Introduction by Chris Hammond: I met Jamie around 2007. He had moved to Baltimore from Kansas City and was heading the registration for a local 3 day course I attended. He later contacted me asking if he could sublet at my acupuncture space for seeing counseling clients. That ended up working out and we shared space until he found a space of his own. He’d met up with a couple of psychologists and they’d found a very nice space across from Baltimore Harbor. For sometime I flirted with the idea of renting a room from them and that finally materialized in Sept. 2016. It’s been nice to work alongside a good dhamma friend who shares similar aspirations in dhamma.
We have a similar background of extensively traveling in the east and intensively sitting and serving over a long period in our younger years. We both reentered the householders life and have since been charting our lives forward, finding the balance between maintaining our meditation, being successful practitioners, and leading good family lives. Jamie and I have occasionally sat together at our practices spaces and we sit one Saturday morning a month with another meditator friend. Jamie has also been a great initiator in organizing a recent canoeing trip and several hikes. He’s helped to fill a real need of bringing dhamma friends together off the cushion to have fun and grow friendships. I’m grateful to have him as friend.
Dhamma Story: I first heard about Vipassana and S.N. Goenka during my travels in Asia. I had just completed a year of teaching English in China and was visiting my aunt and uncle who were living in Nepal. Part of my intent in being in India and Nepal was to explore various types of meditation, likely not too different from many others drawn to the East. After asking my uncle for advice on different spiritual traditions, he directed me to a priest friend of his that had lived and worked in India for some time. One of the 10 suggestions for spiritual teachers was Goenka. So when a friend I met in Calcutta mentioned that there was a Vipassana retreat happening close by, I immediately jumped at the chance to take a course.
My first Vipassana course was like most others, very difficult but also very eye opening. I thought I had found something very significant and was motivated to give this technique a try. But what really stands out to me was my experience of returning to Calcutta’s main train station (from the “suburbs”) straight from the course. The cacophony and press of hundreds of people was overwhelming. I immediately began missing the peace and serenity of the 10 days of silent meditation I just left. I was of course craving what I had lost.
This experience reminds me of how often the difficulties and distractions of a householder’s life seem to pull me out of a more peaceful space. It can be discouraging, like the proverbial two steps forward and one step back. Which sets me up for aversion to life’s hardship. However, over the course of my practice I have come to learn that though adversity can seem like a hinderance to our practice and equanimity, it can also provide motivation to use our practice to overcome obstacles. When I notice negativity triggered by hardship arising, I try to retell “the internal story” to one of hopeful meaning: “Oh, this suffering is just an opportunity to grow in Dhamma”. I see these daily struggles as a gradual, lifelong process of letting go of my reactive need to fix and control my life to that of “letting go”, a continual lesson of finding a path to acceptance and equanimity in the face of suffering.