I use the exercises in The Miracle of Mindfulness daily and have recently begun to use the gathas in Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. Reading these books has had some interesting effects on my everyday life. Recently, I helped instruct a dear friend in how to make leather purses for his two young daughters. All went well until the time came for us to dye the leather. The leather dyed improperly, making a terrible mess. I promised my friend I would take the leather back to the shop where we bought it and seek advice on how to remedy the situation. The leather store was a large, dingy warehouse. I walked into the store and found the owner and three others packing crates for shipping. I told them I needed help to correct a problem with my leather. The owner growled, "I'll look at it, but you'll have to stand over here by me while l work. We're busy." Just then the phone rang for him. He stomped by me and walked the fifty or sixty feet to the front of the store to answer the call. I stood in the somber place and wished I could just leave. I dreaded having to be near such an unpleasant person and having to ask him for help. If I had not been there for my friend, I might have just walked out.
But then I decided that I might be able to change the situation by changing myself. I recited the gatha, "I take refuge in the Buddha; the Buddha takes refuge in me. I take refuge in the Dharma; the Dharma takes refuge in me. I Lake refuge in the Sangha; the Sangha takes refuge in me." I did this several times and became completely at peace. The owner hung up the phone and started back towards me, still scowling. As he came closer to me his scowl slowly vanished. When he reached me he smiled just slightly and said, "Come with me and I'll see what I can do." He worked on my leather for more than twemy minutes, trying several solutions and finally finding a way to fix it. He handed me new dye and leather to replace the bad leather we had used for the purses. When I reached for my wallet to pay him, he shook his head and said, "No, I'm giving this to you. I hope you have Better luck this time." I left the warehouse with spirits soaring. By simply being there, doing nothing, I achieved my purpose.
On my morning and evening walks with my dogs I practice walking meditation and breathing, trying to be aware of everything around me. Sometimes as I breathe outward, I chant "om mani padme hum." The other morning I was chanting when suddenly, without a thought about it, 1 felt an incredible sensation of being loved by Buddhist monks who were a long way away in space and time. The feeling was palpable, as if their arms were around me in a loving embrace. I was overcome by emotion and began to weep. But as I stood on my street in the midst of tears, I returned the love to the universe with the intention that they would receive it, no matter where they might have been at the time.
I have no idea how or why this experience happened to me. However, it now has a special meaning, as I am not a monk or member of any order and I do not practice with a local sangha. So when saying the prayer I have thought of those friends who are on a spiritual quest with me. But now, after this special experience, I feel as if I am somehow connected on some spiritual level to a sangha somewhere. I take refuge in them, and I ask them to take refuge in me.