Zen Peacemakers http://zenpeacemakers.org Tue, 26 Jul 2016 01:15:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/gratitude-to-bernies-caregivers/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/gratitude-to-bernies-caregivers/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:14:59 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14119 IMG_6626

  Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge […]]]>
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Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge cakes, your attentiveness and kindness have been an invaluable source of encouragement and energy leading to a remarkable progress in Bernie’s health. Zen Peacemakers Inc. would like to express appreciation to you both. Thank you.

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-roshi-joan/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-roshi-joan/#respond Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:08:52 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13971 joanAUS2

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” –
reflections from 20 years of participants in the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.

By Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Photos by Peter Cunningham

 

The suffering that we touched during our retreat at times led us into darkness and sometimes transformed into joy and healing as we sat and practiced together and heard one another. I remember Bernie’s old buddy Peter Matthiessen asking: How could one feel joy in such a place? Bearing witness is not only about bearing witness to one's own life but also to all of life. And it was here at Auschwitz that we bore witness to the suffering of others, to the suffering of ancestors, to our own suffering, and to the possibility of the transformation of suffering. Peter was astounded by the release he experienced at Auschwitz, and so were all of us.

One of the ways that I have practiced bearing witness has been in the experience of Council, a practice where people sit in circle with each other and speak clearly and listen deeply. Council at Auschwitz was a way for us to communicate about the deepest issues of our lives, including suffering, death, and grief as well as meaning, healing and joy. Council was indeed one of the deepest ways that we taught each other during the retreat.

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Roshi Joan, Bernie and Kaz Tanahashi in Auschwitz/Birkenau 1997

Council is found in many cultures and traditions over the world. There is reference to it in Homer’s Iliad. One finds it in the tribal world of earth cherishing peoples. And, of course, it is a key strategy of communion and communication in the tradition of the Quakers, who so influenced the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In the 1970’s, I and others brought what we had learned in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement to our lives as teachers and people who were involved with social action and spiritual practice. Council, or the Circle of Truth, or whatever we called it then became a way for us to incorporate democratic and spiritual values into our collective and individual lives. In the mid-90’s, I introduced the Council process to Bernie and Jishu Holmes. It fit so well with their work as peacemakers, and they brought it to many places, including Poland. For Bernie and Jishu, Council seemed to be a practice that was naturally based in the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Healing. And it was to contribute to a more profound relationship with our time at Auschwitz.

At Auschwitz, the practice of Council did not necessarily lead us into seeing things the same way. It was not a consensus process at all. Rather, it was a way for people to recognize that each individual in the circle had his or her own experience, take on things, his or her own wisdom. When differing views and experiences were expressed in Council, the depth of field seemed to be much greater. Here we began to discover the importance and richness of differences. The practice of Council allowed people to develop appreciation for differences and to respect the differences of perspective that were held by Germans and Jews, by men and women, by old and young, by rich and poor, by the joyful and the terrified among us. We saw clearly that it was the intolerance of differences that made an Auschwitz possible.

This is an excerpt and appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en

 

 

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Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/zen-peacemakers-collect-winter-clothes-for-pine-ridge-reservation/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/zen-peacemakers-collect-winter-clothes-for-pine-ridge-reservation/#respond Wed, 13 Jul 2016 15:05:45 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13685 womenssort

As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed […]]]>
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As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed to send winter cloths for to Alice and Tuffy Sierra of Pine Ridge Reservation, who were among the Lakota leaders of the retreat. Reaching out to other Zen Peacemaker Order training groups, and with the use of social media and the ZPO Members Facebook page, other responded. Hundreds if not thousands of pounds of cloths were sent from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and other places around the United States. Members gathered the clothes, boxed and shipped them to the Sierras in South Dakota. Thank you to all the members for your organizing, donating, and contributing to this effort.

Peg Reishin Murray, a Zen Peacemaker Order member from Boulder, Colorado USA, chose to drive her donation to the reservation herself. She writes:

My community responded wholeheartedly, my VW van was filled to the rooftop in a few short weeks, and I drove the van to Pine Ridge staying just long enough to unload the donations, then turned around and drove home. Way boring, no?

van2nd rez runThen Alice sent a second request and in late January 2016 the scenario pretty much repeated itself—except this time I received a Tuffy Teaching and that is the story I’d like to relate.

