Planet Lazarus

March 18th, 2008

Last weekend I sat in the middle of more than a dozen newcomers who participated in the Beginner’s Mind retreat at my Zen Center, and it was a remarkably powerful experience. Powerful because it always is. Remarkable because attracting more than a dozen people out of the drunken sunshine of a lazy LA Sunday to practice eight hours of silent self-discipline is a miracle. A miracle, I tell you.

Now it’s nothing much to boast about compared to what they’re calling America’s most popular church, the church of Be as Rich as God Wants You to Be.

And it’s a pittance compared to the self-styled gospel worshipped at the altar of Be as Rich as You Think You Should Be.

But it is a miracle in the plain and ordinary church that I frequent, the church where, invite as we might, many are called and stubbornly few ever choose to step even one foot inside, the church of Be.

Sitting there all day in this simmering brew of effort, willingness, endurance, open-mindedness and sincerity, sitting with strangers in a slow bake of solidarity and mutual encouragement, percolating in the intimacy and acceptance of a shared experience, I was overwhelmed with delight and gratitude. When it was over, we all left on weightless wings, sailing on gusts of freshness, into the lives we had, only eight hours earlier, been desperate to leave behind.

Truly, miraculously, we raise the dead.

Please come next time. There is always a next time, and there is always room for you.


  1. it sounds wonderful. i miss the sangha i belonged to back in arizona way back when. i miss it dearly. living in japan you’d think i’d have no problem finding one here, but buddhism, zazen…they are reserved for the monks only.
    your post brought back sweet rememberings.

    Comment by ladybug-zen — March 19, 2008 @ 2:05 am

  2. Oh no, this is why my teacher came from Japan in the late ’50s. There is no living practice, no living Zen, in Japan, he said then. You know it is true. Thank you for coming all this way.

    Comment by Karen — March 19, 2008 @ 2:08 am

  3. It sounds really, really lovely.

    I find the whole “gospel of prosperity” thing incredibly offensive.

    Comment by Mama Zen — March 19, 2008 @ 2:16 am

  4. Some next time, I will be there, sweating it out with great sincerity.

    Comment by Jena Strong — March 19, 2008 @ 2:21 am

  5. Jena,
    Your seat has your name on it.

    Comment by Karen — March 19, 2008 @ 2:27 am

  6. You inspire me. There is a Dharma center here in town. I’ve not been brave enough to go in. Perhaps I’ll set aside a Sunday, a bit of time for me to just be.

    Comment by Shalet — March 19, 2008 @ 4:30 am

  7. Shalet! Go in! You won’t regret it!

    Sounds good, Karen. Very good.

    Comment by MamaShift — March 19, 2008 @ 5:43 am

  8. I will come soon…

    Comment by Mika — March 19, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  9. I’ve signed up for an “intro to zen buddhism” workshop at the local zen center in May. I’m so looking forward to it. This has been calling to me for awhile.

    Comment by She She — March 19, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  10. Can I just share the fact that my mom actually bought me the book by that preacher guy Joel? Talk about Planet Lazarus … not to mention many other issues I won’t bother to get into right here.

    I would so attend your church on a beautiful sunny day even if I were in LA, even if I were lazy. When we move it is my goal to attend the mediation sessions in Harrisburg. There’s a center downtown.

    Comment by Shawn — March 19, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  11. This, you, its the real deal.
    The rest? It makes me weary, exhausted by the slickness and packaging and hollow emptiness.
    what remains when all this is stripped and one is left bare?
    This is your church and it raises the dead, I believe this.
    Even though in many ways we walk different paths, find truth in different ways, when it comes down to it, we are one and you speak me own heart Karen.
    I love you.

    Comment by bella — March 19, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  12. I’m so excited, I don’t have a meditation center anywhere near where I live now, but I was talking to a friend of mine in Florida where we are moving and out of the blue she said she’s noticed a meditation center by her and has been thinking about going. Can I move now?????

    Comment by Shannon — March 20, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  13. This reminds me that I looked up three Zen places here in Saint Louis back in January and now I can’t find my list. I got that far and thought “first I need to lose weight.” I think my fear is that if I just “be” that I’ll get nothing done, I’ll never fix my life. And my other voice is saying, “So? The problem would be??”

    Comment by Mary Ann (Moanna) — March 20, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  14. Mary Ann,
    Isn’t it funny the way we think? When we look at the word “be” we think it says “be lazy” when in truth, the less time we spend thinking the more time we spend doing. More of everything gets done when we just are, instead of thinking of what we are (and aren’t!)

    Comment by Karen — March 20, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  15. Sounds wonderful! I’m there in spirit.

    Comment by Shelli — March 22, 2008 @ 12:01 am

  16. Ahhhh…This sounds beautiful. Next time I am in sunny CA I will make straight for the church of Be. I am there with bells on.

    Comment by Meg Casey — March 26, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

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