Beloved Daju Suzanne,
You have gone!
Gate, gate, paragate, parasam gate bodhi swaha!
And yet you are forever here. Here in this heart, in our hearts, here in our memories. Here in the gifts of insight, humor, and healing Qigong that you so skillfully and generously shared with us.
I miss you. We had the grand plan - yes, all the way to Enlightenment, walking side by side together ... it was intended. I know, I know, we don’t write the schedule. It was time, your time to return to the Dharmakaya, back into pure silent emptiness, consciousness even deeper than awareness.
You are back home. I excuse your change in schedule, your early departure, and I will never forget our short, delicious time together.
And, yes, dear heart, I will remember not to wait to love, to practice, to live as you so beautifully demonstrated by living in compassionate gratitude, not egoistic attitude.
May we all exit with the integrity, strength, humor, grace, and beauty that you displayed. So my beloved Daju, with a pained smile, I blow you one sweet kiss and shout one more releasing kwatzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
Your old shave pate dharma brother,
by Eisho Lailah Shima
Is it a dream
or is it real?
How will I know?
Parting from you,
my mind is at a loss.
One night during Rohatsu of 2012, as we walked upstairs after dinner, Daju pulled me over to a window and pointed out. She was always breaking silence in retreats. And I - recognizing that she, at least, was mortal, my time to laugh with her limited - always dropped my earnestness, delighted to chat with her.
But this time she was quiet. “Snow,” she eventually noted, her voice full of wonder. “The last time I saw it was here, two years ago. I didn’t know if I’d ever see it again. So beautiful.”
In her check-in at the end of that retreat (if memory serves), she said, “I’m the orchid practicing qi gong in the snow. And it is enough.”
Each connection with her - in person, on the phone, or through writing - brought a taste of this wonder, this beauty. I thought I appreciated each moment with her, aware that it was enough. But when she arrived at Sonoma in January, the shock of embracing her and feeling her proximity to death unraveled me.
Just three days out of the hospital, she’d driven up the mountain for a ceremony. She was unstoppable, determined, as she was, to be with us. To hug us, to witness, challenge, and love us. To bid us one last farewell.
A powerfully loving warrior in a weakened body, she sat fiercely holding the sword next to Jun Po and me. With a hoarse voice barely above a whisper, she spoke clearly, offering poetry, encouragement, and boundless love.
Six weeks later, as even she acknowledged that her life was ending, I longed to hold on, insisting she hadn’t lived long enough. How can it be that she’s gone, when we love her so? How is it that such an incredible creature even came to be? My mind is at a loss. My beloved dharma-sister, gone.
In the stillness as these thoughts come and go, there is absence, but no loss. I grieve and remember and give boundless thanks. Without regret.
What remains? With what has she left us? “It would be better to have nothing, than to have something good,” I hear Chan master Yunmen responding. Simply by being cheerfully herself, she lavished us with gifts: qi gong and Zen lore, dark chocolate and belly laughs. Yet, she gave us nothing. For this, I am eternally grateful.
In this nothing, her loving presence lives on in our hearts. If we are to live this gift fully, right effort is required. It is not so much a matter of holding onto memories, as remembering to live fully in this very moment. It is not about emulating her, but showing up authentically in our power.
Daju was a healer, a teacher, an artist. I imagine she often gave nuanced instruction and precise explanations. But in my experience, although we often discussed Zen practice, she taught primarily through embodying and generously sharing her profound realization, through raw and real conversation.
Like her man Yunmen, Daju genuinely responded with clear-eyed gratitude to everything life threw her way - snow, great love, cancer, “ridonculous” people and sweet pups - “Every day is a good day.”
During Rohatsu last December, I stood in the season’s first snowfall, texting Daju. She responded right away: “Snow
is magical to me. Thanks for remembering. I love that you are there and
wish I were, too, but am happy to be just where I am. I’m ready for
whatever this next phase brings.”
Without fanfare and never chiding, she simply made
obvious for us the truth that we can be happy in our lives right NOW. It was her joy to encourage us to be our authentic selves, enjoying life
exactly as it unfolds.
Her path of
transcending cancer brought her to accept ever-deeper layers of herself,
even her vulnerability. Noting this, she once wrote in an email, “There
are perks to being a loser/victim--clear vision & fuller
(continued next column ...)
Venwoude is the secret pearl of the Europe.
Shhhhh…. Don’t tell anyone.
This is a spiritual community that has been living and practicing together for over 25 years. It is a beautiful garden so fertile that any human being who comes here will grow, blossom and bear fruit.
Let it be our little secret.
