Written on Saturday July 15th. I guess the best way to start is right at the end, which is also the beginning. So, yesterday I was touched and quite surprised at my willingness to be (albeit, grudgingly) in that space of being touched by experience; in the space where I can allow the touch and even invite experience in… And since I am starting at the end, backwards so to speak, I need to add what is seemingly a parenthetical note here, and let you know that there will be more added throughout this piece. So, you have been warned.

Note: Just as I have come to understand that ego is a very maligned misunderstanding, I have begun to understand that samsara is also a very maligned misunderstanding. When we/I give credence to how evil or dark samsara and get involved in futile attempts to comprehend it, fix it, or avoid it, then we are / I am trapped under its weight, that is under the non-other than thoughts or projections from my own mind-heart.

Yesterday, I went to the gym to workout. I got there on the verge of tears, and so extremely frustrated that I almost gave up on exercising altogether. I did not want to let my friend, trainer or anybody see me so frustrated. And truth be said, I also did not want to feel the frustration and accompanying thoughts. Yes, this is a very clear example of my wanting there to be another now, of wanting to hide behind a mask, of doubting not only myself but others, and of almost caving in to the habit of wanting to hide. But the very tiny-buddha-seedling somehow kept me on track while driving to the gym while feeling the burn of the frustration and hearing all the self-defeating thoughts. It was Friday and I had left the office on time because I really wanted to go to the gym. Warning: Here comes another seemingly parenthetical note.

Note: On Monday I went to work at the Clinics’ location where I have been covering shifts since May. Typically there are two interpreters assigned to that space/shift. While one goes to any pre-programmed appointment, the other remains and continues working on document translations, and takes care of any appointment that though not programmed meets the requirements for needing a on-site interpreter. If there are no programmed appointments both interpreters continue working on document translations/editing. So, around noon on Monday the full time interpreter got a phone call and towards the end of the call, almost as a side comment, he was told that starting the next day, the interpreters assigned to Clinics would no longer go to that office to work. Theoretically, work would remain the same, but we would do it from a different location. He was also told that we needed to move right then, that Monday afternoon. So we ate lunch, packed and left. While in our previous location we were housed in an office with one other person who was often not there, we got to our new location and were displaced. He was sent to a cubicle assigned to the Language Network in an office on the ground floor, whereas anyone covering the shift as a PRN interpreter (like me) would sit on a cubicle not assigned to the Language Network located on the first floor in a huge area full of cubicles. We are now both surrounded by non-interpreters/translators.

I went to the gym yesterday after a whole week of showing to work at our new place: of not knowing most of the people around me, of not having had access to a computer until Tuesday at around 3 pm, of feeling the weight of the “corporate” aspects of a hospital because of where we are housed, of not being able to consult with the other Clinics’ interpreter on the matter of translations without having to send him the document or calling and dictating whole sentences or even paragraphs to provide contextual clues, of hearing the phone conversations of those around me, and at times even hearing both sides of the phone conversation not because they were on speaker phone, but because the volume of their headsets was loud enough. This is understandably a lot to take in, for anyone. I felt that not only was I functioning on sensory overload, but I was admittedly contributing to the overload with my fear of another lay-off coming for our department. Warning: Here comes another note.

Note: Since I had spent so much time working in the Clinics and liking it, I had almost gotten used to an 8 to 4:30 schedule. I had also gotten quite used to working as a team in the context of translating/editing again and, most significantly, I had almost forgotten that I am a PRN. My mind toyed with the idea of what I would say if I got an offer for the 40-hour position of the person whose shift I have been covering. But this rug or veil has been thankfully pulled.

Yesterday, Friday around 11 in the morning we had our online meeting. An auditor was present. We can see his name on the screen, and to me it feels like eavesdropping, since his name appears on the screen but I have never heard​ him speak. This gives me a feeling reminiscent of being still under surveillance such as when I served in Hungary’s Peace Corps program in the 90s or like that of the stories my grandmother used to tell me about the dangers of being seen or heard by the eyes and ears of Trujillo, a Dominican dictator. However, I am aware that the memories evoked in me are not part of this present-day scenario. Suffice it to say that I have been dealing with these little demons of my own. Then, around noon, one of the men that worked in that office, came into the space with a white envelope in hand and said goodbye in a loud voice for all to hear. One of the women said something like, “You’re leaving early?” and he replied “No. I was let go. I am not coming back…” I felt like someone poured Icy-Hot down my throat… Those who knew the man hugged him… This event tore into the fabric of the day… And then, more loud phone conversations…

When it came time for me to leave the office, I was more than ready. I wanted to go to the gym and feel my body go through detox as if it were possible to sweat off the bad thoughts, feelings and unfounded premonitions. So I got to the parking lot as quickly as I could but it took me more than 25 minutes to find my car in the seemingly never ending spiral of open and blocked entrances, while carrying my bags! I felt stupid, angry at myself for not finding the car and angry for feeling stupid, and I also felt extremely tired. I sent a text to my trainer, and the message came back: “No worries. Be safe.” I felt tears, but my frustration was burning high and the tears turned into steam; there was no softening that I could feel.

