This Past Week: Quickening comes in threes

ONE
This past Tuesday Oct 10, while at work, we were told at the end of our daily meeting, that two of our supervisors had resigned, effective in two weeks. I was hired into this job I love doing, into the world of interpreting and translating in a hospital, by one of them.  I had not met the second supervisor until earlier this year, but she is also a sweet soul. I wondered if this the was equivalent somehow to two quickenings in terms of this piece.
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Fast forward. As they were telling us at the meeting that they would both be leaving a wave of numbness rushed to protect me from feeling pain or anything else, and to hold me propped up as if from within. At first, for some seconds I thought that only one person would be  leaving. But, the heart that had been momentarily wrapped in the numbness, knew better. I stayed there watching the racing thoughts go through me like needles burning their way out… watching as small tears wanted to pour, and the pressure settled on my throat and upper chest. I stayed with it… I told my supervisor that I didn’t have to like the fact that she was leaving. She asked me if I could at least accept it. And that was easy to answer. It was a simple yes, simply because I want her to be happy, whole, with a sense of moving forward. I just sense that for her, staying is not the option that would allow her to be satisfied. The week kept moving…
TWO
On Thursday Oct 12, my paycheck for two weeks came for around 700 low-dollars, and one of my childhood friends called me to tell me that she is really ill. On that phone call, she also thanked me for the long friendship we’ve shared. In essence, she said goodbye to me.
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I am not sure why, but my friends call shifted something in me. It was a knife parting, cutting through, a veil. I wanted to be near my friend but I could not. We live in different countries, and I could not afford the trip. In the midst of the sadness and fears I was experiencing, I understood, with the clarity of freshwater that lets you see deep within a lake or pond, that I want and need to be able to at least care for myself, undergo surgery, or treatments, or make a trip if it were needed to be by a friend’s side.
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So, I decided to grow up: I would/will go back into teaching if necessary so that I can have a steady check and be covered by insurance, regardless of the fact that I would still much rather stay working as an interpreter/translator. I also decided to grow up and speak truth, be genuine with the director of my department. I would let her know directly that I wanted to help her rebuild, create something new, and I would tell her about what I bring to the table (without tooting my own horn, just my truth). And then, I would ask her if I should wait or if I should shift gears completely in order to teach again. I am happy to say that this conversation took place.
THREE
As a Dominican I grew up believing that hard things seem to always come in threes. So as soon as my phone conversation with my friend ended on Thursday, I wondered what the third thing would be in this triad. And for a while I thought it would have to be the low paycheck I received and the discomfort of being again in that place where money is an issue. But either I was wrong, or there are two triads going on for me at this moment. The latter does not seem likely, though it is not impossible either. The triads are usually signaled by 3 events or experiences that shatter parts of ego-monkey-brain, break my heart or do both.
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BOTH. On Friday 13th another friend had invited me to a talk, and I decided to go. The friend that invited me was there, and I am thankful because it makes it easier for me to have the anchor of someone known. Childish. And yes, judgmental  but that is Monkey-Brain raising its head. I am shy and awkward in social and/or new situations.
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In the midst of the awkwardness I was feeling, my eyes caught something that again called forth the protective wave of numb. And, I remember how I started telling myself in that instant that I had not seen anything, that I was inventing things. However, I also willed myself to look over and over again, in order to see. I was not prepared for what I saw. And I was thankful for being able to access the wave of numbness that allowed me to momentarily remain in place. In dissociating myself from pain, at least a part of me can remain and do what I need or want to do, and even enjoy it.
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The space where the talk took place had a simple huge decorative cage, very similar to the huge cages (almost floor to ceiling) one of my friends has for the 15 to 20 odd birds she keeps indoors, inside the house. I remember staring at the structure when the first presenter began to talk, and wondering what it was. But since I could not conceive of a bird cage in that space, it did not register as such.  I could not see it, very much like the natives in the Americas could not see the conquerors’ ships in the horizon for they had no conceptual formation, no words in which to wrap said ships. I kept listening to the speaker, and letting my eyes move between her face, the flowers, the lights in the room, and the people in the room. And then her part of the presentation ended and we moved to another area where the next speaker had set her space.
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I had a chance to sit close to my friend aware of the wave or wrap of numbness that still enveloped me. The wave describes what it feels like to be in the active process of becoming numb. The wrap describes what it is like to be aware of what’s going on around me and within me. It allows me to think what is numb and not feel it. It is as if the thoughts and my interacting with what is around me cover the pain/fear/sadness/joy, or whatever I could be feeling full force. And then, I saw it! I actually looked at the cage and recognized it for what it was. I saw it and for an instant I was mystified by my previous inability to see it from the other side.
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As I felt bombarded from without by repetitions of what had originally disturbed me, and from within by the thoughts that poorly masked my feelings, I was at least able to stay with the parts of me that remained present and aware. What I had seen was simply tenderness. That’s all. It was a tenderness that I perhaps wanted for myself but seeing it, admitting that I wanted it, and feeling envy was too much to grok. So I stepped out mentally. Well, a part of me stepped out.
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I am aware that I called forth the wave that became the wrap that allowed me to step out. I am grateful for that ability. And I am sad. I am sad not because of what I saw, since I also remember the sense of feeling joy that someone could feel that tenderness, and that it was reciprocated. I am sad, not because I faced the death of seeing the tenderness as “not for me”, “not mine”; nor because I saw envy rearing its ugly head again in my life. After all, envy is just klesha, and it’ll go back to where it originated.
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These were small hues of the larger sense of sadness I felt/feel and the anger aimed at myself for knowing that for years I have carried and held myself captive in a personal cage of sorts. I sustained the cage(s) in which I have hidden most of my life. The sadness and the anger is due to understanding that from within my cage I forbade myself 1) to feel, 2) to show what I was truly or completely feeling to anybody, and 3) from trying to share feelings, or felt-thoughts verbally except with very few people. The sadness is that I never allowed for depth to truly touch me.
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Looking Within. Since I became a Buddhist, dismantling what keeps me from truly loving and/or accepting myself and any-and-all others on my path has been my guide, and my path itself. I believe it is necessary to look at my cocoon, where I close up or call forth the wave/wrap of numbness and in so doing move towards expressing my true-feeling heart.
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I am content in the knowledge that I see a difference in me since I started on this path. That I see growth, regardless of how small that growth feels or is. My karma and kleshas burn when I look into their seeming darkness. And because of this, I may choose to not be near the tenderness that so hurt me recently because I am not part of it, or because I cannot give it. And I may also choose to be gentle enough to not completely isolate from others or wall myself off, and to at least speak-write about my path instead of simply continue to feed a cocoon that would separate me from being present to my life.
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Growth and Karma: In writing I can allow myself to feel the yucks of envy, sadness and anger, and thus the wrap that numbs is not as tight, and I can process parts of this week quite soon after the triggering events. However, I am not blind. This tendency to wall myself off, and to ward off touch from people I love is ancient. In my family of origin, in this lifespan, two messages were clearly seared between my ears: The first one was, I am hurting him/you for your own good, because I love you. And the second one was, you should not open your heart, nor love your friends or others outside of the family so easily, because they will hurt you. I honestly do not know how to not buy into these false messages because their roots run deep, and I am susceptible and easily caught in their web. So I lay down my shield, my walls, again and again, little by little. And I pray that I can learn to feel tenderness without fear and anger, and that I can learn to bestow it and accept it without recoiling.
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With this piece I have briefly opened the eyes of my heart and its wings. And while I truly do not know where this will take me, I know that I am grateful for the teaching(s) that allow me to see the gem within my heart, and to those that teach me, though I don’t always like the lessons as I am learning them.  Burning heart. Sad heart. Common denominator: Heart.  May this writing be of benefit to others on their paths.

