meeting momma zen*
karen maezen miller (author of Momma Zen), canon digital rebel, xti
I wasn't sure what to expect when meeting Karen for our photo shoot. I read her book last year and gifted it to my close friends that were pregnant or new mothers because I was so in love with this woman and the effect her words had over me. I wanted my friends to feel that same peace and acceptance about their new journey into motherhood.
I had Karen's book on my nightstand and right before bed I would pick it up for a dose of wisdom. I found myself talking to my husband about it, reading him bits of chapters here and there. I couldn't read much at a time. I would have to put it down to soak in every morsel and marinate in it for a while. I noticed the lessons throughout her pages didn't just apply to motherhood. Being that I wasn't a mother yet, I applied it to my life as a wife, friend, daughter, sister, photographer.
Karen had left a comment on my blog and it was then that this author became even more real to me. We sent one another a few exchanges and with each exchange, I learned something pretty deep. Her wisdom has a lot of depth to it...so much so that most of the time, I wouldn't understand it right away and I had to step aside and think. Exactly what she wanted me to do.
So, with all of this said, I was slightly intimidated about going to her home and spending a few hours with her. All of this created in my own head, of course. That this Zen Buddhist Priest might be a bit untouchable and up on this pedestal I had created for her in my life.
When driving up the hill to her house, under a canopy of trees I found myself taking a deep, cleansing breath. The few weeks prior to this had been full of a lot of tight stress in my belly. A lot is going on in and around our world that is causing me to spin and that stress was tightly wound in my head, chest and stomach. That on top of visitors and responsibilities and travel non-stop. I didn't realize how very exhausted I was until I pulled up to her House of Zen and sat there in the car for a while. It was so quiet. I just stared through her gates and the bit of Zen garden I could see and could already feel stress falling off of me.
Walking through the gates and up to her house, I could see Karen leaning against her glass sliding door looking out for me. When we first locked eyes, her face lit up so brightly and she clapped her hands together with a joy that was contagious. I realized then she was just as thrilled to meet me as I was her. The pedestal I had created for her was no longer there to keep me from feeling equal. As we giddily strode towards one another and embraced, she pulled apart from me and stroked my shoulders while looking into my eyes. I melted even more. Her voice was a whisper...soft, gentle, sincere, loving. She basically had me at hello.
She led me around her house gently touching my arm. The way she walked was a gentle glide across the room. I felt like at any moment, she would whirl me around and start waltzing. How does she walk so softly, as if her feet are barely touching the ground? I marveled. Her phone had rang, so it gave me time to sit and be alone with what I had just experienced. While she was chatting on the phone, I was looking out to her 100 year old Zen garden in the back of her house (which is all windows so you can see it wherever you are). I closed my eyes and took some more breaths. I felt a peaceful, quiet, warm, welcoming, light space all around me. Suddenly, the past few weeks of stress didn't matter any longer. Nothing did but that moment. When she returned to the chair next to me, it was her whisper again that kept me present. I sat more softly into the couch and let her tell me stories that had me enraptured. I knew I was supposed to be there for her but I felt like she was there for me. Isn't it this balance between people and their love, respect and admiration for one another that keeps the two fulfilled simultaneously?
The photo shoot was more playful than I had imagined. So much laughter and giggling and friendship. Her home was a space that no matter what we were doing, it felt like meditating to me. Hearing her laugh and seeing her smile made me feel close to a side to her that I wasn't expecting to explore. Laying on my belly with her on the grass, seeing each blade as important and with meaning is an example of how easy it was to stay present with her in each moment.
Towards the end of our shoot, it was getting dark and she brought me into her house to share soup with her and her wonderful family. How did she know what I needed? For the first time in days I let someone take care of me. With each tasty spoonful her and her husband shared their intimate stories of parenthood in the early days. What I loved most was how Karen would gently stop and put her had on my arm and tell me that I will have my own story and my own way of doing things. One of the huge lessons I received from her book, she was again reassuring me in person. Being careful not to project her story onto mine. Encouraging me to explore my own intuition and inner guide.
She has a way of sharing her wisdom and empowering those that she is with. Being with her is like standing under a warm water fall. I felt cleansed and filled up all at once.