Going to Auschwitz to meditate and bear witness on the grounds of the former concentration camp in November, living on the street for several days/nights with only a blanket and the clothes on your back in a large northern city in early spring, or a southern city in the heat of summer, these are examples of the “plunge practices” Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers employ to help wake people up. Another good example is the wilderness vision fast – setting up alone in a wild place for 3 or 4 days of fasting with only a tarp for shelter. Walking away from home and into one of these experiences, leaving the familiar and comfortable, one is immediately plunged into not knowing – not knowing what on earth will happen. The truth is, of course, that we never really know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next, but we’ve been conditioned to believe that we do. We want to believe that we do.
Plunge practices shake you up so completely that you just can’t ignore the reality of your vulnerability as a human being. All those defenses so carefully cultivated over a lifetime are stripped away in a flash. Priorities shift. In that space you can experience clarity, openness, and a felt sense of interrelatedness. That is, if you can find some constructive way to work with the fear and insecurity.
I find myself thinking of all this in a not so abstract way as I pack my pack, roll my tarp, track the weather and on-the-ground reports from NYC and DC, and listen to the rain and sleet falling on the roof above me. The support I’ve received from friends and family makes all the difference. Thank you. And the change in the weather too – a wind blowing in an enlivening briskness, rain refreshing the earth and cleaning the air – can be felt as a metaphor for the change that also needs to cycle through in the way we treat each other and the earth. Onward,