Here, Queer, and Zen

:: Submitted by Carla Breunig ::

Renkyo Heather, our blog’s editor, asked: “Would someone like to write an article about Pride and Zen?” I volunteered and here I am. 

I began my study of Zen Buddhism in 1997. Over the course of these decades, I’ve come to know Zen as intimacy. Going deep to really see, understand, feel, listen – and to do that in relationship with myself and sangha. In essence, I try to pay attention and see what is true.

I came out as a lesbian in my early twenties. This was approximately 1982 and some of you reading this were not born yet. Pride is both pride with a capital “P” and pride in one’s true self, one’s buddha nature. With time I have grown into both my Pride and Zen Buddhism. They did not evolve quickly or in a linear way for me. I struggled with both for some years, working to accept myself in a world that is largely heterosexual and Christian. It has been part of my life’s work to realize my true self and manifest it. With experience and time, some wisdom comes – thank goodness!

With pride in myself and with Buddhism part of my everyday life, I have simplified my life.  I struggle less and have more joy. With the Buddhist precepts to guide me, I can more easily address issues of morality and ethics. In the past, I would really tie myself in knots. What should I do about this problem? One book that has been very helpful for me on my path is Charlotte Joko Beck’s Everyday Zen: Life and Work (1989). Her words helped me trust my zazen path to sift through life’s difficulties and sort out what I needed to do. She writes: 

The more we know who we are, the more our problems shift into, “I am this therefore I will do that, or I am to some degree willing to do that.” 

This month of Pride 2023 is a time to affirm ourselves and remember our integrity, dignity, and equality. Be visible! I remember the chant at parades: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it! We’re STILL here and fighting at a time when people want to take away our rights. Be proud, loving and kind. Be intimate with your true self. Happy Pride!

Carla Breunig is a long-time member of Clouds in Water. She currently is on the Development committee and participates in a white Racial Affinity Group. She previously served on the Board of Directors from 2010-2016. In September 2021, Carla retired from running a small business for 28 years as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Carla is grateful to be a breast cancer survivor and now enjoys her free time, exercise (personal training, swimming and biking) and crafty things such as quilting, crocheting and sewing. She lives in Mendota Heights with her wife, Gail, and their dog, Luna. She values her family (on the east coast and in MN) and close friends.

Clouds in Water Zen Center is a vibrant urban community in the heart of Saint Paul, Minnesota. We practice in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition, dedicated to awakening the heart of great wisdom and compassion. We welcome people of all backgrounds and faiths.

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