Today was the opening retreat of Term Student. Term Student is a thing that we do in my Zen Buddhism lineage in the Autumn to dig a little deeper into our practice. It begins with an all day meditation retreat and ends, a few months later with another retreat. Part of what we do is talk about our karmic, spiritual, or factual history. Kind of as a way of getting to know each other, but also as a way of making connections within ourselves. I love this time of digging deeper because I always learn new things about myself.
As people were talking about their lives I realized something important about myself. And now that I am thinking about it it seems pretty obvious, but I will write about it anyway. 🙂
It has always been very important to me to have a community of friends in my life, and indeed, I’ve always figured out how to make this happen for myself. From the time I was a child, hanging out with my little gang from the neighborhood, to now, with my posse of film photography and pinhole photography buddies from around the world. And in my spiritual life, a lot of what has attracted me to various practices has been community. Community and connection with other humans is what drives me creatively. I believe that when one is expressing themselves creatively they do so for the benefit and to communicate with others as a kind of soul to soul communication. When I am in a state of depression, the lie that my brain pelts me with is, “People don’t like you. You are unloved.” Depression tells me this lie because connection is one of my highest values, if not the highest. I am crazy introverted, but I long to connect with community. My soul needs it like my body needs water.
I feel like this is an important insight. Like I said, it seems obvious now that I’ve noticed it, but for some reason I’ve never been able to really see it as something that is so important.
And on that note, this is my 100th post in my “100 days” project for 2017. I think this is a great way to end this project. I have enjoyed my daily ritual of posting here everyday, as always. But it is time for a little break. You know I will be back very soon though. 🙂 I can never stay away long.
My Term Student Mandala
I went through a Term Student program at my Sangha this past Fall. This is, simply, a period of time when you focus a bit more intensely on your practice.
I learned so much about myself during this time. I will blog more about it – if I can find the words to say about it. Much of what I learned is still percolating inside of me.
On the last retreat our teacher had us draw a mandala that represented what we learned during this time. The photo above is what I drew. Honestly, it is kind of hard to express in words what it all means. I did have explain my mandala as part of the retreat , but I had a hard time finding the words for it. Drawing it came from a different part of myself, the part of myself that doesn’t use language to communicate.
As I drew this particular mandala I felt a familiarity.
I am going through a term student program at my sangha and our first retreat was a week ago. Those of us attending had to prepare a presentation about ourselves. In preparation for this presentation we were to write three outlines: A historical outline, A karmic outline, and a spiritual outline. The exercise was interesting. It was fascinating to see what bubbled to the surface. I thought I would share my spiritual outline on my blog.
- I was born into a Catholic family. I did all of the Catholic things: I received communion at the appropriate age, I went to catechism classes, we went to church every Sunday, and I can even still to this day recite the Nicene Creed by heart. I had a pleasant experience as a Catholic. I was interested in God and prayed often. For me praying was “talking to god.” I started this habit early in life and it continued throughout most of my life, up until fairly recently. *
This is me at my First Communion, featuring a very interesting light leak.
- I became a born-again christian when I was 22. I had a very powerful conversion experience and I was very “gung ho” about following Christ. I read the entire Bible. I would spend hours studying the Bible and praying in tongues. I am actually really glad I had this experience because it was probably the only way I would ever read the Bible and I am glad that I read it.
This experience led me to a Pentecostal church which was not a good experience for me. I think this church might have even been a cult. I left that church when I went to University and slowly drifted away from Christianity. It took a long time to “cleanse my brain” from the brainwashing that occurred from that experience. A lot of fear was planted in my at that time. I remember the day when I actually questioned the divinity of Christ and I didn’t feel fear. That was an incredibly good day.
- When I got to the place where I was able to question Christ’s divinity I explored other religions and was drawn to Buddhism. I have been reading about Buddhism for a number of years but have been a bit shy about jumping in with both feet. I think this is because of my experience with Christianity. I might always be a little gun shy because of that experience.
Buddhism resonates with me. It allows me to look at other beliefs without guilt. I am a seeker, I have always been a seeker and I will always be one. Buddhism supports this aspect of myself and I love that.
*At this point in my life I don’t believe in God. I guess technically I am an atheist, though I am still very spiritual. Can you be a spiritual atheist? I do believe in something inexplicable that connects all beings together. If that is God, then ok. I believe in whatever that is.