February 25th, 2013

imagesThe question of the hour is “Where are the heroes?” This seems like the question of every hour, every season, every year, when the mask of greatness falls and we see that our statesmen, athletes, idols and stars are not so great after all. I don’t just mean that they make mistakes, but that their hearts are hollow. They cheat, lie and hurt people. They are selfish, ignorant, undisciplined and up to no good. Real heroes are something else altogether.

Yesterday I joined a group of people—perfect strangers—who entered an empty room and sat still and quiet for the better part of a day. I am honored by the presence of people who would dare to do such a thing: use up a perfectly good (which means an astonishingly beautiful) Sunday in California to sit down and stare at a wall. At the end of it all, I told them that what they had done was heroic. To take responsibility for peace in the world is genuinely heroic. I reminded them that while practicing Zen can be difficult on your stiff body and restless mind, it does not hurt anyone. No one is harmed by your practice; indeed everyone is helped, even if it is only because you are not erupting in anger or simmering in resentment during the time you are away.

When you are still, no eyebrows are arched, no fists are clinched, no fingers tapped, no sideways glances given. When you are quiet, nothing mean, cruel or critical is said. This alone makes the day a good day for everyone in your life.

I began my practice purely for myself. I wanted to be able to get out of bed in the morning, go to sleep at night, and overcome my crippling sadness. I wanted to be able to cope. But now I practice for another reason: because I hurt people. I hurt them a lot, and in ways I never see until it is too late, until the breadth of my failure crumbles whatever notion I had of my own greatness.

I am amazed by the extraordinary power we have to do good when we have the courage to do nothing.

Then I bow to this great earth and everything in it, asking forgiveness. And shazam! It is given. Talk about superpower.

You can still join a day at my Grailville Retreat in Cincinnati on March 16, or book your space in the Marin Retreat in June by going to this page.


  1. And this is precisely why k.d.lang is one of my biggest heros. Her practice is sincere and true. Her life is the same way. That means everything.

    Comment by Jack B — February 25, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  2. I’m so at the “practicing for coping” phase. Whatever peace comes forth from it, is an added benefit.. (However I adore the superhero mask that comes with it! I guess that was just for illustration, right? :-))

    Comment by Roos — February 26, 2013 @ 10:31 am

  3. This. This is why I sit. Thank you for articulating it for me.

    Comment by Jacqueline — February 26, 2013 @ 10:59 am

  4. […] I also read a blog from a dear friend and teacher on what it means to be a […]

    Pingback by Heroes, part deux | hutchofzen — February 26, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

  5. thanks for the encouragement

    Comment by Colleen — February 26, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  6. Your writings have changed every day of my life. And the above is a perfect example. A living breathing piece of wisdom that I can carry with me always. Thank you.

    Comment by Sarah — February 26, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

  7. Yeah, forgiving myself, that’s the killer. I can forgive everybody almost anything but myself, I have a hard time with that.

    Comment by Simone — February 27, 2013 @ 1:37 am

  8. Thank you once again…

    Comment by Kirsten — February 27, 2013 @ 6:44 am

  9. In the beginning, I didn’t know why I was practicing. Just kept saying yes to every sitting, every retreat. Then I thought I was practicing for myself, because I thought I was glimpsing something true. But now, hearing you say that you hurt people. Yes. I do, even now, even though my relationships have improved, I still hurt people. What a revelation. Still think I’m right and therefore still make others wrong, less than. You’ve inspired me to keep practicing, to keep doing nothing, maybe keep somebody safe from me.

    Comment by Dawn Downey — February 27, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  10. […] heroes […]

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  11. […] me think of this post by Karen Maezen […]

    Pingback by The Belly Buttons of Heroes | faeriesrevenge — March 17, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

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