A new path, some new hope.
We must learn from our past or it is wasted. We must have the courage to go forward with hope, and some new wisdom with any luck.
I have always deep down known I was meant to be a Buddhist, it has been in the background of my life for so long. Everytime I saw a picture of Lord Buddha I would be drawn to it and felt some comfort, I could never let a bad experience with the NKT lead me away from something I know to have so many answers, if practised in the right way of course.
So now I was finally completly free from the clutches of this unhealthy organisation I knew I had to keep searching and now of course I could read any book I liked without fear of mixing Dharma and poluting a pure tradition (chuckle,chuckle.)
I was hungry to read other Buddhist books and one author that a few people recomended to me was Pema Chodron, so hers was the first books I tackled and I was pleasantly surprised to find her so different from Kelsang Gyatso's books. Her books felt so human, so warm and as a westerner she understood the difficulties we can face on a Buddhist path.
I was so inspired from reading her books I found out about a local Shambala Buddhist group, not wanting to make the same mistake twice I did my research this time to see if there were any skeletons in the closet. I got mixed results, in some cases it wasn't even clear if Shambala could be said to be Pema Chodron's tradition more a newish cast off, but I did notice a lot of the criticsm towards the group was about it's more advanced Tantric practises rather than it's basic mindfulness meditations that I was interested in; to be honest after the NKT I really didn't want to go near Tantra again, plus I wanted a simple practise, when I was in the NKT I felt we had way too many teachings and practises to realistically be able to do with a busy western life, now I was looking for something much more basic and down to earth, a small practise I could handle.
I went to the class on a wednesday night and what first impressed me was the fact they were free, the NKT centre I worked in the first thing to greet you as you enter is a till, this I think says it all, in this case it was a smiling lady who welcomed me and on finding out it was my first time suggest we go to a room alone so she could teach me a basic mindfulness meditation. She asked me if I had any experience with meditation, I explained I had been part of a Buddhist tradition for 10 years but that we didn't really learn mindfulness meditation, she looked very surprised and asked about my tradition. I told her it was the NKT and I told her we did do breathing meditation but only as a prilimanary and that it was pretty much dismissed as a main practise again she looked very shocked but said nothing.
She sat me down and told me that the type of mindfulness meditation we were going to do was simply focusing on our breath but only our out breath not our in breath, this was different but I gave it a try, she said if thoughts arise in your mind just label them thinking but do not follow them or turn them away just let them happen. We meditated in silence for 30 mins, afterwards I felt very peaceful and I really enjoyed the experience. She then taught me how to do walking meditation which I must confess I didn't really enjoy I just felt silly walking very slowly round a room. When we were finished she led me to the others in the group and we sat for over an hour listening to a recorded teaching by Pema Chodron on some of Shantideva's verses, this I found very interesting as I had studied Kelsang Gyatso's interpretation of these verses I was curious how another softer teacher would define his meanings. The difference surprised me, Pema's teaching was much more open and much more attuned to modern life, she was funny and warm and very insightful and funnily enough she was much more gentle in the way we should practise, mainly observing our minds responses than jumping in and changing them too soon. I couldn't say one interpretation was right and one was wrong just that Pema's felt more realistic in regards westerners being able to actually do it. In the NKT I always laughed at Shantideva as it felt some times so harsh as to be amusing but not really something I could practise without being a right hitler, but I saw and met plenty of teachers who did like to emulate Shatideva and weren't they cheerful little peeps.(not!)
When I left the group I can say I had a nice night with some good people but I also knew it wasn't what I was searching for, one thing that put me off straight away was the shrine with pictures of two teachers on it, I felt it would be a long time before I could trust another teacher, and definately before I could bow down to one if I ever could again.
I also felt I would never want to do more than the basics in the group and some how that felt wrong, I couldn't see me being able to progress more but most of all I had a gut feeling it wasn't right for me and I am now putting most of my faith in my gut where prehaps it should have been before.
I wasn't dishearted by the failing of my first search, I was actually a little proud of myself for not jumping straight in to another group, which is something I think my husband was terrified I would do.
To be honest I do not think right now I could ever want to practise full time in any group or ever devote myself to a group in the way I did with the NKT, I have a family now and a good life, I want spirituality to be a big part of that life but I want it to blend in with my day to day life not over take it. I still though believe as much wisdom and help we can get from books we do need some guidance from experienced practitioners and some Sangha support, it is very easy to go astray for a long time and not realise it.
I am still open to guidance despite my bad situations with past teachers, I know there are good teachers out there as well as bad, I know there are good teachings too and I hope to find them. I also realise that the way to ensure I am not badly burnt again and that is to make sure I am cautious about my choice and I do not try to see that person as anything more than a human who has some more wisdom than me because it is to easy to let pure view rule everything and ignore our own instincts. This time all I want is a teacher that will guide me without judgment and without their own selfish intention but with a real wish to put the welfare of their students first. Before when I had doubts I dismissed them by twisting the Dharma to suit my desperate need to have complete trust in someone, this time I'll just trust myself because at the end of the day no matter how many teachers you have it is yourself that you can really rely on, that we must truly trust.