Nine Bows and More

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When I saw the husband turn to his wife and bow, only then did I understand how to bow properly. He did so during an introduction to Zen weekend. He did so spontaneously, as we were waiting for dinner. His hands in gasho (palm to palm, as if in prayer), almost touching his forehead, he bends, his back his hinge, bowing.

I saw grace, kindness.

I was at Zen Mountain Monastery this weekend to ask Hojin Sensei to be my new teacher. When I had asked about her approach to teaching, she said, “We are just on this journey together,” and that is an approach that makes sense to me.

At 5:30 AM, when the sanga sits for zazen, we bow as each person takes her seat. In the beginning, I took this as an interruption to my own meditation, but now I know this is part of the meditation: being present, acknowledging the other. Grace, kindness.

Here in the west, we puff our chests. We like expressions such as, “I bow to no man.”

Bowing is better.

I bowed nine times for Hojin, as is the tradition upon beginning the relationship with a new teacher. To the outsider, this may seem strange, but if you free yourself from the fetters of pride, you enter a space of grace, of kindness. And you will understand we are all on this journey together.

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