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Rising Stars: Meet Katherine (Dharma name: Senshin) Griffith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine (Dharma name: Senshin) Griffith.

Hi Katherine (Dharma name: Senshin), thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am an actor and writer with a strong comedic bent. I was in a performance art piece with Tim Miller in New York when he mentioned doing zazen (zen meditation). I thought that sounded like a good practice for me. I then practiced zen in New York for 13 years. After a few years of moving to Los Angeles, I needed a new day job. There was a staff opening as the program director at the Zen Center of Los Angeles (where I was a practitioner). I took it and it offered the opportunity to intensify my zen training and now I’m a Sensei (zen teacher). My theatrical work involved rigorous classical training at the Juilliard Drama Division at Lincoln Center, boundary-breaking cutting edge work in the East Village performance scene in NYC in the 1980’s and 90’s. I also trained with Tadashi Suzuki’s theatre company in Japan after Juilliard. All these elements were a perfect match for zen practice. Even as a teen, I used to stop rehearsals at odd times just to fully celebrate the moment. To me, the Zen Center of Los Angeles offers both rigor and tradition and spontaneous creative boundary expansion where everything is seen freshly just as it is.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has been challenging dong everything on Zoom during the pandemic but we have pulled it off. We have had more attendance than ever and our practitioners are deepening their practice. I am one of the teachers that offer one-on-one interviews with zen students to talk about their practice. We offer retreats online too that have been well attended. Being both an artist and a zen practitioner, I don’t need life to be free of obstacles or challenges. That is what I am here to both serve and express.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m still an active professional actor and writer. I am a company member at the Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga. I am adapting one of my plays into a children’s book series. My Zen practice informs my art and my skills as an artist contribute to my work as a Zen teacher. Zen practice helps concentration and total presence with what one is doing, where the self is dropped. Perfect for acting. This particular Zen Center has a rigorous training program but it also incorporates humor in our training. We even have something called the Order of Disorder, where we bow backward on occasions.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I’m lucky to have had such a wonderful profound and creative teacher as Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, the Head Teacher at the Zen Center of Los Angeles. I’m lucky that ZCLA lets me have time off for auditions and shows. I’m lucky to be able to use my theatrical skills in our annual Day of the Dead, in a pageant production of one of our main services, and a rapt audience for my comedy sketches at special events. My writing has always wanted to deal with the ultimate level of reality. Perfect for a zen practitioner.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

The profile picture. is by Tom Burger. All photos but two are by Tom Burger, And I have permission. The captions for the additional photos are: 1) Me giving a Dharma Talk on Zoom from the ZCLA Zendo. 2) Me in Dharma Combat as the Head Trainee. 3) Practice and study are one 4) Dressed as Will Rogers for our Day of the Dead parade. (this photo is by Jonathan Levy) 5) Conducting John Cage’s 4:33 — which is totally silent. 6) in a cutout with zen patriarch Bodhidharma 7) with head teacher Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao 8) Clowning for Buddha’s Birthday (this photo is by Jonathan Levy)

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