What is the most practical lesson Dharma has taught you?
Continual, gratuitous forgiveness fosters a light heart, which is the one true solace in working with difficult situations. And by forgiveness, I mean letting our past off the hook for being something other than we'd hoped for, and, perhaps, sometimes still wish would magically happen.
You love finding just the right word to translate Tibetan terms. What are your favorite English Dharma terms?What commonly misunderstood Dharma term would you most like to set right?
Reorientation. Underlying vulnerability. Epiphany. Gnosis.
Is there one practice you consider a mainstay of your path?
The mind training practices of the Kadampas, or lojong, have been my constant companions since I first encountered Buddhadharma, and form the foundation of my daily active contemplation and highest aspirations for life to this day. It has everything: simplicity, surrender, generosity, humility and courage, radical forgiveness, and the paradox of interdependence and emptiness in unity.
First off, I appreciate the rich arsenal of tools for addressing spiritual vitality in the here and now as well as in the long run of realization and enlightenment. If I'm completely honest, though, I experience a sense of intimacy with oneself, others, and the natural world, seen and unseen, in Vajrayana practice that is beguiling. It work at the level of mess and darkness as well as sweetness and light, which I found compelling from the start, and which still captivates my imagination and motivation for practice.
What is your dream pilgrimage?
Years ago, my friend and teacher Lama Namgyal told me about a walking pilgrimage he made from XXx to Bodhgaya, by way of XX. The pilgrims walked together through the villages of Bihar through the day and camped out at night to eat and practice Chod, the powerful Vajrayana practice of severance. Such a pilgrimage, holding the extent of practice from walking meditaiton to potent visualization and chant together, while honoring the sacred sites of Shakyamuni Buddha, sounds ideal to me.
Any comfort activities that are not obviously Dharma?
When I want something to take me away, nothing feeds me like cooking something new, usually for my husband, who is an appreciative eater. Reading nineteenth century British literature has been my haven for as long as I can remember, and these days, when I'm too lazy for that, I can always binge watch Downton Abbey or the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, or other similar quiet little British films.
What books might others be surprised to find on your shelves?
I remain a fan of science, so you'll find David Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order and Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time among my treasures. Snuggled against these, on the seemingly opposite end of the spectrum, are A Wicked Pack of Cards and Tarology, as I am an amateur tarot reader who comes at the cards from the perspective of art, language, and history. Also, copybooks for penmanship and calligraphy, a love born from my journalist father, who was always surrounded by pen, paper, crosswords, typewriters, and inks.