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Lions Roar : July 2019
What is your current or next project? Doing laundry. Favorite meditation practice? The only practice I have is zazen. Recommended dharma books? Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken; Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi by Taigen Dan Leighton; Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui by J. C. Cleary. Your favorite virtue? Even-mindedness, or having no favorites. Your chief characteristic? Having favorites. Your principal poison? Ignorance. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? I’ve never had a worst job, although I’ve had some pretty crummy jobs, like working the drive-through window at Jack in the Box for $1.90 an hour. The problem was not the work—the problem was that I smelled like a Jumbo Jack for one whole summer. Name three of your heroes. There are infinitely more fallen heroes among us than heroes, so I’ll quote Fred Rogers who once said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” The natural talent you’d most like to have? Keeping my mouth shut. Your favorite author? I don’t read much nonfiction, but when it comes to fiction, I’m a total fangirl. I never miss an opportunity to read Jonathan Fran- zen, Marilynne Robinson, Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kazuo Ishiguro, Louise Erdrich, or George Saunders, to name a few. The list could go on and on. Your favorite musician or group? Nothing beats the songbirds singing in the bamboo outside my window right now. What’s for dinner? This is my koan. It takes me until 6 p.m . every day to answer it. A motto that represents you? “When you sit, just sit.” I won’t say it represents me, but it com- pletely embodies my aspiration. Guilty pleasure? Surely you don’t expect me to have just one. MEET A TEACHER Karen Maezen Miller I WAS BORN IN CALIFORNIA and lived there until I was twelve, when my family moved to Texas. I finished school, then opened a public relations agency in Houston. I had that job for nearly twenty years. After my marriage ended and my life more or less fell apart, I attended my first retreat with Maezumi Roshi in 1993. When we met, Maezumi casually asked what I did for a living. I was sort of embarrassed that I worked in PR—it seemed so “un-Buddhist.” Like a lot of beginners, I thought I needed to devote myself to something more spiritually high-minded. However, when I told him, he nodded and said, “Buddha was a public relations man. He worked in human relations.” Eventually, I realized it was true. Buddhism is human relations. And a little PR has kept it going all this time. In 1997, I moved back to California with my second husband. That’s when I began to practice more seriously, not only on a cushion, but also by raising a daughter and caring for our home, pets, garden, and surrounding community. We live in Sierra Madre, a little town outside of Los Angeles, where everyone knows everyone else. Neighbors wave when you pass by, and we watch each other’s kids grow up. These days I travel to a lot of different places whenever I’m asked and offer meditation retreats. My practice is the only thing I have to share, and I love to share it. I love the dharma. ♦ LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 33 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE