Auspicious Coincidences

January 27, 2010

A lot has happened since I last posted.  I’ve continued down the meditation path and had an auspicious coincidence or two. 

I started attending the Dallas Shambhala Center about a month or so ago.  I had looked for a place for a while and nothing seemed right.  I was actually looking for a Zen Center, but ended up going to Shambhala, which is Tibetan, because… well… er… because it was held at a Unitarian Universalist church.  I was a UU for years and years, and figured if Shambhala was too weird I could always go across the atrium to choir practice.

Well, Shambhala wasn’t too weird at all.  It was actually very nice.  Nice people of all ages, shapes sizes.  Some still practicing other faiths, some only Buddhists.  All willing to chat about what was up with their spiritual practice. 

It also turned out that the regional teacher, Archya Moh Hardin, was coming to town to do a retreat and a refuge ceremony.  I decided to attend the retreat, held at a historic downtown building.  And I also decided that I wanted to take refuge. 

Taking refuge just means becoming a Buddhist.  You take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  But you’re really taking refuge in your own Buddha nature.  You don’t find it outside yourself, it’s already there.  But you do have to look for it, and the Buddha lead by an example of how to do that. 

The retreat was a delightful opportunity to get to know members of the sangha.  My hips hurt like a bad boy by the end of it, but my heart felt light.  I showed my rugs at the reception where people were invited to share their art.  They were well received.  And then I went home and left them there, so they got to spend a couple nights with sweet Margo, one of the center directors.  I feel like they have been blessed. 

I had already scheduled an interview with Moh.  When the time came, I asked him about it.  I told him about my recent journeys with grief, how I learned to deal with them by mindfulness meditation.  At first he said there wouldn’t be a problem with waiting… there was no reason to do it now.  But by the end of the conversation we both felt it was right for me to go ahead and go for it. In fact, he told me that he took his vows very early in his practice, too.  Toward the end, he said that perhaps it was an auspicious coincidence that he was in town at just the time I was ready to become a Buddhist.  As I stepped out of the room with him after the interview, I told him, “I feel peaceful.”  He said, “I feel good about this.” 

The next night was the Refuge Vows.  Five of us were on the front row on our meditation cushions.  Some of them had been practicing for years, but I didn’t feel out of place.  We did our usual meditations with the sangha (congregation), which consist of 20 minutes or so of sitting meditation, 10 or so of walking meditation, and another 5ish of sitting.  Then Moh spoke about the meaning of taking refuge, and that we were being asked to project an open attitude, a changed “mark” (kind of an adjective that people would notice about you… like… when you see someone who is in love and you can tell, even if they don’t say anything), and the offering of kindness to everyone.  He said that when he snapped his fingers at the appropriate time, the transition would take place and we would feel our new lives. 

I had my doubts at that point.  I was baptized twice in the Christian fundamentalist faith of my childhood, and didn’t feel anything different either time. 

We were asked to take 3 half prostrations (kneel and touch the hands and forehead to the floor) to symbolize the practicality of trusting the Earth.  One to the Buddha, which means, to the way of Buddhism, one to the dharma, which means, the teachings of the Buddha, and one to the sangha, which is a word that means something like fellowship or congregation.   

Then he talked about our lives on the path.  And he snapped his fingers.  And I felt it.  That was a really good set up!

Then he presented our new names, written by him in calligraphy in English letters, and in Tibetan script.  He said that these are our real names, they’re ours, and that if we want that’s the name we can go by, but that most in Shambhala reserve it for Buddhist occasions. 

The name I received was Shiwa Nyi-Tso.  It means Peaceful Sun-Lake.  So now, even though I remain a Meditator Tot, I have something else to put in my signature.  🙂

When I arrived, Moh’s wife, and one of our regional teachers, commented on my earrings.  I had seen them that day while out and about, and bought them because they featured a sunburst in the center.  I said, “I wasn’t shopping for earrings, but these just appealed to me.”  Afterwards she said, “First you said after your interview with Moh that you felt peaceful.  Then you bought these sun earrings.  And your name.  What a set of auspicious coincidences!”  Indeed.  Of course, saying peaceful was before my name was selected.  And although I don’t believe in magical coincidences, it was still a sweet coincidence… an auspicious one, you might say. 

