Some of the things I’m very interested in are our efforts as a collective and as individuals to balance the masculine and the feminine power in our world and in us. This made me think recently about how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to meet and work together with four female zen masters: Małgosia Braunek (Poland), Barbara Wegmüller (Switzerland), Catherine Pagès (France) and Eve Marko (U.S.).
In this post and the next three ones I’m going to share what I’ve learned from these four extraordinary women. Actually, I’m still trying to embrace these lessons and adapt them into my own life. I intend to share my very personal reflections and memories about these four modern, spiritual women.
I first met Barbara Roshi (roshi means old master and is a title for a Zen teacher) in 2008 during the International Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. At that time she wasn’t an official zen teacher yet but she was part of the Spirit Holders’ group of the retreat. This is the group that takes care of the participants and keeps an eye on the group process of the retreat, which is always very strong in Auschwitz.
To me she literally held the Spirit. She would make this invisible tissue of the retreat that we were all dipped in softer, warmer, easier, more smiling, more loving. She was always available to people. She was ready to talk to everyone and more importantly ready to listen to everyone. With good energy, with lightness, with grace. I believe that only because of such a loving, supporting and strong space that is held during the retreat, all the amazing transformations that participants are able to experience every year are possible. As I kept coming back to the retreat, she was always there, so I had an opportunity to work with her and to participate in the councils she led.
Barbara Roshi is one of the most generous person I’ve ever met. It seems like giving is her very natural state of being. Starting from tons of Swiss chocolate that she’s distributed over the years during all the retreats, trainings and meetings (we all love it!); or giving a small but significant gift with no reason but at the right time, so the receiver knows that he or she is seen and being taken care of; or inviting a Syrian refugee family and sharing her house and life with them; or offering financial support to really solve serious problems. She is able to travel continents with a coffee machine in her luggage to make someone’s life easier, more comfortable and joyful. She gives quietly, in a very subtle way, and she gives more than you’d expect. She gives from the heart, which makes it easier to receive and makes you feel eager to share with others then. And of course her material support is only one of the way she gives.
What I love the most in her is her integrity. She is a mother of five children. First of all, do you know any other zen master or other spiritual teacher who has five children, except for her husband Roland 🙂 ? That means huge work over the years, invisible to the world, not really being acknowledged and rewarded. Finding spiritual meaning in accompanying children in their growth, in cooking, feeding, taking care of the house, the dog, washing clothes, doing shopping etc. And really choose it and do it with love. Since I’m a mother myself I can understand more deeply the power and the challenge of dedicating most of my time, energy and even my own body to someone else. Secondly, raising five children how did she find energy and time to keep a regular meditation practice?
Being fully grounded in daily life and, at the same time, having a very strong spiritual practice is to me her deepest teaching.