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How One Sentence Out of The Buddha's Mouth Changed This Non-Buddhist's Life Forever
I am not a Buddhist. I love listening to Jesus as his followers heard him—in Aramaic. Hafiz and Rumi are my beloved teachers. Shiva, Shakti and the whole Hindu pantheon are a vibrant presence in my yoga practice. I pray outside honoring the directions in the way of the First People. Celtic spirituality sets my heart on fire and my feet long for Dances of Universal Peace. I have been on a quest for the divine for twenty-five years. But in all my explorations, I never opened the door marked Buddhism. But the Buddha waited for me. We had an appointment on January 1, 2010.
My first book, Writing Down Your Soul, came out in 2009. With all the enthusiasm of a new writer, I travelled across the country teaching thousands of people how to write at the soul level. By November, I was in a deep, dark financial hole. I called a bankruptcy attorney, but he couldn't see me until February. My spiritual work is about activating and listening to the "extraordinary Voice" within, so I picked up a pen and asked my own beloved Voice, "How can I create a beautiful, bountiful life?" My guidance was quick and clear. I was to write every day of December, uncovering all the blessings and gifts of my life and extracting all the toxic thoughts and knots of unforgiveness clogging my spiritual arteries. Then, on January 1, I would be ready to set my intentions and call in a beautiful year.
I followed my guidance. I wrote faithfully and deeply throughout December. For good measure, I reread a plethora of spiritual literature on manifestation, hearing again the call to focus on what I wanted. On December 31, I went to bed excited about creating my future. The next morning, I said my prayers and settled in for a full day of divine dialogue. But when I reached for my journal, I picked up a bright yellow library book, You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh. I thought, I'll read one chapter just to get a taste for it and then I'll write. I read the first chapter. Then the second. Then the third. Thich Nhat Hanh drew me deeper and deeper into his gentle, loving explanation of the Buddha's great teachings. Halfway through the book, in a chapter on how everything is connected, I read a sentence. I stopped and read it again. And again. And again. I read it aloud: "When conditions are sufficient there is a manifestation."
I leapt out of my chair. "Oh my God! Everything we think we know about manifestation is 180 degrees off!" I flew to my whiteboard and scribbled: "When conditions are sufficient there is a manifestation" in green marker. I stared at the sentence, letting this deeper understanding of how to create a life settle into my bones. Here I was, wanting to create a beautiful life, but I had my eyes on the wrong half of the equation. I was focused on what I wanted—and it's not about wanting. It's about creating fertile conditions in which a beautiful life can grow. Conditions first. Manifestation second.
I spent the rest of the day devouring You Are Here and talking over what I was learning with my wise loving Voice. As the sun set, I finished the book and made my 2010 Intention Mandala. It had pictures of what I wanted, but those images were in their rightful place on the periphery. At the all-important center, I drew a lily and on each petal wrote one of my six conditions-the actions I take every day to become the fertile soil in which my beautiful life can grow: Live in intention. Say my prayers out loud. Work in sacred space. Do my holy work. Focus only on what's coming in. Have a grateful heart.
The next day I began a new Intention Mandala prayer practice. I stood in front of my mandala, put my hands together at my heart, took a breath, and began. I named the things I wanted but handed them over to Spirit, saying, "What I want is not my job. I will spend today focusing on my job—living my conditions. Then I spoke my conditions with fervor and joy. And for the rest of the day, I lived those conditions.
January unfolded in beauty. My telecourses filled easily. One woman registered twice asking me to give the second away. At speaking events people donated more than the ticket price. Letters of gratitude arrived with checks tucked inside. I kept my appointment with the bankruptcy attorney in February. He asked if I had any questions. "One," I said, "I made $12,000 in January, is that a problem?" He sighed and walked me to the door.
So am I now a Buddhist? I still love the original Jesus, read mystical poetry, pray outside, chant in yoga, and dance for peace. But thanks to my appointment with the Buddha, a laughing red Buddha now sits on my altar beside my mother's rosary. Books on Buddhism nestle beside books on Christian mysticism, Celtic spirituality, and the poetry of Sufi masters. The Buddha now lives in my home and in my heart, and he can teach me any time he wants.