September 22, 2011

Sitting in the Hot Seat ~ Angela Alston







Photo: Wonderlane

Nick is moving on from our little Shambhala Center. Who will lead our monthly Pema Chodron talks?

“Me,” says a little voice in my head.

Tightness in my chest.
I tell myself, “Sleep on it. Think about it. Let Nick know you’ll do it in a week or two.”
Shit. I am suddenly a senior student here, even though I’m really just a stalled ngondro student. But there’s nobody else to lead these talks right now.

Actually, it seems choiceless. Pema was my way in to the dharma. I had no interest in Buddhism but I wanted to wake up. And I wanted to be kinder. Three years of film school had left my footprints on several people’s faces. I didn’t like what I saw.

I found Start Where You Are, don’t even remember how at this point, and read and read it, over and over again for months. I loaned it to my friend Anne. I took it back and bought her a copy so I could keep reading.

So I had to give back.
Nick’s advice: just watch the video once before class.

So I watch. I take copious notes, like I would at a real talk.

I show up the first night. Someone has set up the projector and screen for me. They’ve put out our temporary sign for the center. The water is hot for tea. I am completely supported.

We watch. We discuss. I introduce myself and say, “I’m not a teacher, I’m a facilitator.” But as discussion continues, from my new vantage place in the front of the room, I see I am a teacher. This is a different bend in the path. I have gotten somewhere. I can put out a helping hand, even as I occasionally stumble. I can smile. I can shine my flashlight at someone’s feet. I can show my gratitude towards my own patient, loving teachers. I can offer the discipline and erect, flexible spine of a Shambhala warrior.

I can say, “thank you.”




Angela is a student of Tibet Buddhism, an outreach consultant for independent films, working with her sister Gwen (mocamedia.tv), and a Feldenkrais student. She and her husband Hugh are creating an intentional community in urban Dallas, retrofitting an existing building (dallascohousing.org). No, one lifetime probably isn’t enough.

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