The Fierce Call of Love  | A Conversation with Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis

Transcript:

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Love is the call on our lives. And it’s a fierce call, a fierce love. And I believe that if we could speak more about that we could build a revolution that included people of faith and people of no faith.

Cassidy Hall: Welcome to Contemplating Now, a podcast about the intersection of contemplation and social justice. Through interviews with scholars, mystics, and activists, this podcast will focus on contemplative spirituality’s direct relationship with issues of social justice. I’m your host, Cassidy Hall, a filmmaker, podcaster, pastor, and student, and I’m here to learn with you. 

The Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis is an author, activist and public theologian. She is the first female and first Black senior minister to serve in the progressive Collegiate Church, which dates back to 1628. She’s a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Lewis and her activism work, have been featured by the Today Show, MSNBC, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, among others. She’s the creator of the MSNBC online show, Just Faith and a PBS show Faith and Justice, in which she has led important conversations about culture and current events. Her new podcast Love Period. It’s produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation. Her most recent book, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World, was just released this month, November 2021. Raised mostly in Chicago, she now lives with her husband in Manhattan. 

Reverend Dr. Jacqui, thank you so much for joining me today.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Cassidy, it’s my honor to be here.

Cassidy Hall: So one of the ways I love to begin is asking for your definition of the words contemplation or mysticism. What they mean to you and how you see them lived out in the world today.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yeah, thank you so much. I think I’m a new convert to contemplation and mysticism. I have said so many times in my sermons, Cassidy, that I’m not the girl of mindfulness, or I’m not the girl sitting on a mat. But I think my work with Father Richard Rohr, and with the Center for Action and Contemplation, has just really helped me to broaden my definition of what that means. To be mindful of what it’s like to have a grape break in your mouth, you know, to be mindful of the feel of your granddaughter’s weight on your lap or on your belly, which she likes to climb on. That’s your favorite thing to do. Or to be mindful of the way that air feels on your body and sort of in this non-dualistic way I was thinking, I’m an extrovert, out loud, worshipping person, therefore I’m not contemplative. But actually, I am contemplative. And I think my definition would be the slowing down of our mind and our heart and our breath, to be in touch with the ineffable to encounter the things that we would rush through and to turn our awareness to them. And let that guide not only the way we, you know, meditate, pray, get on a yoga mat, but the way we encounter our relationships, the way we encounter the world.

Cassidy Hall: I’m so amazed at how much I felt myself slow down in my head and my body when you said, “the way of grape breaks in your mouth.” That one in particular really got me.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: I am a woman of a certain age, I’m 60-ish and I’ve lived my whole life sprinting. I’m honest to say, I’ve sprint through my life. And just these days of feel, touch, smell, being, honestly it’s urgent for me to downshift and so I’m really working on it. And that grape, those big, black seedless grapes… When your teeth pierce that grape you feel like there is a God. It’s so delicious. Yeah, I’m glad that one slowed you down.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah, I needed that, I needed that. And in your work as a public theologian, and this going, going, going, do you find that this slowing down this contemplation this mindfulness, informs or enhances your work in activism and your work as a public theologian?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: It does. And I’m an extrovert, off the charts, ENFJ. Everyone is a big letter, it’s not like little… And yet, what I’m noticing is, I’m a little slower to jump into the Twitter world right now, a little slower to make my comments about a world event, or a little slower in the way I write, to allow myself to be with the thing, with the words, with the thought. And this conversation is helping me too, Cassidy, just to think like: so what’s shifted? And I think, writing the book last year, was such a slow contemplative meditative process, even though we had deadlines, every day to set an intention, write outside as often as I could, or sit in my really big chair… So there is a new awareness of how much the Spirit is moving in the slower space. Does that make sense, what I’m saying there? So it’s not hurry up, it’s what is the insight? What is the inspiration? What is the breath saying? And it’s changing the way I feel like I need to be first out. 

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. How have you found yourself holding that in this world full of urgency, in this world full of injustices at every turn? And this deep desire to speak to it now, to show up to it now, to do something now? How do we hold that tension of urgency and there’s also that care of self, and there’s also that care of community… it’s tension. How do you hold that?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: It is it is tension. And I think just being honest about it, you know, being honest with yourself about the tension. And even I think, Cassidy, I feel like the word vocation is coming in my brain more. What am I called to do? To say? My friend, who media trained me a million times before I ever got it , is always asking, like, his prompt for me is what’s your core message? So I’m asking, what do I uniquely have to offer into the conversation right now. And in a way, if somebody already said that, I could just park that, I could just love that, I could just kind of thank them for that. I don’t have to have a comment for everything. But I’m asking myself, how do I talk about love in relation to that? And honestly, Cassidy a year ago, maybe even six months ago, I felt very much called to sort of them, around the people, the anti-vaxxers, the insurrectionists on the sixth. And in fact, my therapist one time said something to me, like, has that got to do with the love you’re preaching? I was like oh my goodness, that’s a really good question. So is there a loving way to describe the vision of a preferred reality? Is there a loving way to call people in not out? Is there a loving way to say, we can do better, we can do better? And just that question makes me go slower. Not be as tangy, not be as — you might get more retweets or something if you’re tangy, but I really am asking what does love have to do with it? Still progressive, still thinking these are injustices, still thinking that we need to do better, still disagreeing with all of that over there, racism and heterosexism and sexism and transphobia… All of that. No, I’m not that girl. But can I talk about it in the context of the frame of love, a love revolution, fierce love. That slows down what I write because I’m committed to write it through the lens of love.

