After having confronted my teacher, a Buddhist nun, about the impact her behavior was having on her students, many of my sangha (spiritual community) thanked me for my courage and assured me I had done the right thing with the right motivation. Meanwhile, my teacher left the center for a few days to go lick her wounds at a friend’s house. It was an odd time. With her email apologizing to the sangha there was great hope that things were going to change, yet there was also some guilt that her feelings had been so hurt.
When she came back, she took some time in our next class to discuss where to go from there. She said she was happy to discuss with people individually their problems they have had with her and try to heal those relationships. Again, I was moved by her vulnerability and openness. Gosh, maybe we’re all going to be a happy family, after all.
So, with myself and Carol, the enthusiastic newly appointed Admin Director, my teacher moved forward with plans for a fund raiser and an empowerment, along with tasks of moving out of our existing residential center, finding a place for our teacher to live and new venues for teachings. There was lots and lots of work to be done over the course of three months, and now that we were all one big happy family, it’ll be a piece of cake to get it all done. Right?
I called a meeting for all interested sangha to discuss our plans for the future and what it will take for us to get there. All I wanted was an honest accounting of what people were willing to give in terms of time and effort. What I got was very different. It became a forum for almost everyone to vent their old hurts and anger towards our teacher. And while their points were indeed valid, I asked if any of them had had taken advantage of our teacher’s offer to heal that relationship. Noooooo. (In fact, I knew that some of them had even told our teacher -“gosh, I don’t know what that is all about. Everything is fine.”) The bitching gained momentum and I felt completely ambushed and left out to dry. I was seething. I had put my ass on the line for these people? Harumph!
The next three months were a complete blur. The center had taken over my life. Between class, teaching, and working on various center projects (in addition to my full time job and my relationship), my well was running dry. But, we managed to pull it all off. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my teacher left for England for the summer. I would see her in a few weeks in England myself for Festival, where I’m sure there would be more planning and work, but for now there was some quiet.
But I was still pretty well mentally depleted. My beloved 17 year old cat then got critically ill with a major kidney infection, and as a result I canceled my trip to England. While my true friends were understanding and supportive, there were others who felt that I was sacrificing my spiritual future on a mere object of attachment. While no one said outright, “it’s just a cat”, I could hear it in their tone. I started to slide into depression.
And during this period I didn’t hear boo from my teacher. She knew how much my animals mean to me. Yet, she never bothered to drop me a line or tried to call. I knew she had access to email because when she needed something, she was able to email me. Yet, when common kindness would dictate that you drop a quick line of support, she couldn’t be bothered. What kind of spiritual path are we on where simple kindness and compassion was withheld if you didn’t go along with program?
It was a tough, tough month. My spiritual life was crumbling, and my beloved cat was dying. What I had left to give I apportioned out to work, the boyfriend and the cat, with the cat getting the biggest share. I dreaded the return of my teacher and her endless to-do list. I was hurt and I was angry. I simply couldn’t do this anymore. I just couldn’t. I decided that it was time for me to take a break from the NKT.
The rest of the disintegration of my relationship with my teacher has been well documented in this blog. And while I left behind the trappings of my spiritual life – my teacher, my association with a dharma center – what arose in its place was a discovery of that I was capable of faith.
Next up: the conclusion