My father was an Atheist and said any religious reading was a waste of time. This was a huge seed for me to explore “religion” (Episcopal –Methodist -Divine Light from Guru Maharaji –Occult. In the small Denver Episcopal church I like the incense, vestments and pageantry . After a second trip to Japan I was enamored with Buddhism and the many Jiso statues -with the little stones placed at their feet as prayers. On my return, I went to Dharma Rain Zen Center and immediately there was an affinity. I sensed deeply that the Monks, Kyogen and Gyokuko manifested the spiritual value that I was seeking. (I had been drawn to a Buddhist retreat during my college years and actually I am so grateful that I sat at the table with Roshi Kennet and Kyogen – but at that time I did not pursue a practice).
As a young child was drawn to Episcopalians, and it was an all beautiful, very small church in Denver and there was all the incense and all the candles and all the vestments, and I even considered sewing vestments because of fashion and sewing has been kind of a consistent in my life. So then I went to the Methodist and high school for the comradery and the friendship level, but there was seeking the daughter. I just thought, uh, teachers in Portland when? When there’s something that triggered it in Japan, there was seeing that Jesus on all the corners, the little red caps on their heads and the little prayer rocks that people placed by that there was something so significant that when I came to this end center, there was all the form. There was the stillness there was the bowing, which I loved. There was the incense that was informative and helpful because it’s just one more way to quiet the mind the way the household was run. Uh, attention in the kitchen about everything. Wastewater from, you know, just washing things. Just, um, everything seems so complete. And I was a resident for one year really grounded me because at that time, I was very confused in my marriage. And it was helpful. But since then, I have studied the other lineages for a seminary class, and I have each one of the lineages that appreciate their teachers. The flavor is just a little different, but the Zen is solid. For me, the alters are not complicated. They’re not lots of visual things because I’m so visual, I need to tone it down. And wearing black robes and so on is just mindfulness. So then you let other people around. You do the work they have to do because it’s work you’re doing. Um, we look so serious and so in black, so formal people not want. But you know, the playfulness and silliness is so, so prevalent. And learning from Sangha is so radical because when you see somebody else transform themself, you realize what it is. I mean, we have a term student program, so you share your karmic threads, and some can be very, very upsetting. I’m very emotional. And so some of them have touched me pretty deeply. Suffering of other people has been a little more than I’ve had to go through. But when you watch people transform and get support from each other and move forth unencumbered, was that it? Oh, I mean, it’s very, very radical and very life changing. And then it brings the clarity about it. So much about getting clear about who you are, the authentic self you are. It’s not about being like my teacher. It’s about being authentically yourself so you can move forward. So then in the art world, just moving towards calligraphy was the greatest discipline. And uh, I I don’t. I’ve drawn to discipline. So Sam has discipline. Yes, it’s not your Easter honey. Easter Sunday have. It’s it’s something that becomes very internal and you live your life around it. Well, the intellectual is certainly the grounding. There is no, it’s never not there, but I don’t access it that way. I think that it opens a spaciousness that you haven’t known before, and you can trust that there’s a faith in it. You know that it works. There’s no doubt about it. And so it sustains use. And then there are our soldiers and things and meditation to, you know, keep the mind still and not get caught up. So, for example, just, I don’t know, something complicated would happen in it. At first, it might take a month to kind of wrestle with it in the mind and the body. And then it would take a week and then, you know, with practice it maybe take a day or or minutes. So that is the essential part when it it resonates in you so deeply that if it, it no longer throws you off course. Does that mean that you don’t see the suffering or feel that it’s just that it doesn’t have to do well in the body, it doesn’t have to dwell in the mind. There’s a way to be released from it. Are going to sign saying is a consistent way that I have gone to get clarity from front. Things are just so, so radically important.
