Zen Buddhists extol a life of alert composure, of transparent presence in the here-and-now. This life they call “the true home.” It exists for each of us if we will only awaken to it.

An unlikely prospect for Zen, I once knew as little of the phrase “true home,” or its frequent mention in Buddhist literature, as I knew of “treasure in poverty” or the spiritual kinship of Zen masters. “What is the meaning of ‘true home’?” asks Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and teacher, whose words I would not discover until long after my foray into Pennsylvania, when my life had changed and I’d begun to sit zazen. “Sometimes we have a feeling of alienation…. We have been a wanderer and tried hard but have never been able to reach our true home. However, we all have a home, and this is our practice, the practice of going home.”

Distance traversed, beyond the map’s imposed meridians….

In the heat-ridden summer of 1992 I returned home in the most literal sense, driving to the Appalachian region of central Pennsylvania, the inordinately difficult land of my birth and childhood and broken adolescence. For many years I thought I could evade this place by adopting a home elsewhere: Living in New Mexico I thought my love for renegade juniper deserts, for pine-stubbled peaks outside Santa Fe, might transform them into home. Dwelling in New England I’ve often supposed the intimate Berkshire foothills, the woodlots, the stone-bound pastures of western Massachusetts might become home.

These stratagems of evasion and exile could not succeed forever. When they began to falter I admitted, finally, the need to go back. Back to Pennsylvania’s rubbled mountains and dead factory towns, my place of origin.

*             *             *            *

Everyone knew the code of manhood. Boys in Clinton County learned it like their A-B-C’s or their times tables. Drilling in it. Acquiring knowledge on playgrounds, in backyards and kitchens and classrooms. Boys and men tested each other in the code daily. Girls and women helped enforce it, flirting with guys who lived by the code, mocking and rejecting guys who failed.

The code functioned as a Ten Commandments of masculinity. We knew it by heart:

Never back down from a fight. Never cry. Never show pain. If someone taunts you or issues a challenge, defend yourself ruthlessly, fight without mercy, and win. Never betray your buddies. Never ask for help. Mind your own goddamn business. Don’t be a quitter. If someone wrongs you, get even. Be tough; take your licks.

For those who shirked the code of manhood, people in Clinton County maintained a catalog of names:

Chickenshit. No Hair. Powderpuff. Pansy. No Dick. Candy Ass. Yella. Hairless. Creampuff. Dickless. Pantywaist. No Balls. Gutless. Pussy. Sissy.

*            *

Piercing whistle.

“Faster! Faster! Come on, you look like a buncha girls out there – Gingrich, what the hell you doin’, you gotta take him DOWN, look, like THIS! FASTER! Watson, what the hell you call THAT, huh? Go for the leg, go for the leg, I wanna see you slap him on that mat, you HEAR me? Go!”

I wrestled in junior high. Winter evenings after school. First the locker room ritual: towel-snapping, grab-ass, guys pulling jockstraps, shouting insults and wisecracks. Greeting each other with boxing feints, mock punches, challenges, grins. Lacing my sneakers I’d overhear them:

“Hey sis!”

“Yer the sis, not me!”

“I’ll put you right through that wall, boy!”

“You ain’t got the hair!”

“You wanna try me?”

“I’ll git you, n—-r!” (The omnipresent and disgusting racial slur against Black people. Clinton County, incidentally, was all-white in those days. Black people wisely avoided the region; during my grandparents’ era, several villages hosted rallies featuring local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.)

Then into the gym. Our tattered warm-up jerseys were rank with sweat and mildew. We smelled like a chain gang.

Across the varnished wood floor we unrolled enormous rubber cushions, and atop these we unrolled dusty, thick-padded gray mats.

boys hanging on monkey bars

“Okay, let’s go, get out there! Gimme a hundred jumpin’ jacks!”

Situps. Pushups. Squats. Neck bends and shoulder rolls. Windmills. I wrestled at 148 pounds. As I stood upright a partner in my weight class would wrap his legs around my hips, embrace me with his arms around my neck, then cling to me like the dead weight of all my misgivings while I performed fifty toe-touches.

Coaches pacing and bellowing: “Okay, OTHER guy! Let’s go, I wanna see SWEAT here tonight, we’re goin’ up against Montoursville next week, we gotta kick their ASSES, let’s GO here!”

