Discovering the Dharma – Lion’s Roar

Teresa Shimogawa shares how she discovered her technique to Buddhism after the demise of her husband and the way the dharma grew to become a flotation machine to avoid wasting her from drowning in despair.

Picture by Nikolaos Dimou.

After a 12 months of distance studying in the course of the world pandemic, we returned to common, in-person faculty. On the primary day, I posed with my three kids in entrance of the mascot for our conventional back-to-school picture. The earlier faculty 12 months had been a tedious soul-draining 12 months stuffed with unknowns and stress. However, we had been wholesome. We had been nonetheless right here. We had been keen and prepared for this subsequent chapter, albeit nervous. I posted the image on social media. Any person commented, “You at all times look pleased.”

What a praise. It felt higher than you seem like “you seem like you misplaced weight” or “you look so fairly,” all the traditional compliments that might stroke my ego. However how might I look pleased? I felt like I had aged 100 years throughout quarantine.

There was a time in my life when a easy back-to-school picture would have had me ugly crying within the bathe at night time from the disgrace of not having my kids’s father there to share on this second. For days, weeks, months, and even years after my husband unexpectedly handed away, every time I’d present as much as locations with intact households and the form of normalcy I’d by no means have once more, I felt irreparably damaged. I hated that I had been such a planner all through my life — planning every baby all the way down to the day — solely to search out myself elevating a household alone. I struggled to grasp why the universe had dealt me these playing cards.

I used to be so jaded that I refused to chant or bow every time I attended service. I preferred Buddhism, however I wasn’t going to name myself a Buddhist.

Weeks after my husband handed, I occurred to learn You Are Right here by Thich Nhat Hanh. I really began the e book this summer season earlier than, again when my life was “regular” and there was no urgency for all times’s biggest solutions, however now I used to be drowning in my agony and searching for a flotation machine. I drew a star subsequent to the road: “If there are issues which are inflicting you to undergo, you must know the right way to let go of them. Happiness might be attained by letting go, together with letting go of your concepts about happiness.” It appeared simpler stated than performed.

I take into consideration that earlier model of myself, determined to search out the antidote to her struggling. She would have by no means in one million years believed that she might be pleased once more.

However right here I’m. Probably even happier than earlier than. I really feel eternally grateful to Buddhism for giving me the dharma to mild my path shifting ahead. It’s what retains me centered by way of the nice and the unhealthy and the ups and downs, serving to me take advantage of out of my life.

I’m half-Palestinian, half-German girl who was baptized Melkite Catholic. My grandmother was born in Nazareth — a really non secular, holy metropolis that I’ve visited quite a few occasions. I attempted to be a Catholic. Any person even made me their baby’s godmother. I simply might by no means shake the sensation that it was attempting to manage me quite than lead me to my liberation. Consequently, I grew to become suspicious of all organized faith.

Years later, I used to be employed as a trainer at a brand new faculty. I be friended the trainer within the classroom subsequent door to mine, who occurred to be Japanese and Shin Buddhist. First I fell in love with him, and after he died, I fell in love together with his Buddhism.

It was simple to agree with the concepts of Buddhism on paper. You may say I used to be even an armchair Buddhist earlier than my husband handed away. I learn loads of books. We despatched our kids to dharma faculty. However, I usually let him take the youngsters on Sundays whereas I stayed residence with the infant. I didn’t suppose I wanted something formal. I used to be so jaded that I refused to chant or bow every time I attended service. I preferred Buddhism, however I wasn’t going to name myself a Buddhist.

When I discovered myself a 34-year-old widow with a 13-month-old, three-year-old, and a six-year-old, I grew to become gutted by my despair. I didn’t have the instruments to take care of the magnitude of that form of struggling. For the primary time, I spotted I wanted one thing, however I didn’t know what.

As soon as my husband was gone, I used to be tasked with taking the youngsters to dharma faculty on Sundays, fulfilling an obligation to him within the settlement we made about the right way to elevate our children. That’s after I started to attend service regularly — as the youngsters’s chauffer. week after week, a child strapped to my again, squeezing throughout pews whereas the sangha chanted, as a result of it was such a wrestle to get everybody out the door on time and we had been late once more. My coronary heart pounding, beads of sweat on my forehead, wrangling squirrelly kids, feeling like a failure at every little thing. However we confirmed up. And I did loads of listening. Unintended listening at first.

Seems, regardless that I had no intention of partaking in Buddhism, this can be very interesting to somebody emotionally bleeding to demise. The phrases resonated deeply. It was like they had been written only for me.

I didn’t perceive every little thing. There have been many questions at first. However I knew the way it made me really feel. Going to service on Sundays, being surrounded by the sangha, smelling the incense, listening to the chanting, and listening to the Dharma talks — all of it gave me a profound sense of consolation. It felt centering. A refuge, if even from myself and the chaos in my head for that one hour per week.

Nothing is assured. Life is fragile, every second fleeting. All we all know for sure is what we’ve proper now.

That’s when it clicked. I discovered my “why.” I wanted Buddhism as a result of it had taught me instruments to refocus how I noticed my life. It gave me the attitude I wanted to stay in a significant method. I had been caught at a crossroad: wallow in my ache and begrudge actuality, or embrace change and alternative to heal and develop as an individual — arguably changing into a greater model than who I was. Buddhism grew to become a highway map I didn’t know I wanted till I used to be utterly misplaced.

I discovered to embrace impermanence and let go of my expectations. Nothing is assured. Life is fragile, every second fleeting. All we all know for sure is what we’ve proper now.

I’m reminded of Rennyo’s “White Ashes.” he wrote, “By so understanding the that means of demise, we will come to completely respect the that means of this life which is unrepeatable and thus to be treasured above all else.”

That’s why I discover myself happier than I used to be earlier than my husband’s demise. It’s not that my life is all sunshine and rainbows. There are nonetheless storms and plenty of days with questionable forecasts. However I’ve a brand new appreciation for every day, and that has made all the distinction.

As I took a deep dive into Buddhism and commenced to think about myself a practitioner, I discovered these images of me alone with my kids weren’t reminders of what I didn’t have. Somewhat, they’re proof that I’ve continued to stay totally in every second, witnessing many milestones with my household, experiencing the highs and lows of human existence. Not everyone seems to be so fortunate. I don’t need to be a tragic, widowed single mom. I’m pleased, as a result of I discovered to see the second in another way. Happiness is being current and grateful, and having the ability to discover the silver lining in all that we do. It’s an ongoing excavation challenge. One thing we work on every day. I’m not pleased each single second, but when my happiness is measured by something like how we monitor the inventory market, I’d say the pattern is constantly excessive. I’ve been in a position to make use of Buddhism to redirect my adverse ideas, which prevents me from getting caught.

I’m so grateful to my husband for giving me each my kids and Buddhism. It’s like he one way or the other knew precisely what I wanted to stay my life with out him.

Within the back-to-school picture, I used to be sporting a lotus necklace. I like the symbolism of the lotus: one thing stunning rising out of the mud. On any given day, hope and new beginnings can spring from the depth of our despair.

Shinran Shonin stated, “What a pleasure it’s that I place my thoughts within the soil of the primal vow and I let my ideas circulation into the ocean of the inconceivable Dharma.”

I respect the imagery of placing my perseverating thoughts and ideas into this sea, letting the Dharma remind me of the right way to let go.


Excerpted from Crossing Over to Jodo Shinshu: Discovering the Buddhist Path, printed by Jodo Shinshu Worldwide.

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