In an old Zen story
A student comes to visit his dying teacher.
The student asks: "What is the teaching of your
entire lifetime?" The teacher replies:
"An Appropriate Response."
Appropriate Response, founded by Pamela Weiss, is rooted in the 2,600 year-old Buddhist tradition and inspired by the archetype of the Bodhisattva—a wise, sensitive person dedicated to actively addressing the suffering of the world. Pamela’s retreats, seminars, workshops and speaking engagements bring these teachings alive in ways that open new perspectives, reveal our potential, and invite our wholehearted contribution to life.
As a little girl, I wanted to be an astronaut or a pop star. I had a keen curiosity and a deep yearning to explore the edges of the known. I also loved putting on my mom’s cast off dresses and high heels and belting out show tunes with a hairbrush-microphone in hand.
When I was ten, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Living with a chronic illness forced me into the nitty-gritty: counting grams of carbohydrates; titrating insulin syringes; carrying lifesavers in my pocket in case my blood sugar dropped. My body became a battlefield, with clear lines drawn between me and it.
After graduating from Wesleyan University with High Honors, I landed a job at a health care consulting firm where I sat behind a desk in a grey cubicle, crunched numbers and wrote reports. Although I had all of the outward signs of success, I quickly became disheartened and world-weary. Having a job and a paycheck did not satisfy my need to understand the world or help me make peace with being embodied.
In 1987, I knocked on the door of San Francisco Zen Center to learn meditation. I was greeted by a bald man in a long black gown. I found the place odd. But I was moved by the simple honesty, presence and kindness of the people there. “Whatever it is they’ve got, that’s what I want,” I remember thinking.
So I quit my job and lived for five years at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara, sitting many (many) long hours in meditation, dicing vegetables, pulling weeds and scrubbing toilets. During that time, I received lay ordination and took Bodhisattva vows. A Bodhisattva is someone dedicated to waking up for the benefit of all beings. Bodhisattvas understand that we are part of an intimate web of inter-being; that no one of us can be free unless all of us are free; that our well-being as humans is intricately tied to the health and well-being of the planet.
When I left Zen Center, I carried my vows with me into the world, where they have permeated and informed everything I do. I’ve done my best to articulate the heart of the Bodhisattva spirit in accessible, down-to-earth language, and to offer clear principles and practices that address the pressing issues and concerns of our time: racism and oppression; climate change; rampant stress; and the longing for meaningful engagement.
Many things have unfolded since then. Here are a few highlights:
- I married Eugene Cash and helped raise a smart, sensitive, hugely creative, step-daughter, Aya.
- I spent a decade on the faculty of New Ventures West, training dozens of professional coaches.
- I co-created the Personal Excellence Program (PEP), an award-winning mindfulness-based group coaching program which has rolled out to almost 3,000 people across the globe at organizations including: Genentech, Roche, Salesforce and Pixar.
- I completed 5 years of teacher training with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock Meditation Center where I now lead retreats, co-lead the Community Dharma Leader Program and offer workshops on Bodhisattva Leadership.
- I rode my bike 476 miles on the AIDS ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
- I’ve been part of an amazing circle of women engaged in intimate, courageous dialogue about race and racism for over a decade.
- I completed my Zen training, receiving Dharma Transmission from Teah Strozer at the Brooklyn Zen Center in 2016.
- I rescued and fell in love with my little dog, Grover. (And as anyone who has ever had a dog knows: really, he rescued me.)
So instead of exploring outer space, I’ve spent the past three decades traversing the vast inner terrain of awareness. And instead of becoming a pop star, I’ve used my voice to bring as much insight, beauty and delight as I can to our wide, aching world.