Notched into a hillside boasting four hundred shades of green meadow, redwood tree ravines and jutted rock ledges sits Spirit Rock, a meditation center and mecca for wisdom learning. We arrived late, only metal folding chairs available for the Wednesday 10AM practice. I’d been anticipating a let down, rarley does a place match the hype. Our lateness resulting from our attempts at reconciling how much better Spirit Rock was than we’d imagined.
Our conversation was abbreviated into gasps of “Oh My God”, “Why hadn’t anyone told us?”, “Why’d we waited so long to come here?”, “How will we ever leave?”, “Let’s move here right now!”, “Have you ever witnessed such profound beauty and peace?”, “I’m not leaving, ever.”
But the insanely beautiful setting paled instantly when we realized our hero, Sylvia Boorstein, was teaching. A legend in meditation circles, Sylvia’s personal practice and commitment to teaching dharma has helped so many and resulted in a re-shaped humanity. Her books, dharma talks and example continue to add more love to the world.
She spoke for more than an hour, I had nothing to write with and resorted to texting myself over and over again. She spoke about a wide range of topics and each one seemed designed to address the hurricane of feelings I was experiencing then and now.
Her teaching style often begins with posing a question; “How do we manage overwhelming dismay?”
I know exactly what overwhelming dismay feels like so sat upright for her answer:
1) “It’s easier to be dismayed than to do something. Interrupt dismay by doing something else. All something’s count.”
2) “Let go of the story that “nothing can be done”. Start wherever you are. Don’t try to change the world, just change a single experience.”
3) “Make an appeal for empathy, to yourself and everyone around you.”
4) “See. Some things are impossibly terrible to see, but see we must. Hiding keeps the dismay front and center. Seeing dilutes it until it no longer has the charge it once had.”
5) “Keep your mind and heart as wide as the universe to be able to hold contradictions.”
6) “Gratitude makes you happier. Neuroscience has proven this undeniably. Find tiny things to be grateful about, keep doing it. find 35 a day. Watch what happens. Dismay simply can’t remain.”
7) “Lastly, read my friend Sharon Salzburg’s book “A heart as wide as the world”. It will really help you out.”