I would have to say, I mean, I was brought up Roman Catholic, you know, an Italian church and Agron, which is a small town office. Springfield, Mass. Very Italian neighborhood. And you know, it was an Italian-American. And I asked questions all the time. And I was the first. Girl to ever wear pants suit to her first communion because I refuse to wear a dress, I was like, No, I’m wearing. And my mom had to make me a special suit and it broke all the rules and they were just like, they were just like, Oh, this has. This has never been done, ever. And I was like, Yeah. So I wore my pantsuit and created waves. And then for my first confession, I did the same thing because you’re supposed to have a witness and the witness is supposed to be women because you’re women. And I was like, No, I’m having my uncle, Johnny. And another wave went on and I get kicked out of catechism because I ask too many questions or like, maybe it’s time for you to move on. And I was like, Yeah, yeah. And I mean, the the final final line for me was I was I went to mass and I think I was in the beginning my first year in college. And I remember walking in the door and the priest was up and he up front and he said, You’re all sinners. And I said, No, I’m not. And I just turned around and left and I was like, OK, I’m done with that. But I also understand the community around and, you know, the community feel and what advantages that there were with that. But it was in my senior year. So I was kind of floating for most of college. But in my senior year, I had a marketing professor who gave me a book on Zen and I and I picked it up and I read it and I went, Oh, this philosophy feels aligned with my values, aligned with what I want to do. And so it started with Zen. But reading and finding out more about Zen, it was like really dry and they woke up really early, and I don’t want to wake up early, and it’s almost like me screaming in the library like I everybody. Come on, smile. You know, was like, I’m a very alive person. And maybe that wasn’t the right fit. So when I got back to Maine, I found this church. It was called the National Spiritualist Church, and I don’t know. I just like, showed up one day and it was so fascinating because what it deals with, it deals with death. And, you know, after having some experiences, I was curious and wanting to know about death, and they deal with death all the time. They were mediums and they spoke with the spirit worlds and and I was like, You can’t do that. And they’re like, Yes, we can. So for like ten years, I would study Zen Hinduism, but also spend time with these people and learned fascinating things about. Dead people, the spirit world, and they taught me how to table tip like put your hands on the table and not on the table, but above the table and call for spirit. And the thing would walk around the room all by itself and tip over on and on end and hover above the floor and nobody’s touching it . And you would ask this. Table questions, and it would actually, you’d say, tip once for no, twice for yes, and the thing would answer your questions and it’s like, how can you explain that? And how can I explain someone or medium to very, very well trained, which is different from a psychic? These mediums would talk about my dead grandfather or some of my ancestors without even knowing me. Right? And give me scenarios that have happened in the past, and they are always right on to that to me fascinated me. So the combination of Zen Hinduism and this was was really kind of opened my world because the Hinduism would talk about the spirits and. And when I started to understand that Tibetan Buddhism, they had this understanding a spirit world and they worked with them, and they use the mala beads to extract spirits from houses. And, you know, there’s all kinds of different things, and they were very superstitious. So that got me reading on Tibetan Buddhism, but it didn’t do anything then because I was still studying the music, the Vedas and the Hinduism and the fascist and the yoga sutras. Really, the the basics very beginning of written down Hindu scriptures. So it wasn’t until I ran the it’s almost like I ran through the knowledge I ran through. All that I could learn and all that I could meditate on in the Hindu realm. I got to the Mohammadu and this was back in maybe 2008. nine or eight? That. I wanted to learn about the Mohammadu, and I found that, oh, it was the Buddhist who wrote down these teachings. I found the Hindu teachings. I got some oral teachings on the momager, which were amazing experiences with these mass meditation masters. I was very fortunate to meet them and they weren’t like the the oh, popular. Hindu massacres, these were tucked away in the small villages that were so profound and so in the state of bless. And you can only sit in there in their halls and their classrooms or sit within their company, and you would feel this energy and happiness. And I felt, Ah, yes, this is what I have inside of me that I’ve had inside of me all my life and that no external circumstances can really take that away. It’s not that I didn’t feel anger or sadness or grief, but I knew beyond all of that was this inner core of happiness. And so going to India finding these masters, I, you know, it’s like, right? Yes, this is who I really am. So when I had a teacher that died that I was exploring with the mohammadu, and so I was like, Oh, I need. I need teachings. OK, well, it’s Buddhism. Buddhism wrote all this down, they have many books. And I just said my wishes like, please, please give me a meditation master who is stainless in his actions and clear in his words, without any drama, without wanting popularity. And so. Yeah. And one day I just walked in to this Buddhist center, I was on a walkabout in town and just walked in and sat down, and it was the teachings of Jason Copper. And it. I thought at that time that that was the place I needed to be and that I could really dove in to the teachings, to the mohammadu teachings, to some sort of devotion because without devotion, devotion kind of cracks your heart open. And put you on your knees and get you ready to be able to open to who you really are in that world. Yeah.
