university professor who was dying. There were six doctors crowded around the tiny, sick body in the bed, and Goodman found herself experiencing another profound opening. After that she started searching for answers, delving into the teachings of mystics and yogis. “They’d say, ‘Eat arti- chokes,’ ” she tells me, “they’d say this and that.” But it never felt right. Then her childhood friend Jon Kabat-Zinn invited her to a talk by the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn. “That first time I heard him speak, I saw that he knew what I knew and he knew what I needed to know,” says Goodman. The principal figure in Buddhism is the teacher, a role traditionally dominated by men. ANDREA MILLER profiles three women teachers who are changing the face of Buddhism and making the teachings whole. It was something in his eyes, rather than anything he said. “In fact,” she continues, “Seung Sahn spoke Pidgin English. He said, ‘The sky is blue, the grass is green.’ Real simple Zen talk, but I remember crying. Just weeping with relief, feeling like I’d come home. That’s how I met the dharma.” Today, more than three decades later, Trudy Goodman is the founder and guiding teacher of InsightLA, a community in Los Angeles that offers daily sitting groups, weekend retreats, and a variety of Buddhist and secular mindfulness classes. She’s committed to making meditation practice available to people with busy, urban lives, but without turning the practice into what she calls “McMindfulness.” As she describes it, her teaching style is “Vipassana with a strong Zen flavor.” When Goodman began studying the dharma in the 1970s, there were very few women Buddhist teachers. Among promi- nent teachers a gender imbalance still exists today, yet it is cause for celebration that here in the West, women are increasingly taking their place at the podium. Some Buddhists claim that to emphasize the importance of women teachers is to genderize the dharma. They believe that the dharma is the dharma and, therefore, it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman teaching it. But if gender doesn’t matter, then why shouldn’t there be more women teachers? Why have women been excluded? As scholar Rita Gross has said of the work of Buddhist feminists, Feminine Principal PHOTOSBYTRACYFRANK,ANDREADEKEIJZER,ANDREAROTH Trudy Goodman, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, and Lama Palden Drolma