Its all a bit weird and strange isn’t it? The world is suddenly a very different place. Our lives have changed radically . A lot of what we were used to doing we can no longer do. A strong lesson in impermanence!
I must admit it all threw me off course for a little while. I must admit to not taking this virus seriously enough at first – I never really believed that it would be this dangerous and as widespread. I always try to look at things calm without catastrophising. Obviously I was completely wrong! It is something to take very seriously indeed.
I am okay at home. I had a very stressful and worrying few days when I thought that I would have to leave here and go elsewhere. Fortunately I have a lovely friend who was fully prepared to welcome myself, my two cats and my dog into her home. I think that we are both truly thankful that that didn’t happen. We get on very well – but her flat is very small! I miss my girls who are with their Dad. However, I know that they are safe and looked after. And we have FaceTime, texts etc. I am okay here with Pretzel, JD and Smirnoff. Pretzel and I have just had our one trip out for a walk for the day on Bexhill beach staying well away from others. The cats come and go as they always do – they are currently asleep on Callie’s bed. It is actually really lovely to have space and time to read, sew, crochet, meditate, watch a bit of TV and just be. Life can get very hectic normally.
I do feel sorry for those who feel very isolated and alone though. It must be very tough for those who haven’t got access to the Internet and / or people checking in on them. I am also in awe of those wonderful people working in hospitals and care homes risking their lives in many cases and working extremely hard. Also those working in supermarkets having to deal with stressed shoppers looking for toilet rolls and pasta. There are a lot of people (Keyworkers) still working very hard.
And what about those poor teenagers who have spent the last couple of years studying hard for GCSEs and A Levels? This must have thrown them a bit of a curve ball!
This is making me realise what is important to me. Family, friends, a safe place to live. I am fortunate that I don’t mind a simple life. I enjoy being on my own. I have time to meditate, read, sew, work on a spreadsheet for the local hospice. When we get back to “normality” I hope that I continue to live spaciousness, calmly and peacefully.
If this hadn’t of happened; if we were living normally – not in lockdown – I would have been at my Sangha evening earlier. I was planning to build a shrine to Amoghasiddhi, the fearless dark green Buddha of the North. Instead I sat at home, in my caravan, and worked on a spreadsheet.
So this evening, I consider myself to be lucky. The caravan site hasn’t closed its doors to us. I have a home; I have food; I have my pets. I can talk to family and friends on line. I can read, sew, sleep comfortably. I can play Zoo Tycoon, watch Law and Order SVU. Once a day I can take my Pretzel out for a walk. I can meditate, reflect and continue my study of the Five Buddha Mandala.
I am not sure that I would be taking it all so well a couple of years ago. The Three Jewels help me to stay balanced and calm. This human life is precious. It is full of suffering and impermanence but it is precious and can be joyful.
I went on a retreat in November for 10 days at the absolutely amazing and breathtaking Taraloka. It was a retreat based around the Four Reminders which I have talked about before in this blog; a retreat called “Beauty and Urgency”.
It was a very special retreat for me… a lot of firsts! The first retreat which wasn’t led by Order Members (friends) who I know well. The first retreat where I knew no one. It was a longer retreat than I had done before – 10 days compared to the 4 done over the Easter weekend. It was my first retreat for those who are working towards Ordination. My first women only retreat…. So many firsts.
The retreat was so powerful for me. A lot of time spent in silence; hours spent in meditation; time spent “just sitting” and reflecting. I learnt such a lot about me; about my previous (and present) patterns of behaviour. I learnt more about the Dharma. And I realised – again – how much I love this Buddhist life. The women on the retreat – both the Order Members who led it and my fellow retreatants – were so warm and beautiful; their love sustains me still. The retreat was also a reminder of how far I have to travel.
I had all of these plans, these expectations of how I would be on my return. How I would be acting, what I would be doing. Life was going to be calmer yet more full. I would be living according to the beauty that is this life, and the urgency caused by its very impermanence. I even had plans for this blog – posts I would write….