Um. It’s informative in a in a not in an intellectual way. Our suitors are something that you try to understand the words per se. They’re almost poetry written by people over the 11th third century A.D.. We know the people who wrote the work because on the pilgrimage, we saw their photographs. We say their lineage names. We have two pages of lineage people and our lineage just from like on our pilgrimage, we went back to those temples. We saw those teachers that were from that temple. Of course, now it’s generations that we consider them like cousins, you know, of that of our specific lineage because Buddha sees Buddha, and that is then that is the enlightened person and that Buddha sees Buddha sees Buddha sees Buddha. This is how the miniature happens. It isn’t something you get from going to school and passing it, getting a certificate. So. Our teachers were trained at Chester Abbey with Roshi Kennett, Richard Kennett was one of the first and only women to call and get transmission at 80, the biggest temple in Japan. She was hard for her to even get a shower because there are no showers just for her, and she worked around that and people were gentle with her one. Not all people there at the temple were, but her teacher was gentle with her, and then she came to Chester Abbey and formed a monastery. And then my teacher, Gil KuCoin Kalkan, trained there in a monastery and started Dharma Reigns’s Center as a lay disciple temple. Now, Z0 is a monastery and chosen, and Hogan trained in a lay disciple temple in an L.A. Yeah, so it’s interesting how we trained monks. So even though we’re allé disciples, they meaning people have work right. They’re not be coming months. But we have trained five monks and now our abbot is is one of those because Jokic retired and then if he became a lay disciple, then you put on the altar. The ceremony, a part of your hair is cut off symbolically. You put on an altar in the back, something that you have valued from your past. Part of your spiritual. You know, when you become a disciple, it isn’t like you finally know I’m no longer this or this or that. No, no. There’s recognition that those are parts of the path of how you got to where you are at that moment. That’s very important. Yes, there are more fouls. Yes. And then there’s the loyalty to that teacher and to this to the temple. And that doesn’t mean that you can go to other temples. But as I said, Sorenson, which is private interview with the monk at a temple, can only be I can only have Sorenson if I ask permission from my teacher, Gil Cuco, who gives me permission to go to Denver and so on. When my mother died, I was I couldn’t have made it without the help of the Buddhist teacher there and the Zen teacher there in the Zen Temple in Denver. Let’s see. And our rituals are so colorful and and significant, it would be hard for me to try to think that someone wouldn’t be drawn to them and love them as much as I do. I mean, Buddha’s birthday Buddhist step when he draws all the animals and all the people to him as he lays on his side, which is part of the Buddhist teachings we do mondo exercise, which is the Tibetans are famous for. Which is a I think they call it combat. But we do it in a kind of formal way, sort of from a chosen part of of a scripture part or sutures that we have that are common to everybody. You would choose two, three or four lines and you would recite that and you say, what? Say you? And then the people can ask you, Do you understand it? Tell me what that part means. What does this word mean? Why did you choose that? What is this teaching mean for you? And once you’re over the intimidation of actually doing it, it’s a very powerful way to understand the teachings more thoroughly because you’re not just wrestling with your own self, you giving feedback from people. And I do that in Delran. We do it once a month together, and it’s a very profound practice. Let me see what our ceremonies. For years, we have Buddha’s birthday, Buddha’s death Sakaguchi, which is honoring dead people to come back and another one to which I don’t remember this time of special surgeries that we don’t say all the time on Sunday. For example, preamble leading around offering insight. Everybody offers incense to the altar, you know, and participates in that way.
My son is so clear about the fact that I brought to Buddhism, and ironically enough, he is so grounded as a person and human being because because maybe of my influence indirectly or directly, but also because he had to overcome a very controlling and power over father. It was very, very hard for after the teenage years it was. Things just went completely awry. And I don’t know why my loyalty kept me, kept me in the marriage for my son’s sake. And in the long run, we are both so grateful. You know, and my my son made a very big change with his father in about two weeks before his father died. And here was a man who depended on his mind, in his words, able to be vulnerable emotionally to the point that my son had learned not to take any guff from him. No, I don’t want to hear you be cruel to my mother. I don’t want to hear you speak to hear a wife like that. And for me, I would have moments of clarity and and could manage. But there was always the power over and it was off with a great deal of perseverance and faith. You know that it wasn’t all in vain, that I could suffer through that. You know, you’re taking on other people’s karma and you can’t clean that up for them. You can only clean up your own karma. I can only do the best I could under those circumstances. I can say. I could have turned to my teacher more and in a way I wish I had, but I could have maybe done better if I had. But people’s end of life and I didn’t know it was the end of his life, but it was hard to be a caregiver 24 hours a day for with all the habitual patterns that you formed around. So now I’m free of those and. Claire, I have a new way forward to look more clearly had what