The gym echoing. Noise bouncing off girders, empty vaults of the high ceiling, sound ping-ponging off walls and backboards.

Shrill whistle.

Grueling hours of practicing moves: sit-out; take-down; fireman’s carry.

“C’mon, what the hell you doin’ there, switch him! Switch him! Cross-face! Cross-face him, Bennett! No, Ruhl, the other way, Jesus Christ, whadaya call that, huh? HUH?” Whistle. Guys yelling: “Chicken-wing him! Chicken-wing him!” Crunch of muscle, skin rasping across the mat, grunts, thuds, slam of a shoulder. “Shit!”

Endless repetition. Ache. Fatigue. An hour, then another hour, darkness and frost settling in the windows.

American university war protest

Guys half-famished from trying to make weight, popping their salt pills. Jungle-rot stench. Bodies steaming, jerseys sopping wet as if we’d hosed each other down in a cellblock riot. Everyone panting. Red-faced. Grimaces of pain and loathing and exhaustion.

Men in training, Clinton County style.

“Hit him harder! HIT HIM NOW, damn it!”

I quit wrestling when I turned fourteen, in 1968; I’d been growing dizzy from day-glo posters, from the Beatles, and then the next year swept me irresistibly away into the heady emergence of something miraculous called Woodstock Nation – all delivered urgently and irresistibly into my primitive town by those great subversives, AM radio and Life magazine and television.

Few in my school seemed aware of these things. But they made me stir-crazy.

*            *

In Amherst, Massachusetts in the winter of 1985 I stepped into the tavern of the Lord Jeffery Inn on a late afternoon, ordered a beer, spread a book on the table, and glancing around the room noticed that the only other customer was James Baldwin.

Visiting professor at the local Five Colleges, he sat at a table near a far window. Baldwin, unassumingly regal, wore a coat over his shoulders like a cape and sipped cognac while composing letters. In Notes of a Native Son James Baldwin wrote, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”

I borrow his words as epigraph for the recollections that follow.

Ten years after leaving Bald Eagle-Nittany High School I sat in a carpeted, gently lit room in the Amherst Resource Center and confessed to a therapist, “I never fought back.”

She looked at me. She waited.

I studied the floor.

(“Hey! Goddamn hippie!”)

“I guess….” I looked at the therapist; looked again at the floor. “See, in high school I thought I was a pacifist. A peace-and-love flower child of the Sixties. Make love not war, the whole thing….”

“Wait a moment. Let’s back up first. You referred last week to your notoriety in the very conservative area where you lived as a teenager,” she said, occasionally checking a notebook on her lap. “How everyone in the little town in Pennsylvania where your high school was located – what was the name of the town?”

“Mill Hall. In Clinton County.”

“That’s right, I remember now. How everyone in Mill Hall knew you by reputation, how you stood out. How isolated and alone you felt as a teenager. You were ‘the hippie.’ You were the only boy with long hair. The only one to wear bellbottoms and psychedelic shirts and Army jackets with peace symbols.”

“Well, not the only one – there were also my younger brother Larry and eventually a few others. But I was the first. I was the most extreme, the most visible. And being the very first one to do all those things made me the obvious target.”

 The therapist’s name was Laura. Attractive, with Mediterranean eyes and poufed auburn hair, attired in bulky turtlenecks, she was a patient listener, a woman who radiated so much warmheartedness that, were my hands frostbitten, and not merely my psyche, I could probably have held them before her and they would have thawed and healed. “Okay. And you told me how teachers threatened you with expulsion unless you obeyed the dress code and cut your hair. You said that when you were fourteen, you challenged the school board all by yourself at one of their meetings, stood up and made a speech to them about how the length of your hair was a form of freedom of expression, and protected by the First Amendment. They ignored you. When you were fifteen, you and five ‘hippie’ boys from another school in a nearby town called, let me see, Lock Haven?”


“— Phoned a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union. None of you had money but he took the case anyway.”

“That’s right.”

“All of you confronted the local school board again. This time they listened. Your lawyer told them the school’s dress code was unconstitutional, and you forced the board to repeal it.”


“After that you grew your hair halfway to your waist, which by the way I think is great. Bravo! Good for you!” She smiled. “And you became very outspoken publicly in your opposition to the Vietnam War. You wrote a full-page letter to the editor published in your local newspaper explaining why you would refuse to be drafted.”

