Dennis, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was born and raised in a Polish Catholic family. After 18 years of following the Catholic tradition, he began questioning aspects of it during his college years in Denver, Colorado. This led him to explore various Christian denominations, ultimately embracing Presbyterianism and becoming a born-again Christian, a faith he has followed for 15 years.

Married for 25 years with a 21-year-old daughter attending the University of San Diego, Dennis shared a pivotal moment from his early dating years when he attended a seminar at a Zen Center at the suggestion of his future wife. Intrigued by Zen teachings, he found the philosophy to be more open and inclusive than his previous religious experiences. Dissatisfied with certain aspects of Christianity, such as the concept of salvation and the fear of hell, Dennis delved into Zen Buddhism, appreciating its fluidity and lack of strict doctrines.

Dennis encourages individuals to explore different religions, emphasizing the importance of finding a belief system that resonates personally. He challenges the notion of faith driven by fear, particularly the fear of hell, and suggests that overcoming this fear opens one’s perspective to a broader understanding of spirituality.

Discussing Zen, Dennis highlights its focus on unity and oneness, contrasting it with the rigid distinctions of good and evil found in some religions. He draws parallels between Zen and ancient beliefs, such as Native American spirituality, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of all living things.

Reflecting on personal experiences, Dennis shares childhood traditions, such as a symbolic crawling choice at age 11, offering insights into one’s inherent preferences. He suggests that early passions and desires often get overshadowed by societal expectations but may resurface later in life.

In conclusion, Dennis advocates aligning internal passions with external goals for a more fulfilling life. He believes that understanding and embracing one’s innate gifts and desires contribute to a sense of purpose and well-being.

When were you first exposed to dharma?

I didn’t know much about Buddhism prior to attending an Introductory Seminar held at the Denver Zen Center. My wife encouraged me to go, and as I had just been laid off from my job, I had “nothing better to do.” I resonated with Buddhism because of its emphasis on silent meditation. I was always attracted to silent meditation, remembering the quiet time after Communion and silent prayer in Christian traditions. The old saying, “Be quiet and you will know God.” Also, I had many unanswered questions in regard to Christian religions that no one could answer, and it seemed to me that a lot of people believed in Jesus / God, because they were more afraid of the alternative – life of eternal damnation if they didn’t. Zen offered its own unique path, with no one telling you what to believe. A path of self-discovery.

How has the path manifest in your daily experience?

One of the first things Zen influenced me on was becoming a vegetarian. I began to “feel” the harm of slaughterhouses and that it was so unnecessary. We eat far too much meat in our country. I haven’t hardly eaten any meat in 25 years, which is reflected in high energy and excellent blood cholesterol levels. My doctor continually marvels as to how my body physically appears that of a 30-year-old. In terms of work, people say I don’t get upset and overwhelmed by projects and take things one step at a time in a very calm manner. I have let go of constant complaining about job assignments. I don’t waste mental energy thinking about how I wish things would be different. I am more accepting of the way things are, which allows me more freedom.

If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you?

I didn’t explore many other lineages. I did attend a two week “Oneness” seminar in India, which was parallel to Buddhism and helped to break open my practice. It was very transformative. Like the Buddha, I was no longer on a treadmill, which can occur in any spiritual practice when followed for many years. I leveraged what I learned in Zen (silence and acceptance) and was able to open to the world. I now continue in Zen, going deeper in my practice with silence. With my teacher I am able to convey aspects of my understanding, but she is a guide, and my practice is my own journey.

Enlightenment is just an opening.
It’s an opening that just gets bigger
and bigger and bigger.

What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)

Silent meditation is key for me. I love sitting on summer evenings beneath a large maple tree during the summer evening and listening to all the evening sounds and just letting go.

Which sangha do you normally attend?

I belong to the Zen Center of Denver, where I am an assistant teacher and Head of Zendo. It is great to belong to a community of fellow practitioners to help motivative and inspire you in your practice. It is difficult to do silent meditation by oneself, as there is always other stuff you would rather be doing, but sitting with a group motivates a person to sit quietly for longer periods of time.

What is your primarily profession?

