Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Take Your Seats

Through a series of events too complicated to explain, I have recently acquired an e-pal. There’s nothing really extraordinary about trading daily e-mails, except that my new friend is a Buddhist nun I’ve never met.

In the beginning, our correspondence centered around my asking a lot of dharma questions, and her reminding me to meditate. Eventually, as our relationship has grown, our communication has become quite detailed and revealing, and I’ve come to appreciate her as a wise and wonderful teacher. I’ve always struggled a bit with Buddhist philosophy but, miraculously, my new friend has somehow gotten through to me. And as I muddle through life’s ups and downs and repeat the prayers she sends me, I try to smile as much as I can and let go of the things I can’t control. When I get stuck (which happens a lot), all I have to do is head for my keyboard.

Lately, though, things have taken a bit of a surprising turn, as my friend has started asking me for advice. Imagine that? You might ask yourself, as I have, what possible answers a middle-aged American woman could offer a 80-year-old Burmese Buddhist nun who has lived in a monastery since she was 10 or 12? But as it turns out, it seems I can offer very good counsel about social situations, woman stuff, and especially yoga: “Yoga good for joint I think. Much relax to take nap.”

It gives me a great sense of self-worth to be able to give someone I look up to and respect so much as a teacher any kind of valuable advice. And it makes me think about how all of us serve as teachers for each other. Each of us has a different life experience to draw from and a unique perspective to express, and sharing these experiences is what helps us to grow and to love without all the judgments. Even someone who is doing or saying terrible things is a teacher, as he or she can serve as a perfect example of what you don’t want to do or be. And though I may not agree with everything you say or believe, listening to you with an open mind and heart can only help me become a more compassionate person. Plus, there’s a very good chance I’ll learn something—about myself, or the world—in the process.

We’re all in this together, and all of us existing in the world at this particular time have some kind of karma to play out. So why not teach each other the very best we have to offer? Whether it’s pumping gas, explaining dharma, or simply offering love with no strings attached, it’s time for each of us to claim our special seat as teacher and to heed the words of my Buddhist teacher and friend: “Much remember to give lotus heart sun light for to grow. Much to open door to room in heart for air and light.” Namaste to that.

Keep the faith,

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