Interview with Tim Aston

Tim Aston memorial page

One step at a time

Tim Aston
Interviewed by DC
September 19, 1995

Before I came to Zen Center I knew Mel Weitsman pretty well and I respected him and Phil Wilson - he used to paint and I lived with a woman he knew. I went to Mexico in ‘64 and came back and started attending zazen at Sokoji in ‘65 when I was 22. I was working at the post office so I was just part time. First I went to a lecture. Katagiri was there on the alter and Suzuki came out and I looked at him and I got a rush, an inspiration and I determined right then to start coming there on a regular basis. There would be five or eight people in the zendo Trudy Dixon and Norman Steiglemeyer, Rob Gove, Silas Hoadley, Stan White, Tim Burkett who was an actor and went to Minnesota to be a goat herder, Bill Kwong who ran the kitchen on Saturdays.

At the first sesshin I attended a dokusan which we weren't supposed to talk about but I guess it's okay now. It was at Bush Street. I had only bowed to Suzuki Roshi up to then on the way out of zazen and hadn't had any direct teaching up to then and had barely spoken to him a couple of times although I'd been coming for two years. So I went in to see him and sat down and I was pretty nervous and also pretty cocky and he looked at me and said, "Are you going to ask me a question?" and I asked him something so stupid I won't repeat it - about my girlfriend and getting married and he raised his little curved stick, his nyoi, and he hit me with it. He whacked me on the shoulder. I was starting to get up at the time because I hadn't gotten a response so I thought this must be it and as soon as I started to get up he hit me on the shoulder and he said, "What are dreaming about?" and he hit me again and he said, "You look serious but you are not serious." then he hit me again and said, "One step at a time." That's the teaching that I remember most. Then when I got to the door to leave he said, "Take good care of yourself." When I get into bad situations now and am broke and no work, I think, what are you dreaming about? What would you do with the money anyway?

DC: Did you tell me about Taking Suzuki Roshi to Church Creek Ranch?

TA: No - that wasn't me. I did live at Church Creek Ranch for a couple of weeks but I never took Roshi there - maybe it was Silas.

I left Zen Center in the spring of 71 and came up here to Quadra Island for a couple of weeks and never went back.

The last time I had an interaction with Suzuki Roshi I was with Ken Sawyer painting the halls at Page Street in the winter of ‘70 or ‘71 and Suzuki Roshi came up to us and I was up on the ladder and he looked up and he said, "When I go, you people will just leave me beside the road." Then he turned around and walked away. I looked at Ken and said now what did that mean?