Thanksgiving 2015

Originally written on November 26, 2015.

There is a thread weaving through any and all of my experiences and though I may not always be aware of the thread, nor particularly happy about it when I am aware, it is nonetheless there. So, on a day like today, I wonder what to do about an aspect of my existence as a human being that is elusive at best, and as un-graspable as when a child tries to grasp air with his bare hands… And all I can come up with is a sense of deeply felt and quasi-arrogant gratitude.

I feel deeply grateful for having been born, for being alive. I am grateful for every breath I take, and for the whiffs of cologne, or incense, or all the scents of our world regardless of my opinions of them as pleasant or not. I am grateful for they are reminders of the fact that I am alive, that I have a beating heart, and that I can feel, breathe, see, hear, touch, taste and share the loneliness of never being quite able to make another human see or feel what I feel. But the art and the dance of this life is in the willingness to share, and be… So, I am grateful for this precious-fragile human birth.

Needless to say, not everything I have experienced in this life, nor contributed to, has been beautiful or benign. And therein lies the savage, wild, raw beauty of the human experience: if we are brave enough to let ourselves be touched by it; better yet, when I am brave enough to let it touch me and when I maybe look or touch back in return, then there is the possibility of being awake, soft-hard, sadly-joyful…in touch with the very moment in which I am, and with the vastness of time and space from where all moments and experiences arise…

I am here in this very precise moment totally present with heartfelt gratitude and with certainty that I have done this before, that I have felt this way before, and that this knowledge needs no confirmation. I know that for as long as there is consciousness encased in a human body, caught in this fleeting precious human birth, there are reverberations or ripples for each and every action charged with intention which I effect. And I know that this sense of ripples, like the rings that form around the spot where a stone thrown within water in a pond falls, this sense of ever expanding ripples, opens and travels and inevitably encounters those of other people. What I do has effects that touch others and carry over time… So I am grateful for the opportunity to be touched by others, and the ability to clarify not my each and every action, but the heart and intention from where I act and be; i.e. the ability to choose what to accept and reject so that the field or vast space where my heart-mind resides, interacts or plays with others remains clear.