I work in the Corporate Strategy department for a large telecommunications company. I am calm and able to flow with the daily demands of the job, without becoming bogged down in mental games. I try to be respectful to others and treat them without judgments. I am open to new ideas or ways of doing things. I don’t cling to any of the old patterns or ways of doing things.


I have far less fear than before. I can see people
without judging them to be bad or good

Christianity Comparison

Dennis reflects on the intersection of Zen Buddhism and Christianity, addressing misconceptions that some Christians may hold about alternative practices like yoga and meditation. He acknowledges the comfort some find in the black-and-white nature of traditional beliefs but emphasizes the challenges others face in reconciling stark contrasts, such as opposing views on abortion and the death penalty.

Delving into historical parallels between Buddha and Jesus, Dennis poses intriguing questions about the similarities in their teachings, pondering whether Jesus may have drawn inspiration from Buddha’s ideas. He explores biblical passages, such as Jesus’ enigmatic conversation with Nicodemus, drawing parallels between certain Zen koans and Jesus’ teachings.

Dennis suggests that the journey to reconcile Christianity with Zen requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone. He shares his own experience of seeking answers to profound questions, expressing frustration with the notion of waiting for answers until after death. Encouraging self-discovery, he urges individuals to question and explore their beliefs rather than blindly accepting dogma.

Critiquing the interpretation of certain Bible verses and challenging traditional narratives, Dennis advocates for critical examination and individual research. He highlights inconsistencies in religious history, from the Council of Nicaea’s decision on Jesus’ divinity to the adoption of Christianity by Emperor Nero.

In conclusion, Dennis encourages a thoughtful and open-minded approach to spirituality, urging people to embrace the freedom of self-discovery and exploration rather than adhering strictly to predefined beliefs.

Practice Journey

Dennis reflects on his spiritual journey, drawing parallels between his experiences in Catholicism, Presbyterianism, and Zen Buddhism. He highlights the transformative power of silent communion, expressing a preference for quiet prayer over vocalized rituals. Dennis delves into the physical challenges of Zen meditation, detailing his struggles with pain and numbness but emphasizing the clarity it brings to his mind.

He narrates a pivotal moment during a retreat in India where his deep desire for spiritual connection led to a profound experience. The pain of sitting for extended periods dissipated, and a sense of unity with the universe unfolded. Dennis explores the significance of personal desire in spiritual growth and self-discovery.

Addressing changes in his lifestyle, Dennis discusses his shift to vegetarianism prompted by empathy for animal suffering. He shares the positive impact on his health and challenges the notion of protein necessity, emphasizing the freedom he feels in making choices aligned with his values.

Dennis concludes by embracing a more open and free approach to life, influenced by Zen teachings. He interprets the idea of the truth setting one free as liberation from the suffering associated with the fear of death and loss, encouraging others to accept life’s realities.

What teachings/practices have had the greatest impact on your life?

I have far less fear than before. I can see people without judging them to be bad or good. I see the humanity in all people, from people on the Street to Wall Street executives. I greet people calmly and am not upset by the daily flow of “good, but mainly bad news” presented on TV and the Internet.

I see the world in continual expansion. Everything is evolving and expanding, since the Universe was created. I believe in destiny, that your path was chosen before you were born. Not the exact path, but a circuitous path that leads you in the general direction. I believe when you die, you merge with this Universe and quite possibly the goal of our life is to contribute to expanding this Universe. Death comes when you stop expanding. You must continually create and be open. You must take care of your physical body as it is a gift as well as your questioning spiritual nature. Everyone and everything has the spiritual light inside them.

The Zen Practice

Dennis reflects on the transformative nature of Zen meditation, describing it as an unexplainable process that occurs during stillness. He believes that meditation lowers vibrational energy, fostering openness and, subsequently, compassion. While noting his pre-existing compassion, Zen provided him the freedom to express it openly, emphasizing the intrinsic value of compassionate actions.

He contrasts the Zen perspective on love thy neighbor with the biblical interpretation, highlighting the interconnectedness of self and neighbor in Zen teachings. Dennis asserts that doing good deeds is not a point-collecting exercise for a heavenly reward but a means to feel good and foster positive change in oneself.

