The following article appeared in my Sangha newsletter, Ink on the Cat. Since a few people have asked me about it, I wanted to post it here too.
Wisdom's Heart Includes All
Including the specified extremes or limits as well as the area between them: the numbers one to ten, inclusive.
I believe that at wisdom's heart, the absolute center of wisdom, is love. Love is the foundation of the Brahma-Viharas. It helps us to grow into wisdom like trees reaching towards the sun. From this place of love we learn to be at peace with ourselves and open to the world. This opening allows us to accept unfamiliar people, ideas, and beliefs. We develop a greater capacity to see the limits and the extremes, as well as the area between, and enfold all in our boundless heart.
Our sangha is committed to finding a building for a downtown center. I hold the aspiration that our sangha grows to include the community in which we practice, and look forward to our home becoming a safe, inclusive place for all people to experience the container of zazen and the support of an open-hearted community.
ZCO has grown to welcome a small, rural community to the beauty of Zen practice and the melody of marimbas. Our practice of inviting teachers, writers, artists, and musicians from many traditions enriches the ground of our Dharma knowledge. Members in pilgrimage together deepened their practice by visiting ancient sites and, in including non-travelers back home through beautiful emails.
This spring we grew to include two Burmese families in our sangha. We have found that despite differences of culture, language or even faith (the families are Christian), we are a community because we share our humanity and the desire to be happy. Our practice with this family has taught me about the ways in which we communicate as humans first and, when we do that based in the love at wisdom's heart, language is immaterial. I've also had the joy of learning that Legos require no directions, only a surface where they can be safely strewn and playfully assembled.
The feeling of being included is not something I knew growing up. As a young child I knew that all living beings are deeply connected, but I felt alienated by my family. Because of this I have withheld myself, my essential being, in ways small and large. Any ease I had within groups was tied to a persona so elaborate that I no longer knew it was just a facade.
During the past seven years I have given up that persona as I worked to change my life in order to adopt a healthier way of living. Besides practicing hatha yoga and Zen, I've become a vegan, lost 150 pounds, lowered my cholesterol 100 points, started teaching yoga, and took the first five precepts. I've rediscovered the silence that was my childhood safe haven, while my teachers have encouraged me to find my voice hiding in that quiet. I'm slowly learning to trust that even when I reveal true differences about myself I am still welcomed in my sangha.
All I've learned in the three years I've been practicing with ZCO, combined with happy excitement at the thought of finding a literal home for our community, gives me great hope that we will grow to include others who may feel alienated from society, family, and self, that more people enter, feel the silence and wisdom that illuminates the heart of our temple, and sit down to rest in the essential self.
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