Restoring Eden


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Thursday May 28, 2009


I am reading The Heart Of The Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m going to actively follow along as best I can without anyone to consult with but of course, I want to begin immediately and so I have in my own way.

It occurred to me, from the dreams I’ve had, that I can ask Buddha to help me daily.

I lay in bed meditating earlier, I chanted out loud a few times and then to myself: Buddha Heart Open.



A view from this side of a window looking out across the vast landscape of the internet faces a blank wall that has at various times held a poster of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech and other articles of faith that I have tucked away in a box for safe keeping while I attempt to form my own life around the shadows that bounce off the walls as I contemplate the world and my place in it from my third story apartment.

Today as I make out this introduction my desk faces the open blinds that lead to a balcony I hardly ever walk out on. The people in my complex curse like drunken sailors, draw the cops, daily smoke under my windows as if they’ve been denied their fix for years and must make it up, it all flows up to me.

My balcony overlooks a parking lot, beyond the lot there is a line of trees and bushes that drip green, under their heavy branches, scattered here and there, are flat rocks of the sort every several shovels into earth digs up in my part of the world.

They are plain, common rocks, I adore them and so the view is perfect for me to get lost in, a long wire hangs low from pole to pole across my view reminding me of the wonders of the modern world and that in spite of my isolation I am connected to each and every soul on this planet.

From this side of my Apple window I have managed, for four years while going to work 6, 5 days a week, to live without knowing of current events other than a few that I pursued knowledge of.

I did vote. I always vote the Presidential elections no matter what’s going on in my life.

To my immediate left I have a makeshift coaster made up of a folded sheet of typing paper for resting my drinks on. I like things that mean something in favor of the way things look but even I have to admit this coaster looks tacky and in sore need of replacing and yet though the words have faded into the rings of stains of tea and coffee, I know what I wrote and so the coaster will stay until it completely falls apart.

I fold my typing paper into my servers book just this way and have for almost four years at two different job locations working for first a very overtly religious Muslim man who broke so many laws I can’t count them and currently an overtly Christian man - How are you? I am blessed - who has refused, for the year since he took the last managers place, to educate the staff on following the points of written rules we are made to sign to have that job and yet the points are flaunted daily, i.e., sexual harassment, name calling, harassment, abuse, racism, ageism, etc.

I’ve gone to him so many times I’ve lost count. Young people work these jobs, young people who are developing women and being called a name that is hard to overcome when you keep hearing it. I’ve gone to each of the other managers, several weeks ago I very carefully went to the district manager, carefully because when a harassed worker complained overtly to her the managers and senior members ganged up to force her out but were saved (I’m paraphrasing one manager, she actually said this event was a blessing to our company) when she fell and broke her hip. Getting old in this industry is painful on so many levels, though I should note that some of food servers I work with bent over backwards to help her out in the face of those who were wishing her gone.

I couldn’t complain at all at my last job without immediate consequences to me and so I’m making personal progress with my head lined up for another hit to the wall but at least I’m working for people who appease me with promises they don’t keep, they don’t retaliate by chasing me and making racial or religious slurs as at my other job.

At my last job one of the managers remembered a time I fell to my knees when he was screaming at me and told me the job was work, not a church, I shouldn’t pray at work. His wife told me he hates anything to do with Jesus, I’m white and so he assumed I was a Christian, no Christian praying at work! The owner, of his faith as well, used a rug, I never pulled out a rug; I prayed in secret, when I fell it was because as an abuse victim I could not stand up in the face of his screaming but I did not cry hysterically as I saw other women cry to this treatment, at least not while I was at "work."

Note to the moderators: I will never ever use the names of my employers in this forum. If I ever refer to anyone in my life or even to myself, I do not use names. As well, please bear with me to the end of this lengthy intro so that you may know I’m not disparaging religion.

I have wanted to convert to Judaism for approximately 25 years – I saw Chiam Potock speak at a Christian College and I felt I was looking into the heart of who I am down deep - I began learning and studying to do this around 1997 but in 1999 I entered into a union with a Muslim for four years.

I was raised in and out of Protestant churches until I walked away from the church around 1985 though I raised my children for more than several years in a Presbyterian church because that was the faith of their father’s family. We found a lovely church where I was comfortable they would be nurtured and not terrified, their choir director was a gay man I liked and admired and the youth group and church did so much for the gay community that a group of male singers came and performed, a group that during this era avoided singing in churches.

I missed this performance but the man who told me this story had tears in his eyes as he recounted the glory of their voices and the tears of those in the church member audience and so I’ve never forgotten it. I left this church behind but I’m proud of my affiliation with it, however tenuous it was.

Of my previous boss the owner, as bad and irreverent towards his workers as he is I’ve never met a man I would more like to call my little brother. Yes, I tried to turn him into the Labor Board and so did another worker, an attorney I later consulted advised that when people make too many complaints against one person the complainer looks like a nut and is ignored, the state agency man they finally sent out on a customer complaint spent less than five laughing minutes in our store in spite that when I met him at the door I said with relief: I’m so glad you’re here, and the law suit my attorney encouraged fell apart when my new job…too complicated for an introduction.

