|Posted on June 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM|
Buddha Babe Goes to Camp
This past May 9th on my birthday, I had the pleasure of attending one of the SGI Conferences at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, or the FNCC, as we know it.
When I became a card carrying Buddhist and joined the Soka Gakkai International, three years ago, I read about these conferences, but knew in my heart, I would never have either the money or the physical endurance to go. Nevertheless, it went on my altar with my list of “impossible things” I wanted to accomplish.
Another impossible goal I put on my list was to make money selling my paintings.
No one could have been more surprised than me when I sold my first painting, and then my second and then my third. Money started rolling in along with many physical benefits.
I was led to a surgeon who trimmed back my stomach and helped me lose 80 lbs, which caused me to no longer be diabetic, hypertensive, or pain-filled. I began to sleep better and as of my last blood test, everything is running at 100%
Suddenly, I found myself monetarily and physically ready to make the trek to Florida and see this SGI miracle in the Everglades, the Florida Nature and Culture Center.
I won’t say I wasn’t nervous about traveling in my power chair. I knew it would have to be stored in the hold of the plane for the trip, and then I would require lifts on the various vehicles taking me to and from the airports.
To my delight, everything went smoothly, and I arrived at the center just in time to enjoy a steak dinner. The first of several mind blowingly delicious meals.
That first steak dinner for all the new arrivals says a lot about the ichinin of the land.
The Florida Nature and Culture Center sits on 125 acres of pristine, Florida Everglades, normally teaming with reptiles and insects. Yes, there was a 7 ft gator that liked to bask among the water lilies on Toda Lake, watching us eat on the veranda. And yes, sitting outside at dusk, one had to spray mosquito repellant all over your body to keep from being eaten alive, but in general I’ve never felt a place so gentle and protective.
In 1996, President Ikeda dedicated this piece of land to the SGI-USA members as a place to go to refresh our spirits and our determination to practice. It’s all that and more. I would encourage all of you to make the trip someday soon, and enjoy this precious gift.
There is an aura of caring and compassion that fills you up while you are there.
This started right off when I first walked on to the property. An attractive man hailed me with a wave and said, “Hi there! Welcome to this beautiful place on this beautiful day with the happiest people in the world!”
The conference I attended was the 15th Annual LGBTQ Conference, and for those of you who have never heard the term, LGBTQ stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual and Questioning or Queer
This year, President Ikeda honored us by giving our group a name: The Courageous Freedom Group, and we spent the weekend dialoguing about what these words meant to us, on a personal level.
We were asked, “What does freedom mean to you” and “What is courage”?
What does freedom feel like? How do you know if you are being courageous?
As was stated at one of the workshops, “our community is a majestic spectrum” and there are no simple or cookie cutter answers.
Sometimes you can only define freedom by what you don’t have: Like the freedom to be yourself, when you are an outlandishly feminine gay man,0r the freedom to be a man when you have all the plumbing of a woman.
I justy know, It’s hard to come out, no matter how many times you do it.
I suspected I was a lesbian at age 20, but did not admit it to myself or others until I was 30. That’s 10 years of no courage and no freedom.
At 33 I joined a women’s collective and fairly burst out of the closet, shaved my head, had 5 earrings in one ear and became a “man-hater”.
Well, I’m older now, and I know I’m not really a man-hater, but I bond emotionally only with women, and I don’t want to be ashamed of that. There is a place for me on this planet and Sensei has convinced me that I’m an important part of that majestic spectrum.
Being at the Florida Nature and Culture Center reminded me of how proud I am to be a lesbian and helped me renew my vow to challenge and overcome my limitations whenever and however they pop up.
Some of the people at the conference were not as lucky as I and told stories of abuse that I’ll never forget. It was a healing experience for us to all be together and be able to open our hearts in love and acceptance of each other.
I made about 100 friends at this conference, and I’m going to have a hard time keeping up with them all, but I’m going to try, because I learned so much from them, and I just love them.
I would like to end this experience with a quote from President Ikeda in his personal letter to those of us in the newly formed Courageous Freedom Group where he encouraged us to remember, quote “that there is no Buddha who is defeated by suffering and hardship”…and to “please lead a life dedicated to your personal vow, filled with pride as a bodhisattva of the Earth. Let us adorn our lives with optimism and cheerfulness, as we “dance with joy” all the more.”
Categories: Life on Wheels