Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Patrick Gallagher



                Patrick Gallagher is a student of Elaine MacInnes and a teacher in the Sanbo Zen school. He told me this story about how he first met Sister Elaine:
                “A friend of mine called me one night, and we were just chatting about this-that-and-the-other, and he said, ‘By the way . . .’—this is what I thought he said—‘I’m going to a talk by a Catholic nun who is also a Zen master.’ And I said, ‘That sounds interesting. I’d like to come.’ And he said, ‘I’ll check.’ And then the conversation went on, and I thought, ‘What do you have to check? Don’t you just go and listen?’ But by then we were in another part of the conversation. So about a week or two later, I got a call from a woman I didn’t know saying, ‘I’m calling on behalf of Sister Elaine MacInnes, and she’d like to meet with you.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Wow! She vets her audience! She must be nervous about the Vatican or something!’ So I said, ‘Fine.’ And she gave me some different options and took the time that worked for me. And I went along to the meeting. I knocked on the door, and this older nun opened the door, and I remember thinking as I went there, ‘Well, if it’s crazy, it will just be an experience.’ We went in and started talking, and I realized in about two minutes that we weren’t talking about the public talk that she was giving, but she was vetting me to see if I would be a suitable candidate for a zendo that she was establishing. And I thought, ‘What the heck! I’ll go with it.’ So we had this very interesting conversation about spiritual life and prayer life and these sorts of things. And she said, ‘Well, why don’t you come along? We’re having our first meeting in. . . .’ Whatever it was. I can’t remember. I biked home and thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’ And that’s how we met. It was kind of by accident.
                “That first meeting was held in the public library basement. And I didn’t know the first thing about it. She said, ‘Well, we’ll start off in chairs, facing the wall. And it’s going to be eleven minutes. Don’t move and try and keep your mind still.’ I thought, ‘Oh, my God! That’s impossible! Eleven minutes! How can I possibly do that for eleven minutes?’ It was an eternity, and I sat there thinking, ‘I can’t move. I’d be so embarrassed. But this is so hard!’”
                “The friend who told you he was going to the talk,” I asked, “did he continue?”
                “No. No, he came to the first group, but he didn’t continue. I did. Isn’t that funny?”                        
                “I guess that’s what they call karma.”
                “Yeah. That’s right.”

[Patrick Gallagher – Cypress Trees in the Garden: 134, 140-45;
Catholicism and Zen: 94-95, 181-85, 187-92]
[See also: Patrick Gallagher]

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