get to know our sangha - christian clark

When and where was your first encounter with Buddhist practice?
In 2016 at Allegheny College. I had learned some principles, basic history, and technique from a meditation teacher named Lodro Rinzler before meeting AnShin, who was a scholar-in-residence at Allegheny college that year. My commitment (along with my classmates) to 90 days of daily meditation really awakened my mind to the reality that everything I need to understand about existence is within my reach. I still aspire to that experience, although I know it is in the past. I'm working on remaking that commitment to mindfulness in every moment.   

What do you like best about your Zen Buddhist practice?
Although AnShin often reminds us that there is no intellectual key to enlightenment, I am very proud of the insights meditation has helped me discover. I'm also quite comforted by the notion that things are usually not as they seem at first, and that when I'm inevitably confused and suffering, my own mistakes point the way towards enlightenment simply by virtue of me recognizing that they are, in fact, mistakes.

What has been a challenging aspect in your Zen Buddhist practice?Discipline. I have not been able, somehow, despite its simplicity, to choose to sit every day for zazen. I know it will be good for me, I remember the joy it brought me in the past, yet I do not find the willpower within myself to meditate. Perhaps I know I'm bringing false expectations to my meditation and I'm afraid of disappointment, or maybe I don't want to meditate alone. Whatever it is, and I can't quite say just yet, hopefully soon I will be able to tell you what my mental block was!  

Name one thing you changed as a result of your Zen Buddhist practice?
I have become much more accepting. In fact, if you asked me what I find least challenging about my practice I might say "acceptance.”  Sometimes I feel that I might be too accepting, as in: I recognize that I've hit a roadblock in my practice, and I just accept it. Acceptance is the first step to correction of course, but what if I accept it, and I'm just okay with that? Either way, I feel that I have a way of dealing with the world very different from many of my friends and co-workers. I've become adept at letting go of bad news and obstacles both in my personal and professional lives. I still acknowledge it, and I still address it, but I don't let it get to me very often. Why worry about extra work when I could address any issue without worrying and save myself from stress?  

What would be an ordinary moment in your daily life that feels truly joyful for you?
Recently I've really enjoyed making omelets for breakfast.  It's quite likely more cholesterol than I should be getting, but between the challenge of cooking the eggs the perfect amount and the wonderful taste when I get it right, I can hardly think of a better way to start my day. I hope to hone my skills enough that soon I can nail it every time; my father always loved to make omelets, so maybe one of these days I can make him a great one.  

What is something that you are deeply grateful for at this time?
My partner Kathleen. She is the most wonderful person I know and my greatest friend. We share almost everything, and her troubles are mine just as much as her joys are mine. I love her with my whole being every moment, and I truly feel I'll always be happier having known her.