Reflections from a Practitioner

Essay by Katy Klutznick, Boulder Shambhala Community Member and Volunteer

I awakened from a nightmare early this morning. In bluish pre-dawn light, stunned and shaken, I considered the images from the dream: I was at the base of a granite cliff, my oddly clumsy hands fumbling, trying to force ropes into the ovoid spaces in my belay device as my partner climbed quickly upward. I tried to call to her; I wanted to shout, “Lauren, you are not on belay!” But my throat had constricted, no sound would emerge. If Lauren were to fall, she would surely die. My hands, my voice, my tools for potentially protecting her were utterly ineffective. In this horrifying dream, Lauren did fall. My eyes shot open just before she hit the ground. Heart pounding wildly, I wondered why my psyche would bring me to such a painful place.

Yesterday, I began reading the report An Olive Branch released. Over the last few months, I have been attempting to participate in the healing of our sangha by agreeing to be a member of the Process Team. I applied; I took an oath; I have attended meetings. I stand at the base of the cliff of our sangha, aware of the dangers above, uncertain of my capacity for protecting those who are hurting. Maybe the sangha will fall? Maybe my hands are dull and ineffective, my voice muffled, my ears unable to recognize the vibrations of voices, my darkened heart closed to light.

I wonder daily why I keep showing up at the Boulder Shambhala Center. Two weekends ago, during Level Four training, a student asked about loneliness. He wondered what Trungpa meant when he talked about loneliness in The Sacred Path of the Warrior. We talked about the difference between loneliness and being alone, perception and interpretation, communication, closing the gap between what we perceive and how we react to or judge what we perceive. That night I revisited one of my favorite passages from Sacred Path:

At this point, having completely renounced her own comfort and privacy, paradoxically, the warrior finds herself more alone. She is like an island sitting alone in the middle of a lake. Occasional ferry boats and commuters go back and forth between the shore and the island, but all the activity only expresses the further loneliness, or the aloneness, of the island. Although, the warrior’s life is dedicated to helping others, she realizes that she will never be able to completely share her experience with others. The fullness of her experience is her own, and she must live with her own truth. Yet she is more and more in love with the world. That combination of love affair and loneliness is what enables the warrior to constantly reach out to help others.

In a mediated world, where we are separated by multitudinous thoughts, feelings as changeable as winds and weather, we try again and again to discover and create the lines between us that existed prior to language and prior to judgment and before the golden fractures that crisscross our hearts began to let the light in. As we see more clearly, we find ourselves more alone and more in love, more willing to walk forward alongside and surrounding and passing through one another. Less reluctant to forgive, more confident in the rightness of trying, again and again.

My nightmare of this morning reminds me that I am afraid of dropping those I am committed to holding up, to nurturing. Shambhala training reminds me to notice this fear with just as much attention as I notice an opening heart that wishes to reach out constantly.