Loving Kindness and Diet Pepsi
I've come home.
It is the thought that will not leave my mind.
As mentioned, this weekend I attended the Buddhist Women's Conference in Chicago. The theme this year was, "Expressing Dharma: Creativity in the Present Moment".
There is no way to adequately sum up the events nor the feelings they stirred within me. There were amazing speakers, fascinating classes, enthusiastic participants, and plenty to take in (wisdom and food).
While I connected with people and the ideas being shared, and felt the positive energy all around throughout the conference, one thing still stands out and makes me giggle. And it is one thing that made me believe, as strongly as anything else, that I was at home. Allow me to share.
I have been to various conferences, workshops, and meetings that are based on spiritual or wellness ideals. When food and drink are served, I take in the opportunity to try healthy fare that I otherwise would not. Part of this healthy fare always involves water as the sole option to drink (or, if lucky, an iced tea option).
I will admit up front that I am still trying to wean off of those unhealthy diet sodas. They are one of my weaknesses. It is almost like my "dessert" with a meal. When attending these conferences and workshops, I always am made aware of this addiction during meals.
You can imagine my surprise when, during lunch, one of the organizers announced at the podium that there were sodas available along with the water. Yep - Diet Pepsi.
As I popped open that tab and heard the sweet fizz release while people around me talked of compassion and presence and contemplative photography...every part of me sighed with contentment.
I wouldn't swear to being Buddhist just because they held a conference that offered Diet Pepsi, of course. (Though I'd be tempted.)
I was mesmerized by Laura Simms, the keynote speaker and story-teller, and her discussion of presence. I loved how she mentioned "pliability of mind as peace-making power" and that practices and objects that keep our mind from fixation - such as "great art", exercise this pliability of mind. (And that's just one snippet of wisdom that she shared.)
I fell in love with the winner of the Women and Engaged Buddhism Award, Venerable Pannavati-Karuna , whose pure oneness of her practice and her life is inspiring. She is so real ... I don't know of any other way to put it. (PLEASE check out My Place - http://www.myplacewnc.org/ . They are currently raising money - on a timeline - to secure a donation that was offered if additional funds could be procured by a specific date. Please, take just a minute and visit the site for more information.)
And in Dr. Rikki Asher, artist, teacher, muralist, yogini, I feel as though I found another kindred soul.
Oh...and there is so much more. I connected with other participants. I felt every discussion, every word, resonating with some place in my being. It was beyond feeling as though I was with people who "get it" ("it" being those weird thoughts that dance in my head and ways of living I seem to experience).....I was with people who were living it.
It may seem trivial, the diet pepsi thing.
Yet it is hard to feel at home in the vastness of ideas and philosophical exploration, no matter how comforting they may be. The beauty and wisdom that the organizers, speakers, and participants exuded was exhilarating and inspiring. To be surrounded by that type of energy and know that it continues even as I write this makes my lips and my heart smile.
But to know that we each return to our human foibles, our weaknesses, our continued practice, and ...yes, our diet pepsi?
Now THAT feels like home.
(And for those who were wondering, thank you - but no new niece as of yet...she just wants to keep hanging in there!)