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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
100 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly There is a practice in Zen of saying yes to everything we encoun- ter. When something happens that is hurtful, when something is joyful, we just say yes. After all, saying no is a form of objecting to reality. We can certainly spend our lives doing this, but ultimately we have to bow to what is real. (And sometimes this includes saying yes to the mind that rejects.) Here, Xuedou and Yuanwu say yes to Iron Grindstone Liu. As I reflect on what I have learned in my life as a woman in Zen, I can remember so many times when I said no to who I am, letting myself be defined by what others thought I should be. Now I see my work in the world as being fully myself. I am a woman. And I am not a woman. Ultimately, I am both a woman and not a woman. When I get up in the morning at a sesshin, I put on my women’s underwear, comb my hair, and don my priest’s robes. On other days, I put on my women’s underwear, comb my hair, and don jewelry. All of these clothes and markers of form are made of emptiness. In the current political climate, it’s harder to ignore the misogyny behind blatant criticisms of strong women and the denial of our value as full human beings. We encounter sexism every day—some- times like a shadow and sometimes unavoidably in the news, in relationships, in our families. Is it possible, without falling into over- reaction or ignoring, to meet each instance directly? There is an emo- tional cost to being present in this way. Sometimes we feel the pain and injustice of objectification more strongly, sometimes less. But either way, through the practice of widening our view of reality, of bringing together the worlds of sameness and differentiation, we can learn to feel them fully. Our duty, as practitioners of any gender, is to say yes to whatever arises and then to act from the balanced place of response rather than reactivity. My intention is to be like Iron Grindstone Liu—to find a way to be direct and playful in my encounters with what has so often been confusing and frustrating. Woman! No woman! Woman Zen teacher—yes!