Crossing the Bridge:

An Account of Awakening

Merry Song first met Joel and joined the Center in 1993 and has been associated with the Center ever since. This is an edited transcript of Merry Song's account of her spiritual path and series of Awakenings leading up to her accepting the role of a teacher at the Center. This talk took place at a CSS community night meeting on the evening of November 6, 2019, at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon. Thanks to Sheila Craven for performing the transcription of the recording.

 


Joel: Welcome, everybody. The reason we’re having this special community night is because I invited Merry Song to give an account of her awakening. She’s had an unusual spiritual path, which she’s going to tell you about, so I’m just going to be very brief. Merry Song first came to the Center in 1993 to a Video Sunday, right?

Merry Song: Yes.

Joel: And she’s been coming off and on ever since. A number of years ago she started telling me about an awakening and some spiritual experiences she had subsequently. After awhile I became convinced that they had resulted in an irreversible transformation that altered her life. So I invited her to come and give an account of this to all of you. At the time, she declined. She’s going to tell you why—that was a few years ago—but now she’s ready, and so here we are. So, without further ado. . .

Merry Song: Thank you, Joel. 

Joel: You’re welcome, Merry Song. I’m going to turn it over to you.

Merry Song: It’s so nice to see you all here tonight. Thank you for coming out and joining me on this occasion.

First, I wanted to begin with my gratitude for Joel. Joel is someone who has never really encouraged people to show gratitude [to him] or express it, or bow down, or any of these sorts of things. I’ve known this to be true. But I have such gratitude for Joel in my life, for so many years now. 1993 is when I first came to the Center. I have quite a bit to tell you about that as we continue on with this talk, but I just want to take a moment to bow to Joel in gratitude. Thank you so much. [bows to Joel]

I’ve known Joel, by the way, to be so consistent. And I see many of you here who have been at the Center as long as I or longer perhaps, and you know the consistency, the transparency, and the accessibility that he has given us, and that created the Center. So, yes, I do feel overwhelming gratitude for Joel.

I also have overwhelming gratitude for Ruth Denison, my Dharma teacher, Vipassana teacher, who has passed away now to another realm. But I do feel that she’s probably sitting right over there somewhere right now. And to Ruth I could bow down. We all bowed. I could bow to her, I could put my forehead on the floor in gratitude, weeping with my hands open. But you know what she would also do? She would bow down to me. We would face each other, foreheads on the floor, and bow to each other. So with Ruth I did express a lot of gratitude while she was alive. And I continue to this day. Her teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma told her, "Ruth, be ruthless." And she was ruthless in more ways than one. So that’s coming up a little bit later.

And I want to take time to thank the people who have been in writing workshops with me recently. I see your smiling faces. It’s wonderful. I have so much gratitude for you because you helped me in ways you were not aware of at the time, as I was testing the waters. I was moving from teaching in classrooms—for many years I did this—to teaching in the spiritual arena, and you were there to help me do this. And we continue to do it. So I thank all of you for helping me with that.

Then I want to thank a few more people: Niraja, thank you so much. I’d like to thank Janis Joplin, Anne Frank, Gloria Steinem, and Xena Warrior Princess. [Audience laughter] Those are my gratitudes. Thank you so much. Good to hear you laugh. 

If I were to tell you my whole life story, it would take a long time because now I’m 65 years old. So I have to cut to the chase. When I wrote this timeline, I said, okay, I’m starting at 31 years old. I’m cutting off that whole part leading up. We can talk privately if you want to know about my childhood and such. 

But getting to the good stuff: I’m 31 years old in 1985 and I’m ill. I have a pretty serious illness happening, and it’s leading to surgery. Prior to this, I was mostly interested in love, romance, sex, and becoming the best in my field. At the time I was doing radio broadcasting, but I also did photography and filmmaking. These are the things I wanted to be the best at. I wanted to be recognized for my great work. So, when this illness came up, I found intense terror. Terror. If you’ve ever faced surgery, you know, they come to you and say, “You must sign this line, that we’ve informed you that you could die on the table.”  I’m 31 years old, don’t feel good, and I signed the line. Whew! So the day of surgery, my blood ran cold—I can recall so clearly—they come with the gurney, they put me on the gurney, I’m just shivering with fear. This is it, you know.

