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Lions Roar : November 2015
THE WALLS THAT SEPARATE US seem to be falling away. These days, many of the old constructions and categories of identity are dissolving. We are realizing there is no such thing as “race” or binary gender or “normal” sexual preference. It feels like a moment of possibility and joy. But while we may know this intellectually, many Buddhists have not yet let it penetrate to our hearts. There is still suffering, with- drawal, and tentativeness in relation to identity, practice, and community. When we first begin Buddhist practice, we bring with us our own suffering, traumas, and confusion, often around our identity. For whatever reason, we have ended up on the shores of a Buddhist refuge. We are seeking relief, a way out of the suffering, no matter what we think the causes of our distress are. We may feel that the world doesn’t see us as we truly are, and maybe we don’t even see ourselves very clearly. We may feel unacknowledged, incomplete, and forced to fit into a mold that is not what we feel inside. Perhaps we are alienated from our family, our old friends, maybe even from ourselves. We may fear for our personal safety or our reputation. We may be angry toward the others who refuse to recognize and respect us. We feel separate. While many people experience this to one degree or another, oppressed and often invisible minorities—such as those of us with non-conforming sexual and gender orienta- tions—can be especially vulnerable to these feelings. If we are lucky, we encounter teachings that help us to heal, find our true selves, and free ourselves from roles and ideals that do not fit our real nature. We begin to break down fixed or received ideas about ourselves, our bodies, our rela- tionships, and our potential. We realize that we have in some way accepted society’s definition of who we are or should be. Through our Buddhist practice, we can let all that drop away. We begin to recognize not only our own intimate, per- sonal self, but also two other aspects of the self—our porous, impermanent self, and our self that is part of all that is. Let me share with you three teachings that have opened my understanding of this threefold aspect of the self—the personal self, the universal self, and the self who abides in both. These teachings, arising out of a koan, a sutra, and a ROSHI PAT ENKYO O’HARA is abbot of the Village Zendo in New York City, a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Family, and the author of Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges. A.JESSEJIRYUDAVIS Our Moment of Possibility & Joy Who am I, really? ROSHI PAT ENKYO O’HARA shares three teachings that have given her solace and strength as she’s asked that question. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 38