Flying Fish was a teacher at Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, Minnesota for many years. About a year and a half ago, she moved here with her husband, Sam, and they have since started practicing here at Dharma Rain. In the interview below, Kakumyo talks to Fish about how this transition has gone for her and tells us a bit more about her involvement at Dharma Rain
To watch the video of the interview, click here
Here is a transcript (edited lightly for clarity):
Kakumyo: Hi! So, this is a way of introduction of Flying Fish to Dharma Rain Sangha. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Flying Fish: Sure! First, I just want to say, “Thank you,” [K: oh, sure] for inviting me to do this, because I am really enjoying getting to know people and getting to know Dharma Rain. So, it’s nice to have this opportunity. I guess one of the things is to let people know that my husband Sam and I moved here about a year ago from Minnesota. We were active in the Clouds in Water Zen Center there. Sam is sitting on the Board [at Dharma Rain] now. We’ve been volunteering and practicing here about a year. I actually have a long, not a strong history, with Dharma Rain. My daughter went to Reed in 2008 and that was the first time I came here. So you were back at the other location. It was the last day of Youth Practice; they were doing the skits. So we were moving away from Minnesota because it was too cold and we wanted to be near one of our children. We chose Portland because we had a connection here with the youth practice. And I have some relatives here. And it’s much nicer weather. By the way, they’re having the coldest winter ever in Minnesota. [K: got out just in time]. I feel bad.
K: I wanna just fill in some of those allusions that Fish made there. By a year, she means a year and a half, by doing some practice here, she means early morning sitting every morning during Ango, by involvement with the youth program in Minnesota, she means she was really central in creating it and running it, so she’s underselling herself a wee bit here. Being very humble.
F: Yes, it’s a little different set-up there, which has been kind of fun to get to know a different way of doing things, and a little frustrating. So it’s back to don’t-know mind.
K: Could you say a little bit more about the process of integrating into a new sangha after spending a long time with another sangha?
F: Yeah. Actually, I feel a little teary [K: I can imagine so]. Well, it’s very very very hard, of course, to say goodbye, because your relationships with people in the sangha are so deep. With Covid, it’s been kind of nice, because I’ve been able to be on Zoom, like everyone else is. So it’s likely I haven’t quite cut the tether, which has kind of probably kept me from really involving myself [at Dharma Rain]. It’s a mixed, mixed thing. Saying goodbye to my students was the hardest part. But I’m looking forward to and meeting new people that I’m really enjoying. So there’s an upside. The focus of the practice is a little different, so that’s nice too. Trying to figure out how I fit in is kind of challenging.
K: So far, it seems like the way you’ve been involved is in the daily meditation practice and with the Dharma Garden program. You’re serving on the council there…I dunno, I lost my train of thought there…
F: Ok, well, here’s my practice: If someone says, “Would you do this?” my practice is say yes!
K: That’s useful information!
F: Dangerous information!
F: But, yes! Part of my path has been to be a chaplain. I was a hospital chaplain for many years and then I was a hospice chaplain. All of those practices were very profound in changing my life. Doing hospice, I felt like I just needed to get upstream, because you’re talking to someone who has held a grudge for 30 years and now they want to talk to their sister, who was their best friend. I just felt like, I needed to get to the younger people. And I’ve enjoyed it so much, partially because I’m older and I’m in my senior years, being around teens and kids…I just love it. They’re so forthright. They keep me on my toes.
K: In terms of getting to know the sangha and finding your sangha relationships here, any requests?
F: Yes! I’d like to get to know people. It’s hard because we’re all wearing masks and it’s Covid and people are staying away. But I would really like to invite people to say hello to me and introduce yourself, so I can get to know people. It’s hard to get to know people during Covid. Although I have gotten to know several people. It’s essential, sangha is so important. I can’t begin to imagine practice without sangha.
I’ve always called myself a lay practitioner because I’ve never lived at a monastery. I’ve practiced, gone to practice periods away from home, but never really lived [at a temple], because I had kids and I was married. So I have a really strong home practice and I really am interested in how people practice at home. Because 90% of the people at Dharma Rain practice most of the time at home! What does that mean, how do we do that? I think it’s really important to not just do it at the temple. What are we learning at the temple that we can take home to help us open up our practice? I find that very fruitful. And very needed. Especially again, with kids. It was a real leap for me one time when I realized parents are really their childrens’ spiritual teachers. We [at Dharma Rain] only see them every other week… of course teachings are like this. We kinda isolate the kids and work with them, but really we have to work with the whole family, consider the whole family. We used to call a family advanced practice. [K: chuckles, agrees]
K: Yeah, that emphasis on, how do we integrate it, absorb it, digest it, make it our own?
F: Yeah, really, otherwise, it’s just an abstract teaching, and that’s not liberation, really, and that’s what I’m going for, liberation! [K: great] [both laugh]
K: So just to kind of, wrap things up: You’ve done one Dharma Talk and you have another coming up in February. You have joined DRATT, Dharma Rain Active Transmitted Teachers, kind of the circle of teachers working here, teaching at Dharma Rain. At some point this spring, we’re gonna do a little ceremony on a Sunday morning that will officially have you join the Dharma Rain teaching group. That’s a couple of things for folks to know in the sangha. Hopefully come to one of her talks, get a sense of who she is.
F: That’d be great
K: Yeah. Thank you