Cassidy Hall: So I’m really struck by the fact and the way in which this focus on love has such a enduring quality to it, and really, like love is the urgent thing.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Isn’t it? It’s the most important thing.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. Could you share a little bit more maybe about the origin story of your new book – Fierce Love: A Bold path to Ferocious Courage and Rule Breaking Kindness that can Heal the World?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yeah, thank you, Cassidy. Honestly, I’ve been working on this book for nine years. It came to me the other day that it’s been a nine year gestation. And then a nine year write, you know, and nine years to write. No, nine months I’m sorry, Cassidy. Nine years to gestate, nine months to write. My first questions were, I think, you know, as an African American woman living in this country and just watching the Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandy Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, that whole trajectory of not new behaviors, but the ability to see Freddie Gray encounter. To see, just right, the seeing of it just, I think, traumatized, so many of us, and my brain is always connecting dots. So it’s like the violence here that’s around race is the same kind of violence in Palestine, Israel, around religion and ethnicity, the same kind of violence in Ethiopia. All of these things are connected to something and that they were also based on religion just broke my heart wide open. How does religion which we litigate to bind us together to connect us, how does religion become such a weapon? Causing, you know other things? So I started asking: What would it look like to have a grown up God? Grown up faith and grown up God? And I did a lot of writing on that, I did a lot of work on that, I went down that path. And what I realized was that my ambition was beyond God to love. Like, if you’re not religious, can you do love? If you are agnostic, can you do love? No matter what your faith is can we talk about love as the ground of our being? Not namby-pamby love, not co-dependent love, not love songs, rom-coms love, like really the kind of love that made Harriet Tubman go back and forth to free people, that made Frederick Douglass a liberator, that made abolition movements happen, the kind of love that made those South African women sit in the streetThe kind of love that made Jonathan jump in front of Ruby Sales and save her life. This is fierce love, right? It’s courageous love. It’s bold love, it’s risk taking love. And I think it’s at the heart of all the world’s major religions. And that’s what I want to convert people to, love. Fierce love as a way to order our lives. I’m convinced that this fierce call to love and Ubuntu, this Zulu concept: I am who I am, because you are who you are. Almost like that’s our natural religion, we know that. We crawled out of the cave knowing that we had to make a fire together, we had to raise the kids together, we had a hunt and gather together, we had to stand for our tribe together. So can we increase our tribe, can we increase our feeling of connection? Can we understand that is not just my kin, you’re my kin, we’re all kin… that’s the key to a kind of solidarity that can make a difference.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. And in that book, you speak into the ways that that stories shaped us. The stories were told by others, including our nation, and you write the birth order, gender, religion, sexuality, racial identity, these are just some of the stories that are woven together to make itself. And you know that sometimes these stories are inaccurate or incongruent with our inner lives. And this deep self-love that we also need in order to move through the stories towards the truth. And with what you just said, I’m thinking about how, you know, one of the stories we’re often told the beginning of our lives is that we’re on our own, and that this individualistic society that we live in tells us that we don’t need each other and we don’t, we don’t need in community or communal care and how that really moves us away from what love really is.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yes. Yeah Cassie, that’s right. And, you know, that’s a predominant story in our culture. But it’s not the predominant story in lots of cultures. So I think about Nelson Mandela, 28 years in prison, and he leaned on Ubuntu and says, I came to understand the humanity of my captors. I came to understand the humanity of the jailers. And if he didn’t have that, I mean, he was a lion, right? If he had this kind of re-connection with that origin story and was able to grow a movement that led to the end of apartheid, which required black and white people and colored people and Indian people to collaborate to break down those walls. Dr. King would say we’re bound together woven together in a garment of humanity  and that’s kind of got bought Gandhi at base. So I’m just thinking about how basic it is this reliance upon each other’s story. And then, you know, Western thought European thought comes to America thought and we suddenly think of success is how fast can you go up and move away from your house? My friend Shanta is a South Indian woman. And like her family of you know, I don’t know, 90 people, I’m exaggerating slightly, but when they come visit her New York, everybody camps out in the same place on the couch. There’ll be offended if they were all staying in hotels. So in that culture, community. Think about Vietnamese families who immigrated to America. And then I bought a store, and then you bought a store, we all lived in the apartment and we spread out. Hispanic cultures, African cultures, so we could unlearn that individual story. And be thinking instead about who are my people and how can we together heal the world. Womanists, Alice Walker, my cousins are yellow and pink and black and brown, and we are all each other’s people Cassie.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. And in that way, do you see I mean, this fierce love, you know, while it’s a returning and uncovering to the truth of who we are into what we already know, what’s in us, do you also see it in a way that it’s kind of cultural in some aspects? Now, do you also see it as a form of activism?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Absolutely. I think this fierce love, this new story is activism, and can see proof of that. We all watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered. And that critical mass of people around the globe spawned it. Because we understood that George’s death is our death, his baby’s grief is our grief. And we also understood that we weren’t going to get to the promised land of a peaceful nation, without each other. So is it is perhaps evolution, maybe, in the human spirit, to lean back into what we knew as infants, that we need each other, we need somebody to raise to raise a world together.

Cassidy Hall: And how do you see or experience… You know, I like the way that you’re using love as this clear connecting point, because oftentimes, it seems like when we get into religious jargon and language, whether it’s of any religion, it seems like we can lose a lot of people, we can lose touch with what connects us, it can really turn off people. And so wonder how have you found a way to talk about this as a connecting piece rather than a separation piece, when obviously, you experience God in this kind of love that you speak of?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: If I’m honest, I would say that I’ve been on that journey, that grownup God journey for a long time, almost 10 years. My faith community demands, insists, allows depending on what it is that I speak about God in ways that are Universalist. There’s Jews that join the church, Buddhists in the church, so I’ve had to translate a lot for a long time. You better translate. There are young people who care less about some of these stories, especially when they’re saying you can’t be part of my family, you can’t be on my team. And so love, agape, we would say, you and I. Agape, this ubiquitous, powerful, unconditional love, directed at ourselves, directed at our people, our neighbors, our strangers, directed to the origin, especially the holy is committed by Jesus for us Christians. He tells a story of a Samaritan who’s outsider, when he’s trying to say this is what love looks like. So he’s kind of breaking the code, breaking the rules, breaking the norms. The outsider is in. The first is last. Young people count women count. Actors can come in here and kick it. You know, love is the call on our lives. And it’s a fierce call, a fierce love. And I believe that if we could speak more about that, we could build a revolution that included people of faith and people of no faith. 

Cassidy Hall: You reminded me of this in with head and heart when Howard Thurman talks about his vision for the church. And he says it was my conviction and determination that the church would be a resource for activists. To me, it was important that the individual who was in the thick of the struggle for social change would be able to find renewal and fresh courage, and the spiritual resources of the church, there must be provided a place, a moment, when a person could declare, I choose. And I love the way he’s talking about community. It’s not about Jesus specific language or anything like that.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: It’s just about community. And, you know, Jesus was not a Christian, let’s all take a breath on that. He was not a Christian, he wasn’t trying to start a new religion called Christian. He just was trying to invite people on a path. And so as my job as a pastor is to invite people on a path where Jesus is a rabbi, or itinerant rabbi. And also, Cassie, there are other teachings that augment that from Alice Walker’s 0 The Color Purple, which I think should be in the cannon, to Let it have a Birmingham Jail, to some Octavia Butler, story, to James Baldwin to the — so many good words about how to be good in the world that are not explicitly Christian, but that I think, belong in the canon called love.

