October 10th, 2002, Serial No. 00973

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We'll eventually open a window and look out to see who's there. And Rumi, as I'm sure you all know, is a very famous Sufi poet who was born 800 years ago in Afghanistan. And I was born 750 years after Rumi in Newark, New Jersey, which I think of as the Afghanistan of the West. I was born in Newark, but I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey. And most of my childhood was centered around sports. I think when I was 10, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. When I was 13, I wanted to be a professional bowler.


I spent most of my time in bowling alleys, in baseball fields. And then I discovered golf. And then I spent many, many years on the golf courses. And actually, one of my claims to fame is that I got a full caddy scholarship to Rutgers University. But I think of myself as a child. I was pretty much asleep. Can you guys hear me okay? Is this working? Yeah. I was pretty much asleep. And I think at age, when I was 13, I discovered that my father was manic depressive, which I think was probably having a huge impact on my life, and I just didn't know it. And I remember my mother sharing this with me when I was 13 years old.


And I could see that she was very distressed. And she was kind of counting on me to be the strong one. So that's what I thought anyhow. So I can remember just taking this in and hearing her distress, and then I remember going up in the bathroom and crying. And I was totally kind of puzzled with what was happening and what this life was about. And I can remember, I think soon after that, making a very strong vow that I would find some way to help my father. That it was just puzzling to me that the mind could be so out of control, that there could be... And I remember watching his ups and downs, and actually his ups were quite wonderful. I remember I would go and work with him, and he'd wake me up at 5 o'clock in the morning


to go golfing, and we'd have really good times together. But it was also very painful. His spirit was mostly about kind of making it through the day, and very difficult to watch that. I found in high school, again it was kind of physical practices that I was drawn to, and I kind of threw myself into high school wrestling. And I just loved that sport, and I became... I was captain of my high school wrestling team when I was a senior. And actually, Paul, I remember telling this story at a board meeting many years ago, but one of the teams that we wrestled was a high school called J.P. Stevens. And our team, like most teams, when we came out on the wrestling mat, we were... Everyone was running and cheering, and there was all this kind of macho kind of showing


off. Well, this J.P. Stevens, they walked out quietly, and they all wore black, and their heads were shaven. And I knew right then, that was the team I wanted to be on. So, when I went to college, as I said, I think wrestling was pretty much my whole life. I think I had a few friends, but I was pretty much asleep. I feel like I kind of woke up when it came time to wrestle. And, yeah, in those days, it was about being lean and mean. I used to lose about 20 pounds to wrestle at the lower weights, because you were stronger and bigger than people. But everybody lost all that weight, so you had to do it to equal the playing field. In college, I fell in love for the first time.


I feel like it was the first time that these strong feelings of wanting to be with a woman arose. And it just totally, totally threw me to be feeling all of these things. And to have this beautiful young woman who seemed to be interested in me just was pretty miraculous, I thought. And I noticed, I think I was quite clingy, and she soon left me. And I remember being, I was totally, totally heartbroken and depressed. And in a way, it was the first time that I had felt that kind of deep, deep feelings that, again, were all kind of, I think I was putting aside. And it was right in that time when, I was a freshman at Rutgers, and I was taking a


psychology class, and one of the books that we had to read was a book by Abraham Maslow called Towards a Psychology of Being. And in that book, he, Maslow made it his life's work to study human beings. And particularly, he was interested in why some people seem to really stand out from others in terms of their, the richness of their life, and he was trying to study and categorize things like joy, and pain, and sorrow, and connectedness, and looking at what it was about some people that was really different than others. And he talked about people having peak experiences, people having times of great emotion or great insight. And as I read this book in the midst of my own kind of depression, I was just tantalized


and amazed by what I thought Maslow was saying. And I realized I had never really given any thought to myself. It was like I didn't think about my own strengths and weaknesses, or that I could do anything that could have any effect on them. And this book just blew me away. And I remember reading it from beginning to end, and I had never particularly read much other than what I had to read. And I remember staying up most of the night reading this book again. And I felt like I had this very strong, this kind of vow, this kind of sense to myself that what could be more important than this working on myself, that nothing else seemed to matter. And that I felt like, how could I help my father or help anyone if I didn't have a clue about who I was and what my own strengths and weaknesses were?