The waves of gratitude for being alive are truthful waves… The waves speak of the constant changing of the cells in my body, of the movement of the different people that I may encounter on a daily basis, of the socio-political changes that I have seen in the world…of the wars, invasions, genocides, of the emergence of new faiths and world views… The waves speak of the human tendency to desperately want to freeze or fossilize any one of its experiences. I still do. With humbleness I recognize that this is just a part of being human, and something that may help soften me/us: seeing that change simply is; that it is inevitable; and seeing with an open hearted attitude, that in spite of instinctively knowing about the inevitability of change, we will still forget about it in our attempts to be happy by capturing or freezing those fleeting expressions of life. The truth carried by the waves of gratitude for being alive is simply this: change bound to life, is also bound to death. And opening to change, regardless of (my) being able to do so for very brief moments at a time, also brings with it the possibility of starting out from a softer space, of being awake, and of being present to my world.

And then there is this, this last wave of gratitude. I live in this merry-go-round like world where I have had the opportunity to visit and revisit past mistakes, relationships, good deeds, falling in-through-or-out-of love… All of it over and over again, as if to say: what will you do differently this time? Anything? And I am grateful because it is in the ups and downs of this merry–go-round that I have been given teachings that touch my heart and speak to a life worth living as long as I allow myself to feel and share the openness, as long as I am open enough to embody as much as the teachings as I can, so that others, in turn can be touched, softened, lit from within.

And so it is that in a moment of crystal clear awareness I can both feel and express my gratitude for the depth and power of the priceless teachings, for the presence of those who teach me whether or not they are called teachers, for the willingness to be taught, and for the circumstances dark and light, painful and loving that mark the path I share with you today. Because it all served to bring me here, ¡Gracias a la vida!

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Opening and Shutting

This was originally written on October 29, 2015.

So here we go. I have not written in a while… rusty… the words struggle not only to come out, but to express the heart without oughts, without shoulds or shouldn’ts… to express what is, what simply is. But it is not always easy to express what is because my heart’s truth at any moment may not be politically correct, or nice, or even conform with the view of the majority. Breathe. Tears.

Perhaps it may be also difficult to express that which is in my heart, because in spite of all the teachings and how friendly and forgiving I can be to others, I am still a baby in terms of allowing myself to be ok with whatever is happening within me. In brief, my ego-monkey-brain still wants to look good in the eyes of others, and responds to an ingrained habitual sense of shoulds and oughts. My ego-monkey-brain still wants to be liked, confirmed.

However, my tender and more courageous heart knows that there is no ego, no monkey-brain, no confirmer, and no confirmation needed. And it also knows that there is the depth of each and every moment felt. Each moment truly felt is a step that allows true humanity to shine. However, from this ego-monkey-brain mode, it is still very hard for me to admit to myself that there are people with whom I shut down or rather people with whom my walls come up really fast. But the walls are not the problem. Nor is the speed with which they can go up or come down. The battle begins, the real trouble, the aggression that could escalate into wars if enacted (by groups of people) without questioning or reflection, when I do not allow myself to feel as I do, because “I ought to like her/him, she’s just a child…” or because “you should not feel that way, it is not nice…” or “there are no reasons for you to feel that way” or “you should know better…” that’s when the real trouble begins.

This is how habits and conditioning begin. Phrases uttered by well-meaning parents and the various teachers that we encounter in our lives, doing the best they can to raise us. So we learn to shut and mask our true feelings. But I don’t think we learn this anew. It is simply that their teachings trigger the memories accumulated through eons and add more potential seeds for karma in the course of our inhabiting a precious human body.

So at the moment that I shut my feelings, that I numb myself because I don’t trust what I feel, and start acting based on being afraid of how I feel, then I am simply stepping into the setting sun mentality, the perspective of living from the cocoon. This feels true. May this be of help.

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All Around Topsy-Turvy

This was originally written on June 28, 2015

It’s been a tops-turvy three to four years, for sure. But if I were to look further back I could say that mine has altogether been a topsy-turvy life. I suspect that this is what most people feel about their own lives.
I saw yesterday that I have hidden for some time now. I have been hiding with fear, and a deeply set feeling of unworthiness. I don’t write much anymore because I fear the consequences, and because I am afraid that no one will like what I have to say. I sit behind anger and fear related to getting old, being alone and unwanted, and not having anything of value to leave behind when I die.
Last night a flash of understanding hit me: that instead of valuing this life, this human life for being, simply being, I had cocooned myself in price tags: how much have I done for you; how much can I do; how much-how many… I remembered last night that since a very early age, I thought that I had to earn my keep, the right to be alive and/or loved. My family of origin was not really affectionate or demonstrative of love, but it demonstrated very clearly when my brother or I were not in good standing, or merited anything other than very harsh words or physical punishment. For the most part demonstrations of love served as coinage, means toward something else. So I learned what I needed to do to survive, and within that I learned to not value myself.