They took me into surgery. The surgeon was a friend of mine. She looked me in the eye and she took hold of my hand, and she said, “Start counting backward.” I had maybe two numbers, beep, and then there I am again. When she took my hand, I had an acute awareness. In my mind now, I still see it so clearly. She took my hand, almost like looking down a tunnel at me, and my awareness was huge, and when I came to in the recovery room, my awareness was huge. And the body would not respond. I couldn’t open my eyes, I couldn’t move a muscle. But awareness was vast. It was trying to move the body. It was traveling around the body the way you would do in Vipassana meditation, going everywhere, looking for something to move, nothing would move. Eventually it did move, and I came to, I started recovery. I got better. The surgery worked, by the way, so that’s a happy story.

But I had fundamentally changed. I was 31 years old and I could no longer live the life I’d been living—that was mostly self-centered. I had this sense there was something, a great mystery calling to me, a magnetic pull that I could not deny. I literally could not do my job very well, and so at the radio station, I felt like I was hiding. I had to be on the microphone all the time, but I was hiding—pretending I was doing a good job.  

So in my timeline here, I’m jumping now from 1985 to 1989 from ages 31 to 35. I call this the period of longing. Longing leads to searching. It includes heartbreak, needing, conflict, suffering, joy, betrayal, the sense of the great mystery that I need to go after. I need to go on the journey. As I went on this journey, I had to leave my hometown of Iowa City, Iowa. When I did, I wound up out here, by the way, in graduate school. But I began to have recognitions, realizations, and a peeling away of the personality that I thought I was. So as a radio producer, I had this personality and this voice, and the way that I spoke, all quite sculpted, and so was I. Then I wasn’t, because the layers were peeling away, and I could no longer be that person.

During those times, we didn’t have [access to] teachings the way we have now. Now if you want a teaching, within a split second you’ve got it at your fingertips. And there are so many of them. In those days, though, where do I go? Where do I turn?

So I walked into Perelandra bookstore one day in Eugene. It was 1986 and I saw this face looking out at me: Irina Tweedie, Daughter of Fire. I said I need this. She’s calling to me. I need this book, but I couldn’t afford it. I had to get it at a library, and so on. This book is her account by way of journal entries of her intense longing, her intense journey and her intense training with a Sufi master. By reading her journal, I got a lot of the language that I didn’t have. Like, what is this thing I feel? Oh, it’s longing. That’s longing for the Divine. She went through a lot of intense training with him and it opened up a world to me too. Not only the intimacy of this book, but some of the practices that I hadn’t known about. Her Sufi master asked her to keep a journal because he said it will be of value to people some day. So, at the same time I started my own journal of the unfoldings. And that I have way back in there in a closet, someday maybe finding the light of day.

Now we’re coming to the summer of 1989. I finished my graduate degree which is an MFA in Creative Writing. I wasn’t really interested in making money or becoming a professor or any of that. I decided to go to Breitenbush as a summer volunteer. Have you all been there? Yeah. I got no pay. They fed me. I lived in one of their tents. I was exposed to all kinds of healers and people coming up to Breitenbush. It was a fabulous place for that. I had no partner or friend with me. But I had recently had a painful, short-term relationship, and I was mad about it. I remember anger. Why did it go that way? I had also recently met a Tibetan monk who came to Iowa City. He was a refugee who was brought to Iowa City, and I had a few powerful one-on-one just sitting and staring at each other sessions. I didn’t know much about Tibetan Buddhism, or any Buddhism, really.

I lived on the staff side of Breitenbush, and every day I’d cross over a bridge over the Breitenbush River that led to the guest side. Then I would be doing manual labor, I’d be sweeping the decks, washing windows, changing beds, and all the things that go along with that kind of job. And I found I was doing it joyfully, although this bit of anger was still hanging on me. 

