Western lens, Eastern lens

Meet another member of South Florida's many-sided faith community. This week we're talking with Jane Jishin Faysash, a priest of the Southern Palm Zen Group, based in Boca Raton.

Q: Did you convert from another religion?

A: I grew up Catholic, and I've always been interested in religion. About 15 years ago, I became interested in meditation. I went to a retreat called "Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit," run by a priest. Here in Boca Raton, I found Mitch's group and began to practice with it.

I wouldn't say conversion is the right word. I feel more that the Buddhist practice has been a completion. It's given me a more wholistic picture of the world. I have the Western lens and the Eastern lens.

Q: Still, a lot of people adopt Buddhist practices but don't become priests. Why you?

A: Doshen [mentor] Mitch Cantor asked me to consider it. I thought, "Why not?" It's been an interesting journey.

Q: In your work as a volunteer chaplain at a prison, what good does Buddhist instruction do for inmates?

A: As Zen Buddhists, our primary focus is teaching meditation. The men tell us that once they learn the practice, they deal better with stress and strong emotions. And rather than react to situations that cause them to get into fights, they can just let things go. It also improves their concentration and to take advantage of the programs that are open to them.

Q: What's the one most mistaken impression about Zen Buddhism?

A: People come thinking that if they practice Zen meditation, they'll have some out-of-body experience and have their lives totally transformed. Over the years, they will have a transformation, but it won't be a mountaintop experience. They will see an ability to cope with their lives in a way that is steady and rooted and confident.

Q: Do you have a motto, or favorite scripture verse?

A: Julian of Norwich said, "And all will be well; And all will be well; And all manner of thing will be well." One thing the Buddhist practice has told me is that in spite of what it appears to be, with trouble and strife, all is well in my heart. And I think anyone who is rooted in their own faith will discover that truth.

James D. Davis

Do you know someone we should profile? Tell James D. Davis, Religion Editor, Sun Sentinel, at 500 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394. You may also e-mail him at JDDavis@Tribune.com or call at 954-356-4730.

Jane Jishin Faysash

Other community posts: Volunteer Buddhist chaplain for South Bay Correctional Facility.

Past job experience: Retired teacher of gifted middle school students, Palm Beach County Public Schools.

Education: Degree in history and political science, San Diego State University.

Personal: 66. Born in Burlingame, Calif.

Family: Married to Gary, a retired bank president. Two sons.