Today is the first day off I’ve had in months (except, of course, weekends and holidays). I’m looking forward to just lounging around in my jammies, doing some reading and just puttering around the house.
With the project at work installed and working properly, I’ve had some time to reflect on my crazy year and to start thinking about what I want for the year ahead.
January: At this time last year, I was doing my Vajrayogini counting retreat in the comfort of my own home. It was a month of solitude, eight to ten hours a day of meditation, chanting and mantra recitation, and ultimately, a sore butt. I was amazed I was capable of such discipline and focus, being as I am a very lazy Buddhist. It’s hard to say what I got out of it spiritually, but in retrospect I believe it gave me the self-assurance and self-confidence to get through the bumpy months ahead. Something definitely deepened, but it’s hard to put a label on it.
February & March: I was appointed Education Program Coordinator at my dharma center, which meant much more responsibility and hours. During this time, I also had to tell my teacher that, in short, she was a bitch. Drama ensued.
April: I moved a mere 50 yards away from an apartment where I had lived for nine years to a cute little cottage. In nine years it’s pretty easy to accumulate lot of shit. Listened to the boyfriend’s nonstop griping about how many books I owned. Every time I packed up a box of books he would inquire “OK, these are for donation, right?” And almost every time I would say “no, those are keepers”. Moving, no matter how far away is a painful process. But, my little cottage is so much nicer, and I have managed to keep it much neater.
May & June: The workload at the dharma center doubled with many events and projects that had to be accomplished by mid-June. Between the dharma center, a full time job and the boyfriend, I had very little time to myself. And when I don’t get enough quiet time to myself, it’s hard to function. Depression starts to set in.
July & August: My beloved cat, Nomie got very sick and died. Damn, I loved that cat, and still really miss her. I canceled my planned trip to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Summer Festival in England in order to help her either recover or die. My dharma teacher, who as in England at the time offered zero support. My faith was shaken. My depression deepened.
September: A small woodland creature hops into my life. I name him Mr. Binkles. At first he is sweet and cuddly, and then after a week or two he becomes the feistiest, most ornery little bugger I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. My relationship with my teacher continues to deteriorate. I announced I’m taking a break from my duties at the dharma center. My depression starts to lift as I start to plan on my post-NKT life.
October: My teacher is deported. And while there was some drama as to who was going to take over her classes, I feel freed from whatever binds I still had with the NKT. The depression is a thing of the past. Mr. Binkles gets neutered and becomes a much nicer pet. Sasquatch, my sweet, gentle, very large and very strong Maine Coon cat, loses his mind, bites me hard and sends me to the ER.
November & December: Work takes over my life. Weekends and 60 – 70 hour weeks. Lots of pressure, many, many hours. However, I remain pretty happy. New dharma teachers are entering my life through books, friends, and I even find a Buddhist temple a mere few blocks away. Despite the holidays and the unrelenting work, my mood was pretty good.
While there were certainly losses last year, on the whole I think I came out of it in the plus column. As my built-in sangha started to collapse, if I wanted to maintain these relationships, I had bring these friends into the whole of life. Maintaining friendships has always been challenging for me. Picking up the phone simply to chat and touch base was unheard of. Now, I actually have to consider getting more minutes on my cell phone plan. I feel so fortunate to have the friends I do.
I bare no anger or grudge against my former NKT teachers and associates. We’re all just trying our best. The NKT provided the structure and support I needed to start a practice and to understand Buddha’s teachings. But, I no longer need those training wheels. I can ride this bike on my own now, and it feels very exciting and liberating.
For this next year, I want to find some way to help people directly. But, I’m still figuring that out. It would be nice if I found a spiritual home, but if I don’t, I sure plan on enjoying the journey.
Thank you all for reading. And I wish you all health & happiness in the new year and for always.