According to Google maps, the drive from Boulder Colorado to Pine Ridge takes a little over 5 hours. In reality, Google couldn’t be trusted here and on both occasions that I drove to the reservation following its directions (albeit different routes each visit), I entered a hell realm of GPS deceit that added about two hours to Google’s estimated drive time. (Tuffy told me that he has tried to inform Google that their directions are way off but apparently this is another instance of Native Peoples being ignored) But let me be perfectly honest here—the scenery between Boulder and Pine Ridge is one of the most spacious, uncluttered and majestic landscapes you will encounter and at some point in the journey, an unbidden bliss and the thought, this is suññatā (Pali term meaning emptiness; voidness), arose in my mind.

After many wrong turns, I finally found the road that leads to Alice and Tuffy’s home, and a second act in this comedy of errors unfolded as I attempted to contact Alice’s cell phone to let her know I had finally arrived. Of course, no signal. And the half mile long driveway leading to Alice and Tuffy’s home was a trough of scary-deep mud, the traverse of which only a 4WD might survive. After a brief moment of “ruh roh”, Facebook came to the rescue (text messages have a super power that can penetrate the airwaves that phone calls cannot).

clothes in vanSoon Alice and Tuffy arrived from one direction and Genro serendipitously pulled in behind me. Genro climbed up into the truck bed and we efficiently unloaded my vehicle and reloaded theirs. I took a photo of the three of them to share. The whole encounter had been completely low key, routine, and pretty selfless up to this point. But then as I turned to climb back into the van to begin the trip home, Genro beamed a benevolent gaze upon me and said, “Wow, you must be exhausted. Do you have a plan to take care of yourself?” Big mistake on his part to give me an opening to “say more”. Because in my habitual open-mouth-and-stick-entire-foot-in tendency, I started gushing about the Buddhist term suññatā and how driving out there (even if lost) is bliss. Genro was looking bemused, but Tuffy turned his flinty squint upon me and said, “Yah, good. Now listen up. I’m gonna give you directions for the shortest way outta here. Go back to the gas station and turn right…” His direction(s)? Spot on. I arrived home in record time.

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Photo by Peg of Alice, Tuffy and Genro

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Lisamarie McGrath and Ginger Fong, Los Angeles, CA

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Eric Manigian and Village Zendo, New York, NY

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Boxes Prepared and shipped by Ginni Stern of Burlington VT. Postage for mailing the heavy boxes was costly and the donations were collected to cover them.

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Alice Sierra receiving the boxes.

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Alice, her family and volunteers sorted through hundreds of articles.

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Alice organized distribution days for Pine Ridge reservation community

Alice Sierra wrote in response: “Everyday was like Christmas. I enjoy getting presents or packages. Not knowing what was in the packages increased my curiosity and gratitude for the giving to my people. Many many were so grateful for your generosity. My family refers to their clothing as Zen coat, pants, shirts, etc. I’ve even been asked if I would be doing it again???”

 Zen Peacemakers appreciates the thoughtfulness and intiative of all the individuals involved in this effort — a fine example of the Three Tenets — Taking Action Rising from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness.

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THE WOMAN, THE MAN, AND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/the-woman-the-man-and-the-space-in-between/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/the-woman-the-man-and-the-space-in-between/#respond Tue, 12 Jul 2016 18:49:28 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14063 bernieandme1224

By Eve Marko  Photo by Jadina Lilien   Bernie’s going up the stairs, I pass him walking downstairs, and suddenly hear Phump!Instantly I turn around. “What happened?” “Nothing, I saw this gorgeous woman and I almost fell over.” My brother gave me a book in Hebrew, teachings by and anecdotes about Rabbi Menachem Fruman, who […]]]>
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By Eve Marko 

Photo by Jadina Lilien

 

Bernie’s going up the stairs, I pass him walking downstairs, and suddenly hear Phump!Instantly I turn around. “What happened?” “Nothing, I saw this gorgeous woman and I almost fell over.”

My brother gave me a book in Hebrew, teachings by and anecdotes about Rabbi Menachem Fruman, who passed away a few years ago. There is much to relate about Rabbi Fruman, whom we met on a few occasions: a settler rabbi, a lover of the Holy Land who insisted it belonged to God rather than to Jews or Muslims, who cultivated friendships with Muslim religious and political leaders, including the heads of the PLO and Hamas. He also believed deeply in the importance of couples, of intimate relationships. For this reason, whenever he was interviewed by a newspaper photographers liked to photograph him together with his wife, Hadassa. Once he said to the photographer: “Here’s a major scoop for you. You can take a picture of God and bring it back to the paper! Just point the camera here,” and he pointed to the space between him and his wife.

The Zohar, the basic text of Jewish Kabbalah, states that God isn’t to be found in the one person, but rather between two people. There’s myself, there’s my husband, and God is in the middle, in the emptiness between us, never in the one. No, not even in the Great Man. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve meditated, how many kenshos (enlightenment experiences) and dai-kenshos (great enlightenment experiences) you’ve had, or even what you’ve done for the world. That’s not where God resides.

Often people ask me how my practice has helped me over these past six months since Bernie’s stroke. I think they’re asking the wrong question. The practice isn’t what I do early mornings when I go to my office, light a candle and sit. That’s the easiest, most comfy part of the day. The practice is when I then get up and return to the bedroom to ask Bernie how he’s doing, how he slept. To look again at what happened, his loss of weight, his unsteady but determined walk with cane, the splint on his right hand, the question in his eyes, the question in my eyes: What is this? What is this today?

A verse describes the absolute and the relative as two arrows that meet high in mid-air. Both the GM and I shoot arrows up in the air all the time, only these rarely meet. Sometimes they come close, sometimes one grazes the other sufficiently to cause a slight change in direction, and sometimes they’re ghosts in the night, and as I look at all that space in between I think of what the Zohar says: that’s not just any gap between two people who at times feel like strangers, that’s the abode of God. That empty space you’ve gnashed your teeth over, the one you’ve contemplated with frustration and wished to bridge more than anything in the world—that’s where God resides. So what’s there to cry about? The unknown abides in the very misunderstandings, confusion, and clash of wills and personalities that are part of our life. It’s as cozy as could be in the gap between need and fulfillment, desire and satisfaction. It’s right there in the gap between This is it and I don’t want this, I never wanted this, I wish this didn’t happen.

The one is easy. Sit long enough, hard enough, fast a little, give up the world, and you may get somewhere. Live closely with one human being—just one human being—and there, in the small scowl, the itch of discomfort and anxiety, or looking across a deep, unbridgeable gulf, right there is the true treasure.

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Returning to the Three Tenets http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/returning-to-the-three-tenets/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/returning-to-the-three-tenets/#comments Sun, 10 Jul 2016 15:44:14 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14059 Bernie 2016

 

FROM BERNIE: As I look at what’s happening everywhere, the violence in the United States, in Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Europe, I remember that the Three Tenets are not a theoretical thing. I enter a deep state of not-knowing, bearing witness to what’s going on with no judgments or biases, just bearing witness, and then take the action that arises. I invite you, everyone, and especially our members of the Zen Peacemaker Order, to do the same. Then please write comments on this post replying to this question: What actions came up for you going into that space of not knowing and bearing witness? Thank you – Bernie Glassman

 

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Resonance is Everywhere http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/radiance-is-everywhere/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/radiance-is-everywhere/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 14:43:29 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14044 0725_black_hills_pc

  By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo of Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance (left) by Peter Cunningham Originally appeared on Eve’s blog on 7/6/2016     The Facebook page for the Bearing Witness visit to Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota during the last week of this month has been closed, made accessible only to […]]]>
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By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko

Photo of Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance (left) by Peter Cunningham
Originally appeared on Eve’s blog on 7/6/2016

 

 

The Facebook page for the Bearing Witness visit to Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota during the last week of this month has been closed, made accessible only to those people who have confirmed they’re participating. I’m not one of them, but I am very happy that a substantial group is going, and I just put a Comment on that page asking them to build a foundation for future visits and work so that I, too, can come next time.

It’s our second time returning to South Dakota. These plunges, projects, visits, pilgrimages, however we refer to them—all call me. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Srebrenica in Bosnia, refugee camps in Piraeus, these places summon me. It is no accident that in Judaism, one of the names of God is Place. And She, He, the unknown, is most palpably present for me in these Places, maybe because we walk around there and shake our heads, muttering Inconceivable, inconceivable, all the time.

Right now I feel most called to go to South Dakota. Why? Because I’m an American, and all my doubts (What is this? How could this happen? What’s still going on?) surface there. Where there’s doubt, there’s the unknown.

In early May Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele, who have so kindly and generously helped Bernie and me these past months, went back to Europe. Mariola joined a group of German women at the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women in Germany, while Godfried went to Greece to visit with refugees landing there day after day. When they returned they talked about how the two visits are connected, how to this very day Europeans make pilgrimages to places associated with World War II because they remind them of what people can do to each other out of fear and rage, which come up now, too, in connection with the refugees from Africa and Asia.

