June 15, 2010

My Journey to the Heart Sutra Teachings. ~ Hollie Hirst

We should focus our most serious efforts on bringing about mental peace.

I’m scheduled to leave for the teachings today. I am feeling a bit guilty, for a few reasons. First, it’s my girl’s birthday. Months ago, before making plans to attend the teachings I asked the kids how they felt about me being gone between their birthdays (my son’s birthday is 5 days after hers). I asked them if they would hate me. They said they would only guilt me about it for the next year or two. I know they were teasing. Second, I am not feeling well.  Saturday, my ear started to ache. I have a sinus infection and Sunday my throat started to hurt too.
Before I depart for the airport, I, social networking junkie that I am, have to check into Facebook. His Holiness has posted:

Every type of happiness can be divided into two main categories. Mental & physical. Of the two it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. If we are not ill or deprived of basic necessities, if the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Therefore we should focus our most serious efforts on bringing about mental peace.

My journal entry reads:

It’s funny that His Holiness should post this today—

Along with my physical afflictions, I have been struggling with mental afflictions, which have me the most distraught. I am set to fly out to Indiana today, to hear His Holiness’s teachings on the Heart Sutra. I desire this. In the past couple years I have had many personal experiences that have drawn me to this Sutra, and I would love to study it in more depth. But I am sick and don’t want to get anyone else sick.

I acknowledge my desire, my clinging. I really want to attend these teachings!

In ‘The Art of Happiness’, Howard C Cutler quotes His Holiness when he states some desires are okay:

“I think there are two kinds of desire… Certain desires are positive. A desire for happiness. It’s absolutely right. The desire for peace… for a more harmonious world, a friendlier world. Certain desires are very useful. But at some point, desires can become unreasonable. That usually leads to trouble.” (27)

The Dalai Lama has also stated that the desire to cultivate Bodhichitta, this is also a noble desire.

I want to believe that my desire to attend the teachings has to do with wanting to deepen my practice, but how am I to know for sure?

So I sit and try to observe my mind.  I ask myself, “Do you wish to attend the teachings to deepen your understanding so that you can become a ‘better person’ and thus create less suffering in the world (and maybe even help to relieve suffering)? Or is this an ego attachment? Do you want to attend the teachings because it’s cool, because it gains you some kind of social equity?”

I struggle. I don’t want to get others sick or to suffer because of my grasping.

Eventually I come to a peace. I don’t know that I can ever be really sure as to what my motives are, as we humans are so adept at lying to ourselves.  All I can do is keep the ideal motivation in mind.

I decide to attend because I have a friend who is also attending the teachings and who is depending on me for rides to and from the teachings, and for a place to stay. I wear a surgical mask on the plane, to insure that others do not get sick because of me.

Denver International Airport. Boarding is called. I enter and find my space. I make myself comfortable and dig the surgical mask out of my purse. As I put it on I turn and notice the woman next to me, she seems a little nervous about my unusual behavior. I clarify my actions and state, “I don’t have any diabolical plans. I’m just not feeling well and want to make sure I don’t get you sick too.”

She smiles, obviously relieved, and retorts, “Thanks, I really appreciate it.” I repeat my reassurances to the fight attendants that I encounter on my way to the bathroom. They too are appreciative and offer up helpful flying health hints.

I begin to wonder what this experience would be like for me if I were a dark skinned man heading to the bathroom with a surgical mask on. I somehow think my experience would have been different, especially if I were heading to the bathroom in the front of the plane, near the cockpit.

I assess my white privilege, and the fact that gender is probably a plus in this one too.  Dependant co-arising, “the assertion that all phenomena— our experience, things and events— come into being as a result of merely the aggregation of causes and conditions (from The Essence of the Heart Sutra)” at 30 thousand feet.

Hollie has earned a BGS with a concentration in Human and Behavioral Sciences from Indiana University and a graduate level certificate in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University. She is also a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200 level and has recently completed an extra 40 hours in Trauma Sensitive Yoga via The Trauma Center which was founded by Bessel van der Kolk. In addition to teaching private and small group yoga classes, Hollie has also been a volunteer rape crisis hotline counselor for MESA, and is currently a volunteer legal advocate and yoga instructor at SPAN. Please see her website for more information.

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