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Chasing That Most Important Point

Interviews
Edward Espe Brown

Maya Block

Stephen Kiesling and Zen priest Edward Espe Brown converse about Zen, Tassajara, the beginner's mind, and more.

I’ve been really enjoying the stories in your new book, The Most Important Point. But I want to start out with a story of my own, which was my introduction to Zen—actually, my blocking from Zen and meditation in general. I was a teenager in the seventies in Los Altos, California, and a Japanese Zen priest had an office in our basement. Kobun Chino? That sounds right. He was a sweet man and he would dress up in long robes and go out into the yard with a beautiful longbow. Oh yeah, that’s Kobun Chino. He used to do Zen archery, yeah. I stumbled into rowing in college and became an Olympic rower, which also involves sitting, but it’s the opposite of meditation. In my first book about rowing, Robert Persig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, said that my dualistic, competitive approach was so different from the monastic approach of Zen and the Art of Archery. But here’s the point, when I saw Kobun Chino in my backyard, he looked as if he had become one with his bow, but I had to find a couple of arrows that went over the fence. I was 16. I thought, Wow, this is nonsense. …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.


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