We need to do that here in the US, go to our own places of trauma and reconnect with the things we as a nation have done. What eats at our foundation? What is the rotten piece that won’t go away? What have we not borne witness to that continues to echo again and again—another video of white policemen shooting African American men, another Muslim American thrown off a plane or told not to buy a house next door, another snarky innuendo by a political leader reminding us of white superiority?

The past is never past. Resonance is everywhere.

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The Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Event is led by Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Grover Genro Gauntt, two of the leaders of the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Native American Bearing Witness retreat. It is conducted in the spirit of the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemaker Order of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action Rising from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness, and is another step in the ongoing effort of Zen Peacemakers in South Dakota USA. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the event.

To follow the conversation and events about the Zen Peacemakers engagement in the Black Hill, join our Black Hills Facebook group.

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Fr. Manfred http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-fr-manfred/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-fr-manfred/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 16:05:27 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13965 404619_133959396723221_508094753_n

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.   BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS Manfred Deselaers, Germany/Poland (In photo, first on left)   I live in Oświęcim since 1990, in the Catholic Community Mariae Himmelfahrt, and since 1995 […]]]>
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 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” –
reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Manfred Deselaers, Germany/Poland
(In photo, first on left)

 

I live in Oświęcim since 1990, in the Catholic Community Mariae Himmelfahrt, and since 1995 I work as a minister for the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer (CDiM). From the beginning on I was aware of the [Zen] Peacemaker Retreats, from a big distance at first. In the nineties, I heard from priest Piotr Wrona, director of the CDiM at that time, that an American international Buddhist inter-religious group with Jewish roots (or something like that, I don’t remember exactly) was planning and conducting contemplative days in Auschwitz. I had no idea what that meant. Then coincidental meetings happened, conversations in between, invitations and then, eventually, at some point the request to take over the role of a Christian Spirit Holder. Later I often said that for me, the Peacemaker Retreats belong to the most important events in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Why?

There are few groups, which listen so intensively to “the voice of this ground”. Sightseeing – yes, of course. Meetings with contemporary witnesses, too. But sitting in silence on the tracks, from time to time chanting the names of those who were murdered… feeling the space while meditating, becoming aware of the many different dimensions in different spots of the camp site… this is such an intense offering to take this place and its victims (and even its offenders) seriously that even former inmates came back to participate.

I also learned a lot from the method of Silent Sharing. Mornings in small groups, evenings in bigger groups. It’s not the lectures that account for the atmosphere, it’s the respectful listening to the inner wealth everyone brings in. “Auschwitz” – that was the annihilation of others. Nearly none of all the groups coming to Auschwitz these days is bringing together different nations, biographies, faiths and religions so intentionally. The healing of broken identities and broken relationships belongs together, there is no other way, I’m convinced of that. New trust comes from honest listening to each other. For that, it needs a safe space, allowing for trust. That is what this retreat offers.

I’m a Catholic priest, not a Jew, not a Buddhist. This means, I am under no obligation to engage in liturgies that I don’t understand or can’t relate to. And that goes for other people too. That’s why for me the respect towards the other-ness of the others was always very important. It was expressed, for example, in the separate prayers for the different religious groups that were part of the retreat program, even when almost everything else is offered collectively. Anyone could visit “the others”, but also find a group with a familiar prayer-language. Sometimes, collective prayers or prayer-paths would form, in which we would express ourselves in our traditions successively. (…)

I have encountered so many beautiful people. My gratitude reaches out to all of them, especially to the founding parents and the pillars that make up the spine of these retreats from the very beginning, Bernie and his “family”. The retreat is not only “Bearing Witness” – it’s also Building a Civilization of Love…

 

This excerpt from Fr. Manfred’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en

 

 

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-damian/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-damian/#respond Tue, 21 Jun 2016 19:30:41 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13955 Damian Dudkiewicz

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.   WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE By Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain (in photo, third from right)   […] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might […]]]>
Damian Dudkiewicz

Damian Dudkiewicz

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” –
reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.

 

WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

By

Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain
(in photo, third from right)

 

[…] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might be over ten times. My first retreat happened in 1999, I was the youngest participant at that year, aged 18. I had not been to Auschwitz-Birkenau before.

As a Polish person, I learned about it at school, I saw programs on TV, read in history books, but never went there. A few months before the Retreat I had watched a short film done by a Polish director, Andrzej Titkov, about that event, and something deep down in my soul was calling me to go there. It became one of the most significant experiences I had in my life. The entire experience of this Bearing Witness Retreat was a big plunge for me into the history and energy of that place … into the known, and into the unknown. […] Asking myself what this retreat brought into my life, I say: it connected me with worlds inside and outside.

