And then there were 5. A Buddhist nite in the Windy City.
Tonight I went to my Buddhist meeting. I was kind of sleepy and hadn't had a chance to eat dinner yet. To be honest, I was grumpy. I wasn't totally looking forward to going, but I agreed to be the MC and I know that so many times I go to these meetings -- I leave feeling so much happier and glad that I went.
James and I entered Anne's place. Anne announced: "It might just be the three of us." Some members had moved out of the area, or were working late. James noted that he brought his harmonica and he could play for us later if we had time. We decided to do our evening prayers and chant, and then decide.
During our chanting, we heard some folks come through the front door. I could see Frances and
another person, who I thought was a regular. As we were finishing our chant, I looked at the woman closer and didn't recognize her. "Is she your guest?" I asked Frances. Frances nodded. So now we had ingredients for a complete meeting!
We went around the room. I asked people to say their name and tell us one thing that was new with them. I mentioned I just published my second novel. James had the biggest sharing of all -- he just got married last week!!
Anne went on to share her experience about learning to make peace with her angry nature. She was leading the chanting one day at the Buddhist center when a man came up to her and told her she was chanting wrong. Anne was furious and physically grabbed at his hands. She was shocked by her actions. She got guidance to understand the nature of her anger and find a way to use that energy for peacemaking.
This led perfectly to our discussion topic which was: If Buddhism is so peaceful, why is our practice so action-oriented? Why do we use words like "battle" and "fundamental darkness"? Each person shared how in the pursuit of peace, you gotta go through a lotta hell, anger and stupidity along the way...to get to the good stuff. And to be a good person in this sometimes messed-up world takes a lot of energy and guts. I mentioned that I love that in Buddhism, we don't have the concept of blame. We take responsibility for everything -- good or bad -- that happens to us. That there is always a lesson to be learned.
Then the guest started to open up and speak. She said she liked coming to Buddhist meetings because people were so positive. That's why she also liked doing yoga, tai-chi, meditation and dancing. She mentioned that she was raised in Mississippi, but was not very religious. Her mother taught her that there was too much work to be done in the field to be fooling with religion. I thought her mother sounded like a pretty cool lady. And our guest brought a refreshing perspective to the meeting.
Finally we finished our discussion and James pulled out his harmonica. He gave a great mini-concert which included surprising, spontaneous shouts to the audience. When he was wailing, Anne's dog Amelia came out and seemed to want to sing along. Both James and the guest come from Mississippi. Then Anne, drove all of us home.
And sure enough, guess what? I walked through my apartment door feeling so much lighter and happier than when I left.
To learn more about chanting, please visit: www.sgi-usa.org