really captured my attention and got me stuck. I I don’t think I will be stuck in the future again, but I can say it was hard. But my my my practice was the. Was consistent, you know, flowed through that without my practice, I I don’t know how people manage wheelchairs. There’s a faith. That it’s taking care of yourself. You know, a new perspective that I state to myself and to others. I got it from Ruth King, who is now most people are studying white, our white privilege and so on. And she said, not personal. Not permanent. Not perfect. That is so satisfying to me because that sums it all up. You know, we don’t have to go through the personal part. Other people are going through their things. You can just be light hearted to and to feel that other people’s suffering without it tipping you over. I tend to tears no matter what, so I know that it’s affecting me, but not permanent. Wow. Change is possible in a positive light and not perfect. And that’s really important to me. I was very intimidated by my father, who was all and words are with authors around me, word people drinking, publishing, falling papers to be published and printed in books. And I was unable when I got to Buddhism to often make a complete paragraph. I might not say this subject. I might not say the verve, I might not. There was something that I had done to protect myself, that my teacher just gently. OK, give me the subject of that. Let me get. So here’s another instance where my teacher helped me gain clarity and my ability to express my ideas without hoping that you would be willing to go with me if it wasn’t completely understood. And that was a big, big, big thing at the very beginning, actually when I became a Buddhist. My husband would say, You should say it like this. You should have said it like that. It was like, Well, if I said it like that, then you tell me to say it like this. It was just, I know I. Suffered in a in my marriage quite a bit, but. It was the the gentleness and the kindness of my teacher. The amount of understanding that I have never known from other people that really helped me get through most of my difficulties.
But the discipline of of of Chinese calligraphy is very meditative, very, very meditative, and so it satisfies that. Sense of expression of words that I, you know, I at first I tried to do, Oh, was this character mean, what does this character? And then I realize that’s a western way to approach it because you want to know if you think, No, no, it’s giving up, you know, it’s not through the mind, it’s through the body repetition, repetition. Now I know what that character is. Now I happen to know, and I haven’t spent as much time to study it so that I could read actually everything but its eastern philosophy that that is a key to to my artistic expression when I realized that the mind has nothing to do with artistic expression. I was free to just create whatever you know I use. I was a ceramicist for seven, seven years. I was I design costumes and capes and so on and and I multimedia and photography and these men and it’s one of my father’s writers that just I know feathers, everything, just bark, bark from the trees and sort of let them fall together. I don’t know. But you know, it’s funny because this dance has taken up so much time.
People in the community who, you know, plan their vacations around at least one retreat, so we have four a seven day retreat, so in silence, as I described, right? And now we’re having single day retreats and half day retreats and making it more accessible for people to figure out what it is, you know, to take on is pretty courageous to jump in the first time. So. It allows you to to have had your mind drop into a stillness that you cannot do. You can’t, you can’t, will it to happen? We have exercises at the end of, say, the retreat, which is to stand in front of the monk who has led this. And there’s been teachings every night from a certain reading which you can read and then lectures at night to listen to in the Zandile. And then at the end, you can ask a question of the of the the monk you know of over. There are pretty provocative because they’re you’re given an answer. Evidence in front of everybody. So you can witness other people’s practice too. And what’s coming up for them. And then at the very end of that, I mean, maybe the very last night, then you might give a comment about how the retreat was for you. So that’s pretty significant. You know, you hear people, this was really hard. I I I really gained a lot, but it wasn’t easy, you know, or just an opening to a stillness that you hadn’t ever experienced before. You know, I mean, it’s just the whole gamut. Each individual brings some, some some specific quality that’s important for yourself. We do mondo exercise, which is the Tibetan sort of famous for which is a I think they call it combat. But we do it in a kind of formal way, sort of from a chosen part of of a scripture part or sutures that we have that are common to everybody. You would choose two or three or four lines and you would recite that and you say, what? Say you? And then the people can ask you, Do you understand it? Tell me what that part means. What does this word mean? Why did you choose that? What does this teaching mean for you? And once you’re over the intimidation of actually doing it, it’s a very powerful way to understand the teachings more thoroughly because you’re not just wrestling with your own self, you giving feedback from people. And I do that in Delran. We do it once a month together, and it’s a very profound practice. Let me see what our ceremonies. For years, we have Buddha’s birthday, Buddha’s death Sakaguchi, which is honoring dead people to come back and another one to which I don’t remember this type of special sutures that we don’t say all the time on Sunday. For example, preamble waving around offering insight. Everybody offers incense to the altar, you know, and participate in that way. It’s.