Yeah. After reading a couple of the books. Of this particular tradition, I felt that especially the mother, I just went right into the Mamuju books. I felt it was really clear it was different from some of the other, like Naima Cargo Teachers, and I thought, Oh, this is really interesting. And. Noticing that. Like, men and women were equal in this tradition, and that doesn’t span the whole Tibetan tradition, right? We’re still making avenues for women to. Be more educated and equal, so that kind of drew me, it’s like, OK, this is this, this may work. I think I can do this and why I wanted to dove deep is I wanted to be able to understand my own mind, to be able to explore what is the mind and how it’s malleable and how it’s all what I think and how can I train that? And so that’s what brought me the teacher or particularly at the center was not it was the the larger Lama that was ahead of the tradition and his books. So. I was giving enough, I would say, teachings and so I could dove into the retreats, I could understand that tantric pujas, I could understand the tantric rituals and and. How those can also. Transform the mind. Which transforms your life. So that was my but my basic. Reason why I wanted to dove and in order to dove in, I felt like ordaining would take all this distractions away. And I felt it was really time for that. And those distractions being, you know, career relationships and a new. A new relationship to the to the world, actually. And it took a wider world and just kind of narrowed it a bit for a while. And that enabled me to by not having those distractions, it’s almost like if you were to think about like a snow globe. And actually, I saw a fog globe at the De Young Museum. I love that. I loved the fog globe. So you pick it up and there’s this bridge, right? It’s the Golden Gate Bridge and you shake it up. And there’s like all kinds of fog and eventually the fog settles. And then there’s the bridge again. And I just felt like that was ordaining would kind of bring down the fog. And I can totally concentrate on fully on really understanding what is this life? Why am I here? What is my mind and what kind of choices really do I have as far as how to weigh what is my viewing lens of of life and.
Life at center
The six years and the intense six years, I would say it was an intense daily practice. It was, I would say, anywhere from one to two hour practice in the morning at the Buddhist center, we had pujas prayers at least once a day. We had teachings and sometimes I was teaching. And so it’s really focused around the center around meditation and prayers, and also help the center through marketing and advertising and being part of the education coordinator assisting that position. So it’s really it was all about. Life at a at a Buddhist center, I wouldn’t say it was all about Buddha and the philosophy, which was surprising to me. So yeah, it was for me it was it was lovely because intertwined with that were retreats and retreats lasted from, I would say, a half a day to a month. And that was my favorite because I am drawn to meditation. I’m drawn to exploring that those opportunities and taking full advantage of training my own mind.
