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Gratitude for the Dharma

By A. L.

Pink clouds against a blue sky.

A. L. took part in the Winter Retreat from Afar and shared how she put the teachings on the taking and giving meditation into practice.

There was one part in the teachings that suggested writing down your problems and put it in a hat and to do this with others. Well, I was in this six-person cell at the time and the other five women are Christian. They all know I’m Buddhist and I’m doing this retreat, but there wasn’t much discussion about it.

So I switched that up a little and I asked all five of them to write down their three biggest problems or stresses and give them to me so I could do some taking-and-giving meditations on them. They were all quick to give them to me. I put them in an envelope and I picked one out each night. It helped me to put my own problems in perspective and realize almost how small mine are compared to these women. I spent time meditating on their problem and trying to take their suffering and give them my peace. Three of the five women in that cell are facing the death penalty, just to give you an example of the issues. I was glad for myself and for them that I was able to do the taking-and-giving meditation.

In the mailing number ten, the top paragraph is about Khensur Jampa Tegchok Rinpoche telling those men in prison how good they had it and what a perfect place they were in for meditation and study. I agree. Most everyone in here does nothing but complain about how horrible everything is, but I’m thankful for this down time. I’m thankful to have this opportunity to stop everything and to be able to study the Dharma.

I never did study a lot on the outside; my life was always going too fast to slow down for anything. I would go visit my Dad on the weekends, and I would get grounded and be calm and peaceful. But as soon as I would get back to the city, it was all gone. Now I’m thankful to have this time to learn and study and get myself in a better situation to be released back out into this fast-paced life without getting derailed. I needed this in my life to get on this spiritual journey. I am definitely trying to make the most of it. I’m sorry it took something this drastic, but I’m so thankful.

Incarcerated people

Many incarcerated people from all over the United States correspond with Venerable Thubten Chodron and monastics from Sravasti Abbey. They offer great insights into how they are applying the Dharma and striving to be of benefit to themselves and others in even the most difficult of situations.

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