Hi. My name is Jackie, I live in NJ.
I'm new to the board and new to Buddhism. I've been looking for a community (sangha?) to become a part of... I know of one about a half hour from where I live, called Heart Circle Sangha in Ridgewood, NJ. They sit zazen three times a week but so far none of those times have worked out due to my work schedule; I've never been to another sangha or temple. A few days ago it dawned on me that at least I could find a bit of community online... so glad I found you!
I've had some of my own beliefs about life and the world for years. I could never get my head around Christianity's rituals and rules and refused to believe in a fixed 'Creator' that held responsibility for what happens to me... in addition to other things that I just couldn't reconcile. So I gave up on religion entirely.
Last year my father, with whom I've had a difficult relationship with (and a great deal of anger towards) for about 30 years, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given a few months to live. I took the opportunity to move into his house and take care of him, along with his girlfriend, who was also the woman he left my family for. He asked me to do this and I did it because even though I harbored bitterness towards him and her, I still knew in my heart that this was the right thing to do. Plus, he wanted me around for this, and that touched me; he never showed much warmth or love.
To make a long story short, I had no idea of the transformation, the crossroads, they eye-opening experience that I was about to take on. I've lived a self-centered life for the 44 years I've been on this earth; selfish with my time, abusing substances and anything else that came into my life in order to fill the void I carried around and escape from my insecurities and pain. Most of the things I do are to escape pain and feel pleasure.
In the final 72 hours of my father's life, hospice brought in end of life doulas. I had never heard of a doula before. They came for back-to-back shifts around the clock and supported us in whatever way we needed; sometimes they sat with him while we slept, sometimes they talked to him while he lay unconscious, sometimes they just kept us company. Anything we needed, around the clock. And they were the nicest people - from all walks of life, all different personalities; some outgoing, some quiet, older, younger, men, women, but the one common thread was their compassion and generosity to help a couple of total strangers get through this. Some of them even came to my father's funeral.
I had never seen anything like that in my life. I had no idea that there was that kind of humanity floating around in the world; I had never seen it before because of the choices I made for myself and the situations that my choices put me in. I don't have words to describe how it affected me. The entire experience brought healing with my father and my relationship, put closure on his passing, and woke me up to an entirely different way of looking at life and the world and people.
I learned that many of them were Buddhists, so I started reading about Buddhism online. I couldn't believe what I read; it all made so much sense, and meshed with the things I felt I had already figured out in life but just had a hard time putting into actions. Like a puzzle, I had all these tiny pieces but Buddhism itself showed me the big picture, the photo on the box, what all the pieces come together to mean. I am still new, it seems like the more I read the more there is to learn. But I understand that Buddhism is not about learning information, it's about practice, words, actions, lifestyle, transmission.
Anyway, that's me - hope it's ok that I posted all this instead of just a simple hello! But I feel grateful that I found this website and look forward to learning and talking to with you all.
Thanks for the great site.
"I shall either find a way or make one."