So here it is, here’s the big moment: One day, I’m going across that bridge. So I stood there on the bridge and here’s where it happens. 

Phewwwww—the mind fell away. The “I” fell away. And I stood on the bridge… this. 

As I look back on this—that was thirty years ago—I feel that the “I” disappeared in that moment and the pure essence of being was revealed. It’s not that I can explain what that is, or describe it to you in great detail. 

So there I am on the bridge. This happens. Now, I’ve heard some people say that when the self falls away, they’ve had intense fear. I felt no fear. No fear. I felt radiance. So I walked across the bridge, I picked up the broom, I started sweeping the deck, with joy. And washing the windows, and doing what I had done before. 

But here’s what happened: People started to be drawn to this energy they saw radiating from me. And I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I think some thought, well, this is about sex. Sexual attraction. That’s not what this is, you know. I don’t want to be involved in this way. People are coming, guests are coming. They are looking at me in the face, "What do you have? What’s going on with you?" And I would sort of just stand there. I didn’t know what to say, really. I also recall times, like walking up to a group of staff standing there talking—just your run of the mill, everyday talking—I’d walk up, and my mind wasn’t functioning in the same way, so the conditioned responses were not there. How do you join in a conversation? So, I was just standing there in presence, and they would all look at me. 

Then I precisely remember walking into the dining hall and looking around at everything and seeing somehow that everything was a projection of the mind. I almost felt as though I could see the spaces in between the frames that were being projected onto the wall. 

This state of being went on for weeks and I saw awareness lit up inside me. And that light never turns off. It has never turned off in these thirty years. Which means that whatever arises in the life stream is illuminated. So for thirty years, whatever has come up for me—and I think Niraja would attest—it goes under that spotlight. It’s there pretty quickly, like split second it’s there: What is this? What is this? So whatever arises is illuminated. The light does not turn off. 

But there was a problem for me. The problem was I lacked the teachings, the training, and the ability to handle this energy in a way that could benefit others. So when people came to me, instead of saying, "Okay, yes, let's have Satsang" or whatever, I pulled back. So I pulled back again and again. I call that hiding. I don’t know if it’s possible to hide a light like that, to put a bushel basket over it. But I made a decision. I make the choice to retreat from a spiritual spotlight because this lifestream is not ready to teach or share spiritual insights. I don’t have yet something I need.

So I become an academic teacher. Can you believe it? I could have stayed at Breitenbush and lived a Breitenbush life. I could have become a presenter at Breitenbush. I could have done all kinds of things. Nope, I went to the classroom. So for thirty years I taught writing—part time, by the way, because I never wanted to be a full time teacher. I felt always that I was under cover, I was fostering compassion under cover while working with all kinds of people, which was great training for me because I came in contact with people from all backgrounds, all ages, all points in their lives, they’re seeking change and they come to a school like mine.

In 1990 after I’d taught a school year, I came back to Breitenbush for the summer. This time they paid me a little bit. But the important thing about 1990 is I met Niraja. And importantly I met Ruth Denison. Ruth Denison was at Breitenbush leading a ten-day Vipassana retreat. And when I came upon her, I saw the most beautiful emanation of truth. Now it’s interesting because a lot of people I met over the many years looked upon her and they ran away. Wow, get me outa here, right? But the first time I met her, I was down on my knees. Please teach me. Because my mind stood at attention. You know you’re in the presence of a teacher when your mind says, "Please, let’s hear it. Teach me."

She was so eccentric. And dramatic. And fun. And harsh. She taught me formal Vipassana training, sitting practice, which I never had before for any length of time. And walking practice, with Ruth on my shoulder, behind my ear, all the time. Everything she turned into practice. Everything, every movement, every bite of cake, everything was practice with Ruth. And she made you wake up in your life in practice all the time when you weren’t with her. At least for me. 