Expectations! Expectations are dangerous things. They can arrive quickly and easily then laugh in your face.
For a whole host of reasons life has not been as I expected since my return and I have not (until today) implemented many of the plans I had made. My mind has been all over the place. I spent some time last week beating myself up about this, feeling the usual guilt arise. But now – I just accept what it is. I cannot change what is happening; I cannot change the last few weeks. However, I can change my reactions to it all and I can resolve to act differently now.
My brain is beginning to function again. I am starting to go through all of the notes which I made on retreat. I am beginning to look through my photos. So this is the first (I hope) of a series of posts about my retreat at Taraloka.
Well it has been a year! A year ago today I wrote my first blog post. It was about my walk with Pretzel.
I remember that weekend well. I had been very miserable – lots of things were not going as I thought that they should! I was in danger of giving in to it all and wallowing in sadness and depression. But that Saturday morning I woke up and decided that things had to change. I had to look at things differently. I had to change what I could change and find a way of accepting what I couldn’t. I spent most of the weekend setting up this blog. Things hadn’t changed – the situation was still the same but I made up my mind to think differently about it all.
The mind is everything; what you think you become
Things have changed a bit since then. Everything is impermanent; nothing stays the same. Some things I have managed to change for the better. Some situations just got worse and new things are always surfacing. Life is not perfect – but it never will be. But I am handling it all better – well, most of the time.
I have just reread the “About Me” blurb for this blog. I was considering rewriting it. But – no! It all still stands. I am still on this incredibly difficult but exciting journey. I still wander off my path all too often but get back to it and continue walking. The man who showed me this path is, sadly, no longer very present in my life. He reappears briefly now and then. However, I am still so grateful to him. I would not be where I am today without him.
I know that I haven’t been posting as much as I used to. That isn’t because I am losing interest. It is more that there are lots of things that I am still processing. My thoughts are often not clear enough to be able to write about them in any coherent way. But there are things coming up that I know I will want to write about so I am sure that there will be more posts soon.
I was talking with a friend – well messaging via Whatsapp actually rather than talking – yesterday and this morning. This friend is an amazing man and always makes me think more deeply about myself and my life. He is the one who introduced me to Buddhism in the first place so has witnessed a lot of my growth, frustrations, my journey. He knows me very well, better than anyone in some ways. Anyway as we were messaging I began to realise how much fear has played and is still playing in my life. I knew that it was there (as discussed in Part 1 of this [possibly grandly named] mini series; but I hadn’t fully experienced how deeply seated it is.
In embracing Buddhism I have had to look deeply into myself and face what I am, how I have got to be how I am and accept it; not only accept it but to try to feel compassion and love (Metta) towards myself. There is a lot in that which I won’t unpack completely here – it would take a book or two! But what is relevant is this: Buddhists believe that there is no set self as such. The self is ever changing. I might repeat the same behaviours, feel the same things etc over and over again but that is not because I am a set self. When I studied the Self at University all of those years ago, the idea of a set self seemed prevalent and that is what I believed at the time: I am who I am; I may be able to tweak myself but I cannot fundamentally change. I seem to remember writing a few essays on the subject all with the same conclusion. But now I see that I am who I am because of conditioning and how I have reacted to situation and events. This means that I can change. Just saying “that’s who I am; I cannot change” does not cut it any more.
Back to the fear thing! I think that fear has manifested itself and continues to try to manifest itself in many ways. Fear of looking deep inside myself and facing what I might find; fear of doing something that is not conventional / not normal; fear of doing something new; fear of being someone new; fear of being alone; fear of doing things alone….. So many ways in which fear has played a part in my life. So many times I have moved towards a more authentic life, a life more suited to me – and so many times fear has played a part in pushing me right back on the same old path.
