Hi. My name is Cynthia McCormick. I’m 69. I’m divorced. I was married for 27 years and I have three children and three grandchildren. What was coming to my mind as we sat down right here, as I was thinking of the day when I was sitting in my house, I was married and I was sitting in in the little corner where that I had set up for me, where I had my spiritual books piled up, you know, and my my little tape recorder, so I could listen to some spiritual music, you know, and I would meditate. And that was Mom’s corner. Nobody sat in that chair, you know, and I was sitting there and my husband came in and he looked at me. I’m getting very emotional actually talking about this.
But he looked at me and he said, You look so happy. He said, What happened? I’ve tried all my life to make you happy. You look so happy. What happened? I said, I have never felt so peaceful and happy and content in my entire life and it’s not a result of anything outside of me. It’s a result of of working deeply within myself and meditating. And I can remember the look on his face, you know, because he had he was a kind man and he had tried to make me happy and I wasn’t happy. And I was always looking for happiness. I was always looking for how can I not suffer, you know, in that moment I’ll never forget it. Because in that moment also I said to my I was not I wasn’t hadn’t entered the Buddhist path yet or anything. This was quite a few years before that. But I remember saying to myself, It stops here. I am no longer wish to suffer. I no longer wish to be unhappy. I will go to whatever length it’s going to take for me to pursue this because this is all there is in life.
I want what Darshan had, I want what I wanted, what these people had. And and so my clients, I think, feel that. And I think there’s a quality that goes beyond the tools and the tricks of the trade and the things that you do as a psychotherapist, that the practice of loving kindness, the practice of loving acceptance of what’s here now. I mean, my I know, I know my clients walk in the room and they do not feel judged by me. And and if judgment comes up because I think of the way in which I live, they’re able to say to me, I felt a little judged there and I’m able to say, you know what, I think you’re right. Thank you for pointing that out. The humility that I that has come with my spiritual path, the openness, the longing for me to not suffer anymore, and there and also for not anybody else to suffer is so strong in me that it overrides any part of me that wants to defend against something when I do something wrong or out of unconsciousness, ignorance, you know, that kind of thing. My, my longing for the for no suffering, my longing for no suffering for anybody overrides all of that. And I think that that I would say my clients, my kids for sure feel that for me, probably friends do. But but that has been my journey. And so I guess the other thing that has come up for me along this journey is family and friends who are not on this path have said to me, well, it’s fine for you. You know, you’re you’re you’re doing this path. You know, you could do this path. And I’ve got kids or I’ve got problems with work or I’ve got this or I’ve got that. No. Has it been easy? Absolutely not. You know, I’m I’m living my life and my life means I’ve got bills to pay. Life means that I have relationship disruptions. I have kids that are struggling, you know, at times, you know, because our kids struggle. I have my parents, my dad died. My mother my mother got ill and died, repaired those relationships thanks to Buddhism. Actually, I have a sister who has some challenges that I, I care about. So I, no, I have a normal life with ups and downs and difficulties, but I don’t feel like it’s up and down. I think I think because I was so committed to my path and, and and committed to what I would say. And in the 12 steps we call it emotional balance. But that’s what Buddhism giving me is, is emotional balance. It’s not it’s not being swung in the and the lows. You know, it’s it’s being able to meet life on life’s terms, you know, and and look at it and see the teaching in it and in in Vajrayana path we talk about seeing the guru are everywhere. You know, you start to see the guru everywhere. I see the guru everywhere. So how can I not balanced anymore? Because the teaching is in front of me in every moment of my life. Now, I don’t I don’t even have to. I mean, I’ve got Buddhist bookseller course, you know, which I’m reading. But the thing is, I don’t even need them as much as I did before because the teachings are alive and everything. You know, the the leaves fall off the trees. That’s impermanence. That reminds me of impermanence, you know, it’s just. I just. Just like I. I’m so grateful for that.
So in, in in studying and practicing and incorporating the teachings and living from that place has allowed me to meet all of the, all of the challenges that we meet as householders or lay people, whatever we would call ourselves. What I like to do more, what I like to go off and do long retreats and stuff like that. Yeah. And, and I try and build it in like a during the pandemic was great because the pandemic I made a decision because it was exhausting working on the computer all the time. I got more exhausted than when I was doing it face to face. I made a decision to take a week off every two months and I went up north somewhere and I took all my books and my practice stuff and I just did that for a week. Every, every two months. And I never would have done that before. You know, I would have been doing, you know, how can I get busy, you know, busyness or doing all this, that that became important to me to do that, you know, my my spiritual path now. You know, I’m I’m a Buddhist practitioner. I’m a forgery and a practitioner. I am in our path. And the land, the body Rinpoche laid out a really beautiful path for us. And we have a process where people who are farther ahead on the practice path support the people who are coming up behind them. We call or we’re called practice instructors, but I hold that term loosely. Okay, I’m just a little farther along, you know, been there, so maybe I can answer some questions. I started to look at it like sponsoring an AA is like that. You know, you’re a sponsor for somebody who’s coming in and you’re just sharing your own wisdom and your experience. And I mean, that’s really so I’m a practice instructor and I facilitate classes and we call them facilitator. We call ourselves facilitators because we’re not the teacher. We’re facilitating religious teachings and Buddhist teachings, they’re the teachers. And so we have all of them laid out. She’s laid it out. We come together as a group and we will read and discuss. And and I would be a leader basically for the group. And so that’s how we structure our our study. And and then we have another path called the path of mindful activities. So the path of study in the path of practice and the path of mindful activity. And my path of mindful activity has being involved in the administrative side of the Sangha. So what that looks like is at this moment is I’m director of the Land about Toronto and there’s an admin team which will pay bills and had, you know, make sure their study classes, make sure stuff’s happening with practice, make sure that stuff’s happening with new members, new members or a membership person. That communication person, you know, and I’m the director and we we consider those positions the path of mindful activity. It’s a practice. So we get to practice us in everything we do. So I just feel like, you know, as a as a householder because of the the Buddhist training that I’m getting, I just carry that over into everything that I do. So, you know, my into my relationships with my kids, my relationships in my work, my relationship with everything is my path of mindful activity. And, and so it’s, it’s really been amazing how it’s unfolded, actually, for me. And I, I don’t I don’t really know what else to say it. I don’t know if I gave you what you deserve. It’s amazing for our guest. I think, you know, share some of this before I you know in the energy and know how you can get people so I think you could be the poster child for the project, you know, sort of, you know, which is ironic and it’s typical, not typical, but I think in Western culture and and for me to just grow up in the American dream. Yeah. And check the boxes. Yep. And, you know, even though you.
In that way. So anyway, that aside, I guess I want to preface this with Rinpoche. I apologize if I am not accurate in how I’m going to describe this or what I’m going to share. I apologize for any errors. They’re mine. They’re not yours. So I really want to put that out there. I feel very responsible right at the moment, you know, with this. So. So, yeah, in we’re Tibetan Buddhist. So that’s the other thing to remember. This is a Tibetan Buddhist path. Not every lineage practice is the same way. Not every Buddhist. You know, because you’ve got Vietnamese Buddhism, you’ve got Zen Buddhism, you’ve got, you know, all different kinds Burmese, Buddhist. So there there’s differences. So basically Buddha taught in three wheels, if you like, right? So the first wheel, the first turning of the wheel, the first turning of the teachings, second and then the third. So first is called the and sometimes referred to as the Theravada. And then you’ve got Mahayana. And actually out of Mahayana comes the Vajrayana. So the the yeni on a path as she’s laid it out is we have a hint and a path of study. So really it’s the, all the teachings on the first turning of the wheel of Buddha, you know, the four noble truths. And that those, those are all his initial teachings are given there. And, and then along with that, the practice path that goes with that is the, is the path of calm, abiding meditation or shaman stuff. We call it samata. So when we’re doing the Shama to practice at the beginning, you know, oftentimes a common way to to teach it is focusing on the breath. And so people think, well, I’m focusing on the breath. That’s that’s it. So but that’s just the beginning we have. So we have X number of hours. We do. Where we’re focusing on the breath. And I want to jump in here around this because this is my psychotherapy practice coming in here because my field is sort of jumping on the bandwagon with mindfulness, psychotherapy and all all that stuff and recommending everybody should go and learn to meditate. You know, if you’re highly anxious, it might be a difficult thing for you to go and do. I would say that right now, but unless you get proper instruction on that, you could get into trouble, particularly who are highly anxious. So when people say, okay, just focus on your breath so you know, what they do is they clamp down and they go like this on their breath. And I’m keeping my focus on my breath. Well, that’s not what it’s about. It’s actually about resting your awareness, your full awareness on the breath. And then when it wanders, you notice the wandering and bringing it back. If you go like this and try and hold on to it, you’re going to for anxious people, you’re going to get more anxious. So proper instruction is really important. Most most teachers, you know, authentic lineage teachers or, you know, where will teach it properly, you’ll get the proper teaching. So Rinpoche, she’s got a whole set and the teachings are called Know yourself. Because really what we’re doing is we’re getting to know ourself and what is what does that mean? We’re getting to know our mind, you know, how is this crazy mind working, you know? And one of the common themes I hear from somebody starting to meditate is they’ll say to me, Well, you know, when I’m giving up on meditating, this is crazy. My mind’s now worse. And I said, Actually, it’s not worse. You’re just noticing how bad you had noticed it before, and that means it’s working. Yeah, you’re doing that. And they go, What? You know. Yes, it’s counterintuitive, I know, but it’s actually working. So. So we go through a series and it’ll be focusing on the breath. Then we have the next stage would be focusing on an impure object, a rock, a plant, anything where we bring in. That’s the support. The support is the impure object to train our mind. We have our eyes open. Then the next one is the pure object. For us. It will be a picture of our teacher or a Buddha, a statue or whatever. And we use that. And so what we’re doing is we’re going gradually, going through schemata, using increasingly more activating objects as a support so that we can settle our mind with these more activating supports. So we look at an object. Well, we’ve got our eyes open, you know, and then now we’re looking at a picture of our teacher. Now, if we have loving oh, my teacher, oh, I love you know now your mind’s really going crazy, you know. And then we do sounds so then we will do some little with sounds because of course that’s going to make your mind move and we get to keep bring our mind back and stabilize it. We do it with smells. We do it with taste. We do it with touch, and then we end by doing some visualization. Samata So we’re really, really laying the groundwork for, for some stability in the mind, you know, and the resting mind being able to because for the rest of your life practicing Buddhism, you will be going back to Sharma to some version of Sharma to and because it’s needed, because that’s the place in which you settle. When you when something when you contemplate something and get a realization, then you rest in that, you know. And so then so so then we have the transition from the Hindu on a path which turns it’s transitions into the Mahayana in the transition point, we start to look at the progressive stages on meditation, analytical meditation. So there is in the practice path, there is going through the stages of analytical meditation, which is the dream getting you into vipassana, where you start to look at your mind and then and then we have for the Mahayana path, we have looking at the slogans, which is low practice. And then we also have the 37 practices of a bodhisattva and we have the four mindfulness is the four measurables and so all in the Mahayana, these are all teachings that came in the second turning of the wheel, because we’re now doing things for the benefit of all sentient beings, which is what gets introduced in that in the Hinata. If I look at the or in the Hindu, in the Mahayana and the Hindi Anna, we’re really looking at ourself, you know, it’s quite self-focused in the Mahayana. We’re now including all sentient beings, you know, we’ve now expanded out. So we’re doing the practices that open our heart, that expand us out, that are able to do things and benefits. So Tanglin breath is taught there, you know, all all of these are there. So there will be practices where we will contemplate combined with schemata. So beginning in the end, so that that takes us up to the so we have the Mahayana teachings in there and the Mahayana practices. And then that takes us to Vajrayana. And the entrance to Australiana is it means that you need to be accepted by a lineage teacher because you need to receive a empowerments, you know, and, and lungs. And you also the entrance into that is, are what we call the neutral path. And, and that’s the path of devotion on is the path of devotion. So all this work you’re doing here is getting you to the path of devotion. And what are we devoted to, you know, as representing these ordinances? You’re not worshiping me. Know, don’t put that on me, you know. You know, we’re devoted to the teacher, the Buddha and the and our current guru, because it’s only through our teacher that we can actually get the teachings. Like, you know, you put my Western mind on some of those teachings and I have a field day. I will interpret them in my distorted way. I need somebody who is going to cut through my distortions and teach the the lineage teachings in a way that is authentic and true to Buddha, true to the to the lineage masters. And so that’s my my devotion to him and my devotion to the Dharma as seeing the Dharma as the path for me in order to realize, love my loving kindness, joy, compassion, awakening. You know, maybe I’ll be enlightened in this lifetime. I have moments like this and and, you know, I have I have devotion to the to the sangha, but not only the sangha that’s gone past all the lineage masters of the past that have brought in their commentaries and their and their practices for us to use. But also my my current saga, which teaches me and supports me and is there for me, you know, and so, so all, all of that is laid out in a very beautiful path that’s very clear. And he’s translated it into the way in which we can understand it. And what I mean is he’ll use Western examples. Rinpoche, just as an aside, loves the Rolling Stones, so a lot of his examples will be references to the Rolling Stones. He will also use references to current movies and also to TV shows. And and he makes the Buddhism so living because he’s bringing in the he says, isn’t that beautiful? You know, and, you know, when he he sees something and he’ll and I’ll go, what? And you’ll go, well, that’s that’s this teaching. And I go, oh, my God, it is. You know, he so sees the guru everywhere and and through his eyes. He helps us see the teachings and the guru everywhere he sees. So we can see the Buddhist teachings everywhere. And he does that through his teachings because he makes them very real, you know. So he’ll use whatever’s happening in the world. Like, you know, when the pandemic started, he came on and we had we had a weekend with him and he came on, isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t the pandemic so beautiful? And you can sort of see some faces quite like, what the heck is this? We are now in retreat. The pandemic is a retreat for us. We don’t have to go anywhere. We’re just at home. We get to practice and study, you know. So we were all laughing, you know, and I thought, Oh, yeah, that’s true. It’s. And what has been true never have we been exposed to so many teachings through the pandemic. You know, on Zoom, never have I been able to do some of the practices that I can’t do because I’m not around senior students. But we’re doing them on, on, on Zoom. And it’s been such a gift for me to have that contact. So.
