By Lauren Howard Coleman
When I was asked to write for Shantideva Meditation Center’s blog, they presented me with the question: “How have the Dharma and the Center’s activities benefited your life?” I paused, a little bit in awe. How can I put this into mere words? Where would I even begin? When I first participated in a Shantideva study class? In the first breaths of this life, or the many lives that lead to this one? I thought of the decades of experiences, choices and mind moments that led to this one moment, here and now. And the one thread that kept weaving through these thoughts kept on referring back to the honor and privilege of having a precious human rebirth, of having the Dharma available and accessible, to even this one humble being. And how awesome it is, that in the midst of this crazy city, there exists this oasis of sanity, peace and refuge.
The Center, as it has turned out, has served so many valuable purposes in my life. Through my initial desire to gain greater understanding of the Dharma, I was led to discover a greater depth of study and practice than I originally anticipated. A depth that would be difficult to experience, or fully understand on my own. Shantideva has provided that venue, where I have had the privilege to study with and meet some incredible and inspiring teachers, surrounded by a supportive and extremely kind community. Where as a group, we have gone out into the broader community – volunteering at food pantries, cleaning beaches, rescuing worms, cleaning out cow stalls, and meeting a very profound sentient being in the form of a goat. Where I have been brought to my knees, washed over by overwhelming compassion one day, and peals of laughter the next. If this all sounds a bit superlative, that’s because it is. There are no words to suffice.
When I first inquired about Shantideva, it was still a growing study group. Venerable Yangchen, one of its earliest members, had replied to my query: “We are … a developing community, with the hope to become a center in this great city of potential world peace.” And I think to myself, how blessed we are here in New York City, due to the efforts, work, sacrifice and devotion by others that has enabled Shantideva Meditation to become that Center, and be available for studying and practicing the Dharma. So how have the Dharma and the Center benefited my life? With ever-growing rejoicing and heartfelt appreciation that manages to permeate every aspect of my life.
Lauren Howard Coleman: “When I am not sorting water bowls and contemplating Tenets and my Dharma practice, I have a full-time practice in Western Astrology, and five beautiful grandchildren who are a constant source of love and wonder.”