King George VI of England reigned during World War II and was instrumental in keeping up the spirits of his nation through radio broadcasts, but King George had a terrible stutter. In his young years he was the Duke of York and was expected to speak at public gatherings, but this was all but impossible for him. He saw many “speech doctors” at that time, but didn’t get much help. One therapist, Lionel Logue, was an Australian who had worked with shell-shocked veterans who had lost their ability to speak. Lionel understood that it wasn’t just mechanics of speech that was the problem, but also emotional traumas that prevented someone from speaking clearly. In one scene of the movie, The King’s Speech, Lionel is pressing “Bertie” – the Duke of York – to share something of his life in a deeper way and Bertie exploded with anger. Now if the Duke of York were to explode in anger at any of us, we might shrink away or apologize right away or any other fearful reactions, but not Lionel Logue. His center was so strong that he wasn’t swayed by the Duke’s anger. He was only focused on how he could help this future king communicate with this people. Eventually, the Duke became King and he was able, with Lionel’s help, to do many radio broadcasts that helped carry England through a very dark period in its history.

Zen Master Seung Sahn says that the purpose of Buddhism is to get enlightenment and save all beings from suffering, but we can’t do that if we are afraid to step out into the world and help even when things get hard. The gift of zen meditation is that we become less swayed by the swirl of demands the world makes on us. Our “center” becomes stronger and we begin to see with more clarity how to help those around us. We cease to react to each situation with a heart full of fear or anger, but with a serenity that allows us to respond with wisdom. The Heart Sutra says, “And the mind has no hindrance. Without any hindrance no fears exist.” The mind that has no hindrance is a mind of openness, clarity and compassion and we cultivate that mind when we practice meditation. It is a mind that is unafraid to meet life’s challenges and wise enough to know how to deal with them.