21 August, 2013

When Dhamma is not Entertainment

When I first jumped off the complaining bus, and arrived at a local buddhist temple, I was captivated by the real job-holding dhamma teacher. It was a welcome change to hear something that before this time was all preconceived ideas. This dhamma teacher was normal, had kids and a wife and all the other assorted problems attached. How could I, as a single person(at that time), not get some great examples of where dhamma fits in daily life? Laughing while learning, being at first entertained. He led me and the sangha in meditation, then using simple analogy to weave dhamma and life's stuff that always seem to be directed at you. A quick intro, I won the pot 'o gold with a medical malpractice brain injury from a Dr. that exhausted his insurance, unbeknownst to me...leaving me disabled and dealing with questionable lawyers for 4 years.

Back to my temple, this male teacher taught one night a week, and slowly I graduated to two nights exposing me the other teachers talks. One suggested that this sangha is yours, and I began to help with set-up and clean-up. I met a few fellow sangha members, and each one had their own story and insights. Luckily, some were more experienced and helped me to dive deeper in simple understanding while working with them and others.

Then a new female teacher appeared, transferred from the East coast, who was a charming Brit, with a unique story of telling her Mom at a 3 that she would doing this, from a previous life experience. She was a simple, yet profound teacher, and one teaching I just knew her unspoken intention was to make dhamma clear to me. Perhaps, it might have been good timing or finally meditation was giving me small signs of awareness before unknown to me that prompted me to believe this, but “It” was working. She had a great personality, and a funny dhamma teaching husband to boot and both were liked by all. I began to more engaged in pujas, and longer weekend events there and away. And I was helping more around the temple, eventually helping to paint the entire building from her inspiration. I became friendly with an older member of the sangha, who's subtle teaching based on interest in my progress worked wonders in the after hours. We worked along each other setting up and taking down, and although 20 years older than I was tireless with her dedication to the practical aspects of dhamma. She was retired marriage counselor, so I think she used her wisdom from her practice on me.

In the first year of the "famous and loved" dhamma teacher appearance, she had to go to another temple far way to do her wonder work in the winter season for another temple. I didn't know in advance, so it was news to me. The temple would use new teachers, sometimes a bit green, until we found a new
 more seasoned dhamma teacher to fill in. I could sense my  disappointment, and low and behold, my comparing mind came in for a landing. After a couple of Tuesday nights, I continued my commitment to dhamma and helping out, but was still trying to judge the substitute teachers. When the older sangha member used to drive me home, I would talk with her, once complaining about the other subs and she got quiet, all while maintaining her smile. It then dawned on me that I was caught up in craving and aversion, because like most of us change is not a simple on-off switch. Sometimes, we need to steep in our errors, but that evening ride's talk helped. Dhamma was working it's little miracle with her subtle response, and she knew how to start the fire.

Growing from what is first perceived as an aversive, a teacher who might not be as entertaining as the one you like, and just watching the mind in the reactive state is dhamma in action. You can support the sangha instead of walking out because you are not satisfied.  One never knows if the new teacher will say something that will guide you further on the path. This simple awareness helped me grow tremendously with a little help from that older sangha member and by watching the mind in meditations. It made me realize Dhamma is not entertainment, it can be where you can grow in wisdom. I know now, that it was my first real sign that I was on the right path, many years ago and that awakening is a process of learning, and relearning until it becomes second nature.

12 August, 2013

It Happens, When It Happens

As I continue to peel away my past traumas in dreams and it meditation, I am also excitedly putting together my partner’s fiancĂ© application. I am still shocked the law finally ruled in our favor based on my life’s experiences, confronting hatred and prejudice. I did not sit around and complain only these last 20+ years, I was still involved and out there. Facing things as they came up in work and life since 18. Perhaps, all this was in the cards when I first saw poor boys playing in a photo book on our family coffee as a young boy. This is one small piece that helped trigger my awareness of others and the world.

Could I be living a life that has already been laid out? I have told many people if I never had my near death and brain injury, I would have never be where I am today with less anger, more awareness and happiness. I really feel I would never get here even at this age, spiraling into disgust with life based on not feeling safe at home or out in the world. My “rebellion” was to find fault in everyone and the world, and graduating for me was doing in a form for a career, and socially in a sarcastic and funny way. Not to paint an entirely messed up life, there were some important people and events along the way allowing me to form relationships. A few people noted it, but nothing was eye-opening enough to totally shift course. 

