I lived in Lawrence, Kansas from 2001 to 2004.
It’s about an hour away. I lived there because I went to college at KU. Some people say college was the best time of their lives. That is not true for me. But that’s okay. The best time of my life is now.
It was during that period that I became really interested in Buddhism. I started doing a lot of reading and study and I quickly learned that Zen was my favorite.
I’m telling you all this to tell you that I didn’t go to the Kansas Zen Center. It would have been simple for me to do when I lived in a place with a Zen Center and I didn’t go. But one day I almost did. It was 2003 ( I think) and I learned about it and I went there. But I didn’t go in. There are a few reasons for this.
One is that it was a house. I saw it was a house and for some reason that bothered me. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one, it’s actually pretty common that people are scared off when Buddhist temples are in houses. I don’t know why, really. Maybe something about a house is less welcoming. Also, it didn’t have a clear sign, or at least I didn’t see one. I know it has a big clear sign now. I told myself it might not be the right place and I’d be really embarrassed if I went to the door and it wasn’t. I had so much social anxiety. We tell ourselves nonsense sometimes, to avoid taking steps we know we should take.
Another reason is that I was really anxious. Going by myself to a place like that was too much for me. I’ve always had some anxiety problems, but those first few years after my mother’s death…whew they were bad. Being in an unfamiliar place, meeting people…scary. It would be some time before I’d come out of my shell enough to meet other Buddhists.
That sounds very silly to reflect on now, but if you’ve been around a spiritual community you know that people rarely go alone, at least the first time.
I didn’t have anyone to go with and that was a powerful excuse.
I’m emphasizing that because that’s an excuse a lot of people use and something communities are always going to struggle with probably.
How can we be so welcoming that people will be comfortable enough to come alone? I don’t have an answer fort hat.
Anyway, this is on my list of regrets. I should have gone in. I’ll never know how that would have played out. By the time I was ready, I didn’t live in a city with a Zen Center anymore, so I had to go somewhere else.
I met a lot of nice people at the Rime Buddhist Center. I even met my partner Alicia there. I’m building a life with her and that’s wonderful. I ran the Sunday School program for four years. I went through the Meditation Instructor Training Program. I even had the opportunity to teach a class there once (but only once). I got a lot out of my time there, so I could never regret it.
I made a lot of friends there, but maybe it was never really a good fit for me.
I don’t believe in magic and spirits. I don’t judge people that do, but that is simply not me. I’m not into offerings and I’m really not into visualization meditation either.
I tried to make the Rime Center fit for a long time. But ultimately a situation came where I didn’t feel welcome anymore. I wasn’t forced out but I was pushed just enough to make my days as the only zen guy at the Tibetan temple come to an end.
I don’t miss the Rime Center much but I do sort of wish my teaching efforts had the support and encouragement of some community in the city. And I think there is something to having a place to go and people to encourage you in your practice. I do wish I still had that.
But the truth is I’m a Zen Buddhist, not a Tibetan Buddhist. What I really want is to practice with people who are interested in the same teachings and teachers that I’m interested in.
This wasn’t hidden in the time that I went to the Rime Center. People knew I was a Zen Buddhist. Sometimes people would ask me really specific questions about Zen. Once in a while people from those days when I went to the Rime Center still do.
Sometimes people ask me what they should do if they live in Kansas City and they’re interested in Zen.
I don’t really have a good answer. I think the Kansas Zen Center is a good place, it’s just an hour away. I didn’t know until recently they have a group that meets at Unity Temple weekly. If you’re free Tuesday nights, I think it’s probably a good group. But that’s not the same as Kansas City having our own local center. It’s part of a community that’s an hour away, not here.
I think the Columbia Zen Center is probably a good place too. It’s 2 hours away.
But I wish I had a good answer.
Do you want to study and practice in the Zen tradition with me in Kansas City?
Send me a message and let me know. Maybe we can figure something out together.
want to come meditate with me?
Monday Night Meditation
Nelson Atkins Museum – South Lawn
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO
This is a public event. We’re meditating on the lawn of the Nelson Museum, just south of “The Thinker” statue. I’m going to give a short talk and a bit of guidance, then we will sit together. Tell all your friends.