In the retreat with the Lakota people in the Black Hills I realized that we’re all mixtures of different things, no one’s pure this or pure that, and that often there’s some quality of brokenness built into these combinations.” | “I didn’t grow up on Mother Goose rhymes, I grew up on my mother’s stories of the Shoah and what she had had to do to survive. These were tales of death but also grit and courage, and they’ve influenced me from the time I was a girl.” | “Bernie was about to go out on an errand yesterday when I saw him standing at the door, his funny hat framing a sweet and happy face. I tried to capture the image right there, not a great photo by any means, just a casual, intimate moment that I may go back to years hence to remember how happy we were.” | “Nothing deters Stanley and me from our daily expeditions to the woods, not even shooting and the occasional glimpses of men in hunting gear with guns.” | “I am an immigrant, having come to the US at the age of 7. I remember tiptoeing silently down the hallway back then and listening to my parents talk in their bedroom about money, about how to pay bills and afford schoolbooks and clothes. Often the words they repeated were: What will happen?” | “Live your life of the fox, your less-than-ideal life, fully and completely. Instead we perpetrate violence against the things and people we did not choose. We’re afraid that this is all there is, we blame ourselves and strike out against others. Our craving, grasping minds want things to be different. Any life other than this one!”

CONTENTMENT OR SATISFACTION?

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Tan came in on a frosty Sunday morning. As usual, he showed up unannounced, I think we are a stop he makes on his regular pilgrimages. I enjoy that. My life is so structured and planned that I get a kick out of certain “interruptions.” Tan walks all the way from the Peace Pagoda where he is staying, a few miles away in Leverett, and will walk a lot more before the day is done.

“It’s cold,” he said, shivering in his monk’s robes, his bare feet in open sandals.

It’s hard to figure out what to give him. If I say Do you want coffee or tea, he looks confused. It’s better to offer one thing, but then he has to say yes to almost anything that’s offered. In the end he agreed to hot coffee and half a bagel with cream cheese (Bernie had the same but with white fish salad, only Tan, of course, is a vegetarian).

Once the two sat down, they began a conversation on the subject of contentment. “Do you think contentment is the same thing as satisfaction?” Tan asked Bernie. “Contentment feels stronger, more positive.” Bernie recalled that Being satisfied with what I have is the essence of our precept on non-stealing, and they went on from there.

I think about that today, 6 hours before the first Presidential debate. There’s a part of me that wants to see it—it’s become such quintessential American political theater—but an even bigger part of me does not. I don’t want to see the verbal punches thrown, the I’m tougher than you are poses, the gotchas, the posturings, and all the analyses by commentators who’ve been getting it wrong all year about who won, who lost, etc.

Do no evil; do good; purify the mind, were the Buddha’s directives. In this season of rage, self-righteousness, fear and cynicism, I take the third directive very seriously. How to avoid getting overwhelmed by the stultifying, soul-starved stridency that passes for political discussion nowadays? How to avoid getting overwhelmed by the anger, the name-calling, the self-pity and the taunting jibes?

By enjoying a photo of Tan and Bernie on a 42-degree morning, the one shivering in his lightweight monk’s robes, the other still functioning mostly out of the left side of his body, both discussing contentment very earnestly.

THE DOGS OF THE KISKADEE HILLS

The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills: Hunt for the Lynx begins a trilogy about a society of dogs after humans have destroyed themselves and much of the world. Living with their families and clans in the Kiskadee Hills, they’ve developed over generations a rich tradition and way of life, and have prospered. But now, an unknown killer is butchering the Kisdees of the Hills.

Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges says: “You will never look at dogs the same again. Eve Marko gives us a story that explores the path that life on our planet has taken, and asks what your role in that course might be.”

BEARING WITNESS

Eve Marko - Bearing Witness

To bear witness to anything is to be as close to it as possible.

It’s not to read books or see movies about it, it’s not to have an opinion or tell a story. It’s to let go of all ideas about it—be in the space of not-knowing—and simply be there, up close and deeply personal.

Eve has been involved with the Zen Peacemaker Order’s Bearing Witness Retreats—in places of suffering and conflict since her first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There have been 20 retreats at the site of those concentration camps since, along with retreats in Bosnia, Rwanda and the Black Hills of South Dakota, near the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats:

Bosnia, May 2016 (Please email for details)

ABOUT EVE MARKO

Eve Marko

Eve Marko is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts, and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order.

She has trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East alongside her husband, Bernie Glassman, and has been a Spiritholder at retreats bearing witness to genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rwanda, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and Bosnia. Before that she worked at the Greyston Mandala for a decade, which provides housing, child care, jobs, and AIDS-related medical services in Yonkers, New York.

Eve’s articles on social activists have appeared in the magazines Tikkun and Shambhala Sun, and her collection for lay Zen practitoners, The Book of Householder Koans, will come out in late 2016. Her great love, Hunt for the Lynx, the first in her fantasy trilogy, The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills, will come out in early 2016.

“When I was a young girl my dream was to be a hermit, live alone, and write serious literature. That’s not how things turned out. I got involved with people. I got involved in the world.

Two things matter to me right now: the creative spark and the aliveness of personal connection. In some way, they both come down to the same thing.”