Having known Mushim for years and having co-taught several daylong retreats with her, I whole-heartedly recommend her as a teacher. She is a wonderful storyteller and has a great sense of humor. Importantly, in the tradition of Manjushri, she knows that compassion and insight can be a flaming sword as well as a flower. Whether in the dhamma hall or in the streets working for social justice, she is a person of integrity who can be trusted in the nuanced process of awakening.
 – Kenji Liu, writer/poet, artist, and cultural worker, http://www.kenjiliu.com
I thought I was going to write about my date… about how I was happy he took the risk to accept the invite to go to a meditation class with me as our second outing together (I know, such a sexy suggestion on my part). He was nervous because he is scared of meditation (I get it) and even tho I gave him an out tonight, he wanted to try something new.  He is a lovely man and it was a nice night, but there won’t be a third date. He’s too wounded being so fresh out of a marriage, and I’m in a different place of wanting something deeper.

So my blog post for the day isn’t about my date.

It’s about friendship.  And love.  And gratitude.

The series of classes is on the Four Immeasurables (or the Divine Abodes, which I like the sound of)…. Love, Compassion, Joy & Equanimity. Tonight’s subject matter was compassion, or Karuna.

Mushim started the class with a twenty minute guided meditation. We began with prayers for ourselves, internally repeating the words that so lovingly rolled off Mushim’s lips:

“I care deeply for my suffering.”
“May I hold my suffering with kindness and gentleness.”
“May I be free from pain and suffering.”

“I care deeply for my suffering.”
“May I hold my suffering with kindness and gentleness.”
“May I be free from pain and suffering.”

We were then asked to think of a benefactor in our life.  Someone who is the image of kindness. Who holds us. Who advocates for us. Who encourages us. Someone who always has our back.

I thought of Edie. She knows every single secret of my life and has always loved me. Even when I am messy.  And believe me, I can get messy. Edie has wisdom in what she reflects to me, and she also is comfortable in telling me she doesn’t know what to say, but she can offer her presence. It’s just her way.

So tonight I said Karuna prayers for Edie, too.

“I care deeply for your suffering.”
“May I hold your suffering with kindness and gentleness.”
“May you be free from pain and suffering.”

“I care deeply for your suffering.”
“May I hold your suffering with kindness and gentleness.”
“May you be free from pain and suffering.”

I was silently repeating the words in my head while visualizing Edie standing in her kitchen making Lucy a peanut butter sandwich, and I was flooded with emotion.  It started in my stomach, rose to my chest, I could feel my face get very warm, a few tears dropped from my eyes, and I was filled with gratitude. What I realized is that not only do I love Edie, but I really really care about her suffering.  She has her own story, and I care so deeply for that story. The ways in which she stands with me (I’m an open book who rants, cries, doubts, and is occassionly paralyzed in loneliness.fear.shame.apathy) is different than how I support her (she is immensely private so I won’t even generate a list!).  But the point is: We Stand. Together. What an honor, truly.

We then prayed for a neutral person, a person we find challenging, and then the Universe.  At the risk of sounding completely overly sentimental, I was feeling so much love toward Edie, I felt the two of us could heal the planet. That’s some good lovin.

“May all living beings be freed from suffering, affliction, misery, and pain.”

-Diane Leota Davis

I have a friend on staff at the Children’s Hospital Oakland, and one of the things we’ve been discussing is  how to teach parents and caregivers in that context some meditation practices that will help them become more responsive, rather than reactive. (I’ll admit, what inspired me to even begin this discussion with that hospital was your story about when you found your father when he had passed on, and how meditation helped you in that time. I began thinking, what if we taught that to parents in that same situation.) That, and my idea of volunteering to help LGBTQI youth is only one of many ideas I have, but none of these ideas would have ever been possible had it not been for the lessons I received at the East Bay Meditation Center from teachers like you.

–          Nate Dumas

Mushim is absolutely amazing.  Her words and teachings are so simple yet profound.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her presence at the People of Color retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Refuge makes me want to come back over and over again.

–    Imi

Mushim Ikeda is an outstanding Dharma mentor. She combines the perfect blend of asking how best to support me while also sharing her insight about what would help me when I don’t see it myself. I appreciate her ability to explain complex topics in a way I can understand. I greatly benefit from her wisdom, kindness, sense of humor, passion for social justice, and nurturing approach.

–   Beverly

“Getting Back in Charge” gave me a fabulous array of strategies, our “tool kit,” to deal with depression. The teachers shared their wealth of experience, professionally and personally, and I doubt anyone left the class without more hope.

–    Amanda

(After the January 2011 one-day workshop taught by Mushim and Kitsy Schoen and Mushim at East Bay Meditation Center: “Getting Back in Charge: Mindfulness-based Strategies to Deal with Depression”)

I just listened to the Dharma talk, What’s the Difference? – Showing Up and Practicing across Lines of Difference. Mushim put into words much of the experience I have frequently, as a practitioner of color, when I go to  predominantly white Dharma centers.  Her words explaining what it is like for oppressed community members inspired compassion, patience and also self responsibility for holding a container of loving kindness for myself and others.  I hope that these Dharma talks continue, so that once that self love is recognized and experienced and is strong, then we can expand and understand that we are everything and nothing and that we are all connected.

–  Bruni Davila