Sangha in Motion
Dharma Journey: Curtis Blair sharing his learning that compassion heals all sufferings
I am relatively new to the lessons of Buddhism. My journey to Buddhism came by accident, or so I believed. Many paths came together that led me to the Dharma Center in Oklahoma City several years ago. In reality, I came to Buddhism at the right moment for the right reason. Now that I know more about Buddha's teachings, it has become an integral part of my life and practice.
That knowledge allows me to stay in tune with my spiritual path. Most days, I am able to see both the good and bad in my life with an incredible clarity and reverence. The other day I was Doshi (chant leader) for Sunday's services. The morning was like any other. Many people in our Sangha were there and as usual, new visitors came by to learn a little more about Buddhism. I enjoy meeting new people and sharing the Dharma so often I will introduce myself and give a brief tour.
I met a lady and her daughter immediately after the morning service and asked if they would like to stay for Dharma Circle (Hoza). I explained a little about who we are and what we do as I have done so many times before. But this time was different. I don't know if I sensed something about her or if it was nothing more than a coincidence, but later I was to learn that we were connected in a way I never imagined.
During Hoza I rarely share my sufferings. Often I feel my problems are not as important as others. And many times, I find it difficult to express my inner most feelings. Being raised as a son of a career Marine veteran, did not give me many opportunities to connect with my feelings. We were not discouraged to discuss our feelings, but we certainly were not encouraged either. "A good soldier forges ahead without complaint" was a mantra often heard in our house.
But since joining RK, I have been able to better hone in on my feelings. Even more surprising, I am able to connect to the feelings of others in a way I never thought possible. That is what happened to me during Hoza that day. I decided to share some of the stress I had been going through at work. The difficulty and pressures at work are often overwhelming because over 500 people are counting on me to lead them in the right direction. I work for a company's whose very survival depends on us meeting many goals and objectives dictated by the Federal Government. If we do not meet our objectives, then 500 people will be without a job. This concern weighs heavily on my mind everyday.
As I began to explain the pressures at work, another quite different suffering emerged from deep within. For some unexplainable reason, I began to talk about my mother's recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's. It was as though the pain and suffering were magnified and compounded by some outside force I could not explain at the time. I had known for several months about my mother's pain and suffering. Even though I do not live near her, I have been able to visit with her face to face to discuss this disease and the all but certain destiny that awaits her. For some reason, I had to talk about this suffering rather than the pressures of work. I felt within me a suffering of great magnitude and complexity.
The love and compassion that everyone shared with me during the Hoza, helped me put this sorrow into proper context. It did not totally remove the suffering, but the Sangha gave me
an inner strength to lift my heart to a better place and understanding. So why did I bring this suffering to Hoza that day? It wasn't until the Hoza session ended that I discovered the true reason. The new visitor, the mother of the daughter, approached me afterwards and told me she too had a mother suffering with Alzheimer's. Like my mother, her mother was also 79 years old and had been prescribed Aricept for her Alzheimer's.
She was so moved by my discussion that she stated it took everything in her to hold back her emotions. It was evident to me that what I felt in Hoza was not only my pain but also her pain. Buddha's wisdom brought this person to our Dharma Center for the first time and guided me to talk about something I had not planned on talking about. This shows how we are all connected to one another. I also learned another valuable lesson that day: compassion heals all sufferings.