Cassidy Hall: The Canon called Love, I like that. Another important thing that I really love that you spoke into, in your book, Fierce Love, is the importance of space, what’s in a space, what’s of a space, and I appreciate the way you pointed to this and all areas of life when you wrote, if we don’t take care of the space, we all share, if we allow it to be filled with the objects of violence and hatred. There will be millions of human beings who don’t love themselves sitting together in classrooms or board meetings, standing in line at the grocery store, or competing with one another a job interviews. So how does this notion of space impact the way that we pursue change or engage in these movements, maybe now outside of church walls as community?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: That’s a good passage you picked there Cassie, thank you. The space there is both, you know, physical space because that matters. And also container or world. So there psychologically I’m talking about object relations. I’m talking about the school of object relations. Donald Winnicott being my favorite, but the idea that we are raised in a container, the first container is the womb, your mother’s arms, the playpen, the classroom, the church, but also the streets. What are the ingredients? What is the characteristic? What’s the nature of that space? Children grow in the context of loving space where if you cry, someone’s going to come and feed you. If you’re wet, someone’s going to come and change you. And that almost leads to a sense of magic. I look at me, I’m crying about the battle. Whoo! This is great, you know, and you wish every child would have that sense of magic and omnipotence. Like I can conjure up food when I’m hungry. I can conjure up comfort. So that space is transitional space, that space is a space of growing and development. And I’m saying in the streets, police officers and community members and parents and teachers could create a safe space for children and adults to play and go. Zechariah in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, in the city, they were old people hanging out with canes and they were children, shooting hoops. I’m paraphrasing, but like the streets are safe. Jon’s vision, at Patmos, the streets are so safe you don’t even need streetlights. Because we make it that way. We are responsible, we can do that. We can make it that all the children have enough food. All the adults don’t have to choose medication or rent. Everyone has enough. We can make it so that waste is a pastime paradigm and all of our children grow to love each other. That’s what I mean by space. And I mean, you and I, and all the people listening, have a contribution to make to make good enough space for all of us. Classrooms, streets, subways, you know, highways, good enough space that all of us can thrive.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. As you were writing this book, and you were in those contemplative moments, writing and thinking and creating this work, what was the hardest part to write? What were the parts of you that stuck maybe in that contemplative space and really had to, you know, push something out, I guess, which is appropriate, given the timeline, I guess, the nine months.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yeah, I had to push it out I really did. I think it was the hardest chapter to write, was the  Chapter on truth. Like to tell the truth on truth. My mom’s death is prominently in that chapter. And I felt like she was with me as I was writing. She’s been gone for four years, but I felt she visited by, but it was hard. Like, I was sad, you know, it was hard to write, to take myself back to the hospital room, to take myself back to blue lights, you know, the blue cast on her face at night and the [inaudible 26:26] hey, what are you staring at mom? I’m looking at you. You’re so beautiful. You’re so beautiful. I love you. I love you more, you know, like, those were both beautiful memories, but also, you know, teary  making memories. And how hard it was sometimes Cassidy to believe what I’m supposed to believe in preach. The truth I didn’t have a resurrection sermon that year. It was hard to get that out. But my congregation really responded to my wrestling. Which just proof texts for me how much people yearn for the truth. Not the platitudes, but the truth. I’m struggling [inaudible 27:12] our time, people yearn for that.

Cassidy Hall: You remind me of this story, I don’t know if it’s marked eight or nine, when Jesus asked the father to believe to heal his son, and the father says, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief. And the ways in which God honors honesty, and that we can honor each other’s honesty too that we’re actually closer to the truth through our honesty.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: And just imagine the world we make if we do not have to mobilize all the false self, all the persona, all the pretend, it’s risky, to be honest, but it’s so right and good to be honest, feels good to get the truth told in love, you know? Yeah.

Cassidy Hall: Do you experience or do you see anyone today in your life as a mystic, whether it’s a public mystic or someone who is a contemplative mystic that’s kind of under girding a movement or something like this? Do you experience mysticism in the world today?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yeah. I think Richard Rohr, Father Rohr is really and I’m  going to say, you know, the new school and… helping with that, and two young women I know and love Ashley and Lauren, you know, who did the new school and then to this thing called widen, so there’s like a pulse of beautiful CAC folks who I find to be Barbara Holmes, you know, find to be doing a really great piece of work. And then somebody like Angel Kyodo Williams, she’s so deeply connected to source and her radical Dharma deeply moves me. And I think she’s just a unique voice, an African American, Buddhist sensei voice in the world of contemplation and mysticism. Those are two places that come to mind right away.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. Yeah. And you are the first African American and first woman to serve a senior minister in the Collegiate Church, which was founded in New York City in 1628.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: That’s  right. That was a long time to break that ceiling.

Cassidy Hall: Yeah, yeah. What is your hope for the next 100, next 500 years? I wouldn’t say of the Collegiate Church, but really the church at large.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Yep. That the church would really get back to Jesus. Not to white blond created European Jesus, not to Constantine Jesus, but to from that to Empire Jesus, but to Mary’s boy, Joseph’s child, marginalized person, poor, itinerant handyman, Jesus who had the most incredible sermons from which we can learn. And to get to that. I know the Red Letter Christians kind of get to that, But like all of us to get to what did Jesus say? What did Jesus do? What would Jesus have me do? WWJD. What would Jesus do? And to be like liberated to do that? Which would be less about the institution of church, less about the boundaries, and the rules, and the who can’t, and the don’t know no mores. Oh we’ve been transformed. We don’t smoke no more, we don’t cuss no more. Just what is it? Love your neighbor as you love yourself, love you God with everything you have. Now, what love period, let’s get to that, and see what kind of world we can build and who could be included in that? That’s my hope. Yeah.

Cassidy Hall: And what advice would you give to people who feel like they’re in that mode of love, and yet, are tired, because not everyone else is there yet? 

