There exists only the present instant, a Now which always and without end is
itself new. There is no yesterday or any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a
thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence. – Meister Eckhart
My teacher Nyogen Roshi sent that quote to me in an email recently, suggesting that “you might find it useful in one of your upcoming programs.” Emailing is something we do sparingly, our relationship resting solely on the alchemy of face-to-face proximity. The rarity of his emails ensures that they are highly visible; the fact is, every email I receive is itself rare and highly visible to me, or my practice has lapsed, as Meister Eckhart observes.
On Saturday at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston, I started the way I always start – by introducing myself. “My name is Karen Maezen Miller,” I said, and go on to tell them that “Karen is the name my mother gave me, Maezen is the name my Buddhist teacher gave me, and Miller is the name Mr. Miller gave me.” I use all three names, and in that way I carry forward three streams of wisdom inextricable to every moment of my life and work. My name is not just my name. It is my teaching. When I state my name I am also stating my practice: the realization that no part of my life is more or less important. No part battles with another because there are no parts. It is all one life and all one practice.
Among the many practical aspects of Zen training is the protocol of its form: the way certain customs are prescribed and therefore serve to eradicate self-consciousness and confusion. Zen training tells us where to put our arms and legs, for instance, which is a question of considerable consternation for most of us most of the time. Practical too is the protocol of my formal practice in the dokusan room, the private interview room within which I meet and work with my teacher face-to-face. Although I have practiced with Nyogen Roshi for 10 years, every time I meet with him in dokusan, which is at least once a week (and once a day during retreats) I begin by introducing myself.
“My name is Maezen,” I say to start. Whew!
I appreciate the genius of this every time I say it, since it clears away the barrier, albeit a false barrier, that hinders us in nearly every moment of our life, particularly those times fraught with fear and doubt. Where do I begin? Begin at the beginning, the training dictates. Begin now. Beginning anew is the manifestation of the fundamental truth. Everything is always new. The practical is always profound.
As with every Plunge, I dove head first into Boston. And although I bring the same equipment, schedule and script to each city, I quiver with the mystery of it, I feast on the fullness of it, and I end up utterly awed and inexplicably wet. You might think it would get old. It cannot get old, this Now, which is always and without end new.
I love to share what surfaces after, the ripples on distant shores. Here is what Corinne saw, here is what Jena heard, and here is Mindy’s view. And Denise’s. Here is Lindsey expressing perfectly what cannot be expressed. It just keeps going, this altogether Now.
If you’ve been to a Plunge, tell all your friends in Portland, Ore. and continental vicinities to come to these programs on Oct. 15-16. I’ll be bringing the same equipment and script. I’ll be bringing the same name. There has never before and will never be anything like it. See it once and you’ll see it forever.