Yeah, the the institution east versus west is completely different. We’re a different culture there, it’s it’s um, there’s a symbiosis that happens. Because it’s so ingrained in lifestyle and there’s a richness and here it’s so new and we have a different culture and we have a different way of relating to teachers. We have. I say we have a lot of baggage around that. There’s a lot of projection. There’s not knowing what to do. There is an independence we have here in America. There is a resistance to the guru, a guru as a teacher because there’s been so many that have been disappointing that kind of fell off. A track of being a teacher, right more fell off a track of moral discipline, and so were I would say what I’ve seen is we’re skeptical here and how do we transfer the practices that they have in the East that are so ingrained culturally like Guru Yoga, for example, how do we transfer that to the West when we’re not very trusting of the teachers? And what is the teacher for us? And what do what is our relation ship to a teacher? And that’s why it was so for me, so beneficial to go to the East and really soak in that culture and how they relate to a teacher or to a guru. It’s so different. It’s so different. And here. They’re all. I think a lot of them are still trying to figure that out. Yeah. Here in the West, you know, the teacher is not your mother or your father. The teacher is there for you to help gauge where are you in your practice? Yeah. And we need teachers like that. And they’re very far and few between here. And I think that’s. I think that’s one of the challenges. So, you know, I want a meditation master, so I know and I can gauge, and they can help me get where am I on the spectrum of meditation? And, you know, meditation is a deep practice. And it can really expand your own mind into unbound love and compassion to embark on that journey alone. You really can you? You know, if I ask that question, can we do that? And to find a teacher here in the West, I can actually walk that talk and have done the meditation practices, have the richness of experience. You know, it’s it’s far and few between. I don’t want a regular lay practitioner that. Goes and teaches Buddhist philosophy and teaches meditation classes and then goes and has a glass of wine and is unkind or has no patience. I have no time for that. I don’t want that. So this is part of the challenge is to find those teachers who are available right that have been able to transfer that eastern culture and richness and. That have changed and cultivated these amazing minds here in the West.
As far as my family goes, they’re just probably still scratching their heads going, what what? You went to college, we paid for that. And you’re what you know. So it’s been it’s been challenging that really. Don’t ask much and I don’t share much. And it’s, you know, it’s just the relationship. And so I feel alone in that. And that’s. What it is right is I’m not going to force anything and they want me happy, so whatever brings happiness for me. And I still think they scratch their heads. I just feel like, you know, if I think about my ancestors coming in from Italy and Poland and they’ve, you know, they came to America to have a better life and to set a better life for the next generation. And so there’s a mentality with that. And here I am. You know, I am a generation that gets to go to college and get educated, highly educated. I think I spent. eight or nine years and higher education? And so there is a little bit of a. A want and a wish for me to go and produce, and I did that and it wasn’t very fulfilling. It wasn’t a lasting happiness, right? I knew there was a happiness inside of me because I felt it, but I wasn’t. Connected. And all I had was all this transient happiness, and I really wanted to dig in. And. There is my family thinking like, Oh, all right, this generation, you know, she’s going to do something. She’s good. And then, you know, I have the spiritual side of me in this exploration, in this wanting to know the world and , you know, I traveled a lot and yeah, that was different. It was just so different. It was a different track. I was a different person. I didn’t want to get married and have kids. I was being pulled in a different direction. And so I think because it was so different, it was hard for them to understand. And I don’t think they, you know, my family particularly was really exposed to Buddhism or anything else except the Catholic Church.
Return to lay life
But there’s also that pull out into the world because one can meditate, what happens off the cushion? How how do you take those teachings? How do you take those teachings for yourself, not teaching others? But how do you take the philosophy of Buddhism out into the world? Off the cushion? And that’s where you see where your practices. That’s where you see who you are. And that’s where you can say to yourself with utmost self kindness and love. Oh, I have to work on that. Oh, I’m so attached. Oh, but when you’re sitting on the cushion in meditation, it’s more about developing your mind and knowing your thought patterns, but you don’t explore your actions. So when you’re off the cushion out in the world, it’s a step further. And I think it’s brave and courageous to do so because I could sit in meditation for the rest of my life. But how how do I affect the world and how can I affect myself if I don’t understand my actions? Yeah. Years of meditation, time, retreat, time, introspection, experience and experiences. You know whose philosophy is about learning your inner teacher, your inner guru, right? And and expanding on that? And. When I when I do, you know, it’s like, right, thought, right action, meaningful life. And I just felt like I need to merge. Both worlds.