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: I’d say tired is a part of our journey. I write this, I write one chapter about joy. And that really quote, right, if you do something from your soul, it’s a river. It’s a joy. So in that chapter I’m saying, you get to tag out, I’m tired, I need a break, I need a rest. I need some Sabbath. And let somebody else do it. We can do it, Cassidy, and I got you, we’ll do it. We’ll do this. Then you come back in and I get to take a break. And there’s just breathing in and out. We’re not going to get to the promised land tomorrow, it’s going to take time for us to make the world better. Our faith is about both our individual transformation and the healing of the world. We have what C.S. Lewis would call “God’s unbounded now.” God’s unbounded now to do it. It Kairos time, so take a breath. 

Cassidy Hall: Yeah. We need each other.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: And we got all day. We have all day to recreate the world.

Cassidy Hall: Well, thank you so much. I’m so glad you’re able to make the time and and be able to join me.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: yeah, thank you so much. I hope to see you soon. Thank you, Cassidy, for great questions and great conversation.

CASSIDY HALL: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Contemplating Now to support this work and get sneak peeks of new episodes. join me over at patreon dot com slash Cassidy Hall. This podcast is created and edited by Me, Cassidy Hall. Today’s episode features the song Trapezoid, instrumental by Emily Sankofa, which she has generously allowed us to use. Please find this song and more from Emily Sankofa on your favorite streaming platform or by visiting E Dash s-a-n-k-o-f-a dot com. The podcast has created in partnership with the Christian Century, a progressive ecumenical magazine based in Chicago. The podcast is also created in partnership with enfleshed, an organization focused on spiritual nourishment for collective liberation. For liturgical Resource Is and Tools head over to enfleshed dot com.

Embodied and Boundless: A Conversation with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Content warning: In this episode, we briefly mention suicide in the context of dealing with rage and racial injustice.

In this episode, we explore the ways mysticism cannot be embodied, the importance of cultural sanctuary as a place of safety, and the value of rage: “That is not the purpose of any spiritual practice, to wipe away what you have,but to take what you have,” said Sensei Zenju. “And rage is what we have.”

Transcript:

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [00:03]: Because that’s what happens contemplation becomes that place of rest when that’s not really what it is. Contemplation is very active and takes a lot of energy and a lot of work. If someone feels tired and exhausted and they want to go do a retreat, I say “no, don’t do the retreat. You need to go and sleep and get rest.”

Cassidy Hall [00:22]: Welcome to Contemplating Now, a podcast about the intersection of contemplation and social justice. Through interviews with scholars, mystics, and activists, this podcast will focus on contemplative spirituality’s direct relationship with issues of social justice. I’m your host, Cassidy Hall, a filmmaker, podcaster, pastor, and student, and I’m here to learn with you.

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel Osho is an ordained Zen Priest and the Dharma heir of Buddha and the Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center. Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions. 

She was raised in the Church of Christ, where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true mystic teachings on Christ’s path well into adulthood. She’s the author of several books, including most recently, The Deepest Peace: Contemplations from a Season of Stillness, Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness, and Belonging. And in The Way of Tenderness, she writes, “But if we were to simply walk past the fires of racism, sexism, and so on because illusions of separation exist within them, we may well be walking past one of the widest gateways to enlightenment.”

Sensei Zenju welcome to Contemplating Now.

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [01:48]: Thank you, thank you for having me and inviting me.

Cassidy Hall [01:51]: It’s really good to be with you. I got to speak with you on the Encountering Silence podcast. For this conversation, I’m wondering if you could tell us how you define “contemplation,” and how you define “mysticism” also?

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [02:05]: First of all, the word “contemplation” is rarely used in Zen Buddhist tradition, maybe in other Buddhist traditions, but I don’t know. But in Zen, it’s not really used. So when I used it in my book I was really kind of jumping out the box in some way, not on purpose. It just felt like that’s what I was doing. So contemplation, if you were to contemplate in the Zen tradition, then you’re not really doing––you’re not doing meditation, and you’re not doing Zazen, which we call meditation. To contemplate means you’re thinking, a pondering, wondering, so we don’t use it, because in our practice, we’re not pondering, and we’re not thinking upon something like when people say I’m going to go meditate on it, we don’t go meditate on it, although some people might but that’s not the point.

Zazen is a ritual up opening through the silence, and to see where you’re going to land, you don’t never know when you’re going to land. There’s no guided meditation either. So a lot of people have asked me to do guided meditations constantly they asked me that. And I understand that they don’t understand Zen, they know nothing about Zen when they ask me to do a guided meditation. Because a guided meditation is not allowing that open field, you know, that open way of allowing silence to speak through you in the stillness to activate the activated and to bring something different to you that you don’t know that you have never thought about. So I think it’s a ritual in that sense. So, contemplation to me, when I use it is I’m kind of combining Zazen, my meditation Zen practice, with once what comes through, then I contemplate on it. 

I may contemplate on it, but then I’m not I’m outside of the practice in that way, when I do that. Because I love to contemplate I used to be a daydreamer as a child. I love thinking on things. I do feel that I contemplate as a Zen priest but it’s not the practice itself that contemplation arises out of the Zazen, out of the stillness and meditation and silence then I may contemplate.

So “mysticism” is to me Zazen, you know, because Zazen is very mystical in the sense that you don’t know what is going to happen. There’s the unknown, there’s a discovery, and that’s the hard part about it because you know, everyone’s like, why I’m sitting here, you know, tell me what to do. You don’t fill in the space, you just allow whatever is going to come up for you to come up. And what you’re doing, which many mystics and all mystics I’m sure did and do, is taking that time to just be, period.  Just be, and then see what you sense into, you know, what’s happening and what’s around you. So just developing that kind of silence and stillness helps to navigate the world navigate life, you’re actually honing and cultivating a way of walking in the jungle of life. And so this to me, Zazen is most close to me to what may be a medicine man or woman in indigenous cultures––many, many, many, way before Buddha––because meditation is way before Buddha, did in order to hear and see and be able to create the medicine that’s needed for the people for themselves, and so Zazen is like that. And that’s the mysticism for me. It’s definitely steeped in what I already am practicing and probably was practicing before I even, you know, became ordained, or before I even walked into the gateway of Zen. I think I was already doing such.

Cassidy Hall [05:46]: Yeah, in that way do you see a connection between contemplation as you’ve described it as thinking on the things, right or… 

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [05:56]: Pondering, yeah.

