By DONA MENZ
Our teacher, Fred, spoke to a full house at Asheville Insight Meditation on the Sunday following our retreat at Southern Dharma in June. With little publicity, he drew a crowd of around 40 practitioners and those curious about the practice.
I invited friends and family after our sangha brother and OI mentor, Ken Lenington, let me know Fred would be speaking.
I am always curious to see people’s first impression of Fred. There is something pure and direct that happens, much like the Dharma itself.
When Fred discovered that his topic for the talk had not been publicized, he did what he does so well and invited the group to ask questions about their practice.
The first man wore a t-shirt with the name of the sangha and was clearly a dedicated practitioner. Fred spent a few minutes, maybe not more than five, and helped the man turn, look at his awareness and rest there. The man was clearly moved and had the experience, right there and then and … while I certainly cannot speak for him, it felt as though he shifted, that his practice had changed, his experience had changed. I felt my breath catch and my heart open.
I believe we have all witnessed this in one way or another when Fred works with someone in a group. But for some reason it hit me anew how vital and important this work is – for all of us – and how fortunate we are to have a realized teacher to so beautifully guide us on the path.
Questions followed and Fred did what he does so well -- answered with clarity and wisdom and no hint of indulgence. My friend chuckled after one exchange and leaned over to whisper, "I like him, he doesn’t take any crap." I laughed and nodded and felt a curiosity about my teacher, how he teaches like this is his last day or ours, like his hair is on fire, hoping you will have realization, so kindly stopping us in our immersion in obscurations and snapping his fingers with his words: wake up!
After the talk, other friends commented how much they had enjoyed it and friends who couldn’t make it asked when he would return. There is such a beautiful desire for the Dharma, but especially on this level. I have never met a teacher like Fred and I could sense from the room that many shared in this knowing.
But it was my brother whom I was most curious about. He and my sister-in-law, Carlan, our sangha member from Greenville, SC, attended. My brother is curious about many things but has never been drawn to practice. Afterwards, he said he had enjoyed it very much and commented that he liked that Fred didn’t give anyone the answer but let them find their own. Such a beautiful way to describe Fred’s wise style of sharing the Dharma. I join all of you who are in deep gratitude for our teacher Fred.
Dona Menz is a psychotherapist in Asheville and Hendersonville, NC, who works with clients suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and addiction. She follows a spiritual perspective using mindfulness and meditation. She is in FCM's Dharma Transmission Program.