While I was studying theology at the General Theological Seminary in New York, I came across a translation of the Tao Te Ching. The profundity of this brief book was an unexpected influence, and I found myself drawn to Eastern spirituality, and eventually to Buddhist practice in the Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa. For several years, I kept a "firewall" between Christianity and Buddhism, feeling alternately engaged and alienated from each as my life unfolded. This firewall began to break down as a result of attending several retreats at Tassajara called The Spirit of Practice: Christian and Zen. The leaders of these retreats were Brother David Steindl-Rast (a Benedectine monk) and Ryushin Paul Haller (at the time, co-abbot of San Francisco Zen Center), and they opened amazing new doorways onto the possibilities of both paths through their skillful teachings. Other important influences during this time of formation include the Rev. Liz Maxwell (who performed my husband David and my marriage), Joan Halifax Roshi, and Robert Kennedy Roshi. During a lenten discussion in 2012 with the Rev. Lynn Sanders, I spoke about this issue, and she graciously suggested that St. Bartholomew's Church (St. Bart's) may be a place to explore the convergence of these two paths. I took Lynn up on this offer, and have found that my spiritual life and practice have been enriched beyond words. Below are some of the material from my journey at St. Bart's.
My first step in exploring this integration was to serve as a speaker at the Rector's forum, which is a Sunday morning talk with the Rev. Buddy Stallings. The topic of this talk was "how do we bring our whole selves to church?" and an is available on audio via this link.
After this talk, I led a three class series of comparative study between Buddhism and Christianity. The first session focused on similarities and differences between Buddha and Jesus. The second session focused on the fundamental teachings and texts of Christianity and Buddhism. The third session explored the spiritual communities founded by Buddha and Jesus and their continuation today. I also provided a non-exhaustive bibliography of books that have been influential during my journey.
After the intellectual explorations, we created Living Christ Sangha at St. Bart's to serve as a community of practice. Together we practice sitting meditation, walking meditation, dharma reading, and dharma sharing. Once a month, on the Sunday nearest to the full moon, we recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We also have and occasional tea ceremony and have a shared governance model through the practice of council. The Sangha meets every Sunday from 3:00-4:45 PM, and many of us stay afterward to participate in the 5:00 PM Eucharist.