Cassidy Hall [05:57]: Yeah, pondering. Do you see that as connected to ways that can form our role in social justice in the world? I’m thinking of something from your book, The Way of Tenderness you write about interconnected intimacy and you write that, “Interconnected intimacy that is messy, uncomfortable, and difficult but worthy and liberating to attend to.” And I think, you know, in my experience, when I do a sit, I never quite know what to name it. I just, you know, go there, right in the silence and stillness. And it always seems to be kind of a grounded, rooted meeting place for everyone else. And it reminds me of this interconnected intimacy, but I love also what you’re saying about, but if you go there to meet it, that’s not the way to meet it, so. 

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [06:40]: Right so you’re asking whether activism, social activism, or social justice work, is there contemplation in it? 

Cassidy Hall [06:48]: Does a contemplative practice help or undergird movements or activism and vice-versa?

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [06:56]: When you said in my mind went way out, like, “no!” because I feel that we have not been able to integrate contemplation or meditation with social justice. So we’re either doing one or the other. Okay, so they’re still quite separate, even if, in our minds, we think, ‘Oh, I’m an activist, I’m going to go out and do this and then I’ll go sit, well, that is what that is.’ You’re going out to, you know, activate, and you’re going to sit, they’re separate walks. It’s a good question because I’m very nervous about it in the sense of a person who’s been an activist and still considers myself that but I wouldn’t probably go out and do some of the things many activists do today for many reasons, not because I don’t think what they’re doing is profound, or needed. 

But I feel that people do not have a good ground and foundation and understanding of contemplation in order to be able to bring it to the movement, it’s not there. And it doesn’t mean you act differently, like okay, when we get there, we’re going to meditate and that shows that we got it. No, this is not true. What is true for me, and not just true for me, in my experience, and having been a very strong activist and organizing in my life, and then going completely into spirituality and coming out with both of them integrated, has been a profound experience for me. Because I am able to articulate the social issues and the way we are as human beings because of the contemplation that is influencing and our foundation to my activist work. Or if I were to speak, even in politics, that even if I speak politically, which I do, I’m speaking from that place. I’m not just speaking politics, and then I go rest because that’s what happens. 

Contemplation becomes that place of rest when that’s not really what it is. Contemplation is very active and takes a lot of energy and a lot of work. If someone feels tired and exhausted and they want to go do a retreat I say, “No, don’t do the retreat. You need to go and sleep and get rest because you need that energy to do this work.” This inner work is not, this is not the place you come. I have seen people come to retreats, and they think they’re going to get relaxed and then they get all upset, especially in Zen. Where you have to work, work, work, work, work, boom, you know, go to sleep and they’re like well, “This is worse than what I was doing when I was in the world. I’m working more than ever before.” It’s a different kind of work. You learn it that later but it’s a different kind of work. But if you are not prepared to sit because people think you don’t have to prepare to do it’s too easy. 

You just sit down, but you have to be prepared, your body has to be prepared to do it. If your body can’t do it, then the sitting practice is not for you. It really isn’t. There are other things maybe you could drum, paint, or something you know that has meditation within it you know, but to do to actually come to the ceremony ill-equipped is only going to make you suffer more. I did. I was suffering more because I didn’t understand I was coming in ceremony and meditation or you know anything. So practicing to be a contemplative, you’re practicing in that way you’re learning to have an embodiment, to be embodied, and to be boundless, okay, at the same time. But you can’t learn that with your mind, and you can’t talk yourself into it, although we do. Do I look like I’m, you know, balanced or whatever, empty? You know. 

So we try to talk ourselves into those places, and you can’t, you must go through the practice through the path in order to bring that to your political or activist movement, or actions. I would like to see more people speak on the integration of it, especially those who are going to teach both contemplation meditation and activism, if you’re going to teach all of that, then you must see it as an integration. So what I find in here is people either talk completely on the justice side or completely on still on the religious side, despite ethnicity, race, sex, anything, it doesn’t matter. I just hear it being still split. I might do it myself at times, but inside I don’t feel that you know, and there are some other people that I’m sure you know, have that ability, but I think it’s very few. It’s very…  It’s a rare thing because it takes so much time for you to embody that sense of being, like here and not right here and not here being part of everything in the world. That’s pretty tough. We’re not ready to be part of everything and everyone we talk about… sounds so beautiful, so romantic. But as soon as someone climbs the Capitol wall, we’re like, “Ah, you know, we’re not with them.” I’m going to separate myself from that, and we can’t, unfortunately, or fortunately. We cannot separate ourselves from that, because we’re human beings.

Cassidy Hall [11:57]: I appreciate you distinguishing contemplation, contemplative practices, meditation from rest. Because when we do begin to think about integrating contemplative life for contemplative practice and activism, those integrated without rest is bound for failure, right? I mean…

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [12:14]: Well, we get exhausted, you know, and depressed and hopeless and helpless, all these kinds of things will come up, and then you’re like, well, this is not going to change and then your rage is intensified, because, oh, we’re really not changing white supremacy it’s getting worse. And there’s a reason for that, too. We won’t go into that. But you know, right now, but there is a reason for that, and one of the reasons is simply is we keep invoking it. And so once we invoke it, and continue to invoke it, it will be it. It will be in the world. And we do have to look at it. I’m not saying we need to be silent on it. Because there’s white supremacy can the contemplation and meditation, allow you to talk about it in a different way so that we can land in a different place on the path.

Landing on anti-blackness, or landing on white supremacy is just one place on the path. And we know that we’ve been knowing that can we shift that a bit to say, that’s what I was trying to do with The Way of Tenderness to shift that language to talking about superiority and inferiority and how it gets systematized. That’s good, but it doesn’t invoke just the whiteness, it also invokes class, you know, rich and poor, it invokes all that is superior and dominant in a more integrative way than just this one thing because if we just work on this one thing, we forget that there is all the other things. So then we have to go, Well, I’m not going to do race, I’m going to do class. And then everybody says, “Well they’re together” when we know this. 

And I think contemplation for me, and meditation has taught me how to do this, you know. How to view the truth or view the nature of life, which means to view the nature of humanity, because that’s all I know. I don’t know how to be alive in any other way. And the interrelationship of that, and I push my students that way, too. So they really can’t talk about whiteness, we’re all black our Sangha. We don’t talk, I don’t want to, because it just keeps invoking, and centering whiteness. And so when they get upset, then what is that and what can we talk about so that when we come back to that place on the path or go, oh, okay, I’m going to do something different right here, and I’m going to do something, whatever I’m going to do is going to not only not center whiteness, it’s going to center wellness and transformation and movement for me, and for my people, my community, and my family. 

