Dipping a Toe into the Ocean of Dharma
Who would have thought… that when I first walked into a meditation class in 2007, I’d be writing a blog about my meditation journey eight years later????
Not me! I vividly recall that when I attended my first class, I sat at the back and planned to make an exit at the break “if it was too weird”. That’s the honest truth! But it wasn’t weird at all. In fact, it was SO interesting that I stayed…and I went back the next week, and the next week, and the next week. Yes…who would have thought that all those “next weeks” would easily turn into nine years.
My approach to Dharma has been like a kid at the beach, uncertain about the water, dipping a toe in until that became comfortable, then part of a foot, then both feet up to the ankles and so on. I’m comfortably immersed now, but it was a process and I did it at a pace that worked for me.
One thing that has helped me to continue to wade into the teachings and prayers more deeply has been the conscious decision I made when I started: I would allow myself to be comfortable with things I couldn’t understand right away. I’d let go of the familiar habit of becoming agitated if I didn’t get something immediately. I’d put any puzzling teachings in an imaginary shoebox placed on an imaginary shelf in the imaginary cupboard in my mind. I felt comfortable asking questions and letting the answers simmer. Instead of becoming agitated about something unfamiliar, I’d focus on the teachings that resonated strongly with me. And there were plenty of those.
It became easy to take one or two ideas from the class and chew on them as I went about my daily life. The result? I became increasingly fascinated by how deeply they made sense to me, my life, and my relationships. Buddha encouraged us not to believe something because they call him Buddha – so I didn’t. I tested the teachings against my experiences – and I started to look more and more forward to every class – inspired by how much Buddha’s teachings from 2600 years ago resonate as true, profound and very, very helpful as I navigate through this life.
For example, I recall a teaching on “inappropriate attention” – how we sometimes focus our attention on one aspect of a person or a situation, and exaggerate it so that it creates anger or frustration or other unhelpful states of mind. I remember noticing that I was doing this with a co-worker who – I believed at the time – was “bugging me”. The teaching helped me to consider that what was actually bugging me was my tendency to focus on one aspect of this person. When I took the time to consider the whole person, I could see that the one irritating quality I was focusing on was only one small part of her. There were several other very likeable qualities too. The next time I was faced with the behaviour that irked me, because my attention wasn’t so narrowly focused, it seemed easier to let my frustration go. The teaching on inappropriate attention was helpful, practical and helped me maintain a more peaceful mind. It also made for a nicer work atmosphere for everyone around me!
The really wonderful thing is that Buddha gave over 80,000 teachings. The possibilities for transforming my mind and my experience are HUGE! We are so fortunate to have Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s books in which he has shared these profound teachings in English for people just like us. I am quite sure I will be wading through them for years to come.
This post was written by Debbi Jones