The main thing that it has been awakening is my upcoming marriage feels like it is way less about me, and more about how to further make my partner’s dreams come true. Although when I bought my house it for the “two of us”, the other being my last relationship that fizzled under the strain of my near death and trying to figure out who I was, post injury. If I can step back whenever things get difficult with my current partner and see it from his eyes and see any displeasure as my expectations getting too grand. He will be coming from a foreign country, to an imaginary place he dreamt about, and this is my chance to see it all anew.  Luckily, he is sensible and we have already spoken about the fact that it may be hard to make it here, even with his masters, we’ve opted to perhaps sell and go somewhere else less expensive. I will try not to add any more burdens to his difficult life, just more opportunities to show my love through my letting go.  There is a great sigh of relief knowing if I die tomorrow he is provided for and I have at least helped one person. I feel I have turned my life around enough to make a difference and this provides a dampening of the whys of existence. We run around all over in ideas, desires and experiences with the hope to feel the contentedness underlying my existence right now. It doesn’t mean that I am free of problems and worries but they probably won’t be based on that old existential fear.

Going back to the laid out idea, why did I have a room full of religious paintings if I was not religious at all when I started? I would often say to people that I admired the unsigned paintings done in total devotion for any help they can give in this difficult human life. Not knowing it that it was really a sign that the ‘me’ has dissolved for them and I was nowhere near that when the paintings and I met first. Maybe I ought to attribute my collection as a collection of the ironies of life? Or they were just a time killer waiting for awareness to kick in?

01 August, 2013

What Won’t We Get Done?

Patiently sitting in the house of a stranger, it quickly becomes the familiar like the appearance of a slightly different movie set. It is your house in a different life or dream. You try not to interfere, but you know damn well it could be you in that bed, and these supposed strangers ...are your family. They are very considerate, you could feel their immense love for their friend and each other. The chanting was beautiful, halfway through profound wailing was heard and it took all my strength to remain calm and present with these emotions conveyed. I did not look or connect to see it who it was. I did not feel uneasy, only my heart was trying to reach out of my chest.

A man is dying...and his wife prepared the walk with flowers to greet the nuns with love when we arrived. In my head, I say this is beautiful, but private, so I stepped far away from their path. Suddenly the door opens and his wife bows to the nuns. I had asked earlier if I should stay in the car until they felt a need to have me enter, but they had no idea what was the status when we arrived. They were hoping my stroke experience would help him…just pure intention.

It really happened fast to him, and there was no time to plan. I won’t go into too many details out of respect. I walked outside to get some air and to pet the cats that had waited patiently near-by, sensing that something was up. A half hour later a man walked outside and we talked, me breaking the ice with an explanation why my voice was bad after I commented about the trees on the hill.  I asked, “Is that a tree house way up there?” I listened to what he had to say. “No, it is only the sky peaking through the trees.” Then easing into some of my story, because of his preplexed reaction to my voice. In the process, I reassured him that my near death left me with no fear and detailed the experience. The worries most of have about wanting more life in this body are only born out of the fear of the unknown.  I saw his red eyes clear up some and forehead relax knowing it what he heard was no bullshit. I encouraged him to meditate soon, to see what how we really think, and spend time alone with your mind. Without vocalizing it, I conveyed that difficult times are a catalyst for change. More fear will release naturally that you have been carrying around all these years. A good half-hour spent talking with total honesty, in a relaxed way.  Letting him lead where this conversation went.

It was time to leave, and talking with the nuns who I drove there, and unknown to me I was speaking to that family member who had cried earlier. My jaw dropped, that the same person who really needed my compassion had found it their own time in their own way. Instead of any kind of awkward, forced or fake sympathy I would have offered in the past…it just happened organically.

I knew I had to go to Mozart Brain Lab therapy and the puzzle that I was close to finishing was on my mind. It triggered something before arriving...We will always die with unfinished business.  So, I decided to stop it and just feel the emotions of this small symbol of death, right now. I would normally finish it, and look for some small sign of accomplishment... energetically. So this is not like me. As the session ended, which I did in meditation posture instead doing a puzzle or some other brain connection game and we moved to hearing chants to seal the therapy and relax the brain, I broke down. Not that it wasn't expected or embarrassing. I wanted to wail, but tried to keep it down, with the others clients in other rooms out of respect. Some was what remains in my body from my life experience and it can be expected. Could be that experience earlier, helped to access the things that need to come out. It was combined with a very frank discussion by a close surgeon friend, during the previous night’s dinner, talking about his clients generally to me about death. In a moment of silence and with complete honesty said, “No one really dies peaceful... unless I say, ‘good-night’ alluding to seeing them in the morning and then they pass with relaxation. This is why I think it is always about others, making them happy,” with a furrowed brow.

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