Cassidy Hall [14:35]: Yeah. In your book, The Deepest Peace you beautifully write about rage and making room for rage, you write, “I don’t quiet the rage for peace. Peace is not superior. Peace is persistent. Rage is persistent as well. I meditate while trembling with rage. Rage is here because love is needed.” Wondering if you could speak to the importance of not ignoring rage and how it can be this valued aspect of, yeah, peace, love, justice-centric emotion.

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [15:07]: Yeah, rage is that for me is accumulated anger over many, many decades, right. And I think generation I really think it’s just passed on it’s imprinted on the bone. You know, what you do is that when you come in, I don’t know. I didn’t come in interested, I didn’t come to contemplation interested in removing all emotions. I remember a teacher pointing out a student once he said, “I like that student.” And I said, “Mm her?” and I was wondering what it was and he said the way she is the way she moves and I saw her as kind of lost her personality in the practice like I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her and a chair. There was just nothing there––wake up, what are you doing? And that is not the purpose of the practice or any, I think any spiritual practice is to wipe away what you have but to take what you have. 

And rage is what we have. And I take rage, and I have sat with it as sacred fire. I used to just let it go, flame, poof, and burn people up and everything. And then I started, like I said, this can’t continue, you know, otherwise, I’m not going to be in relationship and engaged in the world. And so when it would start, the next step for me was to take the rage and just hold it as sacred. In that, I don’t share it, you know, unnecessarily but I do use it. I think most of my writing comes from rage, even The Deepest Peace, can you imagine? That’s when contemplation is working. And you can deliver the message in which you want to deliver without burning people or burning places or burning ideas or just losing your own mind, you know. 

Cassidy Hall [16:52]: And burning yourself down, right?

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [16:53]: Burning yourself. Yeah. So it’s just like killing, I mean, rage can kill you. And literally, it is and has taken years off my life. I got a diagnosis that says, you know, I’m more like an 80-year-old, and I’m not nowhere near 80. That’s rage, that’s racism. That’s this life. And that’s why so many people have hypertension, African Americans have hypertension because, and that’s a killer. You know, we’re walking around like ticking bombs, you know. And so it was important for me to stretch that out my life out as much as I can, still is, given there’s this rage, so when I took it in as sacred, it allowed me to use that fire. To use that fire for my own healing and transformation because even when I did throw it out there, it was just like a mess. 

When you know, when you burn something down, it’s a mess. And so then you have to work on the mess. And that’s too much work or you need to go tell somebody, look, this needs to go this way. And if you do it this way, it’ll make it better for us. Now that can be said and told, but I find that exhausting too because then the person or people, institution, they’ll do it and it’s still embedded in all that you’re trying to break down, break away. All the oppression is still there, even in that work. So if rage is going to be there, if oppression is going to be there, then I say use it, use it, don’t fight it. Don’t fight with it, fight with it, fight it, but use it to come to the wisdom that these wisdom practices are offering. 

So a lot of people come they’re not looking for the wisdom. They… ‘I already have wisdom. I don’t need the wisdom of contemplation and meditation. I’m coming with wisdom.’ You know, like, let me tell you that’s wrong what you’re doing. That’s the wisdom I have. That’s not wisdom. We think we have wisdom. And I always ask people, “what wisdom are you relying on when you feel you’re being compassionate or loving and kind? What wisdom are you relying on, your grandmother’s? Some teacher? Some book? What insight yourself? What experience have you had of any of that? And how did you get there?” Other than that, then, you know, most of us need to be just pretty much silent. Even myself, I feel that, I do. You know, just keep your mouth closed because we’re all in progress and we don’t know, we’re always discovering ourselves and discovering life. 

That’s why homage is paid to the ancestors who have gone through it, you know. And in most traditions, people who say ‘oh no, my sister or my brother is an ancestor the day they die’ –– well, no, not in most spiritual paths. That person who has just died is learning how to be wherever that is. If there is anything, they’re not capable yet. And so some African tribes, they don’t even listen to elders, they listen to ancestors only. Elders is like, eh, because they’re still in the learning process, the living process.

Cassidy Hall [19:49]: So I recently attended a conference titled Holy Rage, Holy Hope. And it was the Samuel DeWitt Proctor conference and I was one of a handful of white people that attended. And in learning how to most deeply respect and revere the prophetic spaces, the prophetic nature of Black spaces, I’m reminded of your words in, The Way of Tenderness when you talk about, you write, “Creating and entering sanctuaries allows us as people of color to address the circumstances that are specific to who we have been born as, on our own terms, without interference. The desire of those who are not people of color to enter the spaces where people of color face these issues betrays a disregard for the uniqueness of the work that must be done within these cultural sanctuaries. It indicates an unjust sense of entitlement on their part.” And I wonder if you just could maybe speak to the importance of those sanctuaries? 

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [20:40]: Yes. Maybe, should have written more in that area of that part of the book, because I’ve gotten that question many times. A spiritual path requires when you enter to strip down to be exposed to be seen, and all these kinds of things. It requires a place in which you can do that and feel free. It’s kind of like if you go to the doctor’s, there are some doctors you would not undress with, some you will, you know, you can feel whether or not this is going to be safe for you to do this, while you’re taking care of the things that are bothering you. You’re suffering, you know, do I want this doctor to touch that, where… this? Well, that’s the same thing. So I feel that we need places to do that, just to do the stripped-down, and then be able to walk the path we’re in. 

