Showing posts from December, 2014

Die Standing

I’m writing this in a Starbucks as I wait to take a train to Narita airport and then fly home to San Francisco for the holidays. I just spent three weeks at Nisodo, figuring out my housing situation, packing my belongings, and then doing the necessary farewell ceremonies that involve bowing to everybody in the Zendo. 
For about a year now I’ve been trying and failing to sufficiently write about the experience of practicing as a Zen nun in Japan. It’s difficult to convey the most unique and important aspects of women’s monastic training to a Western reader in a way that doesn’t make it seem either boring, unfair, or unnecessarily painful (which it can be… but there’s more to it than that! Hence the difficulty in writing about it).
After my most recent stay, though, the piece I feel is most important to share about women’s monastic practice in Japan is that, in my experience at least, there is no such thing as women’s practice or women’s Zen. What I mean is that while the exterior form of…

Broken Covenant

My friend Rose Schwab is on the path to becoming a Unitarian minister. This is a sermon she gave to her predominantly white congregation in St. Louis, addressing the protests in Ferguson and the history of racism in America. I am constantly awed and inspired by her ability to get to the heart of what is most important and what is most true. 

(When she sent this to me, she recommended that I read "every single sentence, because it builds." I have the same recommendation.)

Broken Covenant, Nov 30th, 2014 Rose Schwab
A covenant is a promise about how we are going to be together.   When we covenant we promise that we are going to be accountable to each other.  
And we Unitarian Universalists undertake the communal process of covenanting each time we meet.  It is through covenants we are spoken into relationship.  It is through covenant that we pledge our love and dedication for one another. And, most importantly, it is through the process of process of covenant that we say to each ot…

Taking Up a Green Vegetable and Turning It Into the Best Party Ever

The study abroad program I work on ends on Friday, and tonight we had a farewell dinner with our “Japanese Buddies,” the Japanese students who had signed up to be our friends and partners in intercultural exchange for the semester. I didn’t want to go to this party because a) I was never assigned a buddy since I am the teaching assistant and b) I am well aware how awkward Japanese parties are, especially the mandatory, organized-by-somebody-whose-job-it-is-to-organize-a-mandatory-party-above-the-cafeteria kind. There is something about the way social interaction in Japan happens that seems simultaneously forced, formal, and too private; it’s usually a huge room with lots of food, an exclusive group of people, organized games/speeches, and a group photo at the end. This is never a good recipe for making connection. But my boss made me go, so I went with the other students. 
When we arrived in the assigned room, we were immediately disheartened to see that the room was indeed made up to …