Koans are a way to get in touch with the old masters. They come alive in you and you see with their eyes and hear with their ears. When you work with a teacher, you take part in a tradition that is centuries old but also belongs to you. It’s an important element in diving deeper into the world of awakening.
Zen is a path, and it leads somewhere. It’s also a process. Deep things change within us when we engage with a koan, and this can have a profound and unpredictable effect on our life. It can be liberating and wonderful but also confusing and discouraging at times, so it’s good to have an exploration partner who is familiar with the territory.
Taking up the path of Zen is a commitment to awakening, for yourself as well as others. You have a consistent daily meditation practice and develop an intimate relationship with one koan at a time. You meet regularly for individual practice conversations with a teacher, where we process what you’re experiencing in your meditation practice as well as how the koan is expressing itself in your daily life. Though practice conversations are not psychotherapy, they can have a therapeutic effect and sometimes explore some of the same material.
Working with a teacher also includes a financial commitment. Buddhism originated as a monastic tradition where monks were supported by donations from the surrounding community. However the Pacific Zen School, like many modern Zen schools, comes from a lay lineage. This means that most Pacific Zen teachers have jobs, families, mortgages, and all the other responsibilities that ordinary people have. Working out a level of compensation that’s agreeable to both parties is necessary to ensure that the teachings stay alive.
My rate for individual practice conversations is $100 per hour, which can be divided as necessary. Most students choose to meet for a half-hour session ($50) every 2 weeks, though some prefer to meet more or less often, or for longer or shorter sessions. Individual practice conversations are also usually offered at our retreats and included as a membership benefit. It’s important to me that this practice is available to everyone regardless of financial position, so if you’re interested in individual work but can’t afford the above rate, please contact me so we can discuss other possibilities.
The relationships I have had with my teachers over the past decade is one of the greatest treasures of my life, as are my relationships with past and present students. I look forward to the opportunity to explore this strange and wonderful experience of being human with you as well. If you’re interested in becoming a student or just having a chat about Zen, please feel free to contact me at: ItsAliveZen@gmail.com.
Jesse Cardin, Roshi, is a senior teacher in the Pacific Zen School, where he has been a student of John Tarrant, Roshi and David Weinstein, Roshi since attending his first PZI retreat in 2006. Jesse created and leads the San Antonio, Texas-based Zen koan meditation community It’s Alive! Zen and created and facilitates PZI’s online leadership peer support program. Jesse is also a musician and a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. He is interested in how koans can be used in mental health and substance abuse recovery, and to help helping professionals of all kinds to be better helpers. Jesse is available to teach in person, by phone, email, Skype, or any other medium of communication, and works regularly with students in Texas, California, Illinois, Virginia, and the UK.
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