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Natalie Goldberg

Long Quiet Highway; Waking Up in America
New York: Bantam Books, 1993

    Goldberg describes how she was drawn into Buddhist practice, starting from an ordinary, unexamined American life. Her writing is an integral part of this development: it is her practice.

    "practice is something done under all circumstances, whether you're happy or sad. You don't become tossed away by a high weekend or a blue Monday. ... Writing is something you do quietly, regularly, and in doing it, you face your life; everything comes up to fight, resist, deny, cajole you...." [p.188-189.]

    Another important part of her waking up is her Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi. Goldberg's description of him, and her relationship with him, shows what a spiritual teacher can be:

    "In interviews and classes and among friends, people have asked me over the years, "So whom do you admire? Who are your models?" My response was singular, "Katagiri Roshi." Katagiri Roshi? What about women — Rosa Luxemburg? Gloria Steinem? No, Katagiri Roshi. What about writers? Eudora Welty? Willa Cather? Colette? Yes, I like them; they're fine, too, but for me everything paled next to Roshi, a small Japanese man who spoke broken English. I could go into dokusan, speak to him straight, and be answered straight. And never for a moment did I have to be concerned about him crossing a sexual boundary. I did not have to close down or protect myself. This is no small feat given the sexual transgressions of many spiritual teachers today. I needed that freedom to find myself, a place to steep out whole, to be treated whole. I was in the presence of someone who was paying attention. Paying large attention. As though you suddenly planted the sun into a seat in a busy café and it beamed there. Think of the power, to work like the sun. The café would get quiet; everyone would turn toward it. And this power is in all of us: to shine in our heavens." [p. 198]

    Goldberg writes honestly and simply about her own experience. This book was a joy to read, involving and satisfying. But I think I learned as much from it as I have from many a book I had to struggle with.

8 January 1999