But not this time! Now is the time when I accept the fears. Accept that I am afraid. Now is the time to confront those fears and to question them. Look them in the eye. I have made steps this year on my journey down this different path. And I know that I need to rest here for a little while to do what I need and positively want to do now. I need to work on myself, learn more about this Buddhist path that I am on and to reflect. What I don’t need to do is to give in to my fears and go back to the same old well-trodden path to which I have always returned.
I have mentioned the fears involved in facing myself and what I am at the moment. It means taking a long hard look at my reactions to events and situations over the years. It can be so extremely uncomfortable to do this! My past behaviours, actions and emotions were often so flawed, so unskilful. And yes – they often still are; I am just slightly better at using the gap between the event and my possible reactions to it.
Yes – fear has definitely helped to keep the bird in its cage. I may have stepped outside of it a few times in the past but fear has pulled me right back in. Now is the time to step outside and look around. Ready for flight.
I posted the picture at the top of this post onto my Instagram account a year ago. I look all smiley don’t I? I had just had my hair cut and coloured and loved it. But … at that time I wasn’t having the best time to say the least! What was happening? Well…
I was in a job which no longer gave me much satisfaction. I loved and admired many of the people I worked with but the job itself had changed. I was never made to be at the computer all day everyday! The service had changed; Children’s Centres were not as they were; families were not helped as they used to be; Health Visiting is still universal but….
There was a lot going on with my family and friends. Much illness and suffering. I felt that I was not able to help and support them as much as I should.
I was living through the long tortuous end to a relationship which, although short lived in time, was very precious to me.
But there were flashes of light! I had been going to the Sangha Evening for a couple of months and was making friends there. I was beginning to see myself as a Buddhist and knew that this was where I wanted to be. I was yet to take the step into becoming a Mitra but I knew this would happen some day.
Since then! I have become a Mitra and am now training for Ordination. I have sold my house and now live in a caravan which I love. My eldest daughter did fabulously in her GCSEs and is now at college. My other daughter is homeschooled which is much better for her. I left my job and am fortunate enough to be able to not work for a while.
Sad things happened … incredibly sad. My Dad becoming ill and passing away; my Mum having to move into a home. My childhood house is being sold. My Mum is so strong though and is making the most of her life.
So yes – a lot has happened since I posted that picture. It’s strange to think that, at that time – I hadn’t even had the thought of selling my house and leaving my job !
Last week I was checking in at a Buddhist Group and I found myself wondering aloud, “Just how did I get through everything before Buddhism?”.Before the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha came into my life?Before I knew to go to refuge in these Three Jewels? How did I manage to survive this life before I was introduced to Buddhism?How did I get through the constant struggles that life always presents us with?How did I enjoy the good times which I knew would end?How did I manage to be any way near happy and content through the struggles which seem to have hit over the past couple of years?
I can say how I attempted to do all of that. Some of the ways were good or, at least not dreadful!.I am fortunate that I have some incredibly good friends and we support each other.My girls always helped just by being there just as my lovely Pretzel, JD and Smirnoff did.A walk with Pretzel is always a great mood enhancer.Having a cat or two on my lap is always lovely.I would book holidays and have things to look forward to …this was a good strategy as long as there was always something to look forward to.It did mean that a lot of life wasn’t appreciated as I was always awaiting Friday evening or the holiday in the sun.This strategy involved a lot of living in the future or recalling pleasant memories of the past but helped to get me through. There were other strategies too – alcohol was definitely a big help!Not in large quantities but a few glasses of wine to numb the senses and dim the worry for a while.I got involved in things – running, Power lifting….exercise is always a good thing to do (unless done to excess which may have been a problem at times).Boxsets were a feature – a way of forgetting about life for a while.
These ways of living life weren’t bad in themselves – unless taken to excess.Friendship, pets and family were always a positive feature in my life.But now, looking back, a lot of my ways of coping seem to be very short-term strategies. They were strategies which took me away from my life, emotions and thoughts.They took me away from me.Life was passing me by because I wasn’t living in it properly!I was always trying to numb it or to be somewhere else!