It was pain and suffering that actually motivated me at the first half of my life. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I didn’t want to live feeling the way I live. I didn’t want to live suicidal. I didn’t want to live drunk. I didn’t want to live feeling like crap all the time. I didn’t want to live that way. Yeah, I mean, that my, my, my suffering is actually what what my was my motivation to, to move forward. Yeah. Yeah. Which is what the Buddha taught. Definitely. That’s, that’s why we take refuge. Yeah. You know, I’m done. I’m done. Okay, you. I’ll take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha because I am done. Nothing else has worked. Okay? And that I mean, that’s really it, you know. And I mean, that’s actually the first step in the in the 12 steps. So I’ve sort of did it in layers. You know, 12 steps is, you know, like I’m done with drinking and I’m powerless over alcohol. My life’s become unmanageable. That’s it. I’m done. You don’t ever take the first step again unless you go out and drink again. You don’t take that first step again. Once you take refuge, you don’t take refuge again like it’s you. You’ve done. You’re you’re now on board. You’re now committed, you know. Yeah. There’s a sense of trust, you know, and and I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t trust a lot growing up. I didn’t come from an environment where you could trust the environment at all. And and I think, you know, not taking refuge with Gershon back in the late nineties when I had the opportunity was wise because there’s a certain amount of trust that I realized when I did it in 2005 with Rinpoche, I had I had a measure of trust I’d never had before. And I’m trying to articulate what that means, actually. You know, it’s sort of like I trust myself. Okay, so there was a sort of an idea that I trust myself. I have some kind of belief in myself or trust in myself that that’s happened through the process of of reading and having experiences and all the experiences I had, you know, that led to I have a trust in myself. And what does that mean? Well, it means that I know myself enough that I can now discern something that is good for me and not good for me. In simplest terms, I couldn’t do that first half my life. I really couldn’t. It was sort of like, Oh, you say it’s good, okay, I’m in Oak or everybody in the world says, That’s good, okay, I’m in, you know. And I didn’t have a sense of my own, my own sense of trusting myself, of what is right or for me, you know. And so I think going through our suffering and going through all of the city, searching, searching and seeking that we do, there is a place where and it’s even in the teaching. Buddha said that take your time, don’t pick a lineage, don’t pick a teacher, don’t jump in, take your time, be certain. No, discern. You know there’s a bunch of language that gets used, but I’ll put it down to trust. So. So I was learning to trust myself. And and then there was also the element of, of who can I trust as well, like out there, you know, like and so as I as I got familiar, as I had teachings from from Empeché and I read Pamela’s book and I like there was a sense of trust in the teachings that were coming true as being those feel true to me. They, they hit a mark and here I don’t I I’m pointing in my heart because it felt like that, you know, it’s sort of like they hit a mark of of some kind of truth, whatever truth is. I don’t even know what truth is. Tell you the truth, but. Oh, it hit something in there that was right, because I was trusting myself more. I was starting to notice these things that felt sort of right. They sort of went in and went, Oh, this feels sort of good. This feels sort of right. And so then I was building up a trust in teachers of what they were saying or what I was reading. And so that was a slow process, actually. It didn’t happen overnight. I mean, Garston was back in the nineties, I took refuge in 2005, you know, and plus all the other things I’ve been doing, reading the Bible and going to church. And also I had other spiritual paths which I haven’t talked about. I mean, I had the path work, which is also a spiritual path, which is channel material. I also am another teacher I work with and I’ve teaches his I use his stuff when I teach my healing school is h almost the diamond approach aligns totally with Buddhism, but I was introduced to that before I got into Buddhism. Even so, part work, all of that. So all of these teachings were lining up, you know. Do they go over it in the same way? Nope. Practices are all different, but there’s something about the message. The message hit a mark and I started to go, Oh, that’s I see the 12 steps in the path work. I see the I see the path work in the 12 steps. I see all this work over here. I see I started to cross reference is doing a cross referencing if you like and seeing oh these there’s there’s these things getting woven through. I can trust those things. So I trust myself. And now I’m trusting all of these things that are woven through all of these teachings. I’m attracted to that brought me to the place of finally taking refuge because it felt to me for my path that Buddhist teachings were just all of it. Like like it’s so inclusive, you know, you can just see everything in it that that I was willing to say, Yep, I’ll jump in all now take refuge, you know. But without going through all of that, I couldn’t have taken refuge. You know, and I didn’t take refuge with Ghassan because I don’t even know what the hell what the heck that was. But, you know, I realized that I was I had to do what Buddha says. Actually. Take your time, explore, see what works. You know, I work with a woman right now who’s a devout Catholic, and we’re always comparing notes, just going, Oh, my God, that sounds like Catholicism. I said, Oh, that sounds like Buddhism, you know? And it’s just sort of so what what I what I enjoy now is the dance with with all of these different people, Mennonites and all different people, Jewish people, everyone in my life where we have this commonality because I see that thread and when I see that thread and everything, my trust increases and it reinforces my refuge.
Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, interestingly enough, it’s actually the energy healing that has supported the Vajrayana path. Because suppose you’re on a path, you’re dealing with energy. It’s a path of where you are dealing with stuff beyond the physical all the time. And so when I got to the Vajrayana path and I went, I just went, well, who? Okay, that’s what I’ve been waiting. I’ve been doing the training for the Olympics during the Olympics or otherwise. We’re on a path. And all my energy work and training, that’s where this has got me to. So, you know, I really it’s an amazing, you know, way that fits. But I, you know, if I look at doing, you know, energy work and healing first and foremost, it is if you think about it, it is it is built on the tenet of loving acceptance of what’s here now, of whatever is arising in the moment. So if I’m if I’ve got my hands on somebody and I’m and I’m, you know, allowing the energy to to go, I am not forcing I am not making something happening. I have to relax. That’s the most you’re on a path if you’re struggling, if you’re forcing, you’re not going to go anywhere in the vows. You’re on a path eventually. On a path is about relaxing and allowing and being with what’s everything, anything that’s arising, being with it. It is it is all an expression of ultimate reality. So you know that in order to be, you know, to do the healing work, it’s not about separating. It’s not about exclusivity. It’s not about I’m doing this to you and aren’t I one wonderful healer? It’s not about, you know, I’m the only one with wisdom here. It’s like, no, I’m working with you. And you have wisdom. You have Buddha nature. I didn’t know that at the time, but when I was starting was like, No, you have enormous wisdom. I have a wisdom. Our wisdom is coming together. Can I support that? When even though you’re not ready to support it yet, you’re not ready to see that? You’re not ready to be with it? Maybe. But I am. Can I do that? Can I be with you in that place so that you are so whatever wants to come to fruition can come to fruition. And so the healing journey is about that. And, and a lot of what happens in healing work is people get into playing doctor, well, I’m going to fix you, you know, or people will finish the healing with me and they’ll say, So what did you get? And I go, Well, what did you get? I’m always my journey with my healing clients is always about empowering them, always about getting them to trust themselves, to know what’s going on inside, to not hand their power over to me, to not look to me as the person who is fixing everything I am with you as represents with me on my journey. You know I am with you on this journey and I can hold the things that you can’t hold room for shaken hold the things that I can’t hold until I can hold them right. I So that that’s the parallel for me that I’ve learned. But you know, I, I can hold these things, I can wholly hold these things for you to the amount that I’ve done the work on myself. So I have to keep working with my observations, my habitual tendencies, my judgments, my criticisms and clearing that so that, so that I can be there for yours when they arrive and be with them so that they can move. Because it really is a letting go process all the time, as the boundary on a path is about. So, you know, it’s a letting go. It’s not about anything other than that. So in that in that way, it was something so foreign to me. I had never done anything like that before to be able to sink in and connect so intimately with another human being in a way, and also to not separate, to not say, Oh, this is your stuff, it’s not mine. But to say, you know, this is ours. We are one, we are all interdependent. I was I was learning all the Buddhist teachings in my healing work, but I didn’t know what that I was, you know, and so, you know, that. And then and then combined with my previous earlier training, you know, as a clinical criminologist, the psychotherapy part, then I started to work with people because a lot of what I started to realize then as I got more into Buddhism is it’s the mind. The mind is the issue here. You know, and the habitual tendencies that are there. And so as so then that allowed me to do some healing work and might bring things to the surface for people. Then they were would be clearer and they could look at something and then we would look at, well what, what’s, what’s the relationship with the mind. And then they’d start to make the connection with Oh, I think this and my body tightens up. I can’t breathe. I’m going to a panic attack. Oh, there’s a relationship between how I’m thinking and what’s going on. My body is not interesting that CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, all of the psychological world I think is hijacked Buddhism. So it’s like but it’s just so I’ll use the language of psychotherapy. If I have somebody there who’s who is Buddhist or who’s interested in Buddhism, I might I might translate that. I might translate things that they’re doing into the Buddhist language because they’re studying it now. I have people from different religions, so I have somebody who’s Seventh Day Adventist or Mennonite and and was afraid to come and see me because she heard I was Buddhist. And so what happened has happened there is our journey has been that that’s what our journey has been. She she’s got a very traumatic background, horrendous background and addictions and all kinds of stuff. But our way in was through finding the commonality between her path and my path and in finding the commonality of our paths she trusted and then let go. And then we’ve been doing all this beautiful work on her trauma and and helping that to transform. So we used our spiritual path to find a connection and a trust. And, and now she’s just so excited to see what would Buddhism think about this, you know? And so, like, that’s, you know, delightful. I have Jewish peoples the same way, you know. And so a lot of times what will come up is people people are dabbling everywhere, you know, and and and particularly people who are suffering. They’ve dabbled. So they bring their dabbling. Zen. And one of the things that I think that I do is I make sense of the dabbling. I’m able to give it a context and I don’t take them away from where they’re dabbled. If it’s a Catholic religion or or Muslim or it doesn’t matter to me or or indigenous cultures, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m able to to bring a context to it, you know. And so that has a container. And if they have a container for that that they can trust, have some sense of trust and an appreciation, then they can heal. Their wisdom comes forward because we all have wisdom. So as as a healer, psychotherapist, I believe 100% in the wisdom of the person who’s sitting in front of me, you know, what do I know? I’m playing detective with them, you know, trying to get at that. Where’s where’s that wisdom? Where is it going to come out? How are we going to get that going? I mean, that’s why I’m so lucky to be in the job I’m in. Really? Yeah.
