(In Our Practice, Summer 2004)
By Cheri Huber
In the town where I grew up, Rodeo was the biggest event of the year, bigger than Easter, bigger than Christmas. People might not come home for Christmas or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but you could be sure they would be there for Rodeo. It was the best party of the year. It was many years before I began to wonder if this were possibly a less than conscious activity.
Maybe it was leaving Cow Town, USA (and blessedly never finding myself in that particular culture again), that left me without any real interest in holidays. They’re fun. They’re fine. People get off work and spend time with their loved ones. That’s good. But I never understood the fuss about holidays. Christmas is commercials with bad music. Thanksgiving is carnage. Fourth of July is sunburns and mosquitoes. Halloween I really don’t get. Sounds sort of bah humbug even to me, but my reaction is actually more neutral than that. It’s more that holidays just don’t put me in a party mood.
After saying goodbye to Rodeo, I didn’t appreciate a holiday until Precepts. Precepts! Now, that’s a party!
Now, what do you need for a great party? You need good food, some drinks, and a great location. And, of course you need great people. There you have it. Oh, and a theme is good. How about “committing to ending suffering and living a life of freedom and joy”?
Voila! It’s a party. We gather, we talk, we get to know one another, we open our hearts, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we receive acceptance, care, and support, we feel our resolve strengthen, we gather courage and confidence to face the most challenging aspects of life, we let go the past and begin a new relationship with life.
Finally something has replaced Rodeo in my heart. I start getting excited about now. I’m finding out who is coming to the retreat. We’re making plans. We’re gathering supplies. And then people start to arrive. There she is… there he is… Oh, yea! By the end of the week, when the ceremonies begin, we have a bunch of pretty ecstatic Buddhists.
I can hear someone wondering, “But, to take the Precepts, don’t you have to make some huge, probably impossible, vow that is probably going to ruin the rest of your life?” “Don’t you have to prepare and improve and beat yourself into a state of worthiness first?” “Don’t you have to sacrifice most of what you want in life?”
I know that’s a common perception, and it is absolutely not my experience. For me the Precepts are “home.” The Precepts are family, safety, my refuge, my comfort. The Precepts connect me to everyone who has ever attempted to wake up and end suffering. And, they help me remember that there is no one who is not attempting to wake up and end suffering.
Yep. It’s a party, and the best part is that everyone is invited. Hope to see you there one of these days.