Thursday, March 16, 2006

Taking refuge

This blogging experience hasn't been what I expected. That's usual for me actually, LOL. I thought that my blog would be a personal journal, one that might encourage or help others. When I decided to become an aspirant in the Order of Interbeing I found the Woodmoor Zendo blog and was thrilled to read a bit about Nacho's experience, his description of the lineage, and his account of ordination. I came upon a few sites here and there where aspirants had written small pieces in newsletters about their working with a certain precept, all fascinating and encouraging to me.

So when I started up this Zenmom blog, I didn't think I'd be including other bloggers in my metta meditation, offering good wishes for lab results, doing tonglen for those like myself in challenging relationships, wondering how the mothers of these gutsy young monastics in foreign lands feel about their children, so noble but so far away, and wondering if they miss their families too.

Nacho's post entitled "Taking refuge in the blangha" gave me a chance to think about this a little further. In my adult "real" life I haven't had a community of practice, or even a community of like-thinkers. I started working with a spiritual director about ten years ago when I was yearning for some human feedback and conversation about Spirit and my spiritual path. Since my SD lives in the middle of Puget Sound and I live smack on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, even this relationship exists over phone wires as does my more recently formed relationship with my dharmacharya, who is, at least, only one state away!

Over the years, as I've journeyed through interests in creation spirituality, far-to-the-left Christianity, contemplative prayer, meditation, and Buddhism, almost all of my fellowship has been of the online variety. Only in the last few years, through attending a few Thich Nhat Hahn retreats and having a local sangha become available to me, have I been able to practice on a regular basis with other folks. It's ironic that although I ban my daughter from My Space and lecture her incessantly about the dangers of online predators saying, "you never know if people are really who they present themselves to be", some of my most important heart warming "real" relationships have been formed online. (I once threw my entire family into a panic when I met and went camping with an online friend, a lovely woman from Manhattan, with whom Zenchild is allowed to correspond since we have now even had her to visit in our home. Pity the poor child that has to live with my inconsistencies, but I digress.)

This virtual world has a way of eliminating the distraction of physical presence and my inherent prejudice about how people look and what I'm expecting them to say. While it's true that the lack of input from body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice requires a more careful and precise use of words, in another sense, online we may cut right to the essence of who we are: thoughts, ideas, feeelings. Sometimes these are more easily expressed when I can take my time and make sure that I am saying exactly what I mean. My real-life sangha is a little formal, low-key, without much interaction save some polite conversation in hushed tones around the shoe changing area and a lot of bowing. My sangha may become more of a refuge for me in time, especially with increased commitment to making it so. But for now I have to say, the online community, including this blangha, feels very nurturing.

I'm grateful for that and I do take refuge. Thanks everyone!

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


Blogger Beth said...

you are welcome. i've had times where i couldn't get to my zendo to meditate, and the "blangha" was so precious to me.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Nacho said...

Zenmom, thanks for this thoughtful post. The blangha can be, much like any other space "outside" (funny dualism that one), a space of practice. It has its own challenges and difficulties. I find myself challenged in vastly different ways here, often not being as mindful with those things/issues that really push particular buttons. Then again, everything can be transformed into practice no?

Kim has a delightful blog that talks about her experience in practice everyday. I truly enjoy it. My own blog has changed dramatically. I don't speak about my everyday practice, although I tend to see things through that lens. At other times I just want an outlet for other things that occupy my thoughts. My own practice is eclectic (I'm a humanist, non-theist, etc.), so I think my online ventures follow in that path. Like you I have found some rather nice folks online. Last year I met James from The Buddhist Blog and he gave me a ride to the Estes Park retreat. It was wonderful to meet him!

I think a good thing is not to have too idealized or "perfect" expectation for your practice. Why? Because I also hear people say that blogs and other online things takes them away from practice, so their response is to not do things, to keep themselves away from life because the littlest thing can lead them astray. I think that is a puritanical approach to practice that treats practice as static and forgets that practice is not an object.

You see, your blog already has inspired me and given me the opportunity to ponder. Thank you Zenmom. The path you have taken is interesting. Glad to hear your sangha brings you gladness. : )

Thank you Zenmom.

WoodMoor Village

10:23 AM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Kim and Nacho,
Thanks for your replies! I love seeing the different styles of blogging...I would love to have more time to explore. Sometimes I want my practice to be perfect and sometimes I just want to take two steps of walking meditation mindfully and can't! The littlest things sometimes do lead me astray but I like to adopt your advice that everything can be practice, the whole muddy mess!
thanks for dropping by!

5:46 AM  

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