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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 85 the bell three times and looked around at the folded chairs leaning against the wall, the socks, backpacks, notebooks, cushions, and purses strewn over the floor. We were in the Northeast, with its cluster of cities, turnpikes, brown ragged winter rivers, smokestacks, and huddled trees. All of us were in sweaters and stretchy pants, with our knobby knees and nervous hands, the prescriptions we took that morning, our wishes to be better, our patchwork ears and small lips—all quiet and present. Nothing left out. I rang the bell once. Time was up. I had a long ride on the Connecticut turnpike to catch a plane; my suitcases were already standing by the door. No one moved. The air hung thick. Surges of gratitude filled the room. My chest felt enormous, like a big resounding liberty bell. A single thought went through me: my heart and Katagiri’s are the same. Katagiri Roshi, a Japanese Zen Master dead seventeen years, had been my true teacher of the Way for twelve. Now, as the sound of the bell faded, the two of us were unencumbered by time or fear. All at once the veils lifted. I didn’t need to start a mon- astery or be anyone else to prove my wor- thiness. We each stood our own ground. Follow your heart, my post-World War II generation espoused. But who of us really knew our shattered hearts? I thought I’d followed mine. It led to pain and frustration, and the parts of my life I hadn’t claimed became my fate. Before I left my mother’s, she broached “the death” subject. Of course we never said the word, but she implied she might not be around much longer. She used it as a guilt ploy: “So when are you visiting me again? You never know...” This time I decided to back into it. “Mom, you never feel well. You going might not be a bad thing. It might be a relief.” We’d never come so close to mentioning, even intimat- ing, the unbelievable possibility that my mother, daughter of Rose and Sam, could die someday. I held my breath. She looked down into her soup. “I’ll miss you and your sister.” A moment we stepped in together. Was this what heart was? Our hearts are busy sucking the marrow of our ancestors, seiz- ing their bones to make life. How do we receive this human transmission? When we in the West entered the lin- eage, taking vows with our Zen teachers, we were turning our hearts to a path many of us hadn’t articulated before—a path of leaving home, of rooting in the rootless, of dropping the weary old yellow coat of ourselves. Yet at times I’ve landed on the ground of my heart—the great moment has final- ly arrived, and all I want to do is jump out of my skin and avoid it. The Eastern view is that the heart is in the guts, closer to our center of gravity, not so easily toppled. For a long time I’d been trying to wrestle my way out of the student/teacher dynamic with Roshi. I’d written a book about my love for him and, more recently, another about my disappointments. I’d learned to hold opposite emotions for this man, not grabbing the dark or the light, but this Sunday morning a third place emerged, freer, fuller, more whole. Compassion is an overused word—and it wasn’t compassion. My aspirations, my longings, my effort and determina- tion, my human gaps and frailties—he had them too. We were in it together. And it was so much bigger than us—the snowy mountains, the iced rivers, the vast sky also was pushing, pulling, straining, humming. Yet none of it was merged or indistinct. He was who he was; the high- way was the highway; the windows were in place, the carpet and the door. I was who I was, and suddenly the outside wind confirmed all of this. Sometimes you step into something large and you can’t refute it. That’s what happened in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was my responsibility not to do anything, but to receive this understanding, like I was a starving person at a banquet but waiting my turn with great ease. While waiting for a table at Bobcat Bite, London and I were going to do synonyms after opposites. A popsicle and a kite, Batman and a lemonade, a muscle and a turkey. My heart and your heart—no interfer- ence. ♦ The Rules of Victory makes Sun Tzu’s lessons on strategy and lead- ership accessible and relevant in today’s world, showing how to establish momentum and create a turning point in any campaign or project. The Rules of Victory Shambhala Publications SEPT 80-99.indd 85 SEPT 80-99.indd 85 7/3/08 1:34:41 PM 7/3/08 1:34:41 PM