Oh, boy. I mean, this is ongoing discussions, right? Ongoing at the directors level. We’re talking we’re sharing this, you know, directors of different our different songs. And and it’s voluntary, right? So you’re dealing with a voluntary organization and you’ve got limited time resources of people, you know. So, you know, this is I think this is just an ongoing piece here. So I can give I’ll give you an example. One of our Canadian songs are are three really active Canadian songs. There’s we have one in Halifax. I’m not sure how active it is with my we have Montreal. Toronto and Vancouver are very different. Okay. So out in out in Vancouver, you’ve got we all own our centers by the way, so we’re not renting. So that’s unique. Also, we, we actually own our centers, but in Vancouver the resident lama’s there. So Lama often lives there. So there is a lama that’s available all the time and he leads many teachings and practices and it that’s his full time job. Okay, so that makes a difference. They have a very large membership out there, very large community. Um, it’s also on the West Coast, which has a much larger percentage of Buddhists. It also ricochet is located in Seattle, which is right across the water. So it attracts a lot of people there, you know, the same as in Seattle. Big sangha. Okay. Because there’s lamas, resident lamas. We have a resident lama in Colorado as well, that sangha there, which is a very large sangha. So I think having a resident lama attracts because Westerners expect to see that when they walk into a center, whereas the lama, you know, and so that goes on in Vancouver now he visits us, you know, and teaches, but he’s not resident. We don’t have a resident lama in Toronto. So, um, now I look at Montreal, I’m just going to jump to Montreal. Montreal has a vibrant French community and, and people who are not all people but a good portion who are retired and they run lots of programs. So they’re doing a lot of they’ve they’ve translated the English into French. So they’ve had a whole group of people doing translations and very excited about that. So that I think it really engage the community and they offer lots of study and practices in French. So they’ve hit a niche I think, in Montreal. Okay. And plus the director there is great. Luis is fantastic. It’s been in as maybe a bit longer than I have in Toronto. But, you know, just really and her sister was director before that. So it’s a family affair, but so it’s there. So it’s really it’s really great now. Toronto, okay. We’re it’s it’s we have a unique situation in Toronto. And so that’s what I mean. Every song is going to be unique. We just a year before the pandemic, bought our center, so we moved from a place we were renting, which is in a different part of the city to another part of the city which has an impact. You’ll lose people that way because of convenience or, you know, whatever. And and so then we were, you know, really focused a lot on finances and making sure that we could manage it and carry it and, you know, and look after it and look after the center, because now we’ve got a physical center and now we we have things that we have to be responsible for. And we now we have to clean out our other place. They had cleaners, do you know what I mean? It was like, so now we have things that we never had to worry about. So now we’re we’re focused there. We did have a good what really brings people we notice to our center is offering classes. So offering introduction to Buddhism classes, which she’s got a really great package around that. And and then we also have our, our, our Saturday morning meditation practices which are open to the public. So we always offer those. They’re not closed at all. We do a variety of different ones that brings people in and that especially the study classes that has fed people into our organizations for us through study. We don’t have study classes going right now. First of all, we don’t have the manpower to do it. So you can facilitate a class when you’ve already gone through the class. So we’ve got lots of people have gone through the classes. We don’t have people who are comfortable doing it on Zoom. We don’t have people who are comfortable facilitating period. And and we have and so there’s it’s the same people who are facilitating this, the same with leading practices. It comes down to a small group of us. We’re doing the practices all the time because people are nervous, they’re scared, they’re uncomfortable, you know, for whatever their observations come off head on and stuff. So so we’re that’s affecting us right now, you know, that’s affecting us in terms of where is the energy of the song to go. Like, I always look at energy, you know, being a healer, you know. So I’m looking at where is our energy having to go right now? And our energy is having to go to maintain the physical structure through this, I set up the online for two and a half years now. I’ve been doing the online every Saturday morning, you know, and, and hooking up people who are coming in with ongoing study classes, which are being mostly run by out of Vancouver online because they’ve got the manpower. So now a lot of people from Toronto are actually hooked into into Vancouver for study. We don’t know how many people because they haven’t necessarily hooked in with us. So I don’t know what’s going to happen there. And so we are we are facing we’re facing a difficult situation right now because when in the fall we’re going back to in-person, we’ve got to set up for hybrid. I know people aren’t going to come in, they’re going to do the hybrid. And and that’s going to be challenging because it’s going to be a small group of us who are going to be doing the in-person all the time and then putting out the energy. Now, if I look at the people who are available to who are doing some of the work we’re working, we’ve got a couple who are retired. But if we don’t, you know, we’re we’re actively working. And the younger the younger group that’s coming up are working and they’re trying to pay their bills in Toronto. Toronto’s the most expensive city in Canada. It’s next to New York, actually. So for young people to live in Toronto is very difficult. You have to have a really good job or be working a couple of jobs, you know, so so time becomes challenging. I’m not trying to even make an excuse. We also have, you know, Poles with the universities. We’re down. We’re sort of in the East End downtown. But the universities all offer meditation and Buddhist courses. And so you find a lot of the young people are involved in it through that. So they can go from class and go to the meditation center and do a meditation like Easy Peasy. They don’t have to get on a bus so something can travel to the center. So if you don’t really have anything that would pull you in, you’re not you’re not going to do it. You’re going to go where it’s convenient, you know. And so that I think those are just common everyday problems for any organization today is people are looking for convenience. Zoom has been convenient. They’re looking for, you know, things that don’t require a lot, especially for younger people, a lot of commitment they can give a little bit and, you know, dabble. They’re dabbling a lot of dabbling going on. And and that’s okay because that’s part of the journey. So that takes me back to what I noticed within the song. What I notice over the course of working, being in my Sangha is that I wasn’t too interested in being involved in Sangha activities, in doing any administration stuff. I was just I was doing my practice, I was doing my study, I was doing my practice. I don’t want to I don’t want to help with anything. You know, I’m doing my practice in my study. Don’t you know that? That takes a lot of time, you know, and but there was a moment and I’m trying to think of when the moment was it’s probably devotion. When I entered the first year on the path, there was something about there was a a moment where no, it was probably towards the end of the Mahayana path. There was a moment when I know I need to step in here. I want to step in here. Now, this isn’t an obligation. No, I will make the time to do this. I want to do this. I don’t know how to capture that, because I’ve watched that with everybody in our nothing, nothing. And then all of a sudden there’s a moment and there they are. I don’t if I could bottle that, I’d make a gazillion dollars with all the other songs I’m sure. But it’s there’s a moment of readiness. It’s, there’s a preparation that’s going on here, and that also has to be respected. And that preparation takes you to the point where, yeah, you’ll jump in with your whole body instead of just two feet. Yeah. You know, I don’t know, even if I answered your question, but it’s a it’s quite a struggle going back. We’re planning a big opening at the beginning of September. Liam is flying in. He’s going to do a teaching that weekend. We’re going to do some vows. I’m hoping that’s going to generate an energy where people will be excited to come back to the center. And we’ll we’ll get engaged and then we’ll bring in some of the other teachers will bring them in to do some teachings, like some of the senior meters in an hour, an international sangha. And because that tends to draw, but, you know, it’s manpower, really. I think it’s really manpower and woman power. You know, I I’m busy. I work Monday to Thursday. I work off until 830 at night, you know, and Friday is my day off and I need it, you know. And then we have our practice. And then, I mean, last night we had our daily practice that went for 3 hours, which I love purification practice, but it goes from 830 to 1130 because it starts on the West Coast. So we have to you know, it’s not late for them. So, so and those pop up all over the place. So trying to I think I think the you know what? I’m coming back to something that that we I think we started with when we first met even is being a lay person, being a householder how to find balance with all of this, that is. But you know what? That’s not a Buddhist problem. That’s a human problem. And when people say to me, you know, I can’t balance the Buddhist stuff, there’s too much. No, no, this is a human being problem, you know, and and so it’s it’s not a problem of Buddhism. And I need to really I need to be working on balance all the time. That’s my path of mindful activity, is how can I balance this? So if I use today as an example, I was getting called on to do all kinds of help because we’re doing our 24 hour birthday celebration for his birthday today. And so we’re a 24 hour Olympic practice traveling the world, 24 hours going around the world. Each song is taking a doing an hour. So we did ours at noon, but people were getting sick or people couldn’t do it and they were reaching out. I could have probably been doing it all day long. No, you know, and it has nothing to do with do I want to do that when I like to. That’s not balance. I will I will be there later tonight for the end, you know, for the extended practice. But no, I have other things. After we meet, I’m going to meet with a sponsor of mine and we’re going to have coffee and talk. So I’m bringing in that part of my life this morning. I did some work around my with my daughter, like I was on the phone with my daughter, you know, her being her body sort of a self. I’m so excited about, you know, cutting through her observations around wanting revenge, you know, which is great, and getting to enjoy it, enjoy that and sure that, you know, and then and then meeting with you, you know, this was why this was important for me to meet with you is because this is important to me. This, this, this, this thing. What you’re doing is essential to me. It’s essential to who I am. I want people to be able to live the Buddhist path however way they’re going to do it. And that’s what I do in my psychotherapy practice. It’s what I do with my kids. That’s what I want them. I want them to be able to live it in whatever way they need to live it. And so this is important. And so it’s balance is important. I could be doing teachings every night of the week. I’m not doing those. I’m not going on the computer all weekend long. I’m on it all week. I need balance. I get out, I go for a walk, I go see friends, I go see my family. It’s about balance. What is important? How do you balance that in the 12 steps? The 10th step of the of the 12 steps is is about maintaining daily emotional balance. That’s what it’s about. And if you don’t maintain your daily emotional balance, you’ll go off the rails. In Buddhism, your observations and habitual tendencies will go crazy in in the addiction world. The addictions will start to come up, you know, whatever you want to call them. They’re just different words to describe the same thing, you know, so so as a householder, if something’s important to you, you find a way to do it, but you do it in balance. The Buddhist path is not about making you suffer more. It’s about relieving your suffering. So if you’re on the Buddhist path and you’re making yourself suffer more like, What are you doing? You know, there’s lots of examples of that. People spend their fortune following the Buddhist path and then they’re broke. Well, no, Buddha didn’t say do Buddhism, so you can be broke. You still have to pay your bills and eat and you know, then say don’t have a family and don’t spend some time with your family. You know, like, it’s it’s a it’s a human thing to find balance.
