I grew up in an Episcopalian family, didn’t attend church after leaving for college, and returned to it in my early 30’s. I was very involved for almost 20 years, but then, after a divorce, I began to explore other paths. I had always had doubts and skepticism about Christianity, and began to slowly find new avenues that answered at least some of my questions. Nothing seemed to fit, however, until I began to be introduced to Buddhism. At first it was Insight Meditation, and then I moved to a town where the only Buddhist community was a Tibetan Buddhist Center. They practiced Vajrayana Buddhism. It was all entirely new to me, but, at the same time, what I was hearing was familiar and was bringing together much of what I already believed but without a context in which to hold it.It was like coming home, and I knew this was the end of my searching.
Because I was born into a family that was already practicing Episcopalians in a very traditional manner, and that’s what I grew up in, and it was just automatic, you went to Sunday school and then I was in the youth group and my first boyfriend was from the youth group. And, you know, it was just part of life. But then I went to high school with that and then I went away to college out of the area. And that just kind of dropped by the wayside. And you mother never thought I was had ever been to church because I don’t think I went at all. Well, it really wasn’t until years later that I went back into the Episcopal Church of my sort of own volition. And it was it was because it was a tough time in my marriage and I felt like I needed some support somehow, and that was what was familiar to me. So I went back and became a part of a of a of a Episcopal church in the community where we lived. And but it was during that time that I began to realize that what I related to in these, in that particular faith tradition was what were the teachings of how you how you behave to be a good person? What are the things that you do? I mean, you know, there’s all these, these good things like the Ten Commandments and this and that and and we would talk a lot about how does this show up in your life? But you didn’t really hear that that much from the sermons that were being preached and mostly what would happen, I think anyway is that people went to church, heard the sermon, thought, Yeah, that sounds good, went out the door, forgot about it. I mean, that’s kind of like what it felt like. So these groups, when we came together, had some meat in them because people grappled with what it did mean in their lives. So I’ve always kept that as something that seems important to relate these things to your life. Then I started going to a retreat center, which was. Which was really life changing because what they were doing was talking about biblical things and yoga and psychology together, and that changed everything. Then I realized how much of the Bible it was about was metaphorical, was symbolic, was not literal. And that kind of thing was really helpful for me. And so I started exploring. I started, then moving out in the sense of exploring other things. I had a marriage that fell apart right about then. So I was really out there then exploring, and this is a lot of years gone by now and in my early sixties , I guess it was then we came to bend and I did not look for a faith community in Bend for a long time until, um. But I would read I read a lot and I was starting to read some of the Buddhist writers, especially the ones you hear about, like Premiere children and whatnot. So I was doing that very appealing to me, really spoke to me because it just made sense. It just made so much sense. Then I had an experience and been it was pretty traumatic. And it’s sort of not important to go into, but it was traumatic and I thought, I don’t have anybody to talk to. And this friend of mine said, Why don’t you go to this? She knew what my interests were. She said, Why don’t you go to this Dharma Center? I, I’ve been there a few times. So I went, and that’s when I walked in to the Dharma Center here and was just like, Oh my God, what is all this ? Because I have all this stuff all over the walls and you know, the deities and this and the that and the you just don’t have a clue what any of it is. It was totally unfamiliar to me. And. So but I listened and I listened to not only the talk that the teacher gave, but I listened to the practices and and something just actually what I think happened actually is that I recognized something. I recognized something that was so it was like a big fat. Yes, was coming at me. You know that I could I could totally understand what was being said. Not totally. Certainly not all the Tibetan, but but what the teacher was saying and what I was hearing. It just felt right and I thought, Oh my goodness, this is something I have to explore. So that was the beginning and and I just kept on coming and going and absorbing and and had my challenges. I mean, it was hard. And part of it, too, over these years, which has been about, I think it’s about seven years and. Has been coming to this understanding of how my background can coexist totally with what I’m now immersed in in terms of Buddhism and and it’s not a conflict, it’s it’s it’s sure there’s differences. But if you go down far enough and peel off the layers, you know, it’s so clear to me that these these were just two different cultures coming up with something to help explain how we are the why we’re the way we are and whether or not something is is. Literally true. It’s not important to me, it’s it’s there’s something behind that that I feel is absolutely true like this, this openness and spaciousness and the emptiness idea of of everything is and and this primordial ground from which we come see that to me is what the God thing was all about. But I I just couldn’t put it together with that literal God part. If I hope on making sense. But but there’s just something about the Buddhist way of describing something beyond us that we are actually all a part of is just just. It just gives me a lot of peace and and. I can rest in that, and what I felt very early on was the search was over.
