Who Is This Person?

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 08.05.59Tassajara 2017 – at the Wind Caves. Photo by Corinna. I am still embarrassed at how bad my posture looks here!

Here is a piece I wrote for Zen Center’s 50th anniversary Windbell in 2012, which tells one version of my story:

I did not intend to study Buddhism, nor did I have the sense that I was drawn to it by my own suffering. My aim in life, from the onset of adolescence, was to try to live authentically, however that might mean. From the time I left college until I was thirty-five, I lived in London, with, eventually, a steady and rewarding career at the BBC, a nice apartment, a jazz band, a warm circle of friends and a wide range of cultural activities. Yet I always sensed there was more to come. From my particular karmic roots, some of whose proximate causes I knew then, I thought it had to do with love.
I came to Zen Center having met someone who lived there. I was curious to know what part zen training played in making this person who they were. I knew some Buddhists in London, mostly practising in the Tibetan tradition, and had appreciated them as good people, saying to myself that I should investigate this one day, in the way that I also did about voice training, or salsa dancing. When the opportunity came to move to San Francisco, it seemed natural to take it.
I don’t know why I found it fit my life so well. I didn’t especially enjoy zazen, but willingly followed the schedule. Two years at City Center were followed by two years of Tassajara, learning to get used to being cold, tired and hungry much of the time, and to having precious little unscheduled time where I could do what I wanted. But I loved it, and when I left, all I could think of was coming back. It took me two years, and a huge upheaval – since karma has a way of coming to trip you up – but I had the firm sense that being a priest was what I wanted to do with my life, and I couldn’t think of a better place to pursue that path.
I feel very lucky to have been able to practice at Zen Center, where it is possible to follow something like traditional monastic training for many years, a deep learning that I hope will launch me on a teaching career in due time. I can’t say exactly why I want to teach, but I feel strongly that this is a way of living that presents great possibilities of peace and joy, and I want others to have the chance to experience this for themselves.  In the last year, I have been helping to run the new Young Urban Zen group, which has been an amazingly rewarding opportunity to put this desire into practice and to see the benefits of sharing the teachings.
I take great comfort in knowing that there is no end to practice, no exam to pass, no time when you can consider yourself finished, but that you can keep the practice alive for as long as you stay committed to it. Although I have a different idea now of how it manifests in the world, I still think it has to do with love.

See also this recent piece; this, which is a more recent oral telling of the story; this article from Zen Center’s website, and this post

18 thoughts on “Who Is This Person?

  1. shundo – i enjoy your blog very much and hope you’ll keep it going. my best wishes for your new undertaking!
    helen degenhardt


    1. Hello David,

      You came to mind and so I found you. You are still taking beautiful photos, running, cycling and leading the right life for yourself, which is lovely to see. My very best wishes to you from sunny and semi rural Hertfordshire. Jonathan


      1. Just happened upon your blog Shundo,seems all is more than well with you.So good to hear of all you are now doing.Seems you quite suddenly went off of our radar.Just recently finished a mini-sessin at our newly completed zendo after three years part- time construction.Hope to be taking priest ordination with Ingen sometime this year after completing sewing of Okesa.Good to be in touch,Thanking you for your strong ,committed practice,Warmly,FrancisCheckley,(Totnes).


  2. hi David, I noticed you’re coming to the UK in October. We spoke a couple of months ago about your calendar. I’m based in Devon. Are you aware that there is a new Zendo in Totnes which has been built by Francis and Bernadette Checkley? I’m wondering if you might be interested in running a weekend retreat in Totnes while you visit the UK? If so I can help to arrange it… Kind regards, Francoise


  3. Thank you for helping transform my life! Your three mediation series on the Simple Habit app (Overthinking, My Best Self, and Focus on One Thing) helped me find my purpose on this planet. I am living it now – I am living my unstoppable mission.

    As an expert and because you are a role model for me and a million others, I would love to interview you for my online summit, Activate Resilience Masterclass: How to Overcome Any Life Struggle, Experience Daily Peace and Joy, and Live Your Authentic Life. We serve individuals struggling with any life dimension (whether it be about relationships, losing weight, self-worth, depression, etc.). What you do really makes a difference not only to me but also the rest of humanity.

    As you know, part of the purpose for these Summits is to grow our exposure. If you will give me 30-60 minutes for an interview, I will guarantee that other experts I am interviewing will also share the information to their list of 5,000 or more, inviting over 100,000 individuals to hear the series.

    Are you interested?

    -Suzaita Hipolito
    Founder and CEO, Activate Resilience
    (858) 705-7979


  4. Told ya Shundo… Crystal Palace all the way!!! Thank u soon much for all your continued support n encouragement n your advice was much appreciated…the vegan hero wasn’t bad either…much love…Xx


  5. Hello David, I’m just finding this page. We practiced together at Tassajara in 2002 before I moved to Green Gulch and subsequently Issan-ji. I’ve enjoyed going through this website. Thank you for your effort and I hope to catch you roaming the next time I am in the Bay Area.


  6. Every day Zen: zen while you socialize your roommates, zen while you romp around with your neighbor’s dog, zen while you share space with humanity on the bus, zen when you argue with your landlord. Every experience can be colored with every day zen. It is not I who romps around with the dog. It is the primordial dance of life kicking and screaming and having a good time! I am the vessel that the energy flows thru


  7. Hi David, looking at joining your ‘roaming zen hike’ on Saturday at 130PM. Can you let me know how long its going to be?


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