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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
94 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly Of course, this particular issue is not unique to Zen. And it’s not new. We see this old story of the objectification of women by the male patriarchy everywhere in history and in modern Western culture. I was enacting a stereotype: the vulnerable young female student of a powerful older male teacher. I felt betrayed, confused, angry, and sad for many years. For me, retreating into the emptiness of gender was strongly appealing. In my life, this view became a lifeline I could use to help free me from the attention of my teacher’s sexual predation. Sadly, other women in our sangha were not so lucky. And, as I came to understand later, seeing into the emptiness of everything is only half of the path of awakening. While trying to work out these issues, I continued my life as a straight woman in modern America. I married and had a child. I worked as a therapist and as a mindfulness teacher and trainer, help- ing people live fully in the midst of grief and despair. While striving in my Zen life to be simply a neutral person of the way, in my every- day life, I was definitely a woman. As I became a senior student, I struggled to own my power. Often, when I acted strongly and clearly, I was criticized for not being feminine enough. I was told to be softer, to not be so sure of things. This advice was never directed toward my male sangha brothers. I encountered the same dilemma in my professional life. This struggle began to resolve when I met my second Zen teacher, James Ford. He combined dharma clarity with tenderness and kind- ness and also demonstrated a scrupulous respect for boundaries, managing to keep his desires from inappropriately overshadowing his teaching. And even though, by the time I met him, I had made often when i acted strongly and clearly, i was criticized for not being feminine enough. i was told to be softer. this advice was never directed toward my male sangha brothers.