If Life is a Nightmare, Wake Up to a Dream

An Introduction to Buddhism

Thirteen members of the Seattle Betsuin sangha attended a weekend retreat at the Huston Camp & Conference Center near Gold Bar, Washington, adjacent to beautiful Wallace Falls State Park during the weekend of May 25-27, 2001. The purpose was to reassess the guidelines, goals, and basis of reality for our lives. This retreat was specially designed for newcomers to the Seattle Betsuin. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi of San Jose, California, facilitated. He is a health professional with a background in Buddhism, transpersonal psychology, wilderness vision quests, personal growth, and body-mind-spirit disciplines.

Our lives are filled with stress amid abundance. For over 2,500 years, Buddhism, a spiritual/philosophical tradition, has influenced individuals and cultures toward harmony and peace in any life situation. The principles apply today, not due to any belief, but because they address the nature of the human condition. Adapting an Eastern perspective into our Western mindset can be appealing, yet confusing. The focus is to move these teachings from a conceptual understanding to a personal experience by practicing some simple habits in our daily life.

In a safe, supportive, light-hearted environment, we listened and shared our experiences of the concerns that threaten us and that nurture us. Using methods, both ancient and current, we began to realize the causes and conditions that lead to our misery or happiness. With introspection, dialogue, and sharing activities, we discovered our own path to a fulfilling life practice.
The sangha members who attended the retreat found it to be a rejuvenating and enlightening experience. Here are some insightful comments from the evaluations and a poem written by one of the attendees during the retreat.

How do you feel this retreat will affect your present religious life? Your daily life?

I will take the time to enjoy the everyday. Appreciate everything.
I feel more a part of the Temple. I intend to incorporate some of this practice into my life.
I think and hope it will change the way I accept things.
The retreat opened me to a more community-centric view. I hope to exercise “deep hearing” more often.
I will feel far more comfortable, will feel much more a part of the sangha. Far more comfortable with the rituals. More integrated into the church. More likely to experience deep hearing because I’ve been taught how to use the basic tools. Thank you!
I feel this retreat has strengthened my sense of community with the temple and also my commitment to bringing Buddhism into my daily life, not just once a week.
Be more aware of the contributions of others. Be more accepting of others.
I feel more confident that Jodo Shinshu fits my needs. I see how it fits into modern life. I will incorporate the 8-fold path (especially mindfulness) into my daily life.
I tend not to separate daily life and religion. But hope and expect this weekend will have an impact.
It has brought much more meaning and understanding to the actions and symbols of the service. I think I will appreciate my daily life more.

Back row, from left:  Reverend Don Castro, Ann Oxrieder, Burke Dykes, Mike
Taylor, Michele Anciaux Aoki, Alix Wilber, Joe Schwab, Janice D'Amato, Brian
Guarraci, Kenji Akahoshi.  Front row, from left:  Todd Bailey, Christine
Nall, Meredith Guarraci, and Carolyn Schwab.

Crouch Closer

By Meredith Guarraci

I walk along a path of hardened white impervium.
Not natural, not earthy, but constructed by man.
The sun reflects hard upon it – it doesn’t pass through,
it bounces back – rejected.
So true for the spring rains.
They fall innocently, softly, harmful to none, yet not
allowed to pass through the cement barrier.
I see these things – I see the obstacle that man has built,
and I feel ashamed.
Ashamed to walk that path, ashamed to call myself part
of this tribe.
What if I were the ant, so small, so fragile, yet so brave?
The little ant crosses from the lawn along the sidewalk,
and doesn’t seem to care…
The ant walks – scurries along, doing ant things that
it does best.
Does it realize it can’t get through the immense
white barrier?
I don’t know.
But they are there. Even in the midst of non-nature,
our human influence, they seem to survive.
Perhaps if I just crouch down a little closer,
I’ll see more ants.
Maybe tomorrow there will be a blade of grass
(or even a weed) that bravely pokes its head
through a micro-crack in the cement walk.
Constructed by man, yes, but laying on the earth –
touching it always.
Impervious to sun and rain, yes, but touched by them
always, and in their presence.
I too will do the same –
I’ll lay a little on the earth-
Perhaps even if just to crouch closer, and remember
that the warmth of the sun is a blanket of
nature giving me a reassuring touch.