Saturday, November 13, 2021

Brigit and the Buddha, Sharing an Altar

 A month or two ago, I felt the need to combine my two main altars, my Brigit altar and my Buddha altar.

It feels right this way, for now at least Brigit has my heart and the Buddha has my mind. When I sit with Brigit now I am reminded to welcome everything. Considering that "Everything" has recently included the death of my beloved younger brother, welcoming it is both a challenge and a gift. Sitting here, I read my poetry to Brigit and I remind myself of the Buddha's teachings and how they have helped me to shape a practice that is based on growth through self reflection and compassion.

I can mourn here, in stillness and the security of Brigit's protection and my own clarity and strength. I can yield to my sorrow and in yielding to it free it and come tear by tear word by word moment by moment closer and closer to peace.

I practice yoga in this tiny room, too. I have to be careful not to kick the altar when we do a leg raise in downward facing dog. The practice of asanas and of pranayama breathing help me to feel my body more completely than I do in my normal, vaguely unaware state. This practice brings me to a place where I can sit at the altar and connect, meditate, contemplate, or pour out my feelings in a far more grounded state.

When I moved here from my bachelor apartment of thirty years, I decided not to use the little bedroom for my bed, but to create a sanctuary for yoga, meditation, and prayer. This has made the room a magical place. If I am out there in the living room where my bed is or in the nook where the table is (with computer, eg work space, on it), or generally wandering around with a feeling of stress, if I walk into this room where all that loving work is done, I feel peace. Maybe just for a second and maybe only a particle of it, but it’s here. All those moments, they are here, waiting to greet me when I have the need. The love I have for Brigit, the gratitude I have for her and for the Buddha, the moments of strength in my body or release of pain or tension, the times when I’ve been able to open my mind to a different way of thinking or my heart to a different way of being. They’re all here.

I am infinitely lucky to have this room, to have the teachings of these two culturally disparate wisdom paths, to have the support of communities, to have a disability pension and a place in a wonderfully conceived subsidised housing development. I am lucky to have had my brother for the 50 some years that I did. I am lucky in so many ways and I am so grateful.

When I visited Kildare in 1997, I took my various life strands to her well and talked with her about them. I wondered if I should give up some of the things that I loved and devoted time to so I could focus more generously on some of the others. What I realised there, through her guidance, I am sure, was that even though they were seemingly unrelated they all supported each other in me and that I didn’t need to give any of them up. That in drawing on all of them I understood each of them a little better. Similarly, I used to worry about being a Pagan and a Buddhist at the same time. I wondered if I was being insincere or inauthentic or somehow letting down the team. But they served such different purposes in my life, although they blend together beautifully. My Buddhism is stronger and broader because of Brigit, and my service to and connection with Brigit is stronger and broader because of the Buddha. I guess that’s why combining my two altars feels so right for me. There is no contradiction here. And I am so so lucky to have found them both.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on these interweaving paths. Blessings on us all.

Image: Photo of my quiet place.

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