Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cast off: Destination Unknown

Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. ~ Pema Chodron

Alice embarked on a spiritual journey in January of this year. She was on a retreat, by herself, at a lovely place on nearby Samish Island.  It was a dark and terribly windy night in a house surrounded by huge trees.

She loved the sound of that kind of wind in the trees and feeling the chill of the wind on her cheeks.  So Alice stood out on the deck, alone, in the darkness of the night … transported momentarily by this display of nature at her finest … when she heard her name.  Once.
Looking around seemed silly; there was no one there. But the sound of her name was clearly audible above the wind ripping through the branches of the trees that stood like protectors ensuring her safety on that dark night. Telling anyone seemed unwise, given what some people already suspected about Alice.

When she did mention it to a trusted and much loved friend, he said, “Ooh, God is getting personal with you.” 
God? She thought.  She didn’t believe in God … or any of the religious rhetoric that people latched onto … regardless of their particular choice.  Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and all the iterations and refinements thereof.
Yet someone said her name.  So … it was clear to Alice that “someone” was getting personal with her.  But who?

Thus the embarkment on her spiritual journey, much like the one Pema Chodron captures so effectively in words. 

Oddly enough, her first destination was the  Chau Dia Tang Buddhist Temple in Lynnwood to share in the celebration of the start of the Year of the Horse.  Alice knew in her heart that the Year of the Horse was going to be a magical one for her.  It was all about listening to her intuition and her spirit instead of the rules and chatter imposed by others.
She went alone, and entered a world unlike anything she’d ever experienced.  The temple was primarily for Vietnamese believers.  And the Vietnamese people there were by far the kindest people she has ever known.

Regardless of the language barrier, she was accepted by them.  Hugged, assisted, welcomed.  And then, of course, there was her encounter with the special monk.  His name is Venerable Somebody.  He is amazing.  Whenever Alice speaks to him, love and peace and wisdom fill the air around her and she is enveloped and feels completely at peace.  

Alice has no desire to shave her head, give up her worldly possessions and live in poverty for the rest of her life.  But she was terribly intrigued by 14 Thoughts of Buddha printed in both Vietnamese and English on the outside of the temple wall.

Just today she received a copy of those thoughts from another monk from the same temple.  And she wants to share them … because they make so much sense to her.  There is nothing about being born into sin or having someone die a brutal death for her, or having to listen to things she finds insulting to her intelligence and offensive to her morals and values.
From Alice, then, is this list that seeped into her awareness and stuck firmly:

Fourteen Thoughts of the Buddha

 1. The biggest enemy in life is oneself.

 2. The biggest stupidity in life is deceitfulness.

 3. The biggest defeat in life is arrogance.

 4. The biggest sorrow in life is enviousness.

 5. The biggest mistake in life is having no self confidence.

 6. The biggest sin in life is an unfilial (undutiful) child.

 7. The biggest pity in life is self inferiority.

 8. The biggest admiration in life is one’s ability to stand up after falling down from adversity.

 9. The biggest downfall in life is despair.

 10. The biggest asset in life is good health and an intelligent mind.

 11. The biggest debt in life is our sentimentality.

 12. The biggest offering in life is to forgive.

 13. The biggest loss in life is lack of knowledge.

 14. The biggest consolation in life is charity.

Each time she reads them, she rejoices that at last there is recognition that it’s ok to be confident and intelligent while being kind and generous and loving.


And the list was shared with her without a reminder that Buddha takes Pay Pal.







  1. Please - do not shave you head. It is ridiculous enough on GS employees.

  2. Not to worry, Forrest. In fact I am going to Leavenworth next week to buy more Fairy Dust for my hair.

  3. I find the 8-Fold Path and its focus on Wisdom, Ethical Conduct, and Concentration helpful