Geri Weinstein-Breunig

How did you learn about Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH)?
I was sharing with my close friend and Snowflower member Heather Mann the discomfort I experience when I think about dying. She talked about another way of understanding death, and gave me No Death, No Fear to read. The book led me to think differently about death because it helped me to think differently about life. I became aware that assuring desired outcomes, planning for contingencies, and thinking about what to do next no longer mattered, or at least mattered less. And death no longer seemed like an end, but as Heather explained, it was instead another manifestation still out there in the world.

What was the first TNH book you read?
My favorite book is Silence: The Power of Silence in a World Full of Noise. The idea really excited me that instead of noise—thinking, fearing, wanting, planning–there might be silence. I was also afraid. Who was I if I wasn’t thinking? This book made me understand that I could finally find not only myself, but at the same time, freedom.

What is your favorite TNH quote or teaching?
I have two both from Silence:
“We are continued by our views and by our thinking. These are the children we give birth to in every moment.”
“To fully experience this life as a human being, we need to connect with our desire to realize something larger than our individual selves. This can be motivation enough to change our ways so we can find relief from the noise that fills our heads.”

How did you hear about SnowFlower?
Heather talked about it often, encouraging me to attend the Tuesday night sangha with her and her husband, Dave.

How long have you been coming to Snowflower?
It’s been almost a year.

Remembering your first time at SnowFlower, what did you like best?
What impressed me most was the warmth of the people, how welcoming they were. That’s probably the most important reason that sangha is so important – the people, their strength and their sharing.

What other Buddhist teachers do you like?
I often listen to Sharon Salzberg.

Do you have a favorite Buddhist website?
Buddhist Peace Fellowship at http://www.buddhistpeacefellowship.org.

How does Buddhism as taught by TNH fit into your daily life? Why is it important to you?
Thay’s teaching is the lens I use to feel alive, feel compassion, be happy, understand impermanence, feel connected to others, cherish equanimity, and live with uncertainty.

If you are retired, what jobs or career did you hold in your working life?
In my former working life, I took many different turns.  Once I was a French/Spanish teacher, then a horticulturalist, and lastly, a cultural geographer.

Do you do any volunteer work?
All my volunteer work centers on being in prison and working for prison reform. Each year for the past four years, I have participated in Restorative Justice and Interfaith programs in four different prisons. Recently, with other volunteers, we developed a program linking nature to humanity and the humanities. I’m also in a grief group in Fox Lake prison, which meets twice monthly and in another program that applies a methodology developed by Jean Feraca, the Wisconsin Public Radio host, to use the humanities as a tool for transformation.

Family?
My husband and I have been married for 22 years. He is one of thirteen. I have over fifty nieces and nephews.

Favorite hobbies or pastimes?
Reading, gardening, cooking for and connecting with friends

Favorite guilty pleasure?
Eating anything that’s on my “Don’t Eat List.”