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I now try to live my life differently.I don’t always succeed in living in the present but I am at least trying to do so.Buddhism has given meaning to my life, a sense of purpose.It also gives me ways of thinking about my life and thoughts on how to live it.Buddhism doesn’t provide me with a step by step plan – I have to work all of that out for myself!But it does provide pointers and methods!All that I have done to change my life in the last year has been down to my new world-view – simplifying my life, putting myself and those I love ahead of convention and the supposedly safer way to live.I still have a fair way to go but I have made a start.
Because I see life differently now, it feels more full of meaning.Life is so precious!It is so short and can end at any moment.So I need to build a life which I love living rather than trying to escape it.I need to live life fully and gratefully rather than craving something else.And everything changes – those things which make us suffer will end at some point, or at least change.And when something happens (the first arrow strikes), I don’t need to make it worse by firing that second arrow of worry and “why me?” at myself.I now try to face it all head on and work my way through it.(I try – doesn’t mean I always succeed!!).
I still use strategies for dealing with life when things aren’t going as well.I still take Pretzel for a walk.I still talk to friends (and my friendship circle has increased so much in the last year).I still look forward to things.I do all of that.I still have the occasional glass of wine or watch a Boxset (NCIS is the current favourite) but I don’t do these to escape my life any more.I do them because I want to do them for a little while.But I have other ways now – meditation!I never thought that I would be that person who has meditated at least once a day for over 130 days.Meditation is so powerful – it calms my mind and provides a sense of peace and stillness.Not always!Sometimes meditation throws up important truths which bring temporary discomfort but lead to me being a better person eventually.Mindfulness – trying to live in the present…living with intention… trying to make each moment count.This has led me back to doing some of the things I used to love to do but haven’t been able to concentrate on or have the energy for (reading, sewing, embroidery….).
Yes – I am grateful to the Three Jewels and to the man who introduced me to them.I definitely have a way to go but I am living my life a little better than I used to do. I feel more. I am living in my life more. I am not just “getting by”.
Usually Sangha evenings are led by Order Members – those people with the Kesa around their neck with special spiritual names who have spent years in training. I am in training to be one of those ordained members but am nowhere near there yet. But this evening was led by a group of us Mitras. A Mitra is a term meaning “Friend”. Not all of us are planning to be ordained but we have all gone through a ceremony in which we say that we see ourselves as Buddhists in the Triratna tradition and pledge to follow the five precepts as well as we can.
I arrived at the Deerfold Centre tonight not in the best of moods. I wasn’t feeling well and I was having doubts about what I am doing (not in terms of Buddhism but in terms of work etc). There are a few things that are worrying me. If I wasn’t involved in the leading of the meeting, I might well have not gone this evening. I am so pleased that I did.
So this evening started as always with the Sangha Night Team which includes Order Members and Mitras setting up the shrine, meditation mats and chairs. We all do a check in before the rest arrive. So we checked in, I shared some of my worries and doubts – and was met with such love and kindness. By the time the evening started I was already feeling more balanced and at peace.
The two guys leading the first half were fantastic. One led the salutation of the Shrine and the Refuges and Precepts. These are difficult because they have to be timed just right and are in Pali! One led the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation – he had a difficult job because there were a couple of new people there this evening so it needed a proper introduction and commentary. Both did so well! A female Mitra led the second half giving a fabulous talk on Puja. Puja means worship. I have had difficulty connecting to Puja in the past – it is going beyond the intellectual and the emotional to the spiritual. We split into groups to discuss it further before I led the Worship and Salutation in call and response. One Mitra had the job of leading the mantra – he had been practising it all week. It has a rhythm and tune to it which has to be done precisely – he did it perfectly. I ended the evening leading the Transference of Merits. It was a first for us all but we had such great support from the Order Members and the rest of the Sangha.
It was a truly inspirational and beautiful evening which demonstrated perfectly the benefits of practising together. I left the evening feeling much more relaxed and less stressed about the decisions I have made and those which I will have to make. I left feeling supported and held. I feel so grateful that I was introduced to Buddhism and the Dharma (just over a year ago).