A couple of things come up as you were speaking, one of them is that Michael keeps emphasizing how bad Arianna is the resultant vehicle. And that has actually given me a lot of taken away, actually the idea of there being some goal that I can be much more content because it’s already I already have everything I could possibly want or set up as a goal. It’s just that there’s stuff in the way. So I’m more focused on removing and getting as clear as I can in my vision. You know, is so that so that I have clear vision so that I can see clear light, you know that I can right now. I don’t honestly feel that all those years in the church, I was ever asked to do something like a practice to the degree that this particular tradition in any way does forgery on it. Buddhism asks really it and shows you that the practice is central to the impact that it’s going to have on you. And. I realize when did anybody else ever ask me that? You know, I don’t remember anybody ever saying, you need to do this. I mean, maybe they said, you should. You should get up in the morning and say a prayer or you say grace before a meal or say your prayers when you go to bed. But nobody talked about the the the the actually yes devotion and the determination and the patience it takes and the consistency it takes to do a practice. And I just just went with it, which is not uncommon, you know? So anyway, my first thing was looking at the at the Tonga paintings, you know, I saw them as well, and they used the word deities. So I thought, So what are they worshiping these people or who are they anyway, you know? And then it gets confusing because some of them are actually a real person or was a real person. And some of them were not. We’re not our teacher is versed, somewhat has some background in psychology. So the minute that he used the word, eventually I heard him talk about it as these deities were like archetypes. And I was like, Dang, you know, I got it, OK? These deities are representing something in me. And then I began to. Pull back my concern that there were there was any kind of, you know, and yet you use these figures to to find that place in yourself that had the qualities that share the qualities or maybe the qualities you want to emulate are in these figures or maybe you really want to to. Um, you feel the need to be. You’re concerned about somebody’s illness or something so that you can utilize medicine Buddha as a means to really offer prayers, not to God up there, but just prayers to for this person’s healing or comfort or whatever. And you use this this quote deity to do that. And that is my understanding. I am not a teacher, so I’m just saying what I think about it.
And, you know, another thing that I’ve I’ve learned to be OK with is that there’s so many books out there about Buddhism. And, you know, I mean, I could see one to say, Oh, I want that, well, I have stopped doing that. I got two shelves of books in there, some of which I barely looked at and. But now and my teacher, Michael, has said this, he does the same thing. I’ve learned how I just take a book and I open it somewhere and I’ll just read anywhere, even if it’s just a paragraph. And it’s it’s usually something profound, and I’ll just leave it at that. And he calls it grazing. You know, I’ll have to read it from cover to cover to get some kernel of something out of it, you know, and there’s so much stuff on the internet now, and that’s almost overwhelming to me. I can get really I got to be careful about that, that not to just sign up for something because I got an email telling me there’s some teaching coming from somebody, you know, I don’t do that and I’ve done a couple of them and they’ve been valuable, but. I think as a word of warning to myself and anybody who’s listening that. It’s important to balance the input that you’re getting from wherever you’re getting it from. From just. Being with whatever you are, you’re hearing and don’t just don’t go overboard.
