An Impression of Residency from Busshin Nash

Photo of Ben Busshin Nash

My residency at BLMZC was a somewhat unique experience. I had planned to move in after graduating from Middlebury College in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus shut down completely, so I ended up moving in halfway through my final semester in March 2020. At the time, I didn’t know how long I’d be staying, and none of us knew how long the pandemic would last. BLMZC was a literal refuge to me at that time when the future felt uncertain.

In some ways, I feel like it was lucky timing. The regular schedule of Zen practice, kind-hearted community, and opportunities for study, all helped ground me during an important transitional time in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I can’t help but feel that BLMZC was exactly the right place for me to be during the pandemic and to begin thinking about what I wanted my life to look like after college. I didn’t go into the experience thinking I would find a life path, but nonetheless, I did.

What I appreciated most about the experience was its simple, yet helpful blend of structure and open-endedness. What I mean by that is the day-to-day in the community consisted of scheduled group activities (meditation, work, meals, service, etc.) as well as unstructured personal practice time with which I was able to work a part-time job, maintain a relationship, and pursue more self-directed studies and other pursuits. Even though I’ve never lived in any other Zen center before, my impression from others is that this arrangement is unique to BLMZC. Not only that but because so much of our practice at BLMZC is focused on community engagement, I was able to form deep roots in the surrounding area that persist to this day. For example, during much of my nearly three-year residency, I worked part-time at a local homeless shelter. Even though the work I did there was often unpredictable and challenging, I benefited a lot from the collective wisdom of the community at BLMZC and the steady rhythm of practice every morning and evening. In the community at BLMZC, I found a group of true friends and mentors, people committed to working out the truth of Zen teachings in their actual lives and sharing the fruits of that practice with the people around them.

There’s so much more I wish I could express about the precious years that I lived there–years that shaped me in deep and healing ways–but most of all, I am grateful for having had the experience.

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Ben Busshin Nash is a novice priest at BLMZC, and a second year MDiv Student at Harvard Divinity School. He has co-led street retreats with Joshin.

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