I made trips to her desert Vipassana Center. By the way, it is called Dhamma Dena, near Joshua Tree. Meanwhile, Niraja and I are traveling around in a Volkswagen van, we’re having lots of fun. We’re going to places like the Lama Foundation. We’re seeking and looking for community and having juicy, luscious times in the world.

And then we come to Eugene. So this is a coming back to Eugene for me in 1993. So we find a place to live out in Veneta, actually. We’re looking for stuff to do, and I pick up a What’s Happening and I look and there’s that listing. Oh! Video Sunday at the Center for Sacred Sciences. The video happened to be about someone I had met at the Lama foundation. "Let’s go see that."

So there we were at the Center, which was at the Filmore Street house: A teeny, tiny, itty bitty little house. And Joel always sat way down on the floor. We sat around him, and up on the couch, maybe sixteen people, something like that. I loved those days. Those were the days for me, when we were there on the floor with Joel. Oh, it was so good. 

So when I first saw Joel it was a Video Sunday, but I heard him speak anyway and I knew this is a Truth Talker. Here now is another teacher. Here now is a teacher in my own backyard, and I want to be here with this teacher as well. Ruth Denison had no problem with this. Joel had no problem with my having Ruth Denison. Joel always welcomed people wherever they were in their paths, and what she was telling me, and what he was telling me were one and the same. So that worked very well. 

With Joel we also did formal sitting practice, walking practice, we went on retreats, we studied lots of different texts, we did Peace Pilgrim, we did The Eye Never Sleeps, we did Tibetan dream yoga, Joel led dream groups. It was a wonderful time that we did all of these things together. 

Then in 1994, I recall going to the Center and I had some agitation. I said, “Joel, I’m going back to Iowa to visit my parents and I feel some agitation because I go there and they just demolish me. No matter how happy I am, or I’m feeling good, then WHAM! I love them dearly, I miss them very, very much. But I’d go to my parents, and then whoosh!” So Joel said, “Go as nothing.” Go as nothing. 

Now I went on that trip to my parents, and the entire time I was there I was thinking, “Go as nothing. Go as nothing. Go as nothing. Go as nothing. What does this mean?”

I can remember being on a tall, two-story ladder on the side of the house with a paint brush in my hand thinking, “Go as nothing? Go as nothing?” Anyway it was quite a fruitful teaching for me, and when I came back to the Center, I told Joel what happened. He said, “Okay, tell me the story and we’re going to record this for the Sunday talk. I just listened to the talk again, so you can all hear the talk, dated May 29, 1994, where I come back to Joel and report on the go-as-nothing teaching. 

Hiromi wrote a chant for go-as-nothing. She’s going to lead us and I’m gonna take a little break and breathe deeply before I continue. I want to note that the go-as-nothing teaching has continued to unfold. 1994 is a long time ago. How can a teaching go on this long? It’s going again. Earlier I was outside in the car—“Go as nothing, go as nothing. Don’t go in there as something, don’t try to be any good. . .just go as nothing.” So good, I’m going to take a break. 

Hiromi plays ukulele and sings “Go as Nothing”.

Merry Song: Thank you. That was a nice little break.

Then from 1990 – 2005: fifteen years of practice and spiritual community. Fifteen wonderful years, much of which by the way, I have photographs of, because I took a lot of pictures. 

When I saw Ruth Denison, I wanted to do something creative to express my love for her, so I started photographing her. I just saw something I was trying to capture, and that lead to videomaking. So I spent hundreds of hours video taping her with love in my heart and never wanting to accept any kind of compensation for that work. It was just something that I was called to do, and what a blessing to have a calling, to have some skills you can put to use in doing that. 

Now this leads me up to another moment. 2005: I was at a ten-day Vipassana retreat with Ruth at IMS, which is the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Vipassana by some teachers can be quite harsh and stark. But with Ruth it was pretty juicy business. If she wanted to dance, then we would dance. We would get out the drums and we would pound it out, but all in teaching, all in awareness. During this ten-day retreat, halfway through, I was walking around the grounds at Barre, Massachusetts—beautiful place—when suddenly… when suddenly… the self fell away. It just doesn’t express it. The self fell away. I call this a no-self experience. Because in that moment I was walking around, it’s as though the body disappeared. The head was gone. The Presence was moving about there. This was not a problem. I wasn’t afraid. There was no fear. It was again, radiant, radiant bliss was pouring through. 

