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Lions Roar : January 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 68 decide which side of a spiritual argument I wanted to support. In each of these cases, it felt horrible. But I have to admit something. Over all those years, I didn’t really have a practice, at least not a strong one. I was too involved in the books, the beads, the titles, and the labels, consumed with trying to get somewhere. Trying to achieve enlightenment and peace. I had expectations about myself, my sangha, and the various lineages to which I felt attached. I had it all wrong. In practicing Buddhism, in whatever form or lineage you choose, there is going to be loss and disappointment. As Dogen writes in his Genjokoan, “Flowers fall amid our longing and weeds spring up amid our antipathy.” Looking back at my patterns now, I see this “loss” of mine a little differently. Now, I practice. I don’t wear beads too often. I still have books, but I read them instead of carrying them around for show-and-tell. In my head, my story used to be about how I would lose my dharma practice over and over again. But now “losing” seems more like shedding, and that shedding has revealed something so much better. So I never really lost my dharma. I just lost some trappings. And I hope you lose yours, too. BEN HUTCHISON is a husband and father who lives in Cincinnati. He sits zazen daily. Metta for a Mom SUBHA SRINIVASAN MY DAUGHTER, ANJALI, had just been born. I was standing by the sink with her in the next room, sobbing because of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and crash- ing hormones. My shoulders ached from nursing (it seemed so much harder than I had imagined!) and I was feeling sorry for myself. Then, spontaneously, the metta prayer arose in me silently: May I have compassion, and may I be free from suffering. That prayer has been of help to me in all sorts of situations. After maternity leave, I was fortunate to be able to work part-time. But doing so as a professor proved difficult. Constantly playing catch-up and bogged down by responsibilities, I was unable to enjoy what time I did have with my little one. I remember the evening after months of internal deliberation when, on a walk by the pond, a version of the prayer arose: May I be happy, may I have peace, and may I have an easeful heart. I decided to leave my job at the end of the year and pursue a more skillful livelihood for myself. Recalling the metta prayer has been helpful in the most dif- ficult of moments: when my daughter has been sick. The last time she had an infection she cried incessantly, inconsolable after a heavy dose of antibiotics. It hurt to witness her pain, to be unable to help her with her diarrhea and discomfort. I said the prayer for both of us: May we have compassion, may we be free from suffering. The first time I said this prayer to Anjali, she was so tiny. I was not yet used to having her on the outside of me! The prayer allowed me to acknowledge that she was an individual, of me but not me. I was there to love her, but I could not con- trol everything for her. All I could do was my best, and trust that that was enough. Having metta in my heart gives me the steadiness to go on through the difficult times with compas- sion and kindness. In doing so, our practice becomes our life, every moment, every day. We come home. SUBHA SRINIVASAN lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter and is the author of The Year of the Rose: Reflections of a New Mother and Lessons in Mindfulness and Loving-kindness. A New Chance KELLEY CLINK ON VALENTINE’S DAY, 2004, my brother wrote on his blog: “Bitterness is a huge waste of time. That’s right, I said it! But goddamn, goddamn, is it hard to abandon. Peace, peace is where it’s at. I started reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Creating True Peace, and on a lot of issues the dude is right on. So I’m creating peace in my life, ending violence inside myself, enjoying breathing.” Two months later, just shy of his twenty-second birthday, he hanged himself. My mother had sent him the Thich Nhat Hanh book in early 2004, a few weeks before he posted about it. She sent me a copy too, but I didn’t read it. I’d settled, at twenty-four, into a comfortable discomfort. I figured the anger and fear that had plagued me for years, the waves of emotion that drowned me almost daily, were part of my personality. I was haunted those first years after my brother’s death. We had both struggled with depression during adolescence, and we both attempted suicide in our teens. It looked like I’d come through it: I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, got married, moved across the country, and started a career. But after my brother’s suicide I viewed my sanity as a taut thread, capable of snapping at any moment. PHOTOBYNELLEKEWOOTEN