The clarity and the change in my life and how I lived my life and how I view life and how I interact with people. That’s the proof that it’s working. It’s not checking off boxes. We have boxes to check. I gave up the room to say if he sees this. Oh, my God. I gave up the checked boxes because a while ago. But we do have checked boxes, you know, so we can monitor our path. But I found myself getting caught up in the check boxes, and I didn’t want that because really the proof for me is how am I living my life? And I think about I think about my mother, you know, for example, my mother, who, you know, was a very difficult, angry, bitter woman, alienated everybody. You know, it was very hard to love her. And as she was, she had a stroke deep in her head in the in 2014. And I would go to the hospital after work every day. And and spend time with her. And and she was in her habitual tendency during that time. That’s what the doctor said to me. So any any words or any movements were actually not conscious. They were just the had her habitual tendencies coming out. So I was reliving my childhood with her because she was yelling and screaming at me, calling me names, treating me awful. And and I the doctor didn’t say was habitual tendencies, but I realized, oh, this is just habitual tendencies. And that allowed me just that awareness and my practice and Buddhism allowed me to sit with her in no matter what state she was in, and to open my heart to her, even when she had means stuff coming out of her mouth. This just. It was just. It wasn’t anything. It wasn’t anything. I don’t know how else to describe it. It just sort of went out and poof, it didn’t land anywhere. There was nowhere for it to land because, you know, if it landed, I go back to the picture of Bhutan under the body tree with the the the marrow sending the the spirit is and they turn to flowers. I’m not saying it was I was like that. I don’t want to keep equating myself to Buddha, but those are my examples. Like I think I don’t know how else to describe it, you know, that would come at me and it would be like it would it would float away. It wouldn’t it wouldn’t it wouldn’t close my heart. And so when my mother eventually died, she died with me loving her. And I never thought I would ever get to that place. How is that going to be possible with this angry, bitter, difficult woman where I kept closing my heart up, where I kept protecting myself and I didn’t have to. There was no self to protect at that point. It was just there is just loving kindness there. And that would be an example, you know, of seeing, oh, this is working, you know, or I look at I look at my relationship with my, my husband, my ex, being able to have the aspiration to want to be in a loving, kind relationship with him. Because we have three children that we shared together, and I have that with him today from my side, I can’t speak for him, but he’s remarried his wife. I remember going to our daughter’s engagement party and I hadn’t seen his his half of the family, you know, since we’d separated. So it was quite some time and and they were all sort of slinking in, you know, and they’d go up to my kids and go, Is your mum here? Yeah. Is is your dad’s, you know, his wife here? Yeah. Is everything okay? Yeah. And they walked in and she and I are in the corner laughing and enjoying each other’s company. And I think that’s it. I know that that came from me. I know that I initiated a lot of it. I know I held that aspiration. I kept my heart open. I kept, you know, welcoming that and and doing that over and over again as a way of my own practice. That was my practice because I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life with with that kind of angst. And I want my kids to have it or anybody that would be around us to experience that. So that was the proof of of the change, you know, and and I’m so grateful for that. And I’m grateful because my kids, as my kids said to me, we never worry if we’re going to do something. We just invite everybody. And it’s no big deal. And that’s that’s my Buddhist path. That’s that’s the practice. That’s the path of mindful activity. That’s taking it off the cushion and seeing it working in my everyday life, you know, with, with other difficult situations, the same, the same thing, you know. So I that’s that’s what we have to be able to get to. We have to be able to get to not not looking for outside validation to tell us, oh, you’re doing a good job. We see inside being able to realize, oh, this is I’m changing. I handled that differently. I’m responding differently. I like who I am. I like how this feels, you know, I have I have people who in my my that I know who are anti-vaxxers and have been, you know, received a lot of hate towards them and and are very cautious and afraid. And and and I it’s wonderful being with them because I can I can include that. I don’t have to I don’t have to say you’re wrong. You’re right. Like, I don’t have to judge that. I don’t have to put concepts. It’s just and and one of the things is that I’ve feedback I’ve received is I feel so free. I’m free. Well, yeah, because there’s space here for everything. There can be space for you as an anti-vaxxer. You know, you can be here. That’s okay. You know, I think. I think that’s really where joy lies. You know, it’s just, um. I find joy in this path in so many different ways. Joy and being able to realize that I don’t have to defend against anything and. And I can relax into things and keep my heart open. Joy and knowing that I can be loving and accepting of what what is which is such a great gift and and joy. This is going to sound strange, maybe, but joy, when I catch my mind doing its thing and I have to I have to talk about this because this is this was one of the most joyful days of my I shouldn’t say the most joyful days, but it was a joyful day in my life. We had we were having the trees. We there’d been a big storm up at our log home. And so some of the trees were damaged. So we had guys coming in to remove the trees. And so I was coming home from work and I was driving down. We had a long, long driveway down and there was a clearing where you could see the log home, like as you’re driving along the driveway. So I came to that and the clearing was there and I watched my mind put the tree that had already been cut down, put it back there. I watched it. Put the tree there, and I started laughing my head off. I couldn’t stop laughing because I actually caught my mind projecting on to onto that spot and because there was no actual object there for it to cling to, it just dissolved away. And I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the property watching that happen. And it was hilarious. And I couldn’t stop laughing. And it was it was that kind of thing. Oh, I caught you. I like when I catch my my grandson doing something he’s not supposed to. And he says I didn’t do it. And meanwhile, he’s covered in whatever he was doing. Right. And, you know, you’re laughing. It’s sort of like I catch you, you know? I don’t know. It sounds weird, but that’s a pretty joy for I’m catching myself doing what my mind does, which gets us all into trouble. Projecting, you know, projecting, you know? Yeah, yeah. It’s the jester. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The joy of the party jester. Yeah. That’s a great way to put it. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I really appreciate you. Sure. Sharing that aspect because I think.
So in Buddhism, that’s that’s probably one of the hardest things, right, is maintaining motivation. Yeah, right. And, you know, I mean, that’s where you have the common preliminaries are are designed to keep our motivation upright, you know, the preciousness of human birth and impermanent, impermanence and karma and things, you know, those, but those that came later as a motivation. For me, that was not a motivation, didn’t keep the motivation going for me at the beginning. Clearly, what what I think, to be perfectly honest with you, when I was reading the teachings and of course I was reading Pema Chödrön too, in the late 90, the late nineties and and what what was happening there when I was reading the intellectual stuff is that, you know, the light bulbs were going off. Oh well. And what the light bulbs are for me as they, as I would say they are in my psychotherapy practice with my clients as well is it was a reframing of how I was looking at the world. So so the, the study or the reading was reframing. And I see that with my clients. I see that with a lot of people I know who love the Buddhist stuff. Oh, my God. I never thought of looking at it that way or considering that or seeing it through those eyes. And so I think reframing starts something, you know, so it starts us looking through different eyes. Our perceptions start to shift, you know, in, in, in the 12 step, I’m going to jump back and forth probably between 12 step and this. But in the 12 step we often talk about it as being a disease of perception. And when you’re going through the 12 step program, it’s changing your perceptions of your self and others and the world. Well, Buddhism is exactly like that. You start to read some of the wonderful books from now on. Pema Chödrön, your other, you know, North American books that we’ve received, you know, on the on the Buddhist teachings, it’s like they’re like, Oh, wow, this is amazing. So I think that’s important at the beginning, the reframing. But the danger with that is and, you know, I’m probably I’m going to sound arrogant here, I hope I don’t. But is that we think in in the Western world, we grew up with all the self-help books. So we believe because I know therefore I am. No, no, that doesn’t work that way, you know. And so I read all this stuff. So I get it. I get it. No, you only get it in one way. That’s not it. And and how, you know, you haven’t got it is because know it’s like I’m hope I’m not jumping here, but it’s like people where we talk about people go to church on Sunday and they get it and then the other six days of the week, they’re lying and cheating or doing whatever they do. It’s human beings, right? We do our human beingness and but on Sunday we’re good, you know, it’s sort of like that. We read we read the Buddhist stuff and we and we love the concepts and we love the teachings, and then we grow up. But we’re actually not living from that. We’re not acting from that place. And the place that’s missing here is the practice. Absolutely. You have to practice Buddha. His teaching was, you know, a bird does not fly with one wing. You need the two wings, practice and study to fly. And so I think what what gets missed and what is lacking for people that that I see is the lack of practice. For me that was the turning point for me is getting into a regular practice. You know, Rinpoche gave us very clear instructions. He never said we were leading up to an hour a day, but he never said, you have to do an hour a day. What he always said to us, get off the cushion while you’re still enjoying it. Don’t sit until you’re in pain and agony because you won’t go back the next day. You’ll only go back to something that you’re enjoying. So I remember that teaching from him, I thought that was brilliant. And so I always made a point of making sure that when I went to the cushion, I was enjoying it and I got off the cushion while I was enjoying it. So that that helped me to keep going back and back and back and then building it up and building up my ability to be on the cushion. And then when I also started to realize the connection between the mind and the body, much more so I mean, in my healing work and all the the work I do with the body, I knew it, but I knew it. I didn’t know it until I knew it, you know, not to say it, but as my mind relaxed, my body relaxed and I could sit longer. So as my mind let go through meditation practices, my body let go. And so it just naturally I could sit longer and and that became and so then the sitting practice along with the study really moved me and it was like and then what would happen is I started to notice that if I didn’t sit, my day was off. So it’s like we almost have to be be made to be able to make the connection. We have to be able to feel it. In other words, the direct experience needs to have an impact. If we don’t sit long enough so that we have the experience that it’s benefiting us, that’s that’s the that’s a problem. And and so we got to get to that point. You know, I often describe it as building up the critical mass. You know, I think it’s this office pushing the the rock up the mountain, right? Most people give up just before they get to the top of the mountain. If only you could tell them, no, keep going. You’re almost at the top. And then it’s going to be really easy because it’s going to go this. But it’s like, you know, it gets you know, we’ve got to keep building up that critical mass of that ability and ability. And then and then it just becomes part of your beingness, you know, if you like. It’s not it’s something that I would never not think to do when after my husband and I separated, I was with another person for 15 years who actually came into Buddhism but wasn’t a Buddhist, but was on a path for us, on a spiritual path. And I get up in the morning and head right into the meditation room, and he would never get up. He’d stay in bed, he’d never get up and go to the meditation room, because I often hear people say, Well, my partner isn’t doing it, you know, or nobody in my family is doing it. And, you know, so it’s hard to go. I don’t know, once the motivation is cultivated, once that the practice is cultivated there and you realize the benefit of it, you just get up and do it. It’s not an obligation. It’s not an effort there’s no effort in. It becomes effortless, you know, and so that I don’t know how to tell somebody to do that, because I think that’s our own individual journeys. But I would say that that’s what you want to work up to. And when I have my clients starting with meditation and stuff like that, I often they say, Oh, this is hard. I said, okay. So and I often talk to them just like when they talk to us, you know, if, if is there a point when it gets too uncomfortable? Yeah. Well, then please stop. Well, yeah, but I haven’t put in so many hours or so many minutes or whatever. I said, don’t worry about it. It’s not about that. You know, you’re not you won’t do something unless you get some kind of reap, some kind of benefit. You know, that’s to be a benefit. I do it. I mean, I think there’s a quote from from Buddha. I’ve got it up there on one of the cards somewhere on my desk that I read it every once in a while and it says, you know, you know, take these practices and go and work with them. You know, just