Diving Deeper, a short biographical story by Sakula
Making eye contact with the lifeguard and stepping off solid ground, I plunged directly to the bottom of the populated Olympic-size pool. It wasn’t guts alone that led me to step into eight feet of water, never having swum before, but a good dose of faith riding piggy-back to a hefty lack of restraint.
Despite my circumstances (mother didn’t know how to swim, dad didn’t have time to teach, and I couldn’t afford lessons), I had always assumed I would learn to swim: I simply loved being in water. By the time I turned 15, I was not merely set on mastering this skill but to one day swim with absolute relaxed confidence. With all the pluckiness of an over-reaching American teenager I put pencil to paper and mapped out my plan: what (will learn to swim), when (now), where (a safe environment) and how (practice). I would learn to swim or drown trying. Luckily I was not totally lacking in common sense. To eliminate the possibility of an unfavorable outcome I reasoned it would be necessary to take cautionary steps . . . but how?
Enter the good fortune of worthy friends.
Often I found that friendships have stepped in where faith had led and wisdom needed yet to develop. As I approached my 16th birthday I, along with a small group of like-minded water-babies, were invited to a training as Junior Lifeguards. Six friends, two professional teachers and one determined mindset were all I needed to get ready, get set and swim.
Similar to jumping into the deep end of that pool, I did not wish to heed restraint once I came into contact with the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah via the Abhayagiri monastic teachers, I wanted to dive deeper. However I lived over six hundred miles away . . . they would just have to come here.
At 45, I and two friends, Barbara Backstrand and Chris Robson, founded Portland Friends of the Dhamma. As Dhamma cohorts, we encouraged each other to stick with the program. And over the next five years our faith in each other grew and with each challenge well met, we developed a confidence that what needed to be done would be done. From a community of three we’ve become one of many dozens, and now we aim to purchase our very own home. A home for the Dhamma . . . for Portland’s Friends of the Dhamma.