And I began reading everything I could get my hands on, having to do with psychology. And I discovered Alan Watts. I read the book, The Way of Zen, I think was an important book for me. I started reading Carl Jung and Rollo May and all of the kind of, both religious teachers and humanist psychologists of the times. And I started taking, I took every class that was offered in Rutgers on religion and spirituality and Buddhism, which there were not so many. So I think by my sophomore year I had exhausted all the courses that I could take. And more and more I felt like I didn't want to be reading about these things, I wanted


to actually be doing them. And I think somewhere in there an old friend of mine returned from San Francisco and told me that he had just gotten back from a place in San Francisco called the Humanist Institute on Masonic. And it was a small community where there was a teacher named Tolbert McCarroll who taught meditation and there were kind of classes on Eastern and Western mysticism. So I took a one-year leave of absence from Rutgers and headed west for this great spiritual journey. And it was pretty difficult for my parents and family to see me leave.


I think I had always been kind of the perfect student. I always got really good grades and did the things that I felt like I was supposed to do. The Humanist Institute, I was there for about a year sitting zazen every morning with a small group of people. And working, I think I was working in a, the skill I had, I learned how to type. And I was supporting myself through typing. And I would take the six Masonic bus every day from near, in the Haight area, downtown. And I think a couple of times I baked bread using the Tassajara bread book and that's how I first heard of the San Francisco Zen Center. And the six Masonic bus would go right by the building every day. And I can remember looking, every day I would kind of peer out the window and look over


at the building. And the only person that I remember, I remember seeing Isang, Tommy Dorsey, walking, sweeping the walkway with this bright colored vest that he used to wear all the time. I didn't know who he was at the time. And one day I got off the bus and I walked into the building and I was just, I felt just completely at home when I walked through the doors of this building. It's amazing, you know, in some way I tell my story a lot in a business context. And when I talk about this, I sometimes tell this part of the story and mostly people look at me like, what are you talking about? So it's kind of amazing to be here with you who all know just what I'm talking about, having such intimacy with this place.


I really liked that no one seemed to care whether I was here or not. That was important to me. No one was trying to sign me up for anything. It wasn't that people were unfriendly, but they were clearly not friendly. And I actually liked that. And I remember, I think I have this right, I don't think I'm making this up, that people were smoking and drinking coffee in the small, what I still think of as the small room. I don't know, what's it called now? Student lounge. And I thought, this place is unfriendly and people are smoking and drinking coffee. They're not, you know, this is a place where you can be yourself. And not that I smoke or drink coffee. But there was this voice, this quiet voice that said, in my head that said, this is a


place worth ten years of your life. That you should stay here for ten years. And I started coming every morning, driving, I was living, I think at that time I was living in the sunset and I would get in my car and drive across town and started sitting every morning. And I remember I sat every morning in the same seat next to Helen, a woman named Helen, who is no longer alive, who sat, she was always the first one in the Zendo and I think I was generally the second one in the Zendo. I could never get here before Helen. And then I moved, I moved into the Victorian just across the street when it got tiresome to be driving. And then it seemed like shortly after that I was living in the building. I remember my, it was not so easy for my parents as my one year leave of absence began to suddenly


stretch out. And yeah, I think I lived, so this was, I lived in the building, I think it was 1974, 75 and then at the time part of the program was that you needed to, that the next stop was Tassajara and Tassajara was sort of this magical place that I hadn't been to, but that in order to go there and stay there you needed to, you needed to earn and save enough money to go there for a couple years. And I was working, I got a job in a law office as a, actually Linda Hess got me this job down working in a huge law firm, one post street like on the 22nd floor and it was quite incongruous and strange to leave here and go work in that building.


And at the time, this was the mid-70s, so I was the only man working in that office that wasn't a lawyer. So everyone assumed I was a lawyer. When I got on the elevator I was a lawyer, but I was the only lawyer who wore baggy Zazen pants. So I was a very strange lawyer. I then, I saved, it was very easy to save money. I didn't do anything or go anywhere other than be here or occasionally I would go with some of these people who were drinking coffee and smoking, were really interesting people, and they would take me on Sunday mornings to the Sheraton Palace for margaritas, which I thought was just part of the practice. These were all senior students and they seemed very serious about practice.


But I went to Tassajara in, I think it was the summer of 1976. I was the dishwasher. It was a wonderful kitchen. I just totally fell in love with the kitchen. Steve Weintraub was the Tenzo and Jordan was the Fukuton, and there was a lot of playing and laughing and joy and seriousness in that kitchen. And I loved washing dishes, it was all by hand. There was no electricity in the kitchen area. And I had some fabulous assistants. I remember Paul Disko was once my assistant and he once rigged this amazing, we used to, when the food came back from the dining room, we would eat again. Again that was what I was told dishwashers did.


And there was this sterilizer, a gas flame, underneath the hot water and Paul Disko built this jerry-rig, this incredible holder right underneath it for putting the guests' leftovers so that the food would be warm after we washed the dishes. And then I was in the kitchen for a practice period and then I was, I'm not sure if I had these things right, I know that I was baker and I know that the summer that I was baker was the huge, the fire in the wilderness there that people had to evacuate and that's another whole story. But I remember taking the bowls and flour and things out to Jamesburg and things just, it was amazing how things adapted, that we're driving over the road and seeing fire everywhere and yet, life went on and we came back, I was part of the crew that came back in.