go and practice. And if they don’t work, throw them in the garbage, you know, like Buddha never said, Well, you have to keep doing them, whether you like it or not. You know, he provided is somebody said 84,000 different practices. We got a lot of choice, you know, you know, we don’t have to stay stuck doing something that’s miserable and easy because look look what I’m doing when I say that I’m tightening up. Look, it’s not about tightening up. It’s by letting go. It’s about opening. And in the in the opening, one of the things I’ve started to realize, and this is where the motivation comes that you’re talking about as I’ve relaxed and as I’ve opened. Okay, then, then I’m, I’m more connected here. And naturally what arises is love. Naturally what arises is kindness and joy. It naturally arises in that relaxed, open place. And it’s not there when I’m like this. Does that look lovely? Very loving. But you know, when when you are in that relaxed, relaxed place, love and joy and compassion can arise. And and to move from that place is something like I’ve never experienced before. It’s quite inexpressible. It’s not the attached love. Like I’m falling in love with somebody and I want them. And then it, it, it I guess a moment I would describe a moment I had of thought it was the house I owned with the man that I lived with after my separation or my divorce from my husband. We had a log home in a forest and it was 160 year old log home that had been taken from Quebec and rebuilt on this property. We had seven acres surrounded by 50 other acres and a creek and everything. So we built, you know, hiking, passed through through the forest and stuff. And I remember walking through the forest, I finished meditating and I and I went out to walk on one of the paths. And I remember, I remember I was walking and everything was so vivid and so clear and I was filled with so much love. It was like it was like an experience I’ve never had, never experienced before in my life. And I thought, Oh, this is the natural state that we have. You know, the man that I loved is not in front of me right now. I wasn’t even thinking about him. My kids weren’t around too. I wasn’t even thinking about people or things that I love were not anywhere around me in that moment. They weren’t in my mind. I was just clear and peaceful and just walking and breathing and being. And I was in love or or loving or I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it. And I thought, oh, this is this is it. There’s no effort in it. We don’t have to go figure out how to love somebody or or how to be loving kind. We don’t really have to. We are when all this other stuff drops away. And so when you practice and you start to have those experiences, those start to motivate you. Oh, okay. So I just keep doing these things and this will keep happening more and more frequently. And and it has it has absolutely just been more frequent and more frequent. And then and then, of course, with the the later practices in Vajrayana, there’s built in motivations for us. You know, we do certain certain practices that remind us of the precious human person and life is short and things like that. So that if our motivation starts to wane, you know, we get reminded before I go into that time, something else came up to me as you were talking. I was just thinking that in the beginning what really is helpful is to meditate in a group because you have the energy of the group that supports you so. So trying to do it on your own at the beginning is that’s hard to get the critical mass up. So I would I would emphasize that. So any opportunity you have to be able to meditate with a group of people, you know, whether it’s a sangha you join or whether you’re getting together with a group, it’s it’s essential because that really is helpful in terms of moving that along so that you can sit on your own. So it makes it easier. So I just want to, I just wanted to put that in. And Ricochet often stresses that as well, you know, and that’s why we have sagas. That’s why the community the community is the support for the practice primarily, you know, and so, you know. Yeah. So I would say that to people, you know, find people to meditate with and I will do that. Some of our newcomers, I will that are really struggling and can’t get into some of our group meditations, all you know. So there’s some of us in our sangha do who do that? Not just me, but we will meet individually like 730 in the morning. I got one guy, I’ll get up and before he goes to work, we’ll sit on zoom and meditate together, you know, just to try and give a boost of support.
If I if I look at my oldest daughter, my oldest daughter who took refuge, she’s taken her bodhisattva vows. She muchachos her teacher lama did the blessings at her wedding. Our Canadian lama lama often she she came. She basically she you know, the books were around. I think I think part of it was, you know, they read they read books. One of them actually here. Now then what? I’m thinking about it. Do you know the book, the four agreements? Yeah, I don’t. Girl, go to us. Okay. My, my. Both my daughters loved that when they were teenagers, I was lying around. They started to read it and went, Oh, my God, Mom, this is a great book, you know? And they were practicing it with their friends, right? They can all, you know. So he came to town and they were young, like they were really little. They in fact, they were the only kids at this thing. And so I got them tickets so that they could hear him and everybody pushed them right up to the front. So they were basically sitting at the front with him. So they were getting a transmission from him. He was like they were getting hit. My my youngest daughter was sort of falling asleep. She couldn’t stay awake. I said, don’t worry about it. It’s going in, you know. So. So there was that peace and there was my healing journey. Now, in order to be a healer, you really have to be in loving acceptance of what’s here. Now, if I’m giving a healing and I’m saying, Oh, this is your stuff coming up, I’m automatically separating. There is no healing going on. I have to be able to be with you wherever you are in order for a healing to happen. And so my kids loved healing work. I did healing on them. They loved it. They felt calm afterwards and everything. So my my middle daughter, I’ll jump to my middle daughter. Actually, I’m just going to let this flow the way it comes out. Okay. She was in grade seven at a girls private school in Toronto. Both my girls were at the school and it was bring your parents school so they could talk about the work they do. I was at Barbara Brennan still. I maybe was in second or third year, but I was working on people. So I was doing healings and I wasn’t doing psychotherapy so much, but it was healing work anyway. Kim said, Mom, I signed you up. You got to come in and do healing work. And I said, Really? And she said, Yes. So I went in and I had I had the girls there and I was doing exercises so they could feel healing and so that they could, you know, work with energy work. And they were all like getting it. Like they were all so excited. Like it was really fun. And I was really talking about being in loving acceptance and I was just talking about basic principles, you know, and, and I started with a meditation, actually. We did a little meditation at the beginning and all of that. And so my, my daughters were, I think, got engaged because of my healing work. They were really excited about that. And then, of course, that, you know, the readings around that and they wanted to read books around it. So any books that were in the house and were around, they were just picking up and reading books. Okay. So I think with Kristen, my oldest, Kim, Kim was sold. Kim loved it. Kim talked about it all the time. She has me do healings on her all the time. She Kim is my middle one. She went to traveled around the world when she graduated from university and was going into temples and she was meeting monks and she was getting teaching. She was like, Whoa, mom, this is all the stuff that that you do, you know and and pretty turned on by it and and has incorporated a lot of that into her everyday life and how she works and how she how she is in her job. And when I when I am with her, she’ll say, you know, do you remember when you taught me this? You know, this is really helpful because with my stuff today and or she’ll say, Mom, you taught me this. Why are you doing that? I’ve loved it because they’re coming back and saying, Mom, that’s not what you taught us, you know? So I, I stand corrected by them a lives. You have to have a lot of humility when you have kids, I have to tell you. And so so that’s been a gift. So so she’s taken what she needed. She hasn’t entered a path or anything, which she calls herself a spiritual person. Absolutely. She would, you know, but, you know, so she just tries to be it. Her motto is, I want to be the kindest person I can be. I want to work with kind people. I want to be kind. That’s her motto. Like it’s kindness. When she goes for an interview, a job interview, that’s what she puts out. She says, If I want to work with people, that’s what I’m looking for. You’re interviewing me. But I’m I want to see people. That’s that’s what she’s always said. So in terms of my daughter, my one daughter, Kim, the one who went on to get into involved in the Buddhist path, you know, basically became very was on an on a seeking path. Like she had some some things come up in in high school. I’m not going to really talk about too much. The details are not fair. But, you know, that led her on a path, her own suffering. Her suffering led her on a path of seeking and so she was doing all kinds of seeking and reading. And then when Lama came to town, lama dropped a came to town. She came for a weekend of teaching with a couple of her girlfriends and connected immediately with him. And and then every time he came to town, he stayed with her and he would say to me, she’s my sister. And they were very close. And and then so she started, you know, meditating as part of of also dealing with her her stuff. She just the path was just she just moved into it, came to retreats, saw room to say, you know, just all all the stuff started the path, you know, just reemphasize path. It was just natural for her. She did her body stuff about, you know, it just before the pandemic, the last time lama often was here. And I think we’re where it works for the two of us is I’m point I often point out to her where she’s being a body surfer. She’s going through a thing right now. They sold their house and they’ve sold their house to a family who are difficult, I have to put it very lightly. And so she’s she’s it’s been a struggle. And she said, I just want to do this and this like she wants, you know, revenge. She wants to, you know, do something. And and she said, but I’m not going to do that because that will hurt me and it will cause them harm and I’m going to do it. So she’s done the opposite. Every every inclination she has is she’s doing the opposite. So where she doesn’t want to be kind to them, she just got them a card and a plant to leave for them. She’s left them some extra things. They they nickeled and dimed them. And so she’s not she’s being generous. She’s doing she’s doing all of the parametres, you know, and also being a body surfer, like not not not not letting she’s seeing the obstacles come up. She’s seeing her habitual tendencies want to come up and she’s not going there. And what what she told me this morning, I’ve never been so happy in my life. And I said, I know what you’re talking about. She said, I’m happy not because the circumstances inside me have changed, but I’ve changed how I’m relating to them. And that’s my Buddhist path. And, and so we we we are like that with each other, you know. And if she gets a little bit off, I say something. If I get a little off, she’ll say something. And so we sort of do the dance together. And now my son is a different thing. He’s my youngest. And I think I had told you this when we were talking before he I would describe him as sort of more more of an oppositional kind of stance. That’s that’s what he likes, you know, you say. BLOCK He’ll say why you say no and he’ll say yes. And, you know, like that’s sort of his personality in the way is so he started embarked on a journey of studying all the things that I studied so he could argue with me. And I want to tell you, you know, I haven’t said this to his face. So if he ever sees this, you know, I hope he’s not. But he’s he’s a wonderful Buddhist person, actually, because he he will quote things to me. He will say things to me. I don’t want to be like that. He says, I’m like this, but I don’t want to be like this. That’s not kind or that’s not that’s not a good way. And he’ll he’ll words will come out of his mouth. And it sounds like the Dharma like like something he’s read, you know, he’s, he’s made it his own. He’s he goes on social media sites and, and looks for things that support that. So I think maybe sometimes he’s he’s he struggles like, don’t get me wrong, he’s he struggles. But he he also in in the Dharma. Um, what I’ll do is I’ll sit with him. What I do is I just offer, I just make offerings and I put him in my practices, you know. So I include him in my practice, especially when he, if he’s struggling in any way and and I and I make offerings, you know, if there’s anything that might be a benefit to him, I just offer that to him, you know, and I lead with nonjudgmental with him and and loving kindness and look for the good in him. And he’s got lots of good and that’s been sort of my journey with him. And I don’t know where he’s going to end up on his path. You know, he’s making some kind of a path for himself right now. He meditates in the morning. Well, he told me that the other day. Okay. Oh, he does, you know, some journaling, does some other things. You know what? I’m going okay. I can’t get too excited because I, I too then, you know, run away from it’s that my temper, my, my wahoo that’s going off inside of me, you know? So you deal with your kids, you know, and they’re all different, right? And they’re going to go the path that they need to go with whatever you’ve offered and and lived. And I have never I will never jam any anything down someone’s throat. I, I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in promoting things. I believe in attraction. I believe in being the change you want to see in the world. I really love that I that’s important to me. All my kids know that phrase. Some of them, two of them. I’ve got them written on sticky notes for themselves. Be the change you want to see in the world, you know. So if I want people to be kind to me, I need to be kind, you know?