I feel that I am slowly crawling out of the cocoon in which I initially hid when I brought my niece to live with me, and was coming to terms with my decision to leave my companion of eleven years. (All of this happened in 2010 and 2011.) The walls of that cocoon were made of shame, of feeling that I was a failure as a woman, a failure as a sister, as a writer, as a human. The walls of that cocoon were tied with fears of survival, and the belief that if I could not prove myself, I did not deserve to survive, or be happy.
But, I cannot hide from myself. Not really. I am a Buddhist and human in training. The call is to cause no harm, extend my heart to others, and learn to experience this/my world as sacred. The call is to help manifest enlightened society, enlightenment on the spot. The call is a deeply felt sense that we are needed if this planet is to survive. Thus, as I break through the walls of my cocoon, I do so with a sense of wonder: how would I show up in my life if I felt whole and worthy? What can I do to extend this beating heart to others who might be in a cocoon of their own? How do I train in seeing or experiencing my world(s) as sacred? And for now, I leave this page with that. May it be of help to someone.

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Letting Myself In: Writing

I had not published anything to my blog in 2015 and right at this moment, I feel that I want to add some of the unpublished writings, and perhaps some images from this year, before it ends. Overall, it’s been a hard year, not bad, just powerful and intense. Perhaps this is why I could not make myself do one more thing. Perhaps it was fear, laziness. Maybe even a combination of all these… I am not really sure. But this has been the year of voluntarily putting myself on the spot in many ways, as if to say: Wake up!! The world needs you to be awake…!! And there were also many things that simply came my way, like most things in life, as if for me to learn to stay as grounded as possible with anything and everything. Perfect training ground life is!!! (A Yoda moment.)

Here are some of my year’s highlights: This is my second year as a teacher in a different school district; I declared bankruptcy in the first quarter of the year; I moved to a new apartment a week or so before the end of last school year (May 2015); I started working out in June; went to Maine and Canada; I became a Vajrayana student on my path; I have continued editing as a freelancer; I started playing the guitar and getting my voice more or less ready to sing again; I have made new friends and reconnected with old ones…

I guess 2015 has been the year where in many ways I’ve begun opening my heart again. The thing is, that once one of my heart’s doors open, other doors open as well…feelings arise, and my path becomes clear: the task is to remain as soft and as open as possible, while participating fully in my world(s) at the same time. And to my amazement, somehow more seems to fit in this heart-mind of mine than I ever thought possible: love, falling in love, tiredness, creativity. And I am grateful.

I am grateful to my Guru-teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche; to all my teachers, whether obviously Buddhist or not; to the teachings…

So I’ll start uploading to my blog sites some of the pieces, notes, poems, photos I have from this year.

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Gratitude 2014

Earlier this morning I reached out to the sangha, because once again, I am under serious financial stress. I am being sued because of debts, and in order to file for bankruptcy I need to pay the lawyer’s fees. Knowing this, it is pretty awesome, I think, to feel the gratitude I feel tonight, in spite of those fears. And I would like to share about this deeply felt gratitude.

Today, I reached out in spite of ego-monkey-brain’s screaming that it is embarrassing to confess one’s needs, especially financial needs, to people outside one’s household. That is simply part of the very ancient programming, or habitual mind, that I carry. But becoming a Shambhalian Buddhist means that I get to listen to all those voices, and I get to cradle them in that cradle of loving-kindness, because they are afraid. And knowing this, I feel sad for the adults that so many years ago trained me to believe as they did, because they were afraid and embarrassed too. While I was forbidden to speak about our financial problems, they felt the brunt of the fears. I did not believe necessarily that being poor was a reason to not speak, ask for help, or be embarrassed, but I was bound by the shame I learned to feel, and the desire to not cause them pain.

However, times have changed and the winds of faith and Shambhala have cooled me enough that I can move in spite of my fears, and go against the screaming voice within me to follow the softer voice of sanity. Today that softer voice said that I needed to ask friends and sangha for help. And also today, shortly after I wrote, a sangha brother responded that he will help me with the fees. My heart sank and bounced up again partially in disbelief, and partially in awe and gratitude. A little later, I felt a second wave of relief when I realized that those who had responded to my message of need were not saying what my monkey-brain was saying: WHAT? YOU ARE ASKING FOR HELP, AGAIN? Instead they were kind, supportive, and caring; not punishing me as the loud voice in my head was doing.

The winds of faith and Shambhala have cooled me enough that I listened to the softer voice of sanity a second and a third time today. The voice whispered: go practice, and I did. I sat with White Tara, and I did my Ngondro. And while practicing, I saw that Monkey-Brain felt embarrassed to ask for help even from the lineage. I cried, the tears just rolled and I kept practicing because, what else was there to do? After I finished practicing I felt lighter. I remembered that tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I decided to write this note of gratitude.

The sense of gratitude I feel at this moment goes beyond the help and words I received today. I am relatively healthy. My niece has become a dental hygienist (still waiting for her license, so no job yet). My brother and his wife are doing well. I like my new workplace. I have found true friends in my new job. I have friends that I love and care about, and friends from childhood that I keep in touch with. I have friends from the larger sangha. And I have Shambhala, and the Austin sangha.

I am grateful to the Sakyong for choosing to remain as our beloved teacher. I am grateful to Chogyam Trungpa for the bravery to cross the Himalayas and come to the West to teach and bring the teachings. I am grateful to all my teachers in Shambhala and outside the context of Buddhism, because I know that it takes heart to stand in front of others with the intention to help them develop their potential as human beings. And finally, today I am thankful to the soft voice, for not giving up on me. I guess that soft voice is the voice of Basic Goodness. And I guess that Basic Goodness is that soft sanity that can also be immovable. But I am just guessing.

I wish you all, together with your friends and family, a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever you happen to be. Peace.
Rita

Request and Gratitude

Please help me get to Sacred World Assembly, the next program in my Buddhist Studies. I just created a page with the Offering Bowl. Every little bit helps…. All you have to do is go to The Offering Bowl’s website and donate! You will help a fellow practitioner continue her studies and you will accumulate good karma! Thanks for reading this….

http://theofferingbowl.com/index.php/petitioners/402-rita-ricardo

My first, and hopefully not last, solo retreat

Solo 1, Day 2
[I opened this retreat on the evening of December 26 when I returned home, to my apartment, after I spent time with my friend Linda and two bunnies. The 27th was the first full day.][Note: It seems easier to focus in the morning sessions. My mind seems more scattered in the afternoons] So, these notes uploaded retroactively in January 2014, are just reflections from this beginner’s mind-heart, with the hope that they help others feel less alone or embarrassed.]

So, today, December 28 2013 I am home. Like I was this time last year, I am in retreat. Only this year, this is my first solo retreat, and I chose to do it here at home. I am following the guidance given by my meditation instructor regarding schedule and what to do…but the actual experience is my own. So if I were to look at it from a conventional point of view I’d say, Are you crazy doing this at a time where you tend to feel so vulnerable? But I guess that’s the point isn’t it? We live a life of aspirations in order to uncover the Shambhala Kingdom within us, among us, right here, right now from whatever corner of conventional life and mind we find ourselves.

Yesterday, the first full day was somehow easier than today. Today, it was difficult to wake up, I was really tired and I also woke up in a little bit of bad mood; maybe not bad, maybe just dark. However, I went on. I found that my little cloud shifted towards midday, to become just open, sad…

I felt the weight of these questions: Why was I doing this? Why am I in retreat? Why do I meditate and continue to gravitate towards a life of spiritual study , or simply put why do I gravitate towards a spiritual life at all when the disciplines do not come easy to me?

Nonetheless I am here. Sad. And then I saw / read a question posed by Moh Hardin to the Sakyong in the text Taming the Mind. He asked why he should follow the path of the Budha…He himself concluded that it was (for him) a choiceless choice, and that it was/seemed real. And this touched me deeply.
I am at a point where Buddhism is a choiceless choice. Shambhala Buddhism is ‘home’ in many ways…but I question it, I question the/my choice itself, and recently I find myself frequently questioning my feeble understanding of the Sakyong’s turns/changes. Yet here I am. The sweetness of the path takes me to wanting to go deeper/further, I guess in an attempt to further stop my mind; to further understand; and hopefully to be of use in this world. I am currently on my way to enter the Vajrayana aspect of Shambhala Buddhism. And in my mind, I wonder if I could go and study more deeply in a seminary, monastery type environment; in the context of a longer retreat. Why Not? Why?

So I shed a couple of tears as I was about to resume practice. A phrase from what I had read , in response to Moh’s question, “what is real is intangible”, just got to me. We struggle to understand what reality is, what existence or non-existence really mean, only to be reminded that none of what we/I can fixate on, latch onto, really gets to it. No definition will suffice, but we need teachers to touch our hearts so that the words can point the way to our own understanding, so that we can then touch it, be touched by it and then let it go/be. We are at best, space for the teachings to take place again and again, for the teachings to remain alive and save humanity from itself in this dark age. We are this space. Nothing else but human heart-space.

Solo 1, Day 3 Sunday December 29
Trust that the words that want to come out are the words that need to come out to be heard (if only by me).
So today I woke up with the alarm, but little by little I snoozed it and remained in bed, with the result that I came out of bed an hour or so later than the designated 6:50 o’clock wake up time. I relished being in bed, feeling the warmth of the sheets and the softness. I woke up tired. But how could  I not? Last night I started my distraction around 8 pm, attempting to fix the problem(s) with the applications on this ASUS. I got distracted, looked at Google Books, looked at Apps, downloaded the podcast player and some Dharma podcasts…and by the time I mentally yanked myself from doing this it was already past 11:00 PM. I felt the sense of dread I commonly feel when going to work, to my new school. And almost immediately, I felt the voice of inner reproach saying something related to “you should know better, or do better…you are in retreat….how embarrassing…” And when I finally got out of bed the same voice started saying, “you are not a full human, you’ve never felt alive, or wanted to be alive…”; “the Sakyong would be embarrassed or angry if he knew that you wake up every day without feeling content, without a thought for enlightened society, without a thought for others…” And deep and on it went.

How sad to realize that in general I still rely on the angry voice, on self punishment or self-deprecating, in order to train myself. How sad indeed to see, that when it comes to my thoughts, feelings… I do not honor them but instead corral them almost out of existence.

Having started my day late is interesting. Do I try to catch up with the suggested schedule? Or do I stick to the schedule and end my day later? Or perhaps I should punish myself by not doing Sadhana or stroke practice and just sit there?
There it is. I am not really sure of whether or not I have progressed in my  practice. I would like to think I have progressed but then again, I do live with the thoughts running wild, or with the mind that simply will not sit, choosing instead to wonder amidst its fantasies of love, aggression, enlightenment, disillusionment, going to a Buddhist center to study, or the more mundane, going back to the DR, or wanting to sing again…am not even sure as to whether or not I should be writing this. But I did. It is a kind of suburban contemplation. An acknowledgement of the voice that says:  “YOU should know better or do better. YOU want to serve? You are not worthy!! Not ready!! …Too full of yourself…” And for the brief moments of positive and trusting in my Basis Goodness, there are so many more of the negative self-inflicted messages. No wonder the/my cocoon exists: Why would anybody/I want to hear the same messages coming seemingly from other people, but in truth just being a reflection of my own
thoughts/beliefs….? I guess one good thing has come out of all this blah blah blah. I understand a little better that the cocoon protects me/us, and how it does it. I also understand a little better, that really we all have our cocoons/shells.
Sad to say this is where I am today: Yes, all beings including me are basically good, and by extension society is basically good as well; but we also have our projections and cocoons to deal with. And part of mine is just being so afraid of being hurt by what I think others will have to say to me, that I make it really difficult for the tender-hearted person that I am to come out and BE, just be. And this is somehow related to feeling worthy. This sense of dignity, worthiness, appreciation is hurting; so it tends to manifest in enclosed and defensive ways… But in order to hurt, it must be there. And this is good news, very good news indeed!!! If I could move beyond my self defensiveness and allow myself to truly show up…. but this requires Maitrigetting out of my own way, and bravery… So for now, this is my attempt at being gentle, and acknowledge what is going on with me.

Solo 1, Day 4 Monday December 30
Another day of sad, deeper understanding; of begrudgingly being humbled by the teachings and their depth. It’s  like this.  If I am to be honest, borderline brutally honest, but with gentleness, with myself…I must come to term with this, say it, and then be…

This was another morning of waking up late, though not as late as yesterday. Another day when the auto-pilot of yelling at myself, and putting myself down almost got turned on. But I noticed it, and so it didn’t come as harsh as it would have had I not seen it. The truth is that I have held a somewhat inflated view of myself and what I could do or wanted to do for the dharma…the truth is that I also have held my practice in a high pedestal, while covering it up with modesty. Now here’s the thing: While some of the humbleness, modesty was/is truly felt, it nonetheless confounded the fact that I have delirios de grandeza in terms of my understandings of the teachings, and of everything in general really. I really have over the years prided myself silently on being smart, and this smartness-smugness has shielded me from feeling and being open to the reality of how vulnerable I feel; how scared I am.

At this point, much of the vulnerability, softness, and fear I feel are centered around the issue of there not being time, not simply because there is a lot of work to be done for our world, but because I, me, am getting old; and I am afraid of the loneliness, not having a mate, dying without having made peace with my brother, dying without legacy-childless, without having done anything of consequence. And my fears sometimes paralyze me; and then it all begins again, the up and down merry-go-round of kleshas, depressive negative self-deprecating feelings-thoughts, disguised within waves of anger at myself under the guise of: You should have known/done better if indeed you had been as seasoned a practitioner, or as deep in your understanding as you thought you were. But I see  it with sadness and a small sense of relief. I saw it rearing its ugly head, the habitual self-deprecating thought that truly does not help me or anybody else. And while I know, there is a part   of me that is still trapped by believing it; I can choose to remember that for the most part, it is just a thought, and as such it will come and go, only to come and go again.

When I choose to remember, I can also then see that where I am, or seem to be is just right. No matter how pissed angry confused I may feel at any given time. Even when visited by the trap of doubts and fears that scream: Why is it that you do this? Why are you studying the dharma, seemingly forgetting God, and your place in the universe? Even when the doubts are at their loudest, I am comforted by the notion that the Path touched my heart when nothing else did, and that I want others, anyone that comes through the doors searching for something, to be welcomed thee same way I was. I want to help provide the multiple spaces needed for the Dharma to flourish: the space of place, the space of the mind of the teacher(s) and the space of the encounter, for the Dharma only happens when the space of the student-mind and the teacher-mind come together as one. So, humbled and grateful. Ki Ki, So So…

Solo 1, Day 5 Tuesday December 31, Half Day/Closure
[Contemplations based on reading, Stroke practice; Shambhala Sadhana with Feast; Protector and Closing chants…][Se acaba cuando se acaba…]
So today I step out of the enclosed space of this retreat, and walk back into life…whatever that means…and I suspect I can only find out by living my life as fully as I can. Tomorrow, we start 2014.

I have sadly and perhaps begrudgingly learned in the course of this retreat that my fantasies are disguised as aspirations, and that they stem from my mind wandering into a different now, as if this moment were not precious enough. Today’s stroke practice was simple. My mind-heart dictated that I should read the text The Golden Sun of the Great East. I would read a section at a time, out loud, and follow it with a stroke. It seemed and felt right. As I was doing this, a quiet thought passed by. It illuminated how I picked up the text Taming the Mind and the Heart of the Bodhisattva and have been reading from it, and using it as a source of contemplation. It seems as if I cannot go forward in the path, forward with my studies and the experiential aspects of this path, without touching upon and allowing myself to be touched over and over by some of the teachings I received in the first couple of years in Shambhala.
This human heart-mind seems to exist in the space between the roots of the path and the canopy of leaves from where it breathes and stretches to include all beings. And I say this with care, for during these days of retreat, I have been “visited” by the memory of beings who have passed away: mami, Cunda, Aida, Lola, Buella, abuela, el hermano Alfredo, George Hasty, Lynda Jordan, Harvey Jordan, Stanley Grean….And by the memories of people who while still alive, are not in the circle of people immediately around me: Manolo, my brother who doesn’t talk to me, Paula in Portugal, Kevin Anderson… Indeed, I have lived in the span of this one life what seems to be the experiences and love of many lifetimes. So I am fortunate.

Prayer for the New Year


I pray that I can live my life according to the Dharma. I pray that my understanding deepens. I pray for humanity to open its eyes to its own beating human heart before it is too late, before we reach a point of (environmental) no return. I pray that I can listen to the teachings. I pray that I can be of service when others make the choice to approach the teachings.  I pray for the teachings to multiply, and that for each person that wants to hear the teachings, the right circumstances manifest. I pray for the leaders of this world, so that they may be guided by the truth of a tender-hearted humanity into creating a world for generations to come. I pray that we decide to not wage war against each other as a way to solve our problems. I pray that we walk out of our self-imposed slavery to the principles of greed, and narrow heartedness into a self liberated view of all-encompassing acceptance. I pray…I be.

This is the seed of my prayer for this new year about to start.

May all beings be happy…may they  be free from suffering.

A Different Tuesday Meeting

From a Tuesday afternoon in November of 2013
 

Today was a day just like any other but it was also slightly different. It was another Tuesday, and where I work Tuesdays mean having faculty meetings at the end of our day: long faculty meetings. So we started our meeting around 3:10 in the afternoon and we ended around 4:40 pm, and this was not too different from the previous Tuesday.  I went in hoping that today’s meeting would end soon, but it ended late; however, the end had a totally different feeling this time. If you had asked me what feeling it was right there and then, I do not believe I could have named it, or even understand that I was feeling somehow different about this meeting. It was hours later that things dawned on me, and I am grateful for this little dawn, or awakening.


This is how it happened, or perhaps it’s just how I remember it. I drove home, and when I got here I did the dishes. Then I went to meditate, to practice. After practice I decided to take a warm bath because I felt sore, and just plain tired. While in the tub, I was reading a passage about the notion of “basic goodness” in one of the Sakyong’s book and it was then that clarity  hit me, very viscerally. I realized that what was really different this time about the meeting was my experiencing it as basic goodness, and to my surprise, not just as an individual’s basic goodness, but as that of society. 
 
It made me happy to recognize this feeling/experience, albeit late, and to feel surprised at the realization that this instance of experiencing basic goodness co-emerged or was happening at the very same time my cynicism about the meeting and public school in general was also present. In fact, I suspect that I could not have had or come to acknowledge this instance as an experience of Basic Goodness  if i had somehow tried to cut off or stop my regular dose of disbelief in the system. So I am thankful for this brief respite. May I and others have the opportunity to feel moments such as this.
 
[This experience of the basic goodness of society all started with a teacher…Will…the discussion he led expressing that he had high expectations for the humans that write our curriculum, and those that are writing our new roadmaps…And how his words moved me in a meeting where usually most of my disbelief, cynicism and defenses are active.]

Autumn Notes

Before fully writing on this page, I want to “place” or situate myself.

  • I am currently taking a class at the center: Basic Goodness: Who Am I? In this class we have been working with the notions of skandhas, ego, karma, meditation, embodiment, aggression, gentleness, and authentic presence, to name a few. This class has served as a sort of energetic “brillo pad” needed to reach my ability to relax albeit, briefly, from the strong noose of my beliefs and fears. Not particularly the theme of this entry so I’ll go on.
  • The school year started on August 26th. On September 20th, at 4 pm, the principal officially told me that I would have to move to another school in order to teach Bilingual Ed., and thus keep my stipend. I was relieved; the wait was over. I was also very sad; I loved the kids I had.
  • Monday Sept 23, my kids’ new teacher came and stayed with us for the whole day. Tuesday, she came back but needed to finish packing her room. On Wednesday Sept 25th, I called my new school and said that I would be coming for a visit, to see my room. This was the first time the principal at my new school had heard that there was a bilingual teacher coming to the school. They really looked surprised when I showed up that morning. On the 26th and 27th, we both packed as best we could. The principal at my original school did not allow us a sub nor to split the kids so we could finish setting up our rooms.
  • On the week starting September 30th, a truck from the district came to pick my things and take them to my new school. Since then I have been cleaning everything that was left in the room which had been used for some years as a holding area for kids in the mornings before breakfast, and as a storage closet for extra furniture or things teachers did not want in their rooms. I needed to clear some space. I consider myself lucky because I was given the entire week to clean up and set up, and also to visit my new kids while they were in class with their teacher: a classroom with only one adult and 25 Pre-K students. I start class this Monday the 7th.
  • Whereas I experienced the school I am coming from as getting progressively fast paced and pushy, my new school seems laid back to the extreme. I have no computers in my room, my badge still does not work, and while there are other things to talk or think about, this also is not what I want to share at this moment. Though I felt it necessary as a preamble.

There is an opening, an almost elemental parting of energies, an allowing things to come through. For instance, this weekend I felt autumn waltzing into my apartment. I reorganized many things that had been in disarray for a long time, and I have just been happy. I feel a sense of lightness, and relief. Yesterday, I was bubbly with the sensation of love for my niece Camila. While I was cleaning and listening to the Cranberries, I felt lucky to have had time to spend with her. And I felt proud of her, and her life. And I felt her absence, and I wanted to go out with her.

While experiencing all this joy, I also had the sense of knowing that I just have around 200 dollars to end the month; the sense of being anxious about starting tomorrow with my new classroom; the sense of really wanting the tools I have grown used to for teaching: a projector and a document camera; the sense of knowing that there are phone calls to make, credit to be asked for; the sense of knowing that the US government is shut down… But it all seemed workable.

This past Tuesday, while in class at the center, I was touched by an insight as we were being guided into meditation by one of our teachers. As we/I heard the words that prompted us/me to be aware of our bodily sensations, of our feelings and emotions, and of our thoughts I was briefly visited by a memory of my brother. From this memory of having seen him around a year and a half ago (though we did not talk during that visit), my imagination jumped to 1) his getting back to me and yelling at me again for having allowed my niece to stay with me in 2010, and 2) to my very visceral (albeit imaginary) defensive/aggressive/scared reactions to the words I imagined him saying, and that I imagined myself hearing…

And then, a moment of clarity: I understood that I had imagined all of this in the space created by meditation; and I felt sad. I felt sad 1) to see that in my heart/mind I am afraid of him, my brother, and 2) that in order to deal with this fear, not simply of him, but the fear of being afraid, I cower when I am around him and I resort to pushing him (even the thoughts of him) away. And I was sad to see how in order to feel the layers of fear, how to genuinely feel the aggression and the fears that led to it, I needed
time that evening; time spent being guided into meditation, time where I felt safe enough. I was sad because often we need time, but we don’t give it to ourselves, or we just don’t seem to find it. I felt a sad because, I believe I am one of the lucky ones that has found this small space-time called Shambhala, or Buddhism, or perhaps it is just called practice; but nonetheless, I am one of the lucky ones.

Aspiration-I wish others had this small window of time-space. I believe having this small respite, and the willingness to slow down and look, or feel, could avert wars, could avert abuse, could avert destroying our environment. But all I can do is wake up as much as I can, and take myself (sometimes seemingly kicking and screaming) to the places where I can see myself clearly: Sometimes, as a mess of very confused images and fears. Sometimes, as a very warm and funny person. Sometimes sad. Sometimes peaceful. That’s me. That’s how humans, all humans, any human seem to be. And what we need is time to connect to our true self, to the space where we can feel, be and fully experience how soft, and vulnerable we truly are.