This moment of zen has been brought to you by one of my kindred spirits, my beloved friend Tracy, who reminds me daily of how blessed I am to meet so many phenomenal women in blogland. Tracy brings with her a sense of calm, peacefulness and an unconditional, accepting love - something I am constantly striving to maintain in my everyday life. I had a rare opportunity to connect with Tracy regarding her practise of Buddhism. Our conversation illuminated my soul...I do hope it will do the same for you.
Greetings, my dear friend. Could you please introduce yourself and give a brief description of your blog(s)?
My name is Tracy. I'm pretty active in the blogging community. I write three different blogs. Pink Purlis my creative sanctuary and sharing place with friends & family where slices of life are served up along with my creative endeavors. A Certain Slant of Light is where I play with photography and notice the world around me. Savouris my more recent addition to my blogging adventure, where I share my own recipes and love of food & cooking--one new recipe each week. I love blogging!
How long have you lived in Norway? What brought you there?
I'm originally from Pennsylvania in the USA. I moved to Norway ten years ago to be with my Norwegian husband... So a love story brought me here! We celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this month too.
What are your hobbies and/or business ventures?
I am a homemaker and have a great appreciation of the home arts. I also have a fledgling small business I run from a tiny room in my home, selling handcrafted jewelry, knitwear and other small accessories in an online shop. Right now my designs are available exclusively at Etsy, where my shop has been hosted for nearly three years. Creativity has been such a big part of my life for many, many years. To create something of beauty and use with my hands is my passion. I have many interests: yoga, Buddhist studies, literature, knitting, gardening, history, jewelry design, cooking, writing, literature, photography, drawing, painting, sewing, quilting, architecture, travel--many things engage me. The business grew out of a desire to do some meaningful work, on my own terms, at my own pace due to some health issues, flowing naturally from a wish to share a love of beautiful adornments--jewelry & accessories. Many customers have told me that they feel a sense of peacefulness and happiness come through in the pieces I design. This warms my heart so much. It is my hope that the happiness and peace passes on to them, the customers, with the use and enjoyment of the accessories.
You mentioned Buddhist studies as a hobby of yours. Could you tell us how were you introduced to "Buddhism"? Do you identify as a particular type of Buddhist?
I was about 16 years old, and had stumbled upon the religion/philosophy section of my high school's library. I was drawn to a book simply entitled "Buddhism." Now I don't recall the author/publisher of that book or that sort of thing. But I remember taking that book down off its shelf and beholding the cover of it. There was a carved stone image of the Buddha--a sitting Buddha, eyes gently down,the suggestion of a smile, of happiness on his lips, his hands resting mildly in his lap, in meditation. The peacefulness of the Buddha's expression was unlike anything I'd experienced before. I recall having stood there a long time, just gazing at the cover of that book, admiring the Buddha, in wonderment. That peace, that serenity is what I wanted. I wanted to know that experience. I knew that one day I would find that path. At that time, during my teenage years, all through my growing up, I was brought up in a Catholic household. A very loving home, but there was a certain amount of religious strictness there. Other paths were not really open to discussion or exploration. Catholicism never felt like home to me, so I felt at odds for years of my life with it. It wasn't until many years later when I was an adult and beginning to practice yoga that I came home to Buddhism. And that's what it was like, it was like coming home. But discovering that book in the school library at 16 was the tender start of finding my true path. I don't identify myself with any one branch of Buddhism, for I find great instruction and support from the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions. Buddhism--the teaching of the Buddha, are for me guidelines for living an awakened life, a life of freedom following a path of wisdom, morality and meditation & prayer. The foundations of the path and adhering to them bring me daily to a life filled with love, compassion, balance/equanimity and joy... and these I can share with others.
What Buddhist practices do you adhere to? Have you found that practising Buddhism has had a significant impact on your way of life?
Each day is a new day. A gift. To be a life is such a gift. And part of the gift is recognition of The Four Noble Truths:
1. that there is suffering
2. find out the origin of that suffering
3. that the suffering can stop
4. there is a way to live without suffering.
Suffering can be many things and take many forms--craving something, coveting something, clinging to unhealthy thoughts, or even boredom. Any negative energy can cause suffering. With the Eightfold Path in mind a daily discipline of--right view, right, thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration--these can deepen my understanding of myself and my surroundings. Keeping all these precepts of practice in mind for living a more mindful way of life has had a huge impact. I grow more open, caring, compassionate, giving and senstive to the needs of myself and others. When we find our own freedom, we can help others find theirs. "Bodhicitta" is the awakened state of heart and mind. It a practitioner's compassionate wish to be alive, to be awakened and help others live in mindfulness and awareness too, a life free from suffering.
Do you have any particular views regarding the suffering of humankind? What do you do, as an individual, to relieve or alleviate some of that suffering?
