Head and Heart

shrine

I found Triratna-NYC by googling something like ‘meditation classes nyc’ or ‘Buddhist meditation Manhattan’. I had at best a superficial understanding of Buddhism. I’d taken a class on Eastern religions in college, more than two decades earlier, so I was foggily familiar with very basic concepts like the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. I’d read a little on Buddhist philosophy, and that small taste appealed to me, although almost entirely on an academic level. I had the obligatory copy of the Dhammapada, not to mention a Buddha statue or two. I’d meditated, but honestly only understood meditation as a relaxation technique. The closest I ever came to a sangha – and to be clear I had no idea what a sangha was – was a Buddhist Explorer’s Group at a Unitarian Universalist church I belonged to.

So when I first found Triratna, I’d never practiced Buddhism in any real sense.

Practice wasn’t my goal at first. I didn’t even understand the concept well enough to have it as a goal. I just went because I wanted to meditate, and I didn’t think much beyond that. I enjoyed the Introductory Classes because classes appeal to me on that familiar head-level. I learned more about Buddhism, asked questions, took part in discussions, and quickly began to get a sense of how much more there was for me to learn.

At the same time, I was growing fonder and fonder of the people at Triratna, and of the experience of being together with them for a purpose that was increasingly about more than just the head. Slowly, as I made my way through the classes and moved into the regular sangha, Buddhist practice began to make space for itself in my life, and, at the risk of sounding sappy, in my heart. I began to meditate every day, and I caught glimpses of how it was changing me. I found myself looking for expressions of the Five Precepts in my behavior, I noticed that I was becoming more patient with myself and others, I started to think more carefully about what I was saying and how I was saying it. I was more present, more attentive, less distracted. I kept reading books on the dharma, but more and more, I was feeling Buddhism rather than just thinking about it.

At this point I know enough about Buddhism to know how much more there is to learn. And that’s nice; it means that there is a lot more food for thought ahead. But I’ve also had the pleasure at Triratna of being surprised by what happens when the head and heart are in it together. And that’s a comforting feeling.

Chris

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