I have been thinking more about mindfulness. Mindfulness in the Buddhist context – what it means for me, for my life. The part that mindfulness plays in my Dharma Life, in my journey. I wrote about it a few days ago ( https://teejordan.co.uk/index.php/2019/07/16/mindfulness-a-poem) but last night’s Sangha Evening led by the newly ordained Akāśhanandi on the Four Reminders (see below) inspired me to explore further.
The Four Reminders This human birth is precious, An opportunity to awaken, But this body is impermanent, Ready or not, one day I shall die.
So this life I must know As the tiny splash of a raindrop, A thing of beauty that disappears Even as it comes into being.
The karma I create Shapes the course of my life, But however I act Life always has difficulties; No-one can control it all. Only the Dharma Can free me and others From suffering forever.
Therefore I recall My hearts’s longing for freedom, And I resolve to make use Of every night and day To realise it.
The first noble truth is that to be human is to suffer. Suffering (Dukkha) is inevitable. We all know that – Buddhist or not. Every human being experiences pain, suffering and loss. A lot of our time and energy is spent trying to relieve, cover or forget this suffering. Sometimes we choose good ways of relieving suffering – talking with friends, meditation, going for a walk etc. But some of the time we choose less skilful methods. Addiction is often seen as a way of coping with suffering – Russell Brand has written and spoken a lot about this. We can become addicted to anything – food, Box sets, exercise, online shopping. Addictions are unhealthy habits and attachments. Many activities which we do for long periods of time may not be addictions as such, but we do them to fill time, because we are bored, because we feel tired and lethargic – Eating a packet of biscuits, watching endless box sets, flicking through FaceBook …
So there is suffering which we all try to deal with or avoid in many ways. But human life is precious as is shown by the first line of the Four Reminders. It is an opportunity which should not be missed. Life does have difficulties, there is always suffering but it is also a thing of beauty. We must make the most of it as this life is fleeting like the tiny splash of a raindrop. We never know when it might end. So – in comes mindfulness! Am I being mindful about how I am living my life or am I just drifting along with no purpose? Am I wasting precious moments? Am I engaged in looking for true freedom from suffering for myself and others or am I just covering it up with mindless, possibly harmful activity?
The way to freedom is the Dharma – “only the Dharma can free me and others from suffering forever”. The Dharma is the teaching of the Buddha – but it is not a set of laws and commandments which are written down and must be followed to the letter. It is a teaching which has to be internalised and lived by each individual Buddhist. The Buddha just said, “I am a human being, and I’ve had a certain experience. Listen to what I have to say, by all means, but listen to it critically, test it in your own experience” (Sangharakshita – the founder of Triratna Buddhism) – There is a story of the Buddha’s aunt / foster mother coming to him very hurt and upset because the Buddha’s disciples were giving out different versions of the Dharma. The Buddha was unperturbed – and said (in a much longer and more poetic way), whatever you find conducive in practice to finding the goal of Enlightenment – do that. The Dharma is a raft, a means to the other side of the river, it is a finger pointing to the moon. The Dharma is not an end in itself. As one of the Order members said to me – I have to discover what the Dharma means to me and live it.
I am still in the midst of exploration and discovery – but I do know that mindfulness is and will continue to be central to my practice, to my life. One of the five precepts which I follow as a Mitra concerns mindfulness – not being clouded by intoxicants (which, to me, can be anything which stops me from being fully present), “With mindfulness pure and radiant I purify my mind”.