So that’s when I was like, OK, well, I guess I’m coming off the cushion and then. I had a bigger, you know, it’s like that started to ruminate, and I think it was late last year after I did some guiding work in the coast of Maine and got back from that and. I was walking in the Presidio, and that night before I was like, OK, I really need and want and wish to help people show me a way. Yeah. So the next morning I was walking the Presidio and I actually walked into these people dancing on the lawn outside the George Lucas center, and I thought, Well, that’s so I that’s what. So of course, I went over and engaged and I said, What are you doing in there like for dancing? I’m like, I can see that. And I said, What do you what? And they said, Well, we’re doing meditation or learning meditation, or we’re teachers in meditation. I said, Oh, really? Where? And so I invited myself in and it was the search inside yourself program. And then I met with some managers and one of them asked me out for lunch and I said yes. And then I learned about the program and I felt like, Oh, this could be a platform for which I can take my skills and apply them. And so that’s been a year journey. So I’m I’m getting closer to learning the platform, fully having them feel OK with my presentation skills, and hopefully we’ll be able to actually do this program. I’m doing to practice comes the next two weekends and really kind of sinking into the neuroscience. With emotional intelligence, with the meditation in mindfulness, so it’s not just talking about compassion. So he’s often say to people when they say, you know, I’m just not compassionate or I, I, I, I’m not a compassionate person, I said, of course you are, but don’t expect to land in compassion. We don’t just land in compassion. It’s a cultivated mind. And so here this platform where I’m bridging right Buddhism is over here. Secular is right here, and this is a platform that can actually bridge the philosophy of Buddhism in a very secular way to make it palpable and a way that actually people can really connect inside their hearts and know who they really are beyond the motions, beyond the anger, beyond the sadness of grief or even happiness or their temporary happiness, right? So I’m on fire with this no pun intended.
The teachers aren’t there to tell you. How to think, what to think, how to act, they’re there to point you in the in the direction of your of your true heart, of your true self. That’s a real teacher. So if there’s a teacher out there that’s telling you how to act, how to dress, what to do, how to think and what to feel. That’s not a teacher. Right. And so a real teacher is pointing you back home, back home and giving you the techniques, giving you the meditation practices to be able to explore that and expand that for yourself. And so I think that’s part of the. Western challenge is that sometimes we’ve been taught we weren’t taught to rely on doctors. We’ve been taught to rely on outer sources for our sense of happiness and stability and sense of self. Right. But it’s it’s not the truth. And so. When we have a religion like Buddhism, people may mix that up and say, Oh, I need to rely on the teacher, the teacher will give me this or the tradition or the lineage will give me this the true happiness. I think that’s what’s happening now in the West is that it’s not the tradition that gives you the happiness or stability or security. There really isn’t any of that. But what can give you the stability and the strength to maneuver through this world, no matter what happens, is your inner strength from knowing who you are. You know, as we say, compassion is, is, is, is a real, incredible strength, right? And so. It’s almost like if someone’s relying on a tradition of relying on a teacher, they’re farther away from the original teachings of. Humankind from the beginning of when people started to speak language. You don’t give yourself over you. You can give yourself, too, which means. If there’s a diversion, there’s a thankfulness from your heart, which your heart breaks into 1,000,000 pieces, right? And that’s through the unbound love that you have for this teacher, this mirror who’s mirroring you your own power, who’s marrying your own potential, saying no, you. You can do this. This is who you are. Yeah. Yes.
