Searching for the Way
by Reiko Ikehara Nelson

Two years ago my best friend and husband Ken passed away unexpectedly. I was 42 years old and I had spent 20 years of my life with Ken. In one moment that life was gone. That moment was the start of my spiritual journey.

I didn’t recognize it at the time but a shoe salesman started me on my path to Buddhism. I broke down in front of him explaining that I needed to buy shoes for my husband’s funeral in a few days. He grabbed a tissue box and with great patience helped me along. Before I could leave the store the salesman took my hand in his, looked me in the eyes and asked me to make a promise to him. He wanted me to grieve completely, complete the whole cycle and not stop. He went on to explain that he had lost his wife six years earlier and was still grieving everyday. He did not want me to have to follow his path. He wanted me to find happiness and peace even though he could not find it himself. I promised him I would, though I couldn’t imagine how I was going to do this.

Ever since that day I’ve been searching for the way back to happiness. I began talking to my husband’s pastor and going to church services for almost a year but the teachings did not resonate with me. I turned to Buddhism as an afterthought. I only encountered it during funerals and memorial services but I remembered the beauty of the poem “White Ashes” and decided it was time to learn and study Buddhism. Something clicked within me. It’s been a little over a year but the teachings of impermanence, suffering, the inter-connectedness of all life, and living in the present moment have opened up a new way for me to view and live my world. I enjoy going to Sunday services, listening to the Dharma through Sensei and all the guest speakers, participating in the discussion groups, and then discussing it all over again with my niece Michelle on the drive home.

Today, I am living a life filled with more happiness and peace. Maybe, someday if I persist long enough I’ll have a moment of enlightenment too.

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