Human life is precious and fleeting – so we must appreciate every precious moment. There has been much written about living in the present moment. One of the first books I read on it was Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”. The present moment is all that we have – it is not a stepping stone to another moment. The Now is the most precious thing there is. To be present in the Now is to be extremely mindful of what I am doing and not to be distracted by regrets from the past or dreams of the future. I also need to take advantage of every given moment – is what I am doing at this very moment serviceable / beneficial to myself and / or to others. I need to take heed of the last lines of the Four Reminders – recall my heart’s longing for freedom and resolve to make use of every day and night to realise it. Now that does not mean that I have to be busy every moment of the day and night! It does not mean that I can never sit down and watch television. Rest and relaxation are important physically, mentally and emotionally. For me, being mindful and being in the present means that I need to know why I am doing what I am doing in a given moment and to be fully committed to that activity. Am I watching NCIS Season 3 because I am actively interested in the story and the characters or just because I cannot be bothered to get up and do anything else? Am I actually watching it or am I flicking through my phone looking at Instagram, responding to messages etc at the same time? Have I sat here watching it all day (not very likely at the moment to be honest as my mobile WIFI is a bit unreliable)? Am I taking time in the day to develop myself? Am I reading, learning about the Dharma? I want to hone my writing skills which were a little rusty but are coming back slowly – have I done anything to achieve that today? I lost the creative side of me for a while so what am I doing to get that back (another blog post coming in a couple of weeks). Have I been in contact with my friends and family? Have I done my daily meditation? And what have I done today to be of service to others – and how can I do more? I am intensely aware that, as I am not working at the moment, I could easily waste my days doing nothing in particular – which would be a great shame as I am so fortunate to have this time.
Before I end this post – I do need to make it clear that I am a work in progress! I am trying my hardest to practise mindfulness in the way that I have described. It’s hard! Even writing this, I have found myself distracted by the bleep of a text message which I answered… and, having picked up my phone I saw that I had a FaceBook notification… well you can probably see where I am going with this! I would say, however, that being more mindful does make me feel happier, more fulfilled and calmer.
I started this blog to look at and document my journey to “becoming more Tee”. I wanted to change myself, change my life, change my path. I had seen that that was possible. That was back in November. Since then a lot of my life has changed. Much that has changed has been caused by the decisions that I have made; other changes have been caused by other people’s decisions or to the undeniable fact of impermanence. And I have changed – hopefully for the better. I have walked further down the path, moved forward in my journey and now I am at a crossroad not exactly sure of the best way to go. Actually “crossroad” may not be the best analogy – that sounds too clear cut! Choose whether to go right, left or straight on (never backwards). I think that it is more as if I am in a campsite at the edge of a wood with several entrances. I can stay here for a while. I can enjoy it here for a while, living in the present, seeing the joy in the present. But, at some point my resources will run out and I have to choose an entrance and a path.
Making a decision about how to live is hard! How is it best to make these decisions? Agonise over them? Write endless pros and cons lists? Talk with friends – risking boring them to death? Jump in quickly without too much thought trusting ones instincts? Procrastinate until a decision is made for you by circumstances or other people? Follow the common, normal, accepted path (e.g. get a job, house, partner, have children, retire….). Have an end goal to which everything is directed? Looking back I have made decisions by all of these methods at one time or another!
Last year I thought outside of the box, ditched the route that I was on and made a somewhat (to me) radical plan. I made the plan quite quickly but thought about it from as many angles as I could. Now I have achieved the plan as far as it went – I have sold my house, bought and moved into a caravan, resigned from my job and taken my youngest daughter out of school. The boxes are ticked. I have done what I set out to do. But what now? What do I do now?
There are some certainties. I will be home schooling my daughter from when term would start for her in September. And I am so determined to do that to the best of my abilities. Get her out and about, help her with studying for GCSEs, involve everyone I need to in order to make her schooling as interesting and beneficial as possible. . I also want to be available for my oldest daughter who will be starting college studying for her A levels – a wonderfully exciting time for her as she approaches adulthood. So any work I do will need to be part time.
Another certainty is my training for ordination. Practising the Dharma, immersing myself within it, following it – that helps to shape my life. The Dharma is my raft towards Enlightenment. So my way of living my life is clear to me in a broad sense – I want to live a life of service to others, following the precepts as best I can and deepen my practice as best I can, however I can including through meditation, spiritual friendship, reading and retreats.
