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The Practice of Becoming Intimate with Self and Other

An Interview with Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara


Photo Credit: A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

In the 1960s, as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, Pat Enkyo O’Hara discovered Zen. “We were at the crest of all these changes taking place—the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, drug experimentation—and there was an understanding that all of the old, formalized ways of doing things could be broken,” she says. “And that things could become fresh again.” In the 1980s, while teaching media classes at New York University, Enkyo began holding informal meditation groups at her apartment—and, because this was during the AIDS epidemic in New York City, many of those attending were HIV-positive. “I became involved in a kind of activism with a spiritual base,” she says. “That pushed me further into Zen practice and leadership.”Enkyo’s most recent book is Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges. She spoke with S&H at the Village Zendo in lower Manhattan, where she has been the head teacher since 1986.What drew you to Zen initially?Authenticity is one word that comes to mind. It didn’t seem phony. That was something that was very important to a lot of us in the 60s. We grew …

Sam Mowe, a frequent contributor to S&H, is attracted to Zen “as a framework for living with the unknowable.”

Sam Mowe is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. His interviews have also appeared in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and The Sun. He is also the editor of Lineages, a publication of the Garrison Institute. Sam is a regular contributor to Spirituality & Health. 

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