There is so much suffering in the world, on this planet--suffering of the people, and suffering of the planet itself. It breaks my heart to see so much suffering. The news we see, read and hear about is oftentimes not very good, not very positive. As an everyday citizen of the larger world, I, and I'm sure many others feel the same, that it can be hard to know what to do or how to help. How to ease that suffering especially when there is so much of it and on so many different levels. Monetary support for various charitable and relief organizations is one way I try to be of practical hope to those in need. Sometimes that doesn't really feel like enough help. But we do what we can do. Sometimes that can also be in the form of meditation. My meditation practice is daily for the wishes of a better life for people everywhere--for the relief of suffering of all kinds, hunger, oppression, danger, war... My great wish is for a world of all people dwelling in harmony, peace, compassion and love all together. I believe in the collective energy and power of prayer, of intentions. So if I am praying, and I am sure there are many others praying for the same things, then perhaps that harmony many just happen. These many small things. But even small things add up.
As you well know, I am very fond of jewels. Could you tell us about the "Three Jewels"?
The Three Jewels is one of the core foundations of Buddhism, sometimes also called The Three Refuges, The Triple Gem, they are:
*The Buddha--the enlightened Buddha. Siddhartha was his name before he attained the gift of enlightenment.
*The Dharma--these are the teachings of the Buddha, guidelines for finding true awakening.
*The Sangha--this is the community of people living by the discipline and guidelines of The Dharma--including all practitioners, from ordained monks & nuns to lay followers.
To take refuge in the Three Jewels is like a spiritual coming home. And all three are connected. Each contains the others. It is one love. To be a practitioner is to honor all three as the root of the practice.
What is your meditation practice? What mantras, if any, do you use in meditation?
Meditation could very simply be defined as concentration, seeing clearly, being in the present moment. The practice of Buddhism is about being present in your life. A great way to wake up to life is to meditate. Taking the time to concentrate on life. Most anything is worthy of mindfulness practice, of concentration--breathing, folding, laundry, cooking a meal, walking, even work. Be awake. Be open. That is how I begin to practice--to be awake, to be here now. I am an ordinary individual living in the oftentimes hectic modern world, and sometimes it can be a challenge to find the balance with time in which to maintain a formal seated meditation practice. At the moment I try daily to take 10-20 minutes, seated in some way, to meditate. For some time my concentration focuses largely on metta--lovingkindness meditation. It is a practice with which to get in touch with one's inner goodness, happiness, love, compassion, joy and peace. Feeling supported and dwelling in these states of being, it is possible to extend these to others through special intentions or wishes. Sharon Salzberg's seminal book, "Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness," is one I can highly recommend for anyone wishing to connect more deeply with the power of love, compassion and freedom within.
I do use mantras a lot. Often only in the English language and tailor them to each time I meditate. They can be as simple as:
"May I be well, May all beings be well, May this situation be well."
"May I be happy, May all beings be happy."
"May I dwell in peace, May all beings dwell in peace."
Can you describe in words the feeling you get inside when you connect to someone's spirit? what "peace" with oneself feels like?
That is a hard one to put exactly into words. It is very much like encountering a kindred spirit, especially if that person is "open" Some people are "open." And some people are "closed," it's hard to sense their true spirit. It is a recognition of their inner truth, inner being. There are those magic moments with some people, where I feel like I'm in the presence of light--it sometimes a strong light, sometime a gentle light, that can be likened to a sense of harmony, where two spirits can dwell together--either briefly for a few moments, or for days on end. It is a happy, light sensation.
Now with regards to food, are you a vegetarian? If so, for how long? What is the significance or link (if any) between your practise of Buddhism and being a vegetarian?
I would say that I am 95% vegetarian, and have been for nearly 10 years. I'm an ovo-lacto vegetarian, meaning that I still eat eggs and dairy products. I still eat fish sparingly on occasion. My husband is a meat-eater, but he is very supportive of my choice and appreciates the health benefits of a less-meat diet. So the preparation of fish is a sort of "compromise" for us. I do partake of alcoholic beverages occasionally. All things in moderation, as long as there is no harm. It's about reverence for life, and that is where the connection to Buddhism comes in. For in Buddhism all life is sacred. Not all Buddhists are vegetarians. It is not necessarily required to be a practitioner, though it is encouraged. When I began to practice and study Buddhism, it was clear to see how all things in life are interconnected. Even the animal human connection. So compassion towards animals has been close to my heart. Compassion being one of the core values in Buddhism. So that occasional eating of fish does bother me...but I'm working on that. One step at a time. I just try to make the best choices I can each day, each situation I'm in, for it's not always easy being a vegetarian in a still mainly meat-dominated way of eating in the Western world.
I've previously posted on Thich Nhat Hanh's view onImpermanence. Are there any of his teachings that you embrace deeply in your everyday life? Are you guided by other spiritual teachers?
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist Master, has long been a spiritual guide for me. His many books provide much support and guidance, offering transformative practices for opening the heart and tapping into the very key aspects of the Buddhist tradition--love, compassion, joy and freedom--using concentration exercises and meditation to bring those good intentions into everyday life. SO I find all of his teachings so valuable. There are many contemporary Buddhist teachers who inspire my practice. Pema Chodron, a Tibetan nun of the Shambhala tradition--I love her very down-to-earth style of guidance. John Tarrant of the Zen tradition--I admire his quirky injection of humor to the seriousness of practice. There are so many--I could give you a list as long as the day!
Do you have any parting words for our wonderful readers?
I wish that you may dwell in peace, love and joy!
*(I have added hyperlinks for informational purposes.)