“Right. The Lock Haven Express.” I opposed the war and said so in classrooms; I said so in that full-page letter, a morally indignant manifesto printed as an oddity among the newspaper’s gridiron reports, “Li’l Abner” comics, and snapshots of bow hunters. Mill Hall was “America Love It or Leave It” country. In homeroom I refused to mouth the Pledge of Allegiance, refused to salute the flag. On the day of the nationwide Vietnam moratorium I set up a table in the lobby outside the gym and handed out antiwar leaflets, which most teachers and students either ignored or crumpled and threw away.

That roiling American cultural strife of the late Sixties and early Seventies….

man jogging at night

I’d run. Not jog. Run: a three-mile frenzy. I needed to feel these things. I missiled through the streets. Liquid oxygen of rage.

I opposed the war because I no longer could reconcile the napalmed corpses I saw on TV with “Thou shalt not kill,” a Biblical imperative learned during one of my rare but impressionable visits to a church in Lock Haven, years earlier. The moment I graduated from high school my government intended to pack me across the Pacific to maim and murder Vietnamese boys my own age. And for what? An undeclared war premised on lies. I decided that when my eighteenth birthday arrived I would argue my case before the draft board in Williamsport as a conscientious objector.

“And you told me that your local ‘infamy’ – that was your word – increased. And you said it became very difficult. That people shunned you, that adults in your town began to make threats, and that it felt very dangerous to you. I want to ask you more about that. You said that one of your neighbors threatened to shoot you if you stepped on his property.”

“Yeah. He was the local commander of the National Guard. After Kent State happened, you know, it felt even more dangerous.”

“And you said that your favorite teacher, let me see” – she glanced at her notebook – “his name was Mr. Bechdel, betrayed you once. I want to talk to you more about that, too. You said you were going around to various English classes, presenting a scene you were in from an upcoming student play, and when you got to his class it was full of kids older than you – ‘redneck kids,’ you called them.”

“Right.” I stiffened at the memory.

“And you told Mr. Bechdel you’d do the scene if he promised not to leave the room. But midway he left to get coffee. And immediately the older ‘redneck’ boys began shouting, ‘Kill him! Kill him!’ And you said that the only way to escape was to pass through a gantlet of them while they punched you.”

I looked at the floor.

“You were bullied. You were bullied outrageously. Wasn’t there anyone to help you?”

The abandonment. The sense of being culled from the herd and marked as prey. “I never told my parents. It would have upset them. I didn’t want to worry them. Also they would have intervened at school. That would have embarrassed me. It would’ve made things worse. I felt it was important to stand up for myself, to stand on my own two feet.”

“It sounds like you did. You were very brave. You say you were a pacifist and never fought back, but remember – you also never backed down. You never did. You remained true to yourself. Bravo for that, too! What about your friends?”

“Well, kids in my own grade knew me and liked me – you know, I think they felt mystified by the changes I’d gone through, all of my hippie transformations, but they respected me. One of them told me, ‘Everything we only dream about doing, you actually do.’ They even elected me class president, class vice-president, things like that. It helped to protect me, this support from my classmates.”

“How did it protect you?”

“Well, if I’d been more isolated the older jocks and the redneck teachers would have felt completely free to destroy me. But I never talked to my friends Jeannine and Dolores or my buddy T.J. or my other friends about what was happening. I thought they could see it for themselves – wasn’t it obvious? And I felt too depressed. You know, you feel so vulnerable as a teenager. And all your emotions are so heightened, so hormonal. And you just want to be accepted.”

Rituals of social behavior govern small American towns like Mill Hall and Lock Haven, rituals of demeanor and conduct, traditions that hold the force of law and may not be transgressed lightly. I hadn’t known this. It’s shocking how quickly, how brutally, your neighbors will disown you.

Glowering waitresses ignored me if I tried to order a Coke at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s. “Hey Dottie, what’s thet settin’ in yer booth, thet a girl or a boy?” “I don’ know, but I ain’t servin’ it.” I rode my bicycle along Fishing Creek Road; men in a pickup truck winged beer bottles at me. As I pedaled my bike another time outside Mackeyville a farmer unpenned his German shepherds yelling, “Git thet damn hippie! Sic ’im boy!” Mothers of my sister’s friends forbade them to enter our house. Our high school football coach, “Chaz” Dole, a crewcut, lard-bellied rube who swaggered like Patton, called me “Stephanie” and devoted entire health classes to informing students why they must avoid me with the same pains they might take to shun a satanist.

