Friday, October 3

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.


Blogger Leacayoungart said...

beautiful shoot.
you are so talented.
i will have to check out her book.
i am always late on these things.

October 3, 2008 at 8:47:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what an incredible account. I felt like I was there with you...


October 3, 2008 at 9:10:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, have you seen the movie 'Kissing Jessica Stein' lately? You seem to be marinating in everything these days.

October 3, 2008 at 9:25:00 AM PDT  
Blogger boho girl said...

yes, anon...i've seen that film. what a random question to this post!

it's one of my favorites.

October 3, 2008 at 9:26:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Robynsart said...

These photos are beautiful. I read Momma Zen's blog and she is a beautiful soul. You certainly captured her beauty.

October 3, 2008 at 9:56:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Rowena said...

Thanks for sharing this experience. I know what you mean about Karen. She seems so wise and I am SOO impressed with the whole zen priest thing.

I mean, you know she's human, but it's nice to have evidence.

October 3, 2008 at 9:59:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow......two true beauties sharing an afternoon of reflection, laughter and harmony...I heart Momma Zen.....her book is such an enormous gift...she has given me many virtual hugs through her writings and emails...she's is a spiritual sweetheart...Denise...I love this: 'I felt cleansed and filled up all at once'...you have this effect on others in your midst including me....one wish I will hold close to my heart is to have you photograph me in my next trip to CA.....you really do see people and it radiates from the photos.....Karen looks so translucent....such purity and grace from her soulful eyes....what gift to have met and spoken with you at Squam.....you have truly been here for me and I thank you.....

Love to you,
Trish xoxoxo

October 3, 2008 at 11:08:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Stacy said...

thank you so much for introducing me to karen last year through her book, such a gift in so many ways.

these pictures are just breathtaking and dreamy. the time you spent together shows in these photos, i can practically hear the windchimes in the distance.

"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."... know that you do this for others as well my love.


October 3, 2008 at 12:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger mames said...

what joy has come into your life in so many ways.

i heard about karen at andrea's blog and wanted to get the book so badly. i was immersed in the early days of parenting twins and desperate for help/aid/assist/instruction. i never did pick it up, but i began reading her blog.

i loved that introduction to her and her ways. i think i may be in the right place to read the book. now. this post was a gentle reminder to delve into it and the wisdom it holds.

photos are spectacular. as always.

October 3, 2008 at 12:28:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a wonderful post and beautiful photos ~ I too love mama zen and hope to one day meet her myself. xoxo

October 3, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Vivienne said...

such a tender story of connection. the way you tell it, i felt myself walking beside you both too, taking deep breaths, feeling more calm as i read each paragraph.

these pictures sure capture her kind energy and beauty.

October 3, 2008 at 2:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger jin said...

ohh i didn't want the day to end as i was reading this...so beautiful, so gentle and loving - reading this was like a meditation too.. deep breath in deep breath out... xxxx

October 3, 2008 at 2:46:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Kathleen said...

your photos are so gorgeous. always.
i always love reading about each adventure of your photo shoots. i love that you absorb each person, seeing the beauty in them.

what a lovely day. and i am sure they felt just as fortunate to have met you, too.

October 3, 2008 at 8:36:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is so lovely.

thank you so much for sharing it.

October 4, 2008 at 7:17:00 AM PDT  
Blogger pERiWinKle said...

Oh yes! Karen does all that...and more. What always 'capture' me with her words are that she get's right down to the point, and with such warmth and love she says exactly what you need to hear.

I agree with Stacy...you do all this with people around you...

Sitting here with a smile, loving how peaceful and calm and loved you feel xx

October 4, 2008 at 8:54:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boho, you have such a way with words. This reads so calmly & cleanly. It's like I just took a little holiday, visiting your online home.
Your photos are gorgeous too.
Thank you for sharing,
x e.

October 4, 2008 at 1:49:00 PM PDT  
Blogger nyjlm said...

beautiful! I am a huge fan of Karen and her book, and reading that she is just as she comes across in her book and on her blog brought tears to my eyes. what a wonderful day you shared.

October 4, 2008 at 4:22:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Donna Quesada said...

You captured the inner glow of someone I am lucky enough to count as a friend. ~Donna

October 4, 2008 at 4:24:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Shalet said...

Thanks for that wonderful glimpse into her life! I wish I could have been there!

October 4, 2008 at 7:22:00 PM PDT  
Blogger erin said...

These shots are wonderful. Just discovered your blog through Tara Whitneys. Great stuff, I love the style of your photos.

October 4, 2008 at 7:28:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just be glad that you have such interesting conversations about about art and the zen state. In my limited area, I feel that I am the only one that understands the happiness you seek - I am so tired of the negative and being THE ROCK of someone's life so that I can help them - no one is helping me. I am determined today to figure out who can start supporting me so I can decide who gets to leave my inter most circle. YOu have an incredible circle and ohh how I wish I was were there- because at this point I say - MINE SUCKS. Here i use my real name Kelly and I how I wish I were really a part of your world because I don't like mine much anymore. I also believe you should be a mom - i personally wish I could just have just a cat that I could take care of. I kind of wish there were a personal e-mail since i wish no one else could see that I am truely having a meltdown wanting to be removed from my situation. But of course tomorrow I will be fine and just pretend everything is ok. I wish you the best but I feel like Charlie Brown and wish to disappear. You are really an inspiration and I will be better tomorrow and go back to just being someone who likes to watch.

October 4, 2008 at 9:29:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

I love the way you captured the glow.

October 5, 2008 at 10:14:00 AM PDT  
Blogger julie king said...

beautiful photos. you captured a wonderful quality in your photos -- i feel like she is someone i really want to meet.

October 5, 2008 at 10:39:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Kristin Zecchinelli said...

how incredibly wonderful. not a wonder that a talent like you and a spirit like she would be destined to come together. how very wonderful.

October 5, 2008 at 9:05:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Lisa said...

These pictures are gorgeous. She is gorgeous! In your photos you capture of everything you wrote about her in this post :) I love it!

October 6, 2008 at 5:54:00 AM PDT  
Blogger nina beana said...


i hope my path leads me to karen some day.


October 6, 2008 at 7:15:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Maude Lynn said...

You have captured Karen beautifully!

October 6, 2008 at 12:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger jessamyn said...

oh the peace of your exchange is so evident in your writing and what you captured from these moments together.
two strong, beautiful, inspiring women.

October 6, 2008 at 3:56:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Trish *Spring Blossom* said...

How beautiful! What a wonderful experience you both had. I love your photography and I'm just getting into it myself. Do you change your photographs in any way before you post them? Becuase I just love the way they look.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with me.

October 6, 2008 at 4:29:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Debra said...

Karen is such a beautiful soul and it really shines through in your lovely photos. I enjoy reading your blog. It makes me feel calm and happy inside!


October 12, 2008 at 1:58:00 PM PDT  

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