Saturday, 16 August 2008

So who am I?

I always find it difficult to answer the question "tell us something about yourself". I don't know why. There are things that have happened in my life, that I have a vague sense of chronology about, and I can order my life by them, but is that me?
Am I just a sum of my experiences?
I guess that's what people want to know when they're asking, so I guess that's what I'll explain.

My name is Nicola Dunn, my refuge name is Karma Dechen Djon Ma, I quite often use Djonma as a username for things.

I was born in 1981, various things happened to me throughout my childhood, I'm sure it will be far too boring for me to explain them.
My Dad was Buddhist, my Mum Christian. Well, my Dad hadn't taken Refuge, but he'd lived in Thailand for 17 years before meeting my Mum, and counted himself as Buddhist.

He took refuge at some point with the group that became our Sangha, I can't remember when it was though.
I took refuge when I was around 13.

My Sangha is a little unusual in that it has both Kagyu and Sakya centres and Lineage and teachings. This is because the founder of my Sangha, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, is recognised as a Tulku of two seperate tulku lines, one Sakya, one Kagyu.
It makes for an interesting community, and although I feel more drawn to the Kagyu School, I've got to say the Sakyapas have great music!

My Lama, Lama Jampa Thaye is Rinpoche's Regent in the UK, though we have now extended to have groups internationally.
Lama Jampa also has H.H Sakya Trizin as an other principal teacher.

Back to me though.
I'm pretty useless when it comes to Buddhism, I think.
My life is complicated, thanks to a mixture of physical and mental disabilities.
I use a wheelchair outside, and I'm bipolar. This makes things difficult.
I can't work, I'm perpetually broke, and that makes things more difficult.

I know, I know, the Dharma should make things easier for me, and when I'm studying and practicing, it does.
But I go through phases or cycles.
Very badly.
I'll go for months, even years, without doing any practice at all, or even studying.
I live Dharma sure, it's very subconscious, which I guess is a good thing, since a lot of what I seem to be finding in my studies, seems to be about getting things from the conscious to the subconscious. This is big in Tibetan Buddhism, since it's in the period after death where we're relying solely on our subconscious to remember all the mantras and right ways of acting and thinking, to bring us back to precious human birth, and I seem to have that down pat - if I'm in so much pain I can't even think (happens a lot unfortunately), I get Menla's (Medicine Buddha) mantra going through my head. It's a good thing, and it does help.

But consciously I'm a nightmare.
I don't do the practice.
I need to be doing it.
But then, I'll suddenly pick up and practice solidly and study solidly for a couple of months and everything will get clear and better, and I'll feel better and I'll even calm my mental issues down a lot, but then something happens to make me stop for a day, and it all falls apart.
The worst thing was university - I went to uni, and I was so exhausted and in pain all the time from the effort of it that I'd drag myself out of bed just in time to get to lectures, and then I'd get home and collapse into bed, then be woken up in the evening by my boyfriend, spend a couple of hours relaxing with him, and back into bed.
It didn't work at all, my health has got so, so much worse in these last two years trying to do a full-time degree.
And I've come away with nothing but major debts and worse health.
My bipolar is a total mess, and I can't walk further than across a room without needing to sit down or cry.
What a waste of time and money.
Money that I don't have either.
I'm so bad I can't work, and I don't know what I could do anyway. I don't have any qualifications.

I feel such a strong calling at the moment, back to Buddhism.
I need to do something.
I wanted to study Religion at Open University, so I could then do an MA in Buddhist Studies, but I don't know if I'll have the money.
I need to wait at least 6 months to sort some of my health issues out and the major money issues out. But I won't get a decent income, I'm stuck on low-rate benefits because of my disabilities.

I really have such a strong desire to be studying though. Studying Buddhism.
It's weird; my local group where I grew up with my Dad, we just meditated together every week.
It was lovely. We'd chat about things as well, but we weren't really encouraged to talk about our experiences.
And I've had so many 'odd' experiences.
I've talked to my Lama about some of them, and he verified them for what I thought they might be, but I want to really read the books and study hard and ask questions.
I have a million questions.
I don't even know my full lineage; I know my Lama, and I know his Lama, and I could root around a bit, but that's it.
But I've been pretty much estranged from my Sangha for years; there isn't a group where I am and I've lived here for over 6 years.
I've only seen a couple of people from my Sangha in that time, and it was when my Dad was going through triple bypass surgery, and I was pretty much a wreck.

I can't get to see my Lama easily; I don't have the money to get to London to see him and transportation is so difficult in a wheelchair.

If I did get to go and see him, I'd have to ask the really important questions, talk about how to settle my practice and sort my head out properly, not all the million questions I have buzzing around in my head because there wouldn't be time for that.

It makes me sad really; I'd love to be going to meetings regularly and be able to talk to other members of my Sangha about all these things, but I can't.

So I guess I'll ask them here, and think about them, and see what happens.
I don't even know if anyone's going to ever read this.