On the outside, I met lots of people from all over the planet, I experienced the oneness of differences … People from many countries, traditions, languages, cultures, sexual orientations, skin colors etc. in one place – that was a mind-opener for me. I started to learn English, and since 2008 I live in London. On the inside, the Retreat was a journey into my own sorrow, my own suffering, and I was able to connect with it. I met my own inner victim and also an oppressor, and it was possible to bring the lessons I learned into my daily life.

 

This excerpt from Damain’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at: https://janando.de/steinrich/en

 

ABWbanner2016v5Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers
Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in 2016

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“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/now-what-bernie-talks-about-the-first-days-after-his-stroke/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/now-what-bernie-talks-about-the-first-days-after-his-stroke/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 01:38:28 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13942 stroke2

  “NOW WHAT?” Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all […]]]>
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“NOW WHAT?”

Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke

Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris

Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all around. And all of a sudden, I was in my office with Rami—our office downstairs—and you were in your office, and all of the sudden, you came down to give me a note. Do you remember what that said?

Eve: Yeah. I wrote you a note on the yellow pad of paper, and it said, “Bernie, don’t take over the meeting. Just listen.”

Bernie: So, I got that note, I started to listen, and all of a sudden, I blacked out! And I have no memory—I don’t even know how many days I have no memory for. So maybe you can tell us a little about that initial period.  

Eve: Yeah, you sure took that seriously, “Don’t take over the meeting,” because at that point you started sliding down your chair. And Rami called me again, and I came down. And he had caught you, and put you on the floor. So you were lying on the floor, on your back. I looked at your face. And you were talking at that point. I asked you to raise your leg, and you couldn’t raise your leg. And I asked you to raise your arm, and you couldn’t do that. And then I could tell that your speech was beginning to slur. And then it just stopped. And I asked you, and you just, like did this [shaking head left and right], or something like that—that you couldn’t speak anymore. Oh, and I said I wanted to call 911, and you said, “No.” And I must have asked you another one or two questions, and then I called 911.

And they came, and they were great. They were ready, and they hooked you onto certain medication, put you in an ambulance, took you to a hospital in Greenfield [MA]. They turned right around then, and took you down to Springfield, also in the ambulance. And you went straight into the Emergency Room. And from there you went to Critical Care. And then you went down to Neurological Critical Care. And then you went down to a regular bed.

So at each of these stages they were trying to stabilize you. They knew right away that you had suffered a stroke. And you were at Bay State Springfield Hospital for five full days. They did scans, MRIs, and it was a big stroke. And it had hit your left side they told me, affecting the right side of your body. And also that’s where the speech center is in the brain. So it also affected the speech center. So for five days they were trying to make you stabile. And it was really not clear you were going to make it.

So that was your five days in Bay State. And your daughter Alisa came, and Rami was there. And after five days they thought you were stabile enough to release you to the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. And that’s what we did.

And you spent five weeks at the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. The first couple of days after your stroke, you didn’t talk. And it wasn’t at all clear that you could even speak. And only after a couple of days, I think one morning Rami and I were there, and you said something. And I realized that you could, that you had some speech—little bits, some words. But you were able to make yourself heard. And I remember just squeezing Rami’s arm, because I was so moved. He was standing right next to me. And you were even able to — one or two people from the family called on the phone, and if I put it to your ear, you were able to say, “Yeah,” or “OK,” very muffled. You were able to do that.

So in Bay State you would just lay in bed, and you didn’t move. And we were just hoping you would stay alive, and that you would stabilize. Once they brought you to Weldon—for me at least—the full extent of the loss of abilities became clear. Because it was only then that they really started looking at your legs, your arms, your whole side, noticing how you couldn’t feel here [right side of the head], the whole shape of your mouth that came down on the right. Your eyes, you couldn’t see, your vision was impaired on the right. And you couldn’t move on the right side at all. You couldn’t move.

They pretty much were able to ascertain that you were not paralyzed. I guess they have a way of seeing that. So they could determine you were not paralyzed, but the extent of the recovery, and what you would eventually be able to do was anybodies guess at that time.

People were optimistic. And according to various tests, they said you would have a good recovery. And if you remember, a Tibetan doctor came to visit you, and he looked you over and said you would have a very good recovery. And the prognosis was guarded, but very positive. And the rest depended on you, and the work you would be ready to do to regain your abilities.

Bernie: So, how long a period are you describing?

