What was most remarkable about Charlotte Joko Beck was her spaciousness. Being with her was sharing this spaciousness, which is ours – though we often miss it. Joko translated this into practice to allow others to taste it and see what attachments and self-centeredness were hindering and obscuring this. Though some got caught up in particular methods of working with clinging and emotional reactions, Joko encouraged observing, noticing reactions and bodily experiencing to “pop” into the present.
Joko became a teacher because others made her one. People came to her to talk about practice long before she was designated formally as a Dharma heir. The clarity of her own life and practice, her ability to help them clarify their life, was what attracted others to her. Though her official work was as a secretary to Maezumi Roshi, her office was often filled with those seeking practice help. People came to her apartment door during “free time” to talk with her. “There are always shoes at Joko’s door,” was said at ZCLA.
When people went to Maezumi Roshi with personal difficulties, often he would tell them, “Go talk to Joko.”
Early in her teaching life she surprised people in a Dharma talk at ZCLA by saying, “I am fully present about 15-20% of the time.” This frankness thrilled many, as it went against the idealized (and nearly unattainable) image that Zen teachers were “always fully present.”
Joko said to me, “Roshi doesn’t know what to make of my Dharma talks. He isn’t sure if he likes them. But since so many people tell him how much they like them, he says to me, ’Joko, give more talks.’ “
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