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Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Interview with Karen Maezen Miller !


I'm completely giddy and deeply honored to introduce you to Karen Maezen Miller!  This interview is the result of me following a nudge to just ask and this beautiful woman so graciously saying YES!  


Karen, thank you so much for being here today.


Karen Maezen Miller is a wife, mother and Zen Buddhist priest, or sensei, at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She is the author of two books, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood; and Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life. She and her family live in Sierra Madre, California.   Click here to find her home on the web.  



      (Me) In the “about” page on your website, you write:  “I call myself an errant wife, delinquent mother, reluctant dog walker, expert laundress and stationmaster of the full catastrophe.  I’m also a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher…”  You are also the author of two books!  How ever do you balance it all?  What does a “typical” day look like for you?




(Karen)  My day looks like everyone else's. I wake up, get out of bed, and do whatever needs doing. It's not all at once, but always one thing after another. What I try to convey is that "imbalance" is only in our heads. We feel imbalanced when we think we should be doing something other than what is staring us in the face. We think there is something more important than where we are, what we are, and who we are. There isn't. When we release that striving for somewhere and something else, we come home, perhaps for the first time in our lives.



In the article you wrote for Shambhala Sun entitled "Parents, Leave Your Home," you write:  There is a certain hour every day, although it rarely lasts for just one hour, when I most want to leave home.   I know, as mothers, we all have these moments, the moments where it’s all hitting the fan at exactly the same time….what advice can you give us for those moments, how do you stay where you are when you really feel like bolting?



Breathe. A breath is the complete, perfect expression of "now." That's why focusing on the breath is so miraculously effective. It automatically relaxes, releases, and calms the fire in our heads and the storm in our hearts. And make no mistake: sometimes I do bolt! I might bolt in anger, which I will immediately regret and apologize for when I come to my senses. Or, better yet, I've learned to take responsibility for myself and plan practice retreats away for a day, a weekend or longer. If I didn't practice on the cushion from time to time, I wouldn't be able to practice in the kitchen every day.



If you could go back in time and have a heart-to-heart conversation with your sweet younger self, what would you say to her?


There's nothing I could tell her that she hasn't always known. It's just that sometimes I forget. We all forget what we have always known and who we have always been. That's when we become confused. I wouldn't want to disturb her in the least! She's doing the best she can, and always will.



In your book, Momma Zen (which beautifully shifted things for me, by the way), you say that your practice is to see that nothing ever gets in the way of anything else.  Can you please tell us how this practice looks for you?  How do you manage to stay present in the midst of it all?  How can parenting become a spiritual practice?



The secret is this: we are always present! Where else could we be? Children are marvelous masters (at least when they are young) because they are always present – within view, within earshot. Everything they do calls us to wake up and join them in the here and now, which is where we already are. Frankly, that's why it's a spiritual practice, because parenting asks us to do what we don't want to do, and what we don't much like to do, which is to wake up. The only obstacle is my stubborn insistence to have my own way, something I got very good at before I was a mother.



What do you know for sure?



The sun is shining. The air is warm. And a lot more, but I hope you see how obvious it is.




What would you say to someone who is struggling with self-doubt, who feels they are not on their path and they’re not sure how to get there?



Where is the struggle? Where is the doubt? Where is the path? What is there to know? The struggle is in your head. The doubt is in your mind. The path is straight ahead. To see it is to know it. But actually, none of that helps anyone. Advice doesn't serve. So just keep going. Faith is forward motion. Let the future come to you. It always does. In fact, it is arriving right on schedule and right here now. Do you see it?




I am in a place right now where I am simply saying YES to all that my heart is nudging me toward…I’m wondering, Karen, how do you personally distinguish between a true heart-desire nudge and an ego-driven nudge?



The truth happens in front of you. Things change. Opportunities appear. Coincidences happen. Questions are asked, and answers are revealed. Ego is the voice inside of your head that says "I, I, I, I." We all have that voice, but when we give it the keys to the car and the title to the house, trouble ensues. We cause pain for ourselves, and more importantly, for others. It starts to become crystal clear when we are serving ourselves. We recognize our own anger, greed and self-deception by the messes we make.



What is your deepest heart desire?



To do good, and to do good for others.



Your eleven-year-old daughter, Georgia, recently wrote a post on your blog entitled, “Recipe for Happiness.” (That I adored.)  What, Karen, is your recipe for happiness?



Listen to everything Georgia tells me. And say, "Thank you."


5 comments :

  1. I love this the most:

    There's nothing I could tell her that she hasn't always known. It's just that sometimes I forget. We all forget what we have always known and who we have always been. That's when we become confused. I wouldn't want to disturb her in the least! She's doing the best she can, and always will.

    What a beautiful way to start off the Mother's Day weekend... Thank you Julia & Karen. I admire you both.

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  2. Thank you for this interview, Julia and Karen. I loved the questions and the answers and this stood out for me today:

    "Everything they do calls us to wake up and join them in the here and now, which is where we already are. Frankly, that's why it's a spiritual practice, because parenting asks us to do what we don't want to do, and what we don't much like to do, which is to wake up."

    Amen. I love how zen just cuts through the bullshit to simplicity. Thank you!

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  3. Julia and Karen, this is so helpful for me, as a Mom, as a woman, as a person on the planet right now opening up to who I really am. Breathe, be present in this moment, be aware...

    Thank you for this beauty, wisdom, and guidance. I look forward to reading Karen's book.

    Julia, you are just amazing. I love you dearly.

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  4. Thank you, Julia and Karen.

    This interview blew my socks off! I love the simplicity of Karen's answers, the heartfeltness of Julia's questions, and particularly, Karen's desire not to interfere with her sweet, younger self.

    All is here. All is now. All is as it should be. WOW!

    Time for me to release the ego-driven anger I'm carrying this morning.

    Happy Mother's Day weekend xxx

    P.S. Julia, isn't is amazing that she said YES after you'd said YES to asking?!

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  5. I am reading both Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold now and I LOVE them both. I really enjoyed this interview and I love the part about balance. FANTASTIC!

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♥ Julia