Eve: So, I know you have practically no memory of those first weeks. You were five days in the hospital. After that, at the rehab hospital you spent five weeks. And I’m aware that the first two, three weeks, you have almost no memory. A few people came to visit you, and I’m aware from when we talked that you barely remember faces, but you remember no conversations.

They started trying to get you to move, and walk. Well, not walking. That took much longer, but just to get you to move, get you to move your arms. And just everything— toileting—on me it was very hard because I could actually see it. I’m not sure, you know later on when we’ve talked, like we’ve talked now, it doesn’t sound like you were quite aware of what was happening. I think for people around you like me—who were there, and I could see—it was a shock. It was a big, big, shock to look at the abilities that you lost. A huge shock for me. I realized that you weren’t aware—or you were aware then, but you’ve forgotten now.

At his Weldon room, Bernie looks through countless cards of support.

Bernie: Now I do have some memories in that period. I’ll repeat it, because it seems powerful. I thought I had the memory—I thought it was three days in which I was dying. And my whole energy was based on how to die. I thought, the fourth day, that all of a sudden I had the sense that I could improve. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have a sense of anything else. All I had a sense of was that I could improve. And that to do that I had to exercise.

So again, I don’t know when that came. But that was all I had in mind—that I have to exercise. Most of the time—I think, I don’t know yet, later on it’s more clear—that most of the time I was in what I call a state of non-thinking. I just was laying there. And so I don’t remember that.

Eve: But were you alert, or were you just kind of out of it, in a daze?

Bernie: That’s interesting, see. I think—now I’m thinking, this is not experiencing—I’m thinking that in that state I was aware that I was in the state of no-thinking. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t remember being in pain, or anything like that. I just remember where I wasn’t doing anything. And it seemed to me I was resting so I could exercise. Everything was so focused about exercising. And then I do remember certain people coming to visit. And I may have even said it’s OK that they come to visit. And I remember thinking when they came, “They’re taking all my energy. I can’t do this. In between my exercising, I need to rest—or be in the state of not-knowing.”


Eve:
How did you feel when you exercised, and you say that you couldn’t do? Like when they first tried to get you to walk, it took three people to get you walking. And I wonder, did you feel discouraged? Did you feel bad?

Bernie: Yeah. During this time, which was later—four or five weeks, I remember five week, or I remember the last few—during all that time I didn’t feel depression. I didn’t feel negative. I didn’t feel like I can’t do these things. All my attention was, “How do I get what I’m doing to be done with more energy? And then we’ll go to the next thing.” Somehow—I don’t remember at least—having any sense of, “Oh this part’s not working, that part’s not . . .” I just was, “Here’s what I’ve got to do now. Oh, I need three people to help me walk. OK, let’s do it. And you know, what? Hopefully it will be two people next week, or one.”

And a good example of this—it was late in the game, I think it was the fourth week, or fifth week, I don’t know—they brought me over to four steps. And they said, “Here, we’re gonna have you walk . . . We’re gonna have you take your good leg (My left side was in good shape. The right side had a lot of problems.) . . .” So they said, “We want you to move your left leg, and move it up to the first step. Today that’s all we’re gonna do.” I couldn’t do it!

That’s the first sense that I had that my brain and my body were not so together. Because I know my body. I could lift my leg. My brain would say, “You can’t get up that first step. You’re fooling yourself.”  So that first day, I couldn’t get up the first step.

The second day I came, I moved my foot up, and I moved the next one. I could walk up four steps! And then I said, “Now what?” On the top of four steps they said, “OK turn around, and come back.” My brain said, “No way! You can’t turn around here! And you ain’t walking down.” That very day, I walked down.

So obviously, what I was learning was that my brain was saying one thing, and my body another. That first day my body knew I couldn’t lift up that leg. My brain was saying, “You can’t.” And so I couldn’t. The brain took over. It had more control over what I did than my body had.

Eve: So what happened on day two? You think your brain was suddenly persuaded that you could take those steps up?

Bernie: Well there was no difference between that first step, and the second step. And all of a sudden, I said oh, I did the first step. My body could do a step! Man, I could have done ten steps, or a hundred steps. Maybe not—I might have gotten too tired. But I got past an impasse. So obviously on that first day, my brain was telling me, “No. Your leg can’t get up. Your right leg can’t get up.” But second day, it just went right up. So what the hell? That means I could have done it the day before too—I think. I mean I couldn’t have just in one day done it all. But it may be . . .

Eve: So you’re saying that even though the brain was saying, “No, you can’t do it,” on the first day, you might have just been able to raise your feet and do it anyway.

