A Soldier’s World

I went to church on Tuesday.  Well, sort of. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to assist Darren at his Yoga on the Labyrinth class at the Grace Cathedral, like I’ve done once before.  Yoga classes get busy in January; the assistants are particularly helpful.

That was a special day for Darren’s friend Timber Hawkeye: the release day of his second book, “Faithfully Religionless“.  Timber was in San Francisco for a few weeks; he stopped by our teacher training session a couple of times during his visit.  On the book release day, he came to Yoga on the Labyrinth with Darren, and then there was a talk about his book after the class, at a conference room downstairs.

About eight of us teachers in training showed up to assist and to hear our new buddy Timber’s talk.  Assisting felt easier than before, now that I had been further along in the training.  With the pews removed, there was more space for the hundreds of practitioners to lay their mats, and it was easy for the assistant to pick an area to support.

At the end of the class, we gathered back by the labyrinth and walked together to Timber’s lecture.  There were so many of us, we took half a row in the conference room. It was joyful to be in the middle of a group of women, friends, on the same journey.

The book talk was wonderful.  Timber talked on stage with Reverend Malcolm Young.  Timber was well spoken, humble, authentic.  The Reverend was a delightful host, asking simple interesting questions, keeping the conversation going without taking over, with pleasant demeanor and an open mind.

I found that all quite inspirational, because there was a nice balance of resonance with my own views and new helpful ideas.

For instance, I loved how Timber talked about curiosity when we encounter someone or something that disagrees with us.  Instead of rushing to judge, to agree or disagree, we can learn to pause for a sincere “oh, that’s interesting”.

His explanation of sitting meditation and how it works to develop “non-reaction” muscles was simple and useful.  The brief conversation about love, sex, intimacy, and need for approval was thought provoking and I could see why somebody would choose to be celibate (not I at this time, but I get it).

After having moved every 6 months or so for a while, Timber ended up having very little stuff.  Not having stuff to hold on to frees one to attend to what’s important: love, friendship, learning.  Even though my household is not minimalist to the highest standard, I could relate to the minimalist philosophy, because I’ve moved enough times and have been tempted plenty to fill the loved-shaped hole with stuff.

I chuckled when Timber talked about leaving his apartment door unlocked, because I often do and get looks from my guests: look, the building gate is locked, and not like I have anything much worth stealing, so why bother.

I purchased the new book, pre-signed, at the event, and read it with delight; it felt like a continuation of conversations from when Timber stopped by the teacher training, and from the talk at the Grace Cathedral.  It’s a short book, didn’t take much time; I felt encouraged to honor my path and even adopted Timber’s morning prayer.

Timber’s first book, “Buddhist Boot Camp“, is likewise a concise, inspiring read, a collection of  pieces illuminating philosophical concepts simply, contemporarily.  I bookmarked the “Leave no Trace” chapter to maybe bring it to Toastmasters: “How are you helping them with their practice if you do that?”  (if you do somebody’s work for them).  I bookmarked the “Repentance” chapter, because… whoa…  Timber alluded to it in the talk at the Grace Cathedral, but it was so not what I could have imagined: much simpler, much more powerful.  I bookmarked the “Live and Let Live” chapter, because “me too”.  I highlighted a few helpfully formulated thoughts about gratitude as opposed to anger and faith as opposed to religion.

On the front cover of the Buddhist Boot Camp, there is a picture of Timber in military style camo shirt, eyes and hands in prayer.  The Buddhist Boot Camp Introduction ends with this address to the reader: “You are now a soldier of peace in the army of love; welcome to Buddhist Boot Camp!

Thank you!  I am in!

And yet…

As much as I can relate to the stories, to the outlook, to the path, there is something so masculine about being ready to up and leave whenever, about being a soldier, OK, of peace, but still presumably in the middle of a war of sorts, presumably of a non-ending war.

Going back to that talk with Rev. Young at the Grace Cathedral, there we were, 8 female teachers in training, sitting next to each other listening to two white guys talking about all those great ideas.  They obviously couldn’t help it.  They were wonderful: they talked about diversity and all, and most human struggles are universal anyway.  They were there, because we were there to listen, and we were there, because they were talking.

A week later, at our teacher training graduation, more than three quarters of the graduates were women. Of the about 150 in-class hours of our training, 40 were taught by women.  This leads me to a question.

Where are the female voices I can relate to?  Do we really have to be at war?  Do we have to sign up for this soldier’s world?  Can we ever be powerful, free, and not warriors?  How?

I don’t know.  So I cut my hair short, boy short on one side, decorate the naked ear with sparkles, sling my mat over the shoulder, bow and arrows style, mount the two wheeled horse, and go out there on a quest for my voice.  The apartment door is unlocked.

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