“The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.
So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others.
Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you.”
― Shunryu Suzuki
Myozen Joan Amaral moved to the Boston area in 2012 from the San Francisco Zen Center to serve as guiding teacher for the Zen Center North Shore. She is delightful, funny, a ray of light, and a calming force to be around. There’s a positive and loving attractiveness about her that, as she says at the end of the podcast, impacts others more than anything she could say using words. As a Zen priest living back out in the world, her primary focus is on the dynamic relationship between formal meditation practice and everyday, messy human life.
I met Joan years ago when I went on a World Religions class field trip to the Zen Center and again when she was invited to implement a meditation program for students and teachers at the school where I worked as a high school humanities teacher.
In this podcast, Joan talks with me about the interplay of the inner landscape and life on the outer landscape in terms of zazen and the precepts of Zen Buddhism. She talks about the Zen Center and her role as Priest within the local community and individual mindful meditation practice as well as its relationship to community, activism, and social justice. We also talk about the definition of mindfulness and how it is popularly perceived as a tool for stress reduction, how it’s been limited in some ways because of such perceptions and definition, and the possible barriers to its acceptance as a valued practice in a school setting.
Influencing the world and serving others is intimately tied to individual practice, and honing one’s practice is a form of social activism benefitting not only the practitioner but all else.
Interested in inviting Joan to your school or local organization? Feel free to contact her at the Zen Center!
For more about the North Shore Zen Center:
For more information about Zen Buddhism:
*A Meta-reflection on this post:
I am continuing to hone my podcast interviewing skills, which based on this conversation still need lots of work. This podcasting experience is showing where I have gaps in my understanding (which means I am still learning, so I am happy about that!) and that I have to continue to listen more. My god, I can talk! I am also still very uncomfortable with hearing my own voice and remaining positive about this endeavour. Frankly, it all still makes me cringe. Oh, and also, I am still learning to edit and publish effectively using Audacity which is a frustrating sound editor indeed, as I have been unable to save some projects after several hours of work. I wanted to be tested, and that is surely happening.
I learn a lot about the way I communicate from podcasting– how I listen or fail to, and I also learn about my own understanding and misunderstanding when I am able to re-listen to the conversations and edit them before publishing. This is an excellent way to learn about your own thinking and communication of ideas. I am a work in progress!