As I walked with the Sangha through the Oak Grove at Deer Park last summer I heard myself say, “I am a good wife.” I was startled and happy to hear that spontaneous belief. For years, when I became irritated, impatient, or outright angry with my husband, I would say to myself, “What a lousy wife I am. He didn’t deserve that. I was feeling bad about myself and took it out on him. Why does he stay married to me?” It wasn’t that I had said or done anything really awful, and I knew that my own suffering was the cause of my feelings and behavior. Later that day, while listening to the Dharma Talk, I realized that the time was right for me to become an Order of Interbeing aspirant. Enough of my own suffering had been transformed that I could aspire to the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in order to build on my practice experiences and further transform my suffering. The source of my faith and enthusiasm for practicing mindfulness is the experience of transformation I have seen in my own life and the relief and joy that comes with transformation. Before I started to practice in 2007, I acted in ways that were petty, vindictive, mean spirited, or judgmental. Each time, I would chastise myself and vow to be a kinder, better person, but nothing changed. What I didn’t see was the direct connection between my behavior and my own big melting pot of internal suffering. I did see that feeling anxious and insecure about myself was the common antecedent to the behaviors that I wanted to change in myself. But I didn’t know how to become less anxious and more secure. I felt hopeless to change what I didn’t like in myself.
After a year or so of practicing mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, I began to notice that I was less likely to act in ways that hurt others. I was more patient and accepting of others. Since I hadn’t done anything to directly change myself, I realized that the changes must be related to my daily sitting practice and from faithfully attending Sangha every week. This was a stunning realization. I realized that I didn’t have to try to change, but rather I could keep practicing and noticing my thoughts and feelings as I had been doing. I decided to stop trying to purposefully change and just keep sitting. What a relief!