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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 41 FERNANDO DE TORRIJOS. I am the coordinator of the chronic disease program and a mindfulness-based stress re- duction specialist at an inner-city community health center in Worcester, Massachusetts. I teach a traditional eight-week program in mindfulness, but I also see people individually. I help these people, who have such difficult lives, to see that in every human being there is a beautiful jewel in the heart. In our struggles, we cover over that jewel with uncertainty, insecurity, and destructive behavior. Meditation can help people to see those obscurations and uncover the jewel. • Many of the peo- ple who come to my classes are recent immigrants from Latino countries, minorities with low literacy and very low income. For many of these people, life has been abusing them since the day they were born. They have bills they cannot pay, kids they can- not take care of, elderly parents who need help, multiple chron- ic conditions. They might be living in their car and their spouse is in prison. They try to cope and the mind runs in 100,000 di- rections. So, they develop chronic anxiety, and when the anxiety overtakes the whole system, they finally give up. They become deeply depressed. They go into a hole. • I cannot find jobs myself for everybody. If I were able to, I would. I cannot bring medicine to everybody. If I were able to, I would. But the thing I can do is to help people to allow their self-esteem to come back up, to lift—little by little—the deep depression that many of these patients have become accustomed to. And to allow them to find what they really want to do in this life. Yes, there are obstacles because of chronic conditions they suffer from, but through the years I have seen many of these people come out of the hole they are in, and they are able to live a life of dignity. • I also teach a week-long program in Spanish called “Meditation in the Life of a Bodhisattva.” People come from Spain, Central America, Mexico, and California. There I teach both concentra- tion and insight. Generally, people have been practicing for a while but feel frustrated because they feel they are not advanc- ing. At that point, they need a little more understanding to go beyond wanting to get someplace. In general, I teach whatever seems to make sense for the person in front of me. ANDREA MARIA NASCA. I have a natural tendency to want to help, and opportunities just seem to arise organically. Lately, we met some Tibetan people in the area who were moving up from New York to where we live in Massachusetts. They didn’t speak English very well and were just getting their feet on the ground. We put them up for a while and helped them find jobs, places to live, drivers’ licenses. We helped them understand their official mail and fill out the paperwork. • In general, we are willing to open up our home. My husband, who is a nurse, encountered a man who has pretty serious developmental dis- abilities. He lives with us now, and we take care of him. He’s a really wonderful person. • I am on the board of the Associa- tion for International Solidarity in Asia (ASIA), a nonprofit organization that has done incredible humanitarian work for Tibetan people, especially the nomads, who are among the poorest people in the world and whose culture, language, and traditions are at great risk of being lost. My main function this year is helping to find sponsors for Tibetan children. • My husband is from New Orleans and we met during some Bud- dhist empowerments we attended together there, so we have a lot of friends and family in that area. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it was extremely painful watching what was happening to people down there. And what wasn’t happening. People just weren’t getting the help they needed. I was in tears every day for weeks. It was not so easy to find a way of alleviating the suf- fering of people who were living so far away. Then we set up a donation center at my daughter’s school and collected several huge boxes full of donations, and I found a trucking company that volunteered to go down there. Once we could finally get through to people, we offered emotional support—just letting people talk about what they’d been through and what it felt like. It was a big lesson in impermanence.