using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : January 2003
36 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 The workshop date was the Saturday before Easter. The day came and miraculously it was in the low sixties. I hustled over early to Bread and Chocolate to grab a cook- ie and touch the recent center of my universe, and then arrived a few minutes late for class. Everyone was silently meditating in a circle. I swirled into my place. “We are going out for most of the day. You’ll have to trust me. Remember: no good or bad. Just one step after another. We’ll see different things. This is a walk of faith.” After two initial writing sessions we bounded outside, eager to be in the weak yet warming sun. But the weekend desolation of industrial St. Paul sobered us. One step after another. This was a silent walk so no one could complain—not that a Midwesterner would do such a thing. But I, an old New Yorker, had to shut up too. I couldn’t encourage, explain, apologize. We just walked bare- faced on this one early April day, slow enough to feel this life. Over the still frozen ground to the tracks, crushing thin pools of ice with our boots. A left foot lifted and placed, then a right. The tun- nel was ahead. Half of us were already walking through the yel- low limestone spiral, built in 1856, a miracle of construction that seemed to turn your mind. Eventually we all made it through to the other side, to sudden country, the hollow, and the first sweetness of open land. Long, pale grasses, just straightening up after the melting weight of snow, and thin, unleafed trees gathered along the lively winding stream. We had walked an hour and a half at the pace of a spi- der. I’d forgotten what this kind of walking does to you. You enter the raw edge of your mind, the naked line between you and your surroundings drops away. Whoever you are or think you are cracks off. We were soul-bare together in the hollow, the place poor Swedish immigrants inhabited a hundred years ago in cardboard shacks. Some people broke off and went down to the stream, put their hands in the cold water. I sat on a stone with my face in the sun. Then we continued on. We didn’t get to the café until almost two o’clock. The place was empty. We filled the tables and burst into writ- ing. I remember looking up a moment into the stunned faces of two people behind the counter. Where did all these people suddenly come from? And none of them are talking? I’d forgotten how strenuous it was to walk so slow for so long. I was tired. When it was time to leave, I had planned to follow the same route back. Oh, no, the students shook their heads and took the lead almost at a trot. A short cut across a bypass over noisy 94 to the zendo. We arrived breathless in twenty minutes. Back in the circle, I inquired, “How was it?”—the first spoken words. I looked around at them. My face fell. I’d been naïve. They ran back here for safety. That walk had rubbed them raw. One woman began: “When we reached the tunnel, I was terrified to go through. It felt like the birth canal.” Another: “I didn’t know where it would lead. I looked at all of us walking like zombies and began to cry. I thought of the Jews going to the chambers.” I remembered two kids in the hollow stopping their pedaling and straddling their bikes, mouths agape, star- ing at us. I had taken comfort in numbers and didn’t worry about how we appeared to the outside. Of course, we must have looked strange. What happened to us? they asked. I checked in with my own body right then. Oh, yes, I felt the way I did after a five or seven day retreat, kind of shattered, new and tremulous. They were feeling the same. One woman said, “I physically felt spring entering the hollow. It was right there when I slowed up enough to feel it. I opened my hand and spring filled it. I swear I also saw winter leaving. Not a metaphor. The real thing.” They were describing experiences I’d had in the zendo after long hours of sitting. But I’d thought that only with- in the confines of those walls and with that cross-legged position I loved, could certain kinds of openings occur. I’d wanted so badly to cling to the old structure I learned with my beloved teacher, the time-worn, true way hand- ed down from temples and monasteries in Japan, that he’d painstakingly brought to us in America. Yes, I loved everything he taught me, but didn’t the Buddha walk around a lot? What I saw now, with these students as wit- nesses, was that it was me who had confined my mind, grasped a practice I learned in my thirties, feeling nothing else was authentic. Nat, what about writing? You’d said it was a true way, but even you didn’t truly believe it. You only wanted to be with your old teacher again when you came back to Minnesota a year ago. You’d returned to St. Paul, it turns out, not to let go, but to find him. Like a child, you’d never really believed he’d died. Certainly you’d discover him again up here, but your body couldn’t sit in the old way. You happened upon him, but all new. What was Zen anyway? There was you and me, living and dying, eating cake. There was the sky, there were mountains, rivers, prairies, horses, mosquitoes, justice, injustice, integrity, cucumbers. The structure was bigger than any structure I could conceive. I had fallen off the zafu, that old round cushion, into the vast unknown. I looked again at these students in a circle. This day we Natalie and a plate of cookies. Photo by Rich Davidson. The café had become the zendo, a chocolate chip cookie, the practice: small bites, several chews. Oh, how I clung.