Dennis explores the gradual evolution of perspective through meditation, where the motivation for doing good shifts from external validation to an internal desire for personal well-being. He delves into the concept of good and evil, emphasizing the intuitive knowledge everyone possesses about what is right.

Addressing issues like cyberbullying, Dennis suggests that Zen enables self-reflection, allowing individuals to understand why they engage in certain behaviors. Meditation, according to Dennis, breaks down walls of fear, offering multiple perspectives and reducing reactionary responses rooted in fear.

In conclusion, Dennis asserts that meditation lessens fear, whether it’s fear of death, others, or societal differences. By diminishing fear, meditation expands one’s range of reactions, fostering a more compassionate and open-minded approach to life’s challenges.


Dennis shares his journey with Zen meditation, initially attending week-long silent retreats for about ten years. Despite physical pain, he persevered through the challenges. However, a shift occurred when a teacher suggested attending the retreat at least four times a year for meaningful progress. Due to work constraints and family obligations, Dennis faced a dilemma.

He took a break from intense Zen practice to introduce his daughter to Buddhism, choosing a more open and inclusive environment for her upbringing. After a hiatus, Dennis returned to Zen but at a less intensive pace. The turning point came during a two-week retreat in India, involving both Zen and broader Buddhist practices. The experience, marked by two weeks of silence, pushed him to confront discomfort and showcased a level of toughness he had gained through Zen.

Dennis reflects on the importance of self-motivation in Zen practice, emphasizing that no one can force the desire for spiritual growth. He recounts an incident during the India retreat where participants struggled with an extended meditation session, highlighting the significance of personal commitment. For Dennis, Zen taught him resilience and self-determination.

He touches on the difficulties some people face in their spiritual journey, from active minds to past traumas, expressing gratitude for his comparatively calm and fortunate upbringing. Dennis acknowledges the barriers others confront, such as negative self-images or painful pasts. In contrast, his struggles were primarily physical, lacking the additional emotional or psychological challenges faced by some practitioners.

Function of Sangha 

Dennis, reflecting on his 25-year journey in Zen, notes a shift in its rigor since 1995. Initially, the practice followed a more stringent Renzi path, emphasizing endurance through physical pain. However, he observes a contemporary trend towards a more Soto-like, flowing approach, challenging the traditional strictness.

Remaining committed to a traditional stance, Dennis discourages comfort-seeking during meditation, stressing the importance of a sincere desire for enlightenment. He views meditation as a personal commitment, and the community, referred to as “Sanghas,” plays a vital role. The communal meditation sessions, lasting a week, provide a structured environment that is hard to replicate alone.

In his role as an assistant teacher, Dennis assists in introductory seminars, emphasizing the importance of the meditative container and quiet sitting. He acknowledges diverse approaches in Zen, contrasting silent meditation with guided practices involving music or spoken instructions. Dennis highlights the importance of conscious choice in maintaining focus during meditation, a skill honed through Zen practice.

He shares an analogy of a stranger in a clean house, representing distracting thoughts during meditation. The story illustrates the need to eventually dismiss intrusive thoughts, returning to the peace and quiet within. Dennis concludes by emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual’s enlightenment journey, underscoring that experiences are personal and cannot be imparted by others.


Dennis, sharing his perspective as a Zen teacher, emphasizes the role of a teacher as a guide rather than a source of enlightenment. He dismisses the notion of seeking renowned teachers, emphasizing that the individual must undertake the journey to understanding and enlightenment.

Reflecting on his diverse religious background, Dennis acknowledges his limitations in certain faiths but draws from his experiences to relate to students. He recognizes the inability to eradicate pain or serve as a substitute for professional help in cases of emotional trauma, distinguishing the teacher’s role from that of a counselor.

Highlighting the individuality of teachers, Dennis asserts that there is no prescribed mold for their approach. Encouragement emerges as a crucial aspect of his role, especially in leadership positions. He understands the challenges of the Zen path, stressing the importance of perseverance and encouraging practitioners to stay committed despite potential difficulties. Ultimately, Dennis sees the teacher’s primary role as providing support and motivation on the challenging journey towards enlightenment.