We’re understanding more about internalized oppression and walking that path so that when we’re in situations of racism, we’re also understanding the internalize oppression part of it not just blanket racism, or white supremacy or anti-blackness or any of these things–– it’s all there not just that piece that’s out. There’s the in and the out. What I’ve seen in some cultural sanctuaries, when I say cultural a lot of people think I mean Black or people of color, but anything, it’s of the culture. So I’ve heard of lawyer Sangha’s, women Sangha’s, all kinds of Sangha’s, right, or gatherings based on various aspects of culture –– artists. I feel that there’s always this truncation, you know, like, Oh, we need a special place, because we’re so in BIPOC, Black, Indigenous People of Color, need a special place because we’re so weak and vulnerable. And that’s not really true. It may be true, but that’s not everything. You know, or we’re wounded and I think that that’s a misperception of cultural. And so, one Sangha member did a Dharma talk at a Sangha. And the guy says, “I think we need to start a cultural sanctuary,” because he had read the book, right? That same part you’re reading, you know, he was a white male. He says I think, you know, from his heart, I knew it was coming from his heart, “We need to start a cultural sanctuary.” And I said, “Why you have one, you’re in it. It’s your Sangha. Right here, this Zen Center is the Cultural Center, the culture is Zen and it’s what it is, and you work within that culture.” Because not every person of color wants that either, too, that’s an assumption, you know. I feel that that’s the truncation and the lumping.

But I feel that we do need spaces, I needed it when I went into Zen, I was fortunate enough to enter a people of color group. I didn’t know what it was, what people of color was, at the time, I didn’t know what people were talking about because that language came from academia world, and I wasn’t in academia, in that sense of the word. You know, like I had already done, I had my Ph.D. So I was like, what’s this people of color? You know, I went to one Zen Center in Berkeley, and they said, “Well, they have a people of color group over at San Francisco Zen Center,” and I go, “Okay,” and then we would come to Berkeley Zen Center, me and my partner, we come to Berkeley Zen Center, and they said, “Oh, well, you know, there’s a people color group.” So I said, “What is this thing about the people of color group?” And so finally, we just left Berkeley Zen Center and went to the people color group. And it was great. It was perfect. It was what I needed. 

But it was interesting what they thought I needed. And when I thought I needed it, and that I understood something about what they were saying. So I think that is important. What I find too, is that and what can happen, I would say is that cultural groups, when they get together can be embedded in their own culture. And I remember when I was in the people of color group, I asked the teacher, I said, “Are we not reifying our wounds here,” because that’s all I’m hearing is the wounding stories. I really wasn’t interested in hearing the wounding stories, I wanted to transform and get well, you know. I wanted to do the practice. And so it was okay to tell those stories. That’s the stripping down and but I wondered, you know, were we reifying something because Zen especially, is the ceremony and there’s rituals. So if you’re in there reifying what makes you suffer in the ceremony in a ritual you will continue to suffer, you will just continue this it will just be invoked, invoked, invoke just suffering. And so I just feel for people to be careful around that. What is the purpose of the cultural sanctuary in relationship to the path, the spiritual path? And I have to always constantly tell students, “this is not a social club.” You know, can we just like, just hang out, I mean, I went somewhere and then came back and they had gone to a concert together, I said, “That’s not the purpose,” because something’s going to happen out there, you’re going to bring it to the Sangha. And it will have nothing to do with doing practicing Zen. Now in other traditions, maybe that works, I don’t know. 

But I feel that if we’re in there just to come together just to talk about the wounding, talk just about whiteness, you know when my students get on that I get, stop, you know, we’re not doing that. So, you know, I want to hear about Blackness. You know, one student said, “Well, I think this is when the kind of neo-KKK,” I don’t know, “were walking down the street with the torches,” the tiki torches and everything walking into parks that time, and one of the students says, “I want to go down and sit in the park and meditate.” And I said, “I won’t be with you.” “Why?” I said, “I’m not going but you can do that. But we’re not going as a Sangha either. We’re not going to have our little banner saying, Still breathing is out here. No. But you can go there if you want. And he’s like, “Why?” I said, “Because when that Black boy died, Tamir Rice, you didn’t say, let’s go anywhere. Why didn’t we get our banner and go there?” 

So I’m just trying to… just so that people can see where the attention is. And we all know where the attention goes, that’s what happens. That’s what life is. I think we have to have attention. I’m not saying, you know, turn our back. But I think we have to have a broader picture. I don’t care if all Zen Centers were diverse, or all white people, suddenly were not racist. What is that going to do for me? What do we think that’s going to do for us? I don’t know what we’re thinking. That’s like, if my partner could do it this way, we have a good life. And you know what that kind of partnership is, pretty bad right? Suffering. So it has to be more rounded. And I think contemplation and meditation can bring that other aspect, if we’re interested in it, which I call a spiritual justice. And I talk about that in the book, too, to create a spiritual justice. I’m not the first to talk about it. I mean, Martin Luther King, Jr. that was his whole sermon in one big sermon, really, you can just say, this was one big sermon, spiritual justice, you know. The spirituality part is if we can consider each other interrelated as humans, and as of God, then we would have justice, you know, so that’s why I do believe in justice work. Because in that day and that view justice work in trying to change somebody’s minds and attitudes is hard work. And I’ve tried it, I’ve done it, I’ve done diversity work. And I told somebody, I can’t do it. And they say, “You can’t, we’re making $10,000 a month, come on, make the money.” I said, “I can’t, I’d be spending all that money in therapy,” because they’re going to… that’s like a wall. That’s like walking into the brick wall going ‘bunk.’ And they said, “Well, you don’t have to do it with any results.” And I said, “Oh, well, okay, that’s interesting.” Then why should I use my entire life? Why should I sacrifice myself for absolutely nothing, for the money? That’s not enough.

Cassidy Hall [27:56]: The way you’re talking about this feels like when I imagine you know, the conflicts of our world, our country today, it’s almost like this really strong binary energy. And you’re talking about the work that’s much bigger, much more below?

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [28:12]: Yeah, because it’s on the ground, it’s at the ground at the base, where Thich Nhat Hanh called transformation at the base, and I’m teaching that right now with my students and what that means, you know. And how that affects what we manifest are what comes into being because what comes into being comes from the base comes from our perceptions come from, you know, our mental formations, and all these kinds of things we learn in our practice. It comes from that so we can know the list, but if you don’t understand how perception or mental formation or being embodied affects what you do in the world, helps you understand what’s happening in the world, there’s going to be something missing. 

And I don’t say you have to do Buddhism, either, or meditation because they…or contemplate, I think those are for particular kinds of people who have that nature. Most people do not, they have another kind of temperament and you have to find what works for you. What would be that place in which you would awaken to everything, despite the horror in the world, despite or because of the horror in the world? What would you be doing? What would you do? What do you do? You know, I have people that come, “oh, you know, stuff, I can’t meditate. Every time I sit down, I just suffering, I’m just suffering.” And I was at a meditation center when I was teaching and I said, “Well, I think you need to stop meditating.” I said, “You can just like, go on home right now and rest. This is not for you, not now.” 

