I was surprised at the openness of the sexuality.
Who knew? Sex and drinking were acceptable, but drugs weren’t tolerated, or so they said.
Sexual practices in Buddhism are used as a vehicle to our spirituality — and I feel that sex is my path to compassion. In the past, I had used sex as a way of distancing myself from another person. Hey, having sex, you really don’t have to talk too much. At that time, it was an escape, an addiction. It was fun, but I was curious why I wasn’t involved in any serious relationship.
One snowy night there was a going away party for this couple who was leaving. At the party, there was a man who was a known alcoholic. We were both attracted to one another. I felt him staring at me at the party, so I proceeded to leave, putting on my coat and walking outside in the falling snow.
It was a beautiful night, and I began to cry and collapsed in the snow.
I didn’t want to continue the same pattern of being with the wrong man — and when I was crying, I felt a sense of surrender, a sense of peace.
An hour later, I walked indoors, into the kitchen area, and there was a man there, who I had become friends with. We respected and cared about one another. He knew I had been upset and I said, “hold me.” He took me into his arms and I felt safe.
He was a lovely man. He eventually became my lover and later we became engaged. But then I realized I did not want to do marriage again. I had done it twice and that was enough for me. I still have his wonderful engagement ring.
When we were back in NYC on one of our monthly trips, I said to him, “Hey, let’s go into that Tibetan Store we love on the upper west side.”
We went in and he bought me this funky silver, turquoise and coral Tibetan ring. That was my engagement ring. It was gorgeous and I could have cared less how much or how little he had paid for it.
When I first came up to Karme Choling, I never thought much about the people I had worked with in public relations back in New York City, the men I had dated, or the friends I had chosen. Up at Karme Choling, I saw myself gossiping about different residents. I saw people doing mean things to one another.
One situation that happened was that many people had an allergy to the incense that would burn in the shrine room. It actually would make people ill. One woman requested, “please don’t burn anymore incense in the shrine room because I have a terrible allergy,” and her friend at the time, yelled, “don’t you put that incense out!” and stopped speaking to her. It turned out to be a very painful situation, with the now ex-friends saying and doing mean things to one another.
Seeing life in action in such close quarters over the two years was real insight into how we really treat one another.
When I came back to New York City, after my two-year stay, a big change occurred in my publicity business. I began to discriminate whom I would work with as clients, whom I would have as friends and whom I would have as lovers.
Respect and kindness became important to me and I began attracting those qualities in the people who came into my life. Not all of the time, but most of the time. After all, it was up to me to discriminate no matter who came into my life.
The transition from the world of the retreat center to the outside world was a shock. I stayed in the city for one year and then moved to New Jersey. It was as though I had come back from living in a foreign country. I even had a bomb scare in the apartment building in NYC — and that was it. I moved out and went to New Jersey always knowing that I would come back to NYC.
I began to see how rough people were with one another in NYC — flipping the bird at one another if they walked across the crosswalk at ongoing traffic, or yelling out of the car, “get the f*ck out of way!”
I became involved in healing.
My teacher Trungpa, was right. I could now help others, because I had cleaned up my own act. Karme Choling gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. At 45 years old, mother of four grown men and a grandmother, I was given the opportunity to change my life, expand my thinking, and given the capacity to be there for others while also taking care of myself.
I had cleaned my house and the light was now coming through. But little did I realize how few people are awake and how difficult and challenging this transformation would be for me.
I had actually chosen a path to help people become more awake. How could I wake up so many people who were asleep? Would I be up for the challenge? Only time would tell.
Sherri Rosen is now living in Harlem, New York. She has had her own publicity business for 12 years giving a powerful voice to people who are doing good things in the world. She writes on her own blog at www.SherriRosen.Com, and www.GatekeepersPost, www.Triiibes.Com, www.Examiner.Com, and www.TheGoodMenProject.Com