Now I just need a lake and I’ll be all set!  In the meantime I have my little water garden which will get some fancying up this spring, that’s for sure! 

I’ll be back, with more reports on the path.  It turns out that my path leads to right where I am.  And yours leads to where you are.  So I guess at the moment, our paths lead to our computer chairs, eh?

I find so many parallels with training dogs. So many.  And the peaceful thrum thrum thrum of rug hooking is a mantra. 

Peace be with you,

Shiwa Nyi-Tso

Peaceful Sun-Lake

Also known as Kellie.  🙂  And Meditator Tot.

East Texas With Rug Frame

October 15, 2009

Yoda in Progress

I’m off to East Texas this weekend, toting a bunch of stuff I’m giving to my sister, plus my rug frame and supplies.  My sister, Mom and I plan to sit around and do fabric work (They quilt, I hook) and deal with the event of the weekend.  Dad’s headstone will be installed tomorrow.

The other day I had to be at work early.  I accidentally woke up at about 4:30.  What was wrong with me?  I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I read for a while, then I got up for zazen.  I sat for 20 minutes.  Ah.  it was really a great morning.  I had oatmeal for breakfast, and got on my way.  That night I was exhausted, but I did my zazen again, and slept like a baby.  It’s the little things.

The secret is I have hated getting up early since I was little, and the next day I got up as late as possible on a work day.  But that one day I got up early and it was good.  Getting up early isn’t a moral issue with me like it was with my father or my husbands’ parents.  They thought only lazy people slept late. And lazy wasn’t cute to them.  I have rebelled against getting up early when people have insinuated that only the early riser is worthy of anything worthwhile.  But really, to me it doesn’t matter.  You can do as much from 12pm to 4am as you can from 5am to 9pm.  But it was just a different here, now day.  I was there at a different now.

Now I’m working on just being with what I’m doing.  I’m not good at it yet, but I’m learning from it.  If I’m eating I try to spend at least part of the time just being with the food.  (Last night I made potato, mushroon, onion, celery soup with matzo balls.  I don’t know why I made that, but it was quite satisfying.  If there’s still some left I’m having it again tonight!)

With zen I feel like not eating so much meat.  That’s interesting, isn’t it?  I never intended to become a vegetarian when I started this, I just find that what I feel like spending time with is veggie food.  I wonder where that will go.  I’m not a vegetarian today.  I don’t know if I will be one later.  I just find it interesting that when I am mindful about food, I want vegetables and grains.

I’m off to go home, pack up my frame and my zafu and some furniture that’s going to get a new life.

Things are good. The big rain drop tears that come with knowing my father is really and truly done with this world and that a big granite stone, rich with feldspar and polished to a bright sheen will hold him down in the plain East Texas dirt (and his soul must surely be in Oklahoma) came and I just sat with them, and thought, “These are some big tears, and my chest is surely going to erupt in some big crying volcano of missing my Daddy.”  Maybe he didn’t think I should sleep so late, but he loved me.

When he was in the hospice one day, it was morning and I was getting ready to go.  I said goodbye and gathered my overnight bag and hugged my family.  They trickled out into the hall, and when I went to say one of the scary good-byes to my dad, he stopped me.  He wanted to talk about something… I wish I could remember more about what.  I know it had to do with something to do with not understanding why the doctor wouldn’t let him go home, and all that painful unwillingness to accept that he was dying.

When we had talked it over, and I had explained what I understood… I remember.  It had something to do with the young woman doctor who had told him he really was going to die.  He liked her.  He was a bit of a flirt in his old age.  He was unnerved by what she said although it had been said to him in a million ways by all of us for what seemed like forever. The next day he didn’t remember what she said and didn’t understand that he was dying again.

But what happened that day was that I was getting ready to go.  Maybe it was evening.  I used to stay as long as I could.  I hugged him and told him how much I loved him.  He said, “Well, Kell… I love you, too, times a million.”

I get to have that forever, or until my own brain starts to skip beats. Right now it makes me weak to think about it, and I can’t write it without all these tears and all this snot.  But it’s like … it’s like the best thing he could ever give me, and he gave it to me in a thousand different ways.