The below post is from 2010 when I was in Ireland for a 3 month internship through Portland State University. The final portion of the internship was 2 months in Mongolia. I was 29 & this was my first solo international adventure.
Last month, when I arrived at Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre in County Cavan, Ireland, I had my Academia Pants on.
I had packed a laptop, highlighters, reference books, two cameras, lined journals, various pens, & watercolor pencils.
I prepared for a thorough documentation of my experience, producing thoughtfully focused reflections & departing with a deep understanding of organic gardening.
Upon arrival at Jampa Ling, I quickly became overwhelmed with the actuality of living within a Buddhist Centre.
I did not comprehend the intensity the introduction of daily meditation would have on my life.
I was here to learn & understand: assess the situation, devise a solution, & create a nice portfolio for my professor to grant me academic credit.
The major component of spirituality had not sunken in.
How was I to evaluate my spiritual path in ways that could produce a letter grade?
Today Tsultrim, the 29-year old monk from Northern Ireland, shared with me a story in response to my questioning:
When one gets hit by a poisonous arrow, one must remove this arrow immediately.
Our first response, though, is to think,
‘Who shot this arrow?’
‘How was it made?’
‘Why was it shot at me?’
While we are questioning, the poison has killed us.
Even though I was counseled by other students of Rinpoche’s at the centre concerning the non-ability to “figure it all out,” I was still conflicted with the notion & desire to understand all aspects of the various pujas & meditations & Buddhism as a whole.
It wasn’t until I was on speaker phone with my mother & step-father back home in Portland did I really hear what I had already patiently been told:
You don’t have to figure it all out.
I’m not sure if it was the comfort of hearing it from my own loving parents, who knew me & was familiar with my spiritual path, or just the repetition, but I finally heard as the tears rolled down my face.
I felt a release of fear from self-expectation.