By Lauren Howard Coleman
Earlier this month, Ven. Amy Miller led a retreat entitled “Riding the Wave: Moving Forward in Vulnerable Times.” She began by asking us to imagine riding a surfboard, skillfully navigating the choppy waters, gaining a sense of security, even if and when we find ourselves within the cascading tunnel of the wave itself as it washes over us. Then we were asked to think, what is that surfboard for you? What allows you to ride even the largest and choppiest of waves in your life?
I thought of the teachings, my own Dharma practice, the teachers who have shown us that it is possible to ride those waves skillfully and wisely. But if I were to think of what actually keeps me on that board, what keeps me from falling off, even though I may stumble occasionally and lose my footing, it would most surely be my community of practitioners: those who are slipping and stumbling on their own boards, but who cheerfully climb back on board, as we swarm together like a well-orchestrated team. We are riding the treacherous waves of samsara together. And we stand as a reminder to one another that we are not alone.
When I look back at my life, and the crazy windings and turnings and searching that brought me to this place, so much of it feels miraculous and serendipitous. I have often told the story of my grandson Jack, and how his love for tiny sentient beings indirectly pointed me to Shantideva Meditation Center here in the heart of New York City. In wanting to find a community that understood the heart of a boy who cried for injured birds, and moved worms and insects off the sidewalk so that they wouldn’t be trampled upon, I inadvertently found my own community.
We are riding the treacherous waves of samsara together. And we stand as a reminder to
one another that we are not alone.
Hooked by inspiring teachers, I was drawn into the current of the emerging Shantideva Meditation Center. Members of the community like myself were gathering about the Dharma, like filings to a magnet, like swimmers drawn into a vortex. At times it felt strangely like a family reunion. At others like a gathering of watchful pilgrims. Oftentimes I still look about myself during a class or puja and think, “Where have you all been? What took us so long to be here once again?”
During this incredible wave of political and social change, it has become even that much more obvious how blessed I am to have this community. It only emphasizes how important it is that this Center continue to flourish so that everyone can benefit. My part often feels paltry at best, as I stumble about volunteering here and there. But my paltry offering, combined with all the other generous offerings from the community, is what allows this Center to thrive. And when those new/old friends arrive with their questions, and their hearts, and their minds, I think to myself, “Oh, there you are at last!” and I know I can do this. And one of the reasons I know I can do this, is that we are doing it together.
Lauren: “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.”