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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
52 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 JOAN TOLLIFSON was on staff at Toni Packer’s Springwater Center for five years. She is the author of Bare- Bones Meditation and Nothing to Grasp, and is currently writing a book about aging and dying. Toni Packer was a rare jewel. I’ve never met a more sensitive and tender human being. She had a passionate intensity about what she called “the work of this moment,” which she described as “a profound kind of listening and openness that reveals the intense power and momentum of our human conditioning,” along with the discovery of “an inner/outer silence—stillness—spaciousness in which there is no sense of separation or limitation, outside or inside.” Toni’s insight and expression cut through all forms of self-deception with remarkable clarity and simplicity. She was interested in listening and looking without answers or formulas, without relying on the authority of the past. Everything she said was fresh because she always spoke and wrote out of a listening presence that was vibrantly alive. That listening presence was the heart of her talks and her work. Born in 1927, Toni grew up half Jewish in Hitler’s Germany. Apparently because of her father’s prestigious scientific career, the family was spared from the Holocaust, at least until the very end. But had the war gone on longer, they would most likely have been taken to the death camps. Toni vividly recalled air raids during the war, bombs falling all around her, buildings on fire, and her father—whom she revered—huddled in terror in the shelter. She often said that it was this encounter with the depth of human-generated horror that initially prompted her spiritual search. A Questioning Life Toni Packer didn’t call herself a Buddhist, having left behind the traditional rituals, beliefs, and hierarchy of Zen. But she dedicated her life to exploring the path of awakening. Joan Tollifson remembers her friend and teacher, who passed away in August at the age of 86. SETHLEVINSONPHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN