Zen teacher Toni Packer turned eighty this year. She lives with severe chronic pain, balance and mobility problems, and the side effects of heavy pain medications. No stranger to suffering, she grew up half-Jewish in Nazi Germany in a city that was being bombed by the Allies. With the exception of one published interview from the mid-1990s, this subtle collection of new talks, group dialogues and interviews emerges from the post-9/11 period, and from Packer as she finds her way through daily pain, disability and aging.
Readers seeking reassuring answers, tidy formulas, flashy promises and spectacular experiences may be disappointed. “Don’t carry away a conclusion unless it has been arrived at through your own experience,” the author writes. “Rather, if there hasn’t been direct experience, carry away the question.” Her writing demands a deep and radical inquiry into this moment, which ends separation. I recommend it highly.