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Lions Roar : September 2018
What is your practice tradition? My parents are Vipassana practitioners, so I started in that tradition. I’m a Zen priest, and the majority of my formal training has been in Japanese monastic Soto Zen. I sit zazen, but sneak in loving-kindness meditation when no one is watching. Primary teachers? I was ordained by Seido Suzuki Roshi and received dharma trans- mission from him. However, I attribute surviving my twenties and becoming an adult to Aoyama Shundo Roshi, the abbess of the con- vent in Japan where I trained. My husband, mom, and dad encourage me to be less of an asshole, so they’re also my teachers. What is your current or next project? I’m writing a cookbook of vegetarian Japanese food called Just Enough and I’m scheming on my third book, which is a feminist anti-self-help book called Men Are from Earth, and Women Are Also from Earth. Recommended dharma books? Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, and All About Love by bell hooks. Your favorite virtue? Kind and appropriate honesty. Your principal poison? Selfish grumpiness and wine. Your idea of happiness? I feel like I’m supposed to say something wise and teacherly, like, “When I’m at peace with the vicissitudes of life,” or “Happiness is only real when shared.” But for me happiness is sitting on the couch with my dog in my lap eating popcorn and watching TV with my husband. Your idea of misery? Being trapped in a cycle of self-hate. Name three of your heroes. Yasodhara, Angela Davis, and grandmothers who cook. The natural talent you’d most like to have? Being outgoing. Your favorite musician or group? Kesha, Lauryn Hill, and Tove Lo. Your favorite current TV show? The Good Place. Guilty pleasure? After so many years with a shaved head, I feel pretty guilty and pleased to have hair. MEET A TEACHER Gesshin Greenwood I WAS BORN IN 1986 in San Francisco to two unapologetic hippies. My first meditation retreat was at Spirit Rock when I was nineteen years old, and after that I was hooked. I spent my entire spring break sophomore year of college at Insight Medita- tion Society sitting back-to-back Vipassana retreats. Then I went to India on a Buddhist study abroad program in Bodhgaya, where I temporarily ordained in the Burmese tradition. I graduated from college in 2009, right after the economy crashed. I was a poet and there were literally zero jobs—for poets or anyone else. Buddhism was my main passion so I found my way back to Asia and eventually to Japan, where a friend introduced me to the abbot of a Zen monastery that accepted women and foreigners. I practiced there as a layperson for a year and then ordained as a nun. I ended up training at a Zen convent called Aichi Nisodo for another three years. When I left the convent, I began writing a blog called That’s So Zen, which became surprisingly popular. Through my blog I met the man who’s now my husband, as well as Zen teacher James Ford, whom I help lead retreats at Blue Cliff Zen Sangha. I live in Los Angeles and am planning to start a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy next year. My first book, Bow First, Ask Questions Later, came out in May. ♦ SYDNEYANGEL LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 29 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE