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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You punctured my heart
with instant space and the brittle heart you own.
And all I had to give you in return
was a broken gasp, and deep-felt warmth.

Wanting to hold and shield you,
to cup your face within my hands,
I wanted to whisper in your heart’s ears
that I see you:
human, strength,
fierce friend and brother,
the wings of a butterfly that has covered itself in ice
afraid of touching and being touched
afraid of feeling and not feeling anything at all…
while veiled by the illusion of control.

As the thoughts came flowing through my pen
the blood of gentle warriors
warmed my lips
and tears and moist poured from my eyes:
I wanted to hold you
but instead I witnessed
how your frozen wings began to flutter
echoing the beating of my own…

Garuda spans the Dragon’s dance
my breath was held
and in my mind
I held you closely so you could hear me softly say:
You are strength and beauty
fears and joy
a sentence dancing between night and day
more than words
courage moving to find its way.

Wrapped in stories that are just so,
we believe them to be Truth.
If Truth, they would define us…but as we hold them closely
their truth changes leaving us no trail at all…

Perhaps these stories are reflections,
patterns both and neither truth or not;
but at the core remains the essence:
the gem I see, that you forgot.


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Short Sweetness in a Glass

(Originally written on January 20th, 2016)


Short sweetness in a glass

Because knowing that all things are empty

Sometimes is not enough.


Short sweetness in a glass

Because sometimes at times all I see is doors closing on my face

Though I know they are just my thoughts…


Sweetness in a glass

Because today I’m not held tenderly and perhaps that’s all I want:

A gentle word, caring…

Empty of anger…

A touch that says, “I get you…: wind-blowing



Short sweetness in a glass half-empty

Warmly caressing my guitar

No echoes for my heartfelt longing,

Except the loneliness of the teachings from afar.


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Two Gifts from a Week Full of Mondays

Two Gifts from a Week Full of Mondays

This past week was one of those weeks which I call “a week full of Mondays”, with stressful, heavy long days punctuated by moments of opening. These openings were brief moments packed with tenderness that I was privileged to feel and to touch only because I somehow allowed myself to do so… So I guess the good news is that I feel that the path of meditation works: it walks on me, treads on me ever so gently reminding me that my task is to be there with my walking or dancing steps, but moving, always moving fully present with every step.

Framing: Three days without a working toilet in my pre-k classroom, and the cold weather that prevented us from going outside to play framed the week. The kids seemed restless, talkative, clumsy, careless with each other. On my part I was dealing with feeling sick, and not having had enough sleep. So by Thursday, I was really tired and painfully aware of how short my supply of patience and energy felt. This provides some context for the remainder of my Thursday after work visiting with a friend and then at choir rehearsal later that evening, and for Friday.

Thursday after work. My friend and I just chatted about our week, our day… and as it is with me, when I relax in the presence of someone I trust, I allow my questions, topics, jokes, laughter, sadness to flow without too much mental editing. Within the stream of our conversation I had asked a question which I cannot remember but to which he answered with a simple: “I don’t have a dad”. I followed with: –He passed? Died? And my friend’s reply was: –No. He had surgery and is now a woman. There are no words that can completely or remotely adequately describe my experience(s) at that moment. My-Mind-Heart-stopped. I felt time and things around me slowing down like when witnessing a car accident. I turned away from my friend. I looked away in order to hold myself without pushing thoughts, comments, feelings away. Blank. I needed to look away in order to hold myself without giving in to the thoughts, and feelings that were mine and mine alone. I needed to look away to my own reflection on the glass window panes that surrounded us so that I could feel and hold the sting that I heard on his voice when he uttered the phrase that I myself had uttered so frequently before: –I don’t have a dad.

And then, my gaze returned back to him and I just wanted very much to hold him, soothe him, take any sting from pain or anger away from him. Protect. In truth, I knew that these were/are my interpretations of what he had said. He never said to me that he was feeling pain or anger as he was speaking to me. But my heart-felt reaction was that I wanted to provide comfort, and space. And later on, I wanted to provide assurance: I wanted my words and my whole being to reflect to this other human being in front of me that the wholeness and light of his presence, his worth and the value of his being on this planet were not at all diminished by the content of any of the stories that contributed to his being the person that he is today. I wanted to convey to him that even if he were to take the same path as his dad, his integrity and worth would not diminish. And then, slowly, time and things around me recovered their usual speed. And as they did, I knew that I had been punctured and blessed by something precious. An image of a cartoon by Argentinian artist Quino came to my mind. In the cartoon strip there are very young children talking among themselves saying, What does a turtle have to do to be a turtle? A dog, to be a dog? Why do I have to go to school to become something? Instead of comforting my friend, touching his hand or sharing a gesture that would indicate that I SAW HIM through that and other stories that he has shared with me, all I managed to do was to say: Isn’t it amazing? we are the only creature always striving to be or become something that we are not. Breathe. I am not talking about not going to school, nor stopping our personal search and growth. The image of the cartoon in question represents the extent that we will go as humans in order to find our core, and/or be at ease with who we think we are.

Friday. Then, Friday came and I went to work. The kids were still wild, seemingly regressing to an emotional and social state reminiscent of where they were at beginning of the school year (perhaps related to two new students I got in January and their effect of the chemistry of the group). I was still tired and feeling somewhat ill. And then in the morning, bam!!! Someone had gone to our bathroom, and thrown dirty (poopy) toilet paper in the waste basket and floor. The smell. I noticed. As a group, we had been talking about this habit since August, the beginning of the school year, but there has been a relapse on the behavior and on not coming forward and telling the truth. So, in the morning I picked the toilet paper up, threw it in the toilet. Then, I congregated the group, and we talked about it. We agreed that we would be more careful and we recalled where the white paper goes after it is used, and what we have to do (flush and wash our hands). We moved on to work on our projects, and then we went to lunch, did music, and had our rest period. And then, again, bam!!! The waste basket in the bathroom was full of poop-laden-smelly toilet paper.

At that point, for my aide and I, the most important thing became trying to find out who had done it so that we could work with that particular child. And for me, it was also important to bring the group to the understanding that accusing a person likely to have done the deed would not necessarily relieve the group from having to act responsibly and that telling the truth is important, no matter how scary it feels. These are tough lessons even for adults to live by, so I felt for my kids. It was time for bad cop, good cop. My aide and I took turns asking them to let us know who had done it. We wanted the child who had done it to come forward with the truth. I said that if the person who’d done it would come forward and let either one of us know, nothing (bad) would happen. I also said that if nobody stepped forward, then I would have to let all parents know about the incident, so that they would take the retraining of the desired behavior in their hands. It was at this point that one of the boys started to cry. He had done so in the past when we have said that we would send notes home, or sad faces for everyone.

His crying somehow indicated to me something positive, i.e. that his parents actually read my notes and that they are actively involved in educating their child as a whole person. On the other hand, on that day he seemed brittle, anxious. I decided to take him out to walk with me in order to calm him because I had a very strong sense that it had not been him who had thrown the dirty toilet paper in the trash can. So I told the aide to handle the room: she was to allow them to be on their own to talk and when the person who had done it was ready, they should come to get us. She simply had to wait outside our classroom door. I took the boy by the hand and we started walking down the hallway. I prayed: please get me out of my way so that I can say what’s needed to be of comfort.

However, what I wanted to accomplish with the group and with the boy I had by the hand was easier said than done. As soon as the group saw me walking away with him, they wanted to escape too, so other boys started to cry to no avail. The aide, more like the other teacher, stayed with the group while I left with the little boy by the hand. Deep breath. My mind was frozen watching his tears and sobbing. I wanted to hug him, but I did not. Instead there was an exchange of words and gestures, mostly in Spanish and with translation because to top it all, he is one of the kids in my bilingual class for whom Spanish is not dominant, and I am never sure of how much he is really processing/understanding in any language. The exchange went something like this as we walked hand in hand up and down the corridor:

[While my walk with the boy was happening, the aide came out to stand by the door, and about three time a kid would come to get us saying so-and-so did it. After the third time, I went back in and I said: I do not want to hear: —he/she did it. I want to hear: –Teacher, I did it… Silence fell on the room as the understanding of what I wanted dawned on them…]


Me: –I know I am ugly. I think I look ugly when I am scolding you. Are you afraid of me?
Boy: (He nodded yes glancing at me, and not holding his gaze.)(I felt stung by my own long held beliefs of being an unattractive ugly person not just physically…)(Breathe….)
Me: –I am really sorry that you are afraid of me. I don’t want you or your friends to be afraid. I want to know the truth. And then softly, sweetly: Was it you that threw the dirty paper in the wastebasket??
Boy: (He looked up, held his gaze and nodded No.)
Me: –Then you have nothing to worry about. You should not be afraid and crying; nothing is going to happen because you told me the truth, your truth. You did not do it. You know what to do with the toilet paper.
Boy: (Still sobbing.)
Me: –I need to know who did it so that I can teach him or her to be a champion like you.
Boy: (Furtive glance at me, with the beginning of a smile)
Me: –If the person who did it tells me the truth, then I don’t have to talk with your moms and dads because I can teach him/her what to do with the toilet paper. But I know it is hard to tell the truth because I look mean and ugly. So you are very brave for telling me the truth, your truth. You don’t have to be afraid.
Boy: (Crying stopped, glance, serious look followed by a quick smile.)
Me: –If the person who did it does not tell me the truth, you also don’t have to be afraid because you have already told me your truth.
Boy: (Kept walking, and then yelled): –I don’t have to cry??? I don’t have to cry…
Me: –Why not? (Me sounding hopeful…)
Boy: –I don’t have to cry…I didn’t do it…I am a champion…
Me: –(Relieved because he had understood deeply…) You got it buddy!!! Can we go in there now? (He nodded yes.)Will you cry? (He nodded no.) (We walked together into our classroom.)

As we were walking in, my aide told me who had come forward. I was a little girl that has been with us from the beginning of the school year. I thanked the girl profusely in front of the group. I told them that she was very brave for telling the truth in spite of being scared. I told the group that I knew I looked ugly when I was angry, but that they should not be afraid of telling the truth. I said that since the truth was out I could now help the girl, and that moms and dads did not have to become involved. I instructed the aide to have the class sing and dance, to dissipate or move fear around before we resumed working on our projects. I asked the girl to come outside with me.

A bit of our exchange
Me: –Thank you for telling the truth. You are very, very brave. Now tell me, what happened that you threw dirty paper in the trash can? Is this how you do it at home? (This could be true in homes without proper plumbing or septic systems…)
Girl: –No.
Me: –When you’re at home, where do you throw the paper after you are done?
Girl: –Inside the toilet, in the water.
Me: –And then what happens?
Girl: –I flush.
Me: –So what happened today?
Girl: –I forgot… a mistake…
Me: –What can I do to help you with this so that it does not happen again?
Girl: –Happy face… I don’t want a sad face…
Me: –You are not getting a sad face today at all. If I put a sign in the bathroom with a drawing of the paper going in the toilet, will that help you remember?
Girl: (Big nod yes with a big smile on her face…)

And then back in the classroom, I announced: We all make mistakes. We all forget things. I make mistakes and forget things… it’s okay to make mistakes and forget things. What is not okay is to blame others for something that I forgot or for a mistake I made. And I know that sometimes telling the truth is very scary and does not feel good. But now, now we need to pick up our projects and line up. It’s time to go outside. (I needed time out.)

I pray for space… I pray that I can get out of my way, so that the words from my heart can flow. I pray with gratitude for the friend and students that like true teachers forced me this week to step outside the institutionalized-rotten-roles in which we all fall so that I could simply be: human-frail, human-brittle, human. Not a role. Not a category. I pray again with gratitude for the friend that punctured my arrogance, softening me with his shared truth. I have yet to milk all of the deep-felt understandings that stem from these two gifts for they both touch upon the notions of roles I play, how I play them, the beliefs I/we carry around from childhood. And the gifts also touched on the need to be fully present to ourselves so that I/we do not shut down and start acting from the constructs and concepts that I/we have adopted as the truth about me/us. In gratitude for the dharma that is in all, and for the ability to be touched by it.

I wrote this on a week of Mondays that marked the end of this dön season. May it be of benefit.

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Milking the Lesson

Milking the Lesson(s) is a term I started using many years ago. It describes something that I started noticing during my tour as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Hungary from 1990-92. But this is just the time period when I started noticing. I believe that it has always been there, at least in embryonic form. At that time, I was not Buddhist but I was aware enough to know that my particular situation was extremely stressful for me. During my bouts of insomnia during service events and interpretations would wake me up and then keep me awake as if I were reliving the events over and over again. Some people would call that the hell realm. During the day, I was busy living my life as a PCV while in the background I would hear the thoughts, and feel the emotions accompanying those thoughts… The thoughts had me and I knew it, but there was nothing I could do then, except be angry, and angrily surrender my sleep. If I had been in the army instead of the Peace Corps, I would label what was happening to me as PTSD.

Years passed. It was not until I returned to the US, and even later when I went out with PC again as a trainer that deeper interpretations or understandings of past events would seemingly emerge of their own accord. These understandings helped me see more clearly, and allowed me to interpret the events as the potential for deep-felt learning(s). And over the years, I began to trust. I now trust that whenever I am in the midst of situations that are too intense, and I feel on the verge of being overwhelmed, if I let things be, without trying to force myself to understand, or to fix them, they can and will perhaps teach me something deep.

Many years have passed since I served with the Corps, and now the lessons are some times milked without my having to wait so long. But please notice that I have said “some times”. There are no guarantees. It is in the light of Milking the Lesson(s) that the following understanding emerged.

A week or so ago there were making repairs to the gym where I go. Entire sections were blocked off; and there was paint, dust, sound, but the gym did not close its doors. Instead, classes and training sessions were offered in alternative smaller spaces in parts of the gym where repairs were finished or not needed. Two trainers and their respective trainees, as well as one or two individuals training on their own, were in a small training room with a fair amount of equipment along the walls, floors and ceiling. For me, this was a new space with new stuff. Since my trainer had stated that we would not do our usual training, I just allowed the session to happen as was necessary: moving around others and compensating on the spot for what was not available to us at the moment. At some point, the trainers talked but I don’t remember what their exchange was about. What I do remember is that I felt a shift, a difference that I can only describe as being in the space around me. The other trainer said something to my trainer, and punctuated or signaled the end of what he was saying with: “this is not about comfort”. I looked up at the person talking and I think he took my gesture to mean that I had gotten what he meant. He then smiled and added: “See? She’s got it. This is not about our comfort”. The trainer stressed the word our and with his hand signaled that he meant the trainers’ comfort. I guess I had indeed gotten his intention and I think I laughed with him. But there was more packed into what I got than what was perhaps intended by the trainer who spoke.

When I looked at him, his face looked different than usual: it seemed somewhat hardened, angled. I had never noticed this particular trainer stressed, or tired. For myself I can say that I was exhausted by a hard and dark week at work. I felt ugly, and judged myself accordingly: that I looked tired, not worth looking at or dealing with… Monkey-Brain was surfacing. I had gone to the gym, not to sweat my tiredness out, but more out of a sense of curiosity and of let’s see what happens, if something shifts for me today; let’s see how much can be held by my sense of spaciousness (which goes hand in hand with my spaciness).

I sensed that the word our conveyed: you are seeking your own comfort and not your trainee’s. This is not about us trainers… I sensed tiredness in the speaker’s face, and in his words perhaps even a sense of we just have to make due with what we have; whereas from the start of our session, I sensed that my trainer was saying let’s try to do this together with whatever is available to us. While both trainers seemed to be looking at the same props, they seemed to be dealing with the situation in the gym very differently… (And to be clear, I am not judging their attitudes.)

As their exchange was happening, I felt a tightening of the space around me, probably my own tightening; and then a wordless wave of OK, let’s keep on working with what we have, from my trainer. From my trainer I got the sense that he was simply trying to deal with things as they came, and that perhaps he was also attempting to ease other people’s minds. And from that there was a shift for/in me. My tiredness no longer mattered. My feeling ugly lifted and left space in its stead. And it was suddenly not about me. My comfort and discomfort became irrelevant and gave way to the need to hold or protect the space so that we could all be there, and so that the trainers could have a touch of intangible goodness or space in which they could work, feel and be with whatever they were experiencing. The lesson came when I sensed and perhaps decided that they too needed a break, and I would  give them what little I had. And the lesson emerged because I was able to listen within and outside of me without having to add anything. I am grateful for the teachings that allow me to reframe events and thoughts, and for the teachers willing to share the teachings. May this be of benefit.

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Ego-Monkey-Brain: Still Here

This was originally written on December 30th, 2015.
[Warning (to self and others): I may or may not publish this. And/or I may edit some details.]

So here we go, almost New Year’s Eve, Nochevieja and I am at the page.

I had danced and kicked my way through class at the gym both Monday and Tuesday evenings but something of a wake up call happened; something worthy (to me) to look at through the eyes of the path. After I left the gym on Monday, I saw a friend. As it usually is when I see this sweet person, my mind-heart just melted/stopped. All there was, was BAM!!!, light!!! I felt my face lighting up a grin without my permission to do so; and I felt angry at my face!!!

Then, when Ego-Monkey-Brain realized that I was angry at my face and at the fact that I had broken my promise to myself that I would not let this person’s presence make me happy or affect me, I heard Monkey-Brain say: —I can’t do this anymore; I’ll just stop going anywhere he might be. I will simply stop going anywhere outside Shambhala where I may meet women and men with whom I would like to talk, or become friends… Monkey-Brain went on for a while, and I had to do some serious breathing to stop myself from stopping my membership at the gym, and from not accepting an invitation from friends to go out on the 31st, and on the 1st. Monkey-Brain was on a rampage, and I had forgotten how seductive his arguments can be. Since 2015 has been a difficult year for me in many areas of my life, and also a year of opening up my mind-heart, and moving through and out of the dark comfort zone of my own personal cocoon, I decided to let Monkey-Brain say what it wanted to say. I recognized fear…. but I digress…

Ego-Monkey-Brain got angry again: –What???!! You want friendship or a relationship of any kind with people who most probably operate under the ruling of “no social interaction with guests/clients/people-you-do-music-with”??? 
Sheer anger: Monkey-Brain was angry and I was angry with Monkey-Brain. But truth be said, when I just sit and feel/listen to the deeper grooves where my anger runs, what I sense is a yearning for wanting others to come and play with me, like when I was a child and I was not really allowed to play with everybody. When I listen deeply, the anger shifts, it melts a little and I can hold myself with some warmth and understanding, with some maitri. I had isolated myself for so many years in so many ways while partially blaming others for my isolation that I forgot myself, my sane-self: I do not need to push myself nor my wants and/or needs onto anyone else. Nor do I have to pretend not to feel.

Fortunately, I do not do what Monkey-Brain wants as fast as I would have 8 or 10 years ago. It’s not that I don’t act spontaneously, or from a space of being genuine anymore. It’s more like I can now recognize Monkey-Brain’s edicts and ways of cowering from the discomfort of feeling vulnerable, and the possibility of being seen as weak / vulnerable. I seem to be able to recognize Monkey-Brain’s habitual actions a little sooner than I could before and when I do, some times in that very instant I can “drop out” of his circle of influence and do nothing while still hearing him scream. I can just wait, and be with the discomfort knowing/trusting that it will be clear to me, to my deeper and saner mind-heart, if I were in any true danger and really needed to heed Monkey-Brain’s warnings.

Habit-mind says “run away”; shut him out. Habit-mind has begun to arm itself against him saying things like: he does not like you; you’re old; you’re a thing to fix, to keep away, a guest, a client, a patient, a person with whom he does music… And Ego-Monkey-Brain says all these things in an effort to build up my cocoon, to protect me from the newfound fear of thinking that I will not be in a lasting loving relationship again in this lifetime. As these things come up, they build a prickly cocoon around me that 1. does not allow much in, nor out (precluding genuine engagement in things as they are) and 2. is really not effective. Sad.

But here is the thing: I am grateful to Ego-Monkey-Brain and the cocoons he had built for me in the past, for he has been a faithful protector and defender… And also because with all his antics he has helped me keep in touch with my own humanity. I am grateful for his willingness to dance/play with the saner part of my mind-heart while taking a side step so that I could dance to the melody, silences and spaces of the teachings. And I am grateful, to the teachings that have allowed me to listen to him scream while I breathe and some times even take the risk of asking, as if in some cosmic playground: Do you want to play? Do you want to be friends?

May this be of benefit.

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A short message of gratitude for a wake up call

This was originally written on December 30th, 2015.
I have been extremely lucky in having found a long time friend. I help him by reading his research papers on the peace process in the Middle East, a theme that matters to this heart of mine. The last paper I edited touched me. It was about Syria and the conflict(s) that still ails that nation. Here is a short message that I sent him after having finished my reading. I am not sure why, but I felt the need to incorporate this in my blog. So here it is. May this be of help.

Hello Dear Friend,

Here is the chapter. I wanted to send it back to you before the end of the year…And I’ve made it!!!!!!

My head spins every time I edit one of your chapters. It’s a good spin, don’t worry. When I read your papers it makes me wonder about the type of training/education/faith that all humans would need in order to avert wars. We are so used, as a species, to endless arguing and fighting against each other, that I don’t think we would know what to do with ourselves if this world’s nations were not at war. With so many countries and cultures (the USA included) where the arts, music, philosophy, values, and folk wisdom(s) and traditions are not being taught at school and in many cases (due to modernity) at home either, the maturing population has no choice but to grow at best with an emptiness of the heart-mind, and at worst with an almost maniacal need to fill its time with something to do, and almost anything will do. But this population is also growing up, and growing older, not knowing how to make choices, and not even knowing that choices can be created. It is growing up with a facile attitude toward not thinking-feeling deeply. And I thank you because your papers serve as a reminder.

May this 2016 bring you, your family and country the rest, peace and love you all need, and merit. May you always have loving friends.

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Touching Depth

This was originally written on December 28, 2015.

Today, this morning, I finished reading Jarvis Masters’ book called Finding Freedom, Writings from Death Row. I bought it just a couple of days ago but I could not put it down, crying and laughing, and sometimes even managing to do both at the same time, which is not a pretty sight. Some of the stories in the book and just the way he writes made me think of my own path and my own life, and about how often I create not just my own prison but my own personal hells. Reading the stories in the book also made me raise a prayer for those in prison that could and perhaps should be freed, and for those who work for a system that perhaps need some mending. After finishing, I bought another book by him. I guess I still have more tears to shed and perhaps some bittersweet laughs. Life itself.

Then, I thought of the teachings that have come to me, the Shambhala Buddhist teachings that I understand to mean that I am to bring everything to my Path and, that I am not to leave anything out. I am not to leave anything out, and all my world(s) are to be included in my Path because the Dharma is not just written in books, or spoken by teachers, but it is printed in any and every moment that I am willing to read with these human eyes, and with my-all-so-human heart-mind. But the trick is that to read this Dharma proclaimed in every exchange, in every step that I may take, I need to lower my shield(s) and allow my heart to be touched, and then, then I have to be willing to extend it: to admit (even if just to myself) that I had a shield, that I tasted the flavor of the shielding, and, that when I lowered it I could feel, even if it was for just a second, the sadness-tinged-softness that is truly me. And this is simply t-e-r-r-i-f-y-i-n-g.

When I allow myself to read books that touch me like Jarvis’ book, or when I allow myself to write from within, from my experience, from my heart, it feels like my head wants to implode: there is simply so much within me that turning Buddhist says I must gently look at and be with so that I can in turn be of service where and when needed… Breathe.

This morning I touched depth with Jarvis’ book and this evening I touched depth while thinking about encounters that took place today. For any of this to make sense, perhaps I need to state that I do not understand how to go about establishing friendships, or any other relationships for that matter, and that I feel I am even clumsier trying to do so in the USA. While in the Dominican Republic things seemed simpler to me: I was typically surrounded by people that when we would hit it off, we would want to extend our time together, to explore at depth and length the topics we cared about, to explore the things we shared, and perhaps even take on new things from each other. The heart guided the initial sparks and we made the time and space for the relationships to happen, or not. In the US, I feel typically surrounded by people who when we hit it off, we tend to run away from each other as if afraid to let others in, or to be allowed in. Not sure about which of these two it is. Perhaps it’s both. Perhaps neither. While the heart may guide the initial sparks, we tend (me included) to not give ourselves the time and space needed to even explore the possibilities… This saddens me, the grownup woman with a child’s heart-mind that I am.

I confess, I am at a loss. While I do not know the true reason(s) why this seems to happen in the US, I do know/understand some of the “logical” reasons or constraints applied to the formation of new friendships and/or relationships of any sort… [but I should only speak of my own reasons for isolating myself or pushing others away, and I will perhaps explore these in a separate piece.]… All I know is that this evening I looked again into the face of people outside my Sangha to which I would simply love to get closer, and I felt angry. I had these well rehearsed reasons as to why I would not allow myself to smile when I saw them, or why I would just stop-cold-turkey (as if I could) wanting to be near them, hearing them talk, laugh, cry. I feel I have clearly told them that I would love us to be friends. And I also feel that what I have said to them has been ignored. I guess being/becoming friends may mean not only something different to all of us, but that there are also different ways of going about it that I do not know about.

In the meantime, this heart of mine yearns for friends from whom I would not have to hide (much), and with whom I could share the depths of things like Jarvis’ book or a movie, or ice cream, or a joke. Breathe.

I guess I don’t have to know why things are the way they are, nor do I have to like them. My task, as a practitioner is simply to look, and look, and keep on looking further, allowing my heart to be as it is and to open ever more with the way things are. Perhaps this is the freedom that Jarvis has begun to touch from within his prison. I breathe. May this be of benefit.

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