“You said last week that at age seventeen you ‘felt so crippled by depression and fear’ that you ‘could barely function.’ That’s where we stopped. Is that a fair review? Have I covered everything?”

I said, “Yeah. But there’s more.”

In Amherst around 1978, six years after graduation, I had started plunging into nightmares: I’d enter doors of Bald Eagle-Nittany High School gripping a black submachine gun. I dreamed of annihilating everyone – teachers, students, all of them – in spitfire gales of blood and gore.

“They used to gang up on me in the lavatories, they’d ambush me in the hallways,” I told the therapist, as I sat in that tranquil room in Amherst. “I felt tense and nervous all the time. I cut school a lot. Or I’d get there early and sneak to the auditorium and climb up a ladder to the catwalks hidden above the ceiling and spend the day up there, reading. On days when I had no choice but to go to classes, the football players, the older ones, would yell, ‘Get a goddamn haircut!’ in the halls. They’d surround me. Throw my books. Punch me.”

“So they’d hit you even in the halls? In public?”

“They’d punch me in the mouth.” Taste of blood, taste of saliva tinctured with iron, teeth piercing my lip. Eyes stinging. “Or punch me so hard in the chest that I couldn’t breathe.” At a high school dance a football player suddenly hit me. Gasping suffocation, pain drumming beneath my breastbone. I was unsure if my heart still beat. “I thought I was dying. In eleventh grade I lived in terror. At school I never knew when it would happen, never felt safe. An ambush could happen at any moment. At my locker. At the water fountain.” Predatory, they approached with sniffing-the-air intensity. Hard stares. Fists ready. “Walking down the hall alone I’d see a line of older football players form a barrier ahead so I couldn’t pass. And I knew what was coming. But I walked right up to them anyway. And looked them in the eye with this kind of defiance, you know. Actually, in a strange way I think they respected that. I never ran. Ever. And then they’d start punching me: ‘Hippie son of a bitch!’”

Entering the lavatory: leering farmboys from the senior classes, rough-housing near sinks and urinals. Too late for me to turn and leave. “What the hell you doin’ in here?” Gulping my fear I stood before a mirror. Slowly, miming nonchalance, I’d remove a comb from my jeans pocket. Snorting with derision they’d file past. Shoulder me with football blocks. Ram me against the sink. Slug me in the back. “Goddamn queer.”

“The reason I never fought back is I prided myself on that Woodstock vibe of peace and ‘turn the other cheek.’ I felt self-righteous about it. And I admired Martin Luther King and non-violence, you know, and wanted to emulate him. I thought of myself as very noble. But I’m beginning to realize that I wasn’t a pacifist at all,” I told her. “What I was really doing, every time they hit me, was choking down a tremendous amount of rage.”

“Tell me about that.”

“I was choking down all this rage, tremendous pain, so much fear and anger and the desire to hit back. I was…I…I mean, I feel…God, I feel so much anger now, I hate them, I want to kill them, you know, and – it feels explosive, I – I’m not sure what to do with it, it’s like this volcano in me, everything I choked down and repressed all those years –”

“You need to feel these things,” the therapist said.

I’d been stabbing the anger inward. Slashing in self-loathing. Making myself sick and suicidal. I had read of an epidemic in Africa, how larvae in water invade a human body, hatch to worms, gnaw their way excruciatingly through the skin. That’s what my anger from high school threatened to do.

Appalachian Zen book cover

In Amherst in the late 1970’s, early ’80s, I cropped my hair. Razor-scraped the sides of my head to bare skin. I’d pull on a tattered Sex Pistols T-shirt. Sweatpants. Pair of Nikes. And I’d run. Not jog. Run: a three-mile frenzy. I needed to feel these things? I missiled through the streets. Liquid oxygen of rage. Swinging fists at road signs. Scowling at people in cars: you wanna fuck with me? Huh? Come on! I’ll rip your throats out –

