MR: You've been talking recently about the depth and breadth of practice, and about striking a balance between the two. What are some of the opportunities and challenges that the Initiative presents practitioners with in terms of engaging deep spiritual practice, and at the same time, in a very practical way, of engaging the breadth of the crisis off the cushion?
Sensei: I think in terms of breadth, there's an ongoing potential for losing our focus because there are so many things we could be doing. It's easy to get things started. It's much more challenging to sustain them in a mature, grounded and healthy way.
When we first began we started moving quickly in various directions, all of them compelling. Then we realized we needed to slow down and really look at things carefully. It was one of those moments where we realized that the door was opening wider and wider, as I knew it would, and we had to consciously restrain ourselves in order to stay focused on what we wanted to make sure we were doing, and so that people would not become overextended or overwhelmed.
MR: Are you hearing or seeing a tension between sitting still and going out into the world and being active in this way?
Sensei: I haven't seen this. We are very mindful of the needs and commitments of the sangha so that everything gets taken care of. We strive to challenge ourselves so that we are facing what is difficult to face, changing what needs to be changed, and addressing the issues that we're choosing to concentrate on, while balancing this work with the other commitments that each of us have.
MR: Last year, one of the things we talked about was the courage that is required for people to confront the challenges of the crisis, their own fear in a lot of cases, their own experience of being paralyzed in the face of the state of our earth. How is all of this working for people and how are they dealing with it?
Sensei: Truth and action are really the medicine for this. And so, being engaged and having this regular contact and work is both providing a way to help and it's also channeling that energy, which could otherwise just turn into despair or numbness. At the same time, while the things we're doing are meaningful and real and do have some effect, there's always the danger that we'll think, I've done my part. I don't need to think about this anymore. It's like the student who does zazen each morning then loses him or herself in desire for the rest of the day.