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I finally made the tough decision. I had a dream, and now I’ve let it go. The act leaves me feeling slightly sad and also free. After more than 10 years, I’ve disbanded my meditation group.
This journey was an extension of my dream to be a Zen Buddhist sensei, a seed that began 10 years into my 20-year practice. When it became clear that my Zen teacher thought it was essential to cripple my ego, it was time to leave. But in the meantime, she had encouraged me to start a meditation group when I came to Florida 10 years ago.
In spite of my teacher’s harshness, I still loved Buddhism.
I found another Zen community in North Carolina led by a husband/wife team, where I thought I could work with a teacher and reach my aspirations to be a sensei. My disillusionment was twofold: like so much of Buddhism, the community teachers were politically left and did a poor job of hiding it. And then I finally realized they weren’t interested in my becoming a sensei — two teachers at their Zen Center were enough. I left, bereft.
Now the reality of my pursuing my dream to become a sensei was dissolving. And even my commitment to the larger Buddhist community was splintering. Through all of these difficulties, I realized that my love of G-d had never waned. It was an arduous journey, but through many unpredictable and gratifying encounters, I found my way back to G-d — and Judaism.
Meanwhile, I had adjusted my definition of our meditation group. I removed the Buddha from the little altar. I no longer listed us in the community directory as a Zen meditation group, but only as a meditation group. I still loved meditation and had always appreciated that ironically it deepened my connection to G-d.
But as often happens in life, the group dynamics shifted. It was becoming harder in the current political environment to prevent people from bringing up politics (which I’d always disallowed); naturally, almost all of the participants were politically left. I avoided talking about G-d since most of the people were secular and it seemed foolish to try to find an acceptable substitute for what was so obvious to me. And gradually participation began to fall off.
Now it is true that we live in a 55+ community, where people pursue activities they enjoy. Meditation is not seen as an “activity,” and most people don’t imagine it is something they would enjoy. For those who try it, they don’t have the discipline or drive to pursue it; if it’s not easy, it’s not fun. And of course, we have 200 other clubs people can join in our community. So the meditation group had a lot of competition.
Then again, they may have simply decided not to come because of me, or the person I’d become.
Last Monday one participant attended. Of course, it is summer and the snowbirds are gone. But this is supposed to be a group. The one person who came is a tall black man named Earl; he has attended for many years, frequently talks about how he loves the group and what we do. I will continue to work with him privately since we often discuss spiritual books and ideas.
Tomorrow is the last meeting of the group. I wonder who will come. I wonder what they will say. It’s all good.
But I’ve given up the dream.
And as a side note, the door has fully closed on Zen Buddhism.