And I don’t know why folks think it’s for everyone because it’s not. It’s only for those who are interested in going into this kind of deep nothingness this deep unknowing, this way of discovering those who want to walk out on the metal and not really know what’s going to happen out there. But the practice is teaching you so you keep running into it–the racism, then, now it’s time to use this and to be with it, not to still be back when I was first discovered that my skin was not welcome, the color of my skin was not welcome. If I lived there, I think I’d have been dead by now, I would have committed suicide, I would have. It is just too deep and too heavy, to not feel you belong on the planet. Or that you can never have a full life because of the color of your skin, or because you don’t have any money or all these things they say you have to have in order to have life. 

So if you don’t discover life, then you’re going to think you need all those things to have life and you’re going to just suffer. We’re just going to suffer anyway, without all of that. And then we suffer the suffering, which I did. I did… All the things I speak on are my experiences, not necessarily something I just read, but the experience of being in practice and the experience of being in life coming together, because I wanted to see, why bother?

Cassidy Hall [30:58]: In your work, you also write a lot about the connectivity with nature and the earth. And I love what you wrote about this death of an oak tree, in your book, The Way of Tenderness you wrote, ‘The sudden death of oak trees, where I live in Oakland is like a clear cry naturally emerging from nature, just as cries emerged from groups of people when they are ignored or mistreated.” And I love that being able to see the fullness of life in nature.

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [31:26]: Yeah, that piece is interesting to hear that again, because these things repeat. And so I don’t know the repeating till I hear it sometimes come back to me. We are the earth. And we know that, we are of the earth, we are the earth. And anything that’s happening in the earth is happening to us, all living beings. So like when that tree fell, I just… it was me falling off that cliff too, and how old that was and how unstable and unpredictable life is. And I’m writing right now I wasn’t going to write another book. But it looks like it might be one I was hoping it was just going to be an essay, but it keeps going. And I’m doing basically an account of our kind of daily life, our daily embodiment of earth. The daily and how to bring again, integrating so it’s not earth, and how beautiful it is, is earth in us, us as earth. There’s this mystical place of life, that is us as earth, you know. And when you contemplate and meditate, that gets… become so clear. If you’re not meditating and contemplating your partnership, or your job or your whatever, you’re not reifying the things that are hurting you, you’re just allowing yourself to be open to receive, which is what Buddha did, which is what Jesus did any, Sojourner Truth, you know. Harriet Tubman, name any of these people, and that’s what they were doing. That’s what they had to do in order to enhance their sense of the world, and their understanding and the nature of life. So that they could do the work that they were doing––fear or not, with fear and without fear with both. 

So, I feel that looking at the earth and embodying the earth is important to understanding who we are, you know, you can understand transformation by just being in nature, right? You understand it completely. And so you can take that understanding because the reason why I understand it is because it’s you. When you look at the tree dying, you know that as you. A tree falling off a cliff, if you don’t feel that I don’t know, something needs to stimulate you to feel that interconnection, of all that’s around you.

Cassidy Hall [33:46]: Yeah. Yeah. Sensei Zenju, one question I want to end on, I’m actually going to change based on our conversation. And that question is who is, someone and I’m going to say someone or something that embodies mysticism for you?

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [34:01]: First it’s very hard to embody mysticism. I don’t really think it can be embodied. I think it comes through some people at particular times, for those who are open and ready for that, like Buddha was. He was just a person that had a mystical experience. Now did he embody them, maybe later but I don’t think so in the beginning. So when I think of people who I feel live in that realm, I think of diviners. You know, people who do divinations, those who have been trained to be seers, that’s another word. I see seers, I see myself in there too, as seers so when I think what comes to mind are the people I know who are seers, who work with the earth, they work with the unknown, they work with the dark on to bring forth any kind of medicines be that messages or whatever they worked in that realm. And some are still in some indigenous parts of the world living and some are not. 

I actually met a whole… I didn’t know they were diviners till 20 years later, a whole group of diviners from Africa. And I think about them all the time, and they were Dahomeyan, and how they were and how I felt to be a part of them and I didn’t know them, the whole community, I don’t even know them, I didn’t even know their names because it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to know the mystics’ name, or where the mystic live, or who the mystic’s mother was. Those are all irrelevant to a mystic because it’s not of the body. It comes through it, the conduit so many conduits have come. 

Ramana Maharshi I feel is a mystic and his presence spoke. I think that that’s a mystic. That’s very powerful to me, that one’s presence speaks. I know my teacher transmitted to me, but I couldn’t tell till years later. Because I remember I chose her because she was so joyful in ceremony and ritual, I said, “she really loves Zen and I’m really having a hard time here. So I’ll just choose her,” and I did Zenkei Blanche Hartman, who has passed. And then after all the years, 20 years, I could hear myself sounding like her talking to my students about, oh, you know, so excited about this ceremony and that ceremony and this ritual and that ritual. And I just get so excited when it’s time for us to [unknown] and retreat. And they’re like, “What is wrong with her,” you know, like, “These things are not fun. That’s not fun.” That’s how I knew that that got transmitted without her telling me. I was walking with that, the joy of that and how I was able to stay in a place that where people didn’t look like me, mostly, were… have a different culture. It was a cultural sanctuary, in which I was not from. What saved me was that mysticism is not embodied.

Cassidy Hall [36:52]: Well, thank you, Sensei, for this beautiful conversation and for taking the time to be with me today. I really, really appreciate it.

Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [36:58]: All right, thank you.

Cassidy Hall [37:03]: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of contemplating now to support this work and get sneak peeks of new episodes. join me over at patreon dot com slash Cassidy Hall. This podcast is created and edited by Me, Cassidy Hall. Today’s episode features the song Trapezoid, instrumental by Emily Sankofa, which she has generously allowed us to use. Please find this song and more from Emily Sankofa on your favorite streaming platform or by visiting E Dash s-a-n-k-o-f-a dot com. The podcast has created in partnership with the Christian Century, a progressive ecumenical magazine based in Chicago. The podcast is also created in partnership with enfleshed, an organization focused on spiritual nourishment for collective liberation. For liturgical Resource Is and Tools head over to enfleshed dot com.