unto us a child is born

December 16th, 2015


A woman came to the retreat in Kansas City in October. With her doctor’s permission, she had driven three hours from Iowa to be there. She was 34 weeks pregnant and, as you might expect, radiant. But in her case there was a little more to it: after nine years of infertility, miscarriages and stillbirth, here she was. The chance had been so slim, the journey so grim, she never believed she could get this far.

The truth is always like that: unbelievable.

She smiled all weekend. Fear and doubt had fled her face. She was beginning to let herself feel blessed. After we parted, I kept an eye on her as the remaining weeks passed. The baby was late. In the final days she went to and from the hospital over and over in false labor. Her burden was heavy. Nothing seemed to happen. The good news never came. I was worried.

Up close, possibilities seem to disappear.

Two days ago she sent me the first pictures of her newborn son swaddled in her arms. One look and I recalled that wide-open sense of wonder. Love surpassing all pain, resting in the infinite circle of light. The night has passed! The baby has come! Suddenly, everything is perfect, everything is possible. Not one thought creased either brow. Together they have attained grace.

Mother and child are doing beautifully.

The promise of a spiritual path is like this: to return to the natural state of fulfillment and ease. The old masters call it “the circle of wonder.” In it are the boundless love of a mother and the eternal innocence of a child. To be sure, the journey is difficult. Obstacles mount. Expectations fail, hope sinks, fear overwhelms, and you have to do it alone. Alone! Not even the helpers can help.

Who among us is willing? Who indeed.

Last weekend I sat a retreat with many newcomers. Newcomers uplift me, and yet, I worry. Silent retreats are always powerful, but this one struck like thunder. Not everyone could ride the storm. Alas, in Zen as in life, there’s no shelter at the side of the road. No avoiding, no denying, no way out. Fear must be overcome. Peace must prevail. Near the end of the retreat, the newest newcomers came by ones to see me alone. How is your retreat? I asked, although the awed stillness on their faces told it in full. Wonderful, came the quietest replies. Amazing. Lovely. Indescribable. Life-altering.

Doubt fled my heart, and I let myself feel blessed. The night has passed; the prophecy has been fulfilled. Now peace is at hand and the possibilities are endless.

Let it begin with me.

And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas Everyone. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to Men.


  1. Oh Maezen, I love you so!
    Merry Christmas to you.

    Comment by marcea — December 16, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  2. This is wonderful. Merry Christmas, Maezen. Thank you for being available and for the encouragement. Love, Meg

    Comment by Meg — December 16, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  3. My Dear Teacher,

    What an exquisitely perfect story for this season . . . and all seasons.

    “And He shall be called wonderful”; each of us, all of us, the grace that lives in each of us.

    Thank you so much, Maezen. Eternal peace, infinite love to you. To all.

    Comment by Elizabeth — December 16, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  4. “Not even the helpers can help.” Yes and yes – and thank you for showing me the Way where helpers aren’t needed.

    In deep gassho,
    Ben Ming

    Comment by Ben Ming — December 16, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

  5. And peace be with you and yours.Peace to all of us.Peace to our world in such need of peace and hope.

    Comment by daisy marshall — December 16, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

  6. such love and grace imbue your every word. You do such good work and I am so blessed to know your works and to be able to benefit from your teachings. I wish for you the triple blessings and many hours of love and laughter.

    Comment by Maureen Custer — December 17, 2015 @ 6:37 am

  7. Thank you, Maezen. You and everything I encountered in that strong, silent zendo continue to fill me with light, aspiration and constantly unfolding wonder. Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Pam — December 17, 2015 @ 6:53 am

  8. A message with love and light and hope, thank you dear Maezen. Wishing you and yours and all … endless love.

    Comment by Clare — December 19, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

  9. You are one good writer!

    Comment by Bill — December 21, 2015 @ 11:42 am

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