First Visit to Oyasono
by Vicki Moore

I was invited to Shinnyo-en by an acquaintance. It was at a time when my life couldn't have been much darker. I had been severely depressed and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. I was unable to work consistently so I was forced to sell my house. And at the time could no longer afford my apartment.
I packed everything I owned into storage and took 3 garbage bags of clothes to a friend's house. When I could no longer stay there, her friends -- people I barely knew -- took me into their home. I felt more secure than I had in a long time. I had fallen and fallen hard. But there were amazing people there who caught me.
I was interested in Shinny-en enough to come to receive sesshin. It was my first sesshin -- when my grandmother was strongly indicated -- that had me hooked. She was so glad that I finally got here that she came to my lineage parent in her dreams. I dreamt of my grandmother at the foot of my bed. I dreamt of her and I in a small boat starting on our journey from one shore toward the opposite side. I dreamt of my grandfather. He was dressed in a fine suit and hat. And although we never said a word to each other in this dream, it was powerful. I walked slowly behind him on a path in the dark. I've felt them walking with me ever since -- a connection and love I didn't share with them when they were alive.
I also dreamt of attachments. There was a large boat parked in front of my house in which I loaded suitcase after suitcase. I'm still working on my attachments.
My cynicism and disbelief hung on too. It took a couple of years to pass. My life got to the point where I could no longer give credit to outside forces like the "right timing" or "good luck." I would excitedly say to my lineage parent, "I can't believe that happened, or I can't explain how that happened. "She would give me a small smile, and say, "Really? You really can't explain it?"
I attended sporadically. My lineage parent called me a tidal wave. I was intensely interested for a short period of time and then I would disappear.
We talked about my going to Japan for Shojushinin's centennial celebration for two years. I said yes, until it came time to actually go when I started with excuses as to why I couldn't. I didn't have the money -- but I did. I had been sick and needed surgery -- which I still haven't had. I have to work -- I have a business partner who is quite capable of taking care of things whether I'm here or not.
Three weeks before the departure date my lineage parent said, "You have to decide right now if you're going. Decide right now!" I was backed into a corner and had run out of excuses. She wasn't buying any of it. I said yes and immediately went to my office to purchase my plane ticket. My friends said, "You're going where?!?"
Once in Japan, the activity started with a fury. We had 5 days to accomplish everything. We saw the exhibit of Shojushinin. It was incredibly moving seeing her childhood photos, her petite dresses, and her strong smile. Hearing her and her husband explain to their sick child that he was about to pass was the most poignant part of the exhibit. It made them real -- a real family. A family I could relate to.
At the end of the exhibit we saw a short movie -- in Japanese. Once it was over they ushered us out. When I realized we were walking toward the Shinnyo parents' and two doji's memorial, I fell apart. I began to cry uncontrollably. I stepped into a doorway where my lineage parent held me while I cried. The power of all I'd seen, all I've been through and the gift I gave myself of this amazing adventure came upon me all at once. My lineage parent said, "Now you understand." It's a moment I can still envision.
At the Ogen Center we were wowed by the Mandala room, the bright colors and the sheer size of the 11 faced bodhisattva. The space that struck me the most was the Light Gallery. I had been so impressed seeing it on the small screen of the TV during Winter Training, but I was standing before the windswept, life-sized Buddha. The white painted room is filled with light. The floor covered with gray carpet. Buddha stands at the top of what appears to be a wave. Just Buddha.
My lineage parent's husband and I sat deep in conversation while he explained his experience of meditation, and his trials of succeeding. He guided me while Buddha looked over us. I said, "Of all the rooms, this is my favorite." He said, "It's so simple."
It was like a drop of water in a still pond. I thought, "Yes, it is. Life is simple. The teaching is simple. Meditating is simple. Succeeding is simple. Being happy is simple."
I wanted so badly to succeed to daijo -- I had tried multiple times and had been really crushed when I didn't make it on the fourth try.
The guardians were working in my favor when the testing day was changed from the day we were intending to leave to mid stay.
I was determined to pass although I did nothing extra to actually prepare.
The time came. I sat in my chair and began to meditate. I tried so hard but I felt like I was doomed. Staff tapped on my arm to ask me something. And as much as my lineage parent said: don't open your eyes for anything! I had no choice.
Then staff tapped me again. I thought: what do they want from me? At some point, my headset dropped to the floor. I didn't move.
And then I received the answer I had been trying to figure out for nine months: Why was my friend being so mean to me? I kept saying over and over: What is she mirroring? I don't treat other people this way. Do I? I was horrified to think I might.
The answer came: She was not mirroring how I treat other people. She was mirroring how I treat myself.
Then a third time staff tapped on my arm. This time she apologized when I jumped, startled. She said, "Come with me." I had no idea what was happening until she set my chair down in the second row in front of the stage and indicated for me to sit down. Then the tears came. I had succeeded. When I didn't hear my name read, I thought uh-oh it's a mistake. But I looked in my hand and there was that piece of paper proving it. I chuckled to myself. Still disbelieving.
I met my lineage parent downstairs at Ogen. I was so proud of myself. She was proud of me. The tears welled again.
Time passed so quickly, I had no idea I had actually been meditating in that chair for three hours. Three hours!
New promises and new commitments came: I'll attend classes. I'll work toward my second elevation.
My lineage parent had explained repeatedly that I would see things differently after succeeding but wouldn't elaborate with anything more than, "You'll see."
The next day in the lobby of the hotel, I watched wide-eyed as a mirror scene played out right in front of me. Something I had never seen before although it likely happened before me on repeated occasions. That was the beginning of my change.
When I got back from Japan I felt like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or swim to Alcatraz and back. Although I've calmed down a little bit, I literally hear music and see a small, awkward ballerina dancing about with joy in my head.
Depression no longer keeps me in bed all day. I'm astonished at how much I can get done in a day without taking a nap. I used to jokingly say, "I need to take a nap before I go to bed." Although I was trying to be funny -- it was true. I slept 12 to 14 hours a day.
The acquaintance who invited me to Shinnyo-en has become one of my closest friends. Someone who shares her vulnerabilities with me and I with her. It's not so surprising that she shares them -- it's surprising that she actually has any.
With tremendous love and support I've been able to live in my apartment for over two years now. With a great deal of gratitude I have a business partner who -- although she doesn't understand my quirky ways -- she's somehow found a way to put up with me. This relationship of love and respect is enabling me to work consistently.
I no longer question where my great luck comes from but I am always surprised when it does. I no longer look at my lineage parent like she has four eyes. I actually understand what she's saying most of the time.
I made the decision to go to Japan because I no longer wanted to live in a place of constant regret. Now when I do something outside my normal character or something amazing happens, my friend Betsey and I look at each other and say, "It's Japan."
I'm still working on showing my happiness on the outside. It's a struggle to believe that my life is this happy. I have such strong walls around me that I not only don't normally share my fears, I don't share my triumphs either. I've learned how frustrating of a person I am.
I want to be a more open person, someone who is not so afraid. I want to attend regularly, attend the lectures and make the next succession. I ask for your help and support in achieving those goals.
I thank the Shinnyo parents, the two dojis for an amazing new way of experiencing life. I thank my ancestors for bringing me here. I thank my friends for their ongoing support. And I thank you for listening.