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Lions Roar : July 2016
isn’t. In truth, it’s never where we start that defines us; it’s where we end up. I went on to do many more Buddhist retreats, ultimately spending a total of almost three years in silent retreats, and became a Buddhist teacher myself. In my years of teaching, people have told me many beautiful stories about their lives, which have opened my heart and given me faith in the strength of the human spirit to soar and rise even in the darkest hour. If you were to write your our own biog- raphy, it would be filled with laughter and tears, times of tragedy and of triumph. Each one of us has a touching story of howwecametobeandwhywearethe person we are today. Some of us are the and crying for a week straight. Miraculously, I heard about a ten-day Buddhist meditation retreat starting in a few days. It was way out in the desert in Southern Cali- fornia. This was it! It was the break I’d been waiting for and it couldn’t have come at a better moment, because I was truly desperate. I had been practicing on my own for over a year, and I knew I needed to learn how to meditate properly. I was so excited by the idea of ten days of silence, healthy food, and meditation instruction that I was willing to do anything to get there. I somehow got the money together and registered. On the day the retreat was to start, I made the nine-hour drive to Southern California, crying hysteri- cally, chain-smoking cigarettes, and drinking diet Mountain Dew. I had all of my belongings in my car, my last twenty-five dollars in cash, and nowhere to go when the retreat was over. I didn’t care, because I somehow knew that if I could just get to the retreat, everything would make sense. Looking back now, I see that what I went through during those ten days in the desert was a genuine awaken- ing experience. I spent hours in sit- ting meditation, and my screaming, tormented mind finally became silent and peaceful. Doing walking medita- tion in the desert, I let go of oceans of tears with each step. For the first time, I encountered the teachings of the Buddha and immediately knew I had found my path. I met my teacher, Jack Kornfield, whose loving encouragement and stead- fast belief in me have helped me trans- form my life. The last day of the retreat, I hiked way out into the desert and on top of a small hill, I prayed. I took a vow to follow these teachings until the very end. I had answered my call to awaken. THIS WAS THE BEGINNING of my meditation path. It wasn’t the prettiest of starts, but it often descendants of slaves and others have fled war-torn countries. Many people in the West grew up in wealthy families that looked perfect on the outside, yet were filled with violence and confusion. Although we each have unique cir- cumstances and diverse backgrounds, the threads of our personal journeys are woven together into the same beautiful tapestry. The Buddha said, “In a human life we all experience 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. No one is free from this.” No matter what you have been through or experienced in your life thus far, understand that it’s only a starting point, and your greatest chapters are yet to come. ♦ Starry Night and the Astronauts, 1972 PAINTINGFROMTHEARTINSTITUTEOFCHICAGO/GIFTOFMARYP.HINESINMEMORYOFHERMOTHER,FRANCESW.PICK LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 49