Bernie: On the second day?

Eve: No, even on the first day. That’s what I’m trying to get at.

Bernie: Yeah. There probably would have been a way—I don’t know if there would be a way—of overriding. The brain has a lot of control, it seemed to me. That control is not allowing me to do something, not allowing me to feel something, not allowing me to hear something. I know there were many times I’d say, “What was that?” And you’d think I don’t have my hearing aid. My hearing, my brain for some reason doesn’t want, so things would be repeated two or three times.

And Godfried and Mariola, they just came from Europe. They came to visit me. And Godfried said something about—because he’s going to write a book with me on Zen—and he said something to me about Zen, and the essence of Zen. And then he had to go the bathroom. And Mariola turned to me and said, “What is the essence of Zen?” And I looked at her. And I realized at that moment that I had no idea what the essence of Zen meant. Now people have been asking me that question for years. And I didn’t have trouble answering them in one way or another. I may have changed the way I did it. But this time I had no idea.

Now what I also recognize is that I felt I knew what that state was—the state of Zen. But I had no way to describe it. The words that I used before to describe it weren’t available to me. And I had no words that were available to me. What that did to me was huge. A huge sense of joy. Or a sense of holy cow! I don’t know what this is, and now I can find out.

Now I’ve been sixty years in the world of Zen. And I don’t know what it is, maybe since the beginning, and feeling so much joy that I can now express it. But that’s what I remember, this state where I was just, “Wow. I have a new chance to clarify what does that mean.”

Bernie on the porch at Weldon Rehab Hospital

And then I got home, and I started to work with Godfried, and Rami, and Mariola on my book. I was doing a book. And the book was going to be the sixty years of Zen, talking about those things, which in a sense didn’t interest me anymore. But working on the book, one of the first things that happened was Godfried said, “I heard you say over and over that you stayed to study with Maezumi Roshi because he was the clearest man that you knew of.” And Godfried said, “What do you mean by ‘clearest man’?”

And I looked at him, and I said, “Huh? I have no idea what that means.” But now I have a chance to try to find out. What does that mean? Not only don’t I have an idea what it means, but I don’t think it could mean anything.

So anyway I was in a whole new study phase for me. And that was true for many Zen words that I had been using. I thought maybe we used them without really knowing what they mean. And I thought I probably thought I knew what they mean. But I didn’t really know what they mean.

And this is a new phase in my life where I could go a little deeper into what these states are.  And then, what became strong also is that in between the times that I did at the hospital, I did a lot of exercise—for my feet; it was three main things, my legs, my hands, my arms, and my speech. All three were exhausting. I would put maybe two hours into each. I was exhausted by the time it was over. I needed to rest. I rested before and after. I had to rest before and after.

And when I was resting, there was nothing. I was staying in a state of non-thinking. It was very restful. I would get ready for the next things, but I didn’t remember thinking anything.

Eve: Now Bernie, for many years you’ve talked actually about that state. And you’ve said that the purpose of Zen isn’t to get you to not thinking—because if you don’t want to think, you can have a lobotomy. So that’s not the point. The point is to live, and be actively engaged, and to live like everybody else. So now you’re saying, in the face of all that, after your stroke, you still found yourself in these states—prolonged states of non-thinking. So what is your comment about it now, given how many years, my impression was that you thought that there were teachers who said, “I could be in a state of non-thinking for two hours,” and you actually pooh-poohed that. I remember, “That’s not the objective,” you said. “That’s not the point.”

So what is your impression now of this?  

Bernie: Well, I don’t know. Again, these are areas that I want to explore. What I do know is that I could sit there . . . It was not a lobotomy state. I was aware. I was aware, and I was resting. And I wasn’t thinking. Now that period went on for a long time. And I think—but I have no way of knowing—that that’s probably true during the phases when I don’t remember what was going on. But I don’t know. And I have no way of going there.

So I would like to explore with somebody who has some thoughts on this—what was going on there. Also, it’s also gone.  It used to be when I’m in that state; I would get there and rest up, now my mind is doing all kinds of things. So it feels like my brain has redone some wiring. And part of that wiring has given me more memory— because I didn’t have that much memory.

Eve: And do you have to have a stroke to experience that?  

Bernie: Perhaps. I just don’t know.

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Orlando and The Call of Connection http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/orlando-and-the-call-of-connection/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/06/orlando-and-the-call-of-connection/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 11:11:53 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13919 candle

    Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three […]]]>
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Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three Tenets: Not-knowing, Bearing witness and Taking Action.