And then, when you’re on a retreat like that you hear bells calling you. Come back. It’s time to sit again. So I come back. I walk into the zendo, the meditation hall, and I see the people and I say to myself, There I am, there I am. Then I sit down in my place and I see the teacher come in, and I say There I am. Actually, that still falls short. Because it’s not like there “I” am, it’s like there Is. There is everything that’s emanating from the one source. It’s like all one, one source. So this was no problem. And I did not race over to Ruth  and tell her the great news. Why bother her? She’s got so much to do, why bother her with that? So I didn’t tell her. 

Now, that night I hit a big road block. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling as though someone had struck me right in the throat, right there. It hurt so bad. I thought, Oh my god, I’m about to be really sick here. What am I going to do, am I going to need echinacea or something? Ooh, ah, it hurt so bad. 

The next morning, though, well I’m not sick with any sort of cold, I just had this intense pain in my throat chakra—where you speak the truth. Ha ha. It hurt so bad. I went to meditation. I didn’t want to be away. The magnetic pull was strong. I sat in meditation, which was long, probably an hour and a half or something. When I started to get up, I felt the pain just flood through my body. All joints up and down my arms and legs, my hands and feet. 

I went home and realized that something had happened to me right then, in that moment. What was it? I don’t know. But many tests were run, and many things were tried, and I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. This was something I couldn’t shake easily, even with all kinds of medications, and alternative medicines, and all the practices I could possibly find, I could not shake this. It led me to ten years of reclusiveness. When your body’s inflamed, your joints and everything hurts, you don’t do much with people. So I just felt the energy go inside. I continued to teach my classes at school, and do all kinds of things, but in terms of socializing, if you’re a friend of mine from long ago, you might have noticed I was missing for about ten years. Right? About ten years.

During that time, there were a lot of lessons that came to me, like realizations, a lot of wonderful moments mixed in with this painful illness. It’s not that it was all bad or anything. I still had a compassionate heart, even more so when suffering physically you know it’s not just you in the world suffering, it’s everywhere around the world people suffering this way. It kind of breaks you open, breaks you wide open. I never said, Why me? But I always wondered if my immune system reacted to that no-self experience and was pulling me back in down, down, down.

In 2014 though, I started to emerge from that reclusiveness. So ten years reclusive, I start to emerge, and I’m not sure why. I’ve got to investigate a little bit more in my notes to come up with something. But I think I started to radiate a little bit more again, and I was coming to the Center, I was now sixty years old. And in January, Joel called me in to talk to me. And he interviewed me. We had a long talk. And at the end of the talk, Joel invited me to step forward as a teacher at the Center. This was a big huge event for me. Wow! I was absolutely speechless. I came home. I couldn’t speak. Uhhhhh—no words. Nothing’s coming. I was waiting. I knew that to do something like that, it had to be an absolute “yes”. Right? If there’s some hesitation, if there’s anything holding you back, you cannot say yes to something like that. And so I waited. I must have come back to Joel and said, there’s this stuff—I always point to the right side of my brain for some reason, here in this hemisphere—there are these hindrances that are causing me to pull back and to hide. I feel they’re there and these have to come out first before I could accept that invitation. 

So, my friends, I went through five years of testing and clearing. Thanks to the Universe for all the lessons that came down my way, one after the other after the other. I had some illusions that needed to be cleared. I had some rage that came pouring up. Some fear.