two years from now, I’m going to be 80 years old, you know, so I’ve been thinking a lot about death. And ever since I got into Buddhism because Buddhism talks about death a lot, and that might put people off too, especially young people. And yet we have all these young people coming, you know, and it’s really wonderful. And the thing about death is that it’s happening all the time. I mean, we see death all the time. It’s happening. It’s about impermanence. Everything is changing. And but our own death is never talked about and it’s really too bad. But in Buddhism, it does get talked about in and I think alleviates a lot of fear and anxiety because of the fact that it’s so much a part of everything. So I’ve got everybody interested in power early on and I went to a teaching from a teacher who who does the power training, and that was a whole separate experience. But it taught me something. It taught me that I didn’t want to go into a different lineage in a way because it was so different and I couldn’t , you know, I got it, but it felt. I just I guess I was early, it was early enough, too, that I was still not. I was doing learning all this practice, the noon hour and I mean, they didn’t hear what they were doing numero two. But. Doesn’t matter. It just. Um, power is something that I’ve now come to to a. Calm place about I’m not anxious about it any more. You know, I haven’t gone through the training and I’m probably not even going to because I think really the practices that I am doing are preparing me for my own death in my own and in a way that by just. By just slowing everything down, by just being and learning to be and not have to do all the time and and it’s amazing how it comes, it comes up and the all of the teachings about impermanence are so important in that regard. And I think the one the thing that I think about it, that I probably had the most trouble with is is attachment to it. I don’t have this is a small house. I don’t have a ton of stuff, but I have too much in my mind. It’s too much and I don’t have a lot of children. So it’s like, where’s all this going to go? And I should be doing something about it. And and that’s on my mind in a very practical way. But at the same time, it’s important because I realize that. How how attachment is is a very is tough thing. You know, it’s a tough thing to deal with when you really have to face up to it that you really recognize. You don’t want to let go of this particular item, that is. Just slightly insubstantial emptiness, right? It’s nothing, but I’ve got all this labeling on it. And the memory of memories and the whatevers, it’s it’s quite an exercise to do and I’m I’m I’m actually doing it slowly. It’s just recognizing how hard it is sometimes. And. Yes, so and yes, about rebirth is another whole concept that was new to me because what I was taught, of course, you’re going to go eternally to be with God and. Then you got it, the whole body chipped a vow, so I have taken the body to the vow, which means that I am going to desire to come back. To be of benefit to sentient beings, not to go on to the land of Amitava for eternal life there, I guess. And so or I’m. Whatever it is. The bodhichitta vowel was really powerful also, because that is a whole different idea to imagine. Whatever it, it’s like to be reborn, I mean. How would I know, except for the fact that I have this feeling that. That it’s something that there’s that it must be there must be something to it. You know, and there’s stories about it, so. So I am thinking a lot about preparing to. Have an auspicious rebirth.
Well, noon, OK, first, noon door, I responded to that right away because I think I needed something really concrete, just something to focus on. You know, I don’t think I knew at first really how how, what a huge thing it is, even though it’s actually. It’s pretty it’s pretty straightforward when you actually start understanding it, but then there’s this layers and you can just keep exploring it. But the important thing for me was just being consistent. That was just so important. I don’t know what it did, but it just gave me a structure that I really must have needed at the time . And. And it encapsulates from what I’ve been taught the noon throw itself and its various steps is the basic structure for most all of the practices. They have the same intention. Kind of behind them is in all the practices, but they just they just look different and.
Are things like the five of families learning about them has helped, too, because that has again is about us and all these qualities that are attributed to the five Buddha families are in us and it’s just like Danny a gram. It’s a way of recognizing ourselves in the world, in our relationships when we’re behaving a certain way. And you can actually see, yeah, well, you know, I’m being, I’m B, I’m in this. I’m in the Buddha family right now because I could feel it in the way I’m feeling or those things are helpful. And and I just did a course online, actually with Lama syndrome from Alien, you know? You know, and she did the five wisdom tackiness. And that was great because it’s all about the feminine, feminine wisdom. And that’s really been important to me. I’m really spending some time with that and. Because I think it’s important that she has explained, you know, in the world today that that that feminine wisdom needs to be coming up and seeing it because it’s and it’s powerful, it can be wrathful and strong and powerful and we need it. And it’s of course, it’s in men as well as women. It’s just it’s just it’s an energy that’s been suppressed. And you see it happening all the time and strong women that are coming into the forefront. So Tom Glen, yes, I use it, but it’s not like I use it all the time. But there are times, yes, when it seems like it’s the only thing to do. It’s the only thing I can do, almost in a certain situations where you just feel kind of helpless. And you know, I can I can try to. I can take on something and send out something and. Can be done could be done walking down the street. It can be done. Quickly, any