March 17, 2009

Bodhichitta: don’t you go letting life harden your heart: What do I do when I feel I can’t handle what’s going on? Where do I look for strength and in what do I place my trust?

“If we were to ask the Buddha, “What is bodhichitta?” he might tell us that this word is easier to understand than to translate. He might encourage us to seek out ways to find its meaning in our own lives. He might tantalize us by adding that it is only bodhichitta that heals, that bodhichitta is capable of transforming the hardest of hearts and the most prejudiced and fearful of minds.”

A very loved friend of mine, Charlie Gardenhire, died last week, March 10th. When this happened I was in the middle of a big drama with my ex-roommates. Living together was not working out, at all, and after two months of trying to find the best way to adjust into the new living situation, my nerves were stressed, my sense of home was challenged and one of my best good friends in Boulder avoided coming to visit just to not breath the heaviness that was felt in the house. During all this time, in my mind I believed that I was trying to be compassionate, giving, yielding instead to blocking the way so my roommates would feel at home. If you ask them though, they were the ones that quoting: “had to severely adapt” to live with me.  Then one night I found myself not wanting to come home anymore, avoiding contact and walking into the house right straight to my room when I finally had no choice but to get some rest.

In the middle of all this, one day I received the news that my beloved friend Charlie was dying. His daughter, my friend Claire, sent me a note letting me know and asking to pray if I though of it. I cried, I prayed, and big realizations starting to happen. Also the most sudden change happened: my tolerance for others’ selfishness became very short. Suddenly it stop being about others’ lives and my own became the center. Now, a very interesting thing happened: I was faced with the pain of loosing someone dear to death, with the fear of loosing my dad (who has been very sick) and with the reality of the impermanence of my own life. In a moment, I knew that the way I live my life is my choice moment by moment and that there is no energy to waste into negativity and into trying to adjust into the dis-functionality of others. I understood people will take as much as you let them take and some clarity showed me that trying to make others happy at the expense of your own happiness is not true compassion, but only an egotistical way to feel you are a good better person, because you give others what they ask from you to feel good. I understood that sometimes what we need to feel good is not what’s best for everyone, usually is what’s best for ourselves. And in order to give to others what’s best for themselves, one has to give what’s best for the self.

“The Buddhist teachings aspire to set us free from a limited way of relating. They encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary and obvious truth of change.”

My friend Charlie, god bless his soul, was a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring human being. He had many talents and many virtues, and the one that we,his friends, remembered most was his love of people. He loved people. He saw his friends as “projects” of love, always guiding all of us to understand each other with compassion and without judgement, and most important, encouraging us to love each other.  His daughter, Claire, told us in the ceremony we shared this weekend to celebrate his life that even when he was fighting to cure himself against cancer, he wrote notebooks and notebooks on what to do to help the people of the world. Charlie was a giver.

On the day Charlie died, before I knew of his death, I bought Pema Chödrön’s book “The Places that scare you: A guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times”. Charlie’s closeness to death and my own dad’s had awaken in me fear. And for the first time ever, I openly admitted I was afraid. I needed some strength and clarity so I could give that strength and clarity to my love Jordan, Charlie’s son; to my friend Claire, Charlie’s daughter and to their mother Nancy, as Charlie would have asked from me if he had had the opportunity to do so. As I read Pema’s book, strangely, the words applied to my situation with the roommates.

“Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don”t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious- to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs-is the best use of our human lives. A complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, a simple, direct relationship with the way we are.”

I was in this state of mind, when I talked to my roommates and ask them to please look for another place to live. I realized we are who we are, and who we are didn’t mix well in the same space. Of course, this was hard to do and hard for them to accept.  Anger and resentment were unavoidable.

While my roommates left the house, I traveled to Texas for Charlie’s ceremony. Conflicted with the whole happening I kept feeling intoxicated by the confusion and pain we all experienced, since as you can imagine, we all experienced humanity at its worst. Nonetheless, they are great people and my intentions were pure. It is just what it is. The way we are is not compatible. During our interaction they kept saying I only cared about myself, which as I said at the beginning was exactly what I needed, to care about myself. I failed in letting them know clearly about who I am and what I need in my space, my own character flaw of always making others feel comfortable before I make myself feel comfortable, which I though was a virtue, proved to be a weakness of character and lead to the most uncomfortable situation I’ve been in many years.  I somehow wanted to share this with you, in case it is of any guidance to you. Also Waylon asked me to write about the difficulty of living with people, what works what doesn’t, so…

Here it is:

Taking your time choosing a roommate sometimes is not a possibility, so when choosing a roommate I would recommend to ask yourself and to ask your potential roommates to ask themselves: “What do I do when I feel I can’t handle what’s going on? Where do I look for strength and in what do I place my trust?” Based on your answers you’ll know right away whether you would like to live with each other.

What works:

– Be clear, be truthful, be open, speak your mind, about WHO YOU ARE.  With yourself and with others. No judgements, no expectations and without fear of being judged for being who you are. Just a reality check. Knowing Who you are will only make it easy to find the people that will match with your own energy. Know Thyself and accept reality as it is. See things as they are, not as you want them to be and take responsability of the freedom you have to choose your environment. Take your time to know someone a little before you jump into action based on first impressions. Always trust what you felt before you though about it. What you think, what you say and what you do should be one and the same thing.

What does not work:

– Bias manipulation of others is a waste of time. Lying does not work. Trying to get your way, feeding your sense of control, without honestly looking at yourself is a lost battle. Everybody looses, you only keep feeding your ego by insisting that you hold the truth about how things should be and  usually you don’t accomplish anything since the other party is probably doing the same. Hiding what you think when it obviously creates a reaction in you is indiference, and indiference is a vice of character. Understand that bringing your shit into others world, turns others world into shit. What you think, what you say and what you do should not be a contradiction of each other.

My friend Charles Franklin Gardenhire was born August 1st, 1948 and died March 10, 2009. These are Charlie’s Words of Wisdom during his last several days:

  • I try to wake up with gratitude in my heart every day – Unbelievable graitude and I will continue to do this through the next part of my life…forever.
  • I looked at both life and death and it didn’t matter. That was the cool thing. It was the same.
  • Life is right in fornt of me and She and I are looking at it and working it out. I have one more step to surrender fully. In two or three days i will be ready to leave the Earth and I am really excited about it.
  • In the night I surrendered my life to God’s hands and the most beautiful colors and hues washed over me.

Charlie kept a picture of Mother Mary with him and at the bottom it said “Expect a miracle”. A few days ago he looked at the picture and said…

“It’s not so much about expecting a miracle but expecting what’s best”.

We love you CHarlie, You will be missed. Thank you for your firendship. Keep and eye on us.

In light,


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