Just as we got to the gates of the Insight Meditation Center, I looked at all the kids playing in the yard and figured, "that must not be it." and kept driving down Pleasant Road. What retreat center would be filled with that many children? Oh, the one hosting the annual Family Buddhist Retreat. I turned around and sure enough, that was exactly where we needed to be.
Walking into the front door of IMS for the first time, I was overcome by a shyness and awkward feeling.... we are a long way from anything familiar. These people... I don't know any of them...who are they? will I fit in? OMG, I don't fit here at all... It wasn't Zman I was worried about... it was me. Looking around at the excitement, the people who knew each other, catching up on life's details ... I found myself retreating... sitting quietly, turning my social uncomfortability into a mindfulness practice.
We gathered for the first time as a group in the hall. Each of us had claimed our spot for the week. Sitting close to the front and off to the side meant easy access to the escape hatch and we didn't have to see all the people we don't know. Safe. We held hands, participated in the singing, and hoped that the week would be healing for our challenged relationship. Yeah, you should know... the Zman and I struggle a lot in our relationship. It is filled with lots of challenges. We agreed to set intentions to cure things, be honest, share and find our way back to the sweet spot where laughter between us reigns supreme.
That anonymity didn't last long, we were asked to STAND UP (omg) in front of all the sangha, and when the teacher asked if someone would be our buddy family... there was no response. Oh, we're them, those people no one wants to like. Oh us? But that lasted for only a few more moments, and I made my first connection ... we found our buddies.
The topic of the weekend was Refuge. Over the course of the retreat, I accepted and trusted that I could take refuge in my new found sangha, and when I made that choice to trust... possibilities began to emerge. I made authentic connections that lead to meaningful discussions. It took a day or two to accept, we were exactly where we needed to be... among our sangha. I met so many amazing people who had so much to teach me and commiserate about the challenges we face as parents on the path. The conversations that evolved over the course of the retreat illuminated so much for me. I never expected to find those connections when I arrived at IMS on Saturday afternoon. In my heart, I know I have found refuge in this sangha for which I'm immensely greatful.
In my one on one work with one of the teachers, I allowed her to take me to one of the darkest places I go... and realized, I do have the ability to be mindful in the greatest states of anger. My practice serves me better than I realize, and I should create more openings for mindfulness in even the darkest of moments.
There is refuge in my mindfulness. There is refuge on my cushion. There is refuge in others. There is refuge in my heart. I can be safe, happy and free in the dharma. There is room for me in practice... and for the first time in a long time.. I felt I belong.
Belonging in the Buddhist community has been something I've struggled with immensely. After some dharma drama last year, the demise of the DPXHV group and the issues that arose ... I let my delusion punish me and teach me that I'm not worthy of the practice. This is not the case. I'd like to proudly say, the dharma isn't something that is deserved, it is earned and wow, I HAVE EARNED IT!
I also fully recognize, that I'm a total newb, that my green state of being makes me nothing more than a student. I have plenty of time to savor and learn, grow and bloom. No need to rush when there are so many gifts to be received in the practice.
Over the course of five days... I learned so much... I didn't expect the personal work to be there, but it was. I chose to be rigorously honest, and open myself to this new 'net'... and take Refuge in this new found sangha. What a gift!
Some things I've uncovered... Joy is a choice ... and something both my son and I want to cultivate in our daily lives. We choose Joy!!!
Using my angry scary mommy voice is not a useful or skillful tool. I can find other ways to be softer and still get across the message without the excessive force of my great intensity. There is a way to present clear intention without the intention to force 'fear'.
My perception that arises from assumptions is not accurate. I am causing harm by assuming I know better than anyont else. In many instances, I can easily arrive at an idea that I know what is best in a situation... but when I let go .. listen, absorb and take time to get all the information... I can discover.. I have much to learn.
I was reminded in a dharma talk about the perils of our attachment to sense pleasures, and was given permission to begin again anytime I want to. We talked about that idea of having a safe space in which to practice, and the value of reminding people of their gifts rather than exposing how they disappoint us. These clues, lessons and reminders earmarked places in my citta and my hope and intention is to utilize them the next time those feelings of discomfort arise.
My son is one of my greatest teachers. From him I continue to learn so much. He is my true refuge. To him, I show deep gratitude for teaching me the true meaning of Metta and giving me a purpose of service I never knew I'd be able to perform.