Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Second Letter


Here is the second letter I promised:

“Dear Cheri,
I was in the TTFG [It’s Time to Feel Good] online class, and I learned a lot. I admit to dragging my mind/feet about getting the small recorder from Radio Shack, but I did it and regularly recorded and listened. It changed everything. I had no idea that the ‘voices’ in my head were not me, but either a young sub, or from a source that didn’t ‘wish me well.’ I knew the little recorder had worked for me in guiding me on a new path, but I had no way of knowing how it could literally put me on the right path, and save my life.

I have been taking road trips with my dog the last couple of years. To have a vacation together was the first priority, but what started to occur became uncomfortable. I found that traveling alone to unknown places, I started to experience fear. Fear at highway interchanges, fear at large city rush hour traffic. I recognized the young sub that experienced my mother running out of gas. I still find myself filling up when the gauge is halfway. But all the planning failed me two weeks ago.

I had printed out directions, but was trying to hold the shaking paper and read and remember them before each turn. It was almost impossible not to mention dangerous, as I would sometimes swerve. I missed a couple of vital exits, and found myself over a hundred miles out of the way before I found out, not to mention low on gas. I felt intense panic at being lost on the road when I was supposed to have already arrived at my hotel. I was afraid to drive at night and night was approaching. My heart pounded as I pulled over to the side of the road. I scrounged through my accessories. I had packed that little recorder! I was sweating, and I recorded the fear stories, and then waited for my mentors reply and listened. And then my mentor gave me an idea. Slowly, track by track, I read the directions into the recorder… each road I needed to take, each turn I need to make. I took a couple of deep breaths, played the first new track and started to drive. I could play it over and over again to remember. Once accomplished I would hit the arrow again and my voice guided me to the next exit, the next turn. I felt my little sub start to relax as she heard my voice calmly giving directions, as if there was a passenger sitting in my car. I finally pulled into the hotel parking lot two hours later, and cried tears of triumph. My mentors voice, my voice had guided me in just as surely as if it had been an air traffic controller for an inexperienced pilot. This little device saved my life in several ways.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Do a little something every day that scares you.’ I think she knew what happens: when you don’t run from fear, you grow. Fear’s rawness is still within me each time I leave home, the ‘what-if-this-happens’ thoughts. But this time my mentor was my road companion, and I am truly grateful! Thank you again for the class, the insistence about the recorder and the guidance!”

This intrepid practitioner has captured practice beautifully, wouldn’t you say? I’m most grateful for this message of courage and triumph. Thought you might enjoy it as well.

In gassho,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The First of Two Letters


While going through the stacks that have accumulated on my desk during these busy retreat times, I came across two extremely helpful letters. The first has helped my practice as an example of how I commit each day to working hard not to be, and the second has added to the reservoir of inspiration that fuels my determination.

The first letter was unsigned and arrived with no return address. It stated:

“I feel compelled to make some comments on the food at my recent stay. The quality of food is not what it once was. This makes it difficult for me to refer friends to go there. One concern is the amount of soy products. Over the years I have read about the many concerns about soy some mainly in the processing. Of course we do not really know what to believe in the media and what is really best for us to eat so I just want to share these links. [This was followed by three links with titles that included “dangers of soy.”]
I would prefer cows milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk over soy and did not feel I had a choice. While there were cows milk products (cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt) not sure why you cannot offer milk.
I rarely eat processed/white flour (pasta, rice, bread) and would have liked to have whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice)
There was very little variety and actually few vegetables. Even the soups had few vegetables in them and the salad was mainly lettuce with few vegetables either. There was not much variety in fruit either. Gassho”

Oh, my, where to begin? The oddity is that our menu (the one this person is complaining about) contains almost no soy. We had re-done all the recipes when we discovered Quorn products, a near-perfect protein source containing no soy. But, for me, a conversation about the menu, the diet, would miss the point completely.

The Buddha—the Buddha—took a bowl out one time a day each day of his life and begged the scraps of food he would eat. According to the information that has come down to us, he died from eating rotten mushrooms some poor person had put in his bowl. (He blessed and thanked that person before he died for helping him on his journey!)

How have we come so far from the essential point of awareness practice—waking up and ending suffering—that we won’t spend 8 days eating meals that are not meeting our culinary standards without feeling the need to complain? When did a spiritual retreat become something we wouldn’t “refer our friends to” because the plentiful, mostly organic vegetarian food didn’t fit our dietary preferences?

A huge percentage of the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night. Countless children are dying of starvation around the planet as I write this and as you read this. The food we throw away in this rich and privileged culture of ours would keep them happily alive.

Does this mean we should feel bad and guilty? Of course not. But I think it does mean we should be grateful in every moment for all we have. We should live in a constant, resounding, heart-felt “thank you!” (Yep, I’m using the word “should” intentionally here.) We should.

I know that no one reading this needs the lesson contained herein. I know that. And, as it has served as such an excellent reminder to me to keep my attention where I choose for it to be, on unconditional love and gratitude, I thought you might enjoy the reminder too.

Tomorrow I will post a very different story of awareness practice.

In gassho,