Tonight, my band of merry NKT outcasts and I drove out to Spirit Rock Meditation Center in west Marin County for a teaching by Sylvia Boorstein, a Buddhist teacher and author, and co-founder of Spirit Rock. It’s funny, most everyone who has even a passing interest in Buddhism in the Bay Area has been to Spirit Rock at some point in their spiritual quest. But, this was my first time. In my mind Spirit Rock was for those who wanted Buddhism to make them feel all warm and fuzzy. In other words, not for serious practitioners like myself (yes, I’ve made such progress in reducing the ego, eh?)
There were probably about 300-350 or so people comfortably crowded into an unremarkable, low-ceilinged room. While everyone was getting seated, Sylvia sat in front and smiled like the beneficent grandmother we all wish we had had. Such a soft and lovely presence, with eyes filled with mirth and kindness. Even though it felt like it took for ever for people to get settled, she showed no sign of impatience or annoyance. The crowd, like most I’ve encountered at Buddhist events, was overwhelmingly white and mostly middle-aged, though this group did have its share of younger people.
Her dharma talk was filled with personal stories which illustrate how the dharma shows up in our lives daily and in every moment. It felt like she threw a lot out there in terms of analogies and anecdotes, so almost everyone could grab a piece and take it home with them. For my friends Steve and Rae, they loved the analogy of the big screen TV with the picture within a picture. For most of us, we are always looking at our own lives projected in the big picture, and the rest of the world is tiny and in the corner. If we wish to be happy we need to reverse that view. Me, I liked the saying “Life is difficult. How can we not be kind?” It was the kind of dharma talk that didn’t necessarily challenge you, but rather left you feeling inspired and yes, warm and fuzzy – and wanting to adopt Sylvia as your mom or grandma or neighbor.
As my friend Deborah and I drove home we noted that lack of a real structure or detail in her talk. I felt inspired – yes! I want develop this mind of loving-kindness, it sounds awesome! I want to put others in the big picture! But how we are to accomplish that wasn’t really addressed.
So, for myself and my friends, the quest continues. Geshe-la’s presentation of the dharma is very clear as to method, but what it lacked in the teachings was often the humanity and inspiration. Teachings such as tonight were all about the humanity and inspiration. I’m still looking for the middle way in presenting the Middle Way.