time, as are some of the mantras now, so much a part of me, the new drill mantras, because you’re saying I’m so much. They just become a part of you. They they come up. More quickly now, I don’t have to think about it so much, you know, it’s not like I can, I’ll be driving in the car and I’ll start doing green Tara or something. Actually, that’s one I do use. That’s not the neutral, but green Tara. For example, there’s been a couple of times where I’ve been really anxious about having to go somewhere to do something that’s making me feel anxious, especially maybe playing the cello, and I’m going to be doing just me, you know, like exposed not part of a symphony group, but I mean, that’s that can be nerve wracking. So, you know, I’ll be doing I’ll be doing Green Tara in the car and it, you know, it just kind of calms me down and I just can get centered that way. So, um. And the other thing is, we haven’t talked about meditation itself and. I would say that, you know, because of budget and not having meditation be the big, main focus that I’m not a like a super long meditator. You know, and I don’t do long meditation retreats. That just doesn’t call to me at all. And um, so but I do do it as part of the new Andrew. And sometimes I will just do it. Separate from that. And I’ll do anything from ten minutes to 30 minutes, but I don’t do hours, I have spent more time. Doing mantra sometimes for longer periods of time. Well, anyway, they what I really like is the idea of. Becoming able to do. The kind of meditation the matter where you really just. Abide as it were. OK, so you’re just there and that you could take that. Into the world that you keep that, you know, that it becomes I think that’s where I feel I’ve changed as I have a sense of that all the time it regardless of what’s going on. You know, like where I am in the middle of the grocery store, I can still. Find that place. So that’s been important to me to come because I have a busy mind, I mean, you know, well, don’t we all? My mind is just can be full of my grocery list, right? Or whatever or all the things I have to do next. But I can also come to that quiet place really much more easily than I ever would have, in fact, it wasn’t even there before.
I think what helped was when I got to be, when I got introduced to noon Joe, but also refuge, yes, OK. Refuge. It our place here, we don’t have a lama, so we kind of are dependent were then before Michael started doing no refuge as he now can do the refuge ceremony. But when I was first came, it wasn’t. So it was sort of like whenever the Lama was coming, then we would do these ceremonies so that we could do the vows the body to or whatever. So that’s kind of why I did it was because the Lommel is here, you know? And I. I found that to be also significant because I felt like I took it seriously, I mean, it was a vow of many vows and it was a commitment. And I remember at the time that the ceremony itself, it just brought tears to my eyes. It just was. It was very, very meaningful to me, and I don’t think I knew why at all. I really don’t. And. You know, I’ve had some weird. Feelings over this last seven years that somehow. You know, I never gave much thought to past lives before, except one time when I did a past life regression many years ago, something very odd happened in it that I never understood and I never told this story to anybody, either. So just so I’m not going to tell you what exactly is not important, but I kind of just put it away in my mind, because what am I going to do about that? You know? Well, when I came to the Dharma Center, it showed up. That was weird. That was to me significant. I don’t know why or how or anything, but it makes me feel strongly that my coming there was somehow in my recognizing everything that’s being comfortable to me. And even though it was strange at the same time because I’m in a whole different culture. But maybe I had a past life that was somehow connected. So, so doing refuge. Maybe that’s why it was so significant. But it also made sense to me. All these things make sense to me that about understanding what refuge is and that it’s it’s it’s like our teacher says, you know, you’re carrying around all this baggage and and all of a sudden. You can put the baggage down.
The same thing with my partner, I have a partner, Tom. I’ve learned to relate with him, I think they, you know, I’ve heard say that someone like that your greatest teacher, right? So he. So what I’ve noticed, what I know about myself and I can directly related to Buddhism is that is that I tend to be really critical. I can be very critical. And it’s usually to the person closest to me and. And I hear that voice, but I’ve not heard it the way I hear it now. Now I hear it. And I could actually hear it before I say something. Not always, but I can and. It’s so clear to me now, and I really am carrying that awareness so that so that I can. Not just as simple as not opening your mouth, you know, when someone of those thoughts comes in. And so. That sounds so small, and yet it’s huge. It’s really huge to be able to. Actually, stop it, and the other thing is that. He when he’s talking to me about something and a lot of times he has sort of a convoluted way of talking sometimes, and I’m not following him and I know, I know. He’s very sensitive about getting interrupted. Some people are. They just hate being in a. He hates being interrupted. But I used to interrupt him, you know, and say, I don’t get it. What are you talking about? Something like that? I don’t do that. I’m not doing it any more, and I’m letting him go with it. And of course, eventually I understand what’s going on. I’m just simply not interrupting. And that again, that sounds ridiculously easy. But it’s not because it was a habitual pattern and it’s a pattern. And these patterns are ingrained. And Buddhism has absolutely broken these patterns in me profoundly, and they’re not good patterns and they need to be shifted. And, you know, it’s like you replace that bad pattern with with a more positive pattern and it can be as simple as that.
