One of the great teachers of our time has passed away. I had the good fortune of studying with him for several years beginning in 2002. Marshall’s teachings have touched thousands of lives all over our planet. We have incorporated his Nonviolent Communication as a major part of our Core Curriculum at Zen Life & Meditation Center. Robert Althouse
It is with great emotion that I write to tell you that Marshall Rosenberg passed from this life 3 days ago, on Saturday, February 7th.
It was recently discovered that he had late stage prostate cancer. He passed peacefully at home, with his wife Valentina – who shared the news with me a few minutes ago – and all his children by his side.
I know no way to describe the impact this man had on so many people – for his work and for his being, and for the extraordinary power the balance between these two unleashed. He was a beloved teacher to countless people on every continent, people whose hearts were touched and shone with the possibility his work made tangible.
To many of you reading he was also an inspired and inspiring colleague who changed the course of your lives and brought an inestimable sense of meaning and the potential for transformation to every area of your world. And who, at each moment, did this with utmost simplicity, humility and humanness.
In great mourning, and with the most profound reverence and soaring gratitude for the spirit he released in us, and whose light we carry forwards,
President, CNVC Board
Just go into the room and put one chair in the center. Take the one seat in the center of the room, open the doors and windows, and see who comes to visit. You will witness all kinds of scences and actors, all kinds of temptations and stories, everything imaginable. Your only job is to stay in your seat. You will see it all arise and pass, and out of this wisdom and understanding will come.
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
you create all that moves in light.
Focus your light within us—make it useful:
as the ways of a beacon show the way.
Desire with and through us
the rule of universal fruitfulness
onto the earth.
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion
for all creatures.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight:
substance for the call of growing life.
Untangle the knots within,
so that we can mend our hearts’
simple ties to others.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
Again and again, from each universal gathering—
of creatures, nations, planets, time and space—
to the next.
Truly—power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow:
Sealed in trust and faith.
translated by Douglas-Klotz
“Praise those with virtue; pity those without it. If kind speech is offered, little by little virtue will grow. Those who hear kind speech from you will have a gladdened countenance and a joyful mind. It is the basis for reconciling rulers and subduing enemies; it has the power to turn the destiny of a nation.
Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated. The most beautiful and deepest experience a person can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavors in art and science. Anyone who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.
It might be exciting to talk about spiritual concepts, philosophies and metaphysics, to wax poetically about harmony and enlightenment. But that actually seems to be pretty far removed from your daily experience. So I’d like to talk about “Ground Zero” where you actually live your life in the trenches.
At “Ground Zero” there is a constant struggle taking place. Everyone is busy surviving, making a living, going to work, making money, putting food on the table and sending kids to school. All over the world, in every country, every day, people are involved in this brave endeavor. It’s really a beautiful thing. You shovel down breakfast to prepare for the daily war. And then you head out by car, by train, by bike or on foot ready to attack, to win, to achieve something.
Is it possible to appreciate what “Ground Zero” is from a direct, experiential level? Is it possible to get close to the bone, instead of philosophizing or moralizing about it? It’s a messy situation. There is constant confusion and bewilderment taking place. Buildings which seemed so solid have disappeared in a matter of minutes. Here there is aggression and chaos. It’s very sharp and painful. It cuts through you completely. You can’t get comfortable here.
So the problem seems to be that you don’t want to acknowledge the pain at all. You don’t have a direct relationship to the pain. You relate to your projection, to your reaction to the pain. You only relate to your struggle to overcome the pain. Either you win or you lose. Either you attack or you will be attacked.
“Ground Zero” rears it’s head through gaps in your daily experience. Some interruption takes place. You have a flat tire on the way to a meeting, and now you will be late. You forget someone’s name. You go to the doctor and are told you have cancer. That moment is a gap and it’s taking place in your daily experience. It’s bewildering and confusing, and you feel slightly embarrassed.
So your first, knee-jerk reaction is to panic, to react. You quickly fill in the gap so that you can maintain the illusion of your own continuity, solidity and invincibility. It’s as if you are trying to make something eternal out of a situation that is constantly shifting and changing. The reaction is your projection. And this reaction then leads to further suffering. The suffering is predictable. It manifests in five distinct patterns of ignorance, aggression, passion, pride or jealousy.
So the spiritual path I have learned from my own teachers starts at “Ground Zero”. It starts by relating to your pain, fully and properly. You practice mindfulness meditation so you can pay attention and be more aware of what you are actually doing. You begin to understand projections. There is always a relationship between projection and projector. They both confirm and solidify each other, freezing space and giving birth to the five patterns of suffering.
So this spiritual path begins by surrendering, by giving up hope, for hope at this point, would be hope for the wrong thing. Hope at this point, would be some kind of spiritual materialism, the use of spirituality to promise some kind of escape from the pain.
If you are honest, if you are brave enough, you will realize there is no escaping your life. There is no escaping “Ground Zero”. The pain is there and you can’t wish it away. It’s a self-existing situation. If you can relate to the pain properly, then it’s no longer so personal. It’s not really your pain because you don’t exist in the way you thought you did. The sharpness cuts through you and begins to wake you up. It has an empty-hearted quality about it. It’s very lonely. You begin to acknowledge your own sad and tender heart. Unless you are able to be alone in this way, it’s not possible to be truly compassionate.
So perhaps you will take this to heart and begin a meditation practice. There are so many ways this practice can benefit your life and those of people around you. Resolve today to begin living a Zen-inspired life of openness, empathy and clarity in the face of change and uncertainty. There is no escaping your life. There is no escaping your death. And this wisdom of no-escape is the spiritual tradition I gratefully, joyfully and whole-heartedly embrace.
Roshi Robert Joshin Althouse