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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 59 FRANK JUDE BOCCIO was bending down, looking for something on a lower shelf in a crowded bookstore in New York City, when sud- denly—and seemingly on its own steam—Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind fell from above and hit him on the head. Because he had been interested in Buddhism since high school, Boccio took this whack like he would have taken a whack from a Zen master wielding a keisaku stick; it was an opportunity to wake up. Buying the book, Boccio decided to check out his local dharma center. That happened in 1976, at a point when Boccio had been practicing yoga for about six months and was already starting to feel like something was missing. “We were told that our practice was in the service of meditation,” he says, “but there was no real meditation happening in class.” True yoga is a comprehensive practice, yet here in the West most yoga classes could more accurately be called asana classes, claims Boccio, who is now a yoga teacher, a lay brother in the Tiep Hien Order established by Thich Nhat Hanh, and a dharma teacher ordained by Korean Zen master Samu Sunim. “Asana has lots of benefits,” he says, “but it’s not yoga if it’s not practiced within the full context of yoga.” These days Boccio compares the integration of his yoga and Buddhist meditation to the oneness of walking and sitting medita- tion. “At a vipassana retreat,” he says, “you alternate evenly between forty-five minutes of walking and forty-five minutes of sitting. While sitting is in many ways central, you don’t go walking just to prepare for it. Walking is another way of practicing mindfulness. Likewise for me, asana practice is not really a complement or a pre- liminary to sitting. It’s another way of practicing mindfulness.” That’s why, he explains, he called his book Mindfulness Yoga and not Mindful Yoga. “You can say, ‘We’re practicing triangle posture mindfully,’ or you can say, ‘We’re practicing mindfulness through triangle posture.’ The latter is my approach now.” Taking note of the many people who are currently blend- ing yoga and Buddhism, Boccio thinks this is an exciting time for both traditions. But, he quickly adds, it’s not the first time such an exchange has taken place. “Before Buddhism died out in India, there was tremendous diversity at schools like Nalanda. Yogis, Buddhists, and non-Buddhists would gather, debate each other, and practice together. Now, a little over a thousand years later, we’re going back to that conversation.” And it’s a conversation we need to have. “If everybody thinks like you,” Boccio says, “you tend not to question, and that’s what you often see in very insular communities. When you engage with other people, on the other hand, you become clearer about your true beliefs; you stop taking things on faith. I definitely feel much more enriched by the conversation.” who combine hatha yoga and Buddhist meditation. Is this the perfect mind–body practice? Frank Jude Boccio: Mindfulness Yoga BENVOLL(left),SAN’GAMONICAWEINHEIMER(right) JULY 58-65.indd 59 JULY 58-65.indd 59 4/28/08 10:18:32 AM 4/28/08 10:18:32 AM