So I found it kind of interesting that a lot of people aren’t at all interested in religion. And so John, my husband, right? Not at all conversations and no one at all. But that it’s like politics. Not we’ll just leave that one aside for my son. No, I never expected a thing from him. I never I went to temple, and when I became a disciple, they came to the ceremony. I’m not sure my son was in the temple very many times other than. No, I didn’t talk about Buddhism at all. There were times when he was a teenager and when I was dealing with my karma, and one kind of funny specific thing was I. My father had told me that he was so glad I was not beautiful and I thought, OK, dad, thanks. Got that one. So I was very athletic and very plain, really. I think until, um, through my twenties, I mean, camping, hiking, you know, kayaking and so on. And so. So then when my son as a teenager was interested in these beautiful girls, it wasn’t just there with the really pretty prom girls. And so I, I I just laid my views on him and. Not explaining exactly why I thought that, but I was flabbergasted that that she was drawn to two beautiful women. Okay, so so my view is, you know that that often a woman in a in a very beautiful body may not be able to access a complete , rounded whole self because their body is. I mean, Marilyn Monroe, as you, you know, has had to limit herself to to a kind of physical body embodiment of femininity. So then finally, after a couple of years, I was able to say, No, this is my karma. I am so sorry. I laid it on you, you know, and we had tears together, and there was that sense of realism and healing. And, you know, that gave him the freedom to not be judged or to have to follow my opinions for crying out loud, which is fascinating to me. And just recently, because his father just died, he now has a very beautiful girlfriend and but not beauty in the way that is limited by by her body in that sense, and it’s just the sweetest relationship. So. I don’t know how it came to be so gentle and so kind. We always spoke, we always talk from our heart. I have always shared when I’m going through. John always said, no, you’re not his friend, you’re not his friend, you’re his parents. But from a very early age, my son. Was my protector. We’ve been very fond of him, and I’m grateful for each other. So I know that that, um, Buddhism was the root of it all, indirectly, believe me. But I’ve been surprised oftentimes in the stressful times it was with the Buddhist perspective my son could present to me. Without actually knowing that that was it. OK, right, livelihood. So there was a time when my son was not living by right livelihood, and all I could do was say that from my perspective, what he was doing was not right livelihood, but there was no need for me to make a change. I and Sorenson with my teacher, right? I could verbalize that, which lightened up the load for me and not have it take up very much space in my life. And he has gone through that. And unconsciously, I know that he understood what I meant. But without telling him or expecting him, you know, I think parenting more than anything else is as I’m watching, I’m doing drama school and I’m watching some pretty suffer children who are suffering. We have to as adults, parents just believe in them and show faith that some of the behaviors are a little bit insignificant, that we have to focus on, some that are maybe more impactful for them and and just hopefully talk about them so they can see them more clearly. But it’s not telling them and it’s not creating expectations. It’s a very fine line that balance. And I can remember when I expected my son to be, he would have been the boy that my father wanted. He didn’t want me. He wanted my father wanted me to take over his business. A week before he died, he even asked me and I am not a verbal and academic person. So I mean, it wasn’t a good fit. But you know, that expectation was very hard on me that that was I think it’s really hard. This is a little bit off the line of that, but hard for children of parents who are so driven that there’s a there’s a there’s a wounding, a deep wounding there that has to be healed. But anyway, my I remember thinking, Oh, wouldn’t it be perfect if not, which has become a publisher and take over the swallow press and do that because he has the words he’s he’s got the words and the ability to write. But he and I did. I wanted to be an ESL teacher. I thought, it’s such a perfect career, I have to tell you. And he went to France and he taught English in the French government, blah blah blah. And it didn’t, wasn’t his fit. And then when I learned to back off, I realized there was there was something more spacious around our relationship. And then it, you know, I was free from all that expectations that I’ve created. As I got clarity on it, you know what, I could see that it was my karma.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience? Does it reflect in your work and relationships?
After 2 years at DRZC I became Gyokuko’s Lay Disciple. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher I turned to Gyokuko in sanzen (private interview) to deal with my “opinions and ingrained ideas” about family planning. Many of my Evangelical Russian students had 13 plus children. I had to overcome my bias and cultural views. There were other similar situations. Being an only child and having an only child was always a shock to all my students. Having the opportunity to serve as Chief Junior for a year (2002), I was able to face some limitations and habitual patterns that I no longer needed. As a Dharma School teacher, I found it a good fit, an consider it service to the community. I also teach beginners Meditation Practice and Starting a Practice workshops.