Well, I mean, working with the National Spiritualist Church and seeing things that I could never explain, right, opened up my sphere. Also, I started fire walking and it was there’s two types of fire walking. There’s fire walking that it’s hypnotic state and there’s fire walking. That’s not. And I did the fire walking. That’s not because why would you want to do it on a hypnotic state? You’re not even there, really. So it’s like a twelve to 16 hour process of of really facing your fears. That was the biggest of turning into who you are and listening, learning to listen to your own intuitive sense. And so we would be in this group for twelve hours processing stuff and and meditating. And then we’d go and we’d build the fire right at a cherry wood and we’d set it on fire and we’d watch it burn. And then usually someone from the actually the fire, the firehouse of the fire station would be over, making the actual nine or ten foot bed that you’d walk across. And he’d go through like five rakes because they’d melts, right? Because it would be 15 hundred degrees. And at a certain point, we would exit the the the physical structure we were in and we’d go and visit the fire and then we’d go back in and process more. And you had to really get deep about your fears. OK. So a lot of it was burning. A lot of it was. I don’t know if I can do this and then you’d unpack that more. I don’t want to die. Basically, you know, everything undercurrent is, I don’t want to die. So you put that on a table and and and you face it and you accept it, right? And then you go back out and you start as a group circling the fire and there’s an entrance entrance and it is an exit of the fire bed. So you have to enter at a certain place and you have to exit at a certain place because there’s a person with a hose that you have to hug and lift your feet. So because your feet are sizzling and they would come off. And it was that process for me, and it was about listening because if you didn’t listen to whether or not you were ready to walk the fire, been like if you when you walked, you asked yourself, Am I ready? And you got a clear yes or no? It was pretty amazing. And if you get a yes, you’re walking across that bed before you knew it and you sunk past your ankles in 15 hundred degree hot coals without getting burnt. How is that? But if you got it now, you need it to listen to that. No, and not walk because fire walking isn’t about walking, it’s about listening deep, listening to your inner core and whether you’re ready, whether you’ve cultivated the mind over matter enough, right? So it was an amazing process. I mean, I did it four or five times different times and each time got harder, right? Because you walk. You know, it’s exhilarating. You’ve you’ve entered a different. Way of being in the world because you know that you can do anything. But the second time, right, your ego starts to play with you. Ego says, yeah, you can’t walk. So when you do this twelve hour process and then you start going out to the fire and it shakes you up because you know your ego saying you’re you know your mind, your brain is saying one thing and you still have to tap into your own being your own inner teacher. So I think it was like my third fire walk that that was really tested and it was a No. I was walking. It was my third one. I really wanted to walk because you want that exhilaration, right? You want that like high. And I got a no like flat out very clear now and I had to. You know, and I’d walk, I remember it was counterclockwise and I’d walk around the opening of the fire bed and I’d be like, Everybody’s walking, I want to walk. And it was like, I can’t, because the people who get no and a fire walk and they walk, they’re burnt. And you see it right there off in an ambulance. So, you know, enough. But it was like what I learned at the end of that third fire walk is it was just as exhilarating as walking across the bed. And what I took away from that, it was about listening. To my inner teacher, to my knowing of myself deep enough to know, like I got to know. I don’t walk and it’s OK. It’s not about the accomplishment. It’s about really listening and following my heart. So that was tremendous in my life because my take away was not only being able to listen to myself and my intuition, but also like, how do you explain that? And that gave me the permission to be able to know that if I want to do something, I can do it. I just have to put my mind around it and believe. That it can be done. It was and it was taken, you know, the Zen Buddhist teachings that I had studied in in college but had kind of like, it’s like, OK, but I’m not going into it, I’m not going into the tradition, I’m not entering. I’ll go to some teachings. But it was like, Oh my gosh, this neuroscience has. It’s catching up with Buddhist philosophy. How interesting. But the science is able to really tell me concretely in a way. Science. That. What I’m thinking and seeing and hearing is really limited, there’s so much more out there and I want to test it because I’ve tested it in an outdoor adventure. All right. Tests of that, things that I didn’t think I could do. We’re accomplished because you’re focused. You’re in the zone, you believe that you can do it. You’re actually sometimes. Envisioning a future goal happening. Right? And so Tibetan Buddhist practices, especially in tantra, is envisioning a future self. So I mean, it all is all coming into play. And so fire walking, it was it was back in, I would say, starting in 95. So. Yeah. And so it was actually me, you know, experiencing those fire walks and then matching it up again with Buddhist philosophy going, Yes, I’ve enabled me to believe. The philosophy and the practices and understanding of why because of the neuroscience background, because of the seeing things that I couldn’t explain or doing things that were mind over matter, you know, thinking that I. You know, when you’re on an ocean and ocean kayak and you’re tired. Well, you can’t stop and things happen and winds come in, waves come and seas builds and you can’t control that and you’re in something that you don’t think you can handle. But then you survive and you’ve handled it right. So all those experiences allowed me to really understand Buddhist teachings and I can have a trust in them.