My last article was about finding and staying in the center of serenity.
Since I returned from Paris, I have been looking for practices, people or places to help me stay in the center of serenity, that peace I found when I was alone in France for three months.
The idea of having a support group or practice actually started when I was about to return to New York.
Every time I thought of coming back, my feeling of serenity was gone, it was immediately replaced by fear. It scared me to the bones to think of living in New York again after what I had found: a more peaceful me.
So, before landing at JFK, I contacted a number of Buddhist centers and temples and applied for residency. A few monks interviewed me over the phone, while I was in France. I can’t say that this was a decision made out of fear (entirely); I do have a strong interest in deepening my knowledge and practice of Buddhism, especially Tibetan.
My plan to make sure I kept my center of serenity intact while in New York was perfectly laid out.
I arrived on January 15th and on the morning of January 22nd was in the meditation hall at the Zen Mountain / Fire of Lotus Temple. Yes, back to that deep feeling of peace.
It gave me what I was looking for, a support group and practice to remain at that deep level of peace within, until …
I walked in the laundromat on the corner, to do my laundry. It was a Wednesday morning.
The girl who worked there was as empty, radiant, and peaceful as any of the Zen monks at the temple. We talked briefly about the coin machine that wasn’t accepting my bills. She gave me some quarters from the cash register. By looking into her eyes, I felt her joy and peace, which matched mine.
I wonder what that simple, young girl’s spiritual practices were?
My laundry experience in her presence was as pure and serene as my meditation sessions at the Zen temple.
This made me question the whole idea about being around Buddhist monks and nuns to feel spiritually safe and secure.
The laundromat girl seemed to be using very little of her thinking mind. She was active, answering the phone and helping customers, but without any attachment to the action. Like a car carrying passengers from point A to point B because it was programmed to do so. The car is neither attached to any passenger that comes and goes, nor to any location that it picks and drops people off at. It simply does its job, as it was meant to function.
As you may know, Zen Buddhism’s teachings and practices provide the most direct experience of the “empty mind.” This means, no thinker, no doer, no meditator even. You become the awareness that is not attached to or affected by anything. A stage where the performance still goes on, but without the performer.
How cool is this?
As much as I understand this from personal experience, at this time in my life, I feel drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. It speaks to the truths in my heart in a more practical way. What I mean is that I have some “karma,” work to do that Zen doesn’t help me with.
Now I have been applying for residency and volunteer work at Tibetan Temples here in New York and also in France. The Karma Triyana Dharmachakra temple in Woodstock has accepted my application. The only issue at the moment is that I still need to edit the manuscript to fulfill orders in May. I have asked them for a room where I can stay alone to work on the book in my free time from the practice. They will let me know soon about my request.
I will write the next articles on what I understand about karma, and later on what insights I have had so far from reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
As for my experience with the “Zen Laundromat Girl,” it made me realize that staying in the center of serenity is wonderful, but I want to know why it is so important to me to stay peaceful all the time. What is there about my human existence that I don’t want to see or deal with? I will let you know when I find out!
I also would love to hear your thoughts about my spiritual journey, and what I am writing about. I get feedback all the time from people saying they like my articles, but not much on the “deep comment” side!