Bowing

Sallie Tisdale

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When in doubt, bow. So I was told when I began Zen practice, and it's advice I still follow. I've never forgotten the anxiety I felt then, new to the zendo and terribly afraid of making a mistake—tripping, belching, standing when I should sit or sitting when I should stand. I bowed a lot.

After a few years, I had a kind of dream. In the dream, I am standing in the bedroom of my small house. A man—unknown to me, almost faceless—is standing in the doorway, pointing a gun at me. I know I am about to die, and without thinking, I bring my hands together and bow. End of dream. Again, I am standing in the bedroom, a man points a gun at me, I place my palms together, make gassho, and bow. End of dream. Over and over, through an entire night, I had this dream, and again the next night, over and over—a death memory returned, ending in a bow.

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