Ocean of Belonging

    Aisan temple frame in the ocean.

    Posted on February 23, 2024 by Jenn Zatopek

    Is it inevitable that I’d embrace Zen, given that I’m a Native North Texan? I’ve been reflecting on the nature of choice, especially after returning home a few weeks ago from visiting Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe where I met many of my online friends IRL and walked the mountainous terrain behind the zendo between dharma talks and short periods of silence. How did I get here? Days after returning home from the retreat in Santa Fe, I have a sudden urge to write at the Kimbell Art Museum and head out the door with my purse and notebook in hand. A part of me suspects the museum holds a key to my inquiry. Read more

    Bus Riding

    A bus parked in downtown.

    Posted on February 16, 2024 by Jenn Zatopek

    The city bus stops near my second-floor flat on the west side of town, and I step inside as the narrow glass doors shut behind me. It’s 2004, an early cloud-streaked morning just after sunrise, and I’ve boarded the number 2, swiping my monthly pass into the kiosk while saying good morning to the lady driver. Taking only a few steps away from the front, I nod my head and smile at a kind-faced woman, sitting down on a gray seat where I can see the driver. I’ve learned this the hard way: sitting in sight of the driver is the safest place to be as I’m a very young and single twenty-something woman.

    Read more

    The Rilke Spotting

    People chatting at a coffeeshop.

    Posted on February 2, 2024

    The Rilke Spotting

    I saw Rainer Maria Rilke at Starbucks last week,
    sitting inside the cafe off University Drive,
    absent mindfully stroking his beard.
    I didn’t go up to him because I wanted
    to look at the man whose writing
    changed my view on things.
    You’re curious perhaps what he ordered—
    an Earl Grey latte with oat milk, two sugars.
    But maybe you’re also curious why he’d choose
    a Starbucks near an ordinary college campus
    in the middle of an unseasonably cold winter’s day.

    Because real life, he would say if I asked him,
    begins right where you are:
    the Starbucks cafe making drinks,
    the local library doing homework,
    the food pantries feeding the hungry,
    the homeless shelters caring for the unwanted,
    the city water gardens admiring ingenuity,
    the warm beds we convalesce in,
    the tea shop near the freeway that crisscrosses the sky.

    These are the places God lives, he would say,
    his eyes tender in their seriousness,
    their urgency for you to awaken
    to wonder living, flowing at your feet. 

    Image: Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

    A Meditation of Delight

    Woman dancing amid a cloudy blue sky.

    Posted on January 16, 2024 by Jenn Zatopek

    On a cold weekday morning in late winter, I meditated imperfectly leading to a wondrous moment of play, the effects of which nestled down into my heart like sweet birdsong. So much of my life’s work has been to unravel the dangerous threads of perfectionism woven into my being, the accompanying shame making it hard to discern what only feels real and what’s actually true. In the latter half of living, I listen more to Spirit, whose guidance is like the astonishing words of Leonard Cohen: “There’s a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

    I caught a bit of that astonishment on an ordinary Monday morning during my usual habit of dropping into an online meditation after breakfast. Sitting into my lounge chair rather than at my desk, I slipped under a handmade quilt and opened my laptop, seeing my friends pop on screen for the daily sit at the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. Mirjam led us that day, and her warm presence ushered all of us into a place of deep peace and stillness. I still heard her kind voice leading us in meditation when I fell asleep. . . 

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest over at Story Sanctum.

    Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

    The Strange Gifts of the Season

    Snowy mountain in Sandia Mountains.

    Posted on January 14, 2024 by Jenn Zatopek

    After the excitement of Christmas, of writing heartfelt cards and opening sweet presents and watching our favorite holiday movies, I woke up early the morning after and groaned. Christmas was peaceful this year, if a little quiet, and then came the sore throat, a tiny patch of skin inside that no water could quench, and I sighed in dismay at my luck. Bravely, tiredly we packed up sweaters and hiking boots and wool socks and leftovers the morning after Christmas and drove nine hours to Albuquerque, me driving and getting sicker as the cold windy day progressed into an even chiller night in Northern New Mexico.

    Read more

    Final Thoughts on 2023

    Sunset on top of Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    Posted on December 31, 2023 by Jenn Zatopek

    The first time I meditated was freshman year in 1996 at the girls’ dorm on a warm autumn day. I gripped a packet of worksheets in my hands, which elucidated the benefits of meditation, encouraging me to relax and let go. Easy enough, I thought, as I sat on the soft quilt with warm spring colors, staring out the huge windows facing southward. Studious but impatient, I skimmed the first few pages and resolved to try myself, no one else around to offer support. After all, my counselor said I could handle it on my own, so why not try it?

    I’m sure you know where this is headed. Read more

    My Other Examen

    Posted on December 6, 2023 by Jenn Zatopek

    My Other Examen

    The father and I are one.
    – Jesus (John 10:30)

    He who experiences the unity of life sees his own self in all beings.
    – Buddha


    The religious often say:
    You live in these tired glorious bodies.

    But where? The lonely child in me wants
    more than words but a mountain to climb into.

    Where can I put my hands in yours, dear God?
    How to feel our belonging together?

    This heaviness is too much to carry,
    unutterably alone, lost within myself.

    Labyrinths of my past beckons
    as I stumble around in darkness but—

    In the seeming absence, Your silence speaks,
    reminds me tenderly in the deepest fissures of pain,

    I place one hand over the other,
    praising this ocean of breath and know:

    We cannot help but be one, You and I,
    in this dear body being breathed.

    Image: Unsplash