And then the last major block, after four years of this intensity, was the fear of my own mother’s death. It was something I just could not fathom, because I was so close to my mother. And I didn’t want that to have to be one of them. I have to have that one be cleared? Come on. But that’s the one that had to be cleared. She was ninety-three years old and she told me she was ready. Was I ready? So I had the great good fortune to be with her as she passed away. I was with her, actually, a couple of weeks ahead of that and all the way up to the very end. During that time, I found… just the bottom falling out of the relationship that I’d had with her, so that I was with her as a loving presence, as compassion, rather than as this daughter holding tight to her. 

My mother had a deathbed confession to me only. I already knew what it was. But she had never been able to express it. But in those last moments, those last few days, she told me, just like that. It just came right out. I sat with her as the one that she had raised to be with her in that moment, was how I felt about it. And I said, “You know, Mom, you held this guilt and shame like two birds nesting on your chest all these years. Many, many years. Now those two birds are ready to fly away. And she opened her eyes and looked at me and I think together we envisioned those birds flying away. So when she took her last breath, and she actually died, I saw her disappear. And I saw myself disappear. 

And that brings us up to 2019. I’m sixty-five years old. Wow! After thirty years teaching college level writing courses, last Spring the idea started to pour through me about what else I could do. What could you do? You have all this experience teaching, being with people, encouraging people using writing and so on. So last Spring here at the Center I started offering spiritual writing workshops and found it was a completely natural fit for me—it was effortless and intuitive. It’s not like I had to sit home and calculate how to do this and how to do that. Just unfolding, unfolding, and unfolding. So that led me back to Joel and my saying, “The time has come.” I decided then to accept the offer and we set a date, which is today. Yes.

I had some cold feet a few weeks back. I got sick with a cold and thought, I can’t go through with this. Then I realized that the time has come. Okay, you’re going to do this, so let’s do it.

That brings me to the end of all of my notes. I just want to say that for me, I’ve had some intense sudden awakenings. I’ve had unfoldings that go across decades. So I don’t know what that says, or how you might analyze that or criticize that even. But it continues to unfold. So I don’t know what comes next, but I do feel that I’ve crossed a line where now it’s about selfless service. How may I serve? What are your natural gifts and talents? How may you serve intuitively, effortlessly, and so on. 

With that, I’ll see if any of you have a question for me.

Q: You said that you hadn’t experienced too much fear, but did you experience a time when there was more fear, and did that motivate you?

Merry Song:  When I went into that surgery—that’s the one that pops up as the biggest fear. And then the fear of my mother’s death was a biggie. But in between those times, Niraja and I would actually find ourselves in situations where fear was like a spiritual practice. We had an episode where we were caught in a flash flood: the two of us, alone, in the wilderness of Utah. A flood came and took all of our stuff — everything. We’re out there in a storm with thunder and lightning. I was out there on a rock saying, “This is fear! This is fear!” So I guess what I have found is that if it’s fear or some other kind of agitation, there’s always some way that we can celebrate that, or look at that in a different way. This plays into the way I use creative writing in my workshops. We might look at fear, write about a character who’s in fear. And there’s a miracle in doing that. Creating a character and giving them and viewing them with those kinds of feelings. So I’ve come to see myself, or the story I’m telling you about this self, Merry Song, as a work of fiction. As a writer, you can bring things to a peak, then down, and on and on they go. Does that answer your question? Yes. Thank you.

Q: Have there been practices through the years that you have stayed with or have you changed your practices?

Merry Song: I’m glad you brought that up, actually. Because I want to call out the Center's precepts. When we recited the precepts, I took it so seriously and found that they just became a part of me, so that in everything I did I was practicing these ten things. This was great to do in a classroom, when no one knows what you’re doing. It was a great place for practicing precepts. Precept practice is a great one to do, and get it into you so that it’s just there all the time. 

And then Vipassana practice. This is a Buddhist practice, also called Insight Meditation. It’s about dwelling in the sensations of the body to the point where you realize the body is not solid. There’s much more to it than that, but when I met Ruth Denison, I was a natural already at Vipassana. With her I was able to develop that pin-pointed focus traveling through the body and feeling what is here, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling. So Vipassana practice. Any kind of meditation practice is very useful. Any time that you can still your self is very important. Certain mantras, too. Ruth would have us chant often, and one that stuck with me was Breathing in, breathing out, in awareness, knowing it. So let’s say I’m in a tight situation, like I’m on an airplane and they say we’re going to have turbulence. I might say to myself, Breathing in, breathing out, in awareness, knowing it. I don’t want to miss what’s going on, go into terror. 