So there is a lot of certainty. But so much is still unclear to me. When do I start to look for part time work? What do I look for? What do I want to do? And – I have no idea!! None at all. I have decided to take July and August off completely, but July is nearly over….
I was messaging an old friend today. And this made me think how decisions I have made have affected my life – including those times when I let circumstances and other people make those decisions for me. 35 years ago I was madly in love with this friend. But I was a very timid teenager with very low self-esteem. He was funny, good looking and extremely popular – there was no way that he could be interested in me! So I never let him know (well until years later) – and eventually he started going out with some one else and I got together with the guy who would become my first husband. Yes – some of my decisions were not (in hindsight) the best I could have made – including choosing marriage over the opportunity to do a PhD….
But all of the decisions (good or bad, skilful or unskilful) I have made (or have not made) have led me to now, to the person that I am today. And that is okay. I also know that I am extremely fortunate to be in a position where I have choices – so many people are trapped. So I know that I am lucky. I am enjoying my life at the moment. I have just got to decide where to go from here!
I have been thinking about this evening’s Sangha meeting all of the way home and then when I took Pretzel out for her evening walk. Trying to process it all – trying to push through the confusion, sense of shock and deep sadness that I felt, feel. I have no real understanding of how many of the people at the Sangha night were and are feeling. The shock, confusion and sorrow were plain to see on their faces and in their words but I cannot comprehend the depth.
An Order Member had taken her own life at the weekend. I had met her only briefly, once and not really to say more than “Hello”. For some of the people there tonight, she was a beloved friend of many years. They had been together in study groups, Going for Refuge groups and in Kula groups. They had shared so much.
The evening was devoted to her. A recent picture of her with her beloved dog was placed on the shrine. Many spoke of their memories of her. She seems to have been a remarkable woman – energetic, determined, so committed to the Dharma. She appears to have been very creative, imaginative. A woman with ideas flowing from her, a woman who saw things differently from others. Apparently she could be outspoken and forthright. One Order Member described how everyone always knew when she was in the room. I wish that I had known her – she seems to have been such an inspirational woman.
Those who knew her well looked after each other this evening, as they will continue to do for as long as is needed. They mostly sat together, sometimes touching each other, holding hands, sharing their memories of her. As one spoke, others nodded in agreement and, often, they smiled. One memory would lead to another.
Throughout the evening there was a distinct air of sadness, shock and confusion, as I have already said. Tears ran down the faces of many. This lovely woman had seemed to be excited about new projects; she had given no indication that this would happen. If anyone had noticed anything, she would have had their love and support to help her and cherish her. I know the process of becoming an Order Member is long and intensive. The would-be Order Member has to look deeply within her or himself; undergo counselling if needed. I am just at the start of this journey and know that I will have to go through a lot of soul-searching, delve deeply into my own story and resolve issues that I may have once preferred to keep buried. And those in the Sangha are so caring and supportive of each other. There are always opportunities to “check in” and say how things are feeling today, at this moment. It is so rare for an Order Member to take her / his own life – so rare. Which makes this so much more tragic, so much more confusing and so very sad.
The Sangha evening was filled with Metta. I could tell that even those people who had never met her were so touched by the memories of her. The love that these women and men have for each other shone through this evening.
As I sat this evening, joining in with the meditation, the chanting of the refuges and precepts, the threefold puja, the mantra, I realised a new love for this Sangha, for those people who are in the Sangha with me. I am in the Sangha. I feel its warmth and affection. The Sangha is one of the Three Jewels – one of the three refuges – one of the three “things” that I can trust to be there for me along with the Buddha and the Dharma. I feel so honoured, so fortunate to be part of this group of men and women.
A very sad yet beautiful evening. One that has touched me so deeply. I know that I will remember those couple of hours for a very long time, probably forever. I hope that, in time, this remarkable woman’s friends and family come to terms with what has happened to her and manage to achieve some peace.