Carla Walter already had a dedicated spiritual practice when she visited Tassajara for the first time in 2018, and she “had no intention of becoming a Zen practitioner.” She tells the story of how she changed her mind and became increasingly involved with San Francisco Zen Center.
My first experience with SFZC was in August of 2018. I went with my sister to Tassajara, where she had been going for years. I went along because I really just wanted seven days of not being online, not being a wife, not being anything, just doing absolutely nothing. But once we got there, I was affected by the way people were and the way they interacted with me, my sister, and each other, and of course the food didn’t hurt, and the stars at night; it was just phenomenal.
One night my sister said, “I’m going to go to zazen tomorrow” and I’m like — “What?” She said, “Yeah, you know the monks, they do this zazen thing every day.” So I went to zazen and it grabbed me. I loved all the ritual pieces. Then I was sitting in the dining hall and I heard some chanting coming from the zendo. I thought, “Oh my gosh I would like to know what they’re chanting.” So then I decided to go to a service. Then there were conversations with people, more and more opportunities to be around the monks. So when we came home I said “I want to do the Zen thing.”
I saw on the website SFZC was looking for board members so I sent in my application and joined the board. I’ve been sewing my rakusu (in preparation for taking the Bodhisattva precepts) with my teacher Jiryu Rutschman-Byler. And I keep having these thoughts in the back of my mind about becoming a priest.
What I have really resonated with is being in reality by turning towards, rather than turning away. I’ve also resonated with the idea of nonduality. It’s a way that we can deal with all these dualities of black/white, rich/poor, and so on. In order to live in the US or any society you have to see that and then you can look at interconnectedness.
At Zen Center I found friends who care about me for who I am. I feel connected by the way the sangha exhibits love and how I experience that love. The relationship with sangha members helps me find that middle path that doesn’t descend into the judgment and just tries to let people be who they are.
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