Yeah, I think, I felt like I was just settling into Tassajara when I was tapped on the shoulder one day and told that it was time for me to go to Green Gulch. And that was, again, I'm not sure exactly how things work these days and if Zen Center is the way it was, probably none of you are very sure about how things work and that's good. But it was pretty, you know, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said that I was going to Green Gulch and that I was going to be in charge of the draft horse farming program. And I asked if they had misread my resume. I did love gymnastics in high school and I was good at the horse, but I knew nothing about horses or farming. And I had never really done anything particularly physical in my life, although I did some


at Tassajara. In fact, one of the things that I love about Zen Center is, and I loved about my experience, was that I somehow was always asked to do things that seemed to be the most difficult or most foreign to me, like being Shusels, like great. But I remember I was asked to be, when I lived in Tassajara, I was asked to be the town trip driver. And I didn't know how to drive a stick shift. And someone took me on the Tassajara road and taught me and they said, you'll either learn or you'll die. And they weren't sure if Zen Center had insurance anyhow. So I learned how to drive a stick shift on the Tassajara road. And I loved it. I just loved driving that truck over the road and doing the shopping in town. I have these amazing, wonderful memories of backing up that truck for the first time into


the Knutson's parking lot and hitting the pillar. But I learned. And then at Green Gulch, there I was, I arrived and I was in charge of these horses. And I got, I think, three or four days of training and the person who trained me left for Tassajara. And, but I fell in love with these horses and we had, we were, and there were cows. We were actually, every day I was up early milking Daisy and getting the horses in from the fields. And there was a, there was a very experienced, crotchety old farmer who lived up in Olima who kind of saved my life many times. When we couldn't get the horse to move or do something, we'd call Harold Hart and he would come down and help us.


And, but I learned, I learned to sew harness and I, I mean my whole life was about, I mean I was, I was sitting, I was sitting in the mornings most of the time, though being a farmer it was, it was always a tradeoff. But farming became my practice. And, yeah, I learned to sew and I learned to weld. Welding was a, welding was a very beautiful practice and my, my welding teacher and a person who became a teacher for me was a man named Harry Roberts. And he taught me that, he said welding is, is a lot like our, our lives, that, that actually everything, everything, like the metal that you see in front of you is liquid and it just happens to be frozen.


And by applying heat to it, you're bringing the metal back to its natural state. And then you can shape it and you can do anything you want to it. And he would, Harry would let out this big laugh and he'd say, your life is like that. You apply heat, you apply heat to your life and you'll see that everything is liquid and that you can shape your life that way. So welding, I, I loved welding. And after, I think it was clear to me that this practice of farming and horses was, was probably about a three generation commitment to really learn it. It was, you know, huge and, and seeing, you know, each day I would learn something new. And then one day I was tapped on the shoulder again and was told I was going back to Tassajara. That, that I was going to be the assistant cook in the kitchen.


And I had just started dating a young guest student, a woman, a woman named Lee. And, and actually Lee and I met at Green Gulch on the top of a pile of horse manure. And, and she ended up coming to, we ended up going to Tassajara together. Actually one, I just want to back up for one second. One, an important Green Gulch moment was, for me was finding out that my, that my father was really ill and flying back from Green Gulch back to New Jersey and going to take care of my father. And no one had been, he was, he was actually, when I went back he was quite ill with cancer. And no one was talking to him or explaining what was, what was going on.


And I had incredible resources. I had people, Yvonne Brand and a few other people were helping me a lot with this going back to be with my father who was dying. And I was able to, when, when I came, I remember going, walking, you know, right off, going right to the hospital and finding my father tied in bed and heavily drugged. And with help, I untied him, took the drugs, got him off of drugs, fired the doctors and was able to meet my father and let my father know just what was happening to him, that he was quite ill and probably wasn't going to live. And in a way it was this amazing meeting with my father and he, he for the, he was so appreciative and I had never seen my father express appreciation. And he began calling everyone he knew to express how much he loved them.


And he, and he expressed real appreciation for me and felt that, I mean this was, I had, this was probably, I'd been away for about five years and he said that he felt that he understood what my choice was and that he respected it and appreciated what I had done. And, so I went back to, I went back to Tassajara where I was, I was the assistant cook and then I was, I was Tenzo and I ran the reservation office for a summer and then I was, in 1983 I was director, I was asked to be director and again I just felt it was just this continuing pattern where I, I didn't really understand why I was being asked to do these things that I didn't have any idea how to do but I felt it was a wonderful gift.