Oh. How has my devotion expressed itself? Yeah. Yeah. No, really. You know, I have to tell you, like, I like the word devotion, but the heck out of me for a long, long time. Yeah, exactly. Oh, really, really. Bug me, you know? And then I would watch people and they would be. I’m this isn’t probably going to be kind, but it was really hard for me watching people go, oh, say, oh my God. Oh, you know, and sort of this worship kind of, um, do go gaga. I don’t know. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I never felt that I never felt that towards my teacher. I never felt that even towards Garcia. Garcia. All I knew was that he has this loving heart. And I want to. I want the loving heart, you know, that he has, you know, and and with with Paula. Sure. It’s been it’s been an interesting journey because for me, my devotion to him kept getting interrupted. And it got and this is my path. This is my stuff. I let people who I let people’s versions of of devotion be obstacles for me and in my development of my devotion to Rinpoche. And so when when things would arise in me naturally an impulse would arise naturally in me. Let’s say I’ll use I’ll use an example. Did I tell you about the banana bread example already? Oh, okay. Here’s my banana bread. So we can I was going to take refuge, so I was filled with joy. I was filled with anticipation. I knew I was taking refuge. I’d never met Rinpoche before. I was excited to meet him because I loved his his study classes. I loved everything I’ve been doing. And I want I want to meet this man, you know, and and I that the Friday night he had an opening teaching on the Friday night and it was great. And I rushed home and I said, I have to make organic banana bread for refreshing. And my my partner said, what? And I said, I ran out and got ingredients and I stayed up and made this beautiful loaf of banana bread. Now I make great banana bread. So I mean, my kids love my and most people love my banana bread. When I take it to the song, are they all did you bring your banana bread? So I mean, I do make good banana bread. I go nuts. But I, I was compelled like I had to make this. I don’t even know if he likes banana bread. I have not a clue. He might be allergic to it. For all I know, I had to make this so I wrap it up, I bring it and I go to somebody and I say, I made this for rent. Say, how do I get it to him? Why did you do that? I went, Oh, nuts. And then I went, Oh, I guess I’m too inside. I’m going, I guess I shouldn’t have done that. Well, I don’t know whether they’ll be time to give it to him, you know. Bah bah bah. And I got this sort of, like, weird looks from people, you know? And so then I’m. I’m being a bad girl. Oh, I’m not following the rules. I’m not supposed to do this. So I finally went to one last person, and I said, So what do you got there? And I said, Oh, I, I, you know, I didn’t want tellers and I made this for rent. And she said, Oh my God, go down the stairs, give it to him when he’s coming up the stairs. And he said, really? And she said, yeah. And so he’s coming up the stairs. Another teary moment. Here we go. And he’s coming up the stairs and he looks right at me and I say, I made this for you. And he took it out of my hands and he said, Thank you so much. And he just held my hands. And then he walked in and he gave it to his his assistant who took it and put it in his bag. I don’t know if he ate it. I don’t it doesn’t matter. I realized it didn’t matter. He received me. This was my offering. He received my offering and my offerings were getting tossed aside. If I listen to our ordinary human beings that we are with our judgments and our own stuff coming up and and I was able to take my offering. So that was my first taste, a little bit of that. And then and then I, you know, I wanted to go to Sangha Retreat and somebody said, oh, you don’t have the qualifications. You can’t go and da da da da da. Once again, it was an arising. I wanted to go and have a teaching with Rinpoche, so I didn’t go and I, I felt these obstacles there. My obstacles, my obstacles where I let other people interfere with my devotional impulses that are arising and I let them kill them. They’re not doing it on purpose. They’re there. They don’t know what they’re doing. This is my you know, and so I struggle with devotion. What is my relationship with pressure? You know, how how do I have a relationship with him? So what I started doing is I started my devotion, started getting directed more at his teachings through his study path and his practice path. And I started really appreciating the way he taught in his in his study classes, you know, in a way he instructions he gave for practice and I, I that became my devotion to him was through that not, not direct him but through him because I was afraid. And also, you have to remember that wherever we’re afraid of authority figures he would be classified as an authority figure in my ordinary mind. Then we’re going to have issues. You know, and I recognize that happening to me, that somehow he was being, you know, he was taking the place of my parents who were not great parents. You know, they did the best they could do, but it wasn’t what I needed, and I was afraid to take a chance on him. That was one of my big obstacles. So I’ll tell you what I discovered. So I did end up going to Sangha retreat the next year and and I had a lot of stuff come up for me as it does. It’s not a retreat. It’s like you got all this stuff’s coming up. And I went home and I thought, I’m really upset. I don’t know if I can stay here. I don’t know if I can stay in this saga. You know, I’m not sure because of some, you know, just regular sangha stuff. I realize now that it happened and all my stuff is coming up, but I don’t know. So I was sitting with it went on for months. Cassandra Retreat was in July by the time October hit, I thought, I’ve got to do something about this. Well, remember, she teaches in San Antonio every year where he did up until pandemic, the Treasury of Knowledge Retreat. So he he teaches that it’s a weekend in Texas San Antonio and and I was looking do or die here and I went okay I got a plane ticket. I can’t I still can’t believe I did this. I got a plane ticket and flew to San Antonio. Now I have a sister there. So I could you know, I flew in, she picked me up and I went. The retreat was outside of San Antonio. I went to the Treasury of Knowledge Retreat. I went to his assistant and I said, I have to see Rinpoche. And he said, We’re not doing interviews during this. This is just a short teaching. He’s not. He’s only here for two and a half days, not I said, I have to speak to Rinpoche. This is life and death. It’s actually what Rinpoche saw me at lunch and I went in. Oh, my God, I can’t even believe I did this. I took my chair. He was sitting in his chair. I took my chair and I went right up and I was touching his knees. That’s how close I was. I said, Rinpoche, this is serious. And he said, I know what’s what’s happening. So I told him about what I had experienced. And he looked at me. And for other people, this isn’t going to be a big deal for them. But he looked at me and he said, Thank you for bringing this to me. This is important. I’m going to go and reflect on this and contemplate. I want you to know that I’m so appreciative that you brought this to me. And then he said, Where did you come from? I said, Oh, I just flew down from Toronto because I wanted to tell you this. He said, You flew from Toronto to say this to me? And I said, Yeah, so why didn’t you just phone? He and I were laughing. We were laughing, right? So I went home and I was thinking about I went, that’s my devotion. That act was my act of devotion. Mine looks different. Mine is fighting fiercely for my Dharma practice. Mine is fighting fiercely for this path and he is my vehicle to be on this path. I need him for this path. And I went down there to fight for it. And he all I needed him to do was say to me, I, I get it. And you know what? That was it. How was it for me? He did make changes, but I don’t even know if they’re because of me. It doesn’t matter. Like, I don’t know what he did with the banana bread. I don’t know whether he made changes because of me. It doesn’t really it doesn’t matter because what he did was is he received me as a kind, loving person. And that’s what I never got. And that’s what helped me with my devotion. But I had to be devoted to get on that plane, to find his and tell me that that was it, because I didn’t recognize it as an expression of my devotion until I got home. And then I thought about I went, Oh, that’s what my devotion looks like. Mine isn’t the oh, mine is the fierceness. I’m I’m a fierce practitioner. I get that. Now, this is mine. One more story about devotion. I’m in Nepal for Temple Rinpoche, his 80th birthday. We were over there with Rinpoche and some Sangha members, and I went with my daughter, which was such a beautiful trip. She’s a student of his as well. And I got so sick, I was really, really sick. And it was the day of Temple’s birthday and we had all of these things we were doing and and I’m in bed and I said to my daughter, Let them know I can’t come. And I, oh, this terrible. There’s a knock on my door, another moment where I’m going to cry here. These are all really heartfelt moments for me and Rinpoche. She’s assistant is at the door and he comes in and he sits beside me and he says, Rinpoche is so sorry that he can’t be here with you right now. He heard that you were sick and he’s not able to come. But he sent you this this remedy, and he wants you to take this, and he hopes that you will be well. And then the assistant left and that’s my relationship with him. I don’t know what else to say. He’s kind, he’s loving. He’s what I never got in my life. He knows. He knows what I need. My parents, why that was so significant for me is growing up, I wasn’t allowed to be sick. And when I got sick, I was told I was lying. So you can see how significant that was that he did that that he was he that was the right medicine. The medicine. I took that. But the right medicine was actually the action. And now you know what? I don’t need to see if I need something from him. I just sit on my cushion and connect him, you know? But I have everything I need. I have I have total devotion to this path. And he’s my teacher. And if anything gets in the way of him being my teacher, I will go. I will be flying to wherever I need to fly to, to to make sure it’s right, you know, that’s what my devotion looks to.
And it was actually shocking to have that realization in that moment because, of course, I had been pursuing all the things that I’d been told would make me happy if I got a wonderful husband, which I did. Checkmark kids Check. Mark had a career check. Mark lived in a beautiful house in Toronto. We had a cottage, we had a sailboat. We traveled, we did everything I was it was so amazing. And yet I found myself not happy. I was angry, actually. I had been sold a bill of goods that somehow, if I had acquired all of these things, that the magic moment would come and it never came. And fortunate for me, for some, maybe it’s karma. I didn’t turn that on myself and said, Well, you’re just a loser. You might as well pack it in, forget it. I didn’t. I thought, there’s got to be something else, you know? And that really took me on a deep dove into my spiritual path where I ended up, you know, in Buddhism. But prior to that, you know, if I go way back, I’d always been looking for something. I was the oldest of four children. And my my father grew up in an alcoholic home, a violent one, actually. And my mother grew up in a large family. And where alcohol was forbidden, which I often wondered, why was that? Maybe there was something there. And my mom and dad, you know, I can I can say they did the best they could. Of course they did, you know, with with the tools they had and the life they had. But I grew up in a very traumatic, violent, alcoholic home. And I was I was always especially on the weekend, sitting, waiting, do I have to call the police now or not? Do I have to jump in the middle of my parents? You know, is somebody going to die this weekend? What do I do with my younger brothers and sisters? There was always the threat. We might be taken away. My dad drank a lot of money away, so we were quite poor, but we were living in a middle to upper middle class area of Toronto. But we were hiding it. Nobody knew how we were living. We didn’t have money. It was like a can of Campbell’s soup among the six of us, you know? And so, you know, it was not it was not a pretty thing. And so I grew up realizing that somehow I’m different. Somehow, like our family was different. We weren’t living like everybody else. And and I and I remember the one night that I did phone the police on my parents, mainly because I was so terrified that everybody was going to die. And the police came in and they settled it down and he was walking at the door and remember holding on to him and saying, you know, I’m going to get in trouble because I called you. Please don’t go. Don’t leave me behind. You know, and and I remember that moment and he said, You, you’re going to be fine. Don’t worry. And I took his words and I often use those words, I’m going to be fine.
The clarity and the change in my life and how I lived my life and how I view life and how I interact with people. That’s the proof that it’s working. It’s not checking off boxes.