I hoisted barbells. No one would ever, ever hit me again. Tightened my body into one-hundred-and-ninety tensile pounds of muscle. Shoved past pool tables, past beer-chugging, bad-ass rowdies in a crummy rathskeller, practically throwing off sparks, daring anyone to challenge me, man, I felt homicidal, the hell with nonviolence….Punk arrived at the perfect moment. Slamming to chainsaw-guitar bands like Deep Wound and Eighth Route Army in smoky Northampton rock clubs, caroming off sweatslick bodies in oblivious rage, raging in my apartment, enraged I cranked the Clash to a thousand wall-pulverizing megatons, hit pillows, kickboxed screaming across my room flailing fists at the air, raging on the street wore a studded motorcycle jacket of deathblack leather, it was no fucking fashion statement man, I meant it: you wanna fuck with me? Huh? Yeah, you! I’ll take your head off at your knees, motherfucker –

“It’s kind of frightening,” I’d tell my therapist. “I worry – you know, if somebody would ever shove me, even accidentally, like in a checkout line at the supermarket – I can’t stand the thought of someone shoving me. God, I think I’d go berserk. I will not be pushed around ever again. By anyone. I will not be disrespected or violated physically in any way. And I’m so full of anger –”

“You need to feel this. You were traumatized. You need to let it come out.”

*            *

How could I accept this place as home? And how could I let go?

Years of misguided effort….

How might a person live without regret? Without encumbrance of lasting blame or rancor? How does a person fit a writhing history into the present?

Years passed before I started to realize: These questions are Zen questions.

*            *

Visiting Clinton County for the first time in a decade, I’ve driven back to the high school.

Breeze rattles the halyard on the flagpole. Distant hum of a lawnmower. Cornfields ripple in summer haze. One crow at the far edge of the parking lot.

Teachers at Bald Eagle-Nittany would beat us.

They’d stalk corridors of this high school carrying thick wooden paddles. Half the length of baseball bats, broad and flat, these special paddles featured holes augered into the wood, holes to make them bite.

“You could always tell when a teacher had just paddled someone,” my brother has said. “They sort of strutted. Like, ‘I’m a real tough guy.’ You could tell just by looking at them. Like seeing a dog with blood on its muzzle.”

Nearly every day, school halls echoed with the “wham! wham! wham!” of a paddle. Boys judged as miscreants and paddled would hobble afterward to their chairs, grinning. The code of manhood required a grin. In a cafeteria study hall I witnessed a gym teacher break a paddle over a kid’s head. The split pieces whirligigged high into the air.

I got paddled. Ten whacks with a paddle left a branding mark, a wide paddle-shape, red like a sunburn. This damage lasted for days.

When I tell this to people in Amherst they’re aghast. “My God, you mean there was corporal punishment in your school? I didn’t think that happened anymore! What school was that? You mean they actually hit you? It sounds so – Dickensian, so nineteenth century, so – barbaric!” When my girlfriend Diana and I lived together I mentioned it one evening, off-the-cuff, and she grew somber. She touched my shoulder. She looked at me with concern. She murmured, “God, Steve-arino” – her pet name for me – “you were physically abused as a child. God, no, I mean it – you really were. You’re a survivor of physical abuse.”

“Really?” A pause. A revelation. “I never thought of it in those specific words.”

Mill Hall people took it for granted. Parents expected teachers to hit kids. Parents thrashed their kids at home. “You keep thet up, yer gonna git a whippin’!” I heard parents say that to children in laundromats, on Main Street, in the Weis Supermarket, heard it from open windows of houses in summer. Fathers removed leather belts from their trousers, wrapped the buckled end of the belt around a fist, then used the other end like a bullwhip to flog a son or daughter. Sometimes I heard the resounding “wap! wap!” of the belt and some man yelling, “I’m gonna teach you to mind me good!” and, above the din of television, a child screaming.

But not in my household, and not in my elementary school. My dad spanked me with the palm of his hand, lightly, almost apologetically, perhaps twice throughout my childhood. At Akeley Elementary in Lock Haven, an experimental lab school on the campus of the teacher’s college, I thrived from third through sixth grades in a wonderland of learning and rejoicing, of open classrooms, “new math,” art and music projects, and color-coded SRA reading books. Our teachers, stout ladies named Miss Waterbury and Miss Holmes, clement and encouraging, wore wire spectacles and dressed like Eleanor Roosevelt. They never hit us.

By the time I reached sixteen I began to lie awake at night.