Also writing practice.  For me writing has been a great tool to keep in touch with what’s going on exactly. How can I unfold this a little more? Sometimes poetry will come out, fiction comes out, but that relationship with my self or the so-called self, has been exposed to me through writing. I love that. Since I was a child, like six years old, I’ve had that relationship with writing and my self

Q: You made reference to hiding your light under a bushel. And I think that was at the age of 31, in the Breitenbush days. And then there were certain periods of that ever since. Then you recently emerged. What do you think that was about? Was that some sense of competence about how to teach?

Merry Song: I think that’s part of it. By the way, people have informed me that I’ve never been very good at actually hiding that light under the bushel, it’s like burning down the house sometimes. But hiding has been a part of my life since childhood. Some of you may be able to identify with that. You're just always sort of hiding the good stuff because the world is not ready for you, or you need to protect somebody from what’s true for you. It’s kind of a long story, but I would talk with you privately about it. Hiding is something I think many of us have gone through, still today, we might find ourselves hiding for some reason or another. 

Q: Could you talk more about rage and how you worked with that when it came through?

Merry Song: During a time I was visiting my mother a thief breaks into the house and robs the house, and not only that but goes into my mother’s room where she’s sleeping and steals the money. I was in the house, and never woke up during that. So when all this came up, I was in rage. I didn’t know I could feel such rage. This was important for me to see, Oh, this is how people who are war-like, this is how they feel. I was ready to go out with a baseball bat. Who was that? I'm hunting them down! Who did this to my mother? I was so enraged. I remember this three-day period when I wouldn’t answer the phone, this three-day period at my mother’s house where I was just boiling in the rage. And I said to myself, Look, Merry Song, you know what to do. You’ve got all this training. What would Ruth say? What would Joel say? You know what to do. You don’t need to call anybody up. And I just so happened to have a tape of Sharon Salzberg’s Metta Meditation. I put it in, and the fire of compassion just started burning. So I started reciting metta prayers for myself, for my mother, and for the robber! Does that answer your question? Yeah.

So when you get all of these practices, you try all of these different things. They’re like tools in your toolkit. And they will come up when you need them most. Right? In the classroom, I have always found this to be true. I have great confidence that compassion will lead the way when I go into a classroom at a school, where there’re people from all backgrounds. Whatever situation arises, and everything comes up, you know, I have faith that compassion will lead me. I don’t know what to do. What do you do? Compassion will lead. 

As I listen to the "Go as Nothing" dialog that Joel and I had in 1994, I realize that what he was saying in "Go as Nothing," is don’t try to be anything else. Just go, and when nothing is there, he said, love arises. Love is there. That’s what’s naturally there anyway. Get out of the way. I call it compassion. But it’s the same thing. So the "Go as Nothing" teaching is like a koan that continues to unfold. It’s a practice that you have to listen for, you have to catch it. I think we get a lot of these kinds of things that just go on by, and, oh, it’s gone. So listen for those things to come up.

So we have another song. Does anybody have a last question? 

Joel: Before you do the song, we still have a little business to do. The way things work around here, you become a Center teacher if people ask you to teach. Merry Song already has my seal of approval, but that does not make her a Center teacher. Our tradition going back to me started because I had no idea of becoming a teacher. And people started asking me to teach. So I started teaching. That’s how it began here, and every Center teacher here has been asked to teach. So you heard her account of Awakening. You had a chance to ask her some questions. Does anybody want her to be a Center teacher? 

Audience: Yes!

Joel: Too bad, Merry Song. You’re in for it now!

Merry Song: Thank you, Joel, Thank you so much.

Group sings Don’t Worry, Be Happy led by Annie.


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