When Hozan first asked if I would be the Benji for this practice period, my initial response was one of hesitation. The invitation brought up doubting mind. As an introvert, and also dealing with various health issues, I wasn’t certain that I would be able to do all that this position required.
After discussing this with Hozan and some former Benjis, and trying to practice “don’t know mind” and “responding to what’s being asked” to support and nurture our sangha, I said yes.
While I didn’t know our shuso Gary Artim very well, it became immediately clear after meeting with him at Saul’s Deli that this was going to be a great opportunity to get to know him, and that we could mutually support each other.
Gary and I discussed various possibilities of tea schedules, what was needed, and how I could best support him during this time. He graciously offered to add the online schedule components so that the sangha could respond.
Having the teas with the sangha offered a more intimate opportunity to serve and to feel more connected with the sangha as a whole; especially since we had not met in person for more than two years.
The other part of the position that initially gave me pause was writing the Benji poem. My wife Karen Sundheim is the poet in our family, and with her encouragement and advice, and meeting with Luminous Heart, the poem began to arise organically.
Doing the five-day sesshin completely, culminating in the Shuso Hossen, was another practice opportunity to be with the sangha; allowing body and mind to drop away. Being in the zendo again, following our breath, kinhin, chanting, studying the koan of the Whole World Is Medicine, and having delicious daily lunches prepared by our awesome tenzos Laurie and Susan, was enlivening and full of joy.
Deep gratitude to Abbot Hozan and to everyone who assisted, gave support, and practiced together.