Albert reflects on his transformative shift from a Catholic agnostic mindset to embracing Buddhism. Despite respecting Catholic principles, he struggled with self-destructive perspectives imposed by Catholicism, feeling dirty and unworthy due to his homosexuality. The discovery of Buddhism marked a profound change, challenging his preconceptions about leaders, labels, and societal norms.

Entering a Buddhist temple, Albert was liberated by the Golden Chain chanting, shedding the anchor of guilt and self-disrespect. Intrigued, he delved into understanding Buddhism, exploring the life and practices of the Buddha. He found solace in the concept of awakening and awareness, contrasting with the Catholic notion of sin and redemption.

Albert grappled with the unfamiliar principles of Buddhism, such as patience, compassion, and kindness, questioning how to find love and positivity within himself. Reading about the Eightfold Path, he realized the importance of accepting regression as part of evolution, a concept contrary to his lifelong struggle against himself.


Pure Land Buddhism resonated with Albert, teaching him that it’s okay to be broken and offering a compassionate perspective on personal challenges. Buddhism allowed him to view obstacles as multidimensional, welcoming them as opportunities for growth rather than adversarial forces. Through Buddhism, Albert found a path that embraced life’s difficulties, fostering strength and resilience.


Christopher, delving into more formal and traditional Buddhist practices, reflects on the evolving nature of his personal spiritual journey. Initially, he inherited a book on Zen from a Nigerian family, finding it adorned with a meter statue within each year—a departure from the traditional practices of Zen. Despite this unconventional start, Christopher’s personal practice has become more formal over time, incorporating silent meditation, the reading of Zen texts, and the use of bells.

As he delves deeper into Buddhism, Christopher emphasizes the importance of an embodied practice, finding a connection to the teachings through the drama and theater of ritual acts. Despite the philosophical significance, he needed something more tangible to embody the teachings. Letting go of the need for scientific or literal validation, Christopher plays with the forms, poetry, and imagery embedded in Buddhist rituals.

Encouraging an eclectic approach, Christopher advocates for a regular and consistent practice but believes in the beauty of diverse methods. Drawing from his own experience, he acknowledges the value of an embodied practice, especially for those stuck in their heads. Ritualized practices, such as bowing, become significant tools for awakening, taking individuals out of their minds and grounding them in the present moment.

Christopher expresses a preference for an eclectic and creative approach to rituals, allowing individuals the freedom to personalize their practices. With the freedom provided by their nontraditional lineage, Christopher encourages fellowship members to create their own rituals, promoting a sense of empowerment and freedom in the face of post-religious stress disorder.

Acknowledging the lineage’s field-tested traditions, Christopher believes that, despite individual variations, the core teachings of Buddhism remain robust and enduring. He finds himself naturally gravitating toward more traditional practices as he gains a deeper understanding, highlighting the timeless and universal appeal of Buddhist teachings.


In discussing the depth of his own practice, George expresses his relentless commitment to both deepen and broaden his understanding of the Dharma. He emphasizes the significance of embodying the teachings rather than merely memorizing and regurgitating them, acknowledging the challenge of defining what it means to be a true teacher.

George admits that he doesn’t consider himself the living embodiment of the Dharma but strives to continually improve. While enlightenment was initially not a priority for him, his perspective has shifted over the years. He now contemplates the idea of enlightenment and distinguishes between “big” and “little” enlightenment, seeing stages along the path.

He shares the evolution of his approach to teaching, transitioning from feeling the need to convey Dharma verbally to realizing the importance of demonstrating it through his own practice. George underscores the idea that teaching is not solely about lecturing but also about living the principles of the Dharma. He uses his life as a model, hoping that others can observe and learn from his actions, even if they never attend one of his talks.

George illustrates this point with his daughter, expressing a desire for her to recognize the Dharma in his actions, shaping her understanding of the teachings through his behavior. He concludes by suggesting that everyone, knowingly or unknowingly, can be a Dharma teacher, highlighting the potential for valuable lessons in everyday interactions.


Linda, inspired by the teachings of Hogan, a prominent teacher in her Buddhist community, embarked on her meditation journey with a simple yet profound mantra: “Just keep showing up.” Despite her initial reluctance towards the communal aspects of the practice, Linda consistently attended Thursday night sessions, focusing on meditation and Dharma talks. Unintentionally, she found herself taking on a role as a greeter in the community.

Linda’s meditation practice, initially devoid of elaborate narratives or formal meetings with teachers, began to subtly influence her life. Simultaneously, her law practice transitioned towards advisory work, away from litigation. The shift in Linda’s demeanor became apparent when a client remarked on her newfound calmness, a change she hadn’t consciously acknowledged until then.

A pivotal moment for Linda occurred when she took the five precepts, the first public commitment in Buddhism. These ethical guidelines, akin to commandments, resonated deeply with her, especially the positive statements emphasizing the challenge of living ethically rather than focusing on punitive measures for any lapses.

As Linda delved into the SongArc High study program, her curiosity and commitment to Buddhist principles deepened. The program, spanning multiple quarters, allowed her to actively study and present various aspects of Buddhism. Over the last couple of years, Linda’s meditation practice evolved from a strong foundational piece to a source of profound curiosity and drawn-out exploration of Buddhist teachings, marking a transformative period in her spiritual journey.


Lisa initially resisted the idea of asking for ordination, feeling the need to be absolutely ready and certain before taking such a significant step. However, a fellow practitioner undergoing ordination training provided a perspective shift. He pointed out that the very things Lisa desired in her practice—more support, increased contact with order members, additional retreats, and further training—were integral aspects of ordination training. This realization helped her understand that the journey itself was valuable, regardless of whether ordination ultimately occurred.

Once Lisa embraced this perspective, it eased the pressure and allowed her to approach the idea of ordination more lightly. Instead of fearing the commitment of becoming an order member, she recognized that she could start with the initial step of seeking deeper involvement in the practice.

Being someone with a busy schedule and health issues, Lisa acknowledged the ease with which focus could be lost, especially when unable to attend Sangha. Retreats became crucial in challenging her and pushing her views in ways she wasn’t doing on her own. In particular, recent retreats have challenged her concept of self-compassion. Initially perceiving it as a common Buddhist greeting, Lisa eventually grasped the significance when fellow retreatants pointed out her lack of self-compassion. This revelation was initially challenging for her, as she had sought a different kind of discipline, but the retreat setting allowed the idea to sink in over the course of several days.

Lisa values the retreat process for the opportunity it provides to have her views challenged and to receive assistance in bringing the Dharma more deeply into her life. She recognizes that the support and challenges encountered during retreats are unique and might not be as accessible in regular life. Overall, the process is helping her grow and understand aspects of her practice that might have been overlooked otherwise.


Mingo shares their experience with meditation retreats, revealing the profound impact it had on their understanding of effective communication and heightened awareness of non-verbal cues. They emphasize the intensity of living the practice for days on end, disconnected from electronics and immersed in pure self-reflection and connection with others.

The narrative shifts to Mingo’s unexpected journey toward becoming a meditation teacher. Over quarantine, deeply engrossed in their practice and exploring various spiritual communities, they began receiving recognition for the transformative effects of their practice. Mingo’s calm demeanor and readiness to listen attracted people seeking answers, often rooted in yogic or Buddhist principles.

Motivated by the desire to share mindfulness and the Dharma more effectively, Mingo reflects on their path to becoming a teacher. They express a commitment to deepening their own practice and finding a Dharma teacher to guide them. The decision to pursue teaching stems from both a genuine wish to share the Dharma and a personal goal to enhance their practice and understanding.