Imagine what happens when we bring the Mondo Zen™ Process into such a garden. Dropping into clear, deep heart mind, into the Heart of Zen, imagine the infinite possibilities arising out of nothing.
At the March retreat, Doshin mixed a little something else into this elegant mixture of Integral-Mondo Zen™ and exquisite silence. We dug into the dark smelly muck and dirt until we touched just the tip of our deepest fears, the ones that drive our habitual shadows.
Taking our seats, we refused to turn away. As we made room for the fragrance of smelly mucky shadows, all our hearts broke open and the most beautiful flowers began to blossom and bloom.
“In eloquent silence this opens, in wandering talk it closes."
It was an exquisite retreat. JunPo will lead the Teacher Training here at Venwoude in October. What a wonderful opportunity to learn from the Master himself. Shhhhh…, don’t tell anyone about Venwoude. Let’s keep it our little secret.
May 9-11 - 3-Day Silent Sesshin led by Vimala Roshi in DePere, Wisconsin. Contact Vimala for registration at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 10-17, 2014 - 7-Day Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Loveland, Colorado
June 14-21, 2014 - 7-Day Silent Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, New York.
July 14-20 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Sesshin at Creighton Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa.
August 1-8, 2014 - 7-Day Integral Mondo Retreat led by Doshin Roshi in East Sussex, UK.
August 15-17, 2014 - 3-Day Taste of Mondo Zen led by Meru Roshi and Reverand Shokan Mui in Random Lake, WI. Contact Meru for registration at StillPointZen@earthlink.net
September 13-20, 2014 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Teacher Training led by Jun Po Roshi in Loveland, CO.
October 18-24, 2014 - 6-Day Silent Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Sonoma, California.
October 20-26, 2014 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Teacher Training led by Jun Po Roshi at Venwoude International in the Netherlands.
November 29-December 6, 2014 - 7-Day Rohatsu Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi in Green Bay, WI.
January 10-16, 2015 - 6-Day Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi in Sonoma, CA.
March 5-8, 2015 - Weekend Silent Zen Sesshin led by Hollow Bones women priests at Sonoma Zen Center in California.
March 9-15, 2015 - 7-Day Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Philadelphia, PA.
April 27-May 4, 2015 - Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi at Venwoude International in the Netherlands.
Visit the Retreat Calendar on the website for more information.
Tears falling into darkness
Words arising from silence
Eyes sparkling in such-ness
Hearts blossoming in de-light.
Pendle Hill Sesshin
Suzanne Beth Friedman
6.21.1968 - 3.3.2014
A memorial service for Daju, Hollow Bones priest and Qigong Shifu, will be held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Sunday, April 13th. Jun Po Roshi, Hollow Bones roshis and priests, and members of the Wisconsin sanghas will be present.
In memory, here is a slideshow of Daju's time with Hollow Bones.
to name a few! Yup. I own my victimhood these days. It's the only way to
Her continually deepening self-acceptance allowed her to respond to others with even greater clarity and compassion.
herself, she absolutely accepted everyone. It was palpable in her
abundant hugs, in the seamless attention and support she unstintingly
offered, and in her infectious laughter. By simply loving us without a
twinge of reservation, she eased open space for us to abide fully in our
With a wide-open heart, she met people right
where and as they were. Genuinely recognizing all beings as her own
self, she intuitively understood most people. And when she couldn’t, she
explored and experimented until she found ways to understand and relate
Her wit was audacious and irreverent. If she
loved you (and she did), she made fun of you. She would always meet my
"problems" with deep caring, grounding me just by seeing and reflecting
wholeness, and translating others’ actions. And then we’d laugh at the absurdity of wasting precious life energy on outdated habits, rather than just living what IS.
“I love you, [_ your name here _ ], and I
believe that I see you clearly and cleanly. Who I see is a bit different
from who you've seen, and I hope I can convey that in a way that cuts
or shatters through some old habitual stories that view you as anything
less than kick-ass and perfectly you.”
Now, when I falter, I remember her encouraging me, “Fuck that self-judgment habit,” and, “Keep on feeling ridiculous. It's good for the soul. I make an ass out of myself regularly, just to stay in shape.”
I live every day with joyful gratitude that this
infinitely loving, wise, and hilarious woman touches my heart and
transforms my life.
“I'll still just be your dharma-sister. Always will be, regardless.”
May we all generously receive the love she lived
to offer and live the joy she radiated. May we truly see in ourselves
and every single being the light she reflected to us. May we live
courageously and authentically, extending joy and compassion in the
“The only thing that gets in the way is too
much trying to be special and too much thinking. Too much analyzing,
worrying, trying to figure shit out. Well, fuck that. There's nothing
that can be figured out, so just let it go and enjoy the ride. Really.