By Eileen Ybarra
My Buddhist practice is my life, my life is my Buddhist practice.
This does not mean I live on retreat or that I’ve taken on robes, quite the contrary. I am a librarian living in Los Angeles involved in a busy everyday life with relationships, bills, worries, concerns, joys and pleasures—and dreams.
I live the life of a householder.
I also am a Dharma and meditation instructor. I’ve taught and continue to teach at InsightLA, Boston Meditation Center, the San Francisco Dharma Collective, and for the Meditation Coalition’s BIPOC group within the Insight tradition.
I feel simultaneously enlivened and at peace when engaging in my practice.
Luckily for me, engaging is happening all the time. How I speak to my friends, how I do my work, the way I care for my body, and all aspects of my life are calls to be curious. I get to ask myself some of these questions throughout my day when it feels right: is this done with wisdom? Is this done with compassion? How can I be present?
It is a joy and a gift to be so intimately familiar with the pulse of life in this way.
When I first encountered the dharma 19 years ago, I was desperately heartbroken. My life was filled with a lot of sadness, anxiety and low self-regard. I was under the impression that I was deeply flawed and needed to be fixed. I was surprised when I started showing up to dharma classes and kept hearing that there was nothing wrong with me. Instead, this experience of suffering, this dissatisfaction called “dukkha” was a universal experience of humanity.
I was just human; not broken. The first noble truth was my first dharma lesson and gave me much peace and safety.
The inherent kindness imbued in the first noble truth felt like someone—maybe the Buddha—was willing to give me a break! I thought that maybe I could give myself some breaks too. This specific relief of acceptance, the understanding that I wasn’t special in an incredibly bad way, that I was just a person like anyone else, ignited an abiding interest in the dharma.
Eventually, I would go on many retreats, and enter into various training programs for dedicated study and dharma facilitation. Today, my practice not only encompasses my daily life but my formal practices largely consist of teaching. Of course, I consider myself a lifeline student of the dharma, these teachings of the Buddha, but I have begun a continuous exploration of dharma lay teaching as well.
And so this is my practice: leaning into these opportunities for letting go, for freedom, kindness, community, compassion, clarity and peace. In essence, I am living the dharma as a dynamic process of cultivating freedom in this life.
I am happy to be on this path.
Eileen Ybarra began studying Theravadan Buddhism and meditation practice in 2004. Since 2004, she has studied with Trudy Goodman, Gil Fronsdal, and with a variety of teachers through the Against the Stream Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Her profession is public librarianship, a meaningful practice of service and mindfulness which she is grateful for. Currently, Eileen is one of the facilitators for the monthly Meditation Coalition People of Color (POC) meditation group where she leads guided meditations and group discussions. She also offers teachings through InsightLA, the San Francisco Dharma Collective, and the Boston Meditation Center. She has completed two 1-year long facilitator training programs with the Against the Stream Meditation Society and has completed the Dedicated Practitioners Program with Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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