Not Just Physically Do I Begin to Shatter

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About Vince Cousino Anila

Vince Cousino Anila is a writer and the Guiding Teacher of Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple in Detroit, Michigan. The only thing he likes more than cycling these days is cycling with his daughter, who'll be shedding her training wheels any day now.


  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Vince this is one of the most beautiful pieces we have had on GMP, and we have had many truly amazing pieces of writing. I was with you on the whole journey. I too am a bike rider these days, after a lifetime of self-inflicted athletic pain and tons of zen meditation. My inspiration is always my kids–17, 15 and 6 now. And I too have those deeply shrouded demons that I somehow am driven to exterminate with the pain of extreme athleticism.

    I thank you for sharing this story with our readers.

  2. Vince, this is so real, so open and honest, I couldn’t just read and continue on, without expressing appreciation. Brings up many different feelings for me – memories not unlike your childhood experiences, and what I _think_ has helped/is helping me heal. Healing from both my own experiences, and the pain I’ve caused my own children. I’m grateful that I’ve progressed, as for my part in ‘intergenerational’ healing. I feel that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His atonement, have really been very central to my healing. Me learning to let go of my pain, to forgive; to create my experiences today, clear from my beliefs, judgements of others and the past. I know that my experiences are not yours, and that I don’t know what works for everyone. I just hope to hold out hope that in some way might help another, brother. Thanks for who you are.

    • Vince Cousino Anila says:

      Thank you, Bryan and Tom. Tom, it’s an honor for me to be any part of GMP, and I was happy this week when my good friend Yago Colas asked me to write something on the topic of “Pain”, in part because the honesty and vulnerability Yago shows in his own work has been a quiet but rock-solid inspiration to me for many years now. He’s probably unaware of just how much his own fearlessness has meant to me.

      It’s a little difficult for me seeing the tagline, “trying to escape the shadow of the abusive father he won’t become.” Some of this is simply aesthetic; getting used to something there between the title and body that wasn’t there before. But even more basic is seeing “abusive father” in such large font, I think. For one thing — and this is common in my shoes — I’ve spent my whole life trying to protect him; to avoid naming what in the end I have to keep reminding myself is the truth. However, this silence, I think, and the shame of it, is as damaging, finally, as anything that happened, and I’m still learning by degrees to properly inhabit the full complexity of my experience.

      The other resistance I have is that “abusive father” isn’t the whole story, of course. That’s not all he was, or is. He taught me how to ride a bike, for starters. I deeply love him, and/but I’m still, maybe forever, learning that love is itself a kind of shadow when it tries to ignore the full range of our often catastrophically messy human relationships.

  3. Todd Mauldin says:

    Thanks for this Vince. Not only was it a great, honest, engaging article (like many others who’ve read it, I certainly saw myself in it)… but “I should be better at this by now, I think. I’m a Zen teacher, for fuck’s sake.” is probably the best two-sentence coupling I’ve ever read. Peace to you, sir, and thanks again.

    • Vince Cousino Anila says:

      Thanks, Todd! I’m happy those two lines stuck for you, and that GMP chose to highlight them here, actually.

      When I was ordained a Zen teacher in 2003, I went through this phase of feeling like I now had to be some version of perfect. This is common enough among conscientious new teachers that I think it may be universal. I say “conscientious” because there’s always that random guy somewhere who’s secretly pursuing his own little fiefdom. But for the majority, there’s this sense of wanting to uphold what by the time we’re ordained is something that we feel is valuable, transformative, precious even.

      But as I paid closer attention, I began to notice that what made my own teacher, P’arang Geri Larkin, so wonderful, is how her very difficulties and mistakes became the vehicle for the way she helped the rest of us along this path. She wasn’t hiding behind her robes, her status, any of it. And so instead of some unattainable ideal — which has only ever existed in our imaginations anyway — sitting up at the front of the room spouting timeless, pithy little Zen-isms, we had as our example another human being in the same trenches we all were in. It’s just that she was pretty damn fearless about it.

      The feeling that “I should be better at this by now” comes and goes for any Zen practitioner, I think, and sometimes most emphatically to “teachers.” I have seen — and it’s been my own experience — that if we try wishing it away on the one hand, or adopting it wholeheartedly on the other, what we’re left with is a kind of rigid spiritual theater — incense, bells, and maybe not much else.

      As much as we’d often like it to be, spiritual practice isn’t for circumventing our humanity (which is never really possible anyway). As Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has written: “There is no enlightened retirement.” The Buddha himself kept at it his whole life.

  4. Incredible. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. You killed it, brother.

  6. Brother Koho, Thanks for sharing with honesty and integrity your struggles and insights with practice and healing. It reminds me that we all have wounds and fears that need compassionate attention. I am grateful for Dharma brothers such as yourself to ride with on the healing path.

  7. This is so beautifully written and it resonates. Thank you for sharing it.

  8. an incredible piece…inspiring, engaging, wonderful!

  9. Vince,

    I loved this. It’s beautiful and so sincere and yet uncompromising. You really brought to life a sense of complicated damage that, I think, many feel but don’t know how to express. I wish we could go back in time and rescue people.

  10. Wow, to be so vulnerable takes guts. Thank you.

  11. Vince, awesome post. You have clearly expressed the feeling and experience so many of us who have abuse in our past go through. I really appreciate how you are self aware enough to process what you have gone through in hopes of breaking the cycle (ironically by cycling). Feel the feelings and face the past; that is the mark of one on the path to healing. May you and your daughter have the most awesome daddy/daughter life together.

  12. Great piece. I appreciate your candour and courage. All the best of luck in confronting your demons.


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