And I really, I had, I loved the position of being director of Tassajara and, and my son was, actually my son was born, my son Jason was born that year and I spent that summer walking around with this little infant in a carrier and so people were really nice to me that summer, it's really, I highly recommend just sort of walking around with a baby because it was not, it was not an easy job, there were a lot of, there were a lot of difficulties and it was also, it was also that was, I was Richard Baker's assistant as director and that was the, I think of it as the year of awakening for Zen Center, that it was, though a very painful, difficult time, it was this huge change and to me it opened up, it opened


up the energy and lots and lots of people being able to do things that, that they hadn't been before. There were, like for example, I know some people, I think the other day Gail assumed that I had done many student talks, well there were never, there was, there was never such a thing as a student talk, I mean Richard Baker and, you know, a handful of people spoke, no one, no one else would have spoke in public like this. While I was director, I noticed that it was, it was my 10th year at Zen Center and, and I began having these strong, it was almost like I was, just as in some way the feeling of walking in the door here was like being, it was like being pregnant with that I had to be here for 10 years. I became pregnant with this idea that I needed to leave, that I needed to somehow find my


place outside of the world of the San Francisco Zen Center and I kind of kicked myself out. I, and I, I really wasn't, I felt like I needed to figure out what I was going to do and I realized that though I felt that my practice was as a Zen monk living in a monastery, that my work was about being, I was actually running a business, that Tassajara had a business side to it, that, and that my, my day to day activity was mostly about managing people and solving problems and doing things like budgets and, and I got this, what I thought was this crazy idea that somehow I would enter the business world even though I remember business


had been kind of a, when I was in college was kind of a dirty word, I wouldn't have associated with someone who was a business major when I was at Rutgers. And I remember reading, one of the books I read that summer was a book called In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and using business language I felt that he was trying to get at how practice, how you can apply practice to a business situation and one of the guests that summer, Tassajara, was the woman who edited In Search of Excellence and I remember she, she helped me edit my applications to business school. I decided that, that there must be some way to combine these practices, the spiritual practice and business practice and that I had a lot of training in the spiritual world but no training in the business world and that the obvious next thing was to go to business school. So Lee and my son Jason and I, we went, we moved back, I got accepted to New York University


Business School and found myself back on the East Coast and actually we lived in Long Island while I went to New York University and it was a very, very difficult transition. I felt like I was in another planet or like I was a fish out of water being in New York and I got to, I got to see how attached I was to my own identity as, as Zen student and as, you know, and as director of, I felt, you know, a sense of, you know, kind of a sense of status or and there I was back in New York where no one, you know, I was, I was a, you know, 30, 30 year old who hadn't graduated from college and with no, no recognizable


work history on my, you know, in my background and I can remember being in Midtown Manhattan looking for a, trying to get a temporary job as a typist and, you know, wearing my suit and tie and going in and handing in my resume which basically said, you know, that I had spent my life at the San Francisco Zen Center and I can remember sitting in the, in the waiting room and there was this group of young people over, over a desk and they were whispering and they seemed like they were laughing and I thought I noticed someone pointing over in my direction and I heard someone say, there's a Zen monk looking for a job here and as you can imagine it was, it was not so easy finding work or finding my own place and, and actually it's a, it's a practice that I highly recommend. I think being in that context was very, very


powerful and important and I spent a couple years, I got my MBA degree and I worked in Manhattan for a little bit and I so, I really missed the Sangha here and I missed the practice and missed, missed people and actually I remember I started a little newsletter at the time called From the Marketplace which was a newsletter of Zen Center alumni which I was thinking the other day it might be good to restart, something like that. I came back, I came back to the West Coast and started practicing mostly at Green Gulch because I live in, I live in Mill Valley and I was on the board, I was on the board of Zen Center for I think six years at that time during very turbulent times when decisions were being made about whether


the Abbott ship should be rotating or not, that was the big decision that I spent years on. And I started a, I started a company called Brush Dance and, and actually the original, the vision for this company was making products based, making products that were environmentally sound and that expressed a kind of spiritual, some kind of spiritual expression. And, yes, I need to stop. Okay. I will stop. Maybe I'll just say one last thing to end. I'll just, when, I've been, I've been studying with, with Norman Fisher and Norman's advice


to me as Shiso is I would actually offer the same advice to everyone in the practice period, which is to be humble, to become friends, to be friends with everyone else in the practice period and to see everyone as Buddha. And, and I would add to that to also to keep knocking and let that joy arise. I appreciate having, I appreciate having this short time to talk with you all. And I, I really look forward to spending this practice period together. I really look forward to spending this practice period together.