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Lions Roar : January 2015
affiliated with the Buddhist Recovery Network. (Visit LionsRoar.com for an exclusive interview with that pro- gram’s director, Luke Holland.) And this January, the center will host a workshop called “Undoing Racism.” But don’t think it’s all such serious business. “Spiri- tual awakening can be painful as hell,” Snyder says, “so it should also be fun! I think of that quote from Emma Goldman: ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’ I feel the same way: If I can’t dance, who wants awakening?” So it follows that the center is a lively place, filled with laughter and creativity, thanks to innovations like their “Jazz Mindfulness” night, or the use of the cen- ter’s kitchen and eating area as a social hub and gallery for art created by BZC adults and kids alike. During my weekend visit with them, members were prepar- ing to walk as a group at the massive People’s Climate March in Manhattan. They were excited to be a part of something so big and important—there would be 400,000 marchers in all—but they were also just happy to be together. And even when things are quieter, there’s a noticeably joyous, friendly charge in the air and an informality that may seem incongruous with the com- mon idea of Zen temples as bastions of austerity. That’s no accident. “We’re always asking ourselves, to what degree do you release the trappings of what Zen looks like so that everybody feels comfortable coming in? There are a lot fewer robes around here than at most Zen centers,” Snyder notes. “We reserve them for high ceremonies but don’t necessarily wear them day-to-day. We circle cushions during talks instead of keeping them in straight lines. We try to do whatever is appropriate for the day, and who’s actually in the room.” This attitude also allows Snyder to enter more rooms, as it were, himself. “I’m a priest, but I don’t look like one, except for my hair. That means I can do mindfulness instruction in public school systems, which I’d be unable to do if the approach weren’t totally secular.” Head teacher Teah Strozer, who divides her time between San Francisco and Brooklyn, mentions two teachers she stud- ied with as clear influences in this regard. “Suzuki Roshi was very radical when he came to the U.S., because he let men and women practice together right away. That was almost unheard of in Japan. He wanted us to turn toward what American Zen was going to look like, to have a real curiosity and openness, a readiness of mind. And Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, when he first came, didn’t introduce the traditional forms and initiation practices he knew until years later.” Likewise, Strozer says, “We want, first, to listen: What can the community handle? What can it not? What does it need?” aS If They dIdn’T have plenty to do already, the BZC leadership is in negotiation to purchase a property in Con- necticut that would serve as a dedicated monastery and retreat center. It seems like a shocking amount of growth for a center that’s just ten years old, but it’s not mere ambition that’s driv- ing BZC to found a monastic place of practice. It’s really about balance, says Strozer, “Our vision is to have it all be permeable. For example, with the monastery we can have an ongoing schedule where laypeo- ple can come for a weekend and join in. Everybody needs to put in time on the cushion, and ongoing continuity of mind- fulness is easier to do in a monastery than with the distractions of the city. Then they take that practice back to the city. And their presence informs our monastery, so that the greed, hate, and delusion we can see so clearly in the city are not forgotten by the monastics.” ➢ page 72 BZC head teacher Soshin Teah Strozer splits her time between Brooklyn and San Francisco. SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2015 45