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Lions Roar : September 2014
“No, but I try to go to dharma meetings about three times a week, here and at Tibet House and the Shambhala Center.” “So where do you think you’re falling short?” Ken simply repeats that he isn’t seeing the connection between meditation and wisdom. Sharpe asks, “Are you interested in being able to think it through, or are you interested in being able to see it work its way into your life?” “I’d like to know the intellectual connection.” “Aha! Well, there’s a lot to be said for being able to reflect—we’re intellectual beings. But we’re also emotional and physical beings. The way to realize these connections is not by thinking them through.” Take the concept of impermanence, she tells him. You can watch the shifting tides and the spinning hands on a clock and you can tell yourself 150,000 times that everything is imperma- nent. Yet that doesn’t mean you understand it in your gut. As Sharpe sees it, the teachings of the different schools of Buddhism all wind up in the same place: the four noble truths. Nonetheless, if we’re all over the place in our practice, shopping around and sampling different traditions, we may have breadth but not depth. When we choose a path and delve into it deeply, our intention is not like a cork bobbing on the water but like a stone dropping down: the mind steadies and insight appears. “If you’ve been practicing for a while, a retreat is really help- ful,” says Sharpe. On retreat, you get a base of stillness and silence, which broadens and deepens your practice at home. “Then insight is nothing that you have to seek,” she concludes. “It simply happens. The mind is still and so it sees the nature of reality, and, from that, wisdom and compassion arise. When we see for ourselves that we are deeply connected to other beings, we don’t have to try to be compassionate. Compassion arises because we know there’s no difference between us. Your sadness is my sadness; your joy is my joy. Meditation is a way of helping the mind settle so it understands that in a deep way.” GInA ShArPe’S home is full of buddhas. There’s a white one presiding over the kitchen where her husband, john Fowle, is making lunch. Then there’s a buddha of gilded wood in the piano room and one of brass in the bedroom. And hanging on the living room wall there’s a Chinese painting on tin of an arhat. Thirty-five years ago, Sharpe tells me, she was going up an esca- lator in Bloomingdale’s when she saw this arhat and decided he had to be rescued from just being somebody’s decoration. For Sharpe, Buddhist imagery is a tangible reminder to practice. She smiles when she puts it this way: “lest you forget.” Fowle serves lunch in the dining room and the three of us cluster at one end of a long table. In the center, there’s a South African table runner decorated with a giraffe motif, and at our feet there’s a cat with a charmingly strident meow. The meal is a carrot-mushroom medley, perfectly seasoned asparagus, and brown rice topped with a kidney bean stew. Though I relish every bite, Fowle insists that his wife is the better cook. The couple met more than three decades ago when they were both young lawyers—Fowle working for a firm in the Bahamas and Sharpe working for another in New York. Their first date was at a restaurant that served platters of sizzling steak, and Fowle says he was so nervous that he invited a friend along. “This particular friend was married to a brain surgeon, and he told me not to get involved with Gina because she was too smart. I totally ignored his advice.” less than two years later, on an afternoon in September, Fowle and Sharpe went to Tiffany’s and picked out a ring. The next day they got married. I ask Sharpe how she and her husband find equilibrium in their relationship, and her answer is generosity and kindness. According Meditation, Sharpe says, “is support for practicing life. Can you enter into every experience with a feeling of generosity? For me, that’s the essence of practice.” ➢ page 64 SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2014 35