The change started exactly a year ago. In January, I decided to volunteer for hospice. The decision to go into hospice work was very intuitive. A combination of several recent deaths in our family, reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and a series of dreams (yes, dreams) led me to feeling like I was being called to hospice work. I am so glad and grateful that I was ready to respond. I have three patients I see regularly, plus a woman who is no longer a patient (her health improved), but is now my friend. I have learned so much about myself, people, relationships, fear, and love through this work. I now cannot imagine my life without it. In fact, I am now looking into how I can make it my life's work along with Flamenco. I'm hoping writing about both regularly will give me some clarity.
People in our Flamenco community often comment on how calm and mellow I can be and ask me how I do it. I always give them a one-word answer--meditation. Meditation has helped me become a calmer and more patient person. I have more compassion for myself and others because of the few minutes a day I spend sitting there, breathing. However, it takes time and I am no saint. I have lost my temper a couple of times when I felt that button had been pushed one-too-many times. I realize I don't necessarily handle my anger in the best way, so I decided books and online courses in meditation were great, but not enough at this point.
I was about to sit regularly with the dying. I needed to make sure I was doing enough to get my own fears and ego out of the way so that I could be fully present with each patient. I knew this instinctively so as soon as I signed up for hospice, I decided to find teachers. I had visited a few Buddhist centers around town previously, but hadn't found my niche. Once I started hospice training, I came to realize there was a place in walking distance from my house that I had not yet visited--Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, aka the Dharma Punx (ATS). I liked the dharma and I liked punk music. I thought, why not? I'm glad I decided to try it. I was at home as soon as I walked in. I had hesitated going to this place, thinking it was a gimmick. There is no gimmick. This place is full of loving people practicing actual Buddhism*, following and expanding on existing lineages. I started going regularly to classes and even doing acts of service sponsored by ATS. In fact, one of the first activities I did with fellow Punx was to spend a day at the LA Food Bank.
The furthering of my meditation practice and the additional service I do through my meditation center and through my hospice volunteering, have given me even more compassion and more perspective which has benefited me in my Flamenco life immensely. The Flamenco life is not easy. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it. There is a lot of fear in our community that causes us to not always be nice to each other. I am really working with my meditation practice so that I can be more loving, kind, and compassionate in the Flamenco world.
Finally, the last major change, is that my husband Tarik started a job working in Africa. He is now gone most of the time and the schedule is likely to be two-thirds of the year away and one-third at home. The work is exciting and environmentally progressive in nature. People have been asking me if it's hard or if I'm afraid of what will happen to us. Although I miss my husband greatly, my practices in meditation, hospice, and Flamenco have taught me that great things come from the consistent embracing of challenge. My husband seems very happy and fulfilled. He is doing really well and that makes me happy. I don't think it's a coincidence that I, who have never really lived alone, am now learning to live alone right as my meditation practice and hospice work are developing. I look forward to the insights I will gain during this time spent on my own.
So that's it. That's everything I have been up to in the last year. My intention in getting this all out there is to start integrating everything. I think my both my dancing and my role in our Flamenco community have been greatly impacted by these changes. I am happier and I am finding a lot more peace in my life and work. I want to continue exploring this integration in the hopes that I can be of greater service. This blog will continue to be mostly focused on Flamenco itself, but it will start to carry elements of what I have been learning elsewhere in my life. I am also looking to launch another blog that combines everything in a much more holistic fashion. I will keep you posted on that. I hope you'll continue to join me on this ride and I hope what I share helps you with yours. May you be happy, may you be at peace.
*By the way, my intention in writing about Buddhism here is simply because my meditation practice is based in Buddhism. I never intend, and will never intend, to prosthelytize. All paths are valid, from Atheist to Christian, as long as your core belief is to practice loving-kindness. If dogma gets in the way from you being kind and accepting, then you've gone astray as a human being.