Following the Heart of Dharma

This post is a small contemplation about gratitude and the paths that lead us to wonderful places.

I was lucky enough to stumble on the Heart of Dharma sangha through Meetup when I moved to Boise. I’m not much of a joiner generally but this meetup seemed undemanding and familiar, raised as I was in a non-monotheistic household.

And let’s face it: there’s no denying I need need all the meditation practice I can get. Not to mention practice in compassion. And letting things go.

You know what's cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.
You know what’s cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.

First meeting was great. Guided meditation followed by an illuminating talk. A teacher (Dana Marsh) who spoke with compassion, kindness, intelligence and humor. Kindly people who smiled a lot. Even being thanked for sharing my practice with the group; the loveliness and wisdom in that every practice gesture still strikes me with awe.

As with all great starts, I imagined myself attending the guided meditations at every opportunity, learning amazing things and attaining some of the wisdom my treasured sister Erica makes seem so effortless. The schedule was easy too: an evening meditation on Tuesdays and one on Sunday mornings. One hour, in and out, and even a bikeable distance!

Now, a few years in, I find my attendance is more inconsistent than I’d like or would be helpful to me. Yet, every time I go, I come away uplifted, optimistic and peaceful. And I feel so fortunate that the sangha exists, so accessible and so near to me. As my sister has pointed out, this wasn’t available to me where I lived in California and the nearness of a wonderful teacher . . . it’s a priceless gift.

This year I’m feeling especially lucky because in an unusual fit of resolve, I decided to attend the Eight Week Spiritual Jump Start, Sunday mornings at 9:30. In theory, it sounded like a good thing but in practice, I wasn’t too excited about it. I don’t like making commitments. Classes or anything that I feel I should do makes me want to flee. I’m the guy that, the minute I say I’ll do something marginally social, I want to do the opposite.

Classes started and I’m pleased to say, I haven’t skipped one yet. (This is slightly miraculous.) Still, last week was a bit pressured and over-scheduled. As I was contemplating another over-scheduled week ahead, I decided to reduce the pressure. No Sunday morning alarms. No rushing to get the beast to and away from the dog park in order to trundle into class on time. No inhalation of breakfast and coffee. I was not going to feel bad about missing class today. And, if we all slept in and I still wanted to do something for my battered, dark soul, I’d hit the 11 o’clock guided meditation session and call it good.

You get where this is going. With no pressure or expectation, I woke early, naturally, in time to catch a beautiful sunrise. Had quiet coffee and a clementine by the fire (I do love clementine season!). Made myself a mint tea to go. Actually showered and put on clean clothes. Max and I ambled off to the dog park where he staggered about leisurely and managed to secure the attentions of kindly dog hosts like Star. When it was time to go, no civil disobedience. We actually made it to class a few minutes early.

And of course, it was again wonderful. Today’s class helped me get some perspective on some issues, renewed my respect for my teacher, reminded me how much the person or creature sitting next to me has to teach me, and generally gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace.  Also, I laughed out loud a few times. (Yeah, I know, that paragraph was all about me. In fairness, I’ve never claimed to be an evolved Buddhist.)

Anyway, before this day gets into busy and doing mode — or not busy and lollygagging mode, not sure which — I’m taking these few minutes to make a note of gratitude to the sangha for existing, to Dana Marsh for teaching, to all the volunteers and supporters of Heart of Dharma that make it so accessible. Thank you.

Note: If you’re not a Boise local but would like to benefit from this teacher (Dana Marsh), her book, Extraordinary Freedom, is available on the Heart of Dharma website and online. I found it accessible, engaging and helpful.

Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.
Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.

A bit of “Boise Nice,” a little gratitude

In any neighborhood there are flyers stapled to poles and mine is no exception. The hound and I were walking about one evening. We came across a woman removing a flyer we’d seen all over the neighborhood for the last week or so. It was one of those that had me shaking my head: lost laptop, please return.

Ready to give sympathy for the loss I greeted her only to learn that yes, someone found and returned the laptop. She was tearing down her flyers to make room for others.

I guess it’s kind of sad that I was so stunned that someone actually returned her laptop. Or maybe it’s a commentary on the places I’ve been living. Either way, thinking about the compassion of strangers and the optimism of the laptop owner has stayed with me.

So this little note is just a moment of gratitude for all that kindness that flows around. Thank you, whoever it was, for returning that family’s laptop. Thank you lady, for having and working towards the hope that someone would do the right thing.