It was five years ago right around this time when I first visited Green Gulch Farm in Marin County for a Jizo workshop. Little did I know that attending that workshop would be the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I recently re-read one of my old blog posts from my now defunct blog, Midlife Monkeygirls, which describes my new interest in meditation and Jizo, the bodhisattva who brought me to the Zen Center. It was there I met Tova Green, a zen priest from the San Francisco Zen Center. She was co-facilitating the workshop, and during lunch, she and I had a pleasant conversation about life in the zen center.
“You should come visit us. We have a guest student program that might interest you.”
A few weeks later, I did drive up to San Francisco, and spent a week as a guest student, and within days of attendance, I knew that this was where I belonged. Within weeks, I left my dried up life in southern California, leaving behind a mucky divorce, a place in the unemployment line, and a foster home for my dog, Sadie. I had to drive all the way to New Mexico to transport my dog to her foster home. I cried for an hour straight as I drove out of Albuquerque, leaving her in good hands with my friend, Kathy. It was my first lesson on the first noble truth, that in life there is suffering. Although I had obviously experienced suffering many times before this moment, the biggest difference was I now had this new awareness that suffering is unavoidable, and that the the second noble truth, there is a cause to suffering and the cause is clinging (to my dog, for example) was what I was experiencing as I drove across the New Mexican desert, drenching the landscape with my tears of loss. Of course, I can now look back and see that there was much more I was crying about that day, and that my departure from Sadie was just a symptom of saying goodbye to what felt like a failed life – divorce, unemployment, lack of “career success”, but more so, a lifetime of patterns that kept bringing me to that same miserable place, asking that same question, “how did I end up here?” I’m happy to report that Sadie and I reunited one year later, and she and I continue to keep each other’s spirits up.
In the past five years, I’ve sat so much zazen that I won’t even try to do the math. As a result of that, I feel healthier and happier. It’s that simple.
These days, Sadie and I are residing in Berkeley with my new girlfriend, I, and I’s 10 year-old daughter, N. N and I have recently decided that Sadie should be the president of the Stop Being So Cute Club, so we’ve made that official.
Although I’m no longer living in the Zen Center, I continue with my practice, and meet with my teacher regularly. I’m gainfully employed, and overall, feel more at ease in my life. These days, I’m more focused on the third noble truth, which claims that there is an end to the suffering, which leads to the fourth noble truth, which is that the way to end suffering is the Eightfold Path.
Of course, the eightfold path is a bunch of stuff, and I suspect that will keep me busy, and on my toes for the rest of my life.