As part of a shamanic workshop, I am asked to review my life’s trainings. Of course, I always thought about my traumas and difficult experiences as trainings for some greater purpose. Otherwise why be gifted these nearly impossible mountains to climb on our paths?
I have long hoped to be able to figure out a way to use these (transmute them) to the advantage of myself and others and maybe somehow I will obtain the strength to make my grand vision a reality. The most positive way to view our traumas is that everyday we can use “difficult trainings” to benefit others, but I have tended to hide out and become a shadow person (not fully engaged in life socially) for a good while as I have healed.
An ongoing debate I have is how much community a person needs versus going inside to care for self. The interior world is full of generous and amazing things! In other words, can one live a fulfilling life solo, almost monastic, or does one need partnership and community to do so? I can see both paths being possible ways of light. And of course the fact any of us exist in this particular moment in space and time as a physical being is truly remarkable and would not be possible without community.
So there are difficulty trainings but until now I never really considered my gratitude for all the spiritual trainings I have had. Unlike workshops I choose or free philosophical lectures and sermons I may hear, some events stand out in my mind as exceedingly powerful because I was invited by another person to attend and often gifted with something tangible (a fee or cost of living) alongside the spiritual transmission.
1) About 25 years ago, I was hugged by an Indian Saint (Amma) when I was invited to attend a satsang in Seattle by an acquaintance I barely knew. I did not know what a satsang was and after sitting among hundreds of people chanting in a language I did not understand, it came my turn to receive personal attention from Amma. It is hard to put into words the expansiveness of the unconditional love she transmits, but to this day, if I smell the scent of rose, I think of her and sometimes if I am troubled, I see her smile. I kept rose petal fragments from the event for years after.
2) In my childhood, I had a good friend whose grandmother was full-blood Pueblo Indian and I was invited to visit her home in a spot very few non-Natives go, as well as attend traditional dances not open to the public. Isn’t it amazing how a few moments in time can vibrate across all other moments when you touch them? One such moment happened on the banks of the Rio Grande river being shown by this friend’s mother how as a child she and her siblings would entertain themselves by making little adobe buildings “doll houses” out of river mud with a specific technique of squeezing the wet silt from the palm.
3) After college I was invited to spend a month at a Japanese Buddhist temple in Hawaii followed by opportunities to visit on my own Kamakura and other Buddhist sites in Japan. All my costs were paid except airfare. I did not even know what Buddhism was at the time (except that my college roommate meditated and chanted each day). I wrote the full story here, How Buddhism Found Me, but the short version is I received teachings from a rare woman minister of the Tendai sect.
4) I attended a Unitarian church for a few years, and the minister was a powerful woman (yet another example of a powerful woman of spirit that crossed my path), who pulled me aside one day in her office because she saw something in me. I don’t know what. She said she was “intrigued” by me. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, and I don’t know if I supplied any meaningful answers to any of her questions, but it does stand out in my mind as another tap on the shoulder.
5) Countless powerful spiritual experiences living communally among Native elders from various communities of the Western US while in housing for children in crisis for a year (Ronald McDonald House Charities). Side rant: Talk about a double-edged sword of giant corporations. I’m not a fan of how McD workers are treated, food is prepared or profits are gained. They provide 10% of the funding in exchange for the name recognition YET the charity provides incredibly needed service to families in 500 locations around the world, and volunteers and gifts keep it going.
6) I was invited for free to see and hear the Dalai Lama speak in Seattle at the Seeds of Compassion in 2008, in itself a nice little story for a different day.
It’s strange I have difficulty knowing who I pray to, yet unquestioningly believe in the power of prayer and ability to affect subtle energies, have had powerful experiences with spirit guides yet don’t like much “New Age” lingo, enjoy meditating more than many things for years yet don’t consider myself an expert meditator, and hike and walk miles on end yet don’t consider myself an athlete.
Maybe it’s about time I start considering myself something.