By Amanda DuBose
I found it today during meditation, like a small insect encased in amber.
The first indication that the amber had cracked were the tears running down my cheeks. Unexpected.
It had been a journey to get there. I guess I had been holding expectations of having a friendly welcome at the retreat, to be noticed or remembered, even just a little. The last time I had connected so much with Her. I had left the retreat last year feeling nourished, seen, she had even written an article about me about the birth of my baby boy later that year.
After driving three hours back to my home Sangha with a three month old and a tween, no one but me had been eager to get up and make it to the meditation center the next morning, so I hadn’t gotten a spot for an interview with the visiting teacher. My friend who was acting as Her second decided that I had traveled too long and far to not get an interview and arranged for just one more. I was grateful, but concerned that maybe it wasn’t the best of ideas.
It turns out my concern was founded.
As I entered the room for my interview after the conclusion of a long day of retreat, She was visibly agitated. When asked the standard questions I gave the answers She had given me the previous year; the precious practice that had sustained me for four months with a newborn through late nights and early mornings, through a tongue tie and sore nipples, through adjusting to being a family of four after having only adjusted to being a family of three four years earlier. But that wasn’t what she wanted to hear.
She was frustrated with my answer. She didn’t remember the gift She had given me. I should have acknowledged Her irritation, thanked Her for Her time, apologized for the inconvenience, and wished Her a safe trip home. But I stayed. I stayed through the awkward interview, not sure of what to say and watching as She grew more irritated with me.
I stayed and I felt my little spark become crystallized—one more thing I didn’t know how to navigate. One more disappointment where I couldn’t seem to connect or communicate properly.
I avoided Sangas, and even my cushion for a long time.
That little crystal became properly encased to protect the vulnerability; the sore spot that interview with Her had left. It joined the others on the little shelf in my heart, holding all my failures encased in amber, the things my brain just won’t let me do.
Our little family joined a UU church when the tween let us know they missed that type of community. Eventually I found my niche there: singing in the choir, playing handbells, running the child care program and eventually writing curriculum for it like I had back in my first Sangha. I made friends who accepted my idiosyncrasies and quirks, it felt like home.
Then, when I was pregnant with my youngest child, one of them started a Sangha. It was in a different tradition, but it would be sitting with friends. There was a teacher in the tradition, but He would never visit this tiny Sangha to find that little crystal in amber.
It could be safe to sit again. And it was.
This time I practiced in a small, welcoming community and I again stepped into a minor leadership role. I was comfortable. I missed them when my new baby was born and I was thrown back into the chaos of diapers and late night feedings and tough times. Just as I was ready to return to sit with the community, we moved…again. And before we truly felt settled in our new home—a pandemic.
Oddly, the pandemic allowed me to once again connect with that welcoming Sangha and tradition, restarting my practice again after a year’s hiatus. They introduced me once again to my cushion, to beloved community, and to a broader community and opportunities within our tradition that has allowed me to seek and sit with people all over the world.
This morning the Sangha was from Australia.
I sat silently as tears rolled down my cheeks, cracked amber allowing my breath to melt the crystal of hurt from that interview years ago. Years of rehearsing what I could have done—should have done—in the situation leaked out. I don’t need to hold it anymore; no hot little coal to burn my fingers. I can finally set it down.
There’s a shadow on the shelf, and maybe a little resin from the melted amber marking where it was, but now maybe there’s hope for the other crystals sitting there as well.
Amanda DuBose took the long way around to Buddhism through Christianity, Paginism, musicology, Unitarian Universalism, and librarianship. She finally arrived home in the Plum Village tradition and practices virtually with Awakening Heart sangha in Des Moines, IA. Typically, she’s found overseeing preschool, kindergarten, and high school in her east Tennessee home or encouraging those same students, and her husband, to keep climbing deep in her happy place, the Great Smoky Mountains. Her previously published works have all been on topics of music history, but she has always found writing to be cathartic and occasionally writes pieces that help her process while hopefully providing insights to others.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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