Judy Seicho Fleischman is a senior student at Village Zendo, a Zen Buddhist Temple in New York; staff chaplain at the Hospital for Special Surgery and a member of the Buddhist Council of New York.
Q: With the coming anniversary of 9/11 and overall state of the world right now, many people are feeling a lot of stress. What can you, with your teachings in mind, recommend to people to help them get through these emotionally trying times?
A: Keep it simple. Ask yourself: Right now, what is important? In this moment, what really helps me to touch peace? Really ask yourself, what keeps me going? And then follow that path. If you say: my family keeps me going… then ask yourself: What about my family keeps me going?
Q: Do you feel that there is anything that can be learned from the horrible events of 9/11?
A: We are in a very potent time right now in this country and in this world and we are seeing how inter-dependent we are. Ask: How can I genuinely care for myself? It’s not selfish and it’s not self-absorbed. How can I really be there for myself and for others? Keep bringing it back to, what supports me in keeping my heart open and calming the mind so that I can respond to who and what are here right now.
Q: How would you like to see 9/11 remembered and observed in the future: on the 20th and 50th anniversaries?
A: Whether it is now or it is 10 years down the road or it is 50, it always comes back to this question of, right now…what is important? The more that we touch hope in the present moment, we become that hope. We become that hope for ourselves, for our children, and for our children’s children. There is an endless possibility to really be living out everything that you imagine makes a difference in this world.
Q: What other advice can you offer to people so that they can maintain a sense of hope and change while continually moving forward?
A: We are the change that we want to see in this world, as Gandhi said. It’s in very ordinary direct ways. So I would keep bringing it back to if my mind or my heart is shutting down, what supports me in keeping the heart open? What supports me in calming the mind so that I can respond to who and what is here? And it brings me back to a very powerful and simple question. Right now, how can I care for myself because that question naturally takes me to, how can I care for my family, how can I care for my country, how can I care for this world. And then give yourself a hug or a pat on the back and say: Thank you! Thank you for showing up. Show up for yourself and for everyone around you.
The Village Zendo is a Zen community in the heart of downtown New York City. Serving as a sanctuary in busy Manhattan, we offer meditation, services, retreats, workshops and study groups. Participation is open to all. More at Village Zendo.