When I first came to LA to help my mother and daughter, I knew no one; it was a lonesome, sad time. I’d left my 30-year community of friends and colleagues, my sangha and marriage, and was uncertain what to do with the rest of my life. The Buddha said: “If you want to know your future, look at your past!” — so I wondered, what’s been most important to me over the years? What do I want to bring forward as I create a new life?
Every morning at breakfast you are born anew, you have the chance to begin a new story, to see which elements of the past align with your deepest values and deserve to be brought into your future. Imagine doing this each morning as part of your daily practice! For me, I wanted to continue my healing work in the Dharma in the way that mattered most to me — combining sincere Buddhist practice with serving those doing compassion-based work in the community.
The distinctions between secular and sacred, between mindfulness and Buddhist practice, are important for many. So-called ‘secular’ or mainstream mindfulness, though, can also be a gateway to the sacred dimension of our being. As we free our own hearts, we are inevitably called to allay suffering for the benefit of all. As we learn how to be with stressful experiences in a more peaceful way, we naturally wake up to our interconnection with everyone. We’re more mindful at work, in relationship, and with the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our world.
This not “Buddhist” – mindfulness is a birthright, and a responsibility of each one of us. I started InsightLA as the first Dharma center to establish both mindfulness education and Buddhist teachings as part of our work from the start. I wanted to offer teachings that would include Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, and to serve a wider community doing compassion-based work like I did in Boston.
For 10 years now, our community has shared the thirst-quenching delight and beauty of these teachings in many programs, both mindfulness-based and Buddhist path.
“Just as if there were a beautiful pond with a pleasant shore, its water clear, agreeable, cool and limpid, and a man came by, scorched and exhausted by the heat, fatigued, parched and thirsty, and he would step into the pond, bathe and drink, and thus all his affliction, fatigue and feverishness would be allayed; so too, whenever one hears Dhamma, be it discourses, mixed prose, mindfulness or marvelous accounts, all one’s affliction, fatigue and feverish burning are allayed.” – Buddha
Then — Buddhist? Secular? Either one — both, ease suffering. Our hearts and hands are wide open, ready to help however we can!
Image Credit: T. Goodman