In Business

Dennis shares insights into his corporate career, advising his daughter to playfully describe him as a high-powered middle manager in a Fortune 100 company. Despite acknowledging the ego-driven nature of the corporate world, he expresses contentment with his career choices and credits Zen for allowing him to release unnecessary concerns about status and possessions.

Reflecting on the corporate environment, Dennis discusses the importance of giving credit to others, embracing inclusivity, and fostering an open mindset. He believes that Zen practice enables individuals to let go of ego-driven ambitions, acknowledging the collective effort of a team. Dennis emphasizes the human desire for a good life and happiness, encouraging a shift towards inclusivity and understanding in both personal and professional spheres.

Furthermore, Dennis discusses the value of being open-minded, especially in areas where passion might lead to zealotry. He advocates for a balanced perspective, considering different viewpoints, and encourages individuals to be more open in various aspects of life, from political views to environmental concerns. Ultimately, he suggests that Zen and meditation can contribute to a more compassionate, understanding, and open-minded approach to life.


Dennis reflects on intriguing questions, drawing inspiration from a biblical anecdote about Jesus and Judas. He contemplates the ongoing existence of suffering and the potential grand plan of the universe. Dennis believes that spiritual practice, such as Zen, can provide grounding and instill a sense of gentleness. He recalls attending a peace rally where he observed the counterproductive nature of anger-filled demands for peace.

In discussing the universe’s plan, Dennis acknowledges his personal efforts to influence positive change, citing his choice to ride a bike and adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. He advocates for mindful living, emphasizing the impact of individual choices on global issues, such as deforestation. Dennis suggests that spiritual practice may not eradicate all conflicts but encourages people to contribute positively in their immediate surroundings.

He highlights the historical example of the Puritans, who sought religious freedom in America but soon faced internal conflicts. While recognizing the aspirational goal of global enlightenment, Dennis advises focusing on achievable acts of kindness and understanding in one’s own community. He shares his experience of participating in a nuclear protest, emphasizing the significance of making one’s presence known to promote alternative perspectives without necessarily solving complex issues.


In reflecting on personal relationships, Dennis acknowledges imperfections but expresses gratitude for his fortunate marriage to a fellow Zen practitioner. Together, they share values such as vegetarianism and aim to create a loving atmosphere for their daughter. Dennis emphasizes the importance of inclusivity, rejecting traditional stereotypes and boundaries in parenting.

Despite occasional disagreements, Dennis and his wife understand and accept each other’s differences, attributing their healthy relationship to shared interests and a Buddhist-inspired approach to generosity. Dennis credits Buddhism for helping him maintain focus in his work, handling stress and deadlines with a calm perspective.

Dennis recounts an incident involving a woman in a wheelchair who dropped money outside a grocery store. He calmly assisted her, highlighting the significance of approaching people with calmness and understanding. Sharing stories about responding to aggression with calmness, Dennis advocates for openness and falling for everything, encouraging a compassionate and inclusive attitude toward others. He believes that practicing Zen enables individuals to recognize the humanity in everyone, fostering care and respect for all living things.


Dennis reflects on the concept of enlightenment in Zen practice, emphasizing that it is not a goal or a race but rather an ongoing process of opening up to greater understanding. He discourages the notion of setting specific milestones for enlightenment, highlighting that it is not a linear path and can manifest at any point in one’s practice.

He likens enlightenment to a continuous expansion of awareness, drawing parallels with the universe’s own expansion. Dennis believes that creativity, expressed by artists and musicians, is a form of enlightenment, tapping into a source of energy and flow that is boundless. He dismisses the idea that enlightenment leads to a perfect or rosy existence, noting that it’s more about suffering less and reducing fear, especially regarding the uncertainties of life and death.

Dennis cautions against preconceived notions of what an enlightened person should be, acknowledging that individuals have their unique journeys and may not fit stereotypical expectations. Ultimately, enlightenment, in his view, involves being present, understanding things as they are, and embracing the ongoing process of self-discovery and awareness.

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