Karma taps my shoulder then hits me with a club

For unknown reasons I was thinking about my meditation path recently.  It is improbable enough as to make one smile at the ways of karma. As far back as I can remember I was bothered by (intrigued by, plagued by) questions that didn’t seem to register on my friends’ radar. I found a journal of mine from my Catholic High School days not long ago. In it I was apparently quite disturbed by the notion that had I been raised in a different city, or gone to a different school, or read different books. . . . . I would have been a different person.  It caused a great deal of angst seemingly (since I honestly don’t remember this) that I couldn’t figure out therefore what was me. Not things you discuss with the priest in the confessional. In the early 70’s,  after high school it was off to the Jesuit run College of the Holy Cross. I wasn’t just a little bit Catholic you see.  I was a lot Catholic. I ran the college liturgical committee from my sophomore year for instance.  I always wanted to be a doctor and when I met with my pre-med adviser regarding choosing a major, he gave some of the best advice I ever got.  He said that as a physician I’d be dealing with science for the rest of my life and why didn’t I use my time in college to study other things that interested me.  Thus I became the only Philosophy pre-med major at that school. Fast forward to Junior year when I was taking a course on Buddhism. “Zen Mind Beginners Mind” was on the reading list.  Wow!  “This guy gets it”.  As the midterm approached, Professor Esposito told us we had the option of writing a paper or attending a one day retreat at the Cambridge Zen Center.  Well I had a lot of other papers to write and the one day thing in Cambridge seemed like an easy way out of that nonsense. So off I went and being the average college student I had many keg parties to attend the night before insuring a good hangover for this foray into Buddhism.  We arrived and I met Larry Rosenberg who would be running this retreat.  Yes, this Canadian Irish teen was sent from his Jesuit Catholic college by his Italian professor to spend the day with a Jewish Buddhist. Just imagine the causes and conditions that had to mature just right for this improbable scenario to arise! Then. . . . something clicked.  It just made sense.  Suddenly all the questions I had been plagued with for so many years found a home. I began meditating semi-regularly at that time and as I bounced around during my Navy years I would occasionally find a group to sit with.  It was nothing regular though.  Many years passed and I moved to Maine in 1993.  Soon thereafter while walking through a bookstore (remember those?) on the shelf was displayed the book “Breath by Breath” by Larry Rosenberg.  What were the odds?  A book by this man that I hadn’t thought of in close to 20 years, showing up on a shelf in Lewiston Maine? I bought the book and my interest in Buddhism was rekindled (not that it ever left mind you).  I began again to look for a group to sit with and found a newspaper ad for something called a Shambhala Buddhist Center.  Never heard of it but what the hell it was a group to sit with so I made a visit.  There I found a home. Several years later I took refuge and received the name “Dawa Choshing”.  I have been attending ever since and now have a strong daily practice.  I’m not sure my meditation is any more settled than it was in the 70’s.  It must be though, right? I’d hate to think I spent the last 35 years and ‘got nowhere’. But it just seems right.  I can’t explain it and I think my inability to explain it, explains it.

Why do I write of this now?  Aside from the fact that I like telling the story that is. Well I have become aware that Larry Rosenberg is still teaching in Cambridge.  He founded the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and he just happens to be leading a one day retreat in March on a weekend when I will be visiting my daughter in Boston. So I signed up. I feel kind of drawn to it. I think I would like to thank the man. I don’t know that many people could have introduced meditation to a hungover college student in a way that would go on to, in large part, define a life.  Doubt Karma?  Try and explain this story any other way.

Until next time, this is your pal, Dawa Choshing, signing off.

3 thoughts on “Karma taps my shoulder then hits me with a club

  1. I so relate to this. In the 1960’s, I was a Catholic girl with a head full of questions, also living in Lewiston… At age 12 I was despairing of my tepid faith and confessed to one of the nuns “I’m having a hard time believing Jesus could be the son of God.” At age 17, I found the works of Alan Watts and Hermann Hesse, and onward from there… Buddhism has remained the source of feeling like I found my spiritual “home.”

  2. Many similarities to my path. Raised Catholic. Spent 3 years in the minor seminary studying for the priesthood. Met some Buddhist friends in Ann Arbor Michigan summer of 1968. Began reading about Eastern Religions. Moved to Boston after College (1971). My room mate and other friends involved in meditation and Cambridge Zen Center. Read “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind”. Went to open sitting sessions and talks at center. Heard Ram Das speak at BU. And so it went…..

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