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Archive for the ‘The Inside’ Category

How to be a warrior.

In The Inside on March 14, 2009 at 6:47 pm

s-4261-22I started studying Buddhism while living in, of all places, Montana. I had moved to Missoula to go to grad school to study fiction writing, which sounds uneventful except for the fact that I was 36 at the time and had already been working for 15 years, work that I was pretty good at and which I put on hold to study something that I wasn’t very good at. So what I mean is when I got to Missoula, this hard, beautiful place that was as at once familiar and altogether strange, I had no identity and I kind of felt like I could or should start from scratch. I had tiptoed into Buddhist thought with a couple of books—Going on Being and Thoughts Without a Thinker, both by Mark Epstein, MD, and had like so many others been intrigued by the Dalai Lama’s straightforward and charming books targeted to a Western audience. So when I saw a flyer on a telephone pole one day about a weeknight course called something like “How to be Happy” at a local Buddhist center, I decided to give it a go.

I ended up finishing that course and though I am a certified “non-joiner,” ended up signing up for a more intensive one. I want to say it changed my life, but that sounds too dramatic and is probably not true. However, I do know that my time studying Buddhism (and maybe more accurately, the combination of studying fiction while studying Buddhism and not really having a job so I could spend a lot of time pondering both) gave me a sense of centeredness that I had never had before and that I’ve sought since.

When I moved back to New York after grad school, I started going to dharma talks and meditation sessions the Shambhala Center. I didn’t get into things as intensely as I had in Missoula, but it was a refuge of a sort—at least every Thursday evening. I’ve read lots of good texts based on recommendations I’ve gotten at Shambhala, Pema Chodron’s chief among them. But the essential text is Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, which is as good a handbook to enlightened living as I’ve ever found. Its thesis is that the key to “warriorship,” which in this context translates to “being brave” is not being afraid of yourself. Because, as it goes on to posit:

“If we are willing to take an unbiased look [at ourselves], we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings. Unless we can discover that ground of goodness in our own lives, we cannot hope to improve the lives of others.”

I’m thinking about this right now as I try to go back to fiction writing after having my daughter. I want to keep that “ground of goodness” alive by continuing to pursue something that was once so important to me I stopped my life to learn more about how to do it. I hope that by reconnecting to that, I’ll have even more to give my daughter, and my husband for that matter.

I’ll send along more bits from The Sacred Path of the Warrior along the way.