The point of this telling – I've worked, do work, for religious people and the conditions are less than responsible to abusive - is that if religion doesn’t connect to every day decisions and the dignity of the people we are meant to serve in our roles as workers then...

I’m working through the core points of Buddhism, I just began this exercise, I don’t know how I can get through them knowing what I know, seeing what I see daily in my face or sifting through my memory but I look to the example of Thich Nhat Hanh who has survived incredible hardships that I’ve only suffered the fringe of and so I know it’s possible.

As I begin to turn the wheel of healing I have faith that my prayers to the heart of Buddha will help guide me through.

When I’m stronger, as I heal, I will seek a Jewish teacher and make my conversion to Judaism legal.

But back to my view as I sit at my Apple typing this introduction at the end of a Word document containing a poem I wrote at the beginning of my soul awakening that is a prayer for three brothers to mend their split, a poem I am not including.

To my left facing out is a Menorah my girl painted for me years ago; I light one candle at the top, the servant candle; and no others these last years as I fulfill the steps of my journey from awakening to wherever my awakening will lead me.

Behind my Menorah, shoring up the left corner of my desk, is a statue of Mother Mary with her head lowered in prayer, a long chadar over her head. In front of my Menorah is a little statue of Buddha meant for holding incense; I keep my long handled silver spoon in his back for extinguishing my candles.

Always put your candles out before rising, that’s my advice, not doing so might prove dangerous to yourself and to other people.

In the middle of my desk is my Apple and keyboard where I spend most of my time, when not serving tables at a restaurant I have dubbed “The Coffee Pot,” typing my life into Word.

My mouse pad is Edward Kessler’s Flannery O’Connor And The Language Of Apocalypse. In the middle right are my two candles, my Christian candle is identifiable as such by a silver bracelet at its base, a bracelet I bought at a Pueblo in New Mexico years before I knew what my time there would come to mean to me.

In between my Christian and Muslim candlesticks, which by the way are the ones I used over and over observing Shabbat during the late 90’s, is a Lifescapes CD, Beethoven’s Moonlight, a copy of which was playing at the very beginning of my awakening when during meditation I inexplicably got up from a deep trance and, from the bottom to the top, turned a wheel within a wheel, a moment I look back on and know opened my soul to my call, whatever that call might be from this side of an Apple looking to the future which is a blur to me.

I did not know about the Buddhist Wheel until I bought Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart Of yesterday but it is my firm belief that when humans close their eyes and look in deep they drink from the same well. The evidence for this goes back to our early history, our cycle myths and stories and yet, each tailored to a particular place in the world, to a particular people, the best of which is a unique expression of Holy.

That’s about as much as I can write on the subject; I’ve forgotten more than I could ever remember, I’m mostly ignorant of religion, I won’t be joining any religious debates except to ask questions.

The first spring of my awakening a teacher from out of state was in town, I took a class in Reike, an ancient Buddhist method of natural healing, and was transfered my first level. When it moved through me it almost knocked me to the floor.

I’ve never gotten my second level, maybe someday I will but I'd like to get it from the same teacher but he's several states away and right now I'm too poor to travel.

At the front right corner of my desk a book that means more to me than I can convey in this over-long introduction, T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. At the back corner the gadgets that plug my Apple into the web.

I don’t know that I have anything to contribute to a forum such as this but I have a lot to learn. I’ve skimmed through, I chose this site because it did not have waivers threatening against disagreements as I’ve seen from other sites and yet it lays out the rules of respectful conduct. And of course, as I’ve tried to convey, albeit sloppily, that I care about interfaith dialogue; such interactions are a step towards world peace.

I can’t sign off this intro without stating clearly that while I grew up around Christianity and choose to follow my soul to its Jewish roots, my heart is with the church where it’s alternately broken and restored on a daily basis. I dream of someday marrying, three faiths standing before a Buddhist priest joining Holy, at the beginning of my awakening I prostrated myself before a broken statue of the head of David that my girl had shipped in not knowing that was the dream I was falling into.

My second husband was a victim of war, as a child he ran from school with bombs dropping around him. I came to love the Afghani people through him. I came to love his mother who sang in Farsi of her girlhood running to the mountains picking flowers with her sister, his observant Muslim mother who had a Jesus movie she watched over and over and over.

I promised him once I would never forget his mother and I intend on keeping that promise, wherever that promise will lead me.

My biggest earthen hero is Greg Mortenson. If anyone has read this far through my over-long introduction, I recommend his book Three Cups Of Tea. It’s an amazing read, an amazing and inspiring and hopeful story.

Is it ok to refer books on this site? I have nothing to do with his organization, he is simply someone I admire, an outstanding example of a man raised in the Christian tradition delivering to the world the heart of its message.

I love Islam. That’s what I meant to say. I love Islam with all my heart, I’m grateful to Greg Mortenson for loving it too.

From my heart to yours: Faith, Hope, Love. Amen
Welcome to IO !!:)

And congratulations on posting the most riveting intro I have ever read here!
Good to meet you.

