There is Nothing Wrong With You
An Interview with Cheri Huber
Cheri Huber is a student and teacher in the Soto Zen tradition. She has
devoted 30 years to helping people free themselves from suffering so they can enjoy the lives that
are their birthright. Her gentleness, clarity, and humor are clearly apparent in this interview about
the challenging work of spiritual growth.
Integral Yoga Magazine: How did you get into Zen?
Cheri Huber: The Buddha said that there were two ways to be
drawn to the path of awakening: through intelligence or having suffered enough. Mine was a kind of
hybrid, because when I was very young I was extremely troubled by this world we live in. I looked
around and felt, “Wait a minute folks. We are rocking around on this clod of dirt--no idea where
we came from, where we are going, or what we are doing. I’m supposed to get an education, find
the right partner, have kids, and save for retirement? Come on!” [laughs] But, that
didn’t stop me from attempting to follow the program! A while later I got to
the “suffered enough” part. I did the Peggy Lee thing: “Is that all there is?”
If this is all there is, I don’t want to play. Nothing about it made sense to me.
I decided to see if anyone had a good answer. After exploring philosophy and most religions, I read the
first page of D. T. Suzuki’s book on Zen and realized I had no idea what he was talking about. But,
I knew that he knew what I wanted to know. He wasn’t having my life experience!
[laughs] This was the late ’60s and there weren’t many books I could find on Zen.
I did find a Soto Zen roshi at a small monastery in the mountains of California, went there, and
essentially never left. I was really listening and this was what I was listening for. For so many people,
a practice is an incomprehensible thing. For me, it was a matter of falling in love. Love at first sight.
I fell in love and it has only increased. I feel more in love now. It’s like a relationship that
really works. It’s not starry-eyed and I’m totally committed.
IYM: You include Yoga classes at your retreats?
CH: Yes, all our retreats include Yoga. We even offer exotic Zen
Yoga retreats in places like Italy, Mexico, and Costa Rica. People come because they want to be in those
lovely places, but they also get an introduction to meditation and Yoga practice. In Zen, our understanding
is that the body and mind are one. Not that they heavily influence each other--they are one. One is visible,
one is not. We know the truth of that from both disciplines. It’s seems that often in the Hatha Yoga
tradition, meditation is not encouraged. Many don’t like to meditate because it’s hard.
It’s hard because we don’t understand what it is. You don’t sit to have a contest with how
you will clear your mind. You get in touch with what’s going on right now. One of our books is
called, How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything. As you know when you’re practicing
Yoga, your whole life is right there--emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. It’s the same with our
Zen awareness practice--what is going on with someone in their sitting practice tells you everything about
what their whole world is like.
IYM: Do you see a conflict between spiritual practice and
psychotherapy? You’ve written a lot of books that get people asking if you were trained as
CH: My writing sounds that way. But, what I say all comes just from
sitting practice. The place where I see a difficulty between these traditions is that we don’t want to
use psychotherapy to reinforce a false ego structure that spirituality is attempting to dismantle.
What’s wonderful is that in the U.S. there is so much merging of the traditions. So many are
doing psychotherapy that is informed by their own spiritual practice. It’s not that they are
encouraging people to identify with the false cultural ego or saying, “Well you need to forget you
and all that happened--just live chakras four through seven and let’s put one through three out of
business. We’ll just go up in our heads and ’OM’ around in life.” Neither approach
is effective. The bridging is in sitting still and watching what arises in the moment--paying attention to
all of it--not believing any of it and not taking any of it personally...
|read the rest of this article in the Spring 2006 issue of IY Magazine