Where did you grow up? I grew up in Pleasant Hill, California, in the East Bay.
When did you become a Buddhist and why? In my mid-20s I had a life-altering experience associated with alcohol abuse that led me to begin my Buddhist practice at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Before then, in high school, two books that influenced my interest in Buddhism were Alan Watts’s The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are and Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
Is your family Buddhist? No, but when I was growing up we went to many different Christian churches, and my time spent sitting with the Quakers helped lead me to Zen. Later, my mother came to Buddhism through the Berkeley Zen Center.
What’s your favorite breakfast on retreat? Brown rice cream, sesame soybeans, and hijiki with carrots. Once, during oryoki breakfast in the Tassajara zendo, I unwittingly took a heaping serving of kimchi, which I couldn’t possibly finish. I wrapped it in a cloth and put it in my robe sleeve before ceremonially burying it in the garden that evening—so that’s what those big sleeves are for!
What’s your daily practice? Sitting, chanting, walking meditation, and working with others in recovery.
Favorite aphorism? “To have faith means to believe that one is already inherently in The Way, and not lost, deluded, or upside down, and no increase and no decrease, and no mistake.” –Eihei Dogen Zenji
Favorite album? Mozart’s Requiem.
Favorite cartoon? Anything by Alison Bechdel.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without meditating? How do you get back on track? I feel that since I began, I’ve meditated in some form every day.
Longest retreat? We do three-month retreats at Tassajara, in the Los Padres wilderness. Our days consisted of sitting and sesshins, from 4:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., in that mountain valley, with the sound of creek chatter and birdsong.
Book on your nightstand? The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen.
What do you like to do in your free time? Suzuki Roshi smiled at the notion that we have “free time.” He taught that there is just practice, moment after moment.
Who is your teacher? Eijun Linda Cutts, who I feel boundless gratitude for.
What non-Buddhist do you look to for guidance? The fellowship that we find in the rooms of recovery.
Coffee or tea? I keep buying tea, but I keep drinking coffee.
Favorite subject in school? Drama.
What was your first job? Babysitting—50 cents an hour, taking care of three children.
Most used emoji? ❤️
Why did you want to give a dharma talk on Zen and recovery for Tricycle? When I began to teach, the thing I most wanted to do was to share with other suffering beings the intersection of recovery from addiction and the practices of Buddhism. This teaching, “The Eight Awarenesses of the Awakened Being,” is a beautiful realization of that congruence.
What Buddhist book has had a significant impact on your practice? Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, has guided my practice since I first began. Famously, Shunryu writes, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.” To continue to be always beginning—to be a beginner, in practice and recovery—has been a most important teaching to me. Though Suzuki Roshi had died by the time I came to Zen Center, I feel closeness to him through his writing in this book and the practice of his students.
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