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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2009 61 people and freaked them out. But to me, that’s the point. i want a teacher who can kick my butt and show me to my edge.” roshi’s direct style can get her into trouble. over the years, several people have left upaya because of conflicts. “roshi joan trusts her own judgment,” says Marty Peale, one of upaya’s earli- est residents. “But you don’t have to agree with her, and you don’t have to stay.” Peale had a falling out with roshi joan in 1999 and left the community. after six years, however, the death of a mu- tual friend brought them together again. now Peale is a winter caretaker at Prajna and a mentor in the Chaplaincy Program. She says that even while their relationship was strained, she knew that roshi’s love for her was still strong, and she acknowledges that such challenges are very human. “We have to know that we do cause suffering—she does cause suffering—and not be dis- couraged by that,” says Peale. “Such ups and downs can serve us; they are part of the path.” When asked about roshi’s difficult side, natalie goldberg says, “once or twice, she has been confrontational with me in a way that wasn’t so skillful. But we talked about it, and it was fine.” She adds, “i’m not afraid of her power. i’m proud of her as a woman. i root for her. She stands up and believes in herself. Women don’t know how to support women in success, and that’s hard for her.” “My approach to things is quite direct,” roshi agrees, “which isn’t always a comfortable thing for anybody. and moreover, i’m not al- ways right.” She laughs. “You can be direct and off two degrees, and you can really make quite a mess of things. or you can be direct and be really accurate, but your timing could be really wrong. or the person can’t sustain what you’re reflecting. it’s tough. “People don’t like that in a woman. if i had been born into a man’s body, i’d be looked on as a gentle person. But i ended up in a woman’s body. i’m glad i was born into a woman’s body and that at times people find it very difficult to digest how i am. That’s been good to live with because it has precipitated a lot of examination of my own behaviors.” noting that students often project their own issues onto teach- ers, roshi describes three stages of the student-teacher relationship: “idealization, demonization, and if you’re lucky, normalization. if somebody’s idealizing me, i send that energy back to them. one way is to recognize their own basic goodness, to really feel it within yourself. another is to show them what a doofus you are. “i don’t walk around my Zen center like Cardinal richelieu,” she says. “i’m constantly making fun of myself, showing my worst side to everybody, and talking about my failures.” She describes her hospital room in Toronto, where three students sat at her bedside. “The back of my hospital gown was wide open, so when i had to get out of bed, my ass was hanging out. and i was the meditation hall at Upaya Zen Center.