Message from Rev. Melissa Opel

Dear Sangha,

After much thought, consideration and discussion, the consensus for the upcoming Oshoko offering, that was set to begin in July, has been canceled. In some ways, it wasn’t an easy decision to make, and in other ways, it was a no-brainer. But what changed? For me, the biggest change was we had not moved into Phase 3 and our cases of Covid-19 are rising in Spokane County. Also, I learned that the smoke from incense carries Covid-19 particles in the air longer. It was a great lesson in the ever-changing expectations of where we are now. I think we can all agree that this pandemic has tested our desire to control, make plans, and feel comfortable. The lessons of impermanence, interconnectedness, and attachments too are a constant. 

About a month ago, Becca came home from the grocery store and I was so disappointed that many of the items I had asked for were not in her bags. At first, I thought she had been forgetful in getting key ingredients for meals and I had already had a long day. When I told her I didn’t feel thought about, she reminded me that things were sold out and we can’t just have what we want right now. I cried. Not because I would miss out on a sandwich I wanted to make, or a beverage I wanted to drink, it was the fact that life was and is so different than what I am used to and it feels chaotic and unknown. Perhaps this is why our experience with the Dharma is the most important feature to the teachings. Our experience allows us to put the teachings into our own perspective. It’s a fact that items were sold out, but it was also true that despite that being a completely rational reason, I cried and felt like there was some mistake made. I filtered it through my own thoughts and feelings. It took a while for me to accept that when Becca came home with the groceries, there might not be everything I asked for or needed at the time—I’m sure those of you who were out of toilet paper or dangerously close to it can relate. Sometimes it takes a while for the truth to sink in and I have to wrestle with it for it to become true for me. How we wrestle with the Dharma is up to each of us. When I am confronted by things I don’t like, don’t want to hear, or maybe don’t understand, I have to remember that the teachings aren’t wrong, and I am not broken either. I need to figure out where it sits in my life, what it means to me, what parts of my thinking it challenges, etc. 

When it came to canceling Oshoko, the teachings reminded me that what I do affects others, and that thought can work to both reopen the Temple or not reopen the Temple. Ultimately, the decision I came to was filtered through my understanding of the science being offered to us right now, but the science can change. In that same regards, as we deal with Covid-19, the science will continue to change and how we deal with protecting each other will also change. In that way, we are like the science and laws. We will change as we evolve and receive new information. But the Dharma is steadfast and does not change. It is a constant. What changes is how we interpret our practice. So, in this uncertain time, it is okay to take each day as it comes and try to figure out where I am in understanding the world around me. I can change my mind as new information becomes available and I can be sad or angry when I don’t like the new information too. But keep yourself grounded in the dharma, remember to say nembutsu and keep practicing gratitude and deep listening. These are the things that are true and real in our uncertain world.

Namo Amida Butsu
In Gassho,
Rev. Melissa Opel