I got to the gym, changed clothes and we started our workout for the day testing a series of moves that could become a class. I was close to having a meltdown as I was trying to understand the sequencing, and the exercises themselves, and also every time I realized that I would not be able to do everything in the way that was planned because my left knee was sore. It was painful to feel the meltdowns approach, and the battle I was waging because my ego-based-pride did not want tears to show… We started the workout and within the first three or four rounds I noticed that I was beginning to smile as my heart rate increased, with the frustration was still burning high and not allowing a full smile to form. And then, as I continued moving from exercise to exercise and talking, there was a distinct moment, something lifted leaving a clear sense of a mental-heart space that encompassed the frustration and its accompanying thoughts while facing my trainer and the gym itself, altogether with a smile and the joy coming from feeling my body in movement. And when I acknowledged that space, the frustration seemingly melted and was replaced by a sense of being fully there. I was, and still am, in awe and grateful.

Concluding Remarks. When our session ended, I told my friend about my week and why it had been exhausting. And in doing so I noticed that lately I found myself repeating that I still love what I do as an interpreter. I was apologizing. It was and is as if I had to justify or ask forgiveness for any fears and negative thoughts I may have. It is as if ego-monkey brain is saying that I should not feel what I feel regarding corporate cube-land or the struggles within the restructuring phase of the department where I work. But here is the good news: I feel the way I do, and it is ok for me to feel this and any other feeling. And more than this, I have come to believe that it is important to not distance ourselves from our feelings nor our experiences as humans. I believe this distancing to be the cause of justified self aggression and aggression in the workplace. However, this very humbling week reminded me of how difficult it really is to sit with my feelings while allowing the thoughts to come and go (or stay for a while) while in the middle of life. For me, the workplace is and has seemingly been in this lifetime perhaps the most difficult arena in which to train.

Perhaps Samsara can be a friend or at the very least I can learn to see it as such. While it definitely has the sense of the cyclical endless patterns of dark habits forming and reforming with the potential of ensnaring me/us, there is also the faint sense that precisely because I recognize some of the habits and repetitive scenes (like I have worked in cube-land before; and I have been in situations where my bosses have forgotten the true meaning of our job (teaching, writing, language, education, being human…), I can now choose not to engage in them.

I found myself saying that I can choose to be nice, though, being a Buddhist is not particularly about being nice boys and girls. It is perhaps about being real, genuine from the sense of softness that can be accessed when I am not fighting myself or trying to hide. From that softness, being genuine may open the space so that others can be genuine as well. In parting, I asked my friend/trainer a rhetorical question; it was rhetorical because while I did not expect and answer I expected a response. I said: “It’s not rocket science choosing to be nice. Why does it seem so difficult? Why do we so easily forget about being human and about being nice to each other in the context of work? Why am I telling you this? You are one of the nicest people I know!” But to my surprise he answered, and his answer was: Confirmation.

How wonderful it is that I could/can hear this word and hold it close to my heart. It helped me see. As a Buddha with training-wheels I do not need confirmation, nor do I believe that it should be necessarily sought. But I know that as humans we thrive in the space where our Basic Goodness is confirmed by and in the presence of the ineffable other. I dream of putting that space back into education, healing, interpreting, and all other fields were we find ourselves at work or at play. Perhaps this is to happen one conversation, one encounter, at a time. I have come to believe that workplaces and/or classrooms where our humanity is consistently ignored and/or thought of as an object to be bought or sold reduce us to being merchandise or merchants at best. For now I am simply thankful.

I thank the friend that held the space for me, and with me, on Friday. And I am thankful for the space-mind-heart that allows for the lessons that samsara-as-teacher may bring to emerge. I am thankful to the dharma and the to the Sakyong and all Teacher(s) that have touched my heart and send constant reminders that we are in this together. May this writing be of service.

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