For All Ages

by Margaret Hamachi-Lopez

Except for the "lost years" (my late teens to late 20's), I've been attending WCBT fairly regularly since I was a toddler. What I've learned from Buddhism, like myself, has grown and changed over the years. As a kid, I remember lessons on the Eightfold Noble Path (right views, right thoughts, etc.) and the cause and effect of karma (if you don't study for a test, you may not do well). These concepts helped reinforce the importance of being kind to others as well as the "right and wrong" that all children must learn in their early years.

In my teens, I was more concerned about what clothes I was going to wear, what the latest dance steps were and what band was going to be playing at the next Jr. YBA conference (yes, sad, but true). Although I enjoyed many of the speakers, such as Rev. Mas Kodani, I can't say that any teachings really "stuck with me."

It was after my first child, Cody, was born that I started coming to WCBT again. In the sermons and the Gateway I noticed many references made to our "suffering." Could it have been that the "lost years," as I refer to them, and my Jr. YBA days were actually relatively painless? During those years I finished college, embarked on a career, got married and started a family.

In many respects, there is a correlation between my degree of suffering and what I have learned about myself through Buddhism. I've been working for the same company now for 12 years, working my way up to supervisor of my laboratory section. About a year and a half ago, I was having a problem communicating with the person who was my boss at the time. Although he eventually left the company, the experience was a difficult one for me.

Sometime thereafter, I happened to receive a copy of Kokoro No Kate in the mail. In it was a story that got my interest. Although I cannot remember the exact story or author, it was basically about a man who had difficulty with another person, so much so that he had to move away and start a new life. Although he could have been bitter and angry at the other person because of this, he was instead grateful because his new life had brought him happiness that he would not have realized had he remained where he was.

This story changed the way I look at the obstacles that may come my way. Instead of just being upset or depressed, I'll ask myself, "What am I learning from this?" Even the most troublesome employees I supervise are the ones who have taught me the most about myself, for my own "enlightenment."

It is somewhat ironic that I am more interested in Buddhism now than ever before, but with Cody, Paige and especially Hannah in tow, it is not very often that I am able to listen to Rev. Kiyota's whole sermon or participate in the adult group discussions. On a recent Sunday, however, Rev. Kiyota talked about our wish for material things as when we think, "If I only had X,, then I would be happy." (You fill in the X with whatever you desire.) But, he added, we must look within to find true happiness. These messages are daily reminders to me as it is easy for me to get caught up in balancing family, career and my checkbook.

I feel we can learn a lot from each Sangha member. I've enjoyed reading all the Living Dharma articles. As far as my own "suffering," most parents tell me to wait until my kids become teenagers. I can't wait.

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