I grew up the son, grandson, great grandson, nephew and, now the uncle and brother of Baptist ministers and pastors….
Joking in 1980 as I introduced myself to the workshop leader of a weeklong seminar entitled “Owning your Religious Past”, I described myself as a Zen-Baptist. It was an attempt at the time to show off my witty nature to the attractive teacher. She and I remain married. I didn’t know then, how true the description ‘Zen-Baptist’ would actually become 30 years later.
00:00:00:09 – 00:00:37:22 Dick In in 2010, I had reached a point in alcoholism where I had for decades been hiding, deflecting, trying to keep the fact that I was drinking away from anyone I knew and putting tremendous energy into making sure that even my wife, who I love so dearly, would not know what was going on with me because I was
00:00:37:22 – 00:01:08:05 Dick so ashamed and I was certain that I had to keep drinking for some reason, some something physical. But that’s the nature of addiction. And after going into detox and voluntarily went in, I remember the night up to a point very well when I told Bonnie, This is what I’m planning on doing.
00:01:08:14 – 00:01:26:22 Dick And I revealed the secret that I had health went into detox and realized after weeks of treatment and treatment programs, outpatient work that I needed some support in the community and I did not want to go to a twelve step program.
00:01:26:22 – 00:01:49:12 Dick Everything I had heard about AA. I thought, Well, that’s not me. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with their religion, higher power stuff. And so we found with help on the website a place called Recovery Group using mindfulness practices and meditation.
00:01:49:23 – 00:02:08:19 Dick And there was a typographical error, and it said this is an eleven step meeting and you’re being fairly fragile and not entirely well yet. I thought, Well, that’s not a twelve step meeting. I’ll go, I’ll try it out.
00:02:08:20 – 00:02:36:04 Dick And it was at the local mindfulness center, which was a Tickner time tradition practice center. And it was near our house and that felt important to me. I went open the door, discovered that it was the 11th step of a twelve step program, but they they welcomed all persons interested in a program of recovery.
00:02:37:06 – 00:02:58:04 Dick And I looked around and these were my people. They were on cushions, some chairs. The first part of the meeting was meditation. And unlike what we know about twelve step meetings, which are a lot of talking, this was some silence to reflect.
00:02:59:02 – 00:03:22:21 Dick I went home and told Bonnie about the place, the meeting, and that they had regular meditation sessions and and meetings there, and she remembered going to a seminar, a one day program a year earlier. Why don’t you tell them about?
00:03:22:22 – 00:03:46:08 Bonnie Yes. There had been. There’s a real easy close connection between Buddhism and especially did not Han style Buddhism in Unitarian Universalists. Paul Naughton, who was the the the leader of the mindfulness center, had said I was about, you know, 70% overlap kind of thing.
00:03:46:16 – 00:04:03:04 Bonnie So he had done a daylong workshop and we did our body scan and some walking. And Steve showed us a couple different types of of meditation and everything. Just I really liked it. But then I kind of let it go.
00:04:03:05 – 00:04:24:02 Bonnie I didn’t inquire any further. So when Dick came home and said, it’s that place, I said, That’s where Paul Norden is cool. Let’s check it out. And so we did the following Sunday, and the program there lasted for two hours with a break in between.
00:04:24:02 – 00:04:42:22 Bonnie The first hour was sitting and then walking and then sitting meditation. And the second hour we would work with a text passage around and then respond to the text. And that’s still the the the model that really I like very much.
00:04:43:18 – 00:04:49:18 Bonnie We felt both of us sitting out different ways, just very comfortable right away.
00:00:01:08 – 00:00:32:05 Bonnie I think what I what I think about when I hit here, when we have our gatherings here is people are so connect so easily to he has a wonderful way of really making things very clear and simple. We need focus again and again and again on being that nothing is separate, that I look at the food on
00:00:32:05 – 00:00:56:23 Bonnie my plate and there’s sunshine there and there is water there and and all. Just the continual sense was reading one of his books on fear, and he was talking about how difficult it is when a baby is born and everything’s been cool before him in the womb and that wonderful, apparently in Vietnam, they call it the baby’s
00:00:56:23 – 00:01:09:02 Bonnie palace, the womb, and then the baby is born, and two things are going on. one is, Wow, now I’ve got to take care of, I have to find my way someone. I have to find someone to feed me, take care of me.