I mean, because he let’s just say he has a style, OK? He has a style. Of course. I mean, everybody has their style and he is a teacher and he’s and he’s been trained as he hasn’t really been trained as a teacher. He was encouraged to become a teacher by his teachers. And but his style when you go to see him on one on one, let’s say he’s not necessarily going to be all warm and fuzzy because that’s not his role. Whereas also, if you go see a minister or a priest, you’re going to get a lot of you’re not going to get confronted. I think I could safely say that maybe in the way that that. I think Michael was was confronted by his teachers. You know, just don’t let you get away with with your dramas, right? So, so whereas, you know, you know, you go to a therapist, you could just talk on and on and on and you maybe will get some good advice and stuff. But it’s just this is different. This is different. So I had to, you know, bump up against that and be kind of startled by it. So it made me uncomfortable and and it was this was a this was difficult because also because of my personality and my India. Graham numbers. No, you know, I’m the kind of person who wants to be successful, who wants to do it right. So to have to get start getting this message that maybe I ought to rethink was difficult. So that was brand new. That was really, really new. And and. And it’s so over time. And he happens to be kind of a of a of a, you know, into an introverted kind of not a particularly he doesn’t socialize. I mean, it’s not like you don’t I don’t have particular a lot of other time with him, except the board stuff. Now I do because I’m president, the board. So now I see it more. So I’ve gotten to know him more. But that doesn’t change the fact he’s still the teacher. And there are those moments, but I’ve changed so I now can hear and not sort of resisted.
I am retired, so my path is manifesting in my relationships, and in how I am living my daily life regarding what I choose to do with my time, skills, etc. The primary relationship is with my partner, and practicing the dharma teachings in this context has changed our dynamic significantly. I am more patient, less argumentative, more loving, less critical, and more conscious, aware and present. Of course, this is not all because of Buddhism, but the teachings do support these things.
I’ve only explored Buddhism through the Insight Meditation experience, some Zen experience and through reading. My early teachers were the books I read, ie. Pema Chodran, Jack Kornfield…. And the teachings on meditation at Spirit Rock. I found that Vajrayana spoke to something different and it was exciting to me. While meditation is taught, it is in the context of practices that include a variety of visualization practices.My teacher now is the local teacher at our Center, as well as various online teachers, and reading books.
My main practice is Ngondro, and I expect I’ll be doing that for the rest of my days.I am almost 80 years old now, so am preparing for the end of life. I have been giventhe transmission of the Phowa Practice by a Lama who visits us, and am slowly practicing that. I am interested in Dream Yoga, and practice that, as well as the practices we do at The Center. I have a Yidam practice, and Ngondro has many different practices as a part of it.
The Sangha, Natural Mind, I attend is in Bend, OR. The community is warm and welcoming with a core of dedicated practitioners. It has been a major support to me as a place where I can not only learn, but struggle with the dilemmas that arise in my life and offer support and compassion to others. Our Western teacher is skilled at bringing the ancient teachings into a modern context, and into language that our minds can understand.
I am retired, so it’s mainly in how I offer myself to help others, to be of service to the Sangha, (I’m the President of our Board of Directors,) and in how I make decisions as to what I do with my life. I am more aware of the activities in life that are of little value except as a distraction, and I avoid them.
I’m sure that they do, but that’s difficult to describe. Perhaps my love of nature has something to do with the focus on the elements that is in the practices, the lineage that comes from the ancient times, the relationship to the natural world, the mystery that is the essence, unchanging, luminous clarity, …the primordial ground….all speaks to me of the way I’ve always thought of God….My personality seems to gravitate towards the “accomplishment” aspect of accumulation of mantras, etc. and this can be helpful, or, if I’m not careful, become too important! Also, I’ve studied the Enneagram for years, and it fits well into Buddhist teachings. Our teacher has also studied it, which is very helpful.
© 2021 Jack Huynh | Orange Photography
Annual update on progress of project.