It seemed to me those Mill Hall teachers, dumped in middle-aged bodies as if into sacks, their blood gone alkaline, found merry relief in bashing teenagers. Trying to bash the bright new personalities out of us. Trying to bash our zest, our frisky sexuality, our penchant for freedom. Teachers trying to bash the daylights out of unfettered, optimistic teenagers in spiteful retribution for their own blunted lives.

Several nights I contemplated this. Head on my pillow. Staring through darkness.

Why do they hit us? And then my epiphany: Why do we allow them?

Two days later, in homeroom, a teacher summoned me to get paddled. My felony: I’d talked to a girl as morning announcements blabbed over the P.A. speaker.

“Okay, Ruhl! Up front! Ten whacks!”

His name was Spitzer. A math teacher, slightly balding, with blackrim glasses, a devotee of plaid sports jackets. He half-smiled, reaching for the paddle. He looked forward to it. “You heard me, Ruhl! Up front!”


He remained smiling. But for a moment his face shifted. He looked like a man in a dentist’s office hearing bad news about his X-rays. Then he recovered. He said, “Up here now, Ruhl, and get your whacks!”

“No. I won’t allow you to hit me.”

Chatter in the room subsided.

The teacher stopped smiling.

“I’ve made a decision. No teacher is ever going to paddle me again. I won’t allow it.”

Perfect quiet.

“If you try to hit me” – I said this calmly – “I’m going to grab the paddle, and I’m going to take it away from you.”

This roused him.

“If – if you strike a teacher,” he stammered, “you’ll be expelled from school!”

“I didn’t say anything about striking you. I said I won’t let you hit me. I’ll take the paddle out of your hand if I have to. But I won’t strike you. And I won’t allow you to hit me.” For the first time since arriving at this school I felt no panic. “I’ve made a decision,” I repeated. Perhaps for the thrill of hearing myself say it. “No teacher will hit me, ever again. I will not allow it.”

After that morning, no teacher at Bald Eagle-Nittany dared to paddle me.

No teacher even tried.

*             *             *            *

My girlfriend Diana, twenty-one years old. Sitting on our disheveled mattress in Amherst in the mid-1980s.

She sat naked. Lit by a source I can’t distinguish: morning sunlight, maybe, or winter afternoon, pale wash from the lamp, I don’t know anymore. Whatever hour, it had grown very late for us.

Sheets and blankets at her waist. Her breasts terribly exposed, terrible because so matter-of-fact, so unerotic, terrible because eroticism was no longer part of a shared life between us.

Her arms braced, supporting her weight on her hands. Her hands pressed against the pillows on the bed.

Her face moistened with tears. This is what she said to me:

“You’re so – you’re so angry, at the whole world –”

And then, urgently, her eyes searching the room, she said, “I don’t know what to do anymore –”

The silence in our bedroom filled with her crying. As Diana sobbed her voice almost fought to the surface. Then it sank beneath her crying. Her voice struggled up again, and what she finally said to me was this:

“You’re so angry, and you won’t let me love you.”

She said: “I try and try, Steve. I try everything I can think of. But” – the words cracked and splintered – “you won’t…let me…love…you….”

*             *             *            *

So angry at the whole world.

Now, in the torrid summer of 1992, I look, one final time, at this high school.

When I gun the engine I’m gone.

What I could not understand until much later: My quest for “true home” in the Buddhist sense could never begin until I’d completed this other, primal quest, equally important, equally pressing. l needed to attempt what we all must: craft a truce with the future. Sign my armistice with the past. The effort of homecoming, in its deepest sense, started for me in that now-distant summer. But it would take two more years before I discovered that I could sit on a meditation cushion in a Zen temple, watching my breaths in silence. Watching and letting go. Many years before I would learn forgiveness. Many long years before I would come home to a newfound heart of compassion, and ordain as a Zen Buddhist minister.

And my journey began.



 Steve Kanji Ruhl is an ordained Zen Buddhist minister. “Seeking the True Home” © 2022, is adapted from his new memoir, Appalachian Zen: Journeys in Search of True Home, from the American Heartland to the Buddha Dharma (Monkfish Book Publishing, 2022). He is also author of Enlightened Contemporaries: Francis, Dōgen, and Rūmī: Three Great Mystics of the Thirteenth Century and Why They Matter, and two books of poems, Paintings of Rice Cakes Satisfy Hunger and The Constant Yes of Things. He teaches widely and lives in western Massachusetts (www.stevekanjiruhl.com).