00:01:09:21 – 00:01:26:06 Bonnie And there’s a fear thing and I’m cast into this cold world. At the same time, there’s this tremendous need to and desire to survive and live and be. And so he says, those two forces, they’re just there from the beginning.
00:01:26:13 – 00:01:47:22 Bonnie And then he talks about going for a walk and imagining umbilical cords to the tree, to the sun, to the water, and again, just emphasizing over and over that this is we’re all it’s all, all connected. I think that’s a really basic and important understanding.
00:01:47:22 – 00:01:58:16 Bonnie And for those of us who feel alone, lonely, isolated for all kinds of reasons. It really embraces and pulls us together.
00:02:02:06 – 00:02:23:09 Dick I am thinking of at least three or four ways in which I find the Plum Village tradition speaks to us in ways that maybe the other traditions don’t turn it on and has been credited with developing the concept of engaged Buddhism.
00:02:25:00 – 00:02:53:14 Dick And so as far as getting off the cushion here in Vietnam during that Vietnamese war, when outside of the monasteries and the temples and and developed the schools and social action programs, which is what got everyone into trouble, Lu was involved because they wouldn’t pick a side.
00:02:54:17 – 00:03:22:19 Dick And and so that engaged Buddhism bringing it out of the more closed monastic arena was one aspect of his Buddhism that really resonates. Of course, he was known then for the work that he did in trying to bring peace through the Paris peace accord and discussions and so on.
00:03:23:13 – 00:03:50:10 Dick And that’s when he spent time here in the United States and really started an effort to make Buddhism accessible to us in the West are my teacher, our teacher and Dr. Norton and Milwaukee. Our first teacher there really talked about how one of the attractions is that it’s bare bones.
00:03:50:17 – 00:04:11:23 Dick He cuts out some of the extras. Some, although those are wonderful traditions to be aware of and to venerate and to be thankful for. It says you can cut out a lot of that and get right down to the core of Buddhism and develop your own practice here in the West.
00:04:12:06 – 00:04:23:08 Dick And I don’t think he knew where it might go. Another thing that was important to us was what’s known as gata practice.
00:04:23:12 – 00:04:24:02 Bonnie Oh yes.
00:04:24:23 – 00:04:48:21 Dick So unlike the koan practices of perhaps Japanese and garter practice, is the recitation of short phrases and pieces that bring us into mindfulness in everyday activities. He talked about how that was a part of his own introduction into mindfulness.
00:04:49:08 – 00:05:15:19 Dick And so for the last nine years before any meal, we say a simple garter and it has to do with in this food, we clearly see the presence of the entire universe supporting our existence. Exactly what Bonnie was describing as that connectedness, just pausing a moment to bring us back.
00:05:16:03 – 00:05:36:20 Dick And there are many others the gate before we begin, often our meditation practice and we we meditate together every night is a phrase body breath and mind and perfect oneness. I send my heart along with the sound of this bell.
00:05:37:06 – 00:05:51:21 Dick May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness and transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow. The second gate is Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings us back to our true long.
What a great question about whether there was this moment or time when I said, Oh, this is bigger than just recovery. And I was thinking about something that Dr Paul Norton, the founder of the Milwaukee Mindfulness Center, said early on. He said this is something that may seep into you and do some things for you that you don’t expect at all. And so it would be really making up a story, I think, to point to one particular event. So I’m going to make up a story for me if I reflect back on on a point where I said I’ve arrived, it would probably be that first singing, chanting recitation of the Heart Sutra, which was done monthly at the Milwaukee Mindfulness Center. Dr. Norton really liked doing it. And out of all the folks there may be, three or four of us would gather to actually do it because other folks didn’t want any of that chanting stuff. And but for me, that was really important and life changing. It was an earlier translation by text, not hand over the heart suture. And I can still hear it being introduced the aha heart of perfect understanding. And I love the latest translation that Nathan gave At the Heart Sutra, which he was released or published just before his stroke, and I love exploring the differences between the two, but that started me learning a number of chants. And that was my way to learn about Buddhism. So chants involving the five remembrances and and morning chant and an evening chant and the blessings on the day for me, that really started my path. And for me, that’s also part of my Baptist singing tradition.
00:00:00:03 – 00:00:24:09 Bonnie I would invite people to explore, especially with the readings, the books, by taking our time and to understand that you don’t have to toss anything away. It’s very compatible with other kinds of belief systems. And I think that that’s something that you don’t have to make.
