Action is the Antidote to Despair- Joan Baez
Here is my curriculum vitae or maybe my living obituary, or just a modest aspiration prayer~
I was born in Providence, Rhode Island on October 18, 1969.
My mom was from a conservative waspy English/ German family and out of rebellion and to my grandparent’s dismay, was dating my hippy, long haired, Italian dad. He rode a motorcycle, went to political demonstrations and was a philosophy major at URI in Narragansett. She was studying at RISD but had to drop out due to pregnancy at 19, and they both wanted to go to Woodstock, but I came in the way.
He later drank too much and was exceedingly violent and left us when I was 3, mom was only 21. She never recovered and didn’t treat me well, chronic p.t.s.d.- I looked like him and I think I reminded her of the pain, and having lost her teen years, and innocence, much too abruptly. My childhood was unbearable, physical and emotional abuse daily from both mom and a stepdad and I was sent to a New England boarding school at 13. My mother went to New York and worked for the United Nations, Unicef- ironically helping with young girls human rights and humanitarian causes. I got into JD Salinger, The Bhagavad- Gita, The Grateful Dead and acid and traveled with the Dead every summer like a carnie, selling tye dyed t-shirts to pay for the trips.
I got out of the drug, party and “on the road” scene and got more into meditation, yoga and lived in a house with a reggae band in Rochester, New York, who were involved with an organic food co-op. At 19, in 1989, I came out to Boulder, Colorado to study Buddhism, Tibetan Art and Writing and Poetics at the Naropa Institute. I formally became a Buddhist, taking vows in 1990, and did month-long meditation retreats, and even a few three month ones. My last semester was in Nepal, and I had the good fortune to have studied with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a powerful Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen master who was one of the principal teachers of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. The world became filled with hope, palpable magic and blessing that I still often recall.
I went back and forth, living in Asia- Nepal and India, for a few years, again selling things that I bought there to fund my trips to study with him. My dharma brother was Robert Gray, the brother of the famous author John Gray (Men Are From Mars…), they had old family oil money and funded my burgeoning trade business. I met my husband, now a clean energy/ Tele-medicine Scientist from Sweden in 2000, and we got together in 2001 and have been married ever since, with the exception of one year where we separated because I wanted to move to our second, retreat house in Crestone and he prefers the “city.” This toggle still remains.
I sold dharma supplies for about 10 years and volunteered as the webmaster for the Boulder Shambhala Center and as the advertising manager for the Shambhala Times. I taught meditation in prisons and volunteered at many dharma programs and was trained to be a meditation instructor. I sold my Zen Home Goods company in 2006; it went under contract the day I gave birth to my daughter, I had to sign the papers while in the hospital. Over the last few years, the exposures from the #metoo movement brought to light a lot of the hidden, sordid and exploitative conduct of some of our Buddhist teachers, one of my beloved, trusted and main ones and it was very traumatic to say the least.
I don’t know that I will ever recover as all of my primary relationships were forged there. It felt like everything I took refuge in and invested in was a paper tiger, a farce and triggered early imprints of abuse and betrayal. We as a community are trying to heal, learn, grow and rebuild, but those in spiritual power are fighting to retain old roles and control and believe that they are entitled somehow to the continued and covert abuse of students, women and godforbid our children- spiritual bullies, the most grotesque of crimes. This infuriates me to no console, but mostly, it breaks my heart and I have cried more tears than I could ever relay or admit here.
So here I am now, scotch taping together hope for us all each day, I worry about my own child, she has seen a world that I so hoped would be different. All I can do is work to try, with whatever small talent I have, some trace writing skill, or at least tenacity, some connections with powerful politicos and influencers to be part of the solution, to hopefully help to create a better world~ for her, for us all. May it be so. I love you truly, I love you all without bias, with a heart of compassion and faith in the goodness of us all, no matter how dark, no matter the human stain, despair and failure cannot and will not have the last word.
Dawn Marie Boiani