Zen is a path, and it leads somewhere. It is also a process; deep things can change within us when we engage with a koan, and this can have a profound effect on our life. It can be liberating and wonderful but also confusing and discouraging at times, so it’s good to have someone to touch base with.
Koans are a way to get in touch with the old masters; they come alive in you and you see with their eyes and hear with their ears. When you work with a teacher, you are taking part in a tradition that goes back centuries, but you also make it your own.
It’s Alive!, our Zen koan meditation group, is a great way for people to get their feet wet with koans and meditation in a friendly and informal setting. However, for those who wish to dive deeper into koan practice, working individually with a teacher can be an important element. Working with a teacher is not about having an authority figure to tell you How It Is, to mold you into someone other than you or to make you wrong; it’s more like visiting a foreign country with a friend who is familiar with the territory.
Jesse Cardin is PZI’s koan teacher for San Antonio, Texas, the leader of the San Antonio-based Zen koan meditation group It’s Alive!, and the author of the Zen blog It’s Alive!. He has been a student of John Tarrant, Roshi since attending his first PZI retreat in 2006 (at which time he had no idea what he was getting into). Jesse is also a musician and studies social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is interested in how koans can be used in mental health and substance abuse recovery, and to help people who help be better helpers. He is available to teach in person, by phone or email, or via any other medium of communication.
If you are interested in becoming a student or just having a chat about Zen, please feel free to email Jesse here: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about other PZI teachers, go here.
Being friends with a koan can sometimes feel like being an astronaut. For more information about becoming an astronaut, go here.
(Thanks to Byron Young for the foggy explorers picture at top. Thanks to Mike Leeman for the photo of me.)