“I love that you thought up the idea of coming up here. Nothing beats practicing outdoors. You rock.”
The fire crackled, fueled by a breeze coming up from the north. My heart slowed.
Then she started her Dharma talk. “First off, I want to remind us what Mr. Archer said this summer.” She often referred back to what the visiting Tibetan teacher who’d been at her house all spring and summer had taught us. “We need to see ourselves very purely because we all have the seed of enlightenment in us.”
My heart swoll, and my always-cold hands warmed up. Finally. No “spawn of Satan” bullcrap.
“So, the main way to get to the place where we can see ourselves purely is to actually visualize our bodies as translucent—like you’re made of light, instead of flesh and blood. You’re radiating light, too. Sometimes flames! It is a very powerful way to practice.”
Mr. Archer had given me a spiritual practice like that to do before he went back to his monastery in Tibet in September. He said I could do it anywhere, like, walking between classes or on the bus. Truth be told, I mostly forgot the visualizing part. He told me it would be good to see myself as a wild blue female deity, with flames all around, instead of regular me. He also gave me a mantra and said not to share it with anyone. It was private.
I did say that mantra a lot to myself in my head, and it helped me keep strong, like, not be tripping so much when I had to hang with Angel and her new girlfriend at the Gay Straight Alliance at school. GSA had been torture for me since school started up again.
Sandy grabbed her mug of tea from the camp table Leslie had set up for her next to her chair, took a sip, and sighed. “There’s so much I want to share with you guys, but I don’t want to flood you with a lot of stuff all at once. It’s like all our lives we’ve been looking at the world through colored glasses that make us see things a certain way, but when you take the glasses off, things aren’t that way at all.”
Leslie squirmed in her seat, scrunched up her face, and twisted from side to side like she needed to stretch.
“You okay, Leslie?” Sandy asked.
She let out an irritated sigh. “Can I be honest with you?”
“Sandy, you know I respect you, but this part of Buddhism sounds like new age bullcrap to me. I’m cool with the part about egolessness and how we need to cultivate compassion and all that. But life is hard—bad things happen. Mass extinctions are happening! The glaciers are melting. This la-de-da stuff with colored light and everybody having some kind of superpowers sounds like an escapist fantasy to me. The world needs more reality, not more fairytales.”
“Definitely,” Sandy said, nodding. She tilted her head. “How long have you been practicing?”
“I did insight meditation off and on for a few years. When Mr. Archer visited your house this summer, I decided it was time to commit.”
“Listen, Leslie, it’s totally normal to have doubts,” Sandy said. “For now, it might be good for you to look at this as a scientific experiment. Meditate like that for a while—just pretend you aren’t skeptical while you’re doing it. Then see how you feel afterwards. Find out for yourself if something shifts for you. If it doesn’t, feel free to blow off my advice. Deal?”
“For sure,” Sandy said.
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