00:00:24:10 – 00:00:30:07 Bonnie You don’t have to convert. You can add to and expand and grow with it.
00:00:31:23 – 00:01:00:17 Dick That’s a really good a good suggestion because recommendation because I think that a lot of people do believe that you’re throwing something away if you move on. And really, our growth and our evolution personally in life really is an effort to bring those things of value and move them forward.
00:01:01:20 – 00:01:35:18 Dick So that for me, as originally it was a joke. I said, I’m a Zen Baptist, but my my Baptist background, even though I’m not even a theist any longer. But my Baptist background has been enhanced and made more whole and valuable for me as I carry those principles and practices forward and combined them with our new are
00:01:35:18 – 00:02:00:18 Dick fairly new Buddhist path. And I want people to sing more. There’s no better way to bring your body mind and breath together than in your voice. You have a voice, use it and that that I think can be life changing in itself.
00:00:00:18 – 00:00:37:09 Dick How has this all kind of been integrated into our lives and our lives together behind our stove back there and there’s a little card? And it says, when in doubt, love war. And I think that learning to pause and not be reactive so much is has been such a gift.
00:00:39:18 – 00:01:16:12 Dick Taking a time out, breathing rather than just reacting to what’s going on around and judging and and uh, and that has really changed both our relationship and my relationships to the community and the world. I, as a lawyer, you know, I had I was an advocate and I could take a position and I could push it to
00:01:16:12 – 00:01:58:18 Dick the extreme, and I did a lot of political advocacy as well. And I’ve been learning that sometimes just listening rather than shouting allows for more change to happen in a positive way. And it’s certainly in this day and age when we seem so polarized in our views and our politics, in our fears and and our aspirations.
00:01:59:05 – 00:02:26:20 Dick But just learning to pause and not react and just listen, I can go a long way towards real healing. So that’s what I’ve been finding. I’ve been finding that true, both in the institutional setting of a jail and in the the broader debates in politics nationally, internationally.
00:02:28:10 – 00:02:38:13 Dick And so I have a different voice now than someone who shouts and pushes, and my voice has changed.
00:02:40:15 – 00:02:58:11 Bonnie I would add a piece to not only to pause, but in that pause. And this is again right teaching from our time materials to pause and say, All right, what’s really going on here? Where am what? What am I feeling?
00:02:58:11 – 00:03:19:19 Bonnie Where am I feeling it? Where is this coming from? And that has really, I think, helped us together to a certainly has been good for me. I can attest to the fact that he used to be very much and we’ve always had really through the difficult times.
00:03:19:19 – 00:03:34:03 Bonnie We’ve had a wonderful life together. But it’s also true that he would dig it out and something to the point where I’d say, Oh, for heaven’s sake, you know, give it up. And that aspect just is not is not there.
00:03:34:03 – 00:03:40:06 Bonnie He is much more. And we both are, I think, able to probably do better at it than I am. Oh no.
00:03:41:04 – 00:03:42:00 Dick Oh no. I think you’re.
00:03:42:00 – 00:03:58:03 Bonnie Back. And this is Derby John, one of the two meditating cats, wants to check things out. But but just trying to be to reach in and be as honest about what’s really what’s going on? How am I really?
00:03:58:16 – 00:04:17:18 Bonnie How do I respond to this? What instead of that? That first quick response? We we did. We had an experience with my grandson just last week. He was he tore torn open a package of saltine crackers and oh man, they went everywhere.
00:04:18:05 – 00:04:32:07 Bonnie And we both model and we jumped at him and he he’s eight. And he he he put his head down and he said, I haven’t been here very long today, and you already made me feel bad about myself.
00:04:33:10 – 00:04:52:04 Bonnie And we both we Adobe we realized we had both jumped at. We already backed off. But I’ve been thinking about that a lot because what I appreciated is he’s got some mindfulness seeds going in his subconscious and down in that in that store consciousness.
00:04:52:13 – 00:05:12:21 Bonnie He could. He had a mindfulness seed that came up along with that bad seed that we had planted. That said, you know, don’t let this go by, let feel what you’re feeling and express it. It was a really very I learned a lot from that moment.
00:05:13:02 – 00:05:34:12 Bonnie It really did. And so that’s an example of what we we still can do it, but certainly learned from that experience. And that’s the thing. Instead of just going on saying, All right, let’s clean this up, you know, suspend it’s I took it, spent a couple days just going through that and thinking about it.