This was intended to be a letter of introduction to me and the responsibilities of my role for those who are engaged with ZP and whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet. But as I bore witness to what was alive today I decided to address my own vision in light of the wave of mourning following the killing in Orlando FL USA, surrounding our LGBTQ ZPO members, their communities and anywhere around the globe. Right of the bat, I’d encourage anyone who knows an LGBTQ person — or a Muslim, a Porto-Rican, a Latino or Latina — to reach out and ask “how are you?” Following this tragedy there are nuances of pain that my caucasian, Jewish, male-cis-gendered conditioning cannot even imagine. If you are one yourself, my heart at best glimpses yours — and hurts. Know that the Zen Peacemakers stand in solidarity with the queer, trans, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community.

This week I was riding a taxi from Düsseldorf Airport. On the German Radio I recognized the words ‘Massacre’ and ‘Orlando.’ The driver said that everyone in Germany are shocked by the recent killing. I was surprised US news even made it across the ocean. I felt moved. When we drove into Essen, one of the most heavily bombarded and reconstructed German cities, we drove by the soccer field where the government-run Syrian refugees camp was. We passed the large white blocks, impenetrable to the eyes, and the driver pointed to tall steel cranes and said that just few days before, three bombs from World War Two were excavated in that construction site. A large perimeter was evacuated, including all unsuspecting refugees from this camp. He dropped me off at my hotel and I joined my sister, her fiancé and their three month old baby for their wedding ceremony.

This is only a sliver of Life, of this flow of mourning and celebration, of moments and narratives intertwined into a single dot, of how bombs from the past, real and implied, affect the unsuspecting living present. Other kind of bombs, buried in the construction site of one man’s mind, exploded last Sunday and killed forty-nine individuals who celebrated authenticity, choice and love.

The call of the Zen Peacemakers, to which I responded when I first walked through the gates of Auschwitz/Birkenau at the Bearing Witness retreat in 2013, was to first recognize that the construction site is not limited to a town, or to one person’s mind. If nothing is separate, it’s one helluva big construction site. How then, do I minister this world’s one wound, from which we all bleed in so many diverse ways?

This past year I followed that question, and followed Bernie Glassman, from Palestine to the Bahamas, from Bosnia to the Black Hills. Bernie’s MO and the Zen Peacemakers legacy is one of zesty action, brimming with creativity and curiosity, gravitas and playfulness, openness and attention.  I have learned from Bernie to cook my life with the ingredients available. I also learned to be an ingredient myself, to acknowledge the larger system in which I exist, and the gifts of others with whom I share this soup. When I observe what members of our Zen Peacemaker Order are immersed in I feel great inspiration. Imagine what we can do, together, harnessing this Great Action, based, simply and humbly, on a caring heart and an open mind.

I have much to learn, and I am grateful for Bernie and ZP’s board of directors’ guidance and mentorship. Bernie’s stroke in January 2016 was a turning point for many of us, to Bernie himself, the Zen Peacemakers, Eve Marko his wife, even Stanley-the-Manly their Dog. I feel grateful to have been there in his support and to many of you who contributed with generosity. The stroke was also an indication of the inevitable changes in our organization from a founder-based to a vision-based organization. ZP is known for its Bearing Witness retreats and Street Plunges, and I look forward exploring additional forms of Buddhist practice and social actions that respond to the needs of now. Bernie is involved and eager to share guidance and opinions and I thank him for the dumbfounding kindness, challenges and shenanigans he has extended to me.

Few weeks ago, while surrounded by tents on a pier in Greece, a Lebanese refugee told me in simple confidence “All I want is connection.” I felt surprised because I have heard the same exact words from Joe of Pine Ridge; I heard them from Pawel of Warsaw; I heard them from Osama of Bethlehem and Boris of Sarajevo; I also heard it from my own heart and from my living sensual body; I heard it from the steel cranes and the turning dusk, from my newborn nephew’s glaring eyes, from the forty-nine individuals who danced to Love! and I also heard it, suffused by gunshots, from the man who killed them. I invite you, let’s invoke together this connection, excavate this shared construction site that is our joint life, bear witness to the nuances that build our experience and be curious of that of others, in an ever-extending perimeter, evacuating none. Lets raise the simple caring heart and mind of the mensch — and plunge.

In remembrance and gratitude,

Rami Efal
Executive Director, Zen Peacemakers, Inc.

PS. A practice of members of the Zen Peacemaker Order is to observe a minute of silence for peace each day at noon. For the next 50 days, I will hold those who died and the one who killed, in heart.

 

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