By Daniel Scharpenburg
I mentioned earlier that I was running the children’s services at the Rime Center.
I continued to do this for a period of four years, until my kids told me they really weren’t interested anymore. I wasn’t going to do it without them and I also wasn’t going to force them to do it. It was during this time with the kids that I really learned how to be a Dharma teacher.
Kids struggle with some of the teachings of Buddhism, but in general they are pretty open to things like Awakening and interconnectedness. In many ways kids experience living in the moment better than adults do. Obviously though, teaching kids presents it’s own set of challenges.
I had anxiety about teaching at first, but at the Rime Center I did it week after week for a really long time, and I had to manage that anxiety.
I started engaging in deep study of Ch’an philosophy and history with my teacher Shi Da Dao. I didn’t really have an end goal or anything, I just wanted to learn as much as I could. He’s a teacher that’s interested in spreading the teachings and bringing students to enlightenment. That is what I was looking for.
At some point I decided that I had a calling to communicate about the Dharma—mainly through writing—and I wanted to learn everything I could about the Ch’an School because it was the branch of Buddhism I felt the most connected with and inspired by.
Shi Da Dao and I started corresponding and talked often. I wanted to learn all I could, to make myself a more effective communicator. In 2014 he started giving me deeper teachings, asking me to write essays for him to convey my understanding. He said he thought I had a natural talent for the Dharma and it was probably the result of good karma as a Buddhist in a previous life (not sure I’m convinced of that, but that’s what he said).
At the same time, I started leading a meditation group. We met every other week at a place called the Evolving Magazine Conscious Living Center. I did this because I felt like I should be doing something other than just writing. I had been certified to give meditation instruction by my teacher Shi Da Dao, and previously by Lama Chuck at the Rime Center, so I had some training in this.
My meditation group there didn’t last long, though. The facility closed down while we were there.
And something sad happened during this period as well.
I had a student named Jodi. She came to every one of my meditation classes at the Evolving Center. She was an older woman and very nice—my number one fan.
And she was a cancer survivor.
During the time that I knew her, her cancer resurfaced and very quickly she died. This had an impact on me, because it reminded me far too much of my parents’ deaths.
While it’s true that I was losing the center anyway, it made me not want to teach anymore. It made me far less interested in finding a new place to teach.
I can’t really explain why, but going forward didn’t seem like a good idea.
Editor: Dana Gornall