00:00:00:16 – 00:00:22:13 Dick For us, the saga, as Tickner Hunt is sometimes said, the saga may be the Buddhists and the Buddha of the future, the Maitreya of the future may be the Sangha itself. And that resonates with my Baptist upbringing, where we are all ministers to one another.
00:00:22:13 – 00:00:48:11 Bonnie In a way. For me, it was really an important transition to go from the church model where somebody is up front giving the message and we’re all sitting, you know, facing listening to the wisdom of the group. And that’s so important to me, and that’s why I love the very the focus on the song and and the
00:00:48:11 – 00:00:59:23 Bonnie leadership that is of the song that especially comes as far as I understand through the way that Technetium has has interpreted and understood.
I had been quickly involved in working with people in recovery in twelve step programs and and and other programs, and was recruited at the same week back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to bring meetings into both our local detention center, a 900 bed jail facility there for twelve step groups. And I was recruited by a consortium of different Buddhist sagas and and communities to be part of their program of teaching, meditation and in corrections. And that was such a powerful personal experience, sharing that both the recovery aspect where there is a great deal of potential and power in sharing one story and listening to someone else who’s been in the same place, but being able to also provide some of the tools that mindfulness and meditation offer for healing was just life transforming for me.
After a decades-drinking ‘career’ – and fresh out of locked-up detox – we looked for some kind of support group in the community; we discovered the “11th Step” meditation group at the Milwaukee Mindfulness Community (Milw. Wis.), a practice center in the TNH – Plum Village tradition. This was the Fall of 2010. Antipathy toward my perception (mostly wrong) about 12 Step programs, I was tricked by a typographical error on a web site that announced the mindfulness-based recovery meeting to be “an 11-Step Program.” And I said to myself, ‘well, it’s not a 12 step program…. I’ll try it.’
And that resonates with my Baptist upbringing, where we are all ministers to one another.
My wife, Bonnie, has been a critical partner in my recovery and in entering a Buddhist way of life. I cannot separate my experience from her own journey (and, indeed, from the journeys of those who are in sangha with us).
I would not describe my adoption of Buddhist principles and practices since 2010 as a choice over other religion(s). It is really more of an evolution. The singing, chanting, engaged social activity, and the stories from Plum Village traditions enhance and perhaps deepen my spiritual journey. Bonnie and I remain active in leadership in the Mid-Columbia Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. She is on the Board of the Mt. Adams Zen Temple, and I am also the Temple’s contact for persons interested in recovery from alcoholism and addictions, both to substances and behaviors.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience?
Ahhh, in so many ways…. Now that we have retired to Oregon, from Wisconsin to be close to our grandson, I have found many opportunities to participate with and engage others in meditation and recovery. At the same time, I continue a personal meditation practice daily that includes chanting/song.
Last Thursday I led an introduction into mindful walking meditation as one of the events on our Community-wide “Gorge Happiness Month” calendar. I teach and lead meditation programs weekly at the Northern Oregon Correctional Facility (NORCOR). I have led introductory meditation sessions for the Wasco County Probation Staff. We participated today in the Cultivate: Compassion film premiere this afternoon. I facilitated weekly “11th Step” meditation meetings in White Salmon, Washington and Hood River, Oregon, and I am now actively supporting the new Recovery Dharma program. I am organizing a weekend event at the end of October called OctSoberFest at the Trout Lake Abbey/Mt. Adams Zen Temple which will focus on meditation, mindfulness and spiritual growth. Last month I attended and participated in the International Buddhist Recovery Network Summit meeting outside Olympia Washington. And I meet individually with folks in peer mentoring.
The engaged Buddhist practice of peace-making is also a part of my life as a newly certified mediator (States of Oregon and Washington).
But enough about me! I am just one of your run-of-the-mill religious fanatics……
What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)
Sharing in recovery support groups (deep listening practice, wise speech practice) Daily meditation with my wife Bonnie Personal meditation practices involving chanting and singing (especially Plum Village tradition) Tai Chi, walking meditation, bicycling (road riding/distance) Theatre and song-leading Learning to garden and feed the birds Putting out the garbage
Which sangha do you normally attend ?
Trinity Sangha sponsored by the Mt. Adams Zen Temple.
What is your primarily profession?
Retired from the practice of law, public health, government administration….
Do you think your personality or background influence the lineage/practices that resonate with you?
How could they not….
You don’t have to convert. You can add to and expand and grow with it.