I guess your boss doesn't technically deserve forgiving, since he's still not behaving. My opinion.

Forgiveness is a matter of loving yourself, though. You cannot love and hate very well both at the same time, so it is better for you if you love as much as possible. That does not mean the boss deserves it. It means that in order for you to function, you must love yourself and then others. Of course your love may benefit the boss a little, but only as much as they allow -- plus it may help to curb their behavior around you -- always a plus. They won't really benefit unless they soften, so don't begrudge a little forgiveness. At the same time, don't waste an opportunity to put a bad employer out of business. It is your judgment call whether that workplace is worthy of human life. Someday (maybe after you no longer work that job) your gift of love may even find a stone gap in that boss's rocky heart where it will take root & flower, and perhaps it will sprout and benefit someone else in your honor. That does not mean you have to give the boss your soul.
dream said:
I guess your boss doesn't technically deserve forgiving, since he's still not behaving. My opinion.

Forgiveness is a matter of loving yourself, though.
Namaste Dream,

Do I read the first line or the second?

Forgiveness is never about the other person. It doesn't benefit the other person. It is something you give yourself. If you continue to hold a 'grudge' or ill will against another for a wrong or perceived wrong, what happens? Every time you see this person, think about this person or get reminded of this 'wrong', you create toxic chemicals in your body, deteriorate your own health, raise your blood pressure, all of which causes you to begin acting out against another or getting generally irritated. None of this is their loss but yours.

Added to that you take up time and space in your brain and in your activities where you are actually robbing this time and space from yourself and your loved ones whilst you whine, complain, and speak ill of this other. Again, not their loss, yours.

So the person that gains from forgiving another is not the fogiveee, but the forgiver. So the question is, are you ready to move out of Egypt (self enslavement and bondage) cross the Jordan and enter into the promise land? It is a choice, wallow in it, or take your divine inheritance, and forgive, yes 7x70.

Sometimes it is easier to do this and move on (ie away from the issue, or issuer, or percieved issuer). The problem is have we overcome? If we haven't we will continually attract the same boss or coworker and the same situation at the next place...and discover the only thing that is consistent in these past three jobs, cities, living arrangements etc. is 'me', dagnabbit.
IowanWoman said:
That’s about as much as I can write on the subject; I’ve forgotten more than I could ever remember, I’m mostly ignorant of religion, I won’t be joining any religious debates except to ask questions.

For someone who claims not to know much about religion, you've certainly dipped you feet in many wells. This forum isn't all about debate, it's a source of learning. I can attest that it has opened up a world of insight for me. Please, ask away!

And if you think YOU have got questions, there are so many I'd like to ask you, in response to your lengthy intro.

Welcome to the IO forums, Iowanwoman.
Mmmm, still I'd say both. You said "are you ready to move out of Egypt " which is about having the right attitude, just as you say. Thing is, improvement is a cycle, corresponding to the mind's cycle. You go lefi brain ("I"), the right brain ("We"), and then back again. Forgiveness is a state of mind, so it winks in & out as you go "We" "I" "We" "I". It is part of the subconcious thought selection process (as I see it). The practical aspect of forgiveness that you brought up improves in cycles as you realize (left brain) "Forgiveness benefits me," but it takes cycles in the wilderness to get to that point. You don't go from bitterness to joy without some loss, and even Moses had to stay behind in the wilderness. In a sense, part of you stays in the wilderness forever while part of you marches over the river.

The 'context-finding cycle' (my words, might be all made up) has an analogy in Mathematics. Imagine yourself flying into or out of a diagram of the mandlebrot set, which represents the order and chaos within number. Each orderly area is within chaos, which is within order, and so on ad infinity. I suggest it is the brain's right-left switching that enables you to see 'the big picture' without fully comprehending. Each orderly area in the set is comprehended with your left brain, but then you can shift to right-brain and see a slightly larger or smaller scale. Then you shift left brain again to comprehend that and find you have forgotten the previous scale! Yet you sense there is some fuzzy similarity to the one before......and you've switched right again!
lovely, seriously, I've been flying in a 3d mandlebrot set, escalating in, out and around...

I could stay here all day...and so entranced in the symetry and beauty completely oblvivious of any instance whereby forgiveness would be required.
lovely, seriously, I've been flying in a 3d mandlebrot set, escalating in, out and around...

I could stay here all day...and so entranced in the symetry and beauty completely oblvivious of any instance whereby forgiveness would be required.

Man!! Have you been out munching on peyote fruit? :eek::)
Thanks to those who plowed through my over long introduction and took the time to welcome me. To make an intelligent response to some of the comments I would have to reread my own post.

I’m with Citizenzen; I’m waiting for the Readers Digest edition.

I’m still trying to figure this site out, if you reach out and I don’t respond it’s probably because I don’t know how to or I tried but failed.
I’m still trying to figure this site out, if you reach out and I don’t respond it’s probably because I don’t know how to or I tried but failed.

Failed? Oh, I think not.

Just treat this like a conversation—a give and take—and we'll all get along just fine.

So... um... practiced any good religions lately?