Like that police officer never knew how I needed just I needed something to hang on to. And so I started noticing friends of mine were happy, close friends of mine at my up at our cottage because we were at a cottage every summer was my, you know, the handing down the cottage from great grandfather to, you know, to us. And this family was a Catholic family, and they had huge numbers of kids and they and more kids would be coming up as all the cousins came up. And it was chaos, but it was happy chaos. It was loving chaos. And they would have the priest over for dinner. Who’s a priest? Like, I didn’t grow up in any kind of of religion or anything, you know, and I hang around and and so I thought, Oh, that’s the solution. I need to be Catholic. So I went to the local Catholic Church. I was probably ten with my girlfriend from that family, and we would do the Stations of the Cross. I didn’t know what the Stations of the Cross were. I said, What are we doing? Said, Archie, you just go through these and just pray. Just ask for something. I said, okay, you know, please don’t let my parents drink this weekend. Please don’t let my parents you know, I sort of had this common prayers and and I hung out with the family and and and it gave me hope that there was another way. But I didn’t know what that was. The age of 12, I got myself confirmed in the United Church because I also had some other friends going to the United Church. And I thought, Oh, their household is peaceful. Okay, maybe it’s the United Church I need to do. So I got myself confirmed, like what, 12 year old I don’t know about you if you have any kids, but my three kids, when they were 12, the last thing they wanted to do was be inside a church. Okay. No, not me. I went through all the classes, got myself confirmed, and became quite involved in the church. And and that was okay. I got once again, it did not satisfy me. I had to have some surgery. I had a growth on my knee when I was about 13, 14, and I had to have some surgery. And I was in the hospital. Every other person, it seemed in my room had a minister or somebody visit them and my minister didn’t come to see me. That was like it was like, why isn’t he coming to see me? What what? What’s wrong? So once again, my search again. Again, my best friend in high school was Catholic once again. And this is not from the college. This is from being in the city. And I hung out at her huge family, peaceful, loving. I loved them. I loved her mom. I loved being in. I spent so much time over there as much as I could because it was peaceful and it was loving. And I thought, well, it’s Catholicism for sure. You know, I mean, this has got to be my path. I never did. I married a Catholic. That’s what I ended up doing. I married a Catholic and went through the Catholic classes so I could marry a Catholic, you know, and promise that my kids would be raised in the Catholic Church and, you know, did it did all of that, that stuff. And so that was pretty interesting. But even in between that, when I went to university, I did my undergraduate at Western, I got a hold of Don Wong, I could Way of knowledge by Carlos Castaneda and I won’t want you to wait. They will give you a real. Yeah, yeah. I’m going to go to the Miami shoot straight. Yeah. Yes. Thanks for reminding me. Yeah, I don’t think it’s my kids because they know I’m doing this. So. So I was still searching for that happiness pill, right? To feel content and joyful. I read Carlos Castaneda books and went, All right, this is it. That’s the answer. And I was trying to figure out how I could quit university and I was going to go down and find them. I was that serious. And I got scared and I couldn’t I could not do it. The pressure to succeed be the first person graduating from university on my side of the family, my relationship with my mom, my boyfriend who became my husband, I felt like I couldn’t abandon any of that for my own happiness. I guess now that I say that out loud. And so I, I packed it in and I actually I married Steve. We got married in a Catholic church, but I really packed in the seeking. And I think it’s because also what I had said at the beginning, oh, here I was. I’ve got this wonderful husband, we’ve got a career. He’s he’s gone on and become a lawyer. I got my master’s degree in criminology. I was a clinical criminologist. You know, we we lived well. We had our kids. You know, we I mean, I I’m going to have happiness. You know, they told me this is it. And so I’m getting rid of that stuff and I’m just going to do what people tell me and and see. Okay. And so that became that journey. And that journey included drinking. And I vowed I would never become an alcoholic. I vowed that I would never drink like my my parents did. And I didn’t drink like them. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have the problem. You know, we we we can fool ourselves. I’m not going to look like that. But no, I’ve got my version of what that’s going to look like. Right. And so what I discovered when my third child was born, James and he was born in June, and in August, I was sitting in my backyard of our beautiful home and, you know, I mean, everything in my life was perfect from the outside. If you walked into my life, you would go, Oh, my God, you and Steve are living the most perfect life in the world. And I was sitting there that afternoon breastfeeding my son and thinking to myself, If this is it, then I’m I want to die. And I and I seriously was thinking that. And once again, here’s another moment that brings tears to my eyes, because it became a turning point for me in in that moment, someone showed up at my door and it was a friend and she showed up and she said, I want you to get a babysitter for tomorrow. I’m taking you somewhere. And she took me the next day. I trust me. I got my mother in law and went with her. And I went to my first 12 step meeting, which was 12 steps for alcohol for adult children of alcoholics. And that actually started my spiritual path at that point. Again, re re getting back on the wagon, you know, which I had abandoned probably for about 18 years, 19 years at that point. And, and I can remember being walking out of that first meeting and going, oh, my God, this is this is it for me. And for the next I guess that was 1988. And that started me on a journey that I want to tell you. When you hear alcoholics or people who are in 12 step program say, it saved my life, it honestly saved my life because I don’t know if I’d be on the Buddhist path today if that hadn’t happened. I don’t know. I might be dead, actually. Good chance I would be dead and therefore would have missed the beauty and the wonder and the amazingness of of this path that I’m on and have been on and will be on. You know, I it’s just I feel so grateful for that moment. That moment changed my life. And I started with EARNEST in the 12 steps, and I, I did it around my kids and my my husband’s schedule. So mostly B, the day when I was at home, I would go to meetings or I would read books and I went to then I moved to Al-Anon, you know, and then in 1992, sorry, this is quite emotional for me emotionally in a good way. You know, in 1992, I had been at an Al-Anon meeting and a woman in the Al-Anon meeting who had the same name as my mother, believe it or not, was listening to me talk. And she came up to me, said, Oh, you might want to try an AA meeting.
And I went, Why so? I don’t know. I just got a feeling you might want to try it. Well, if you’ve ever been to a 12 step meeting, you listen to the wisdom of the elders that trained me well for listening to the wisdom of Guru of my of Rinpoche, you know, my teacher, they really set me up. Well, for that is you listen to them and you do to do that. So I went to an AA meeting and, and cried through the whole meeting and I walked out of that meeting and ran into somebody from my other 12 step group. And, and he said, st, you know, Cynthia, why are you here? And I said, I have no idea because I control my drinking. And he said, You have to ask yourself why, why you need to control your drinking. And for me, that was the moment that turned everything around. I went home and I went, I’m an alcoholic. And that started my journey. And that a journey opened me to it, open to me. That’s really what it did. It it I, I didn’t have to hide anything. I didn’t have to pretend I didn’t have to try to to not be something, you know, in the in the Vajrayana path that I’m on, Rinpoche always tells us to relax to not reject anything, you know, allow everything, be with everything, learn to be with everything. And that moment that I was able to admit that I was I stopped having to fight it and pretend or do whatever I was doing and started the path of opening. And that path of opening included exposure to other paths and, and meditation step 11 says Sort through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. As we understood him, I always stopped at sort of like prove our conscious contact that was good enough for me. And so I embarked on trying to figure out how to meditate and, and I a couple of things. I use technology in a book because I went to a meditation class and they said, Just empty your mind. And I went, Are you what? Empty my mind like, oh, what? Oh, just sit there. Just breathe and empty your mind. Honestly, I went crazy. I thought, you know, like, if this is the path to meditation, like, I quit. But I wasn’t going to quit at that point, you know, I was too now on the path I had quit way years back. I wasn’t going to repeat that one. So I kept looking. I got checking out hands, book pieces every step. And I followed his instructions in there and I started doing walking meditations every day with his with his mantra that he tells you to say when you breathe in and when you breathe out, I can’t even remember it at this moment is a so quite a long time ago, but I was transformed. I was transformed by that. And I went, oh, everything looked brighter, more vibrant. I felt more at peace. That’s that’s I had that’s what my husband walked into. My husband walked into that place of me having come back from doing a walking meditation. And he saw my happiness and my peacefulness. That was it that he saw. And and of course, unless you have the direct experience yourself, you have no idea what that means. I mean, I tried to explain it to him, but that it’s meaningless, you know, because you can’t get it with your head, you know, it’s it’s inexpressible, as they say. It’s something that has to be experienced. And I was experiencing something. I had never experienced it. And I didn’t know how to convey it, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to stop now, you know? And so then that led me. I had to a to more experiences that got me hooked directly into, into, into the Buddhist path. One was a group of women from my age group. We we would get together a couple of times a year with this woman who led us in weekend workshop, you know, and this weekend workshop we were doing an open eye meditation. So I had a little bit of knowledge of meditation at this point. And I, we were listening to music and looking at flowers and I had my eyes wide open and the flowers were in front of me and all of these colors were coming out of the flowers in time to the music. Now, I never used drugs when I was younger, but I would imagine that that must be what a trip is like because it was unbelievable. And I thought, what the heck is going on here? You know, am I losing my mind like, what am I? What am I seeing? And at the end of it, I expressed to the group what I’d seen, and everybody went, Oh my God, you know, you’re seeing the energy field or whatever. I now discovered it’s not the energy field I was seeing. I now know I was seeing a layer consciousness. And so that was interesting because of course our mind’s always projecting, right? But anyway, it was interpreted that way and it needed to be interpreted that way for my journey. I got it. Didn’t know what the I did not know what energy fields were. I did not know what chakras were. None of that was mainstream back in those days. That was woo woo stuff. Now, remember, I’m a clinical criminologist. I’m married to a lawyer. I live in a conservative part of Toronto. And you’re now telling me that I’m seeing the energy field and I’m going to go home and tell somebody. One of my friends I saw the energy field. They’re going to think I’m crazy. And actually they did. They did, really. But I got curious because I had already started a spiritual path. The 12 steps of curiosity. It’s a it’s a path of curiosity of getting to know yourself. And I wanted to know this. And so I that was one piece. And then also that summer, I went to the Omega Holistic Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, with my girlfriend. And I went to a workshop called The Lover Within. And I really went because I wanted to learn how to open my heart up. And that’s, you know, to love more loving and kind to my husband and and that was my intention for going. And we got down there and it turns out the woman that led it had just returned from Tibet. She’d been there for ten years and she was doing all kinds of energy stuff with us. Can you feel the energy between your hands and can you feel the energy? And I was feeling old and I’m going, Woo! That is like really cool stuff, you know? And then she had us do this chant. I wrote it down, I was looking for it, but I couldn’t find it. But it was a chant that her teacher in Tibet had given her. And we sat in a circle and she had us chant this, and as we’re chanting, I’m getting hotter and hotter, and people are moving farther and farther away from me. And I realized at that point what was happening is my field was expanding, you know, and and there was so much energy in it. And while we were chanting, I had I had a few things happen. I heard a knock at the door and I turned around to see and there was no one there. It happened three times, actually, the knocking on the door and there was no one there. And then I heard the door open, no one. I didn’t see nobody. The door did not open physically, you know. But I heard the door open and I felt somebody walk up behind me. And so I thought, this is like I’m really losing my mind here. This is crazy. So at the end of it, she asked if anybody had an experiences and I put my hand up and told her what happened and she said, Oh wow, you met my teacher. And I went, but. And she said, You must have a really strong connection to Tibetan Buddhism. And I said, What’s Tibetan Buddhist? Never heard of anything at all. Like I took that horn, but he’s Vietnamese. Like, what’s Tibetan Buddhism? You know, like, what’s this? What is this weird stuff? Like what? You have ghosts coming, and that’s what that’s about it. I was like, I this is really weird. And she just she just reinforced it. And when I left that day, she said, You might want to do something with this. I mean, this is a strong connection. And I went, okay, right? So anyway, I didn’t. And when I got back to the city because of seeing me at the energy field with the other group, somebody had called me up and said, You need to read Barbara Brennan’s book Hands of Light. And I got that message three times and I never did anything with it, just like I never did anything with the recommendation that you should go and do something about Tibetan Buddhism. But the interesting thing is, and I really believe this is my karmic connection, there was I didn’t stand a chance of ignoring it, not a chance in the world of ever ignoring this stuff. And it’s got to be my karmic peace here, whatever. But I was I was getting ready to go to the cottage with the kids for the summer is a Friday night packing up and Ellen DeGeneres, the show is on the TV and her first sitcom was took place in a bookstore. And on the shelf behind her was Barbara, Brendan, Hands of Light. And I have to talk. I freaked out and I looked at my husband. I said, I’ve got to go down to the Omega Bookstore. And he said, It’s 10:00 at night. I said, I know it’s open till 11. I’ll be back. He said, What do you do? I ran down, bought the book, came home, took it to the cottage. And my kids, if you lined my kids up here right now, you would they’d have you in stitches because they would they would mimic me. I was on the dock reading the book, and this is how they describe watching me. And they would laugh, oh, my God, oh, god. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. The whole time I was reading it because I knew everything in the book, but I’d never read it before. It was one of those I know everything. Oh, I phoned the one 800 number in the back of the book which who does that anyway? I did it and found out that she only had one workshop left for the year and then she has a school that she teaches healing school. And if I wanted to go to a workshop with Barbara Brennan, I would have to sign up right now. I gave them my Visa card number. I signed up. It was in Rhode Island, New York. I’ve never been to Rhode Island, New York. I’m at the cottage. I’m doing this. I came down, told my husband, he said, Are you out of your mind? I mean, I have to feel for him, honestly, you know, that he hung in with me through through this stuff because it must have been so weird for him on the outside watching me. I mean, it’s weird for me to talk about that even now, but it’s like for him to be there and he said, You can’t do that. We can. And I said, Boys, it’s the only we can. We get to see the kids at camp. That’s our our parent. We can. I said, I have to go. And he said, What? And I said, Yeah, I have to do it. I don’t I was so compelled. I don’t even know I can’t even the the compulsion to go was so strong. I went and when I went that weekend, Barbara brought me up on stage and she had me read fields and she had me read people and she had and I was doing things. I’m going, How am I doing this? But you know what? I’d always done that. I always I always knew people. I always knew things. I always I, you know, I and I think it was partially, you know, if I was going to reflect right now about trauma, one of the gifts out of my trauma was that it made me actually very self-reflective. It actually turned me inward in lots of ways. And the only the only thing that I, I had to trust in lots of ways along the way was myself. And in that closeness to myself is actually what helped me to to be a healer. And so there’s a real a real connection there for that. They talk about the wounded healer is the best kind of healer, you know. And so they came up to me and said, look, we’re starting a another class in September. We’d love to have you in the class. Would you please consider coming? I came home and I said to my husband, I’ve got to go and do this training. He said, Our kids are too little. You can’t you can’t do this. It was going down to the States for four years, five times a year, a week at a time. And I said, okay, I won’t do it. And everything fell apart. Like literally everything fell apart. My joy left, but physically things started falling apart. And so I thought, Oh, I’m going to play with this. I’m going to make a decision to go. When I made a decision to go, my joy and happiness came back and I went, okay, this is going to cost a lot of money, which we don’t have. We’re on one salary right now because I’m home with the kids. What am I going to do? I got a call immediately after I said that from Corrections Canada asking me to do some community development for $40,000 that was going to pay for all my schooling. And I went, okay, accept it. I said to my husband, I’m going, I have the money. I will make sure everything’s set up for you and the kids when I go away, but I’m going. So then what happened was this would be Mara, you know, Buddha, I don’t want to equate myself with Buddha. We do have Buddha nature, but it would be sort of like my version of Mara at that moment, you know, sitting under the body tree, I was just so peaceful in my life’s little chair. I made the decision. I told him he was very upset. And then I got bombarded. All our friends started calling, You’re in a cult. You’re crazy. What’s wrong? You need some psychiatric help. You’re having a breakdown. You’re like, I got that. That was my mother coming at me. And I. I never budged. And I, I don’t I didn’t know at that moment why I never budged. But I now know two things. When I got to Barbara Brennan and started doing the healing, first of all, I loved it. I have never been it was just amazing to to go through that training. And I met Buddhists. I’ve never known anybody who had been a practicing Buddhist, like they had taken refuge, they had teachers, they were actually the teachers at the school and they would lead meditations. I learned John Glenn through them and and they would talk a bit about the path, you know, and I became really curious and I went, Oh, this is what that woman had said a number of years ago about Buddhism. And they were Tibetan Buddhists. And I thought, Oh, and then through a teacher that was at the school at that time who lived in Toronto, who was herself Buddhist and had been since she was 20 at this point, she was in her fifties probably follow me up and said, Rinpoche is coming to town. Who the heck is Garson? Rupe say, Oh, he’s a sweet monk. Who escaped from Tibet after being in prison for 20 years. And he’s just so sweet and he’s coming up to teach, you know, wanted to join us. And I went, I didn’t say no this time. I said, okay. And I walked into the room and it was all filled with Tibetans from Toronto. We’ve got quite a Tibetan community here and they were just so and I looked around at these people, oh, my God, another moment of tears here for me, you know, walking in that room, they had rented the metro Council Center. So the center where our Metro Council meets politically, and they’d rented that center and it was sort of a theater kind of thing. And there was the two monks, there’s three, but two of his two assistants were setting up the shrine table and it was filled with Tibetan people in their authentic costumes. And there was so much joy in the room. They were so happy. The smiles on their face, the welcoming, the the sent, extending love. There were 15 Caucasian people that walked in the room. I was one of them. And these people were inclusive and loving and kind and joyful. And I can remember standing there going, I want what you have. I want that I do. I have to become Tibetan. Like, do I have to move to Tibet? Like, how do we get this? You know, like I’m always looking, you know, like got to go outside myself to get right and and then darshan started to teach. And when he turned around and he and he looked up at us and the energy and that’s my energy training and I was so grateful I had it because I could feel it. I could feel the wave. I could feel just the energy from his heart coming out and all of our hearts opened and we were one big heart. That’s all we were. The room was nothing but a big, loving, kind heart. And I looked at this man and I thought, okay, I’m in. I’m all in here. And he came up twice a year and he would meet on Sunday night at the end of the weekend with us 15 Caucasians in a in a small house in Scarborough because of his translator lived there and I didn’t even I mean I just wanted to be with him. I didn’t understand anything. He just kept talking about loving kindness and compassion. Yeah. Yeah, I want that. And but I just want to be near you. I just want. And then he offered me refuge, and I didn’t understand what refuge was, so I turned it down, which was really upsetting. No, for me. I wish I’d done refuge with him. He was such a heart connection for him, for me, with him. But. But I’m grateful because that sent me seeking for Buddhism. Okay, I get it. I got to find. I’ve got to find my place here in Toronto. Where do it where do I fit in? Where is this? Where are those Tibetan people? You know, I don’t understand their language. I’ll learn the language. I don’t care. I’ll do anything. It’s that it’s the line that’s in in the 12 step program that they read at every meeting where they say, are you willing to go at any length to get what we have in that moment? I was willing to go to any length to get what Garson Shaye had when all those people in that room had. I wanted that so desperately, and I knew that it was nothing outside myself that was going to give that to me. I tried and tried to try to tried and experimented with a bang and it didn’t work. And so, once again, the woman who had connectome with Darshan said There’s a study group starting up in Toronto and you want to go? And I went, Yeah, and this at this point, my husband and I had had separated and which was also sad and but but actually when you think about it, good for him that he was in love with me and everything I was going through. He just I’ll never forget a line. He said to me, Sis, I’m just a simple person, you know? He said, I don’t really need much. And I thought, Well, yeah, I sort of want what you have to, you know, sit and I don’t know how you got there in that place, but, you know, that wasn’t the way my internal world was like. So we separated and on, on very good terms and I would say loving terms. And so I was living with two of my three kids at that point and, and started the study class. And it turns out that it was a Zen pilot. She had started it had developed these this study was developing a study path for Westerners. And he was also developing an accompanying practice path for Westerners. And because he saw the need that the way it was done in in Tibet or in any of the Asian countries, you know, that culture in that culture was not going to work for us here, you know, and so he he was putting together a program that was going to work for us. And so I started my my study there. And, and in 2005, I came to town. I’d never met him before, and we were just meeting in people’s houses. We didn’t have a center or anything like we were not. We were just a study group. We’re reading in a considered a sangha, although we were. But we we he did a teaching and he gave refuge that weekend when he came. And I took refuge with him and I and I’m emotional because also darshan I wanted you know, I was I was seeing darshan there with him, you know, it was just quite moving. And and I got the name. I I’m not I haven’t memorized my Tibetan names, but my, my refuge name was a glorious exertion. And I thought, what a perfect name for me. That’s me. My whole life’s been like that. And I thought, Oh my God, this is how perfect. I love that name, you know? And and so that started my, my, my real commitment to the Buddhist path and how do I fit it in? I’m a single mom. I got two kids. I’m running around a hockey game, soccer games, you know, and you name it. They’re teenagers and building, you know, at this point, I’m back at work and I’m building up psychotherapy practice with hands on healing. So I combined hands on healing with a psychotherapy practice and so self employed. So once again, here’s the 12 step program for me. The seventh tradition says to be self-supporting through our own contributions. That became my mantra. I wanted to be self-supporting through my own contributions. You know, I didn’t want I really you know, my my husband was obviously giving giving money and support, but I wanted to be self-supporting. I wanted to build myself to a place where I was. And so that became my journey of working, building my psychotherapy practice. And if you’ve ever talked to any of the psychotherapists and it’s hard for them to build practice, you know, private practice, they often go with clinics or they start out somewhere in a structured place and that wasn’t it for me. I had a full practice within a year. I, I, I am I felt so blessed. I remember the psychotherapists because we, I shared, I had my own office, but there were other psychotherapists who rented offices. And I remember this, my, my next door neighbor, psychotherapist, coming up to me, said, What are you doing? And I said, he said, Are you advertising somewhere? I said, No. And he said, I’ve never seen this before. It took me years to try and get up to this point and your your, your full what is it? And I said, I don’t know what it is, but I get I get what it is. I get a big part of it. It’s not that I’m special. I think it’s my spirituality. I think people are attracted to that because because I live it. It is not I’m not practicing techniques with my clients. I’m not I’m not trying to like of course, I trained them in tools. I mean, you know, and I and I help them see themselves. Of course, I’m doing all the things that a psychotherapist does. But but I, I live my spiritual practice and oftentimes were at some point working with my clients. What they will say to me is, you know, what do you do? What do you mean, what do I do? They start getting curious about my spiritual practice because what they’ll often say to me, and not everybody has said this to me, but it has been said and often enough, I really want what you have and I know what that is, because That’s what’s driven me.
© 2021 Jack Huynh | Orange Photography
Annual update on progress of project.