If you explore other lineages within Buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you? Secondly, who are your primary teachers and what role/influence do they have on your practice?
I did not explore other lineages. I had attended one session at KCC (Tibetian Lineage) in a small cramped house and found the altar so complicated and overwhelming. So Zen was very comforting. I followed my instincts and felt that DRZC resonated for me. I had not done much previous reading. For a Seminary class I was to explore other lineages and attended KCC/Insight Meditation/Shingon temples. I also created a calendar with the images of many temples in Portland – Vietnamese, Tibetian,Chinese Pure Land etc. Gyokuko is my Primary teacher (as were Kyogen, Chosen and Hogan from ZCO –(our 7 day retreats, 4 times a year took place at ZCO until DRZC bought the 14 acres and built our new temple-5 years ago.) When my Mother became ill and actually died, I went to Denver. I asked Gyokuko if I could have sanzen with the monk at the Denver Zen Center. Once a Lay Disciple, one does not ask for sanzen with another Monk, without permission from your teacher. And once in front of the monk in Denver, he asked if I had permission from Gyokuko.
Sangha is the key to one’s own transformation because as you witness others transform and deepen practice, you are supported and motivated to stay focused.
What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers etc.)
Meditation, of course. At HOWZT on Thursday evenings, Sunday mornings, and evenings; Meditation is also my ‘go to’ if thinking about things I need to do/anxiety are keeping me awake at night. Loving-Kindness meditation – less regularly at HOW; I shuso when Nan leads it and fill in to lead it occasionally when the regulars (Nan and Kodo) are not available; particularly after working through Christina Feldman’s book, Boundless Heart, in a Meditation & Dharma Drop In I facilitate on Sunday evenings, I find this type of meditation becoming something I go to on a more frequent basis during my days. Meditation twice a week via FaceTime with Kip’s cousin (usually I offer some guidance). The Work of Byron Katie – which I met through this community; after attending her 9-day school, I now do the work on a regular basis with two friends I made there; this year I attended a 3-Day Camp for The Work of Byron Katie and look forward to continuing this involvement in whatever format/event/location works. YouTubes – Hogen, Chozen, Kisei, Jogen, and others from Great Vow Zen Monastery. Sesshin – twice a year is my current intention (and practice).
Which sangha do you normally attend ?
Sangha is the key to one’s own transformation because as you witness others transform and deepen practice, you are supported and motivated to stay focused. We have a “Term Student” program yearly when participants share their spiritual journey and any “Karmic” patterns they are aware of. Having shared these experiences with other members I have been witness to unbelievable harm done to these people and have grown more deeply aware of suffering.
I also traveled with one of the Ancestral Pilgrimages to Japan with Kyogen and Gyokuko and DRZC members. The temples were ornate and the grounds so fantastic. When we sat down with one “Dharma cousin” the monk asked how it was that there are so many practitioners in America. In Japan members are more likely to only attend temple for weddings, funerals and New Years.
What is your primarily profession?
B.A. and Masters in Deaf Education at Lewis and Clark College. I have always served “less advantaged” students. Just out of high school I went on an American Friends Service Project to Mexico. The community was not on a map, had no running water or toilets. This gave me a grounding to value other cultures and circumstances. Readers Aide for elementary school students. (children in homes with no books). Head Start as Education Coordinator in Woodburn – community of Old Believers (Russian decent) and Mexican children. ESL teacher of students from at least 13 different languages. As mentioned before, I looked deeply into my White privilege and worked from my heart with curiosity and interest in each culture. I saw to it that PCC (Portland Community College) had a meditation room specifically designed for the women Muslim students, who had prayer at 7:00 –which was during the evening class time.
My artist passions have led me to be immersed in Asian culture. I have had 11 travels to 6 Asian countries. I organized the first International Women’s Art Exhibition in the USA for Korean and American artists. Then the first International Women’s Art Exhibition for 125 artists from 23 countries. This led to my travels to Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan, where my work was shown in the galleries.. My art also went to Shenzen China with my Chinese calligraphy teacher.
Do you think your personality or background influence the lineage/practices that resonate with you?
I think Zen has been instrumental in establishing my strong sense of aesthetics and creativity. The study of the sutras and teachings have brought clarity and helped me find the words for what transpires as one practices and transforms oneself